One Man's Trash
I have a wonderful friend who lives in a border town in South Dakota. She can literally walk across the railroad tracks at the end of town and be in North Dakota.
My children and I call her “Grandma Cindy” and she is definitely a Great Plains’ cowgirl. One of her favorite things to do is to tease my “southern-ness”. By that, I mean my love for hydrangeas, pearls, monograms, China, grits, and of course, front porches.
She recently called me and said, “Hey. I was just in a thrift store and found an old, hardback copy of that bird book that you love. I paid a dollar for it, but it will cost me five dollars to mail.” I chuckled at her practicality and honestly forgot about the package to come. I honestly didn’t even consider what the “bird book” could be, because I love all books.
Imagine my surprise when I received my package earlier this week. The “bird book” was a first edition of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, a 1960 publication by J.B. Lippincott & Co.
I could hardly believe my good fortune and I quickly Facetimed her to thank her and let her see my excitement. She humored me and said, “Well, I hope you learn something from it. Up here, it might be mistaken for a hunting manual.”
I tried again to convince her to read it to no avail. At 78, she’s still making caramel rolls in the local café and when she finishes there, she heads over to the deli of the grocery store to work a second job, all the while learning to effectively manage an iPhone. She will never sit still long enough to soak in the wonder that is To Kill A Mockingbird.
As I carefully handled my copy, I couldn’t help but wonder about who had purchased it, if they had read it, what they had thought of it and WHY in the world was it in a thrift store?
I guess the old southern saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true. Someone packed this treasure and dumped it at the thrift store. Maybe they just saw it as an old book in a world where Kindles and phone apps are used for reading. Maybe they had heard recent reports of it being banned in certain school districts and didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
Most likely, someone was faced with the daunting task of cleaning out an elderly relative’s home before putting it on the market. Those old books probably just had to go. There was likely not a lot of thought given as it was tossed into a box, but the book nerd in me will always wonder how many other “treasures” they sent to the thrift store in that same box.
Back to my bird book, I have done all the possible verification that this is an original, first printing of the first edition of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning, critically acclaimed, coming of age novel of life in the 1930’s south.
It appears that it is legitimate. It was valued at $1 by a rural South Dakota thrift store, but to me, it’s priceless. Its value doesn’t come from what the Internet says it’s worth or what a book store marks as its cost. The value comes from the tall, silver-haired cowgirl who found it and thought of me, nearly 2,000 miles away on a random Thursday.
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Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.