Do you have memoirs on your bookshelves? A friend (thanks Bobbi!) handed me three memoirs from her collection a few weeks ago. Two of them had “national bestseller” scrawled across the top. The other looked like a lesser-known volume, titled Me, Melvin ‘N Andy by Andy Anderson. My friend had picked the book up during her travels throughout California and actually met the author. The inside cover holds his inscription “To Dave & Bobbi – My good friends who have ties in Willow Ranch. Hoping that Father Time is also your friend from here to the end. Enjoy my book. Best regards, Andy Anderson.”
The front cover of the book includes the text “an Autobiography about a boy growing up in the corner of Oregon, California and Nevada alongside the historic Oregon Applegate Trail.” I don’t think that the description is part of a sub-title. In fact, Andy writes about his own life, whereas he was born in 1928. His stories blend a mix of youthful exploration in the outdoors, his endeavors to raise livestock, and finally a career as a logger and politician. Anderson also writes of the Indians that live next door and the town folks that influence his upbringing.
Like all memoirs, Anderson’s is unique. He’s tells it like it was, without embellishing the details with superfluous prose. My favorite chapter was titled “Trying to Go Into the Pig Business.” When Anderson was a child, he tried to catch a greased pig at a fair, so that he could win the pig and “…get into the pig business.” He asks several adults how to catch a pig, and they generously offer him advice. He relates that he was told to “…run up behind a pig and stick my finger in under the tail as far as I could and make a crook. I would then have a pig. The men said that if I really wanted to get into the pig business, I should pick out a sow and use two fingers instead of one.”
As a small boy, Anderson proceeded to implement the strategy, but did not win the pig. When he lost, the adults who had led him astray could not contain their laughter. They gave the fooled boy money to buy soda for them and let him keep the change. Other people in the crowd also asked him to buy cold drinks, likely due the sympathy that the had for him as being the butt of a joke. At the end of the day, Anderson had made eight dollars.
I got a huge kick out of reading the pig story, and couldn’t believe that Anderson would want to relive his embarrassment as part of his book. It just proves that every memoir has a hidden gem. You just have to be ready to give any book a try and search for it.