Tag Archives: cats

Should Auld Acquaintance – –

 Jack standing in for Wendy with some reflections on the last few weeks.

The blog has been a bit quiet over the last few days as both Wendy and I have been dealing with a host of distractions including – cats, a Celtic festival, a medical conference, a Barbara Dickson concert and her father unexpectedly requiring open-heart surgery.

Her Dad is through the surgery and back home now, being his usual curmudgeonly self, which is a sure sign of rapid recovery. But Wendy is spending this week with them and providing support to her Mom.

Meanwhile I’m trying to catch up with the backlog of stuff that’s built up. Bills to pay, emails to answer and a blog post to write – –

We had my old singing partner Barbara and her husband Oliver staying with us for the last two weeks and that culminated in them joining us at Hungry Mother State Park where Wendy’s annual ‘Head for the Hills’ medical conference was taking place. Also joining us were our chef Kelley, her wife Sam and their two youngest kids, Asher and James. Barbara did a concert at the gorgeous Lincoln Theater in nearby Marion on Friday night when she excelled herself, got a standing ovation and a well deserved encore from an audience that mostly had never heard her before.

However the stand-out moments for me were seeing Oliver become the kindly uncle to Asher and James as he showed them how to throw horseshoes, swam with them in the lake and took them out in canoes as their joint birthday treat. Then there was the late evening bonfire on the area between our cabin and the lake when we all sat round and harmonized songs, told jokes and reminisced about the previous couple of weeks.

When Barbara and Oliver first visited with us two years ago they were the ones going through some family trauma and we were pleased to offer the opportunity to relax and get away from that. This time round it was us dealing with lots of stuff and they were the ones who rolled up their sleeves and waded in – shopping, cleaning and generally picking up the slack. We’re already missing the ritual of Oliver’s breakfast porridge.

So we are delighted to count them as part of the extended family of the bookstore and the cafe!

On the final evening before they left we were not completely surprised they were looking at houses for sale in Big Stone Gap – – – –


Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

Lend me your ears – –


Jacks’ Wednesday guest blog post

There we were, on our way home on Monday night from the annual volunteers’ appreciation banquet at the prison where I visit every month. I’d noticed that Wendy had been busy on her phone for the last half hour and that usually means cats.

I should explain that I generally try to be the sensible one in these situations, trying to remind her that we can’t save them all and that the bookstore can only accommodate a finite amount while still operating in a customer friendly way. So I’m the ‘bad cop’ to Wendy’s ‘good cop’ much of the time.

Thinking this would probably be another clutch of tiny kittens I was gearing up to be my usual grumpy curmudgeonly self. But as we arrived home Wendy announced we were going out straightaway to find a feral cat that was hanging out in an area of town we’re not too familiar with. We had an address and the lady who Wendy had been on the phone with had offered to guide us to the place.

We arrived as it was beginning to get dark and began to search. No luck until Wendy’s phone contact came out and began guiding. In the darkness a very friendly white cat with oddly shaped black ears came straight to us. We had brought food and water and she made straight for them. Purring and most definitely not feral, so we had a closer look. Her ears weren’t naturally black – they were half eaten away and bloody. She was also scrawny but with a bloated belly. So she was injured, mal-nourished and pregnant!

We brought her back but couldn’t risk putting her in the same space as our own cats or the other fosters, so into the garage she went for the night. All this time she was happy to be picked up and carried in a box – as if she knew she’d turned a corner.

Of course the whole episode was being followed on FaceBook by a whole host of friends and fellow animal rescuers. One of them was our good friend Joe, who offered to come round in the morning to take her up to our Sainted Beth the veterinarian who never imagined she’d share so much of her personal and professional life with us.



So now we know that Pogo (we called her that because she looked like a possum in the half-light) has melanoma on both ears, is completely flea-ridden and has a belly full of worms (so – not pregnant).

But all of that can be treated, although she may lose a goodly part of both ears in the process. Apparently she is about seven or eight years old and has obviously been a domestic pet. She either ran off and got lost, or was abandoned because of her ear problem. And to my astonishment, as soon as Wendy posted the update the next day showing Pogo relaxing in hospital, people began to offer financial assistance towards her bill. Which we know Beth will keep to the bare necessities, because she is a saint. But hey, saints and their nurses gotta eat too. Powell Valley Animal Hospital should you want to donate to her care. And we thank you from the bottom of Pogo’s sad little ear stubs.

I may try to lose Wendy’s phone, but she’d just get another one – bless her heart – – –


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


Finally, I have done as my wise (and patient) agent Pamela suggested, and written “Questions for book group discussions of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.” Since many minds make smooth sentences, if you have any suggestions, please send them along. I’d particularly like to add a couple on bookshop management, if any other store owners out there have ideas. I kinda hit a blank wall, writing stuff that was too esoteric. Thanks!

1. Have you ever tried to fit into a place you weren’t from or familiar with? What did you find were the joys, the barriers, the unexpected curve balls of doing so?

2. Is there a snake pit in your life? Do you agree with Wendy’s assessment that almost all of us face such job situations at some point?

3. Cats: what place do they have in the lives of bookstores? Have you seen the newest cats and fosters at Tales of the Lonesome Pine (online via Wendy’s blog)? What do you think about the overpopulation problem of companion animals in the United States? What responsibilities, if any, do humans have toward animals?

4. Of all the stories in Little Bookstore, the two that seem to resonate most with people are of Wee Willie, and the Kiwanis letter. People run the gamut, don’t they, from being unpleasant to one another, to being generous beyond imagination. Why do you think these two stories have been the most mentioned by readers? Do you have circumstances in your own life where you experienced something similar?

5. Fire victims replacing childhood books is a poignant expression of loss, love, and memory. What do you think this priority says about us as humans?

6. Reading Little Bookstore, do you see places where people misunderstood each other, misrepresented each other, yet overcame these miscommunications to understand each other? Do these moments have echoes in your life?

7. If you could suddenly change your life tomorrow, start a business, leave your residence or job, whatever…would you? If so, what would you do? If not, why not?

8. What’s the difference between luck and learning fast to adapt? Where did you see these differences in how Jack and Wendy survived their inept start at being bookstore owners?

9. Wendy talks a fair bit about happiness and contentment. She quotes several other authors and how they describe happiness. Does happiness disappear when you look it square in the face, or elude us when actively pursued? Is it true, as Garrison Keillor (an author not quoted in the book) says, that the realization of happiness comes moments after whatever has made us happy ends? Or can we recognize contentedness when we have it?

10. Discuss the role independent bookstores play in reading satisfaction. Is the process of acquiring the book part of the story it tells, or is cheap, fast, and easy what we want in our shopping experiences nowadays? Is it worth paying more to visit a real bookstore (and do you really pay more)?

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Filed under animal rescue, bad writing, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table, writing

Lost in Translation, Found in Humor

hyoungThis is Hyoung Eun. She translated Little Bookstore into Korean and got it a whole bunch of great publicity over there. And we really enjoyed chatting while she was working on the book and she loves cats, so of course, we became Facebook friends.

With the result that sometimes my Facebook timeline reveals lovely, inscrutable conversations like this one, which appeared below the picture of this lovely, fluffy white cat that I think is Hyoung Eun’s, and pregnant:

hyoung cat 2

원고료 받으면 얘꺼부터. 달라고 기다리고 있지만, 너 아까 간식 먹었잖아…
나는 아직 겨울옷 장만도 못했는데, 겨울 다 가버렸네.

The manuscript fee received, showed it off. Waiting for him, but if you like I ate a snack …
I still haven’t get winter clothes, winter is gone. -_- (Translated by Bing)
Okay, let’s admit that’s a beautiful haiku, but say what, Bing Translator? Hyoung Eun speaks flawless English, but of course she was talking to her other Korean friends there, people who are also friends with me but read my book in their native language and don’t use English as their primary on Facebook. Thus I offered the following.
Wendy Welch Adorable! (This seemed like appropriate and safe commentary.)
Yunjung Sung 나비다~~^^ 혹시 저 박스가 다 나비먹을꺼?The butterfly is a butterfly that is ^^ all ~ ~ have you ever eat? (Translated by Bing)
홍장근 나도사줘I give Imam (Translated by Bing)
Hyoung Eun H Wendy Welch He is, isn’t he? – a proud [cat] mother. : )
Hyoung Eun H Yunjung Sung 모래도 있어.^^ 모래랑 간식. 이제 사료는 병원에서 따로 처방사료 사서 먹여야 해 ㅠ ㅠIt’s also Sung sand Yunjung. ^^ Sandy lang snacks. Now feed in hospitals set aside to buy feed and fodder prescribed ㅠ ㅠ (Translated by Bing)
Hyoung Eun H 홍장근 뭐 사줄까? ^^Hong Chang-Geun what buy? ^^ (Translated by Bing)
Hyoung Eun and friends, I want to thank you for the fun you’ve added to my life, and I hope your pregnant male cat enjoys the coffee. (Yes, everyone, we all know that cats mustn’t have caffeine.) And I want to say that Hyoung Eun is a better translator than Bing will ever be. And that the butterfly in the winter snowstorm is beautiful – almost as beautiful as Hyoung Eun’s sweet kitty. God Bless us, every one!
Hyoung cat 1

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It’s Not as Bad as it Sounds, Haggis…

Fair fa yir honest, sonsy face – – (beautiful is your plain but healthy face; Ode to a Haggis)

haggisEvery year around Jan. 25 we host our bookstore Burns Supper. Robert Burns is, of course Scotland’s National poet/songwriter and our bookstore is a kind of local Scottish consulate so…

Our haggis was piped in – loudly – by Randy Stanley, Wise County’s resident piper. We always wonder what the neighbors think, because despite the frigid temperatures just now, we throw open the windows to let the sound out–and because 25 people in our upstairs cafe really turns up the body heat. The sound of the Great Pipes wafted out across the snow–and every dog within earshot began howling. We love bringing these special moments of cultural celebration to the town.

Besides pipes, an absolute necessity is a haggis – the subject of an address written by Burns. Finding a haggis in the US used to be a problem, so this year ours came from New Jersey. Haggis, for those of you unfamiliar with the substance, is sheep intestines stuffed with oats, minced bits of the rest of the sheep, and spices. The more it tastes like liver, the better.

If you’d like to see the piping in of the haggis or hear Jack recite the Ode, both are on our bookstore’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tales-of-The-Lonesome-Pine-LLC/166114776736491?ref=hl

Our excellent chef, Kelley, came up with what attendees probably saw as the counterbalance to the Haggis; she made perfect champit tatties and bashed neeps. And Jack contributed his homemade scotch pies and Cranachan. (Google it; just try not to lick the screen when you see what’s in it.)

Burns Nights have presentations that must take place at them. One of these is The Immortal Memory, a brief description of Burns’ life, mostly trying to reconcile the ying and yang of his incredible poetry celebrating women, and his devious usury of them in real life. This year’s Immortal Memory was for the first time in our bookstore’s history delivered by an Englishman, Donald Leech. (And Donald said afterward it was his first Burns Supper, so kudos to him for a lovely job.)  The Toast to the Lasses (which Jack gave) was  Responded to by Susan Hamrick–those of you who are on Clan Hazel will recognize that name, and the Grande Dame sent salutations to the assembly.

And we enjoyed local singer Rita Quillen making her debut as a soloist. Rita normally accompanies other performers, but she gave a lovely rendition of Lea Rig. Rita will also debut in another way next month when her first novel, Hiding Ezra, comes out. https://www.facebook.com/ritaquillenhidingezra

The evening was a mixture of laughter and poking at the haggis and licking the Cranachan bowls clean and cracking jokes and enjoying music that would have delighted Rabbie Burns. In the packed-out cafe with the windows flung open and the sky darkening with snow outside, it was a lovely, warm night.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, Downton Abbey, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Tails of Dogs and Cats

Jack’s weekly guest post –

I’m a bit of a fan of Alexander McCall Smith, ever since I stumbled across the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. I also fell for his Scotland Street series as well – particularly for his very accurate depiction of a certain element of Edinburgh society with which I’m familiar. The slightly down at heel Georgian New Town intelligencia, complete with their locked private gardens!

One of the characters in the Scotland Street series is a dog called Cyril and McCall Smith manages to get inside his mind wonderfully. In many ways Cyril became one of my favorites.

But then along came the incredible Freddie De La Hay – one of the residents of Corduroy Mansions a new series set in the Pimlico neighborhood of London. Freddy is first introduced as an ex-drugsniffing dog made redundant from Heathrow Airport as a result of a campaign against sex discrimination (all the drugsniffers were male). Once again McCall Smith gets right inside the mind of a dog as it smells its way around its world, eating expensive shoes and catching Russian spies along the way. Despite a fascinating range of humans, it’s the dog that once again does it for me!

What got me thinking about this was an experience I had yesterday. We took in an older cat a few days ago that had initially been rescued by our friend Jessica. She was going to keep her, but her existing feline co-habitee didn’t approve at all. So Jessica paid to have Sweetie Pie spayed and then she came to us until we can find her a permanent home. All well and good!

Wendy left at lunchtime yesterday for a couple of days of business in Richmond and I was left keeping an eye on the lodger. Sweetie Pie seemed quite content relaxing on a stool in the mystery room. Then Kellie, our cafe chef, came in around 5 pm from a grocery run – “Sweetie Pie’s outside”, she said. “what?” I said – –

Sure enough – she was out in the front garden and when I went to pick her up she ran down onto the sidewalk. We both tried to catch her, but she kept running further off. eventually it got too dark to see where she was and I gave up. What on earth would I say to Wendy – and Jessica – how would we tell her that the cat she recued and paid to have spayed had run away on our watch? Wendy phoned later and I broke the news. We commiserated with each other and agreed that at least she had been spayed so there wouldn’t be exponential explosion of kittens.

Feeling disconsolate, I headed down to our basement bedroom and noted both dogs and our three indoor cats all in their favorite spots. Sitting on the edge of the bed to take of my shoes, I glanced up. Owen Meany had been lying beside Zora but now he was magically up on the window sill! No – wait – he’s still beside Zora – what?

Sweetie Pie holds court

Sweetie Pie holds court

There she sat, calmly licking her paw and preening herself. “What?” she meowed – “fine neighborhood you have here. Nice cats! What’s for dinner?”

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor

Tails and Tales

Jack’s weekly guest blog –

Kittens! Kittens everywhere!!

They’re in my lap, under my feet, knocking over books and chasing each other all round the shop. Then they all, as one, keel over and go to sleep in a sweet little puddle of cuddling. Until it all starts again!

jack and nikeI’m the curmudgeon of course – “no more, this is the last one, we’re a bookstore not an animal shelter!”

But then one of them sneaks onto my lap or curls up on my shoulder – and purrs – – –

It’s hard to believe these little fluffballs would have been killed if we hadn’t taken them in. It’s harder to think about the ones we didn’t have room for. Wendy’s proud of having recruited two new foster families this month, so her rescue got up to about 2 in 5 kittens getting pulled from the shelter before the inevitable happened.

Kerouac, Ferlenghetti, and Nike being very Manx!

Kerouac, Ferlenghetti, and Nike being very Manx!

We honestly would love to keep them all, but the current crop just have to find homes. Poor Valkitty is grumpy as all get out about these pesky youngsters invading her space and, besides, we can’t take any more until we find homes for these five.

There’s Nike “Bad Ass” The Moth

Nike the wonder kitten

Nike the wonder kitten


and Kerouac

                                                                                                                        and Joan Baezjoan posing

not to mention Winston Moneybags, who is already neutered

Winston sleepingK, F and JB are siblings: F is a cuddler, K a soccer player, and JB a preener who likes to sit about striking poses. Nike is a benevolent dictator, lap sitter and “carry me about” kitten; and Winston was dumped in the ATM room of a local bank and likes to lie on the backs of chairs or in windowsills.

So come on folks! Fill your home with fuzzy love and laughter – and doing the kitten shuffle. A free kitten with every book purchased!


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized