Category Archives: small town USA

The Masked Super Heroes

Jack produces his Wednesday guest blog on Wednesday for a change –

Most of you may know that Wendy is the Director of a medical non-profit organization, and in the current emergency situation, she is working from home. In observing her, I’m amazed at how she has turned her job around into coordinating the supply of PPEs to all the folk she is connected to in hospitals and health centers around SW Virginia.

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She has crafters making masks and is contacting suppliers around the world for more. From the minute she wakes up until we go to bed she is constantly on the phone handling all this. Lot’s of times she’s batting off the inevitable bureaucratic barriers (many swear words involved). But still she battles on! Getting the supplies to where they’re most needed.

This is a difficult time for everyone, but never more so than for health workers. They are in the front line of this and are taking enormous risks to keep the rest of us safe and treated professionally. But they, perhaps more than anyone, need to be protected.

Wendy has taken on this task and I couldn’t be prouder of her!

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Filed under between books, crafting, Life reflections, post-apocalypse fiction, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

There’s Ayewis Some’hin’

Jack is very late this week with his Wednesday post – – –

Following the thorough disassembling, cleaning and rebuilding of our dishwasher yesterday I got to thinking of all the things we’ve done here since moving in just over a year ago.

The first job was to install a cat flap so our felines could access the fully enclosed porch. Then it was redecorating the library and guest room. Soon after was when we discovered Paul, everyone’s handyman and he created our extra parking area off the driveway. Then I constructed our fire pit in the back yard.

fire

Next was building the shed to house our riding mower –

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And then trimming the trees that were about to bring down our power line and telephone line.

branches

Replacing the washing machine was only thanks to good friends with muscle power!

Talking of friends reminds me that we’ve found many good ones here in Wytheville while managing to retain our existing ones in Big Stone Gap.

Two friends – one from near here and one from Big Stone – helped us replace our lovely Narnia style back yard lamp post recently.

lamp

Just before that we had two big trees taken down and another two trimmed back. They were all ominously close to either our house and garage or our neighbor’s.

I almost forgot the rebuilding of our antique and rotted benches –

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Mostly it’s been just us, but sometimes with help and occasionally with professionals.

The next job will be completely re-doing the bathroom – so definitely professionals!

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, crafting, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Jack fails to make it in time – again – – –

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Well the latest big surprise yesterday was an email telling me that ‘Tales of the Lonesome Pine’ was voted one of the top three bookstores in SW Virginia by readers of a Virginia wide tourism magazine.

I thought to begin with that it was some kind of scam, but after exchanging a series of emails with a nice lady it became clear that it was genuine.

This immediately raised a few questions –

The bookstore closed over a year ago and the building is now a private dwelling again, and the new owners probably wouldn’t want hordes of folk knocking on the door or even just walking straight in.

There again – who voted and how did they not know we’d closed?

To be clear, we had the best time running that bookstore for fourteen years and made it into a real community hub. We made many friends along the way. The only reasons we sold up and moved was that Wendy’s job could be handled more easily from where we are now in Wytheville, it felt like time to move on and the building needed more TLC than a seventy-eight-year-old guy could contemplate.

I tried to find out whether we would have been first, second or third, but for understandable reasons we couldn’t be told. I also asked if our votes could be transferred to our good friends at Oracle Books in Wytheville but no dice there either.

 wendy-welch.com/2012/08/28/a-virtual-tour-of-tales-of-the-lonesome-pine-used-books/

Sometimes life is just weird – – –

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: THE BEST DOCTOR IN TOWN by Amelia Townsend

IMG_8952This is a local story for a southwest Virginia, about a doctor whose idea of a pain-free life is rather permanent. The only people onto him are themselves a bit tarnished of reputation: a junior doctor under suspicion of theft, a police officer with one too many “this is your last warning”s, and a reporter who got fired for manipulating the truth.

So you can see why no one really takes them seriously. As much as this book is about a bad man who sees himself as one of the good guys, it also has some funny bits. Observations about human nature, ways of seeing the world, and also some predictable “see it coming a mile off” bits that twist into humor.

Townsend is a playwright and musician who works with regional productions in DC and this area, promoting Appalachian and Coalfields culture. She’s got a good ear for how people talk and a fun way of seeing how we live.

If you are looking for a local story, this has plenty of ethnographic detail. One of the patients is raising his grandchildren because their mom is on drugs. Some of the patients are stretching paychecks and Medicare, unable to retire. And the language is rhythmic to the mountains.

The book is available from Jan-Carol Publishing and the usual suspects.

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Filed under book reviews, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table

Love is all Around – – –

Jack makes it with time to spare for a change – – –

NI marriage

The first same sex marriage in Northern Ireland yesterday.

As we approach Valentine’s Day –

Wendy and I write a regular column for Living Tradition magazine on topics common to the American and British folk music scenes. Our most recent one was about same sex relationships in the ballads and songs as well as between the performers. It got me thinking about how these relationships were viewed as I was growing up in the Presbyterian culture of Scotland in the 1950s and 60s. I found that I couldn’t remember ever hearing anything. I suppose that it was probably hidden under the cloak of ‘female companions’ or ‘good friends’. I do know that my Grandad stopped attending Church because the minister berated two women in front of the congregation and I always wondered if that was what it was about. But I never found out the reason – if that was it then kudos to Peter Ferguson!

This got me thinking about what we consider ‘normal’, and then about the different ‘normals’ I’ve encountered over the last seventy eight years.

Living now in a fairly conservative and rural part of the United States which, until relatively recently, would have also shunned same sex couples, I see a big change. It seems like there’s an attitude of ‘sure, they’re gays but they’re OUR gays’. It’s a combination of unremarkable and un-remarked upon.

Of course it may just be because we move in particular circles, but in both Big Stone Gap and now in Wytheville we count ever more such couples among our friends.

But my ‘normal’ has changed as well over the years. Not just my personal circumstances, but the world in general. I went from a naïve apprentice house-painter to a businessman, to a college professor, to a bookstore owner. Along the way I was folksinger on the side, moved from Scotland to the US and from one marriage to another.

As I changed, learned and developed so did the world. As my ignorance was challenged so has the world’s.

There’s a ways to go yet but, but we’re getting there I hope – –

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

Freewheelin’ Doon the Brae

Jack creakily creeps over the line to get his guest post in on a Wednesday – –

So I turned seventy eight years old today (Wednesday) although it may be Thursday before this appears!

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As far as I know the only two members of my immediate family to get beyond that are my Mum and my sister Margaret.

So I see eighty coming over the horizon and that’s quite a sobering thought. All the folk I know around my age are ‘old’, but that’s not how I feel at all. Despite smoking and drinking most of my life I seem to continue to be fairly healthy.

When I look back I’m surprised at how my life turned out and the twists and turns. When I was a house painter I never expected to become a lecturer in management studies or to gain an MBA from one of the most prestigious Scottish Universities. When I started singing in a skiffle group I never expected to make seven albums and contribute to three others.

Today I was equally surprised to see more than a hundred birthday greetings on facebook, which reminded me of how many friends all over the world I’ve made. Some are from way back and some not so far, and some only on line.

birthday

But the odd thing is that I’m very aware of friends and family who haven’t made it this far, and they’re actually the ones I’m thinking of today more then any. Among them are Margaret, Colin, Mike, Davy, Jim, Gordeanna, Anne and Maureen.

Since I do seem to be fairly healthy, though, I guess I should just get on with it and be lucky that I continue to make new friends and have a wife that despite twenty one years of sparring, somehow sticks by me –

Onwards and upwards!

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

Home is where the Heartspace is – –

Jack gets a guest post on a Saturday – what next?

Wendy and I have ended up in lots of great places so she could get some peace for writing. We thought Fayetteville in West Virginia was the best, when she was offered three months as Writer-in-Residence at Lafayette Flats. That was a lovely time, but the best was yet to come!

blue house

When we moved to Wytheville from Big Stone Gap, we couldn’t have imagined that among our first new friends would be Randy and Lisa who own Oracle Books down on Main Street. During our first year here we’ve helped them run events at the store and they’ve introduced us to many new friends, as well as supplying us with wonderful eggs from the farm where they live. Lisa raises goats for their fleece and I do believe the ladies have done some trades the hubbies are not privy to, as well.

But here’s the rub – Wendy found herself suddenly hit with two book deadlines. Her contracted book is due to McFarland Press in mid-February. Wendy’s been working almost non-stop at editing this volume, tentatively titled High Hopes: Appalachian prescribers and therapists take on the substance abuse crisis. It has some fifteen or so contributors, and all I know is my darling comes around the corner in our house from time to time, tears streaming down her face, or laughing, and says, “Listen to this.”

The second deadline is not specific, but Wendy feels driven. For years she wanted to publish a book about our cat rescue work, but her agent (a wonderful woman we both respect) didn’t feel it would work. Out of the blue, the editor Wendy works with at McFarland messaged to ask, hadn’t Wendy been working on a cat book at some point? Could she see that when Wendy had a chance?

It can be hard to concentrate at home sometimes—chores, cats and (dare I say) the husband can call my wife’s focus away. Randy’s sister Linda came to the rescue with the offer of her gorgeous 1900 house tucked off the beaten track. It doesn’t have cell-phone coverage but does have internet – perfect. So a bookstore is helping an author to get a couple of books published.

My job is to keep the wood stove going (oh bliss), walk Bruce our dog, and run out for provisions when necessary. In other words it is to guard Wendy’s head space so she can do what she does best – write. That’s what I guess all marriages are about, in a larger sense: guarding each other’s heads, if not hearts as well. You support each other. It’s always a negotiation as she supports my musical stuff and I do my best to support her writing. On the other hand, she’s also musical, becoming among other things a very good harp player, and I am writing a blog post at this moment. So perhaps as much as guarding each other’s space, it is making space for each other in our own?

 

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, writing