It was summer. It was hot outside. In fact, it was hot enough that even my Dad took a break from our farm work in the midafternoons. And that’s saying something! He woke us up early and kept us working late. We hauled hay, fixed fences, cleaned ditches, picked fruit, and did a bunch of other things to keep the farm running, day in and day out. In summer hours, it didn’t get dark until nearly 10 p.m., and we’d come home from the barns and fields sweaty and exhausted.
Knowing we’d be up before the sun, we usually went straight to bed. Both of my brothers and I knew that if we wanted to do something fun, we needed to do it during the heat of the afternoon.
On that day, I showered after morning work and rode my bicycle to the city library. I’d done this many times before, returning my latest reading conquest and looking for a new one. Like other times, I perused a lot of titles—not quite excited about any of them.
That’s when it happened.
Mrs. Mayer, the librarian, noticed me—like many times before—but this time she stood up from behind her desk and walked over to where I was looking through the youth section.
“I’ve also been watching the titles you check out. It’s quite a broad selection.” She paused, and I said nothing. “Do you read them all?” she asked.
“Uh…no. I start reading them all. But I don’t like some of them, so I just bring those back and look for something better.”
She nodded. “That’s what I thought. Well, I’ve been watching the ones you keep for the full two weeks, versus those you return in just a day or two, and I have an idea for you.”
She walked back to her desk and beckoned me to follow. She picked up a book from her desk and handed it to me. A piece of torn notepaper was inserted inside the front cover, and it stuck out at the top just enough to read the name written on it in flowing cursive letters. The name was mine.
“If You Let It”
Obviously she had thought of me before I arrived that day and selected this book for me—then written my name and kept it on her desk. Okay, that was impressive.
“I think you’ll like it,” she said. “It has a lot of action. It’s fun to read. And it also teaches important life lessons. Some people might tell you that it’s just a brainless novel, but this author always fills his books with big ideas. It will make you think deeply. And if you let it, it will teach you what it means to be a good man.”
I looked at the cover of the book. The title was The Daybreakers, and the author was Louis L’Amour. I had no idea what a “daybreaker” was, and I had never heard of Lewis Lamoor, as I pronounced it that first day, but the afternoon was passing and I only had a few hours left to read before our farm work resumed—so I grinned, thanked her, and checked out the book.
It was life-changing.
When I took it back to the library just a few days later, she looked up from her desk, and her face turned disappointed.
“You didn’t like it?” she asked.
“I loved it,” I told her. “I couldn’t stop reading. I finished it already.”
She led me to a long shelf of books and said, “These are all by the same author, Louis L’Amour. I’ve read them all, and each one has its own lessons and ideas. This shelf will keep you busy all summer.”
I stared at the long shelf in awe. Mrs. Mayer smiled, and she quietly went back to her desk.
I couldn’t decide which book to choose, so I picked three.
It was a great summer. I didn’t just read, I became a reader. A dedicated reader. An avid seeker of knowledge and wisdom. And the lessons and great ideas just kept coming. In fact, as L’Amour and his characters talked about other books, great classics like Plutarch’s Lives, Walden by Thoreau, Juvenal’s Satires, the writings of John Locke, and many others. When I read of these books in L’Amour, I found myself yearning to go read those that his characters mentioned and read as well.
L’Amour also included deep philosophical principles like the proper role of government and good citizenship, along with an on-going debate about what makes a good man and a good woman; I found myself entirely enthralled.
What makes a nation strong? Or weak? L’Amour taught it. What makes a society free? Or not? He taught this, too. What makes a good marriage? Or a good leader? His words addressed many topics. But in a way that kept a young boy turning the pages, pondering, thinking. I kept reading…
Of course, at the time my focus was on the excellent stories, the fascinating characters, and the lands they lived in. Their choices, their challenges, their romances, their work and life-missions. I was moved, touched, and inspired. I was taught. I learned. With each chapter, I yearned to read more. I quickly realized that I wanted a truly great education, just like his leading characters.
Like I said, that day changed everything. In the years since, I’ve read and re-read the L’Amour titles, learning so much from Bendigo Shafter, Johannes Verne, Lance Kilkenny, Barnabas and Jubal, and so many other characters.
I had enjoyed reading before, but on that day, without realizing what was about to happen, I rode my bicycle home, found a shady spot on the back porch, and opened the cover. I didn’t know I was going to become an avid reader and lover of the great minds, great ideas, and great classics that afternoon. I had no idea.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and sipped a large cup of water as I read. Even in the shade it was hot….
ACTION ITEM: Whether it’s coming summer in your area, or heading toward winter, you going to want some quiet moments to read a great book. Whether the evenings are chilly and dark, or long and balmy – there’s no better way to spend them than discussing great ideas with people you care about!