From the Ranch

From the Ranch

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You can tell so much about a man by handling his books. I have been doing some deep cleaning, and I moved the book shelf in the living room to the den to make a place for a rather formal antique piece I had found and had restored. I first emptied the book shelf of its contents, then lightly sanded the nicks out and touched them up with matching stain. I meticulously cleaned the floor where the bookcase was to find new residence, as I knew this chore would not be repeated again for awhile once all the heavy books are in place. I polished the floor, placed the bookcase exactly where I wanted it, waxed its’ shelves and began the task of replacing my husband’s books.

My husband is highly intelligent and accomplished, and that is reflected by the books he has collected over the years. The first evidence of his intelligence being indicated by his four large year books from West Point, along with the original catalog he was sent when he first made application. It is still in pristine condition, as are most of the books. Of course his 1990 Dwight D. Eisenhower Centennial Edition of the Register of Graduates and Former Cadets 1802-1990 had to find a place on the shelves. Many of his books reflect his military career which is approaching thirty years in duration. There are the books of military history, the books of military strategy, the books about military leadership, and the biographies of famous military leaders. Titles including War and Moral Responsibility, World Tensions:Conflict and Accommodation, Maxims of George Washington, The Forgotten Soldier, We Were Soldiers Once… And Young, and Thin Red Line are place lovingly by me on one shelf. Venezuela, The Democratic Experiment, Colin Powell My American Journey, Cobra II, A Guide to the Study and Use of Military History, and The Final Move Beyond Iraq also lay in stacks on the floor waiting to find their placement on the shelves. I place countless copies of Parameters, The US Army War College Quarterly side by side, like soldiers marching, on their shelf. Soldier, the Life of Colin Powell, Reagan, A Life in Letters, and From Here to Eternity round out what I consider to be a representative look at selections from his military books. I find there is among these books one that is fingerprinted, worn, and showing signs of countless readings. Why Courage Matters, written by John McCain, profoundly influenced my husband during a particularly difficult time in his military career.

My husband has been in Afghanistan for fifteen months now, serving with the Army. The project of moving the book case and its’ contents becomes a delightful experience as I begin to sense a nearness across the thousands of miles as I hold his books. By this time I am holding each book far too long, and too carefully selecting its’ place on the shelf. In some books, I am discovering things underlined or highlighted. Many books reflect his love of the South American culture and countries. They are in Spanish, for he is fluent in Spanish. He wore a mustache for several years, because as he traveled and worked in South America in his civilian job, he discovered it brought to him a revere with his software customers. I recall his experience of being in Columbia when conflict suddenly broke out, as he had began a trip to the airport, along the route he witnessed gun fire and a shooting. He arrived to find chaos at the airport, and as “officials” began to inquire of him who he was, and where he wanted to go, he realized he did not want his military ID to be found. With providential timing, he spotted a Columbian colleague with whom he had established a warm relationship. He was a person of some prestige, and by his word my husband was able to board a plane and leave the country. As I think of this experience, and how often he has been in harms way, I hold the books which I know his eyes have rapidly scanned as he absorbed every detail of information. Suddenly I am yearning once again to be by his side, physically sharing the same home and life.

The chore is becoming a morning of both longing and delight. There are many science texts, Basic Statistics, Tools for Continuous Improvement, Understanding Industrial Designed Experiments, Mathematics With Application, Statistical Quality Control, An Introduction to Linear Regression and Correlation, and the evertitillating The Annual ASTM Standards Plastics-General Test Methods Nomenclature. Among the science books lies the one book to place on the shelves on economics, it is titled simply, Economics, the Science of Common Sense. Briefly, I consider dropping that one in the mail, but I do not have the White House address.

Countless books on management take up at least two shelves, with titles of In Pursuit of Excellence, Empowering Teams, The Dening Management Method, Reengineering the Corporation, Good to Great, The New Rational Manager, The Program Management Book of Knowledge, and Getting to Yes. His leadership style isn’t reflected in any of these works, he has developed his own style, he calls it “The Gideon Principle,” he identifies the key participants with the heart and skills for the work, concentrates on their refinement, and leads them as they mentor those who might be potential upcoming leaders. He leads from the front always, never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Always integrity and character are his base, and always he uses moral courage as the compass of whatever mission he undertakes.

By far the largest collection of books contain many versions and translations of the Bible and Bible studies. Strong’s Concordance, Malachi, Rekindling the Fires of Faith, Masterwork, The Blazing Center, A Journey in Faith, Experiencing God, Faith Works, 1st Peter, Message of Encouragement, The Family Bible Encyclopedia, The Historical Atlas of Judaism, and many others are placed in a grouping on three shelves. It is his personal study Bible that I spend the most time over. When he left for Afghanistan he carried a small Bible that would pack and travel well. In his regularly used Bible, which is contained in a zippered leather case, I find dozens of church bulletins with meticulous notes on each sermon. I was always aware of his making the notes, however I had never read them as I was making my own notes, which I promptly lost. I spend a long time in that treasure trove of his deepest thoughts on the sermons from our pastor, and find myself so refreshed and encouraged.

Two more of my husband’s books are telling of the man my husband is. One is entitled, How to Open a Chess Game, by 7 International Grand Champions. My husband is the most intensely competitive person I have ever known, with a stipulating factor… he always is in competition with himself, others may be involved, but his quest is always for his personal best, his state of excellence. To him any endeavor worthy of pursuit, only gets his best, nothing else will do. The last book is a very thin, small book, and one could easily overlook it. The author is a seven year old boy, and it is titled, The Christmas Present, and dedicated to his mother and father There among all the lofty titles shines the little book authored by his son, ten years ago, which says so much about the man my husband is.

I love him and long to see him, talk with him, listen to his words, share our daily lives once more. I remember the tender little routine we had each morning. I would make his breakfast, press his work clothes for the day, and we would read the Bible together as we ate breakfast before he left for his day’s work and I tended to mine. A man’s books, and how he uses them tells so much of who he is, and what his character is made of. I enjoyed my morning’s chore, and felt the thousands of miles melt away, and knew things of my husband's heart as though we had shared breakfast in that "too tender" little morning routine.