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Can't live without books

The cursive title gracing the cover of a small book—The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—was intriguing. The book was even more interesting, suggesting that sometimes you can tell. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, 1946, rubble still lined the London streets, and a young writer is contacted by a reader on one of the Channel Isles, Guernsey.

Guernsey was occupied by Nazi Germany from the summer of 1940 until May of 1945.  Through letters from members of the book club, we are told again of the deprivation and horrors that the Nazis forced upon occupied territories.  The Nazis brought years of increasing hardship for the islanders, who were totally cut off from the rest of the world. Allowed no news of the war, parents did not even know whether their children, sent to England, were safe. Islanders were transported to concentration camps for committing minor infractions.

And we need to be told again. Americans who toughed it out through the Depression and saw firsthand the depravities of the Nazi regime are getting few and far between. The horrors of war have not been felt by most of us. To most Americans, rationing of any sort would be a shock. Paper drives and coupons are only a dimming memory in a relatively few minds. That’s why we need books to hold the memories.

Robert McNamara’s book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lesson of Vietnam, reputed to be his apology for the Viet Nam War, and published as a warning not to make the same mistake twice, should be another heartbreaking story. Part of his brilliant, but faulty reasoning came directly out of WWII fear that Communists were as threatening as Nazis.

You’ve got to have books. A good little book concerning David Thompson’s travels in North Idaho and Northwest Montana has a ponderous title—David Thompson The Saleesh House Period, 1807-1812, Sometimes Only Horses to Eat. The book is easy to read and leads to a better understanding of our own location, our own place names, our own history.

The first stop, after our fourteen-year-old granddaughter dropped her suitcase on the living room floor, was the hammock strung between a large cherry and a spindly plum. Dappled shade provided light enough for her to read To Kill a Mockingbird, the book she had carried from Phoenix.

My summers were full of books. In my maternal grandparents’ wonderful old Victorian house on an 80-acre farm was one 3-by-4 bookcase. Though most of the books were Readers Digest Condensed—a horrible excuse for literature, and one that could ruin reading for you—a few were wonderful true tales of adventure. My other set of grandparents lived in a small cinder block house, surrounded by 800 rolling acres, mostly in pasture with small stands of hardwood trees and a bottom planted in corn. In the cellar were moldy stacks of old National Geographic and Readers Digest. They lived far enough from town that they only drove in on Saturdays. Unionville, Missouri had a library with no limits. I could check out as many books as I could carry.

After my few morning chores—to feed the chickens and bring in stove wood—I was free to catch the horse that grandpa, a horse trader, had deemed well broke enough for a kid. Grandpa insisted that I ride bareback and instructed me to stay away the wooded gullies and the ‘Gentleman horse.’ Beyond those simple rules, 800 acres lay around me for explorations.I could be a mountain man searching for beaver; I could be an Indian brave setting out to snare an eagle.

My explorations invariably lead me to one or another of the hardwood groves. A stump or leaning log for remounting and grass for the horse, gave me hours and hours of dappled reading. I read the young adult section of that library dry and discovered the world of non-condensed novels.

Even though we live far enough from town that our trips are bimonthly and we went just last week, our granddaughter’s request (since we don’t have any books about vampires) for a library trip could not be denied. She is off to Sandpoint with my East Bonner County Library card. Have fun, I wished her as they left, it is a great library.

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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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