I’m really happy to be in the saddle again here on Pistols and Petticoats.
It’s a new year, and I’m – sigh – a year older, having the distinction of a New Year’s Day birthday.
It seems so long since my last post, this will probably be a scattered mess of this and that.
But to address Jacquie’s post yesterday about passions, I thought I would elaborate on mine: books. And how much books have meant to generations of my famly.
I’ve often thought how lucky I’ve been – growing up in a family that valued books as much as they did food and lodging. They never considered books luxuries. They were as important to my family as meat on the table, far more important than a vacation, far more valuable than such new fangled inventions as television.
So I thought I would share this last story with how much books meant to generations of my family. My brother has a book dating back to pre-Revolution America that has survived during generations. Among my most priceless possessions is a set of books, “The Real America in Romance,” copyright, 1909. The title demonstrates I came by my interests naturally for my grandfather bought this series in the Arizona desert nearly a hundred years ago.
It’s a lovely set of leather-bound books which tells history through the eyes of fictional characters. The history is good, and often there’s a fine romance involved. I grew up on those books as well as sets of encyclopedias which improved as our financial situation improved.
The story of how my grandfather came to have these books is as fascinating to me – well, almost – as the books themselves.
As I reported before, My grandfather was a wanderer, an adventurer, a man always chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And thus he took his family to homestead in the Arizona desert. Money was very scarce along with water.
But whenever he heard of a drummer in the vicinity, he rode out to see if he had any books for sale. My grandmother, who was also an avid reader and was a writer in her own right (poetry and rhymes for greeting cards) was, alas, more practical and deemed food more important.
So grandfather would hide his new found treasures behind other books where he didn’t think his wife would find them. When she found the book, Will would catch hell, but always maintain, “that old book has been around here forever – you just forgot abaout it, and besides,” he would add slyly, “if you kept a better house, you wouldn’t be putting books where no one can find them.” Then the books would go up, beside another that had been purloined in a like manner.”
I think that’s my favorite of all stories about those years in southern Arizona (there are others about the Harvey Girls, a fruitless search for gold with an old miner and a mule (a disaster), and my father playing with a rattlesnake.
But it was always the story of the books that captured my imagination. Now here was a man with the right priorities. It’s a passion that has been given from one generation to another. My parents enrolled my brother and myself in the Junior Literary Guild when I was very young. It was the best investment they could imagine. My brother is never without a book. My nieces and nephews and their children all love books. My gift from my niece this year was “501 Must-Read Books.”
I think it all came from that bigger-than-life legend who went hunting for drummers to spend what little he had on books. I never met him. He died before I was born, but he’s always been a presence in our family.
So how did you learn to love reading and books? Did your family grow the love in you or did you just gravitate to it? Or did a teacher light a spark?
I announced a contest just before our Christmas break. The winners are Taryn Raye and Christyne Butler. If you will email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address, I’ll send you one of my westerns.