Green Writing

gecko-book_articleSeems like anybody, or, um, any critter, can write a book these days! While You’re Only Human: A Guide to Life is a creative bit of company promotion, it is more welcome than most television advertising.

          Reviews posted on call the little book “deliciously entertaining,” “uncommonly delightful,” “quite a hoot.” One person admited “I found myself laughing outloud.”

          I am thoroughly entertained by the idea. After all, for several years I have referred to the Geico Gecko as “my favorite television personality.” Ever since an ad showed him driving his gecko-size red sports car to work, I have been totally charmed by the little green guy with the down-under accent. So much so that my husband gave me a Geico Gecko bobble-head figure for Christmas. It sits on my computer table offering an encouraging thumbs up when I sit down to write.


Child’s Eye View of Religion

SDC10398          When my husband processes an order for our used book business, I always ask, “What did this person buy?”
         Recently, the book purchased was Faith, Hope and Hilarity: The Child’s Eye View of Religion, a 1970 work by Dick Van Dyke. Yes, TV’s funny man.
          I delayed shipment for half a day while I sat on the patio and read this slim volume.  Here are a few of the stories that kept me laughing:

          The children’s Sunday School teacher was explaining the concept of the Trinity, three persons in one. She used an egg to demonstrate how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost could be one entity. God is the yolk. Jesus is the white of the egg. The Holy Ghost is the shell. Then she cracked open the egg to show the three parts. Wouldn’t you know, that egg had a double yolk!

          A New York City Sunday School Teacher asked a boy, “Who defeated the Philistines?”
          The boy replied, “If they don’t play the Mets, I don’t keep track of them.”

          A first grade girl insisted that Adam and Eve had two children – a boy and a girl! “Their names were Cain and Mable,” she said.

Lottie Loved to Read

SDC10523When first married, my husband and I lived in a cute little house in a small town. Our next door neighbor, Lottie, was well past 90. She was unsteady on her feet but she kept busy. Lottie knitted lap blankets for “the old folks in the nursing home.” She liked to sit on her front porch and watch the children walking to and from school.
          One spring morning Lottie was nestled in her porch swing when the postman delivered the latest Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. Four or five current best selling novels were printed in abbreviated form in one volume. Lottie started reading the first book.
          When children began walking home after school that day, Lottie was sitting in her porch swing as usual. However, she had not moved from that seat all day. She had read that entire volume of books from cover to cover.
          And what books did Lottie read that spring day? Volume 85 (Spring 1971) contained:
Halic: The Story of a Gray Seal by Ewan Clarkson
Time and Again by Jack Finney
Six-Horse Hitch by Janice Holt Giles
Bomber by Len Deighton
A Woman in the House by Wm. E. Barrett

Reader’s Digest Condensed Books were published for 47 years (1950-1997). The quarterly volumes usually contained five stories. By the early 1990s, publication was increased to bi-monthly. The popular series continues today as Reader’s Digest Select Editions.

Voices of Literary Women


Guest Post
by Kayann Short, Ph.D.

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel . . . and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.”
So spoke Jane Eyre, the fiery heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s book of the same name. Reading the novel as a young girl, I felt the injustice of Jane forced to stand on a stool in the middle of the schoolroom because she had accidentally dropped her slate.

From the time my schoolteacher grandmother taught me to read, I was drawn to young women protagonists: Alice in Wonderland, Nancy Drew, and Jo March of Little Women were some of my favorites. When I started college at CSU (Colorado State University) in 1977, I majored in microbiology but pursued the newly created Women’s Studies certificate as well. I took every women’s literature course I could, all taught by wonderful professors who were building this new program. But I thought of these courses as electives, taken more for fun than as preparation for any career.
Following my sophomore year, I discovered Ellen Moer’s Literary Women: The Great Writers at the small library in the New England town where I was spending the summer. Akin to my Women’s Studies courses, Moer’s book examined writers like Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, and George Sand as women–for their gender–rather than as members of a literary movement, regional location, or social affiliation. With the Dictionary Catalogue of Literary Women at the back of Moer’s book as my guide, I set myself a course of summer study of whatever women writers the small library offered, taking notes on yellow legal pads that I wish I still had today.

What began as a passion became the topic of my Master’s and PhD research, followed by 24 years teaching a diversity of women’s literature course at CU-Boulder. On the first day of class, students always asked me to choose my favorite book from the syllabus. I would tell them why I liked each of the books and, while I could never choose just one, how all the protagonists were in the mold set by Jane Eyre years ago: women speaking against injustice, defending their rights, and insisting their voices be heard.

Kayann Short, Ph.D., is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography. She blogs at

Found in Old Books

We operate a used book business and are often entertained by the items we find tucked inside old books. Cards received with a gift book are common along with printed bookmarks and business cards. Here are a few oddities we found in old books:

Pages from a Cardiologist’s note pad with two hand-sketched diagrams of a heart. Arrows apparently indicate the patient’s problem. Page three notes the estimated annual number of deaths from the particular condition.

An invitation, dated May 1967, to the fiftieth anniversary party of the 1917 graduating class of Centennial High School, Pueblo, Colorado.

A letter from a man to his father. It is written in very large, back-slanted script on a very large piece of paper. In part it reads, “I no you didn’t entend to upset me. But you did – you no when one calls long distance – it is something very important…”

Two copies of a color photo of a family posed with Elvis Presley. The backdrop stage curtain announces “The King Returns to Vegas.”

A postcard, date stamped Hutchinson, KS 1958, offers advice to Mrs. Lee on locating someone who did caning (the craft of weaving chair seats or backs using rattan cane).

A copy of a man’s fully completed 1990 credit application for purchase of a new car.

Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Books Come Home

StoreIn the summer of 2010, forgotten treasure arrived in my mailbox. My childhood neighbor and lifetime friend, Sharon, returned two books to me. She found them while sorting more than fifty years of accumulated keepsakes in her parents’ house.          
          To The Store We Go by E.C. Reichert, illustrated by Ora Walker (Rand McNally & Company, Chicago) is a bit worse for wear. The front cover is barely hanging on. The back cover is missing but, the pages are in good condition and offer an interesting look back in time.
          In this little story, Tim and Debbie take a trip to the grocery with Mother. They learn about taking a number at the meat counter,  picking ice cold frozen food from the freezer, and what happens when you take an orange from the bottom of the pile. 
          Rereading this little book after more than fifty years, I noticed a few things have changed. In one scene a grocery clerk uses a rubber stamp and ink pad to put bright blue prices on the tops of cans. The can of tomatoes cost 17 cents! After checking out, a “big, strong boy” carried their two paper bags of groceries to the car. One thing has not changed – the temptation of candy and gum displayed in easy reach at the checkout counter.

   I wrote about the other book, Sugar Bear <a href=" (Samuel Lowe Company, Kenosha, WI, 1952), in a July 2010 post.

The Secret Within the Gift

Katherine LargeMother grew up on a Kentucky farm during the Depression. Books were a luxury and much treasured when received as a gift.
          Mother left the farm to attend Vanderbilt University, where she lived with her uncle and aunt. Uncle’s wife shared Mother’s love of reading and later left us many boxes of books. When mother died, the books found a home with me.
          One cold, snowy day I searched the collection for something to read. I pulled out Katherine by Anya Seton. Between the pages I found a card. The book had been a new release when mother received it as a 1954 Christmas gift from Mr. Barksdale, her employer during the war years.
          I settled in with the red volume and a cup of tea. The titlc character was a real person, Katherine de Roet, born in 1350 England. Her descendants included Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scotts. This lengthy, fictionalized account of Katherine’s life occupied me for many evenings.
          Halfway through the book, a nagging thought began to distract me. There was something I had forgotten. I dug out my family genealogy notebook, stored away after several years of obsessive research. Sure enough, Mr. Barksdale’s gift was the story of Mother’s own ancestor. Neither Mother nor Mr. Barksdale ever knew the connection.

The Title Said “Read Me”!

I read Donis Casey’s first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, because the title jumped off the new book shelf and grabbed me.

          It turned out to be an engaging mystery story but, more importantly, I fell in love with her large family of characters and the language and lifestyle of early 1900s rural Oklahoma.

          Over the next years I waited with great anticipation to learn the title of Casey’s next book (and I promptly read each one):

The Drop Edge Of Yonder
The Sky Took Him
Crying Blood (okay, that title didn’t light my fire)
The Wrong Hill To Die On

          When I saw that her new book Hell With The Lid Blown Off will be released in June, 2014, I immediately logged onto my local library’s website. One copy of the book was on order. I was first to put in a hold request. Now I’m waiting for that wonderful email message that says, “You have a book on hold at Barkman Branch.”
          If you have not read any of the Alifair Tucker series, start from the first title listed above to follow the story of a most engaging family.

For more information about the Alifair Tucker Mystery series, visit

Saying Too Much

Airplane-passengers-001He was a trim, attractive man, neatly dressed, with a suntan that complemented a full head of carefully groomed white hair. He took the aisle seat a row ahead of me on the Dallas to Denver flight. With a pleasant smile he greeted the young woman seated across the aisle with her small daughter. “Looks like a good day for a flight. Not a cloud in the sky.”
          “We’re going to Denver,” the little girl announced.
          “Heading home?” he asked.
          “No, just going for a long weekend with my sister,” the mother said.
          “You live in the Dallas area?”
          She named a particular upscale community.
          “My wife and I looked at a home there a few years ago,” the man said.  “Very attractive neighborhood. We ended up buying further west. But, we have some good friends in your community.” He offered a name and asked if she knew the couple.
          She did not.
          “Stan’s house is straight through the gates and around the curve. You live back that way?”
          “No,” she said, “we’re on the first street to the left.”
          “Lived there long?”
          “Four years. We really like the neighborhood.”
          “Stan and Martha feel the same way.” He casually introduced himself.
          The young woman gave her name just before the pilot announced we were ready for takeoff.
          During the flight the man returned again and again to bits of friendly conversation with the woman and her daughter. By the time we descended into Denver, this stranger knew her husband’s job and where he worked, the name of the school where she taught fourth grade, the date when teachers returned from summer break, and a variety of details about her family’s lifestyle.
          I didn’t think much about these revelations, however, until the woman volunteered that the family was going on a ten day Florida vacation starting the first of August. “I have so much to do before we leave,” she said. “We’re having the inside of the house painted while we are away.”
          “I hope you have someone staying in your house to keep an eye on things,” the man said in a concerned tone.
          She calmly stated they didn’t feel that was necessary.
          I was stunned. The woman had just offered an open invitation to this stranger, and to any interested person seated nearby, that her home would be available for burglary during the first weeks of August.

Remembering Veterans and Those Who Serve

WWII The men and women who currently serve, and those who have given military service to our country, come with diverse skills and experiences. My Dad was a cheesemaker before he was drafted into the Army in 1941 at age 32. He remained stateside, serving as a training sergeant preparing soldiers for battle. I grew up listening to his stories about people he met in the Army. Here is perhaps my favorite story.

          Four companies were on field maneuvers together in the California desert. One of the men in Dad’s Company D was Ruben, a draftee from Kentucky who listed his occupation as “professional chicken thief.”          
          One day Dad was informed that the Commanding General was coming to inspect the camp. Dad was assigned to drive some distance to the nearest airfield that evening in order to pick up the General the next morning and bring him to the field camp.
          Some of the men in Company D had discovered a chicken ranch not far from camp. After Dad left on his mission, they challenged Ruben to demonstrate the skills he bragged about. After dark that night, a small group of men led Reuben to the chicken farm. He told them to wait outside the fence and he disappeared.
          The men never heard a sound from the chickens but soon a plump bird sailed over the fence and plopped at their feet. Several more dead chickens followed. Then Ruben appeared. With a wide grin he said, “That enough chickens for you or should I go back for a few more?”
          The men delivered the chickens to the Company D cook. He asked no questions but promised a fine chicken stew for lunch the next day.
          Dad returned mid morning with the General and accompanied him on his inspection of the camp. They came to the mess tent just before lunchtime. Each of the four companies had a food line set up and ready for the soldiers. The General started with Company A, looking over the equipment, the layout of the food line and lifting the lid of each cook pot.
          At Company D, the General lifted the cook pot lid and the aroma of chicken stew rose in a mist of steam. Dad was stunned. The General would surely turn to him and demand an explanation. Dad had no idea what he could say but he imagined everything from a thorough dressing down to losing stripes.
          The General replaced the lid and, as expected, turned to Dad.
          “This is rather odd,” said the General. “Company A is having standard rations: hamburger and beans with potatoes and gravy. Companies B and C are having the same. However, Company D is having chicken stew. By the aroma, I would judge it to be FRESH chicken stew.”
          Dad took a deep breath and prepared for the fury that was about to come.
          The General’s only words were, “I believe I will dine with Company D.”

Published in: on May 24, 2014 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  
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