Today is an important day. Maybe one of the most important of my life. I have been looking forward to this day since childhood, and now that it’s here I don’t know how to feel.
Today is National Cow Appreciation Day.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You didn’t even know there was such a holiday. But it turns out there is. And in honor of this day, my wife’s 2003 Dodge Durango died in the post office parking lot with us inside it.
It was ninety-eight degrees outside. I tried to flag someone for help. Many of these people simply waved at me, then pointed to their wristwatches, and drove away.
So that’s where I am now, waiting for a tow truck, writing to you on my phone.
But like I said, nothing can bring me down today. Nothing. Because you know what else today is? The Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
That’s right. All year, we baseball fans have been waiting for our favorite players to form the All-Star team.
These are professional athletes who play the sport purely out of love. And also, because they make millions of dollars and sometimes throw huge parties on their yachts wherein partygoers drink so much champagne they push the piano overboard.
That’s not why today is special, either. No, sir. Today has nothing to do with cattle, or baseball, or Dodge Durangos that are as dead as iced catfish.
Today is important because of an orange hardback book, stolen from the Nashville Public Library in the early 1980’s.
Let me explain:
This old dusty book dates back to my late father, who was an avid reader. He was a blue-collar man who worked on steel every day of his life, and he read two or three books per week.
I remember him reading this exact book when I was a kid. He was sitting in an easy chair, thumbing pages, holding a longneck bottle.
“Where’d you get that?” I asked.
“Library,” he said.
“Is it good?”
“One of the best books I ever read.”
When he died, I was twelve, and his books were scattered all over the house. Hundreds of them. And each book reminded me that he was gone forever.
Sometimes, I would hold these books for no apparent reason, thinking about how they were orphans now.
A book is a sacred thing, with feelings, and heart, and beauty. They are made to be loved, and touched. And it seemed like a crime that nobody would ever love my father’s books again.
So, I decided to read them. As many as I could. I started with the orange-backed novel. It was the size of a family Bible. The book was entitled “Papillon.”
Inside the cover was a stamp reading: “Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St.”
And I hated it. It was boring. I would have much rather been reading about Joe and Frank Hardy, the sons of Fenton Hardy, defenders of America.
But I read it anyway. When I finished it, I moved on to others. Such as James A. Michener’s “Texas,” which was about as fun as reading a Japanese textbook backwards with your face in a bench vice.
And over the years, I grew to understand my father by reading his books.
Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Larry McMurtry, Pat Conroy, Flannery O’Connor, Michael Chrichton, Tom Clancy, Lewis Grizzard, Louis L’Amour. And I became a lover of words.
So today is special because of books. My whole day has been about books. Starting from 6:02 A.M., when I received a text message.
The text was from a buddy who lives in New York City. He sent me a photograph of a novel he had just bought in a bookstore. A book that was published today. And it had my name on the dust jacket.
His message read: “Congratulations, man!”
Another friend in Tallahassee found a copy. And a friend in Sacramento. And Raleigh.
And I had a pal in Tennessee text me, too. He found the book in a store, and sent me a picture of a female employee holding the book, smiling.
“Isn’t she a hottie?” his text read. “I’m gonna ask her out, wish me luck!”
Good luck, Brad. And as your friend, I do not say this lightly: Please wear deodorant.
I am a man with little education. I was not bright in school, a pitiful athlete, and I once lost the spelling bee to the word “orange.”
I am lazy, I haven’t cleaned my truck in fifteen years, and I am a writer who in many circles is kown as th king if typoes. I don’t have any idea what I’m doing with my life, and the older I get, the less I get it.
But today, I feel alive. So alive, in fact, I don’t know what to do. There have been three days in my life that were this special. The day I got married, the day I finished college, and the day I finished reading an orange book that belonged to someone I once knew.
I only wish the owner of that book were here to read the one his son wrote.
Happy National Cow Appreciation Day.
The tow truck is here.