You’ve all heard the question. If you could meet anyone you want, past or present, who would it be? I’ve actually thought about this. No, it wouldn’t be a movie star or even the president – um, we won’t go there just now. Some of you won’t get it, but I’ve always known my celebrity of choice would be an author. Which author is a little more vague. I’ve given myself the privilege in answering this question in two parts. If the person I would choose to meet was from the past, that would not only be a very weird and eerie sort of meeting, but I know who it would be. Laura Ingalls Wilder. She is my absolute hero. I have always wanted to ask her if Eliza Jane ever forgave her for writing the words “Lazy Lousy Lizzy Jane.” A close second would be Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. Wouldn’t it be cool to tell Jane that Mr. Darcy uttered one of the most romantic lines in all of history (you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love… I love… I love you. And I never wish to be parted from you from this day on) (sigh!) or to ask Charlotte why she made Mr. Rochester an unattractive man. Oh, I always wished he was handsome! How romantic for the handsome man who could have any woman to fall in love with plain Jane, the governess, no less. I’d also tell Charlotte to never let that “Villette” book see the light of day. Oh Charlotte, it’s really awful.
Sorry – I digress. Choosing a real live now-time author to meet is a much harder choice. My favorite author changes from day to day. It’s usually whoever wrote the last book I read. Anyway, meeting someone who writes the books I’m reading doesn’t seem all that special. I feel like I already know them from what they write. So, I decided that the author I would choose to meet is Randon’s favorite author, John Erickson. Oh, the things I would tell that man about how Randon dearly loved Hank, how he read every book aloud to me, how we had to stop and discuss things of epic nature such as Hank ‘hiney skiing’ or getting outsmarted by Pete the cat. I’d tell him how we had to start over at the beginning of a chapter if we didn’t get it read in one sitting, how Drover’s “Oh, my leg” always made him laugh and how Randon would sing (a tune and everything) each and every song Hank ever made up. John Erickson has no idea what an impact he made on Randon’s life, or mine for that matter. After being told when he was a baby that Randon couldn’t learn to read, I never failed to find delight in hearing him read to me about Hank’s adventures.
As many of you know, my family recently donated all Randon’s Hank books and memorabilia to the Bennington School library where they can be enjoyed by Bennington children for many years to come. I wrote a note to John Erickson telling him about Randon’s Hank shelves and the epidemic of ‘Hank checkouts’ that has overtaken our school. I thanked him for writing the books and providing so much enjoyment to so many people. That was that, or so I thought.
This afternoon my phone rang. The caller ID said “Anonymous Caller.” I never answer anonymous calls. I started to ignore it then something told me I should answer. I have learned never to ignore that still small voice that has proven to be so much wiser than my louder, logical one. I picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is John Erickson.”
He said it in such a normal tone of voice, like it was everyday I receive a phone call from the man I had tagged as my top pick on my “Wish to Meet” list. He told me he had received my letter and wanted to contact me, just to express his sympathies to my family and thank us for the Hank donation to our library. I visited with Mr. Erickson and his wife Kristine for over 30 minutes and had the most enjoyable conversation. We talked about Randon and Hank of course, but we also talked about where he lives, where I live, the weather, college football, ranching and farming. It was like I was talking to someone I had known for years. He gave me his telephone number and email address and asked me to stay in contact with him.
Oh, I’m loving it. And then he asked me the question that made me swoon. “How is it that you write so well?” (Oh, be still my wildly beating heart!)
My eloquent and well thought out response: “Um….huh?”
He continues to flatter me. “Your letter was beautifully written. You’re a writer aren’t you?”
Again, my way with words takes over. “Uh, well….”
“The way a person writes a letter is a wonderful indicator of their writing abilities on a creative level. May I send you a complimentary autographed copy of my book on story crafting?”
I admit it. He had me wrapped around his little finger at this point. Yes, I suppose I’ll just have to let him send me his book. I guess I’ll even let him autograph it for me if that’s what he wants to do. And when I get it I’ll probably even read it. Devour it, more like. Put it at the top of my list of what to grab when the house is on fire.
What a kind-hearted couple. Instead of feeling like I’ve had a dream-come-true call from a celebrity, I feel like I have two new friends. Two friends who are reaching out to me to encourage and strengthen me along the way.
As my friend Dawn said, “You know Randon is saying "My Mom's the Bomb!"
Here’s what I’m saying. “John Erickson, you’re the bomb!”
Read a Hank the Cowdog book. I guarantee you’ll laugh out loud. I know a really great school library where you can find a whole bunch of them!