Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Praise of Collectible Books and an Authentic Tucson Cowgirl

Long live used book sales sponsored by the Friends of Pima County Public Library. I know everyone in Tucson is focused on the gem show, But take an hour and go to the Book Barn on Country Club. You’ll find another type of treasure worth a visit.

I took my own advice and found a few real gems (at least to me). One was a 1950s manual produced by the Tokyo News Service that reviewed customs of Japan….all sorts of interesting topics, from handclapping ceremonies that arouse spirits, to the importance of first dreams in a new year. Another was a 1926 Muirhead guidebook of North-western France. Such beautiful maps and diagrams. The book is unmarked except for checkmarks on pages about Loches, a small town on the banks of the Indre River. Someday Leigh and I will travel to Normandy, and head south to see what is special about this little central-France town.

My prize from the book sale is a tiny 1980s paperback about the Tanque Verde Ranch. The booklet is illustrated with beautiful gouache paintings by Erni Cabat, a local painter who died in the 1990s. There is lovely text by Charlotte Cardon, who may still be alive and residing here in Tucson. In the 1930s Charlotte was a member of the Desert Riders, a U of A women’s riding honor society. The book says Charlotte traveled the world to write and photograph cultures and unusual places. I suspect Charlotte (in her heyday decades ago) also traveled Tucson by horseback, recording the desert’s unique people and places. The book I purchased is signed by Charlotte with this inscription: “To dear friends who now are Arizona desert dwellers and can appreciate the lore of this old ranch…”

Charlotte’s comment was not meant for me, but I take it to heart now that I own her little book. If you’re out there, Charlotte, I salute you. You’re an authentic Tucson cowgirl. You knew how to enjoy adventure here in our desert, and beyond.


Leigh said...

And I salute you as well. A worthy successor to the original "Tucson Cowgirl."

James Boehme said...

I agree with Leigh. But who takes your photos'

Leigh said...

Hey, I like your new profile picture. You didn't grow up in Brooklyn, did you? I know some nice folks from there.

Monica Surfaro Spigelman said...

yes, I like it too. Thanks and love to the photographer, Leigh Spigelman.

stevesurf said...

One day, I hope you do get to Normandy, there is so much history there. Perhaps, you will have to time it for a summer trip and bring back a yellow jersey for me ;)

I wonder whether more Surfaros settled in France some supposedly moved north to Algiers and then Paris.

As far as history today, and after an absolutely amazing Giants victory (nice going Jim!), in the cycling world, we lost the greatest mechanic that ever was, who helped many...Sheldon Brown.

But I can't leave without depositing some humor; we'll see if you actually read your blog after hours :)

Peggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peggy said...

Monica, what a lovely description of the treasures you found at the book sale. Let me tell you a bit about Erni Cabat. I was blessed to show an exhibit of Erni's desert wildflower illustrations several years ago. He used to wear a knitted cap, similar to the one Mike Nesmith of the Monkees wore and was a true Tucson character. His wife, Rose, who is well into her nineties, is known over the world for her delicate and richly colored ceramics, called Feelies. She still has a gallery on Fourth Avenue. I recall meeting Charlotte many years ago...she is the grandmother of an old friend of mine. What you discovered about Charlotte's younger days is wonderful to contemplate!

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,
I just discovered your blog when my father-in-law Googled my mother, Charlotte Cardon. She is still in Tucson and is 90 years old. I was delighted to hear of your find of the Tanque Verde booklet. She and my father were friends of Ernie and Rose Cabat.
My mother first met my father at the U of A at a riding event. He was in the ROTC (pre-WWII) and it was a case of tall man/short horse. My father (6'3") was asked to help my mother onto her horse. (Unnecessary but polite.) He hoisted and she flew over the horse and landed on the ground on the other side!
You may find other wonderful treasures from my mother. She was a journalist and free-lance writer for 6 decades or so. She continues to write and we have endless discussions about books, movies, politics and current events.
She continues to love her typewriter while rejecting the computer but she was delighted when I read her this blog.
Chris (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Monica Surfaro Spigelman said...

Thank you, Chris!
Please, if possible, email me -- I would love to learn more about your Mom, and it would be an honor to meet her. I see notes online about a couple of books but would like to discover more about her writings and desert experiences.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI - Charlotte Cardon is my grandmother. She is alive and doing well in Tucson. We recently lost my grandfather (her husband), but she has the same zest for life as ever.