Category Archives: Wendy Welch

Contact – Chocks Away!

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is actually something of a book review –

The History of The Pound (Rhonda Robertson, Nancy Clark Brown)

Pound is a small town to the north of Big Stone Gap and is sometimes referred to as ‘The Pound’. It’s believed to have gotten its name from one of the surveyors who first mapped the area.

We often receive donations of books into Tales of the Lonesome Pine and this book came in one such box. As I gave it a cursory glance through I realized that it was not only very well written and researched for a privately published book, but it covered a wider area than just the town of Pound.

As I began to check it out more thoroughly I came to a section called ‘aviation in Wise County’. As many of you will know, I’m a sucker for anything to do with airplanes so I was mightily intrigued!

I already knew that one of the streets here in Big Stone Gap is called aviation road and had heard rumors of an airstrip out that way at one time. Here finally was the whole story, and it really is a fascinating one!

The first flight was on 4th July 1913 but the pilot failed to clear trees at the end of the ball park being used and the plane was damaged beyond repair. The first completely successful flight was on June 21st 1915 and was followed by more a week or so later. These also took place at the ball park. It was 1920 before there were more demonstration flights – first at the ball park and then from a farm near East Stone Gap.

jenny

Curtiss Jenny

It was in 1923 that a dedicated permanent airfield was finally established at Big Stone Gap across the river from the ball park, which is exactly where aviation road is today. Once the airfield was operational quite few local people purchased planes – mostly war-surplus ‘Curtiss Jennies’ and British ‘Avros’. Among these owners were some based in the town of Appalachia and they established ‘Cumberland Airways Inc’, buying and refurbishing Jennies and Avros and then re-selling them after testing at the Big Stone Gap airfield. It seems that following this burst of activity the use of the field tapered off and it fell into disrepair and finally was bought by a gentleman who lived close by and didn’t want planes near his house. He required anyone wishing to fly there to get permission from him and there’s no evidence he ever gave it.

In 1938 a completely new airfield called The Powell Valley Airport was built at Crackers Neck just outside Big Stone Gap and a flying school was established there, closing in 1942 and re-opening in 1945. Following a fire in 1948 it closed for good and flying in the area moved to the town of Wise with the establishment of Lonesome Pine Airport which continues to operate successfully up to the present day.

1972_LonePineAirport-550x331

I wonder if there any traces of the three Big Stone Gap airfields still to be found – – –

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The War is Aimed the Wrong Way!

Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

There’s something really shocking and sad when someone you know takes his own life.

JB was a laid back friendly guy who was always ready to do a favor for anyone. The outpouring of messages about him on FaceBook all testify to that. Actually, around the time he took his life, he was meant to be meeting with us to discuss work he was going to do on our front yard. Only a few weeks ago he power-washed our front porch.

We did know something about the particular struggle he was waging–not an unusual one around here, either. It has been described as an epidemic and involves prescription drugs – opioids.

Just a few weeks ago Wendy’s annual medical conference focused on that very epidemic and the need for medical professionals to be much more aware of alternatives to highly addictive pain-killers. But there’s a very active economy around all this, and many people making a lucrative living from other folks’ misery.

I had a friend in Scotland many years ago who went to some considerable lengths to end his life because he decided his family would be better off without him. He was wrong about that, but I also believe it must have felt a courageous act from his point of view. I feel exactly the same way about JB – he felt he had slipped again and couldn’t in the moment of despair see any other way to free his family to get on with their lives.

What I can’t see is why the “War on drugs” is aimed at the wrong end of the telescope. Where is the accountability for the over-prescribing done in America, the pills that flow free and easy and the lack of accountability for the producers who marketed them, even tested them in some cases, on a population that tended to do hard labor jobs. Why is it now simpler to get pain meds than a job in this part of the world? And why is the War on Drugs blaming people like JB for being “losers” rather than the pharma executives who took advantage of us and then walked away, unaccountable?

Today is Mental Health Day and, clearly, anyone driven to suicide by a habit should have received more support by professionals, community and friends. Addiction is an illness, not something shameful and certainly not a crime. JB deserved better. The outpouring from his friends in this community stand as a living testament to how far his life reached.

Rest in peace Jessee; the rest of us will see that the people who did this to you, don’t.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

King’s Mountain?

Jack’s Wednesday guest post is, OF COURSE, late again –

A Dance called America – James Hunter

This isn’t really a book review, but I thought I’d better head this post that way, as much of what will come next is from my reading of this excellent and informative book.

The Battle of King’s Mountain is seen in this area and taught in US schools as a pivotal event in the American War of Independence. While that is certainly true, there is another way of seeing it that has a lot to do with centuries of Scottish history.

Everyone is familiar with the story of the ‘Scotch Irish’ and their settling in Southern Appalachia. These were the children of lowland Scots who themselves had moved to the north of Ireland and established plantations there. These children grew up to find they were unpopular in Ireland and with little economic prospects. So they moved to the ‘New World’ and specifically to Appalachia.

However Gaelic speaking highlanders from Scotland had already emigrated to the coastal regions of the Carolinas and Georgia earlier. These were relatively wealthy ‘tack men’ very high in the clan pecking order and just below the level of clan chief. Once in the Americas they established cotton and tobacco plantations (which is why Glasgow and Paisley became the tobacco and cotton ‘capitals’ of Europe).

The forces that met at King’s Mountain in 1780 comprised a loyalist army led by a professional British soldier – Major Patrick Ferguson, who was a Scots highlander, and a contingent of patriots who were mostly drawn from the Scotch-Irish immigrant population. On the British side, apart from Ferguson, the army was all volunteer, and they were mainly Gaelic speaking highlanders from the coast. The patriots were all volunteers and their leaders included many with Scots names.

Patrick_Ferguson

Patrick Ferguson

It should be noted here that back in Scotland there had been centuries of clashes between the northern clans and the southern folk – a fault line between two distinctly different cultures!

I could never understand, however, why two lots of Scots that had been, effectively, forced out of Scotland would end up on opposing sides in what was at that time pretty much an English colony. It seemed odd to me.

But, as Hunter points out, the highlanders considered themselves ‘upper class’ and aristocratic before all else and saw the patriots as lower-class peasants who needed to be put in their place. So they aligned themselves with their ‘peers’ in London rather than their fellow countrymen. In doing so they inadvertently simply continued a long tradition of Scottish history – albeit in a foreign land.

Footnotes –

When the war ended with victory for the patriots, a great many of the highlanders who had been captured didn’t return to the Carolinas and Georgia. Instead they made new lives in Canada. At the present time there are more native Gaelic speakers in Canada than in Scotland.

The last native Gaelic speaker in North Carolina died in the late 1800s. He was a Presbyterian Pastor and an African-American!

Shortly after these events the highlands of Scotland suffered ‘The Clearances’, and this resulted in a much stronger feeling of solidarity between the Gaelic and Scots cultures, which has continued to strengthen down to the present.

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Filed under book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, reading, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Zip-line-pidedoodah

wendy zipZiplining wasn’t on my bucket list. When life presents you with an unexpected opportunity to do something you hadn’t planned for, I call it the Sieve List–those moments that demand “In or Out, you have five seconds to decide.”

My friend Susan is a master of seizing the moment. When my other friend Beth had talked me into The Zip, we agreed to meet at 2 pm outside our mountain lodge to drive down to the start point. Susan arrived to check in just as we were about to head out, and when I ran over to hug her hello, I joked, “I’m going on the new zip line in the park, so just wanted to hug you goodbye before I go.”

She said, “Wait a sec,” reached in and grabbed her purse, and climbed into Beth’s car. Susan doesn’t let any moments go by.

The first thing you need to know about ziplining is that the stool is scarier than the line. You go out on these tall platforms jutting off mountains, but not before the guides (in our case Tim the humorist and Dalton the straight man) hook you to a wire, to themselves, and at one point to a concrete block. You cannot fall off. It feels safe. But then they ask you to mount the stool (named for what it inspires people to do, joked Tim) and it’s high. Like two whole feet straight up. And you feel like you’re scraping the sky with your head, and there’s nothing to hold onto–unless you do like Beth and grab Dalton, but hey, he was cute. Then you’re standing on this tiny platform in the middle of the air–

–and catch your first full view of where you’re going. On the inaugural run, I was last. Just in case I wet myself, no one would see from behind, y’know? Once I got up on the stool and had a death grip on the tree behind me (Dalton having learned his lesson from Beth and keeping well back) I looked down into the gorge and thought, “Nope. Never mind. Changed mine.”

I looked back at Dalton, who was busy doing something with a big hook that looked all tangled in a rope. “Does anyone ever yell a terrible curse word as they launch?” I asked him.

He shook the hook and frowned at it, then glanced at me. “Haven’t seen that yet.”

“I’m surprised,” I muttered, staring at the canyon, and the thin, thin, wire spanning its deep, deep crevice.

“Well, it’s my first day, ” Dalton responded, and clicked the carabiner into place above my head. “You gonna jump or lean and slide?”

First day? 

He gave me a thumbs up. “You got this. When you’re ready to go….”

Bad word choice, kid. I checked that my conscience was clear with God, prayed for world peace, and jumped. Figured if it was my time, I should go big.

Here are some things you find out the first time you zippidedoodah. If you let go of the handles, you spin. If you stick your legs straight in front of you, you go faster. And if you keep your eyes open, you see the most amazing views. It was such fun, sliding over the water a few hundred feet below, watching it sparkle in the sunlight.

SusanWe got two more chances to practice the cannonball (tuck your knees to your chin) and starfish (let go and spread your arms and legs wide, screaming optional). It got easier with each jump–for the jumpers. Tim told us one of the things guides watch for is when people get cavalier or casual, and they don’t let anyone take anything for granted. It was Check One, Check Two, Zip Ready, Zip Go all the way down the lines.

If you get the chance to go zipping, I recommend it. And keeping your eyes open. You see the world in a whole new way.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Keeping on Keeping on

Jack’s guest post sneaks under the wire again –

What a week!

We just finished our annual Celtic festival which, while it’s a lot of fun and was very successful, is very tiring and draining. But Wendy had an away from home rural health conference immediately afterwards and I had the post-festival tidying and financial stuff to deal with.

Wendy got back last night and sets off for her own annual GMEC conference tomorrow and is away until Sunday.

Tomorrow evening the wonderful Scottish harper Billy Jackson (who headlined our festival) will be back for an overnight stay before we both head to the Lincoln theater in Marion for a concert on Friday night.

On Saturday night, a bunch of volunteers are coming to the bookstore for a get-together ahead of the November elections.

Meanwhile we have a menagerie of seven foster kittens plus our own three cats who all have various levels of need.

Alongside all that of course we also had –

  • Beautiful weather for the festival
  • Marvelous music from good friends
  • Wendy got a nice hotel with a tub in the bathroom
  • The kittens are delightful (and exasperating)
  • The weather forecast for Wendy’s conference is excellent

But, perhaps next week we’ll be able to draw breath!

Just before I got ready to post this I put a load into the washing machine and now it’s making beeping noises – – –

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Jack of All Trades and – – –

Jack just scrapes in under the wire – –

I’m sure I’ve posted about this before, so here goes again, Probably – –

Not too long before I retired from a twenty-year career in the community college in my home town I was ‘persuaded’ by my Principal (Chancellor) at the third time of asking, to embark on a MBA. I had been teaching management programs and so I suppose that made sense. I had free choice about which program and didn’t know that there was a ‘pecking order’ out there in terms of difficulty and/or credibility in the wider world. So, I opted for Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I chose it simply because of proximity and the flexibility of the timetable. I didn’t know it was notoriously rigorous, difficult and high in the pecking order!

I quickly found that there two clearly different groups of subjects – half were ‘soft skills’ – team dynamics, leadership, marketing – that sort of thing. I loved that, understood it and found it very self-affirming. Then there were the math focused ones – finance, statistics etc. I hated them because I’m completely useless at math. But I struggled through and finally got there!

What on earth has this to do with a bookstore in a small Southern town?

One of the things I clearly remember from my studies and research was this. The most loyal customers any business can have are the ones that have a problem that you manage to fix.

Yesterday morning a young lady came into our store to see if a book she had ordered had arrived. I didn’t recognize her and asked if I’d done the ordering. “No” she said – I think it was your wife and it was a couple of weeks ago. I searched through all the email confirmations of the orders we’d done and there was no trace of it. As panic set in I phoned Wendy.

It turned out that she had made the order at the exact moment that E-Bay shut down their Half Dot Com subsidiary. She honestly thought she’d ordered the book but it hadn’t gone through. I’m absolutely certain we aren’t the only ones to have gotten caught by this.

The customer was most understanding when I explained what had happened, but she needed it for a class starting on Monday and needed to read it before then. I immediately went to an alternative site and found a seller that could get it to me overnight.

It came in today, I phoned her and she got it with four days to spare. It cost her just the $6 she’d paid when ordered and us another $6 to get it for her, so we made nothing – but – I’m completely certain that she will sing our praises much, much more than if it had just come when it was expected.

The lesson?

You don’t need an MBA to make a customer happy – – –

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Zora Left Us

zoraOur baby girl Zora has left us. Jack took her this afternoon to her last vet appointment, where we ended the dark confusion and debilitating pain advancing years had brought.

Zora didn’t know anyone these last few days; not her veterinarian Beth, not Our Good Chef Kelly, not always Jack and me. We gave her a bowl of milk and a chewy stick, two of her favorite things in the world, before assisting her into the car.

She came to us fourteen years ago when she ran out in front of my car on a busy street near a suburban neighborhood. I got out, looked around for where she might have come from, and then invited her to ride shotgun. We stopped at CVS and got a collar on the way home.

We know she got her mind and her legs back at the Crossing. I’d like to imagine she got the Teak Throne carried by four Maine Coons, but our Zora was a Quaker girl. She would never allow such fuss and pomp.

No, our Earth Mother dog, who snuggled so many foster kittens through the years, would be met halfway through her plodding amble to the other side by a great cloud of witnesses to her loving nature – those whom love couldn’t save, who have been waiting for a chance to show Auntie Zora around.

These would be the kittens Zora helped up the stairs in our bookstore, nudging them with her nose, even lifting them gently with her carefully covered teeth, dropping them on the landing or the lowest branch of the cat tree. The babies she kept warm, nuzzling them through the night.

Sometimes we asked her to nurse one, but more often they commandeered her bed. You knew when a kitten was with Zora for the night; a soft little growl that turned into a gurgle, followed by licking sounds. In the morning, Zora’s tiny puffball would be tucked between her paws, head cradled on her nose or cheek, both snoring softly.

So I know the little guys have been waiting this last week, watching for the time to meet her and return the hospitality. They will lead Zora to the swimming pond, show her the Milkbone Forest, probably try to talk her into playing with them on the Kitty Trampoline. She won’t go in for that. A dignified lady with all four paws on the ground, that’s our Zora.

But she probably will sneak in a round or two of jingle ball golf with les enfants, before trotting off to the nightly Steak Grill in the Dog Park. She always enjoyed being goalie for their soccer games.

Enjoy your retirement, baby girl Zora. You earned it with your sweetness and kind disposition. I wish the world still had you in it, but even if you had to leave us, it was worth it for knowing you, sweetheart.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch