Look What I Found is an occasional series on books I've hunted-and-gathered at garage sales, used bookstores, estate sales, and the occasional pilfering from a friend's bookshelf when his back is turned. I have a particular fondness for U.S. novels written between 1896 and 1931. If I sniff a book and it makes me sneeze, I'm bound to fall in love.
This has little to do with the copy of Peter B. Kyne's 1927 novel They Also Serve I found at an estate sale in Silver Star, Montana, but everything to do with iron-fisted librarians circa 1942. I have several Kyne novels in my collection--all unread--and this one appears to be about a couple of cowboys who enlist in World War I and use terms like "blatherskite" and "salt-sack." Furthermore, it appears to be narrated by a horse. Opening lines:
The never-ending talk about the Great War that goes on between the Skipper and the Top is what got me started on this story. Were I a man instead of a horse I would write it and call it my autobiography, because in my story I am going to include everything of any importance that has ever happened to me up to the present-when nothing happens any more. For I consider I have lived my life, and hereafter about all I shall do will be to stand around, switch files and talk about the portion of my life wherein I truly lived.
Black Beauty meets War Horse? Whatever. The point here is not the book, it's the sticker I found pasted inside the front cover:
1. Books can be kept out two weeks only, except by those living two or more miles away, who are allowed three weeks, except 7 day books.
2. New Books can be kept out one week only, and renewed once and one only in each family.
3. The number of books taken by a family must not exceed one for each reading member thereof.
4. Any person who shall lose or injure a book shall be required to account for the same as provided by the laws of the City.
5. Any person keeping a book out longer than the limit, shall pay a fine of ten cents per week or fraction thereof, for the time so retained.
It's a wonder that Twin Bridges, Montana isn't known today as The Town Afraid to Read. Don't get me wrong--I love librarians, my first job* was in a library, and mylar-covered library books are at the foundation of my early reading history. But, wow, these are some draconian rules, aren't they? Notice the underlying threat of resorting to "the laws of the City." Was Twin Bridges experiencing some sort of library crime spree during World War II? Were times so hard, the town budget so tight that they had to knuckle down on habitually-overdue readers? Did a be-badged Library Cop go around to local ranches, ordering them to surrender their delinquent/injured books or face time in the stocks, perhaps a little whipping and pillorying? By God, those librarians would get their 10 cents one way or another!
I'm sure the present-day Twin Bridges Library is a sane and reasonable place. According to this website, "The collection of the library contains 8,000 volumes. The library circulates 6,682 items per year. The library serves a population of 689 residents." Here's a picture of what it looks like today:
Here's a close-up of that cool mural, which was painted by Jim Shirk:
I don't know for sure, but I'd like to think that's the same location where the library was housed in 1942. I also like to imagine there was a motto engraved in stone above the doorway: "Abandon Books All Ye Who Enter Here."
Speaking of Twin Bridges, here's one of my favorite photos from the past three years, taken while I was standing outside the Old Hotel before I went in for a meal (one which rates high in the Top 10 Meals of My Life):
Speaking of the Old Hotel, if you go there this week, here are just a few of the items you'll find on the menu (which changes each week): for an appetizer, try Jarlsberg Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with White Wine Butter Sauce; for the main course, you can have Bacon Wrapped Diver Scallops with Hoisin Mahogany Glaze; and for dessert, why not indulge in Bittersweet Chocolate Torte with Turkish Coffee Caramel. I told you they were good, didn't I? In fact, they're so good, my only birthday-gift** request to my wife was, "I'd like to have dinner at the Old Hotel in Twin Bridges." If we go, I just hope I'm able to finish everything on my plate and I don't dawdled too long over coffee. Otherwise, I'm afraid the Library Ghosts will slap an overdue fine on me, according to the laws of the City.
*Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming, circa 1977-1979: Shelver, card cataloguer, duster of books.
**May 27, for anyone who cares.