“Have you ever heard of a Bonanza Farm?” the North Dakota Tourism website asks me, and I have to answer, “Sure, I watched re-runs of Bonanza when I was a kid,” which is enough to betray me. I am so very much not from North Dakota, and the tv western I watched as a kid seems to have nothing to do with a North Dakotan notion of bonanza. Neither does my next leap to mining lingo. No, a Bonanza Farm is what resulted in the 19th century when the Northern Pacific Railroad offered its stock holders the opportunity to buy large tracts of land at government prices in order to raise capital to complete the railroad across what would shortly become the state of North Dakota. Next time you’re in North Dakota, you might want to visit one such farm, the tourism site continues, and they offer up Bagg Bonanza Farm near Mooreton. North Dakota not in your immediate travel plans? Then how about Brenda K. Marshall’s story “In Which a Coffin Is a Bed but an Ox Is Not a Coffin.” Marshall’s story kicks off the summer reading issue and is our featured story on the website, but don’t expect mosquitoes and bar-b-q. A chilly, chilly, chilling blizzard is in your future. Plus, two illustrations, the first of which sent me on my Bonanza Farm quest.
My hairdresser, Michelle, reads more books for fun these days than just about anyone else I know. When I make my twice-annual pilgrimage to her chair, she fills me in. This summer she re-read some Chuck Palahniuk, “always great.” She loved Peter Ho Davies’ The Welsh Girl. She discovered John Waters, the writer, “Fun to read. I love his movies, which reminds me, have you seen Cockettes?” A documentary about a psychedelic drag troupe in San Francisco’s North Beach in the 1960’s, it’s now on my list. But, don’t expect Waters. The film is related to Waters merely by associative leap. Back in Waters territory, we agree that a trip to his actual stomping grounds, a trip to Baltimore aka “Charm City” aka “The City that Reads,” is in order.
The dog is curled up at my feet, just close enough to worry me that her paws might get tangled up in the rocker if I’m careless. The fan is spinning overhead. The Thermacell is emitting toxic fumes to repel the gazillion mosquitoes that populate my world, and it’s hot, hot, humid August on my porch in Athens, Georgia, where classes have already started and summer is officially over. But, not for me. Although my to-do list is long and daunting, it’s Sunday afternoon, and I am reading MQR for fun. So what if summer’s over.