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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pictures and Verse from the Past: Follow-up

It is, of course, a major discovery to find a previously unknown daVinci mural hidden behind a painting done years afterwards. But to bibliophiles who cherish Holling’s writing, painting and craftsmanship, it’s equally thrilling to find another copy of a long-lost book after 89 years.

Heather Heath in Livingston, Mont., found Sun and Smoke among donated books, then tracked down the Leslie Area Museum. (Photo by AP)

Heather Heath found Sun and Smoke: a Book of New Mexico Verse among donations to the Community Closet thrift shop in Livingston, Mont. She was the detective who set it aside for further examination, knowing there was something special about the limited edition work. She learned from the online auction site, eBay, that an estimated the value might be $235. This news began making the area papers. Associated Press writer Liz Kearney, chronicling the discovery, notes that Heath wondered at the inscription in the book: “To Florence and Dan, in memory of the 711 Ranch.” Who were Florence and Dan, had Holling ever visited Montana, and where was the 711 Ranch?

Heath then searched the Internet for information about Holling. (She may even have visited this blog.) From biographical information about Holling’s birthplace, she then tracked down Steve Hainstock, a past president and co-founder of the Leslie Area Museum in Michigan. He told her Sun and Smoke was the only book which the museum did not have. Heath stated in the AP story, “It was exciting to get this gentleman on the phone and hear him say ‘Wow!’”

In the spirit of the Community Closet’s policy of sharing with other nonprofits, Executive Director Caron Cooper secured permission to donate the book to the Leslie Area Museum. The folks in Leslie are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to see the verses and art Holling created over three-quarters of a century ago.

A story like this might have remained localized in Livingston, Mont., and Leslie, Mich. Happily, we live in a digital age, when search engines bring the world to our fingertips, communication links span vast distances, and the past is easily accessed by interested audiences everywhere. With so much sad news and tension in the world, it’s satisfying to know a writer like Holling Clancy Holling is still extolling the panorama that is America. And that one more view — of New Mexico in verse and art — has come to light.

Note: Sun and Smoke arrived in Leslie Friday, Mar. 23. Joan Hoffman said, “I went over to the Hainstocks’ house and saw it as the box was opened. The spine of the book is not good, so the book is in quite fragile condition. Steve plans to scan the pages so it won’t have to be handled further.”

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