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Graves County Bookmobile opens up the World to Rural Folks


Running late for a press conference in Murray, I was moving very fast along KY Highway 339, just 2 miles out of Sedalia.

Wham!! All of a sudden, when topping a hill I almost ran into a large brown van. It was the Graves County Bookmobile in full radiant brown base paint, with a whole lot of bright colors splashed all over it.

Mary, my editor, often says that I have a bad habit of following bright shiny objects without knowing why. Well on this day, the bright shiny object made a rapid turn to the left as I was trying to read all the colorful writings on its sides.

Not even thinking about the pro’s and con’s of moving at high speeds along Graves County back roads, I quickly gave chase down a new narrow road called Central Lane.

With lights flashing and horn blaring, I soon convinced the Bookmobile to stop. Pulling up behind the truck, I knew the first order of business was the “Photo Shot” for prime time.

Confronting the driver with , “Hi, I am a mad reporter stalking your van, would you pose for a photo? Not really. It went something like, “Hi, may I take a photo of the bookmobile?”

A very charming Sandra Hennessey, bookmobile driver, with a million dollar radiant smile, said, “Why of course you may.” As I positioned the camera, I just knew she was thinking that this was part of some new TV Animal Planet reality show where aliens abduct a rural bookmobile.

In rapid succession, three shots were taken, as I stood in the middle of the road. Photojournalism from atop the yellow strip of any asphalt road comes with many pluses, but one very real danger. At any second a very large Mac truck will run you down at high speeds.

As I started to say “Thank you” to Sandra, I froze. Coming just beyond the crest of the road behind me was the unmistakable sound of heavy wheels moving at high speeds. I was within seconds of meeting a really “Big Thing” along Central Lane, out among the cornfields of Graves County.

It was a UPS Brown truck-van topping the hill. With great relief, I turned to face the UPS van with camera raised high in hopes he wouldn’t run me down.

He stopped twenty feet from me.

I quickly approached him while he was still in shock of witnessing some sort of terrorist action involving a Bookmobile.

“Listen, would you back up about 10 feet so I can get a great photo of you passing the bookmobile?”

He did.

I shot two frames and he was off down the road as fast as he could move.

Still smiling, Sandra Hennessy explained to me the importance of her work. She drives five days a week into the long hard rural areas of Graves County. Her Bookmobile has from 1500 to 2000 books and audio tapes for shut ins, the elderly, the young who can’t drive yet, rural schools, and anyone along the route who just likes to check out books setting next to corn fields.

As I waved to her when she put the Bookmobile into gear and headed off to meet her book flock, the thought occurred to me that something in rural America still works.

Modern rural America is upon hard times. After 20 years of Wal-Mart rule over rural retail, life for many of our poor is getting harder economically each day.

Yet, here today along Route 339 and Central Lane, one individual, charged with being a doorway into the world, makes her rounds to empower those who live off the beaten path.

And she does with a smile that brings a little touch of sunshine into everyone’s life she inter acts with.

It warmed my heart to watch her speed off into the morning shadows and sunlight. I, who ran a bookstore, I, who (along with, my wife the smart one, who had been there at the birth of Amazon.com), I, who saw the collapse of Borders book chain and now watching as Barnes & Noble book chain big box bookstores may shut down its 700 plus bookstores after this Christmas, 2014, I felt a zing of warmth, knowing that maybe, on this day, along this road, the Bookmobile lady will gently hand down from her supply of books a book to an eighth grade young lady who wants to grow up and become great in the American way of life.

Power to Sandra Hennessy, the Bookmobile lady, as she hands out books that quench the thirst for knowledge and learning in rural Kentucky along forgotten back roads where hope for a better tomorrow often comes from dreams found in books.

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