Good to go with what people tell you to do when vacationing in Arizona over Christmas break. My friend from Peace Corps days, from the early 1980s, has been a wealth of information about what to do around the Tucson area. We were intending to go to Bisbee and she remembered that there was a little bookstore where she had gone in the middle of desert and cattle country, near Benson. She gave us the address and off we went a couple of days ago. I’m glad we had the address to put into GPS and even though we had all the details to reach the Singing Wind bookstore, we still got a bit lost. That’s how “ends of the earth” this bookstore is. Yet people from ALL over the U.S. and even the rest of the world have heard about it by word of mouth. It has been in operation for over 33 years.
Once we got to Benson, what was ominous off the highway and onto a dirt road was a black mailbox that was shot through with bullets…part of the charm perhaps? Then we saw a big iron sign that read something like “Books from the Southwest” and I wish I had taken a photo of that. That was ALL we had to go on to know we were on the right road. Then, we saw a gate to our left but the GPS said that it should be on the right, it had S W like a brand for the cattle. We overshot that gate and went more south to what was probably a LOT of parking spaces in the dusty area with barbed wire fence all around. We backtracked when we saw that the house that was in the distance was like the picture in the newspaper article referring to this little gem of a place.
We went through the gate and were greeted by a donkey. One of the passengers of the car started sounding like a mule or donkey and the animal responded in kind. It didn’t seem too happy with us and kept bellowing out its not too welcome response. Then we parked by several other cars that we thought might be other customers to this bookstore. We went to the main door on the west side and knocked, then someone of our party looked back to see there was a bell that we were supposed to ring. So we did several times. Apparently the buzzer at the door was not getting our hoped for response. Then after ringing the big bell and no motion of interest, my husband opened the door and found a customer sitting and reading a book by the many shelves.
Signs posted about not bringing in any food or drink and we wandered the rooms full of books sitting on mesquite shelving. There was one room dedicated to just children’s books. I had found one of the books “Three Little Javelinas” while in Kazakhstan and there it was sitting on the top shelf. I had given it to one of the grandkids several years ago. It was written by a Tucson author. We looked at all the sections that were marked with different topics such as history, native American Indians, cooking, crafts, etc. There was also a section where there were LOTS of Arcadia history books. That was a good sign.
We met the 81 year old owner of the place, her name is Winn Bundy and she was formerly from Minnesota. She told me from Lake of the Isles area and I knew that she came from some money to have grown up there, close to Loring Park in the Twin Cities. Her dad had worked for General Motors. She had gotten three masters degrees, one in library science, another in history and I forget the third. She was an impressive and spunky lady. She had a surgery recently so she was wearing a neck brace. I told her I wanted to write a book about Ukraine’s sad history during the 1930s. She seemed knowledgeable of that. I bought a book about writing family history but I am more interested in the country’s history. She wrote in it and encouraged me in my writing.
In fact, she is willing to buy five of my history books, I just have to mail them to her and she will send me a check. She said something about 60/40. I’m not sure if I get the 60% of the $22 book or if she does. I don’t care one way or the other, I have boxes of my history books about my hometown and I see that she lives frugally and cares about books. She even cares about authors and will have a big shindig the end of January where many authors will converge on her ranch and she will host the chili party. This might be simultaneous to what they have going on in Tucson with authors meeting up there the end of January. In any case, she promotes authors and she has quite a following. She does NOT accept credit cards because she doesn’t want to be bothered with the paperwork. She prefers checks or cash. Fortunately, we had cash to do our shopping.
I hope she lives a long life, she has had two husbands and several children. The two former has passed away on her, the children have produced grandchildren for her. My husband and I plan to come back next year to visit the ranch with the little, out of the way bookstore. She has energy, charm and vision to do something big like this. More people need to be like her, I hope others will go visit the Singing Wind bookstore as a result of this post. Just know that it is hard to find and VERY out of the way! Their guestbook at the front of the store betrays that many people have heard about this place and have signed in, as we did several days ago. Good to go with what the people here know as true gems and almost secret!