stuff I’ve collected

I have two objects that will likely remain on my desk as long as I remain on the planet.

One is a piece of knapped stone (chert, I think) that I found in my forest. It’s a tool left behind by some First People, and it’s broken (perhaps why it was left behind). I’ve never had it professionally assessed, but some casual inquiries have suggested it was part of a digging tool.

I hold this in my hand sometimes and try to imagine how old it is and who used it. I try to imagine someone putting a lot of effort — and skill — into creating it. The stone is mute; it won’t tell me its secrets and all I am left with is my imagination and what I can learn about the people who lived in the area pre-history.

The second is a seed. It is the first buckeye from the six I have planted in front of my cabin. The buckeyes took their time (five years) growing to this level of maturity, generally losing their leaves by August each summer due to leaf scorch (and possibly not ideal conditions). But last year the flowers — red rather than the usual buttery white native to the area — produced three actual seeds. One dropped to the leaf litter before I could collect it; the second was somehow rotten; the third is the one I keep on my desk as a reminder that some things I attempt in my life actually succeed.

As you can see, it’s not the large, glossy look of a normal buckeye. This may be the proper seed of the red-flowering variety or it may be due to the less-than-ideal conditions where the plants grow. Regardless, it sits before me and reminds me of my little cabin and the adventures I have there.

And while all of that is nice, it’s merely prelude to the point of this post.

For many years I collected old books. I was interested in the history of Missouri, which I soon found to be too big a subject, so I tightened my mania to the history of the Ozarks in Missouri. (The Ozarks spill into Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.) When I would read a book that referenced another book about this subject, I would soon be on the hunt for it. I haunted used book stores and ABE Books for years, searching for my quarry, and on rare days, finding it. I have some very obscure novels by Vance Randolph, for example. I have several books published in the 1890s and one in 1884. Many of these have their prior owners’ names (and sometimes addresses) written or stamped in them. Some are signed by the author or have gift inscriptions in them to people as long gone as whoever knapped the digging tool I have.*

I have bound sets of Missouri Life magazine from its inception in 1973 through 1980, and I have many years worth of individual copies in the years since (including a few with feature articles by me in them). I have bound sets of The Missouri Conservationist from 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1954, notable not only for their rarity (the folks at the magazine didn’t even know they existed) but for their now-discouraged conservation advice. (And, of course, I have the copies with my features in them, from a more recent era.)

I’ve read all of these (except for some of the primary school textbooks about state history), and one or two I’ve read twice. But the thing is, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever read any of them again. Nor do I have the passion for collecting them that I once had.

Yet I can’t part with them.

The thrill, as with many things, is in the pursuit, not so much in the having. I worked long and I worked hard to find and collect some of these books. And while they were a prize then and a treasure now, they don’t call to me as they once did. I don’t feel the need to keep them, but I can’t bear the thought of giving them away.

I’m tempted to make a list of the finer of them and approach the Kansas City Public Library to see if they would want to add them to their collection of historic and notable books about the state. What stops me is the fear that they will decline my offer or even point out that these rarities I have ain’t so rare.

It’s a specialized collection, and it would take someone with a similar specialized interest to want them. And I guess that’s what I would be holding out for: a good home.


*Well, technically, not as long.

Explore posts in the same categories: Ramblings Off Topic

4 Comments on “stuff I’ve collected”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    It sounds like you have quite a collection of Missouri and Ozark history. If public places like libraries have no particular use for them, maybe one of your grandkids will have interests like yours and treasure them long into the future. I love that stone tool and buckeye seed. Hopefully someone in your family will treasure them as well. These are the best of memories we eventually leave behind.

  2. Diane Says:

    It’s the wrong state, and it’s fiction, but I do wonder whether you ever took the time for Donald Harington. Somewhere or other, he was called America’s Chaucer, and The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks is one of my favorite novels ever.

    Just came from the Buckeye State, and came home with a few. They happen to be made of peanut butter and chocolate, so will not last like your buckeye will … but still lovely and glossy. 🙂

  3. Libby Says:


  4. Libby Says:

    When did advertisement get on WordPress?

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