I've Got My Books To Keep Me Warm

The wind had howled all day, finding every crack and chink in the farmhouse, whistling through until Lobelia felt she was living inside a church organ, with bass stops at the chimney and treble at every window. The paper she had plastered over the holes kept the snow outside, but couldn’t do a thing for the musical inclinations of the north wind.

“Mother, I’m ready!” Jake’s voice came amid a blast of cold air; she heard him stamp the snow from his boots.

She rushed to the door, but stopped well short of the man standing just inside. Snow had crusted over his beard, giving him his grandfather’s face, and he was so heavily wrapped in coats to keep off the chill that even the children hung back, staring at this giant out of their fairy tale book.

But Lobelia knew her husband through his armor, this man who fought so hard against being sewn into his long johns come October, and who wept in her arms the time the hailstorm wiped out a thousand acres of work. She drank in the sight of him for a moment, fearing it might be her last chance. But she could not linger in the moment; they could not keep the horses standing in this weather.

She rushed to him, her hands deep in the snow that caked his shoulders. “Oh, Jake!” she breathed. “Must you go!”

He looked down into her eyes, snow descending from his hat across her tear-streaked cheeks. “No other way, Mother. Got to get these encyclopedias to the Book Fair.”

And then he was gone.  She heard the horses strain to pull the wagon across the frozen ruts of the road. Braving the wind, she stood at the door, watching him disappear into the blizzard, a man among men.

Is that what it is with you folks? Harking back to the stamina of our pioneer ancestors?

On Saturday and Monday, when it was grey and threatening outside, a total of eight shopping bags and two boxes of books were brought to the library. On Tuesday, in the teeth of what I am informed was the biggest snowstorm since the Great Groundhog’s Day Blast of 2011, you kept coming and coming.

I can understand those of you who drove the books over in your SUVs. How many times a year is the weather just right for driving an SUV? You need to get some use out of all that muscle. But the lady who brought her 1964 set of World Book, and apologized because she had just the one shopping bag in the house, and hoped I had boxes because it was too snowy and windy to haul the encyclopedias in one armful at a time…I really wonder if she couldn’t have waited until April. Or October. Or 2015. It was not too snowy and windy, I noticed, to stand in the parking lot and pack the encyclopedias into cardboard boxes. All I can think of is that she never got around to paying for these back in 1964, and now the villainous door-to-door salesman, his handlebar mustache white and his evil cackle cracking with age, was coming to foreclose and she had to get the books out of the house that very day.

Oh, and my thanks to the man who brought me the broken paper bags of paperback westerns. Great blizzard reading, if one can find the time.

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