The Pack-Horse Library

pack-horse librarian
(photo courtesy of

The Great Depression of the 1930s was exceeding difficult for almost everyone in the United States. Jobs were few, and every penny was needed just to provide basic food for families. As the depression stretched on, people needed a distraction from the stress of daily living. They needed books.

In urban areas, people could visit their local library, and go home with something to read. But if you lived in a more remote area, like the mountains of Kentucky, you were out of luck. The solution: pack-horse libraries.

Portable libraries were actually in existence before the Great Depression. The Kentucky Federation Of Women’s Clubs ran traveling libraries from 1896 until the early 1930’s, when they ran out of money. In 1935, the federal government continued the idea. The Works Program Administration (WPA) hired healthy young women to go to mountain communities on horseback with packs of books, serving as portable libraries. It was a tough job, and paid only $28 a month. While the government paid the salaries of the librarians, the state of Kentucky had to come up with the books, and the workers had to provide their own transportation – either using their own horse or renting a horse. Books were donated by more affluent Kentuckians, and as word spread, by people in other states.

It wasn’t easy being a pack-horse librarian. You had to make your circuit at least twice a month, covering 100-120 miles. The mountain roads were difficult to navigate. They had to care for their horse, and their two large saddle-bags of books. What sort of reading material made it into those saddlebags? A lot of classic fiction (Mark Twain was a favorite), the Bible, magazines, recipe books, how-to books, and Sunday school booklets.

As books and magazines became worn out, they were not thrown away. Instead, the librarians would salvage good sections and pages, and glue them into scrapbooks, which went right back into the pack-bags. Even old donated Christmas cards were put to use as bookmarks.

The pack-horse librarians brought books to about 50,000 Kentucky families in 1936, and to 155 schools the next year. These tiny libraries provided much-needed reading material through the rest of the Great Depression. The project was discontinued in 1943, as the economy recovered and people went back to work. But the idea of tiny libraries lives on with bookmobiles in areas that do not have a traditional library.



(photo credit: The Washington Post)

I love a good challenge! Like five years ago, when I started this book site to share information about great books that are available to read. Might I run out of good books to write about? Maybe, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

Then there was the challenge several years ago to significantly reduce our family’s grocery bill. That took some time and grocery-store analysis, but we were able to pick the two best stores for our budget and save a fair amount of money.

Last year I challenged myself to close out my Google e-mail account, and switch to a smaller company that is less intrusive in its data-collecting. It was a royal pain in the neck, but the detangling from the tentacles of g-mail was finally complete.

Last year was also the year that our family decided to see if we could do without home internet service for awhile. This was one of our toughest challenges, and I wrote a few posts about our experience.

That brings me to this year, and my latest challenge: to pull the plug on Facebook. Many years ago, when I first signed up, it was a lot of fun. It kept me up with the lives of my relatives and friends. Who had a baby? Who had died? Who graduated? Who was sending out an urgent prayer request? Coffee and Facebook became my first stops in the morning. But as the years went by, the amount of actual news from friends decreased, replaced by endless videos that people wanted me to watch, angry tirades about politicians, memes, and ads for things I should buy.

In addition, I was becoming painfully aware of just how much personal information was being mined by facebook and shared with all of their affiliates. More than 150 companies, news outlets reported, although no one actually seemed to be able to produce a complete list. So I began the tedious process of removing personal pictures, posts and messages from my account. When I mentioned my goal of un-Facebooking to friends, most expressed doubt.
“How will you know what’s going on?”
“You’ll be back.”
“It won’t do any good to close your account, they’ll get your data some other way.”

But how will anything ever change if people aren’t willing to unplug from monster data collectors like Facebook and Google/G-mail? Maybe un-Facing won’t stop the powers that be from continuing to mine information about me. But why should I make it easy for them?


Preserving Our Books


People aren’t doing a whole lot of reading these days. It’s the sad truth. With competition from smart phones, computers, big-screen 4K tvs, and tablets of all sorts, those old-time books are being squeezed out. It seems logical to think that there will gradually be less paper-and-ink books printed. The books I have are precious to me.

Over the years, I have laminated some of my paperbacks with clear contact paper, especially the older ones that are fragile and probably not easily replaced. While it protected them, it did leave the covers looking duller and slightly cloudy. Several days ago I noticed that the official duck-tape company has their own clear laminate. The roll didn’t seem that big (25 sq ft or 2.3 m2), but it was worth trying.

Wow, what a difference from the 3M and other brands! The books didn’t have that plastic-y feeling when I held them. The duck-tape laminate went on easily, and didn’t seem to have as much tendency to form annoying air bubbles. But best of all, it was so clear that you could hardly tell the books were laminated. From now on, I’m sticking with the ducks!

Ear Infections And A Return To Reading

2019-04-06 Face mask from dr office

For the past week I’ve been on vacation and haven’t been reading, which is not the norm. But I wanted to make the most of my time with the relatives. (Actually, I did listen to several favorite audiobooks in the car, but since I’d already read and reviewed them, they don’t count.) Now back at home, I have started a new book. This morning I woke up with a throbbing ear and a bad headache. Fortunately my doctor’s office has walk-in appointments on Saturdays, so off I went.

When I got to the office, the first thing that greeted me was a box of disposable face masks and a sign asking patients to wear one if they had a cough or fever. Since I do have allergies that cause some coughing and sneezing, I put one on. At the check-in counter, there was another box on the counter urging people to wear a mask, in case they didn’t get the hint at the door. After signing in, I joined the other patients in the waiting room, and pulled out my book.

The next person to come in was a woman in her 60s. I watched in amazement as she had a long coughing fit, and didn’t even bother to cover her mouth! She had apparently ignored the masks at the door, and was now spraying her germs all over the waiting room. She continued coughing throughout her check-in with the receptionist, and sat down behind me, where she continued hacking away. The receptionist said nothing. I turned around, looked at the woman, and said, “You should be wearing a mask. There’s a box on the counter.” The woman just glared at me, and did nothing. Nothing.

Ten minutes later, I was in one exam room and I would hear the woman being escorted to the room across the hall from mine, still coughing her lungs out. Soon enough, the doc came in and confirmed that I had severe allergies as well as a nasty ear infection, and sent me on my way to the pharmacy for antibiotics.

It’s hard to believe that there are people well past the age of pre-schoolers who won’t cover their coughs with their hand or a Kleenex, and that refuse to wear a mask when it is offered. There’s no beauty contest at the doctor’s office, only sick people trying to get better. Well, I guess you can’t force folks to have common sense.


Narrator Frank Muller

Frank Muller

Nothing brings a book to life like a quality narrator. My all-time favorite narrator is Frank Muller. His deep, expressive voice can make just about any book sound wonderful. Mr. Muller began in classical theater for the Riverside Shakespeare Society, and also had small parts in television shows. In 1979, when Recorded Books was just starting, they hired Mr. Muller as their first narrator. The company began with books that were old classics with no copyrights. People loved the audiobooks, and Recorded Books took off. Soon people began clamoring for the current best-sellers in audio format. So Frank Muller and other narrators started recording books by authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Elmore Leonard, and others.

My favorite books narrated by Mr. Muller are “The Testament” and “The Last Juror” by John Grisham, and the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye. I recently went to my local library’s website and downloaded the e-audiobook “Nicolae” from the Left Behind series. It was great to hear Mr. Muller reading the story again. I was surprised, however, when the library e-audiobook ended only part-way through the book. I looked at the description of book, and noticed that it said “abridged”. Generally, that means they omit unimportant parts of the book, making it shorter. But in this case, the story ended about half-way through! So if you look for an audiobook, either on physical CD discs or as a down-loadable, pick the unabridged version. That way, you have the complete story.

Sadly, there will be no new narrations by Frank Muller. In 2001, he was on a motorcycle trip when he struck a construction barrel and crashed into a highway barrier going 65 miles an hour (about 105 km an hour). The resulting brain damage, as well as a weakened heart after three heart attacks, left him hospitalized for six and a half years. He died in June of 2008. While Mr. Muller is no longer with us, his gift of narrated books continues to delight all who listen to them.

Privacy? What Privacy?

Facebook privacy

It’s true what King Solomon said in the Bible: there is nothing new under the sun. The current news stories seem to be a rehash of previous news stories. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to check the news. For about a year now, there have been reports of Facebook sharing its users’ personal data without permission. Most people have gotten so accustomed to hearing stories of privacy breaches that they no longer get upset.

Privacy is a precious thing that is all but lost in our technological age. Everything is being shared, despite those nice letters and e-mails you get from your bank, your doctor’s office, your school, and your credit card companies, telling you how much they are protecting your privacy. (Why, they only share your data with their affiliates, for the purpose of giving you better customer service, they say.) Facebook is among the worst offenders.

Over the past year (and even earlier) we have been finding out just how much personal information Facebook has been sharing with its “affiliates”. It turns out there are over 150 companies that have been dipping into our personal accounts. I wanted a list of all the companies that have been helping themselves to our information, but that list has proved to be elusive. From a variety of news outlets, I gleaned a partial list of companies that Facebook allowed to look at our personal info: Airbnb, Amazon, AOL, Apple, Blackberry, Cambridge Analytica, Crimson Hexagon (analytics firm), Hinge, Huawei, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Nissan, Oracle, Panasonic, Royal Bank Of Canada, Serotek, Snap, Spotify, UPS, Yahoo, and Yandex (a Russian internet company).

TechCrunch’s website had a list of 52 companies that were allowed access to Facebook’s personal date, but that information is now 9 months old. Some of these companies may no longer have access, but they apparently did a year ago. Take a look at TeckCrunch’s list:

MediaTek/ Mstar
Miyowa /Hape Esia
Opentech ENG
Opera Software
Virgin Mobile
Warner Bros
Western Digital
Zing Mobile

Millions of people signed up for Facebook accounts, believing it was free, and spent years voluntarily giving personal life information and family photos to their account. Now they are learning the truth – Facebook is not really free. They are paying for it by handing over their privacy to a myriad of companies.


Links to online news stories:

Facebook Reportedly Gave Tech Companies Access to User Data Beyond Disclosures




War & Income Tax

Federal income tax


Since it’s tax season, I decided to do a little reading online about the history of income taxes in the United States. What I found was this: Our taxes are heavily affected by wars that our country is involved in. As I studied,  I made this outline of our income tax history:

1791 – 1802  No income tax at all, although there were “internal taxes” on items such as alcohol, refined sugar, and tobacco.

1812  The War Of 1812 broke out, and taxes were created on gold, silverware, jewelry, and watches to pay for war expenses.

1817 Congress cancelled all internal taxes since the war was over, although there were tariff taxes on imported items. We were able to pay for our government with just tariffs!

1862 Civil War beganand Congress ordered the first income tax, to pay for the war. They also created the office of Commissioner Of Internal Revenue. Sales tax, excise tax, and inheritance taxes were also created. Those who earned $600-$10,000 a year were charged 3% income tax.

1866 The internal revenue service collected more than $310 million dollars in taxes, although the Civil War had wrapped up in April of 1965.

1868 Taxes on tobacco and liquor were started back up.

1872  Congress eliminated personal income tax.

1894  Congress passed a 2% income tax.

1895  The United State Supreme Court ruled that income tax was a violation of the Constitution, and cancelled the income tax.

1913  The 16th amendment to the original Constitution was passed, making it legal for the government to charge individuals and companies income tax. The tax rate was 1% for the poorest, and 7% for anyone making over $500,000 a year.

1914  World War I began. Although the U.S. did not join in the war until 1917, the government started collecting war funds.

1916  Congress passed the Revenue Act, and the top tax bracket was raised from 7% to 15%.

1917 The U.S. jumped into World War I. The War Revenue act was passed, and the top tax bracket was raised to 67%.

1918  The top tax bracket was raised to 77%. Over $1 billion dollars in taxes were collected.

1920 The war was over, but the government had gotten used to the tax money rolling in, and collected $5.4 billion dollars.

1925  The government finally got around to lowering the taxes, seven years after World War I had ended, lowering the top bracket to 25%. This rate continued through 1931.

1932  We were experiencing the Great Depression, and the government needed money for its relief programs. Congress raised the top tax bracket from 25% to 63%.

1939  World War II began. The United States was not involved yet, but started building up its war funds, using the still-high tax rates.

1941  The U.S. entered World War II, using the high taxes its citizens were paying.

1943  The government ordered that income tax be deducted from paychecks, instead of being due at the end of the year. They could not wait to get their money.

1944  The government needed more money to fight the war, and raised the top tax rate to a whopping 94%. Sixty-four percent of Americans had to pay income tax, up from seven percent in 1940.

1945  World War II ended, but the revenue department still collected $43 billion dollars in income tax.

1950  Korean War beganCongress voted to increase income taxes, corporate taxes, and excise taxes. New taxes were created for the sales of televisions and freezers.

1951  Korean War continued. The Revenue Act of 1951 raised the taxes again.

1953 Korean War ended.

1954 The U.S. assumed military responsibility for South Vietnam after the French left.

1955 Vietnam War began. The top income tax rate was 91%, and the lowest rate 20%.

1955 – 1962  Top income tax rate 91%; lowest rate 20%. We became more involved in the Vietnam War.

Mid-1960s through 1970s  Vietnam War continued; the top rate fluctuated but never dipped below 70%.

1973-1975 The U.S. gradually withdrew from the Vietnam War.

1981  The Economic Recovery Tax Act lowered the highest rate down to 50%.

1986  Tax Reform Act passed, promising to drop the top rate down to 28% in 1988.

1990-1991 Persian Gulf War

1990s The top income tax rate was raised to 39.6%.

2001-present  War in Afghanistan 

2001 Economic Growth and Tax Relief and Reconciliation Act dropped the highest tax rate back to 35% for 2003 to 2010. It was later extended through 2012.

2013-2017 Top tax rate was raised to 39.6%.

2018-2019 Still in Afghanistan War. Lowest tax rate is 10%, top tax rate 37%.

I can only look over this wretched list of wars and taxes, and say, “Why, why, why?” We need to have a military to protect our country, but must we always be at war? I will continue to pray for peace, but know in my heart that in this world there will always be a hideous amount of wars, death, and taxes.


A few of the websites I looked at: