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SUE BARTON, LADADOG AND THE BLACK

25 April 2002

The public library was a short distance from my grammar school and perhaps a mile from my home (up hill, both ways, in the snow...smileysm.gif (909 bytes)). It was my favorite place to be during my early years. I remember the thrill of getting my first library card, and how grown up I felt. It was manilla colored and about 3x5" in size. When you checked out a book, the librarian would stamp the date on the card. As the weeks passed, the stamped date list grew longer. It was a mark of achievement when you had to turn in the old card and get a new one.

It wasn't a large library. The librarian desk was in the center. Off to the left were the adult books (I don't mean x-rated, I mean adult-level books), with shelves circling around making a horseshoe shape. Off to the right was the kids' section. The magazines and easiest/youngest level books were on the left and then circling around through various categories and over to the "teen books" on the far right of the horseshoe.

As I aged, the place in the horseshoe where I began my search for the six books I would carry home to read each day would move farther to the right, as my reading/comprehension matured.

I was a sucker for animal books. Especially horse and dog books. Yes, I was that stereotypical pre-adolescent girl who was mad about horses, even though I lived smack dab in the middle of a concrete covered city and almost never saw a horse in person.

It was Stephen who introduced me to horse books, and it was The Black Stallion, the first in the Walter Farley series. My sophistication with respect to books at that early age was so nonexistent that when I read the list of Farley's books on the back cover, I noted that all of them were horse stories except "Random House." I didn't realize Random House was the publisher.

But I absolutely soaked up the tales of Alec Ramsey and his shipwreck on a deserted island with The Black, taming the wild stallion and bringing him home to a small paddock in the borroughs of New York, and through all the rest of the books and his racing career and the subsequent offspring of The Black.

I was not wedded only to the Black. There were the books of Dorothy Lyons--Dark Sunshine, Silver Birch, Midnight Moon (in fact, when I got my first bike--a dark blue used bike we found advertised in the newspaper, I named it "Midnight Moon" and called it "Moony" for short.)

But my favorite books were probably the dog books. We lived in a small flat in San Francisco and my sister was allergic to animal hair, so we were not able to have pets. I lived vicariously through the people who bonded with their animals in books. In particular, I devoured the stories of Albert Peyson Terhune and longed for my own "Lad." (The closest I ever came was a sheltie my cousin gave me once.) My favorite stories were all about collies, but I remember loving a book called "Bonnie's Boy," about a cocker spaniel, and a few other dog books here and there.

(There were also the "real people" stories--things like "The Five Little Peppers" books, the "Bobbsey Twins" and Nancy Drew.)

I spent time each week, browsing the shelves looking for books I had not yet read. One of my most embarrassing moments came at the library. If there was a restroom there, I was not aware of it, and the building was a long way from the closest gas station. I still remember standing there one day, the urine trickling down my leg, forming a small pool under my feet, while I casually walked away, pretending not to notice and hoping nobody else realized that I was peeing on the library floor.

There came a time when I moved away from the animal books and got hooked on "career type" books. There was a whole section of the library devoted to schlocky stories about women in various careers--I remember one about a woman pilot and another about someone who took door to door surveys (if you can imagine an entire plot revolving around that!). I loved the nurse books. Sue Barton was my favorite (though I also read a bit of Cherry Ames). I followed Sue through nursing school, social work, and other adventures, through to having a famiy and working as a nurse in her husband's practice. (Ironic that I'm now working for physicians!) I once dreamed of being a nurse, before I realized that the "ick factor" would probably keep me from actually pursuing that interest.

I developed an interest in historical fiction, which was in short supply on the kids' side. It was a big step, the first day I started to look through the books on the adult side. (I still remember that the first "adult book" I took out was about Thomas Jefferson.)

The library was such a central part of my growing up years that I still marvel that I haven't been inside a library in years. I guess it's because I'm so busy that it takes me forever to get through a book (I've been reading David Gerrold's latest book, "Leaping to the Stars," the third book in a series that includes my very favorite Gerrold character: "Bev Sykes," the lesbian partner of the hero's mother. It is taking me forever to get through this book because I only read it when I'm walking on the treadmill in the morning. By the same token, I read Rosie O'Donnell's excellent book, "Find Me" in a matter of hours last week.).

Another thing that keeps me out of libraries (and in hock) is that oh-too-easy "one-click" button on Amazon.com.

Whether library or store-bought, the stacks and stacks and overflowing bookcases around here show a real love of books, and a frustration with not having nearly the time available to just wallow in them.

 

Quote of the Day

To finish is sadness to a writer -- a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done.  But it isn't really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.

John Steinbeck

Photo of the Day

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I took this at the Seattle Zoo

One Year Ago
Suffering in Silence

Two Years Ago
Turn Around, Turn Around


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(Everybody say
"happy birthday" to Jeri!)

 

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Created 4/25/02