End of a Series

I had a nerdy book experience this week and I just have to share – because I’m a book nerd. I finished Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian. This wasn’t just another of my sea faring novels that I’ve been reading since I was a small boy. This was the last of the twenty book series about Captain Jack Aubrey and ship’s surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin. Mr. O’Brian isn’t around to write another. I shed a tear or two. Book nerd.

I actually started this last book five or six times but then kept putting it down because I didn’t want to finish it. But some pleasant reading time on vacation recently almost forced me to finish. I finally did it and now I’m back ashore living the lubber life again. No more sea battles against the French fleet, the Spanish, or those upstart Americans.

Books series have been my weakness since I learned to read. I remember finding Tom Swift in the Caves of Ice in my grandparents’ library. The Tom Swift series by Victor Appleton includes over one hundred books, the earliest written in 1910. I still have that first copy from 1911 once owned by William B. MacGuire, whom I didn’t know but who had nice handwriting.

Another old series I discovered in the family stacks as a boy was The Submarine Boys by Victor G. Durham. That series ran from 1909 to 1920. My only remaining copy, The Submarine Boys’ Secret Mission from MCMXX, was inscribed as a birthday gift to my uncle Bill from Mark Garrett, my namesake and a life-long friend of my father. Those family history tidbits I find are why I can’t get rid of books.

Throughout my boyhood, I read the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. Those eleven books were written between 1937 and 1967. That was my introduction to the Royal Navy and the sea battle against Napoleon and the evil French. Evil or not, Horatio always seemed to find a beautiful French girlfriend. Years ago when I was between jobs, I read all eleven books again between sending resumes and scheduling interviews. They brought me back to the simple joy of childhood during an otherwise stressful time.

I read a ton of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew through my elementary school days. At one point as I was churning through the entire Nancy Drew series, my mom offered to pay me a quarter for any book I read besides a Nancy Drew. Maybe she knew that I had a crush on that brave and ingenious young woman. I have a favorite Nancy Drew book still, a 1954 copy of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase that at some point belonged to a Barbara Schmuck of 2019 Paddock Ct, Wheaton, IL.

My Hardy Boys books were recently gifted to a young man who is at just the age to start eating them up. Hope he’s enjoyed them. At one point, I used the Hardy Boys books as a sleep aid. Something about putting my mind back in those innocent days of kid adventures just relaxed me enough to doze off at night.

The “We Were There” series of 36 books written between 1955 and 1963 were my “go to” check outs during our visits to the school library. Each author in the series was assisted by an “historical consultant.” I was impressed. My obsession in those days was WWII, so I read We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge, Pearl Harbor, The Normandy Invasion, and The Battle for Bataan. I also remember “being there” with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, The Battle of Gettysburg, and others. That series was total trickery, of course. Without realizing it, I learned to love history by hearing the tales of kids my age thrust into an important event in the past.

As an adult, I joined in the Harry Potter craze and read that entire series. Those fun tales of wizardry and magic, introduced to me by my young niece (now all grown up and a successful attorney), took me back to the days of my youth and the joy of living in another world of excitement and danger, at least as long as the series lasted.

Let me add my sentimental old man take on these precious books. They are more than paper. More than the excitement they gave me as a young reader. They are part of me, part of my psyche. All of the volumes I still have on hand (except for the O’Brian books that I bought myself) were read by others before me. Barbara Schmuck of Wheaton, Illinois, my dad and Uncle Bill, William MacGuire, and most likely many others also enjoyed these simple stories, too. The stories became part of them and they left little bits of themselves in the pages whether it was their name on the flyleaf or a random doodle on a page where the reader was distracted.

I truly hope that some young reader will find these books on a dusty shelf and enjoy them as I have my entire reading life. I hope, too, that our young people today have something to show in their old age from the digital versions of books and games that are prevalent today. Will digital media provide any notes, names, and scribbles from previous users? This isn’t a matter of life or death, just the musings of an old reader that was captivated by these series of wonderful characters and fun stories through the years.

Our community enjoys the services of our fantastic Owen County Public Library for books and new media that are still there to captivate young minds. If you haven’t visited our library, I recommend you stop in and check it out. Even with the digital stuff, it still smells like knowledge to me. We’re lucky to have such a great place as part of life here.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our Owen County communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value community involvement and charitable spirit. We’re like an endless book series only we represent a long series of gifts from folks who care for this community.

If you’d like to know more about how you can work with this local charity to improve our communities, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us in person at our office on the Courthouse Square in Spencer, 60 E. Market Street.