A Booked Up Town

Since it’s Independent Bookstore Day I thought that I would share one of my favorite bookstore memories with you all. Remember to support your local bookstore! And discover how wonderful it is to create stories of your own in the process…

Once upon a time there was a book club consisting of a small group of ladies who not only loved to read, but also loved books just because they were books. They visited book stores everywhere and collected treasured volumes on their individual travels.

Over the years, they heard rumors of a most magical book store in a most a most unlikely place; one in which the owner, a best-selling author, had started a store to house his vast collection. The store grew and grew, until one day the owner decided that his little hobby was too great to manage any longer. He named a date upon which all of his great book expanse would be auctioned, and following that his store would be closed.

The book club decided that if they were ever going to visit this book paradise, they would have to do it quickly.

And so they did.

Piling into an SUV that would be perfect to tackle the dusty Texas roads, they took off in search of Archer City and Larry McMurtry’s store.

Leaving the busy city behind, it wasn’t long before the endless Texas land began to stretch out on each side of the road; behind, before, and wherever the eye rested were ranches and farms and wide open spaces, all peppered with cattle, horses, goats – and yes, vultures.

It took a few hours, but they made it. Archer City was all its name promised it would be: a quaint town straight out of a 1960’s spaghetti Western and comprised of a few low buildings, a library, and a hotel. There was a courthouse on a square in the middle of the town, and a main road that seemed lonely in its length. No wonder Mr. McMurtry was able to churn out Western novels. This place must have been pure fodder for his imagination.

The book club thought that the book store would be in one building, but they found out rather quickly that the buildings in the town mostly belonged to the book store. As book lovers do, they split up in search of treasure, all happily scanning shelves, pulling down books, gently thumbing pages and examining the condition of more books than you could ever shake a stick at.

They went into building after building, walking from one to the next in the dry heat, the wind blowing dust and tumbleweeds up and down the sidewalks. Every now and then they’d bump into each other, sharing their treasures before continuing on their mission. At last the visit culminated in the main building; an air-conditioned place where Mr. McMurtry’s rare books were housed and where the rooms continued on and the shelves had run out of space so that the books were piled upon the floor. It was such a pile of books that caught my eye, and I discovered the one book that went home with me: a Monica Dickens novel (a difficult author to find anywhere).

We inquired at the library for a place to eat, and we learned that there were two options: the hotel and the Dairy Queen. Of course we went to the DQ, where we rubbed elbows with ranch hands and ate greasy fries with the locals and slurped down big sodas like everyone else was doing on that blistering day, doing our best to be locals for a day. But we didn’t fool anyone, for we were the only group who didn’t know everyone else in that Dairy Queen and the only ones not in Western wear and not talking with a twang. We couldn’t have stood out more if we had been elephants in Antarctica.

The book club had to head home, and we did so with hearts saddened by the knowledge that the bookstore would close, but glad that we had made it before it did.

It was almost a surreal experience, this little town on the Texas plains that was full of books. How I wish there were more of them…

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