© Another Day in the Country
For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by blank books. What is it? Maybe their potential. I first encountered them, years ago, in a drawing class — only these were big blank 9x12” books for practicing our sketching. From then on, blank books of all sizes were multiplying on my bookshelf, hiding out in drawers, coveted.
My old friend Shawzee, whom I took care of for years, was a fellow wordsmith, a writer, a talker, a people-lover, and as he got older, he sometimes had trouble remembering things. So I got him a little blank book in which to write down interesting things he’d heard, funny stuff someone said, quips and quotes from his reading, really anything he wanted to remember.
In his early eighties, he lived in Michigan, and I lived in California. “You can show your book to me when I come visit,” I said.
I thought this was such a good idea then, and I think it’s an even better idea now, fifteen years after his death, because I have two of those little blank books of his. I opened one of them the other day when I was looking for a “quotable quote” to write about.
The little blank book also served as a conversation starter. Shawzee would say, “Pat gave me this book and I’d like you to write something in it.” So, we have people writing out some favorite quip or quote, jokes, funny stories, and signing their names. In that way, the blank book became an autograph book, something that all of you of a certain age remember.
If Shawzee was watching TV alone and he heard something he wanted to remember, he wrote it in the book so he could tell me about it later. On page six of the book he wrote in his elegant script, “We must remember that it was not so much that one man (Hitler) was so bad, but that millions had not the courage to be good.” Shawzee, a narrator on Nazi brutality at German prison camps.
Shawzee, whose real name was Dr. Horace J. Shaw, was a former evangelist turned teacher at Andrews University in southern Michigan. On page nine he wrote, “I was just thinking that A.D. Holmes, E. R. Thiele, Otto Christiansen, Elder Lee, all used to teach Bible here at the University and they are all dead! That’s why I got out of Bible and into Speech!!” H.J. Shaw 6/9/87 Did I tell you that he also had a “killer” sense of humor?
Sometimes he wrote poems or prose in his blank book. “Why do I choose words?” he wrote on June 25, 1987. “They’re things that seldom turn one down, or off. They come on unasked and bid to stay, till seated well. Then rise to leave, to return another day.”
In July, Jim Ayres came to visit and wrote in Shawzee’s book, “God made us with two ends. One for thinking. One for sitting. Success depends on which you use. Heads you win. Tails you lose.”
On page 103, Shawzee wrote a Johnny Carson quip, “New invention: Snap-on acne for people who want to look younger.” For a few pages, every quote is claimed by someone, “By all means marry: If you have a good wife you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Socrates. And then there’s one no one claims, “An atheist is one who has no invisible means of support.” I smile my way through the pages:
“Sarcasm: getting an edge in wordwise.”
“Tough love is not my tea; but to tough it out, my destiny.”
“Where you go in the hearafter depends on where you go after here.”
And then a favorite of mine:
“Some people are like wheelbarrows, they stand still unless they’re pushed.”
If I need a reason to smile, it’s in this little blank book, written in a very familiar and much loved hand, “A smart girl is one who can hold a man at arm’s length without losing her grip on him.”
Wanna laugh? It’s here, “You know you are middle aged when the telephone rings and you hope it’s not for you.” For something poignant, there’s that Marlene Dietrich quote, “To make a man happy is a full time job with no holidays.”
Buy a little blank book and start filling it up. In a few years, you’ll be glad you did, and if not you, then whoever picks it up. I’ll leave you with one last quip, on another day in the country, “A fox is a wolf who sends flowers.” R. Weston