Back in 1950, I embarked on the good ship “School” in search of adventures and found a treasure called “reading.”
OK, I apologize for using that cheesy metaphor — poetic writing isn’t exactly my style — but don’t give up on me yet. I may still be able to enlighten and/or entertain you before I’m done.
That figure of speech, cheesy as it may be, reflects the fact that I have enjoyed reading for more than six decades. I’ve been curling up with one good book or another — and a few duds as well — ever since I learned to tell one word from another.
That’s not all I did, of course. I was a regular kid back in 1950s when video games were unheard of and kids could wander the whole town and beyond as much as they wished without being reported missing unless they failed to show up for dinner.
When I wasn’t wandering, though, I was probably reading,
So, five years ago, when I embarked on some adventures in medical land that forced me to quit working and limited my physical activity, I was well equipped with an interest that could fill the time I was no longer at work or out walking somewhere — a day like today.
This afternoon, I began reading the latest book about that fictional Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, and the fictional corner of our state he protects. This is not characteristic of my reading. I seldom read novels, for one thing, and even when I do read one, it’s not a mystery story, nor is it part of a series. I’ve avoided such books ever since I read my last Hardy Boys book sometime in 1954.
In this case, though, the lighter reading was welcome, since I had just finished reading a book exploring why the empires in the eastern Mediterranean all seem to have declined, some even disappearing from history, almost 3,300 years ago. Archaeologists have found a number of cities that were destroyed or heavily damaged within a relatively short time — some by earthquakes, others by invaders and some possibly by revolts from within. Some were rebuilt, others disappeared forever and nobody really knows why.
After wrestling with all those ancient disasters for a while, the adventures of Craig Johnson’s tough-as-nails Wyoming sheriff are much easier to deal with. Besides, I’ve read all the other Longmire books, so I have to read this one to see what happens next.
Of course, a guy can only deal with fictional people and places so long; therefore, I need another to balance things out. To that end, I am also reading “Hamilton,” whose portrait you may be carrying around if you have a $10 bill in your pocket. And to be honest, the real people in this book — people like George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, as well as Alexander Hamilton — are much more entertaining than Sheriff Longmire or even Vic, his sexy deputy.
Hamilton is rightly credited for putting the U.S. on sound financial principles and enabling healthy foreign trade under the new Constitution. But Jefferson, who hated banks and cities and thought everybody should be a farmer, opposed what Hamilton was doing because he feared that it meant a more powerful national government. He was also upset that Hamilton was promoting manufacturing, which Jefferson thought would employ people who should be farming.
Currently, I’m at the point when Jefferson has begun a campaign to smear Hamilton, warning that Hamilton secretly wants to establish a monarchy. To that end, Jefferson, who was the Secretary of State, created a job as translator in his department and gave it to Philip Freneau, who didn’t know enough French to be a translator. Freneau’s real job was to write and publish anonymous essays attacking Hamilton’s character and politics, sometimes using words I can’t use in this column. This peeved Hamilton, of course, so he defended himself and attacked Jefferson with his own venomous writings.
It was all rather uncivil, when you come right down to it. It seems our founding fathers have a lot in common with today’s politicians.
I will finish the Longmire book well before I finish “Hamilton” — which is much longer and smaller print — and there are more unread books within a few feet of me as I write this, but eventually, I’ll finish both.
Fortunately, there are more books where they came from, and that’s a good thing. I like to keep my brain busy. And next time I write, I might be more entertaining.