Old-Fashioned Virtues at the Library

by Bill Peak

I want to share a story with you that I think illustrates something special about the people of Talbot County and the library that serves them; but, first, a word of caution ... At a time when companies high and low seem determined to sell all the most private details of our lives to anybody and everybody, the library still holds the information you share with us sacred. While the gist of what follows is true, names and incidentals have been changed to disguise the identity—if not the character—of the patron involved.

Earlier this week, an older gentleman walked up to me at the Information Desk, stuck out his hand and said his name was Claude Davies. I stood up, shook the gentleman's hand and introduced myself, then invited him to take a chair.

Mr. Davies began by asking if I was “from around here.” I told him I was from Kentucky, which seemed to meet with his approval. The particulars of name and birthplace accounted for, he then asked if I could help him find a man called Lyman Jennings. He said he knew nothing about Lyman Jennings except that he lived somewhere between Trappe and Easton. Well, there's nothing we like more at the Information Desk than a good challenge, so I went to work trying to find Lyman. As I worked, Mr. Davies slowly but surely told me his story.

About a year earlier, it seemed, he had lent a man we'll call Jacob Parsons some “supers” (a long digression ensued in which I learned that Mr. Davies was a beekeeper, and that “supers” are the frames from which a keeper extracts his honey). Later, when he tried to reclaim his “supers,” Parsons wouldn't return his calls. Finally, Mr. Davies visited Parsons' house and confronted him in person. But Parsons no longer had the “supers.” He said he'd given them to “Lyman Jennings.” When asked, Parsons said all he knew about Jennings was that he lived somewhere between Trappe and Easton. Perhaps there was something about the way I looked at Mr. Davies at this point that made him add, “'Course everybody knows Jake Parsons's got a drinking problem. Maybe he just sold them 'supers!'”

As Mr. Davies had arrived at this conclusion on his own, I felt the moment right to suggest his complaint might not be with the elusive, quite possibly non-existent, Mr. Jennings, but, rather, with Parsons ... and maybe Mr. Davies should consider consulting an attorney. But Mr. Davies was having none of that. He told me he didn't think it would be right to bring the law into it, “Because, you see, it was me that done it. I lent him them 'supers.'“

Well, I am—for better or worse—a product of the modern world, and so I told Mr. Davies I thought he ought to at least consider visiting Legal Aid. But afterwards, after he'd thanked me and walked off promising to “think about it,” I found myself thinking how lucky I was to live at a time and in a community where people like Mr. Davies still exist ... and that I get to work in a place where such folks come for help.