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Fri, Oct. 18

Barnes: Reflections on a favorite author

I was rummaging through our home library recently and was somewhat surprised to discover that we had accumulated 17 early edition books written by Sinclair Lewis.

That discovery brought back memories of how much I enjoyed and appreciated the stories written by this Pulitzer Prize winning writer whose novels poked fun at the conflict of values he observed in our lives.

In thumbing through several of his books, I also was reminded of a trip our family made that was inspired by Mr. Lewis. If you recall reading any of his books I think you will appreciate this particular story.

We were living in Ames, Iowa, at the time. My Beloved and I had just finished reading “Main Street,” one of his best known books, and after discussing it, we agreed that it would be fun to drive to his boyhood home in Sauk Center, Minnesota, which as some of you may recall, was savaged in this particular book.

Besides wanting to see for ourselves if the townsfolk had forgiven him, we wanted to also visit the museum that reportedly contained early Lewis memorabilia.

So, with our two small children, we set out on a cold, early October morning for the 300-plus mile trip to his hometown. Pulling into the small community we saw the first sign that indicated he had been forgiven — a street sign, of course, “Sinclair Lewis Avenue.” We followed that street until we found downtown, which wasn’t any great navigational feat as anyone knows who has ever visited Sauk Centre.

Anyhow, we found the museum, which was located in the public library. And then began a scenario that no one would have appreciated more than Sinclair Lewis.

We walked up to the counter and I spoke to the lady librarian: “Hello, we’re from Ames, Iowa, and we’re here to visit the museum.”

“Well, it’s nice to have you visit us. Now what is it you wanted to see?”

“The Sinclair Lewis museum.”

“It’s in the basement.”

“Fine. May we see it?”

“I’m afraid I don’t have the key.”

“Can you get it, please.”

“Well, you see, it’s closed during the winter months.”

The rest of the conversation was classic Lewis.

He would have loved it.

As for My Beloved and me, ever after, whenever we heard someone speak of Sinclair Lewis, or mention Sauk Centre, we smiled at each other and shared quietly a special droll memory.

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