I love books and newspapers, and even a good magazine. It’s not just the reading I enjoy. I love the sound a new book makes when you crack its binding for the first time and the smell of new ink on newspaper. And, I love the musty essence of an old book; it makes me wonder where it has been, whose hands have held it, and who has flipped its pages over the years. When I imagine an old book’s previous readers, it is always the image an ancient scholar or sea captain that fills my mind. Never do I picture a coughing, sneezing, phlegm producing plague victim sitting on a bedpan with his or her hands on my old novel.
The little woman and I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of books we can’t bring ourselves to get rid of. Though we realize that most of them will never be read again; it’s fun to look at them from time to time. They remind me of whatever was going on in my life at the time I read a particular book, or even how that book might have changed the way I think about life. Seeing my old copy of A Tale of Two Cities conjures up images of Stinky Bean puking into a flower pot at Mitch Norway’s parents’ camp. You see, Mitch threw a keg party the night after my English IV final exam.
I’m concerned that, more and more, people are getting their news from the computer or TV, instead of through the local newspaper. People are even downloading novels onto their laptops or Kindle readers and reading them on their electronic devices. I don’t get it. It’s just not the same as holding a book, newspaper, or magazine in your hands and turning the pages.
What if books and newspapers go away? I do some of my best reading while I’m sitting on the throne. I can’t imagine spending that special part of my day with a computer on my lap; that just wouldn’t be right.
I have fond memories of my early years as a newspaper delivery boy. At twelve years old, I would strap a canvas bag holding thirty-two copies of the Smalltown News over my shoulder, and walk my paper route, delivering the daily news to my customers. It was my first venture into the business world, and I learned a lot.
I learned that providing good service would earn me tips, cookies, or brownies. I learned that it felt good to earn my own money which I could spend on myself or to buy Christmas presents for Mom and Dad. I figured out that, to some of my elderly customers, I was more than just the paper boy. On most days, my daily visit was their only contact with another human being. And I learned how to survive the attacks of Mr. Labor’s German Shepherd, Roscoe.
Roscoe was huge, and had a loud bark and big teeth. He was allowed to run free and, apparently, one of his missions in life was to scare the snot out of the paper boy. He was very good at that. After several weeks of Roscoe’s attacks, which Mr. Labor seemed to enjoy far too much, I came up with a survival plan.
It seems Roscoe was easily distracted from his daily attempt to cause me to lose control of my bowels. All it took was a chocolate flavored “treat” tossed as far as my twelve year old arm could throw it.
After a week of chocolate “treats”, Mr. Labor kept Rosco chained to the garage, apparently in an attempt to control his diet. Who knew that chocolate flavored laxative treats could have such an effect on a dog’s behavior?
So, what if newspapers were to go away. How would kids learn the lessons I learned as a paper boy? And, what would we use to get the wood stove or campfire burning? Sure, you could potentially read this fascinating, thought provoking column on-line, but what would you use to line your cat’s litter box?