Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

Words of Wisdom – –

Jack apologizes for missing last Wednesday completely but makes up for it by being on time today –

Used-book stores are great. Wendy and I have always managed to find one wherever we went in the early years of our marriage. So it wasn’t surprising that we wound up opening one when we moved to the town of Big Stone Gap in the very southwest tip of Virginia, some fourteen years ago. We quickly made it a ‘hanging out place’ where disparate (and sometimes desperate) folks found a haven. If you haven’t already, you can read all about it in ‘The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap’.

All things have their seasons, and for various reasons we moved to Wytheville, moving into our new home in early January 2019, in an 1890s sort of farmhouse meets French chateau. We’re still in the southwest edge of Virginia, but just closer to the interstate (that’s motorway for Scottish readers).

To our great delight we found that a used bookshop known as Oracle Books had opened a few months earlier on the main street. We quickly made friends with the owner, Randy, and the place turned out to be just like all the best bookstores we’d ever visited!

Up until the pandemic lockdown kicked in we were able to work with Randy to help introduce mini concerts of Scottish music some evenings, within his wider musical offerings. But, more importantly, we made many more friends and Oracle Books turned out to be the same kind of community center as all the best bookstores we ever experienced.

And then, as if things couldn’t get any better, Randy started a record section…..

 He set up an area for LPs – yes vinyl! Here we are in very rural southern Appalachia and whenever something he thinks might interest me shows up he messages me. In among the bluegrass and country albums the most amazing and rare traditional Scottish albums also turn up. Since I present a weekly Celtic music radio show on a couple of local NPR stations as well as one in Scotland that’s a real bonus!

So here’s to used-book stores where e’er they may be – – – and here’s to Randy at Oracle!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

I Was Tired – – –

Well there I was yesterday at noon heading down I-85 (motorway 85 to my Scottish readers) on my way to my friend Dirk’s house and home studio to record the next five radio shows. (Celtic Clanjamphry, since you ask.) Sailing along at the seventy MPH speed limit I rounded a corner and saw in front of me a large chunk of tire from a tractor trailer (Artic lorry for my Scottish readers). It was straddling both lanes.

It must have just happened as there were no vehicles stopped and I only had a split second to decide what to do. I could see lots of other vehicles behind me, so I had to make a decision. Should I go right or left? I made the wrong decision. If I’d gone to the right onto the hard shoulder I’d have missed it (we drive on the other side of the road for my Scottish readers) but I opted for left. I didn’t want to end up toppling into the median (the grassy area between the carriageways for my – – – ) but in trying to avoid the tire and the median I hit the tire with the front fender—pretty hard.

It made a thump but I didn’t think too much of it. I had the radio on and was listening to a talk show on (of course). The car kept going and I thought everything was fine, until I began to hear what I thought was interference on the radio. Alas, it was a bit too rhythmic – – – . So I switched off the radio and realized the noise was elsewhere and coming from the fender area.


I pulled off at the next exit and onto the shoulder, got out and had a look. Most of the plastic ‘mudguard’ inside the front passenger side fender (wing for my  – – – ) was sticking out in the wind and the rest of it was rubbing against the tire (tyre for – – – ). I thought I’d managed to spring it back up to where it was designed to be and carried on.

But thirty minutes later as I approached Abingdon (Virginia for – – – ) the all too familiar sound returned so I pulled into a parking lot (do I really need to – – – ). There it was hanging out again in the wind (nope, nope!).

Maybe I could tie it in place with some of Wendy’s yarn that’s bound to be stashed around the various corners of the car? Just my luck – she had done a car tidy last week. For the first time in over twenty-five years I couldn’t find a scrap!

I ripped the damn thing out with my bare hands and carried on my way – – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch