The first baby came while my husband was still in the demanding years of his undergrad program. I brought in the bulk of the money and worked clear up until delivery day. We made the decision to live off of basically nothing so I could stay home and take care of our baby.
So, when the opportunity for a paid internship came that summer, we jumped at it. The money would be nice, meaning we desperately needed the job. And the experience operating a small calcite mine would be great to put on a resume, meaning we desperately needed the job. We could leave our familiar life for the unknown in a small mountain town, meaning we desperately needed the job.
With a final heave we loaded the last of our meager possessions into a borrowed trailer and pulled away from the heavy congestion of our college town. We hauled our lives along the lonely, rural highway that twisted through canyons and past reservoirs. The road wound past massive red boulders with the Duchesne River as it flowed through a tight valley that would be home for the summer.
We rented an old farmhouse from a local family who had lived in the area for generations. Our landlords kept sheep in the field next to the house and ran cows on the land around us. Much to my delight, they brought a litter of kittens to keep on the property for the summer; landlords in college towns tend to frown on animals.
The neighbors across the south field were an older, newlywed couple and were quick to introduce themselves. I adored them. Cathy cut my hair and Bob often pulled into the driveway for a chat. They ran a local resort down the road from us and worked hard for a couple supposedly in retirement.
Across the north field an old church had been converted into a large house where a group of polygamists lived. Contrary to what popular culture will tell you, Mormons don’t practice polygamy. I had my own preconceived ideas about what polygamists were supposed to be like. But the girls didn’t wear ankle length pioneer dresses. In fact, their trendy skirts looked similar to what I had hanging in my own closet. And the women didn’t have bangs reaching for the sky. They wore flannel shirts and jeans with hair pulled out of their eyes while they tended their garden.
I’m a small town girl at heart. It’s in my blood and skin and teeth. And I swear, the summer was just as idyllic as it sounds, full of farm animals and canning apples and small-town celebrations. Getting to know the locals was a highlight. But there was one drawback. The nearest library was 30 minutes away. I tried to tell myself it was just temporary. That it wasn’t a big deal. I could live without new reading material for the summer. But an inner beast whined at me for books. It was hungry and I had no way to feed it.
One day I spotted the polygamist girls walking along the highway as they often did. They were talking and laughing, making me miss my own sisters. A large, white truck rumbled past the girls and pulled into the driveway in front of their house. Bold red letters announced my salvation.
I had never seen a bookmobile in real life, but I knew what that word meant. I scrambled to grab my shoes and put the baby in the stroller. Responding to the Pied Piper’s call, I hurried along the shoulder of the highway while the sheep in the field followed from inside the fence. My feet hit the dusty driveway and I parked the stroller near the waiting bookmobile. With my arms full of baby, I climbed the steps to the truck. Sure enough, the metallic walls were covered from floor to ceiling with glorious books.
The librarian who ran the bookmobile quickly became a favorite of mine. (I might make that claim about every librarian I know and I’m right in every case!) She was everything a librarian should be; friendly, chatty about books, and full of recommendations. I was looking for an obscure series of books I’d heard about, and she spent the next several weeks tracking them down from around the state for me. Because she was awesome.
It became our routine for the summer. Every other week the polygamist children bounded on and off the bookmobile while I chatted with the librarian. With my arms full of borrowed loot, I’d stop for a quick chat with other neighbors up and down the valley coming to use the bookmobile.
Even tucked away in an isolated, mountain town, books found me.