Reading! I cannot imagine how dull the world would be if I could not read. I watch TV sparingly and there are great dramas, comedies and works to be seen on TV and in the movies, but for me my world has always been lost in books. I grew up without a TV in the house and so except for the Saturday movies I had to develop an imagination without visual effects to compensate.

I could read before I started to school taught speed reading by a grandfather who was legally blind from a bout with small pox as a teenager and yet who with the aid of a magnifying glass read everything he could get his hands on and a mother who believed that reading was next to godliness and who read books all of her life.

Whenever we lived a long ways from town (which was often in my wild West Texas childhood) I would check as many as 4 books out of the school library and as many as I could from the local free library (which really was free in those days) and would often read as many as 4 a day. At study hall, school lunch breaks, on the bus home, before chores after chores, before supper after supper late into the night (my mother encouraged us to read even to the point of letting us stay up into the wee hours to do so) before chores in the morning, after chores, before and after breakfast and while waiting on the bus at the bus stop on the bus to school and before the 1st bell. I was a book worm. My dad told everyone so.

But when he wanted a question answered it was me he always came to because he figured since I read every book I could get my hands on (including Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Passion In The Pines) I could answer about any question that needed answering. I was his argument settler, if I said it was so then it was as far as he was concerned. Cause anybody who read as many books as I did would know.

Growing up without TV allowed me to develop a very active imagination to the point where I would concoct elaborate outdoor plays for all my friends to act out mostly having to do with cowboys, pirates and the like but ones that often would take half a day to come to conclusion. We didn’t need a stage we had the wild frontier of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico for our stage places where actual events had taken place. There on the lonely Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) where Quanah Parker and the wild and free Comanche had roamed, where Billy the Kid lived and died (actually once lived about a mile from where his grave is) and all sorts of things had transpired including the only strike by West Texas Cowboys in history which had taken place in the wild wind blown expanses of the Texas panhandle.

Books brought the whole world to my door gave me adventures that I would have never been able to embark upon any other way. Taught me about life and people and how small the world was becoming. About civil rights and voting rights and a plethora of things I would never have known otherwise.

Books enhanced my education and widened my mind and placed ideas and thoughts in my mind and my soul that I would never have dreamed of any way else. I feel so sorry for the young people of today who do not read. Books made me think and opened up possibilities that I would never have imagined.

I still read today, not with the same fervor or speed as in my youth but I cannot imagine just getting my news and knowledge from a TV screen or a computer and not a book. Books for me stretch my imagination like no other medium can do. They make me think and help my mind to keep growing even in my dotage. They are for me the elixir of life. Nothing else satisfies like a good book.

If I had not discovered books I might never have written a single poem and that would not be thinkable as an end. I love books.

Bob Bearden


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