The Bookmobile

In 1920 Chase Bibble, the owner of Castaway Books, bought a milk wagon and paid Huddleston Drayson to convert it to a bookmobile. Bibble took to the roads of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio the next spring, leaving his sister, Dorothy Swain, to run the bookstore. At a time when farmers seldom traveled beyond the pig barn, books were an escape to the world beyond the oinks. Seeing a dust cloud in the distance, a farmer knew that a visitor was coming. With luck, it would be Chase Bibble. Each summer for twelve years Chase Bibble traveled, selling books, making… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Eighty-seven people attended last week’s dedication of the new Marsuoin Park restrooms. The use of toilet paper for the ribbon-cutting ceremony was pure genius and Mayor Chibble’s address was well-received, even if he did venture into hyperbole by calling the new facility a “monument to nature’s call.” Otto Hopp would like to swap a funeral for a vacation in Maine, preferably on the coast. According to an unconfirmed report, young Hanny Yoder has entered the rebellious stage, Amish style. Last Saturday he took the family mule, rode it to Castor, got drunk, and came home the next… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

    The subject of Minister Easter Westminster’s sermon next Sunday will be, “How to File Your Taxes Without Losing Your Soul.” The first 20 visitors will receive a free copy of the book, “Render Unto Caesar.” Tax forms will be provided for all.     Garton Purby found a pet groundhog yesterday and will hold it in his garage for one week. The rodent appears to be a young male, walks with a slight roll, and is wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes sweater. Purby says people shouldn’t keep groundhogs if they’re not going to take care of them.  … Keep reading

Frazzled Sheep

Homer Hundigger told this story at the Crawdad Club last night: Daddy always said I didn’t apply myself. I did, just not how he wanted. We was dirt poor, so Daddy probably didn’t apply himself neither, least not the way Momma wanted.    The Gritstones, a mighty fat family, lived behind the church and had a sheep pen in the rear—six or seven head. Now, older folks might see the Gritstones laundry on a line and think nothing of it—young folks is different. I saw them clothes hanging there, and them sheep resting comfortably, and I thought it would be… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Thursday, March 30, marks the 85th anniversary of the Shadow Road collapse, widely considered one of the seminal moments in town history. Construction has begun on the Marsuoin Park restrooms. Frida Goblocks is writing a research paper for her history class and wants to know if anyone was ever beheaded, stoned to death, or drawn and quartered in Sycamore Shadows. If not, she’ll have to change her subject. Betty Hundigger wants to know if Mr. Hopp really signs bodies with a marker after embalming them or just says he does for advertising purposes. She’d hate to think that Grandma Wentworth… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Although Minister Westminster acknowledges his position as the leader of the Church of the Lost Sheep, he feels uncomfortable when people call him “your wooliness,” and refuses to carry the shepherd’s crook he received as a birthday present. Mayor Chibble and Nippy Keene have agreed to terms for the establishment of a cemetery near Buckstone Field in Amishtown, for which Mr. Keene will donate two acres containing 13 trees, one boulder, several fence posts, and a substantial blackberry patch. Mayor Chibble has contacted the Heaven’s Gate Cemetery Entrance Company, Lombard, Ohio, and expects a quote within the week. Amanda Ballard… Keep reading

The Pine Cone

While conducting research at the Museum of Sycamore Shadows, I found the following brief story in the papers of the late Robinson Hardy, written in the last decade of his life. Although too sappy for my taste, those who prefer sentiment to substance may enjoy it for Valentines Day: We waded to a midstream rock—you might call it a boulder. I’ll point it out when you’re in town. Holding hands we sat and talked, each word a discovery, each smile a delight, telling each other who we were, and I felt as if I could have lifted the rock—the boulder,… Keep reading

Dowd’s Flying Diapers

Birds have wings for one reason: to scatter the output of one of the fastest digestive systems in the animal kingdom. Those who doubt the efficiency of bird plumbing should walk behind a Canada goose for 20 minutes. Nature also gave birds more intelligence than is commonly known, especially the corvids. Send a duck to college—eight years later he’ll graduate as a crow. Sycamore Shadows inventor T. Alva Dowd, the father of Curly Dowd, had a pet crow named Falstaff. I could also write that Falstaff had a dimwitted pet human named T. Alva Dowd. By studying his pet crow… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

In honor of Groundhog Day, Sotty Hoff’s Pub will feature everyone’s favorite rodent on their menu this week. According to Happy Fohl, owner, “The only shadows these groundhogs will see are the ones they make on the potatoes and carrots.” Amos Finch asks why I get to decide which rodent is everyone’s favorite. Minister Easter Westminster, Church of the Lost Sheep, requests that members not put poker chips in the collection plate. Congratulations to Matsuo and Miki Donatu on the birth of their son, Basho Donatu, the first child of Japanese ancestry born in Sycamore Shadows. The Haiku Bakery will… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Ernie Stump says that from the way the pads on his headphones have worn, it’s obvious that his right ear is stiffer than his left ear. He wonders if he should see a specialist. Curly Dowd says he has the same problem and believes it’s from driving with the window down. “The left ear flaps in the wind, which loosens it,” Curly explains. “The right ear is inside the car, so it stays stiff. You’ll find the opposite in Great Britain.” John Bleau says Curly Dowd is a liar. Despite her degree, Allison Keene asks that people… Keep reading

Friday’s Footprint

In 2010, Castaway Books owner Kitty Parr purchased an island in Little Rindle Creek, renaming it “Crusoe’s Island” in honor of store founder Milton Dunnacker and the novel he loved so well. To defray some of the cost, Kitty commissioned a commemorative photographic print, recreating an episode from the book, to be taken on the island. Choosing the iconic scene of Crusoe discovering Friday’s footprint, she hired Castor “artist” Julian Rochelle as the photographer. “I wouldn’t do that,” I warned her. “Artists aren’t like the rest of us.” Kitty wouldn’t listen. According to his website, Rochelle specialized in “artistic pastoral nudes,” meaning… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Musty Groves was walking near Glen’s Glen when a fox squirrel fell out of a tree and landed dead at his feet. He saved the tail if anyone wants it. Joe Pye says that when he was young, Sycamore Shadows always had a town drunk. According to Minister Westminster, the baptistry heater has broken and the church will accept no baptisms until it is fixed. Anyone needing saved should make other arrangements. Ben Coddler remembers seeing a mobile baptistry in Castor and says the church might look into renting it, but he doesn’t remember the name of… Keep reading

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