A visitor from Chapel Hill recently asked me driving directions to the Martin Luther King Junior Expressway. From his location, getting there would be quick and easy, with only two turns. When I tried to explain the route — one I have taken hundreds of times, he asked what highway numbers the road signs would give him.
     I was clueless.                
     I have lived in our community almost all of my life and get around easily, I am almost always comfortable about where I am and where I am going. I have little use for road signs in a community so familiar to me and was at a loss about what to tell my friend.    
     A recent tour of one of our family bookcases was a similar experience.   
    {mosimage} Most of the books are familiar to me, some paperback mysteries and sweeping sagas leftover from long-ago beach vacations, tomes on history of which several Dicksons are quite fond, several how-tos on various topics, a number of Bibles and Books of Common Prayer and some favorite English literature textbooks. There are a few books I simply do not know how they arrived on our shelf.                      
     Like the road signs, our bookshelf is so familiar to me, I hardly look at it anymore. It has become wallpaper.       
     I was struck by that thought so I pulled a few books out to see whether I could determine why one of us, probably me,  had decided to keep it.
     I was surprised at how consistently the books reflect our family interests, even though there has been no conscious effort to do that.
     Here is a sampling of what I found.
     We own many books about North Carolina things. These include Humor of a Country Lawyer by the late Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr., a book, which like its author, is full of wonderful stories and solid wisdom. Among my favorites are tales Ervin tells about ordinary North Carolinians, including a Superior Court Judge Jule Rousseau in the North Carolina mountains during the first part of the 20th century. Out campaigning for votes one day, the judge stopped at a sawmill.   The foreman told him that his workers occasionally had run-ins with the law over backwoods stills and would vote for a judge “who’s not too bright and can’t catch on to everything.”
     The judge took this in and then responded, “Then I’m your man.” The foreman zinged back. “That’s what we decided. You can count on our support.”              
     Ervin also quotes this same Judge Rousseau as telling a reporter who inquired about a case he had handled that “I am not going to talk about that case or the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has reversed me so often I’ve lost all confidence in its judgment.”
     Also on the shelves is famed professor Albert Coates’ jewel-like history of his beloved institution, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: A Magic Gulf Stream in the Life of North Carolina, and the more recent Communists on Campus: Race Politics, and the Public University in Sixties North Carolina by William J. Billingsley, in which a Dickson relative takes on the North Carolina General Assembly and then TV commentator Jesse Helms.
     And since history does not change, I am particularly glad to have a copy of a small paperback entitled A Guide to Historic Fayetteville and Cumberland County, published by the 1976 Provisional Class of the Junior Service League of Fayetteville, Inc. It still has a faded sticker with its original prices, $1.50.   
     Always in the market for pithy quotations, I found a number of books with famous and not so famous ones, including a small paperback entitled Great Quotes from Great Women, compiled by Peggy Anderson. It includes this nugget from the late American rock singer Janis Joplin. “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.”
     Also on the shelf is an autographed copy of unknown origin of Churchill on Courage: Timeless Wisdom for Persevering, compiled by Frederick Talbott. It includes this quote from Churchill’s final speech, which was given at the White House in 1963 as he was awarded honorary United States citizenship, that resonates in these troubled times. “Our past is key to our future, which I firmly trust and believe will be no less fertile and glorious. Let no man underrate our energies, our potentialities and our abiding power for good.”    
     Then there is the incomparable Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, organized both by topic and by author. Ours is the 3rd edition, and everyone’s shelves would be enriched by a copy.
     I cannot say that every book on our shelves is held dear, but many of them are, and I am glad I took a fresh look at books I live with daily but had come not to see. There are treasures in them.
     So what became of my friend trying to find the MLK? After several frustrating minutes of trying to explain the directions, I finally got in my car and led him to it.    
     I was not surprised to see signage for Highway 87 which I had never really noticed.
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