It’s been just about 9 years now since my dad passed away. I had never been very close to him, my parents having divorced when I was 6 years old.
This post is about a bit of extra connection coming through books.
When my dad retired, he moved 1,000 miles away to the state of Washington. One of the last times I went up to see him in the weeks before he passed away I noticed several paperback ‘Western’ novels around the house. I never thought of my dad as much of a reader. The genre would probably be one of the last I would be interested in, so it never came up in conversation. Later I found out these were books that he enjoyed reading in his last few years as his health declined.
After my stepmother passed away this year I remembered the books. I asked her family about them, wanting to know if there were any of those Western paperbacks of dad’s that I could have. Alas, I was too late. Evidently they had been given away or thrown out.
Doing a little research, I picked up one of those little Bantam paperbacks for $2 at a used book store. The book by Louis L’Amour is called Shalako, first published in 1962. I found out that L’Amour is possibly the most popular writer of western fiction.
Surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed it. Yes, ‘Cowboy and Indian’ stories are no longer the rage, considered pretty much politically incorrect now these days I guess. Still, this story of the old west, and the loner, Shalako, captured my imagination. He is a man comfortable with himself and his environment – a man very close to the ‘land.’
Reading this book help to lead me to a bit of reconnection with my dad. I’d forgotten that there were a couple of times I saw him that he’d be wearing a western type shirt, and once or twice he wore a cowboy hat. And I remembered that there were a few pictures where he sported that ‘Western’ look. I hadn’t really thought about it before but he did seem at times to have an affinity with the cowboy archetype – that independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Maybe Louis L’Amour’s, Shalako, was one of the books dad had read. Maybe it was one he had enjoyed as much as I did. Maybe we had a common interest in stories, especially stories about men, responsibility, sacrifice, honor, and self-discovery.
It could be my dad was in some ways like me, finding in stories, in books and their characters, a bit of understanding and insight into himself.
Yes, I was looking for a bit of connection when I picked up that book. Yet I found a little more than I expected. Maybe a bit of speculation on my part, but I think that’s okay.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Why did you come back?” she asked suddenly.
If there was an answer to that he did not know what it was, nor was he a man given to self-analysis or worry about his motives. . . Knowing no logical answer, he did not attempt to make one, but walked beside her in silence.
~ From Louis L’Amour’s, Shalako