Have you ever known anyone with The Right Stuff? I have; several people come to mind. First, it was the Bishop’s Boys, the Wright brothers, later the Spirit of St. Louis himself, Lucky Lindy, and of course Buzz Aldrin. I’ve been honored to have many intrepid friends including William Stephenson, Robert Lee Scott, James N. Rowe, Eddie Rickenbacker, Eric Haney and Hall Moore.
You wouldn’t believe what I’ve experienced. Davy, Jim and I manned the walls of the Alamo; I watched Doc and the Earps dispatch the Clantons; saw both Jesse and Wild Bill get shot in the back, and I’ll never forget when the G-Men took down Dillinger, at the Biograph, in that FBI Story Whitehead told me; I crossed the Rubicon with Caesar and the English Channel with William The Conqueror, followed Hannibal across the Alps, chose to stand with Horatius at the bridge, and later used it to cross the River Kwai. I jumped with a Band of Brothers into Normandy on The Longest Day, Francis Gary Powers and I got shot down over the Soviet Union, I followed TR up San Juan Hill, froze at Bastogne, choked on gunpowder at Gettysburg, fell in line with other POWs during the horrific Bataan Death March and rode in the Charge of the Light Brigade. I witnessed Lee surrender to Grant, Cornwallis at Yorktown, and the Japanese to MacArthur.
Elmer Gantry preached to me and because of his own demons, would have understood Hester Prynne’s torment. I’ve paddled the Missouri with Lewis and Clark, the Amazon with Teddy Roosevelt and the Mississippi with Tom and Huck.
I was present the first time Marconi sent a wireless, Edison lit a light bulb, Ford started an engine, the Grand Ol’ Opry played on the radio and Elvis recorded in Memphis.
I’ve had Great Expectations and been disappointed at times; Steinbeck’s grapes weren’t to my taste, I didn’t particularly enjoy Salinger’s rye and fishing with Hemingway wasn’t successful; I got caught in a Catch-22 and was terrified both in an Onion Field and In Cold Blood; I grew up in the country but Animal Farm wasn’t what I expected, and I got lost East of Eden on the Western Front.
The Last of the Mohicans had my undivided attention once and they buried my heart at Wounded Knee; I personally know the Son of Morning Star and learned of the Empire of the Summer Moon and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches.
Scott Turow taught me the law in One L; I know about Louis Nizer’s Life in Court and am aware according to Bailey, that the Defense Never Rests; watched Darrow defend John Scopes and the indefensible Leopold and Loeb; was at the Trial of Socrates and David Pudd’nhead Wilson is my attorney.
I know 101 Famous Poems because my dad told me about them, and he advised me to travel down Tobacco Road, visit God’s Little Acre, spend Two Years Before the Mast, and listen to Canterbury’s Tales. My brother introduced me to The Connecticut Yankee in King Albert’s Court, Hank Morgan, and I learned The Boss was indeed the boss.
Sarum was an intriguing locale; I visited Salisbury plain with Edward Rutherfurd while watching the construction of Stonehenge; I traveled with Charley once and spent a week in The Heart of the Sea; Michener has taken me to Alaska, Texas, Hawaii and Poland. I know A Witness in Philadelphia, have Walked the Line with Johnny Cash and the Green Mile with Stephen King.
I’ve been known to relax on Walden’s Pond for Seven Days in May, and have escaped from Colditz, Stalag Luft III and Sobibor, seen A World Lit Only By Fire and An Army At Dawn, been in The Belly of the Beast, on Von Ryan’s Express, sat on Johnny Carson’s couch with Ed, and have noshed with Julia Childs.
Mr. Cosell and I Never Played the Game, but I have been under the Friday Night Lights with Bissinger, and had A Good Walk Spoiled; I knew Bobby Knight when he had A Season on the Brink; Ty Cobb told me he didn’t sharpen his spikes; Tony LaRussa and I have stood side-by-side in the Cards dugout; “Bear” Bryant told me about his life and I’ve ridden with Richard Petty when he won the Daytona 500.
Robert Jastrow detailed the development of the universe and our earth to me Until the Sun Dies; Carl Sagan took me on a tour of the Cosmos and we revisited the subject in a Pale Blue Dot; Jared Diamond philosophized how we came to be who we are in Guns, Germs and Steel and Jane Jacobs described to me where we’re going in Dark Age Ahead.
I did all these things and never left home.
Please come join me and others in getting to know your librarian on a first name basis. They will help you eavesdrop on those who have made history, or assist you in finding whatever subject you may have interest. You can travel the country and the world reading books about a myriad of subjects and people.
National Library Week is April 13-19, 2014. Your local librarian is a friend of mine and can be yours, too. Ask them to help you join our nonexclusive club of readers; admission and dues are free. All you need for membership is a inquisitive mind, an appetite for adventure, education and entertainment. See you at the library.