A Note for a Friend–Through the Valley


Hard times–valleys–come in so many forms. They can be obvious–job loss, death in the family, sickness, natural disaster. Or they can be harder to spot–a child gone astray, a marriage in tatters, a difficult work environment. And all too often, we try really hard to keep others from seeing our valleys. I have a dear friend going through a challenging […]

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Appalachian Thursday–Side Dogs

There are generally two types of folks I run into hiking in the national forest near our house. 1) Transplants with an appreciation for nature who carry water bottles, graphite hiking sticks, and often have a proliferation of bumper stickers on their cars. 2) Locals with an appreciation for the place they know who carry guns, sticks found along the trail, and often have an opinion about where the hunting is best. Both kinds have dogs with them and Thistle and I like to visit with them all. A few weeks back, I ran into two young men who fell into the locals category. They had a hound and a second, mixed breed dog. They were, indeed, scouting spots to hunt and we chatted a minute about the dogs. One young man allowed as how the hound was a hunting dog, while the mutt was just a good “side dog.” This was a new term for me, but a little more conversation led me to understand that a side dog is one that stays by your side, generally keeping you company. I LOVE this! Turns out all my dogs have been side dogs. They aren’t for hunting or protection. They don’t herd other animals or track anything. They aren’t particularly well-trained. They’re just really good companions. First there was Joe who licked the other side of my popsicle in the summer. Then there was Fred, a massive Airedale who technically […]

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My First Public Book Signing

book table 2

There’s nothing like sitting behind a table of your books watching people go by to remind you how important humility is. There’s also nothing like total strangers who have never heard of you or your book getting excited about meeting you to remind you the world’s still a pretty great place. I didn’t mean to set up a book signing. […]

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Appalachian Thursday–Letters from Home

One of my greatest treasures is a collection of letters from my grandmother. She was from a generation that hadn’t quite given up paper and pen for the telephone and certainly not for e-mail. I doubt she ever sat down in front of a computer, although she marveled over the laptop I carried to her house a time or two. Not only do the letters resurrect memories, they also remind me of the way people back in French Creek, WV, talk and the things that are important to them. Weather and family being at the top of the list. Here’s a sample from May 17, 1999, when we still lived in SC. I kept her choice of capitalization which I see not as incorrect, but as a way to emphasize what’s important. Just a few lines along with pictures of Bessie’s Birthday. There was three that didn’t turn out very good but the ones that I’m sending you were pretty good. Bessie survived it all pretty good. Her son in law Elmer (Caroline’s husband) got his Big Toe and the one next to it cut off in a lawn mower accident 2 weeks ago on his job. He is getting along O.K. He worked at the High School so he won’t be going back to work the rest of the school year. It is beautiful here now. The Honey Suckles are Blooming real pretty and some of the other flowers […]

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