It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it was a bright and clear spring night, but that's how books are supposed to start. My daughter Cindy and I were driving to Mars Hill, North Carolina, which is not quite at the end of the state and not quite at the end of the world, but not too far away from either.
We were going to visit the college there, which was one of the few she had not rejected as being "unacceptable," usually because they were close by and inexpensive. It was an opportunity, I felt, to get a little closer to my daughter, to learn a little more about her.
So, heading down I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley, one of the prettiest parts of Virginia, the first thing I learned about my daughter was that her knowledge of geography was appalling, nay abysmal.
"Where is Portugal?" "South America . . . oh no, Africa, south Africa."
"Wrong. Try again." "Ummm. England? France? Somewhere?"
"Europe, " I prompted. "Where in Europe?"
"Next to England???" "Wrong again! It's next to Spain on the Iberian penninsula." "Oh," she said.
"What's the capitol of Nebraska?" I asked.
"Michigan . . . no, Minnesota!"
You see what I mean. So we used the long miles to go over all the state capitals. I had a little trouble with New Hampshire --was it Manchester or Concord? -- but other than that I had them down pat. Cindy didn't.
"The capital of Wisconsin; a clue, it's the name of a president."
"Washington? Lincoln? Truman?"
And after we did the Dakotas -- as a means for word association and having her remember -- I said, "If the largest city in North Dakota is Fargo today, what would it have been in the past?"
"I don't know."
"Fargone. Get it? Far gone, the past tense of far go."
Then, somehow, we got on the subject of books and writing and I said that when I write a book I was going to put that in.
"Put what in?" Cindy asked.
"The thing about Fargo and Fargone."
"You do and I'll burn the book!!!"
So now you know the story. Come to think of it, that was an opportunity to talk about the dangers of book burning, the importance of knowledge, and some other things. But the moment passed.
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