Mamaw Towles and her priceless $14 book

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022

By Ricky Swindle

Muffler Shop Musings

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My wife’s grandmother, Mrs. Jean Towles, passed away in March so she has been busy taking care of the dreaded business that someone in every family is responsible for completing.

It’s a tough position to be in because while everyone else has their opportunity to immediately go through the grieving process, someone has to take care of the business affairs and postpone their own personal grieving time to a later date.

Some folks are chosen for those duties simply because they possess the character for getting things done. Anyone who’s ever known my Boss Lady will agree that little gal flat gets things done.

As time rolls on, I believe we all think about things and about that person that has passed on. Good things and sometimes bad things too come to mind and there’s even an occasion of “Well, I be dang” comes up too.

Well, that happened to me a few days ago.

Mamaw Towles, as we all called her, was a wonderful person to me the entire 20 some odd years I had known her. After “Pop” Spencer Towles passed away in 2008, if there was anything she needed, I was the one she called.

I treated her just like I did my Momma and my Mamaw Quebel. If they needed me, I dropped whatever I was doing and saw about them without hesitation.

I’m glad I did all I could for them while they were here. It brings me peace and satisfaction these days knowing those ‘ol gals could depend on me.

A couple years ago, Mamaw Towles gave me this old tattered book that came from her Mother’s home. She was a loyal viewer of the program Antique Road Show on public television and had witnessed countless times sitting in her recliner all the attic treasures and heirlooms folks possessed that were worth a small fortune.

She believed the book to be one of those items so she handed it off to me to investigate for her.

The book is dated March 22, 1890, and titled “Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of Edward J. Gay.”

Just scanning , looking thru the book, it appears to be a hard  bound 68 page eulogy on a U.S. Representative from Louisiana.

It tells of all his great accomplishments being a businessman, financier and Congressman. I’d never heard of him so my detective work began and almost ended on Google.

Not long after I was presented this ragged, dated piece of Cajun historical literature, my old friend and retired Panolian co-owner John Howell, came rolling in on that Amtrak City of New Orleans to join with his family to see about some details of their late mother Mrs. Annie-Glenn’s estate.

John, as he always has, walked across the street to the shop to visit with Mike and me for a bit and to give me an update on the musical artist J. Monque’D and all the other happenings that go on in The Big Easy, his new hometown.

I handed off Mamaw Towles’ sacred book into the competent hands of John, seeing as literature and the likes are bound to his DNA and plus with him living in New Orleans, there’s got to be folks down there that would know the true value of this priceless ancient artifact.

I called Mamaw Towles and told her that I believed it was the best way to find the book’s worth was letting John get on that southbound train with it.

She agreed wholeheartedly with my plan because although she didn’t know John personally, she felt that she knew him as she had read every word all the many years he was at the paper.

A week or so or maybe longer passed and one day John called to inform me after taking the book around to a few places and asking about its value he learned that in 1890 there were thousands of those books printed and sent to almost every resident in Edward J. Gay’s voting district. The process was quite common at the time.

The book’s value was basically worthless although John did see a couple of them for sale at $14 each.

$14 dollars. How can I tell Mamaw Towles, as excited as she is about this book, that it’s only worth 14 measly dollars. My plan? Stall telling her for as long as I could. I loved that lady and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

She’d ask every so often had I heard anything and I’d tell her “Ol’ John’s still hanging on to it down there in New Orleans. If anyone can find out, it’ll be Ol’ John.” That was all I had to say to pacify her.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out my desk at work and I ran across that old book, still in the ziplock bag that Mamaw gave it to me in.

Me, my wife and her youngest sister, who lived in the house with Mamaw the past 15 years got to talking about that book when I got home that evening.

My sister-in-law laughed when she heard me say I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her that the book was basically worthless.

She said Mamaw talked about the book at least once a week all the way until she passed away thinking it’s got to be worth a pile of money because they still ain’t told Ricky how much that thing’s worth and he ain’t rushing them on it.

He’s just waiting them out she figured.

Well, she thought it was worth something so that’s good enough for me. I’m glad I didn’t tell her because some things in this life are better off left unsaid. I guess in the end that book was worth something to Mamaw Towles and to me too. I think I’ll hang on to it.

Take care of yourself folks and look in on your old folks every chance you get. It will sure bring a smile and a lot of peace of  mind later on knowing good and well you done all you could do for them while you had the chance.