Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Summers with books, Brach’s candy, and boys

Scarlet Stone
Posted 2/14/24

From an early age, I became aware that I was more of a doer than a reader. As a child, growing up at our summer cabin on the Cook end of Lake Vermilion, I have vivid memories of my family sitting …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Summers with books, Brach’s candy, and boys


From an early age, I became aware that I was more of a doer than a reader. As a child, growing up at our summer cabin on the Cook end of Lake Vermilion, I have vivid memories of my family sitting around indoors or outside reading books. This was an occurrence that happened at multiple times during any given summer day. I preferred action, like heading out in the 14-foot fishing boat to exploring the many alluring channels of water or ride the white capped waves in Wakemup Bay.
I always had my younger brother with me. If we weren’t in the boat, we went on walks down the curvy gravel roads leading out to the blacktop highway beyond. We had forts in the woods, played with the neighbor dog, Tanny, and fed the chipmunks corn. We were always busy with drawing, playing games, and there was no television to distract us from our creativity. My younger brother liked to read too, but did whatever I told him to and that meant ...action.
When dad wasn’t working at the mine, he had a Louis L’Amour western by his big red naugahyde chair. My older brother has always been the most dedicated reader in our family of five. He was practically ingrown to the end of the couch with a book in his left hand, while twirling the hair at the crown of his head with his right hand, to the point of developing a bald spot.
When the family needed groceries or supplies, it was always an adventure driving 24 miles to the small town of Cook in dad’s blue Chevy truck. Back in those days us kids sat on the tail gate as the truck jostled down the dirt roads, but once we hit the black top we had to pull up the gate. Once in town, we scattered to our own destinations with the boys heading to the corner drug store for a Mad Magazine and some candy no doubt. I’d usually go with mom into the Big Dollar grocery store. I remember standing in front of the paperback book rack searching for something to hold my attention, so that I would fit in and be a reading member of my family. It was a constant challenge.
One summer back in the 1970s, Mother got very excited when she discovered Irish writer, Maeve Binchy’s book, “Firefly Summer,” a story of a small town in Ireland, a rollicking pub, and its lively characters in changing times. It sounded like a great read and must have been as Mother neglected all her rotating craft projects during this period I refer to as the, “Binchy binge.” The elaborate beaded macrame plant hangers, paper quilling, trapunto stuffed wall hangings, and mud art on burlap all ceased for one entire season as she consumed nearly all of Maeve’s books. I on the other hand was consuming too many Brach’s pick-a-mix candies while doing my best at being an avid reader-in-training, obsessed with some “bodice-ripper” paperback with an erotic cover and anxiously skimming pages to find the next hot spot. Well, when you are spending summers in an isolated bay on Lake Vermillion you need that sort of thing to liven up your puberty years.
I do recall a beginner’s level bodice-ripper experience that electrified my hum-drum existence one summer. A tall, loose-haired teenage boy from Chicago was visiting relatives across the bay and stopped me one afternoon on his motorcycle while I was floating down the road, no doubt with a daisy in hand. He asked me to go for a ride. Wait, he asked ME to go for a After I awkwardly climbed onto the seat, he told me to wrap my arms around him which was such a forward command for my innocence that it nearly caused me to swoon off into the ferns in the nearest ditch as we sped away towards some sunset. Only in my teenage dreams. My trembling, sweaty little hands stayed fixed in one place halfway around his middle which most likely disappointed him as I was not invited again. Summers of innocence continued for years in the isolation of the northern woods.
The following year, with no boys on motorcycles around, I picked up “Firefly Summer” once again, stopping and starting until it became a running joke that one day I was going to finally read the thing....but Mother continued to say, “You still haven’t read that book?” I felt so cheap. Other family members had piles of novels they’d read. These situations confirmed to me that I was an odd duck in my family. I thought that perhaps I was lacking in intelligence to not be able to get through that Maeve Binchy book. I decided in the end it wasn’t something that interested me and that’s fine.
I never have become a voracious reader but like to have a variety of books around in case that moment occurs. Now as an adult, I like Audible because I don’t have to sit still as I absorb the story. This is a good fix for me, yet I am feeling like maybe I need to condense things so that I can fit more in the amount of time I have left on the planet. I should at least conquer the classics. Yesterday, while scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I came upon an application called “Blinkist” that cuts to the chase of a book and gives you the meat rather than all the fluff and stuff that you don’t necessarily need to spend time reading. I thought this could be a fabulously fun discovery and it seems like it’s right up my alley.
What if we were actually able to use an app like this with people and conversations? So many times, I am listening to a person tell a story and they go on and on...while I bite the inside of my cheek, consider going to the bathroom, make a mental grocery list, and think about everything else I could be accomplishing while waiting for this person to get to the crux of the story. I personally am more aware of taking up people’s time. I don’t like to be what I term a “time-suck” and I will avoid people at an event or in a store, taking a different aisle just so that I do not fall victim. I think that it’s quite selfish for people to hog conversations as if they were paid speakers entitled to an hour at the podium. So when I saw the app Blinkist, I really thought this could be a great thing for me. I envy my brother, who has read all the classics and beyond, (except for “Firefly Summer”). I have not read many classics and even if I had, I’m sure that I would have forgotten large portions of them by now. I am just like that, I can likewise watch a movie and re-watch it at some point without realizing that I have seen it already. I suppose it’s the popcorn and snacks that distract me and I have no regrets about that.
On the other hand, distractions aside....I accomplished graduating from high school, then about seven more years of various tech schools and colleges so I have had to pay attention to boring, dry lectures in order to pass these classes with a decent grade. I’m too hard on myself. At this point if something, or someone does not interest me in the least, I’d rather not have them suck up too much of my day, which adds up to weeks, months, and years. I think that’s fair. At this point some of us clearly can say we have paid our dues and should be able to do whatever we feel like whether it’s reading a book, eating Brach’s candies or going for a motorcycle ride.