The library

Rick Ryckeley's picture

The questions seemed simple enough, or at least I thought they were. Still, the only answer given was a blank look of confusion from the front desk attendant.
Last week, The Wife was doing research at the Vanderbilt Library in Nashville, Tenn., and I had tagged along for the ride. Who knew it would bring back memories from a research trip to another library some 45 years ago? That trip didn’t end well for yours truly.
Framed by giant oaks, the turn-of-the-century red brick building stood in the center of campus. The Wife hoped that within its walls were housed the resource materials needed to help further her down the path of higher education.

For me, I just hoped it housed the two items that would keep me safe during our three-day visit while in those hollowed halls of higher academia – a card catalog and a giant globe on a rotating stand.
Like a Trojan horse, the card catalog stood in the center of the library at Mt. Olive Elementary School. Inside its many drawers were cards with instructions on how to find any reference materials in the library.

Of course, I really didn’t use it. After all, the library was a place to escape the rigors of Mrs. Crabtree’s classroom. Who would want to waste that time doing research?
Twice the size of a refrigerator, the wooden structure was considered the ultimate organizational tool, and it was something else: perfect to hide behind, especially when running for your life from Down the Street Bully Brad.
It was bad enough Bully Brad lived at the end of Flamingo Street. It was inconceivable he would be sitting only four seats back from me in Old Mrs. Crabtree’s third-grade class. But there he sat for the entire year, minus the time he spent in the office for being a bully, of course.

About halfway through the school year, I figured the best way for me to survive his weekly after-school beating was to go on the offense. The library was the perfect place for an ambush, and the giant globe made for the perfect weapon.
Almost three feet across, the globe had a hole straight through its center and could be rotated in any direction at any angle. It was ideal for launching spitballs, but not ideal for hiding behind afterwards. That’s where the card catalog came in.

After launching my volley of spitballs at Bully Brad — all hitting their target, by the way — I ran for my hiding place behind the card catalog. Would’ve made it except I ran right into Old Mrs. Crabtree on the way. Seems she thought us being unsupervised in the library was a bad idea after all. By us, I think, she really meant me.
That day, Old Mrs. Crabtree answered a long-standing question. Yes, she could indeed drag two screaming students by their ears down the halls of Mt. Olive Elementary School and all the way to

Principal Baker’s office. That information, by the way, wasn’t found anywhere in the card catalog.
When The Wife and me walked through the doors of the Vanderbilt library, I asked the student attendant if they had a card catalog and a giant globe on a rotating stand. I took his look of confusion as a no answer, so I said, “The card catalog is perfect to hide behind if being chased by a bully. The giant globe is a great way to lob a surprise attack. Could be the only way to get away.”

After hearing this, The Wife just shook her head and started to pull me towards the Special Collections Area. It was found at the rear of the library behind locked doors.
She whispered for me to come along and said I would fit right in. I was happy to join her. Card catalog or not, Bully Brad would never find me there.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is storiesbyrick@gmail.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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