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The Best Ideas Are Usually Stolen

Good ideas, like nice ballpoint pens, tend to unwillingly gravitate to new owners.
The Best Ideas Are Usually Stolen

In its most optimal state, a fire hydrant weighs roughly the same as your favorite NFL linebacker. If you don't like the National Football League or linebackers, then you're in luck and good company. My mother was less than fond of the weathered silver fire hydrant she ran over in a forest-green 1969 Ford Falcon.

She spluttered like an angry cat that found itself on the wrong side of a burlap sack.

"Momma, I think you hit that fire hydrant," I said, stating the patently obvious as the thud, and then the following crunch on the underbelly of the car completed its depressing sound of finality.

She shook, and her face scrunched into a prune. "Shut up," she hissed, shaking her hands in some wild motion of frustration that looked as if she were kneading bread in the air and practicing kung fu at the same time.

To be fair, the hydrant was positioned inside a ditch that was surrounded by concrete. On the other hand, I'm not doing her any favors here because that also means she had to be trying to hit it or absolutely clueless about what planet she was on at the time.

Spoiler alert: It was the latter.

She was upset about a library.

At first, that might not sound like a logical reason to be stressed, angry, or whatever she was at the time. Perhaps I should take a moment to explain the little bit that I do know.

My mother was one of the founders of the original Duluth Public Library. The one in the South, not the one on the Great Lakes. I was little when the discussions started, and I recall that several women would meet, drink Sanka, and pat me on the head. My father liked to call them the "Old Biddie Committee." I think calling them old was more of a dig because most of them were in their early 30s at the time. Her best friend, and the one I saw the most, was a lady named Alma. She was an absolute sweetheart.

Alma looked like she had wrapped blonde hair around a hornet's nest and put it on top of her head. That was one of the coiffures of the time. Several of my aunts had them. As a kid, they were the equivalent of Buddy Holly birth control glasses in the military. They were multifunctional, with the ability and talent to be hideous and ridiculous simultaneously.

I can't throw too many stones. I came to age in the time of the "Georgia Poof," which appeared as if lovely teen lassies allowed a cow to lick the fronts of their heads and was, for all intents and purposes, equally ridiculous.

Most of the other fabled Committee members had real jobs, Alma worked at night, and my mother's job was me. I can promise you that I gave her every reason to want to be paid for it, too.

The ladies of the new library procured a space in the center of town, which in the 1970s held about 4000 people on a good day, all told. Books began to flow in and were procured from other areas, and glee was in the air. I, being a precocious ass, was swiftly put to work cataloging a pair of antique second-hand card catalogs stained in a lovely pecan. I adored that job.

The most popular offerings in this fledgling hall of tomes were the Harlequin romance novels, or "Mommy's smut collection," as my father monikered it. That usually launched a bout of hissing and spitting. I think he just liked to piss her off.

Once she exploded, "I'm going to my Momma's!" My father turned to me, exhaled, and said, "Pack your bags, we're going on a guilt trip." She didn't, of course.

Nor did he have anything catty or stupid to say to her the day before she hit the hydrant.

People had flowed in and out of the little library, and it had become a resounding success. So much that the wrong (or right?) person had involved themselves to such a degree that the dream for her was finally over.

Earlier on the day she spoke to my father, the new powers informed my mother that Duluth Public Library would become part of the county library system.

Her services, wonderful and passionate as they had been, were no longer required. They sought "real" librarians.

Some things outgrow themselves with time, like children, and it hurts when they do. Dad never poked fun at her over the library again. Mostly because he was just being a jerk for comedic effect. That's different than an off-flavor bureaucratic asshole. They are the licorice in your vanilla ice cream.

We're just glad she only hit a fire hydrant.