The Son of a Gun

The Hunting of the Snark

The dawn warms the cold house with golden light. For some minutes, every wall and every object glows like a treasure hoard. But the early morning light is cold. It is the glow in the stove which mirrors the early sun that warms the rooms.

I love the fire. The glow, the warmth, the easy maintenance. Bring a tote of wood in. It is no chore. The work was cutting it. Hauling it. Stacking it. Many months ago. All done in anticipation of nights like this. When the iron and charwood keep the black cold outside.

I have been awakening in the wee hours again some nights. One night, I tried to write myself to sleep. A kind of lullaby.

Words and sleep.

Write myself a lullaby. To sleep, sleep, sleep. Calm the beating heart. Soothe the pacing mind. To sleep, sleep, sleep. Words can enrage, inflame. Tonight, I use the pen and paper to quench the fire. Listen. Peace is being written. The soft scrape across the page and words appear to calm the waters. The tide behind my eyes recedes. Ahh, the pen is becoming heavy.

The words come slowly slower. To sleep, sleep, sleep.

It helped.


Driving west on Interstate 70. Ernest is behind the wheel. The leaves are just beginning to color on the mountains.

I’ve been stressing out. I have company coming Sunday. I let so many things slide during COVID. Nothing yucky. Just clutter and putting off chores.

I lost the cleaning help I had monthly in 2021. I haven’t looked too hard for a replacement.

We are passing under the Appalachian Trail. It runs along the ridge of a long big “range” called South Mountain. It is a kind of enormous amorphous landmark. I think the mountain I live on is part of South Mountain.

We are going up to finalize the layout of the Hagerstown store. It is a project that has dragged on way too long. My fault. But the contractor was often hard to get as well.

A problem is we have a lot of shallow shelves (6 inches deep.) Those shelves are fine for softcover books and hardcover novels. They aren’t good for categories that have larger, coffee-table-size books—like Art, History, Travel…

Why? The books fall off. So we can’t just make sections go anywhere.

On our way back. 58 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky.

We culled about 20 tubs of books for Books by the Foot and pulp. Not that you could tell. Except in Westerns. I decimated it. Well, not “decimate”—whose root lies in leaving only one out of ten prisoners alive. We culled about 35%. That section will be condensed. Children’s education will get the extra space.

Old time western stories are dead. Mostly because the readers—who grew up on western movies and TV shows are dead.

Roy Rogers lives on in the fast-food restaurants named after him. Gene Autry was a huge star in movies and as a singer. His version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is still the one you always hear. Not so well remembered was his Cowboy Code of Ethics:

According to the code:
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Old school kid rules.

There are still a lot of empty bookcases from the expansion we did last winter and spring. We made some decisions today. Move Horror to the empty shelves that opened up before “A” in Sci-Fi. No brainer. They belong adjacent to one another. Kids and Young Adult books will fill in the old Horror section.

There were about a dozen empty bookcases near the front. We are going to slide Nature into those. Then we can move some of the social sciences into Nature’s void. They will join other social science categories across the aisle. Psychology, Health… terrible sellers. Where Psych was, we can expand Lit and Non-Christian Religions.

Will all that accomplish anything financially? We won’t know unless we try.

I’ve been bringing the potted plants inside. We haven’t had a freeze yet, but sometimes those can sneak up on you. The phone says Frederick might go down to 32 tonight. It is usually warmer up on the mountain where I live. I know that seems counterintuitive. Maybe warm air rises?

Why I have so many potted plants, I don’t know.

For a week, I would just bring in one anytime I came inside. Last night, I brought a LOT in.

There are a lot more in other rooms.

I brought in the extra wooden wine boxes from the barn. They serve as plant stands. I’ll arrange them in rows. It won’t look dreadful. No one will see them but me. And my guests. But they’ll understand when I explain… explain I am a plant hoarder. Some of these I inherited from my friend Barbara. Some are many years old. Last year, I counted about 75. Some pots weigh 50 pounds or more.


I guess I am pretty good at not killing plants.

Sol, who does our paper recycling called this week.

“Chuck, I hate to tell you this, but the market for pulp paper is crashing. I’m doing everything I can. I don’t want it to get to the point where I have to charge you to take your paper away…”

What a screwed up economy.

I ordered a few dozen naked ladies

Amaryllis belladonna. They’re the bulbs whose foliage comes up and then dies back. Then the flower stalks rise “naked” and bloom.

I dug more of the bleeding hearts up. They’ve self-propagated out of the raised beds behind a stone wall into the gravel—I guess you’d call it a—patio? The tubers—if that is what they are called—can be as large as a man’s hand.

Bleeding Hearts

They are very selfish plants that grow and grow and squeeze out anything around them. If they take in the new beds I’m putting them in, it will be perfect. I won’t have to weed—as much.

Selfish, beautiful, unwilling to allow anything to compete with their beauty. If there are any more, they won’t be found til spring when their tiny red fingers begin to rise from the earth. For their tops have long died back, withered, dried and blown away. They hibernate beneath the earth. There are just a few lingering blooms here and there.

There’s nothing left of the summer but memories. Summer began in London with the Queen’s Jubilee. A real fun friendship blossomed and then faded quickly. Summer ended in London with the Queen’s death and funeral. There was a fun jaunt to Quebec in the middle. But my impression of it is that it was empty. My fault. I didn’t really try. The last two summers were filled with fear mixed with wondering how much we were being lied to—manipulated. COVID. I recall 2019’s summer fondly. It was a lot of fun. Maybe I’m remembering it viewed through rose-colored glasses. And because 2020 and 2021 were so dreadful, it HAD to have been wonderful.

Yep, summer is gone. Fall is in full swing. The sun is moving further south. To see the sunrise, I need to look through the northernmost window, which happens to be even with the head of my bed. It is still stunning.


I will miss it—for five months or so when it slips back into view around the spring equinox.

So, the garden work will consist of planting the thousands of bulbs that came in. There will be some clean up. I have a LOT of redbud seedlings—some three feet tall—that I need to pry out of the earth while they are dormant. There are several dozen that sprouted right next to the driveway. They can’t be allowed to grow to maturity there.

Maybe I will bring some stone up and make another pocket or fang garden or three.

Maybe I’ll write more. Some “real” story rather than just the week’s current events or travel log.

My bookselling friends Ron Cozzi and Jeff Bergman stopped by on Tuesday.

Jeff got here early and shopped the collectible rooms in the warehouse and then the glass cases at the store. He is very picky, but found a nice stack of pretty books—some with great inscriptions.

Jeff's Finds

Jeff’s book history goes back to being a Manhattan new bookseller with numerous stores. His independents got muscled out by a big-box corporate bookseller. They made a movie about it. You’ve Got Mail. Jeff’s part was played by Meg Ryan. I wrote a bit about it in the blog.

Ron got here late in the afternoon. He drove down from Buffalo. He has a tradition of bringing irresistible things to hand-sell me whenever he is passing through. We sat in my (very cluttered) office, and Ron pulled a few books out of a box.

Yep. He got me again with this Jonathan Swift title:

And a cool 18th century cookbook.

After, we went out to dinner and chatted about good and bad things going on in the rare book world today.

They are on their way to the Baltimore Antiques Show at the Convention Center. This show used to be vast—filling up the entire Convention Center. They also used to have many booksellers exhibiting. I was one of them for many years in the 90s. They lost or cast off most of the booksellers—but now they are trying to get them back. I’ll go over Saturday and maybe buy a book or three from Jeff and Ron. They’ve promised to take me out for a steak dinner. It will perhaps be a very expensive free meal for me.

When I got back from Hagerstown on Thursday, there was a Rosamunde Pilcher novel on my chair.

Gun Safe Book

What on earth could be interesting enough about that to be brought to my attention?

Gun Safe Book


Well, that’s a first!

Some call this a solander.

More commonly they are called book safes.

I immediately called the police, and a nice guy came out. I asked if I could keep the book, as it is a cool bookish object. He said he would check. He came back in and told me he’d been told I could keep them both?!

“Finders keepers.”

But I just got a follow-up call today from a lieutenant who wants to come pickup the gun. I didn’t think I could keep an unregistered handgun—even though it is antique. I’ll let you know what the final disposition of the book safe and its contents are.

(She came and took the gun. It will be destroyed. She left the book.)

The construction is proceeding apace. They are pouring a lot of concrete footers in preparation for pouring the slabs.


Once that is done, the walls can go up. Then…

This decorative plate came in.

Bedtime Prayer Plate

I remember how I would dutifully say my prayers every night with Dad or Mom in attendance.

Now I lay me down to sleep…

More Ray Bradbury foreign editions came in. I let a new person look through them, searching for autographs. So far, she has only found three. But she has a few hundred more to go through.

Ray Bradbury Foreign Editions

Another Friday.

Another week over.

I feel like I have done nothing, and that nothing has changed in my life.

Maybe someday… but I won’t hold my breath.

This weekend will be books, books, books.

Chuck Carts

Company comes Sunday evening. I hope the house is presentable.

If not, I can be considered eccentric.

Maybe I’d rather be idiosyncratic.

Ideally, I’d like to be an “original.”


The books I bought in London have finally arrived!

Kelmscott & Goya Prints

The Kelmscott and Goya portfolio came from Laurelle Swan.

In the Halloween spirit, the back two images are a witch and warlock in a swing with demons in the backgrounds.

The Prisoner of Zenda

The Zenda is the rare first issue. There’s an ALS included from Anthony Hope to the famed author and Sherlockian Vincent Starrett.

The Lewis Carroll is a first with a stunningly beautiful binding done by a pioneering woman bookbinder from the Guild of Women Bookbinders.

These are the original versions of the first part of this story. Poetry turns many readers off, so I turned them into text, so some wouldn’t stop reading.

I love the fire.
The glow, the warmth,
the easy maintenance.
Bring a tote of wood in.
It is no chore.
The work was in the cutting.
Hauling it. Stacking it.
Many months ago.
All done in anticipation
of wintry nights like this.
When the iron stove
keeps the black cold outside.

Words and Sleep

Write myself a lullaby.
To sleep, sleep, sleep.
Calm the beating heart.
Soothe the pacing mind.
To sleep, sleep, sleep.
Words can enrage, inflame.
Pen and paper may quench the fire.
Listen. Peace is being written.
There’s a soft scrape across the page
and words appear to calm the waters.
The tide behind my eyes recedes.
Ahh, the pen is becoming heavy.
The words come slowly slower.
To sleep, sleep, sleep.

4 Comments on Article

  1. Gregory commented on

    That gun solander is something else! What’s interesting to me is that it obviously worked very well at hiding the gun, as I’m sure you had no idea it was there, bought the book, and it was packed and transferred to your store without anyone realizing what it was.

    But it’s just as well to get that handgun off your hands, antique or not.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      It was strange that it got through Sorting and to Data Entry because it weighed 5-6 pounds. That kind of book is usually just over a pound.

      No idea where it came from – house call or store buy or…?

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Livia commented on

    Hello Chuck,

    Love the decorative plate and as always, the sunrise photo….

    Take it easy…


    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Great to hear from you!
      Email your next trips and I’ll send mine.


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