Thursday, April 11, 2013
It's Thursday, the day I post a Guest Author.
Today I am pleased to present Faith Colburn:
I grew up reading books, as did my father and grandmother and great-grandmother. Grandma Hazel used to tell me about her family, sitting around the kitchen table on a winter night, with a kerosene lantern and bowls of apples and popcorn. I can just hear them, reading a particularly interesting passage aloud.
We readers had divided lives. There were our reading lives, learning how people like ourselves solved the same challenges we faced in our own lives and soaring to places we’d never been, to learn how others lived. Then there were our other lives, outdoors exploring the prairies, working on farms, butchering and canning, plowing and planting and harvesting.
Daytime, except when we were in school or the temperatures were impossible, my sister and I spent outside. I climbed trees and looked into birds’ nests. We played in the creek; we captured tadpoles in a rusty old flour sifter and put them in jars so we could see them grow legs and turn into toads. We took baby rabbits out of the mouths of our dogs and tried to raise them in the playhouse. Once we even had a baby raccoon, but he chewed his way out. Another time, we turned over an empty stock tank and found a nest of naked baby mice. When we scooped them up in our hands and took them to the house, Mom insisted we take them back where we got them.
I spent hours and hours with my sister on my back, galloping around the farm, pretending to be her horse. There were times when I didn’t want to be a horse, though, and Jo Ann is still irritated with me for the times I took a book and hid in the limbs of a tree where I could read in the quiet. Or I would slip off and spend afternoons laying in the grass with the clacking of grasshoppers flying over, absorbed in a book.
I have Great-grandma Frank’s books, ordered from “Monkey” Ward. She must have loved James Fennimore Cooper, because his books predominate. But there’s also Bret Harte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Jo Ann has Grandma Hazel’s books, mostly Zane Grey, except for a copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline, which I latched onto. She has Dad’s books, too, an eclectic collection of everything he could get his hands on. There’s Tobacco Road and The Scent of New-Mown Hay and my “favorite,” The Wandering Jew by Eugene Sue, a Dickensian tome of about two thousand page of infinitesimal type. It may be my most memorable read. When I finally put it down, Dad asked if I’d finished it. “Yes,” I replied with a sigh. “You know,” he said, “I read about a thousand pages and realized I’d completely lost the thread of the story.”
My mother didn’t read, except to learn how to do things and I think she felt left out. Sis has her how-to-knit and how-to-crochet books, though, and we both have beautiful things she made during those hours when we were reading. With her, I remember listening to radio programs like The Shadow Knows and Fibber McGee and Molly. I’m sure she was thrilled when we got TV because she could take part in the family evenings. Trouble was; we all read while we watched.
I read like an empty garbage can. I read every one of Dad’s books that my mom would let me read, or that I could sneak out; and some of my own, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Red Badge of Courage. I read just about everything they’d let me read in the tiny public library, including the Nancy Drew series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I even remember a utopian volume or two. I read Zane Grey and Great-Grandma’s copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They must have been the originals. They certainly weren’t Disney versions.
By the time I reached high school, I’d decided I wanted to write books. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Mom was the practical member of the family, though, and she wasn’t sure I could make a living writing novels. So I went to school and began a forty-year journalism career that provided a decent living through some rough times. I’ve waited a long time, raised three kids, survived two failed marriages, and have finally published my first book, entitled Theshold: A Memoir. It’s about that crazy family that pushed frontiers across half a continent and read books and took care of the land and their neighbors.
I call my novel-in-progress Gravy, about all the life I wasn’t supposed to get for reasons I will explain in the pages I’m writing most days.