For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
February 26, 2003 - Russell is a Republican
I've always thought of myself as more of a cat person. I had two cats, brother and sister, that I adopted as kittens in the desert. Pookalure finally had an encounter with a coyote that he escaped from, but mortally wounded him. Watson, a small, black female cat, lived to the ripe old age of 20.
Some years later, we had two active kids looking for a more interactive pet. Through a series of steps that happened with amazing speed, we found ourselves with two large dogs: a Greyhound, and a border collie/Burnese mountain dog mix. We've had Cagney and Freddie for several years now.
This experience, I feel, uniquely qualifies me to weigh in on a pressing issue: the political affiliation of pets.
Recently, the Douglas County Republican Women presented the library with some copies of a children's book called "Russell is a Republican," by Franktown resident Deborah C. Gamec.
Russell is a cat. The book is beautifully summarized on the back side of the title page: "Russell demonstrates Republican attitudes and philosophy in absolutely exquisite illustrations."
The illustrations, by Roxanna Jo Alexander, ARE exquisite -- watercolors that capture the glory of an animal deserving of such tribute. In the words of Fernand Mery, "God made the cat in order that man might have the pleasure of caressing the lion."
Here's another of my favorite cat quotes: "No tame animal has lost less of its native dignity or maintained more of its ancient reserve. The domestic cat might rebel tomorrow." - William Conway, Archbishop of Armagh.
Russell, based on a real life story, is presented as a paragon of Republican values. Russell "does not question his Creator," "always looks his best," " employs all his talents and resources," and "loves his freedom." I got a kick out of this one: "Russell sees all equally, in shades of black and white."
Russell appreciates nature, but still hunts. He knows you sometimes have to fight.
All of that is well and good. One sees in the things one admires, the values one admires.
But the book does take something of a partisan turn when we meet Russell's friend, Benny, a dog. "Benny is usually looking for a handout. He has a tendency to whine and to moan and to sigh. Often he is anxious that he won't be cared for. He is a Democrat."
That made me laugh out loud.
However, in the name of interspecies fairness, I feel I should point out a few facts. There is no Kitty Corps in the Army, no stories of cats accompanying their people into combat or dragging them wounded from the battlefield.
There are no brave cats confronting and subduing gun wielding criminals. There are no cats rounding up and protecting the livestock. There are no search and rescue cats. If your house catches flame in the night, your cat makes for the cat door; your dog wakes you up and sees you to safety.
"Russell is a Republican" has a two page spread that says it all: there's Russell, with a slight paunch, stretched out on an American flag. The caption: "Some call Russell a 'fat cat.' That is because they are jealous."
I'll give the last word to John Weitz, author or another of my favorite cat quotes: "Even overweight cats instinctively know the cardinal rule: when fat, arrange yourself in slim poses."