A Library Tale
by Clinton Siegle
As many of you know I use to live in the library during the day light hours of the 1980’s. I spent my time with Lewis, Tolkien, etc before it became cool or interesting to the masses.
On a trip between Montana, and North Dakota I visited a rather large library on the plains of North Dakota. The library looked like a bank built in the 20’s. I got to spend a few hours there by chance due to the family and car troubles. I quickly found an ole favorite the Hobbit in the back of the library of course where the loners usually just enjoy the peace and quiet. I quickly read through the first 200 or so pages stopping where the dwarfs were imprisoned prior to their release by Bilbo.
Just when the dwarf’s prison doors were to be opened; knowingly, since I had read the book a few times before a book popped out the shelf and fell open next to me reading the Hobbit. Humor how life happens at times. The book was something I had not read nor touched before Harry Flashman. Odd that the book defiantly was not categorized by the author last name nor title of the book for a library category. So I was unsure why it was here. Putting it back an older boring colored hardcover caught my attention. Grabbing at it instead of pulling it from the self it binged back and made me jump back as a click and the whole shelf swung against me as if a door opening. And to that point the shelf pulled back with my hand.
The librarian was no where to be found. I believe she had gone out forgetting me. So with no one to stop me I pulled the door open. There on the floor was a pill of envelopes, and from the light from a window over the chair I was using I could see a light with a pull string light. Bending over reading the address I was the majority addressed to a Mr. Babsy. Humor someone’s Hemingway hideout? Who knows anyway pulling the chain lighted a small room. A table, what looked like a still? The pill of envelopes and a small looking medical gad was what I could see. Being venturous I went through the envelopes. Which had wonderful 20s stamps all addressed to Baby. Trying to figure out why their presence was there I noticed a mail drop between the back of the door.
Well I guess if someone was to hid a room a library was as good as place as any. What surprised me most was the lack of dust. Anyways moving into the room I started to review the books on the table. The first was a ledger accounting it seemed of a business operation of medicine? No I suppose after seeing a liquor bottle. There in the ledger were small towns that appeared in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Illinois, Minnesota, and other small towns that I recognized from my travels with my mom since the split up of my folks. It seemed this was a major illegal operations built on the plains of North Dakota. Sort of like the Kennedy’s moon shine hold in Havre, Montana. Looking at the next book it seemed like a personal diary. Last date 1929 written about a Mr. Babsy and venture of moon shine. The journal was given by someone Limburg for a birthday gift to a Major Babsy. Reading the dairy about Mr. Babsy seemed to be in love with someone. He had it bad. Seemed obsessive to appoint that I realized I had never fallen head over heals in love before. It seemed to detail that Mr. Babsy was a local who was planning to take and make himself a rich person.
Humor he even gave some detail on back accounts and politicians a few of them; I had heard about from history class. One name I saw I did not expect was my great grand father. Well, I knew the righteous stories on how he made it in flax in the 40’s. Seeing his name there made me wonder a bit but life is a mixture of chance opportunities. Anyway venturing into the boxes one contained several old medicine bottles labels peeling with age and odd color liquor look inside. Another box had a letter on it without an envelope. Opening the letter which was addressed to someone whose name I had heard in the old folk’s home where my great grandfather lived. What a small world we live in. The letter was telling him that if Mr. Babsy might never come back; from reading the content the letter it was sort of a last will and testament from Mr. Babsy. The letter went into how several small communities were being used and their libraries were being used to store medicine etc. Opening the box under the letter there were roughly fifty thousand dollars in ones the year 1920 stamped on them. The box looked half full. Humor what one expected and what one gets are two things. I closed the box. Thinking I needed to talk with my grandfather prior to doing anything. I toke the dairy, 20 dollars in one dollar bills from the box replacing them with a 20 dollar bill my father had given me on his recent visit to me. My parents of course being separated tried to buy my love at times. I also toke the letters unopened. Pulling on the chain the light chain broke while closing the self back. Going back into the library I pushed the shelf back into place. I went to the door. Humor the librarian had locked me in with a note saying she was out for lunch. Well life happens so I went back to my seat and begin again the Tale of there and back again. Later in the evening the librarian awoke me by turning on all the lights and my mom was calling my name.
There is an always a time to remember things. I was not back to that area for sometime. Shelf wise I expected the librarian to find or see the room and something to be written about it in the news. But at age 10 I visited the library again because a cousin had passed away in a kayak accident. That was a spooky time. If I could have recorded my aunt terror cry at the funeral I could have made a mint in horror movies. Her cry was that of a broken heart in pain. Anyway at the library I checked and the room opened again. Nothing had been touched. At this point I was more greedy and the backpack I had been given I filled with the money, ledger, and a few bottles of liquor. I closed the room and checked an old book out author Rice book on planet Mars and was off to listen to my family remember Stevie. The howl from my aunt cries still ringing in my ears. Death is something to live with. That had been my 11th funeral in so many years of living. Anyways hiding the money and stuff was hard. My mom was observant lady thus I had to hide it in the camper prior to her seeing me with the backpack. In those days we rode in a Chinook camper a home on wheels.
So I hide the loot in a closet in the camper. The envelopes I hide in the selection of books and the money in a board game that I topped with a shirt. The bottles went into the toy box with the toy soldiers. Being young with a hidden source of money was to affect my life in new ways. What do you do with ole money in a reservation town of Popular Montana? My experiences were often and difficult with a very strict mother, but they were still there. My first attempt for fun was reading the letters. The first letter began with a story about a young farmer kid saving a man off the east coast from a ship wreck. The adventures described made me want to run away and started my reading anew in adventure books. The boy saved the man and the man gave him the world and he could afford to eat out at locations and have physical fun that only a farm boy could dream about. Partying with royalty, sleeping with women of interesting character the first letter was seven pages long detailing so much venting and opportunities that I re-read that life story all about school, religion, and dreams. The hand writing was at first difficult to read and with little time to be alone with them I did not chance their discovery. During this school year I hide them. Sports were something I did not excel at but that was how I was babysat during these days after school. I just dreamed by re-reading the letter and adventure books that were not part of the letters. I made a decision not to open another letter for year wanting to enjoy the stories over time instead of devouring them all at once.
Mr. Babsy was just fourteen years old for his first letter description which was exotic in content and started when he was young. The description of how some of Mr. Babsy women friends were paid for their services caused dreams for the farmer boy these letters pages described his arousal and his worldly experiences in the world. The letter was my first experience finding out at a young age erotic content of the letters more interesting then pictures. The letter dated 1916 the world was a strange exotic world in the letters and brought more dreams then were appropriate for all those who read them. Mr. Babsy had experience that made him a physical man while all that I was still too young to understand everything I read. I was a tall kid still turning 11 learning from letters how the real world worked and why or what to say in the 20s versus 59 years in the future. At my time and age in the 80’s work was hard to come by and experience was something to ask for not be given to a kid at the age of almost 11 versus a life necessity that Mr. Babsy grew up in.
Anyway by this time I had reread the letter enough to understand its neat cursive hand writing I had decide to venture in the world. This time my mom provided the solution by sending me to Ekalaka, Montana bible camp a place that drops off the end of the world and near enough to be the end of the world. There I had my first opportunity to spend some money.
Lairs and religions make the world go around. Girls turning to women are interesting to most if not all boys. There was a girl named Amy. Her voice perfect as an angel sang religious hymns daily at the camp sites meetings. Her smile cute if I had the chance I would have been Romeo. However her being a southern bell made her charmed by a Georgian boy older than me. There in the religionist camp things not spoken about happened between them. What humor to hear about something read about but not experienced and being able to listen but not do anything in the real world? But I had no one to tell or care. What a life to live a religious one.
Religion is funny it demands something belief then lets you down. Babsy in 1916 found a bird skeleton that was a cross between a dinosaur and current bird. He gave the creature to a museum and that sort if gave him an idea that religious timeline was bunk or not real. The letter showed how his belief in something realization that the belief is not worthless is a story all on its own. The letter 1916 describing the years end Babsy was involved in a famous party with rich people. At this party Babsy was introduced to a General Smith. Also Babsy meet a woman there, a countess. They danced and sang and she was delighted with Babsy. Anyways true love and or infatuation caused him to be more of a romantic. The two were in a bedroom scene that was quiet explicit in details. Anyways the countess had a husband not introduced till later in the letter. At which point Babsy and General Smith both fled the countess’ room.
General Smith being old wealthy, famous to some extent gave Babsy some advice after both of them had just been chased from the countess’s room. The humor evidently was great the details a bit more than two pages long and Babsy toke Smith advise to heart. Anyway Christmas was upon me. For Christmas I decided to read another letter. I spent that Christmas night in a box outside a plastic tree in the living room hoping for a good Christmas gift. But the sad tale I waiting hoping to be given more than was given to charity or spent on the dog’s food for that month for that Christmas was nothing good.