A Walk Down Memory Lane (Carrying a Gym Bag).

When I was a kid, there were a couple of fellows that could be seen regularly, walking about our small town. Others walked too, of course: many of us tumbled our way home from school on foot. Tramping downtown. On our way from the swimming pool in the summer. But even those who walked regularly to and from places like church or the grocery store seemed to blend in to the canvas of the community.

Like I said, there were a couple of fellows that could be seen regularly, walking about, who might catch your attention.

There was a large man – tall and broad-shouldered – who conducted his journeys in those big and sturdy brown work boots and faded blue overalls. We referred to him as Rufus, although I can’t attest for certain that was his true name. “There’s Rufus,” we would say, spotting him crossing the train bridge on Washington Street. Invariably, someone would comment about the gym bag with Puterbaugh school markings he carried, and we would wonder all over again about what unfortunate middle-schooler had given up his bag to the man.

This was all legend, of course. We knew nothing about him based in fact, and as far as I know he never caused a problem for a soul.

Except me.

I was working at my first job – a bag boy at a little corner market – and I had advanced up the career ladder to the point that I was allowed to clean the meat market so the butcher could leave early. (Ahh, the naiveté of youth – considering it a privilege to wash meat shavings from a band saw.)

One evening, there came a pounding at the back door and I went over, pulled it open, and immediately hopped backward a half-step.

It was Rufus.

Even though he was standing down on the step below the threshold, he was looking me eye-to-eye. I was a kid, and like I said: he was a big man.

Deejeebone, he said.

To which I answered, with hesitation, “Do what?” It was an affectation I had picked up from my boss which served as a response to most conversational hiccups.

Deejeebone, he repeated, in a slightly louder voice.

“Say again?” (Another of Marshall’s affectations I had borrowed.)

DEEJEEBONE! He said emphatically, and repeated it once more for good measure.

At that point, Rufus realized I was clearly challenged in the conversational department, and he whipped out a little spiral pad and pencil from the front of his bib overalls.

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Dog Bone, he wrote quickly, in a hard-pressed pencil rendering that looked to be a written shout.

Ah. Meat market back door. Bones. Looking for a snack for his dog. He pointed at the floor behind me, where I spotted a smallish cardboard box filled with scraps.

Deejeebone, said Rufus, much less gruffly, and I replied with the first coherent thing that came to mind.

“Oh!”

After handing over the box (and realizing that it was probably a routine that I – as a just-promoted market scrubber – was unaware of), he nodded to me and gave a sort of half-smile and walked down the steps. I followed his progress until he went around the corner of the building and I lost sight of him, carrying the box in one hand and the Puterbaugh gym bag in the other.

After that encounter, the Rufus Mystique was pretty much lost. I never again speculated as to whether the big man had devoured a middle-schooler for his gym bag. Some time later, I was driving my sports car with the top down and spotted Rufus trudging down the street pushing a shiny shopping cart.

I waved and thought little of it, except to marvel at how many deejeebones that contraption would carry.

The other walker? I knew his name to be Frank McSherry, Jr. because he paid his bills by money order instead of personal check. When I graduated from meat market scrubber to clerk I got to use the money order printing machine and, over time, I created enough bill-payments for the man that I still remember his name.

Turns out – that other walking-fellow was a book author and editor. The attached image is of one of his many, many published books, and this one happened to come into the shop today.

Funny, though. Saw the name on the cover and immediately thought of Mr Rufus, the gym bag, and the dog bones that became a story.

Simple Book Pleasures and the Glint of Gold.

I admit that it’s a bookish pleasure, but I love the fact that the books in the stack over there on the counter were in the hands of their authors: Gore Vidal, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joseph Heller. (I should point out that the fourth book in the stack – Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens – was NOT in his hands, as he was about a century gone by the time this fine-binding edition was published.)

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I remember seeing Gore Vidal debating/arguing with William F. Buckley, another intellectual with an aristocratic demeanor that was reminiscent of colonial-era gentry. (Incidentally, Gore wasn’t his real name: he was born Eugene Louis Vidal, but adopted the moniker of his grandfather. Thomas Pryor Gore was a US senator from Oklahoma at statehood and was reelected in 1931.)

I don’t remember Joseph Heller, but I remember well his book CATCH-22, which was popular enough that its title entered the English lexicon to describe an impossible situation. In the book – which followed a group of wartime pilots – anyone who was legitimately crazy was excused from flying a mission. The conundrum (the CATCH-22, if you will) was that if someone applied for a mental deferral they were considered sane enough to be worrying about their safety, and therefore would be required to fly the mission.

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Joyce Carol Oates was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize several times, and her novel THEM won the National Book Award back in the sixties. It wasn’t too much later that Franklin Library published the fine-binding book that I now have a copy of, which she signed with an unfashionable ballpoint pen.

For those of us – mere booksellers and readers – who will never bump into these famous literary figures, holding a book they personally signed is a particularly nerdish thrill.

These beautiful volumes are part of a Deep-South estate brought to Oklahoma and now residing on the shelves here in the shop. There are a good many signed books, beautiful fine binding copies that certainly must have been purchased as investment copies. They appear never to have been read – in truth, they appear never to have had their front covers opened. The edges are perfect, the 22K gold embossing is impressive.

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Some – like Jane Austen’s works and THE WIZARD OF OZ will not likely stay around long. People know that I’m not a collector anymore (Oh, I have a book or two in the office!) and I price these to sell by finding the lowest offered price on the internet, and beating it. The point being: if you know someone who appreciates leather-bound, fine binding books, this might be the time to take a look. I know it is plenty warm outside, but – believe me – cooler weather is inevitable, and the selection for gift-giving may not last until then.

There are dozens and dozens of books from the estate that are already shelved. Come take a look, and maybe sit down and have some lunch with us – serving a full menu daily from 11am to 2pm.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St., Broken Arrow OK!

Turning the page on 2016.

A decade of books is just about in the books.

During that span of time, Broken Arrow’s Main Street has undergone significant changes, and – while they are less dramatic – the Rose District (as it is now called) is still evolving.

Some of the modifications are long-term, like the planters currently being constructed in the block between Dallas and El Paso. Others are designed to be short-term, like the installation of an ice skating rink at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. Judging from the number of skaters I saw the other evening, it has been well received. Who’d have imagined ice skating in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma?

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Ten years ago, I would not have imagined serving lunches in the bookstore. It was a plan that grew out of the location change, and the popular acceptance of digital reading. Didn’t know what might become of the book business when people began reading on their tablets, but I believed soups and sandwiches might have a continuing appeal.

It’s been a journey getting from 2006 to 2016, and some of our shop-owning neighbors have moved on to other things while new folks have refurbished vacated spots and hung out their own shingle. (An old expression, dating back from when a lettered roof-tile indicated the business being conducted inside – I’m compelled to try to keep vintage sayings around.)

As we wrap up the year and anticipate the beginning of 2017, I’d like to thank each of you who might have popped in and bought a book in those first five years. You kept the shop going long enough to reach the second five years and the opening of the bistro kitchen.

Another heartfelt thanks goes out to those of you who stopped in and bought a book, or a soup and sandwich during these past five years, and particularly those of you who remember when I was serving soup solo.

We’re headed toward three years together – Dustin and I – serving up plates of food at lunchtime. Some of our guests remember times – early on – when they might have been at the only occupied table in the house.

We’ve lasted ten years on Main Street only because people have helped us pay the rent and utilities by buying something, whether it’s a book or a meal. Dustin and I know there are many – many – places to eat lunch in Broken Arrow, and we are grateful when you allow us prepare lunch for you.

We genuinely appreciate your business, and your friendship. From our family to yours – may the New Year be filled with happiness, discovered dreams, and lasting good fortune!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main Street, Broken Arrow OK!