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The Bookmobile: Gift from my Mom

* see additional entry at bottom of blog page.

My Mom’s Best Gift

(Photo above) A Texas bookmobile circa late 1950’s.

My mother, Mary Iles, always described where we lived as “out in the sticks.”
we didn’t even really live in the small village of Dry Creek, but out in the nearby woods on the “wrong side of the creek.”

Our rural location at the dead end of a dirt road is the reason I still smile about the day the Bookmobile came to our house.

We moved to Dry Creek (from DeRidder) when I was four. We lived a year in The Old House while my parents built a house nearby.

We were in our new house (that Daddy named “Poverty Knob.”) on the day the Beauregard Parish Library Bookmobile made its first trip to our home.

I’ve always wondered what strings Momma had to pull to get the library van to come to our house each summer. We were far off the beaten path with just my sister Colleen and I as patrons. (Sister Claudia had just been born.)

During muddy weather our road could become nearly impassable. More than once, we got stuck on it. To call it a gravel road was a gross exaggeration, it was a dirt road… and dirt roads become a mess when “rutted up” after a rain.

A ’57 Pontiac stuck on a Dry Creek road near Morrow Bridge.

I’ll always remember these trips onto the Bookmobile.

The sound of it driving up every other Tuesday. I’d sit on the front steps awaiting its arrival.
Hearing it coming up the last hill before our house, I knew what vehicle it was. No one ever came down our road unless they were coming to see us or were lost.

The Bookmobile was coming to see us.

I recall the feel of the hot sand as I ran barefooted to the Bookmobile’s steps.
The hot Louisiana humidity was quickly offset by the cool interior of the Bookmobile.
It was air conditioned!

In the early 1960’s, very few people had electricity. Only a few stores in DeRidder had it. Our church, the camp, and nearly every home in Dry Creek was AC-less.

But the Bookmobile had air-conditioning. and I was determined to take advantage of every bit of the cold air. With Momma’s help, we went through the shelves selecting books. It was such a happy time in my childhood.

The library lady would kindly remind us that she had to leave in “a few minutes.” We’d wait as long as possible to leave the cool confines of the van.

Carrying an armload of books, we’d step back out into the June heat and wave as the Bookmobile disappeared around the curve, leaving a cloud of dust lingering long after its sound died away.

I knew it’d be back in two weeks, and I would then trade my stack of books for another stack, all selected from the shelves of the wonderful Beauregard Parish Library Bookmobile.

You may ask, “What does this bookmobile have to do with Mother’s Day?”

In my heart, it has a definite connection. My mom made sure we had every opportunity available to learn, grow, and read. It was a gift she gave to us.

To me, arranging for the Bookmobile to come to Poverty Knob was a strong sign of how strong that love was. This opportunity to get free books for reading left an impression on me. I believe it was the beginning of my writing career.

I was at Mom’s yesterday. She is now in her mid-seventies, but just as full of life as ever. Still reading. Still looking for the best in me.

Right next to her house is the old log cabin where I’ve now written most of my seven books.
I’m thankful for Mom’s gift. The gift of books and reading that is a gift that keeps on giving.

I’m convinced that the Parish Bookmobile is where I fell in love with books and reading. It is a passion I still have forty-five years later, and that passion was kindled in the driveway of the house where my mother still lives.

In 1990, Momma sent off a story I’d written about the death of my grandmother. When I wrote a “A Pair for Life”, publishing it was never a thought in my mind. I simply wrote it as a gift to my grandfather and his youngest daughter, my mom.

Without asking, Momma sent it off to Home Life magazine. Amazingly, they publishing it. From there (in spite of dozens of subsequent rejection letters that followed on other projects) my true writing career began.

Once again, my sweet momma was the catalyst for this.

So on Mother’s Day 2009, once again I say “Thanks Mom for all of the love you showed Colleen, Claudia, and I growing up.”

That love was never more clear that when a visible sign of her love for us– the Bookmobile– drove up every other Tuesday.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Curt Iles

* So many readers replied with their bookmobile/library memories. On my recent African I took a suitcase full of books- some were copies of my books that I gave away. The other half were requested books by the missionaries in Rwanda. They told me, “There are no libraries in Rwanda. Bring books. We’ll read anything but pornography.”

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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8 comments

  1. What a tribute to Mary and what a lady and mother she is. As always I love reading what you write. THANKS
    Marcia

  2. I love how those are the memories that mean the most. Not big expensive toys,game, or even trips. They things that mean the most or the love, quality time, and thoughtfulness we have in orr lives. This is a great story. I’ve never been much of a reader. I dont like fairy tales or documentaries; but i do love these stories you right.Real life true stuff, from the heart. Thanks for sharing it. I MISS YOU!
    love,
    Chelsey Query

  3. We too were Bookmobile children and relate so well to your story.
    As you said, AC in the hot summers was a blessing, but the books were the real treat. Do you remember that it was a privilege to be able to check out books. Privilege meaning, you were being treated as grown up. That and the AC made it a real cool experience.

    Cindi

  4. It is a pleasure to be Mary’s “backdoor neighbor.” Guess we are living even more in the sticks than she is. As a former “city girl” who lived in Alex., I remember waiting for the postman to bring our Weekly Reader. My brother and I had to share, so that was sometimes a battle. Our bike trips to the library on Bolton Ave. were always an adventure, and the AC was a great treat for us, too. That is if my brother even made it to the library. He once forgot to step off his bike when he got to the curb. Luckily only the bike was damaged, but he had to walk it home while I went on to the library. Hope the Iles kids were nicer to each other.

  5. Another good story that touches the heart! One of my earliest memories was when my mom was visiting a relative and she had several library books on her dining room table. I was astounded when she related that a “library” was letting her use the books free of charge! Keep it up Curt… we learn from our past how to plan for the future.
    Bro. Joe

  6. Thanks Marcia for your kind words about my mother. She is a jewel.

    Chelsey- I agree: the best things in life are free, and in the end our relationships are what matters.
    “Once a staffer, always a staffer.”
    Blessings,

    Bro. Curt

    Cindi- I’m amazed at how many bookmobile children have responded to my blog.

    Linda- Thanks for your nice note. My mom is special and you loves being neighbors with Jan and you.

    Bro. Joe- Free books! What an opportunity.

  7. Curt, did you know the Vernon Parish Library still has a bookmobile? Our daughter-in-law’s mom works on it. And, yes, I can remember that old bookmobile and its wonderful world of reading coming up Henry Farris Lane many, many years ago.

  8. Bare feet and hot dirt … I remember that all to well. Growing up a few miles down the road from you, I remember “turning the water black” every night at bath time, box fans and stifling heat were just a way of life in the summer months. Hurricane Rita provided a brief reminder of those days 🙂 Thanks for stirring the memories Curt, I love reading your stories.

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