Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyJust a Matter of Luck

  • Mon, 06 Jan 2014 01:33:37    Permalink
    After my car got totaled I went for a walk. Slipped on the ice and hurt my wrist so badly I thought it was broken. But I didn’t have time to properly diagnose the injury because, almost immediately upon returning home, I came down with a nasty case of stomach flu courtesy of the grandchildren. You know the drill… porcelain goddess.
    Next day I was able to determine that I had only bruised, not broken, the wrist. That was the good news. The bad news was that the kid who hit my car (It was parked in front of my house. The kid hit an icy patch, panicked, stomped on the brakes and – crash!) had let his insurance lapse. I took a long shower, then got a call from the insurance company telling me the kid’s mom had reinstated his policy. That was the good news (part 2). So I went out and rented an SUV, and loaded up for the 2014 Papermania show in Hartford, CT. Then I found out a blizzard was due the next day. More not good news. I left at 4:30 a.m. Thursday and beat the worst of the storm, arriving in Hartford about 9:30 in the morning. Took a workout, read, and napped. The down day was welcome.View from my hotelGiven the way my luck was running I should not have been surprised by what happened or, more precisely, what did NOT happen at the 35th edition of Hartford’s legendary ephemera show. Displaced by the storm, dealers straggled in all day Friday. Because of the storm, dealers were slow arrivingBy that afternoon it was apparent that, unless something very good happened very soon, this would be my worst Papermania show ever. There was nothing for me to buy.
    I’ve been doing this show for 20 years or more, and have never had such poor luck finding material on the floor. It wasn’t my fault. I looked until my eyes bled. And, to paraphrase D.H. Lawrence, it wasn’t ITS fault, either. Just the luck of the draw. Sometimes the bear bites you, etc.The opening crowd was sparse, but shoppers came all day 
    Welcome to my worldFinally, late Friday afternoon, I found an interesting item. It wasn’t marine related, but by that time I didn’t care.
    It was the diary of a young soldier in the Civil War. His name was Charles Tarbox, and in the summer of 1862 he joined company G of the 35th Massachusetts. His company passed through Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and the young man wrote excitedly about what he saw and did, with a young man’s special attention to what he ate. 
    Then his company arrived in Antietam, and the action began to heat up. Charles Tarbox recorded these experiences with gusto, bad spelling, and breathless punctuation. “15 September wee had a tremendous battle last night one fellow was taken prisoner I am writing from the battle field there are firing a short distance from here.” A few more entries follow, and then on September 17, “We expect to have a large battle today. There is a rifle cannon 75 rod from here. It seems as though it was going right through you…”

    This is the last entry in the book. At the bottom of the page – in fact at the bottom of every page – is a nasty, shredded, round hole. A bullet had gone clear through the book, no doubt kept in Tarbox’s breast pocket, and through him, as well. He died that day. Because he’d written his father’s name and address in his diary, the book found its way back to Campton, New Hampshire. Diary and cdv, $1750

    I began to feel better about my luck. Much better.

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