August 01, 2008
When I was a small child my cousins, Mark and Patrick, talked about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings all the time. It seemed to be such a confusing issue for me, I understood very little. Even though it was difficult for me to follow, I was still drawn to it. The idea that there was a place like Middle Earth seemed comforting to me. I loved to listen to Mark talk about it and look at his board game of the books. I would imagine a mist rising from the ground in a deep forest untouched by human hands, lived in by all manner of unheard of creatures. Great fodder for the mind of a child.
When I was a little older I saw the animated movie, The Hobbit, and was hooked.
Shortly after that I was with my mother in Scott's Bookstore in Newnan, when it was down on Perry Street. My mother is a voracious reader, she delves into the "a long time ago... and they lived happily ever after" books. My father read just about anything he could get his hands on, with a particular love of history laden reads. I've always loved to read, from my first time making it through Green Eggs and Ham on, there is nothing better than getting lost in a well written complex story.
Scott's was a cave of a bookstore, packed with all manner of delightful sights and sounds. By cave I mean small and cramped, overflowing with books from floor to ceiling. Earlene Scott has been a fixture in this town for as long as I can remember.... Her store isn't a chain, you won't find any coffee shop inside. What you will find is a group of very nice people who will bend over backward to help you with anything you may need. If they don't have the book, they will get it for you in a timely manner and always with a smile on their faces. Still to this day I love to walk through the doors of her shop, it has moved to the square now to a larger building, but the attitude and exceptional customer service is still in play. Each time I step inside I must stop for a brief second and take a deep breath, it makes me feel calm and brings back the days of childhood. Mom had told me that I could pick out something that I wanted... After perusing the selection of Dr. Seuss, my eye was caught by a gold twinkle high up on top of a shelf, I asked what that was and was bright eyed as Mrs. Scott handed me a boxed set of Tolkien.... I was in the six to eight range and Mom voiced concern that the books may have been a little beyond me at the moment, but I was having none of it, I wanted the set. She agreed and purchased the books, Earlene gave me a quick wink and nod of approval. I stared at them all the way home. I spent a tortuous month or so trying to make my way through them. Indeed most of what I read in The Lord of the Rings was well beyond me, it flew over my head like the meaning of a Dennis Miller rant to an avid jerry springer fan... The Hobbit was no problem. When the animated version of The Lord of the Rings made it into theaters, my brother, Patrick, and myself went to see it at the Alamo theater in Newnan. $1.50 to get in and $1.50 for a coke and a box of popcorn. We spent the rest of the night running around in Colin and Syble's front yard playing like orcs and elves....
We would go to Powers Crossroads every year, a huge outdoor gathering of artists that sell their wares in the woods outside of Newnan every Labor day weekend, if you've never been I suggest making the journey at least once. I was wandering around there once with my brother and Patrick when we happened upon a group of people selling t-shirts that said things like "I would rather be a Hobbit" Man if I could only go back in time I would've bought them all... Occasionally you would hear something about Tolkien here or there but mostly it was a world that existed for me alone. My brother was often seen wandering around the woods of our home in a blue and red bathrobe with a staff in hand and a pouch tied around his waist, I never attempted to join him.. looking back I think it was a subconscious thing that was saying to me, "he does it his way, you do it your way" I would read the books and stare down into the woods and feel them come alive with characters from the stories. I could walk quietly around the trees and creeks and hear the calls of Aragorn and Boromir, or see the Lady Galadriel walking through the trees on her way to show me the mirror. I have spent many hours following her on a seemingly endless quest through those trees and I don't regret a single second of it. I just knew that we were on the edge of Lorien and Caras' Galadon lay just ahead... My method of real time "playing" of the story was to find places in the woods that reminded me of places in the books and watch them, waiting for the characters. During these times I would sit and talk with Treebeard, those were some hasty discussions indeed, or I would hide in the trees and enjoy the "fine toothsome smell" of roast mutton that crept up the hill from the valley headed down into the creek. There were many days in Jr High that I would develop a mysterious illness at the last minute so that after everyone had left for work or school I would build a camp with plenty of supplies by the window of my bedroom to sit and read the books while looking out at the fog hanging on in the early hours of the day. I am telling you, I saw bands of Uruk-Hai stealthily making their way toward the lodge I was staying in. I once stood down the Witch-Lord of Angmar just outside the old ice cream man's abandoned house, then had to make my way through the woods to inform Quickbeam that he was on the prowl so he could sound the warning, that was a day I will never forget.
Since that first painful read through, I have made it a tradition to read the books every spring. In the last few years I have switched to reading them in the fall, that time of year seems more reflective to me somehow and thus more fitting as a setting to engage myself in the adventures of Gandalf and Frodo. Other times through out the year I find myself reading certain parts of the story over and over. That set of books has followed me through my life, up or down, they have been there waiting for me to seek solace and comfort within their yellowing battered pages. They have made stealth journeys with me all over the country, well hidden lest I be made fun of, but they made it with me. I have read them on the beach, in the mountains, in the swamps, and while looking out across unending plains of planted corn. Like dear old friends I hear them beckon to me and seldom can I deny their call.. Oh and yes... the picture above is the actual taped and battered set that have lived with me for the last thirty three years. (although all four don't fit in the box anymore... thanks Earlene for having them in stock on that fateful day!)