Rare Book Monthly
Booking It In Utah
By Karen Wright
We decided to take our late winter, early spring book buying trip to Utah this year because we wanted to go to Kanab for a few days to volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We also wanted to renew our acquaintance with Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, both of which we'd seen in much earlier days. We did all those things, and even found a couple of very cool bookstores.
My husband, our poochie, and I left Virginia City on a cold, windy morning in April and drove east to Ely, Nevada, where books are not only scarce, but funky, to say the least. The highlight in Ely was that we found a gas station where they still wait on you and wash your windows at no extra cost. Also, we did find great French fries at a diner there; not a book in sight.
The following afternoon we arrived in St. George, Utah, after a day of driving across our wind-blown Nevada and Utah deserts. St. George is quite an interesting little town. We discovered great Thai food for dinner and a lunch of excellent cheeseburgers in a restored and reused historic jailhouse. We encountered the first of the beautiful red rock scenery and found Deseret Thrift Store (the Mormon owned chain) where I found a $100 book for $15.00. Deseret seems to have a pretty tight monopoly on thrift stores in Utah. The secret with these places is that they put any real books in a glass case toward the back of the store. You have to have a person with a key to open the case and they stand directly next to you the whole time, watching your hands as if you might put a 10-pound folio in your purse or pocket and walk out with it. Needless to say, the religion section of any book store or thrift shop in Utah is overflowing with fundamentalist Christian tomes.
I just have to relate this story, though it may be somewhat politically incorrect, but it happened at one of the thrift stores. A young employee came out of the back room wheeling a cart of books. I thought as I rubbed my hands together, "Ah hah, no one else has seen these yet!" and asked him if I might look through them. He stopped wheeling and stood there letting me rummage. Just about then, the store manager, who was a scary old gal I dubbed Dragon Lady, zipped up and said that the kid needed to take the books back because they already had too many books on the shelves. This, though about half the shelves were empty. At this point, I had my hands wrapped around two really nice gardening books so I asked her if I might have them. The boy, who was obviously terrified of the Dragon Lady started shaking like a leaf and trying to snatch the books out of my hands. Good book buyer that I am, I calmly hung on for dear life. At that point, the kid looked as though he was either going to cry or hit me. Just in time, the cavalry arrived in the form of an unruffled clerk. He calmed the boy, told me to go ahead and take the two books, and opened the case with the good stuff in it. The kid wheeled the cart back with his tail between his legs and the Dragon Lady went off to yell at someone else. The clerk that had rescued us collared me a few minutes later to apologize for the kluge. He asked where we were from and when I told him, Virginia City, Nevada, he wanted to know if the Cartwrights (of Bonanza TV series fame) still lived there. When I explained that they were not real people, but TV characters he wouldn’t believe me and I think he was kind of mad me after that. We scurried away. Glad I don't work there!