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Monday, December 17, 2018

Finding Friends Along the Way

My new equine friends above belong to one of my sister’s friends, and Deborah and Sheryl have been wanting to get me out to meet the horses for a long time. Oh, the darlings! They are (clockwise from lower left) Lucy (Alpha mare), Flicka, Traveler, and Blackie. When Deborah and I got out to the stable on Tuesday evening (well, late afternoon, but darkness had already fallen), the horses were in for the night, their stalls full of fresh bedding, and, just finishing their dinner, they were ready to be brushed and fed their bedtime apples. Those horses were no happier to be brushed and given treats than I was to curry their coats and hold out a flat hand with chunks of apple, first to Lucy (since she’s the boss) and then to the others in the order their names are given above, sweet, patient Blackie waiting the longest — last but hardly least in my book, he was such a sweetie! 

Nor were horses the only excitement that day in Springfield, Illinois. (I have to backtrack in my account of our trek west so as not to leave out these important events.) My sister and I also visited a venerable downtown Springfield bookstore with the wonderful name Prairie Archives. 

Prairie Archives, housed in the former J.C. Penney building on East Adams Street, lives up to its wonderful name. Books of and for all ages, maps, art prints -- intoxicating atmosphere! For nearly half an hour I was too giddy to do little more than wander from one room to the next, exclaiming (quietly, to my sister) my admiration for my surroundings. 

At last I settled down in the foreign language room long enough to find a couple of Simenon paperbacks. Next some sweet, tiny books in the children’s room called my name. By then, growing calmer, I was at last able to breathe normally, put on my professional bookseller identity, and ask for books on Michigan. The owner’s son and a couple of other staff provided friendly assistance. What an enchanting place!

When I went up front to pay for my purchases, owner John R. Paul and I got into a discussion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and where to find the best pasties. If I lived in Springfield, I would be making weekly visits to — and purchases from — Prairie Archives!

Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas — the immensity of the American plat pays, especially the High Plains, still amazes us, though we have journeyed through it before. This post would wander far from its theme, however, if I were to backtrack visually and verbally across the vast interior spaces of the North American continent. Instead I am compressing my account to focus on a few stops, leaping now from Illinois to New Mexico.

Tucumcari, New Mexico, bills itself as the “mural capital of New Mexico,” and as we admired some of the first examples we came across, the style seemed very familiar. We wondered if the artist could be the mural painter from Benson, the one we’d first met with his wife on top of a mountain (Masai Point) in the Chiricahua National Monument. We looked for a signature but didn’t find one at first.  Not all the murals in town are by one person, but we were interested in a certain style, one we recognized. Then, around another block was the artist himself, at work on a scaffold, and it was Doug Quarles! 

Talk about serendipity! We enjoyed the chance to catch up with Doug and Sharon (they have moved from Benson to Tucumcari since last we saw them), while Sarah made the most of an opportunity to stretch out on a sun-warmed sidewalk, quite a relief after sub-freezing temperatures and a 60mph wind the night before in Liberal, Kansas! Here is some more of Doug's work, but you should really stop in Tucumcari and see it all.

One more night on the road for our pack, in Alamogordo, and then our last day’s travel took us through Las Cruces, Deming, and Lordsburg to the Arizona line. I was eager to reach the state line and catch my first sight of the Dos Cabezas peaks, but when we ducked off the road for a coffee in Deming and saw this pretty little bookstore — so inviting! — there was no resisting. And we were so glad we didn’t try!

Readers’ Cove is owned by Margaret Fairman and Dan Gauss, and we wandered from room to room in delight, encountering a bookstore cat in the first room we explored. Later, in another room, the Artist made friends with Ziggy, the bookstore dog. 

cat on rocking chair

dog making friends

Margaret, bookseller on duty, was as friendly, open, and welcoming as her shop, too. 

She and the Artist and I had book talk, dog talk, Michigan talk, and more. I could have settled in for the entire day, if we hadn’t been almost at our destination. But Deming, NM, isn’t that far from Willcox, AZ, the Artist noted. It could be a day trip (though a long day). Or perhaps an overnight, combined with a jog up to Silver City, which people tell us is worth a visit?

Yes, my bookstore is closed for the winter, but I am still mindful of my calling, because a wonderful part of being an independent bookseller is the collegiality of the business. Colleagues, we are, not competitors. We leave the killer instinct to the behemoths — and whose dream would you rather feed -- world domination or neighborhood welcome? If you would keep treasure islands like Prairie Archives, Readers’ Cove, Dog Ears Books and others on the literary map, you must be a frequent visitor and a regular paying customer. Nothing less will do it. 

So wherever you are spending the winter, at home or away, to visit indie bookstores — and do not leave empty-handed! I did not leave this bookstore or Prairie Archives empty-handed! How could I, when I must practice what I preach, and when I am an incurable lover of both books and bookstores?

Thus today's lesson: Visit independent bookstores. Buy books in independent bookstores. And visit horses, too (and dogs and cats). Bookshop proprietors will be happy to see you, and when you go to visit horses, apples or carrots will assure you of a warm welcome there. 

Stables and bookstores: some of my favorite places! No, the Artist and I do not make the drive to Arizona nonstop, and yes, we do get worn out, but the beautiful scenes and lovely people along the way make every trip rewarding and memorable.


Dawn said...

I love NM and now I have a new town, the mural city, to visit! Looks fascinating!

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I love road trips.