Bored? Here, Read This.

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled, ‘This could change your life.'”

—Helen Exley

Story contributed by Barbara Shallue.

I was seven or eight when I uttered that inevitable childhood chant to Daddy, “I’m bored.”

“Bored?” he said, handing me an old, mildewed copy of ‘Black Beauty’.

“Here, read this. You’ll never be bored again.”

I was hooked.

Here, read this

Barbara Shallue and her dad

I’m Barbara Shallue. I’m a writer, blogger and photographer. I can trace my passion for words and images back to Daddy’s early tip. And Daddy was right.

As long as I’ve had something handy to read (and I try to make sure I do), I’ve never been bored again. Besides Anna Sewell’s ‘Black Beauty’ — and hence, every horse book I could get my hands on — Daddy got me hooked on historical fiction.

He also introduced me to Leon Hale and his Texas-flavored, rambling, memoirish columns in the Houston Post (and then the Chronicle)… the inspiration for my own personal essays and blog posts, I’m sure. I still read his columns today.

Because of Daddy, I surround myself with books, and I’m partial to old ones. I read our ancient copies of ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Call of the Wild’, ‘Daddy-Long-Legs’, and ‘A Girl of the Limberlost’ over and over and over. To this day, the smell of a musty book takes me miles away in my mind to those stories.

Here, read this

Barbara Shallue and her dad

When I enter an antique store, I head straight for the book section. Not to buy, necessarily, but just to breathe, feel, and say Hello, you’re not forgotten.

Our house overflowed in paperbacks, too. Daddy always had one in his metal lunchbox, usually a Louis L’Amour. When I followed in his steel-toed-shoe footsteps years later, I always carried a paperback with me to work.

Today neither of us consumes books like we used to. But all of those books and words and voices still bind us, despite the miles between us, and the words we cannot say.

I feel Daddy with me every time I open a book.

Thank you, Daddy.

Barbara Shallue writes and blogs from her empty nest in the hills outside of Austin, Texas. While raising three children with her husband, Barbara has collected an eclectic assortment of jobs, including fire-fighting chemical plant technician, elementary school librarian, and waiter in a winery bistro. When possible, she begins each day with a walk down her dirt road, camera around her neck, snapping photos of her two dogs, the wildflowers, birds, insects, or just the glint of sunlight on a leaf.

Barbara’s photography is on view at her website Barbara Shallue Photography.

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