The note inside the ancient bookmobile read: “Sorry, needed to get the weight off the axle. Books are at the Shelter Ridge branch. Just talk to Ole Smokey. - Steve”
“What’s Ole Smokey?” Ocean Penn asked.
I had no idea and told her so. I did know what Shelter Ridge meant, though. The abandoned town north of Bannville, deep in the woods. A small branch library, a leftover relic from more prosperous times for the area, held the bookmobile’s items and the start of the new Banned Library.
So Ocean and I decided to take a day trip up to the branch and get the books that my father had unloaded in the small branch.
I drove the bookmobile into town and parked it behind the library. In the morning, Ocean and I met there, she with a cooler full of lunch, drinks and snacks and I with a flashlight.
The drive out there was easy, if not bumpty. When the town of Shelter Ridge died almost eighty years ago, the urge to encourage most folks to go out there left. The roads were not paved, and where they were only partially paved, rocks bouncing on the undercarriage of the bookmobile.
“What’s up here?” Ocean asked.
“You mean you never came up here in high school?”
“Yeah, but that was fifteen years ago, Romeo,” Ocean laughed at me.
To be honest, I did not know what to expect. A Mississippi ghost town does not look like it one does in the westerns. The land takes things back here, wraps them in ivy and Kudzu and grows trees through floorboards and roofs. Imagine the shock as when turned the corner to the small group of buildings and found two of them untouched.
The main street (if you can call it that) of Shelter Ridge held an assortment of buildings and gas burning lampposts. Most had been claimed, either collapsed or green. The library and the post office, though, side by side, had not.
“Your dad keep them up?”
“Sounds like something he would do,” I said. Stephen Banned did like to keep family property clean. And if we owned the main library in Bannville, we probably owned the branch, too. But that did not explain the post office.
I stopped the car in front of the library and got out. Something crunched under my foot. A spider, dead under my shoe. I decided to not tell Ocean.
We spent most of the rest of the day gathering the books from the library. Dad had organized them on the shelves of the old library just inside the door. Even left an old dolly with a broken tire. Easy fix and we started moving books. SEveral breaks for lunch and we had everything moved way before dark.
Then I tried to start the bookmobile.
Notice I said “tried.”