On Tuesday, I finished the Randy Wayne White novel I had been reading.
Because it was early and I didn’t really want to watch the Iowa State/Baylor basketball game, I walked over to the book shelf to look for something else to read.
Sometimes I like to read a book that I’ve read before. I don’t really like to finish a book and then immediately read it again, but given enough time I like picking up a book and giving it a second or third read.
There are some books that I make a point of rereading every five years or so, and on Tuesday evening, as I scanned the shelves, I came across one of those books.
The title of the book is “The Last Cattle Drive” written by Robert Day. I first read the novel in 1980, a few years after it came out. At the time, I was living in Kansas City and going to school at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Both places figure prominently in the book. In the novel, the main character attended KU, and the final chapter takes place in my favorite bar: Kelly’s Westport Inn in Kansas City.
Though a good deal of the novel is set in western Kansas — an area of the state that I don’t know much about — there are several scenes that take place in other parts of the state that are more familiar to me.
My nephew Eric Murphy, who has a master’s degree in English and therefore will likely be poor the rest of his life, was talking about “The Last Cattle Drive” with me a few weeks ago. Eric reminded me of a paragraph in the book describing a tavern n Alta Vista, Kan. Here is how that paragraph begins: “I like taverns. I like sitting at big, round, wooden tables where maybe fifty men a day for a hundred years have sat.”
You don’t write a paragraph like that if you haven’t spent some time in small town Kansas taverns.
My copy of “The Last Cattle Drive” is the third copy I’ve owned and is signed by Day. I loaned my first copy to someone years ago and never got it back. A year or so later, my sister Mary got me a signed copy of the book, which I promptly loaned to someone else and never got back.
I purchased the copy I have now about 20 years ago after a book reading by Day. When I told him about the other two copies of his novel that I loaned out, he wrote the following in the book I had him sign: “For Mike, Do not take this man’s book.”
I think that’s something.
I have several books that I make a point of rereading every five years or so. When I mentioned that to my wife the other day she said that she didn’t know that about me. When I told her that there was a lot about me that she didn’t know, she laughed.
“No there isn’t,” she said.
I’m not sure I like the way my wife said that.
Another one of those five-year books is “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. I suppose citing “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” as a favorite novel might seem a bit quaint to some of the high-minded literary types, but I don’t care. Ernest Hemingway once said that all modern American literature came from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” so the high-minded literary types can take a hike.
One of the other books I like to pick up every five years or so is “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller. I first read it when I was a junior in high school and I thought it was the funniest book I had ever read. All these years later, I still think that.
If anybody out there is interested in borrowing my copy of “The Last Cattle Drive,” I’m sorry but I can’t loan it to you.
Robert Day said I shouldn’t.
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