Laura and the Badlands

Badlands 001.JPGJack and I left Sioux Falls this morning after stocking up at the farmer’s market, and meandered off the beaten path to visit the Laura Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet. Bit of a tourist trap, but we enjoyed the interpretive video and then stopped for lunch in town, saw a couple of the original stores and the house where they wintered when they first went to Silver Lake.

Eschewing the highway we struck out on Highway 14 through Pierre and down into Wall. (No, we did NOT visit the drug store that had signs every mile for 96 miles.) We reached the Badlands just as a storm was brewing. I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life, and I’ve seen a fair few beautiful things.

So here are the photos, because sometimes we used words and sometimes we use pictures.

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We saw two different herds of sheep, including one with babies. They seemed to like the rain.

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I’m pretty sure he thought we couldn’t see him.Badlands 119The colors after the storm were amazing. South Dakota is full of different layers of color. In the Appalachians, we have hues of blue and green in the Smoky Mountain layers, but out here it’s some unexpected color combinations.

Badlands 101Jack said it looked like a moonscape.

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After the storm



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I couldn’t help wondering if the blanket patterns you see on indigenous people’s handiwork were inspired by these lines.


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The storm rolling away

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Today was the first time we didn’t see people with their phones out hunting Pokemons. Whether there were any in there or not, they were second to the Badlands’ beauty.

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Filed under bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk and THE FALLS Park

Sioux Falls is highly underrated. If this city wore a t-shirt, it would say “Go by, mad world.” Laid back and getting on with itself, this place.

So Jack and I took it easy and slow. We idled along the sculpture walk and went to the Falls in daylight and at dusk, took in a farmer’s market, and ambled contentedly through the day.

Surrounded by Pokemon hunters. :] In the hotel, at the Falls, along the sculptures (which according to the hunters each had a critter). Pop over to my FB page to see an evening video of a group we came upon as we walked back to the hotel. I swear, it’s more fun to watch the hunters than hunt the creatures.

The sculpture walk has been going for about 13 years, and every year they have a people’s choice and a best of show. Jack and I voted in the people’s choice this year. The girl in the reading ring was a people’s choice from 2009. All the previous people’s choices are on display in permanent places. It’s really a gorgeous morning, wandering up and down the main and side streets taking them in.

Here are the photos we took in Sioux Falls at the Walk and at the Falls. It is lovely city and we’ve had a restful time.

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I loved this one. If you've got curves, flaunt them like the sexy beast you are, and screw the media.

I loved this one. If you’ve got curves, flaunt them like the sexy beast you are, and screw the media.

At the library. Please note cat :]

At the library. Please note cat :]

The Pork Chopper, aka When Pigs Fly. One of my favorite quotes!

The Pork Chopper, aka When Pigs Fly. One of my favorite quotes!

Jack really liked this one, but I found it inaccessible, since it lacked an interpretive plaque.

Jack really liked this one, but I found it inaccessible, since it lacked an interpretive plaque.


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You can just see the train starting across the tracks above the Falls in this one.

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They light the Falls at night. It is unspeakably beautiful.Sioux Falls 117


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St Joseph’s Cathedral across the river.

Sioux Falls 131Some people kayaked by as we were walking back to the hotel along the river. They were pokemon hunting and pulled over a couple of times to photo or race up the bank while the other one held the kayaks. Hysterical.

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A peaceful ending to a happy day.

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

Been there, done that – –

Jack’s guest blog post this week – and our apologies. We meant to put this up last night!

weather 1Our first day on the road started out in beautiful wall-to-wall sunshine all the way through Kentucky and over into Indiana and Illinois. But then we ran into one of the worst storms I’ve ever driven through and we were forced to pull over as I couldn’t see a thing even with the wipers on full speed. We continued to run into sporadic storms all the way to our first hotel in downtown Galesburg (the birthplace of Carl Sandburg).

The hotel was gloriously seedy with just about everything either grubby or broken, but it was situated on one side of an impressive town square right opposite a lovely old cathedral style church, and the bed was clean and comfortable. A passing train woke me at 3 am – ‘right on time’ I thought!church in Galesburg

Today we visited Carl Sandburg’s birthplace having checked in advance that it would be open. But when we arrived we found that, sadly, it wasn’t. Instead we strolled through the garden and checked out his double seater privy – I think he would have approved.

We decided to take the mostly scenic route to Sioux Falls, South Dakota by heading south to pick up Route 2 across Iowa on the Historic Hills Trail. It wove through beautiful little towns and endless fields of corn until we got to the Lewis and Clark trail. We assumed that this would be equally scenic, but discovered that, in fact, it was Interstate 29. We decided that L and C had it pretty easy on that part of their journey at least. Lots of amenities.

crapperAll the way along we had noticed groups of people wherever we stopped walking around like zombies staring at their i-phones and realized that they were playing Pokemon-Go – very weird to see!

When we finally crossed into South Dakota the first thing we saw was a sign saying “Eat steak, wear fur and own guns – it’s the American way”; I felt right at home. The next thing I saw was a speed limit sign saying ‘80’ – it feels right scary to drive at 85 mph when you’re used to 75.

Now we’re firmly ensconced in a somewhat more upmarket hotel in downtown Sioux Falls and right next to an old center that is reminiscent of Asheville – I even just saw a pedaling singing bar go past. Tomorrow we will walk the sculpture garden, visit The Falls, and indulge Wendy’s taste for Middle Eastern Food. It’s the American way.




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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing


cat on boat…. and we have LAUNCH ladies and lads! Jack and Wendy have successfully started their two-week vacation to go see Mt Rushmore and a few other sights in Wyoming and South Dakota.

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, it’s really hard to get away from the bookstore. We love it, and it’s demanding. Enter the Hamricks, specifically David, who  came to stay for almost three weeks and shopsit so we could go have a holiday. (Bless you, Crazy Cuzin Dave, and Susan for sending you!)

How did we pick Mt Rushmore? Jack turned to me one day, as we sat amiably ignoring one another using Facebook, and said, “You know what I’d like to do? Go see those faces of the presidents carved into that mountain.” Jack never expresses specific wishes. I booked four days at Custer State Park the next week.

And we’re happy to be launching because last night at 12:02 am (which technically makes it this morning) I pushed send on the final draft of the adoption and foster care book for Swallow Press. (Not cats, kids. It’s a heartbreaker tentatively called Fall or Fly.) And then packed a bag and went to bed.

Hi ho the writing life. We drove across Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois today and tomorrow we hit Iowa and end up in Sioux Falls. A change is as good as a rest. We’ll send you postcards from the road via this blog. Anything that doesn’t involve books and cats for two whole weeks. I love them all, but a chance to revalue, redefine, fine tune, and just breathe…. ah bliss.

Viva la holiday!!!!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

The Monday Book

Wendy is still on a writing deadline so Jack is standing in again –

Tsunami by Iain MacWhirter

Health warning: this is a book about Scottish politics, specifically the landslide victory by the Scottish National Party in Scottish constituencies during the 2015 UK election.

I have a great deal of respect for Iain MacWhirter, a thought-provoking political commentator who works for the BBC.  MacWhirter has a long and honorable pedigree as an observer of UK and Scottish politics, not to mention the respect of his peers. That’s not to say that he hasn’t penned a few newspaper articles with which I’ve taken issue, just that his  voice carries weight.

Tsunami is a follow up to an earlier book by the author about the Scottish referendum on independence the previous year, Disunited Kingdom.

Regardless of my occasional disagreements with him I recommend both of these books to anyone with an interest in the incredibly fast-moving political scene in the UK right now. Of course the arrival of ‘Brexit’ means that Iain will probably have to write another book about the second referendum on Scottish independence next year.

For those unfamiliar, Scotland wanted to stay in the EU and since there was a vote recently on Scotland leaving the UK, Scottish politicians are ready to take advantage of the mood and the timing to try again. Scottish voters declined to declare themselves independent of the UK, and then pretty much found that the promises made to them if they stayed had been false. As a result, the vote that McWhirter writes about in Tsunami was expected to swing so overwhelmingly toward the Scottish National Party candidates that the leaders of the party began to caution people not to have unrealistic expectations.

Tsunami captures the flow of the various parties’ campaigns in the lead-up to the UK election. A big part of its thrill is McWhirter’s description of the atmosphere in the BBC green room, and the responses of the various spin doctors, that election night, as the SNP finished with 56 out of 59 Scottish seats. Watching the events, I remember one political commentator saying, “This isn’t an election. It’s a rout.”

The book finishes with the overwhelmingly triumphant SNP members of parliament arriving at the House of Commons in London to find themselves disregarded within a parliament of 650 members, despite being the third biggest party there.

MacWhirter captures with humor and insight a strange time in Scottish politics, and sets the tone for the stranger times yet to befall the UK as the full implications of Brexit become clear to all parties.

Better read this before it’s completely out of date; books will be coming out soon on Brexit.

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Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

A Story within a Story within a Signature

Wendy is on a tight writing deadline before holidays next week, so Jack takes up the keyboard and presents this guest blog.

We often have folk come in to ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ bookstore carrying a copy of ‘The Little Bookstore’ and hoping to meet Wendy. They come from all over the country and even from other countries. Their personal tales frequently carry on a theme of the book, that the customers’ stories are as important as those in the books we sell.

One of the other conversations in Wendy’s book was about the fact that some products that are sold on from one owner to another only benefit the creator the first time they’re sold – houses, books etc. The result of the exchange was that there wasn’t much to be done about it, nor should there be. Another question was how long  ‘The Little Bookstore’ would circulate in used book stores.

To our great amusement we received a lovely card from a fan in New York a couple of months after the first publication, saying how much he’d enjoyed the book and that he’d bought it for $10 in a used book store. He enclosed a $10 bill just to prove that the author was wrong!

But today topped that. (Drum roll, please….)

Three couples had been through the store today looking for Wendy, so when I looked out the window and saw a woman holding a copy of the book and the husband taking pictures, I knew what they were about. Sure enough, Carol and Paul were on a trip back to Cary, NC and came the long way through Big Stone Gap to see the bookstore because they loved the book and follow Wendy’s blog.

However, their story had a twist. Carol loved Wendy’s book, which she’d paid $5.99 for in a used book store, already signed to someone called Laura. And she’d come to get Wendy to sign it again, having read the conversations about second hand books in Little Bookstore.

We had a lovely chat (they are also cat lovers) and then I signed her copy and so did Wendy – but check out the picture to see how she did it.


May the circle be unbroken, Laura – wherever you are!



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The Shelves his Dad Built

birch shelfSince our bookstore is in a 113-year-old house that has been a) a doctor’s office b) a boarding house c) a funeral parlor (yes, really) and d) a private home before it became e) The Little Bookstore of Big Stone, we’re used to people coming in and saying “Oh, my room was here,” or “I remember Dr. Taylor’s son” etc.

But the other day a nice couple came in for browse-and-lunch, and the husband’s eyes fell on a set of shelves we’ve had about five years, donated by someone at some point. He touched the shelves with a strange look on his face before going up to eat.

When they came back down, the guy went straight for the shelves, which hold local writers and Appalachian Fiction. He wasn’t looking at the books but touching the shelves. Nay, stroking them. There is no other word for it, like an animal lover pets a cat, he was patting the shelves.

He asked, not taking his eye from the wood, “Where’d you get these?”

I wasn’t sure, but told him all the shelves that weren’t handmade by my husband had been either donated by the local preschool director when she retired, given us by other friends, or bought in yard sales.

“These are from HeadStart,” he said. “My dad made them.” He then launched into his story: back when HeadStart was the program du jour to “save Appalachia from itself” money poured in. This man’s father, a carpenter by trade, had been given $100K to make furniture for all the local HeadStarts, to specifications required for small children. (Believe me, as a chair caner, I’ve sold a lot of antique chairs to preschool programs because they have lower seats than modern chairs.)

“He made them out of birch,” the gentleman continued, a smile made of memory on his face as he stroked the wood. “You don’t see that nowadays, shelves made out of particle board and crap. This is real craftsmanship. I’m glad to see they’re still being used. Ain’t seen any in a long time.”

There’s something so sweet about a house full of stories sliding around in time.

a close-up of the wood (plus kitten)

a close-up of the wood (plus kitten)


I always knew our books were portals for people to enter other worlds, but it’s great to know our furniture is, too.



Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch