This blog, published free of charge since September 2007, is a way for me to stay in touch with seasonal bookstore visitors from afar and with all customers and friends when I am closed during the winter. My annual seasonal retirement will begin this year on November 1, and I expect to be back in spring of 2021, as early as May 15, if possible. Meanwhile, thank you so much for following Books in Northport and for supporting Dog Ears Books.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015
The Road West: Conversation Sampler
1: Which is lovelier, a herd of cattle all one color, such as all white
Charolais or all black Angus, or a mixed-color herd? David plumped for an
all-one-color herd, and I could see the beauty in that scheme, yet when I saw
mixed-color herds, they were beautiful, too, in a different way. It’s still a
limited palette, after all: black to reddish-brown through the lovely tan of
Jerseys to the cream color of Charolais. That palette (and I remember thinking the
same thing in southcentral France) seems to echo the colors of the rocks and
earth and trees. And to digress from cattle, sometimes those rocks along
the highway look almost fake, like the big faux rochers of the Buttes de
Chaumont in Paris. Or so they struck me, and David agreed.
2: When pioneers were plodding west in ox-drawn carts, did they stop and settle down in Missouri because that’s where an ox died or an axle broke? David’s hypothesized thusly, while my speculation went in a different direction. Had they
continued to California, I said, they knew they would have to cross serious mountains, so why wouldn’t they have looked around the rolling, wooded hills west of the
Mississippi and said to each other each other, “Why kill ourselves dragging over mountains?
What could be better than this? Pretty little creeks, clean water, rich soil,
plenty of stone and wood for building.” That’s how Missouri looked to me. Very
appealing, a place it would be easy to call home. And again we agreed.
Interesting how often we come at a topic from very different starting places
and agree on a conclusion -- though admittedly one not derived logically from the
3: Those neat trees in orderly rows, plantings that look so much like pecan
groves -- they can’t be pecan trees, can they? We’re not that far south! But wait!
All those signs advertising hand-turned walnut bowls – can these be walnut
groves? Walnut trees grow as far north as Michigan, so Missouri would probably
be congenial. What the trees are, of course, is a matter of fact, not opinion,
and we may be wrong in what we’ve agreed is a good guess, but it doesn’t matter
as we’re rolling west. We’re just keeping eyes open and minds in gear.
4: Any travel brings to mind former travels. The rocks reminded me of a
park in Paris, the sycamores of southern Illinois and Ohio. Signs for
particular exits brought to David’s mind trips he made one year between
Arkansas and Michigan. He recalled a memorable conversation between two
strangers in the seat in front of him on a Greyhound bus, both of them returning
home to family after adventures gone very wrong. He described to me the worst
lightning storms he’d ever been in. The next day, in Oklahoma, I told him the story
of our junior high school band and orchestra raising money to charter a train
to go to the National Music Festival in Enid. We lived on the train during the
festival and were the talk of the town. “You’re the kids on the train!” Yep.
there we were, rolling along at 70 mph, talking about Paris parks, 19th-century
pioneers in ox-carts, trips to and from Arkansas, lightning storms in Arkansas
and in Leelanau County, Michigan, cross-country train travel, and I happened to
glance across a pasture where one black Angus steer had taken it into his big beefy
head, for who knows what purpose, to stroll downhill like a busy, self-important lawyer headed
to a newsstand. There were David and I, existing in multiple times and spaces,
and this animal was busy enough living his own life, with no thought to ours.
Later (still rolling along) we began listening to a book on tape, Anthony Bourdain reading his A Cook’s
Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, all about traveling around the world seeking
good food and adventure. Our adventures are more modest, but we enjoy them.
We're somewhere different!
Texas uses wind
New Mexico -- landscape changes again
Cowboy country, all of it
And here, in closing tonight, is a song of the West, the link sent to by friend Marjorie back in Northport, Michigan.