Monday, January 16, 2017

Off the Beaten Path: Singing Wind Bookshop


I once wrote a couple of posts about the unusual bookshops I've encountered on my travels, and they were features on another book blog. Recently, I learned that the book blog no longer existed, and I mourned the loss of those articles... for a short time. It didn't take long for me to realize that they weren't gone forever. All I had to do was rewrite them. After all, I still had the photos and the memories.

So that's what I'm doing today: sharing a memorable visit to what has been called a bookshop at the end of the world: the Singing Wind Bookshop outside Benson, Arizona.

When I first visited in 2010, Winn Bundy's bookshop did not have an internet presence. Now it has a Facebook page that is irregularly updated. What breathed lasting life into Winn's dream of owning a bookshop was good old word of mouth. Now this rancher who has to be staring her ninetieth birthday right in the eye has an award-winning bookshop that is regularly visited by people from all over the world.

It all started with a windfall of $250 that she spent on books. Then her husband cut four-inch thick planks of mesquite wood which Winn stained, and they put up shelves in their ranch house. In 1974, Singing Wind Bookshop was open for business on their cattle ranch outside Benson.

You'd never guess you were on the way to a bookstore, would you?

 
Keep your eyes peeled for a mailbox on the right...


 
Turn onto the dirt road where the yuccas are in bloom.


You're headed in the right direction if you see this sign!

You have reached your destination!

This is a working ranch. On the day Denis and I were here, no one was inside, so we had to ring the bell. In no time at all, the face of Chester Einstein-- Winn's Dalmatian/Lab mix-- appeared in the window, and then Winn herself was ushering us through the mesquite wood door.

The door is made from wood on the ranch and shows off the Singing Wind brand.

Even that very first look inside lets you know that Denis and I walked into Aladdin's cave, doesn't it? Each newcomer gets a guided tour from Winn. She has a very eccentric, no-label way of shelving all those books, many of which are one-of-a-kind. I have to admit that, although I was enjoying the tour, very little of it soaked in. You see, it's not just the wind that sings there on Winn Bundy's ranch. Those books do, too!


Chester Einstein himself.

When we first arrived, Chester Einstein greeted us. He's a friendly dog but not overly effusive. He pretty much stayed close to Winn, only checking up on us occasionally. After her tour, Winn told us that if we needed help, all we had to do was ask, and then she left us alone to browse. Browse I did!
















You can see an eyeglass case and the beginnings of a book pile on the white chair. Actually... if you want to see any of these photos in a larger size so you can see more detail, just left click on any of them, and they'll open in a brand-new window.

This is where Chester Einstein found me most often. It's the section having to do with women in the Southwest and West. 
Denis would keep circling back to see if I'd moved, but it took me a while! Winn's bookstore is an absolute gold mine for people who are interested in this part of the world. I could have spent days wandering each and every one of those mesquite wood shelves and checking all the books inch by inch, spine by spine.




   

Tucked away almost as an afterthought was this award. Singing Wind Bookshop has earned several more awards since then in its forty-three years of operation. It is host to events for elementary and high schools, and authors often stop to visit and read to the children. There are three events throughout the year, like the Cowboy/Cowgirl Round-Up in January and the Thanksgiving Fiesta in November. Of course, there was a big fortieth anniversary party there in 2014.


The "cash register"

When it came time to pay, Winn led me to the cash register. Good thing I had my checkbook in my purse because Winn doesn't take plastic. She has a calculator and uses carbon paper to hand write all the receipts. If you pay cash, your change comes from a shiny old baby food jar and vitamin bottle.

The Singing Wind Bookshop is a treasure, as is its owner. There's a bonus to writing this post again seven years after it first appeared elsewhere. I found a short video in which you can see and hear Winn Bundy for yourself. I hope you'll watch it.





10 comments:

  1. What a fabulous-sounding place, Cathy! I can just see myself getting lost in there..... Lucky you to have found it.

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    1. I don;'t even remember how I first learned about it!

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  2. I absolutely loved this! Loved it! So the bookshop is still there. Looks like I could spend a day there just browsing. It sort of reminds me of a shop I found in downtown Kerrville, TX, run by an elderly couple, who were true book lovers. I spent a few hours there last fall and intend to go back if I'm ever in Kerrville again. Thanks for rewriting and sharing this. Loved the video!

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    1. It's still there. It's the type of place you and I could both spend a day in.

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  3. How totally fascinating! We have a bookstore in the middle of downtown Johannesburg disguised as an old bank and street traders sell used books inside the banking hall with the bookstore itself on the Mezzanine. There must be many special places like this around the world. Thanks for sharing it!

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    1. You're welcome! I love finding out about gems of bookstores like the Singing Wind and yours in Johannesburg.

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  4. What an amazing bookstore and lovely video. I am so glad Winn is able to live her dream. Thanks for sharing this amazing story.

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    1. You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  5. Love this bookstore just by your description and the photos. I, too, would get lost in it for hours.

    What books did you get?

    I wish I lived near the bookstore. I could just take vacation afternoons and go there and tune out the world.

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    1. It was seven years ago, Kathy. I have no clue, other than that I read and enjoyed them all. One was a mystery set in Arizona with a Native American theme. The rest were histories about various women/groups of women in the 19th-century West.

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