Chessboards, Fretboards, and How to Milk a Cow

My father is a wise man. He once told me that when you milk a cow, you need to have a stool and a milk pail. And while having the right tools is essential, it’s even more important to understand the basics. He said if you put your stool under the bull instead of the cow, you’ll never get any milk. In fact, there’s a high likelihood you’ll get kicked in the face instead. Like I said, my father is a wise man.

When I first learned to play guitar, I played with friends who already knew the basics. They taught me things like how to string the guitar, how to tune it, and how to play a few simple chords. Later, I learned music theory on my own from books that I checked out (you guessed it) from the library. Knowing the difference between Lydian and Mixolydian modes is important, but if you can’t tune your guitar, you’ll never be able to play On the Road Again.

So when I started playing chess, I knew I needed some expert help. I had played chess a few times, but badly. In fact, until I started assisting with chess programs at the North Branch Library, I didn’t know how woefully ignorant I was. I didn’t know that the white pieces always started the game. I didn’t know how to do the castling move. It turns out that sometimes I was even setting up the chess board backwards! In other words, I was trying to get milk from a bull with a guitar that was out of tune. How’s that for mixed metaphors?

Luckily for me (and for you), there is the Monday night Chess Club at the North Branch Library. Every Monday evening from 6:00-9:00, you can learn to play chess with folks who really know what they’re doing. Under the expert and affable leadership of Ben Kemna, the Chess Club welcomes all ages and all skill levels. And it’s free. What a deal!

The library also hosts special chess events from time to time, like a recent “simul” with Women’s International Master Dr. Alexey Root. She played a group of 10 people simultaneously, rotating new players in as she won games. She offered a copy of her new book Prepare With Chess Strategy to anyone who could beat her, but after 20 games, no one did. Though I didn’t learn any new moves from this frenetic exhibition, I discovered that chess really can be exciting to watch.

My advice: give chess a chance. Once you’ve learned the basics and beyond from the friendly folks at the Monday night Chess Club, check out some books from the library and see how far you can take it. Below are just a few titles that can help you go from making a fool out of yourself (like me) to making all the right moves:
prepare-with-chess chess-for-children













Kerol Harrod

An Ode To Packrats and Renuzit Super Odor Killer

A friend of mine and a long-time customer at the library has been cleaning his study for the last few months. He drops by with a plastic grocery bag every other week stuffed with old newspapers clippings, newsletters, or theatre playbills that he has been saving since the 1960s. There is another reason, however, that he has been saving things: he’s a historian and writer, but I like to fancy that he liked the effect of curled newspaper articles and newsletters sticking out of his bookshelves, snuggled in drawers, or perhaps it was that it gave his cats something to be suspicious of.

And that’s where the Renuzit comes in handy – that and some natural kitty litter – mix ’em together in a plastic tub and you get a nice deodorizer in which to kill the pungent odor of long forgotten news and miscreant felines. Despite the smell and the dust, I am very grateful to him – I mean, where else can one find back issues of The Street Level News?

The SLN covered the areas where locals, faculty and college kids liked to hang out, providing information on bands and bars, poetry, interesting articles that could range from bicycle safety to local history, and included book reviews, an events calendar, advertisements for hip and cheap places to shop or eat and several comic strips: Fry Street Fred, Super Preppie and Thoughtoon to name a few.


Fry Street Fred


Artic Mothers article.

I am still wondering about the band name – the purposeful misspelling of both – and will probably ponder on it for far too long.

The Street Level News was published from 1983-84 in Denton, Texas. It may have run a little longer, but I am unaware of other issues.  The first, Vol.1 – No.1 came out in August. In that issue the editor was Jerry Boulware; Trent Eades was the associate editor; advertising rep, Monika Antonelli; cover art, David Romero; and the typesetting and layout was done by Denton County Commercial Typesetters. Some of the names change in later issues, but Jerry Boulware remained the editor throughout.

Advertisement for the Goose Inn Bicycle Shop on Avenue A.

These  yellowed newsletters may not seem much, but they help fill in the details about life in Denton at this time period. They also feature cool hand-illustrated cover art and advertisements that were commonplace at that time. I miss that kind of thing, so I’m grateful for the reprise of murals about town.

The Goose Inn Bicycle Shop, owned by Joe Holland, closed not long after I got here, but the stories that came out of it were famous as bicycle shop stories go.  Now all I need to find is an ad from Fourteen Records and write more about that in the future. As you get older, reminiscing is nice.


The Connection, Sept. 1983.The Connection, cont'd

This article is important, not only because it lists the artists who painted the mural on The Connection (Don Huff and Dennis Shaw), but also who owned the building and a bit of personal history about.

The saying about one man’s junk being another’s treasure is absolutely true for me. I’m just glad I don’t work in a museum that collects dentures – although, to be fair,  you could probably get a lot of important information out of them – I’m just glad I work here.

~Leslie Couture

Special Collections Department

Who Wrote That? Your Neighbor!

When I started at the library I was shocked to find that each branch has its own local music section. Some music I recognized and most I didn’t. I have stumbled upon some really great music exploring this section of the library. So here is a list of some great finds in the Denton Public Library’s selection. Some of these groups are now defunct but have possibly started new projects.


Bamnan and Slivercork by Midlake


The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads by Lift to Experience (Physical copies on Amazon are running around $180!)





Pine Sticks and Phosphorus by Robert Gomez (He is playing a show this Friday at the Greater Denton Arts Council…check it out!)




Ruined My Life by Daniel Markham (Check out his latest album “Disintegrator”…it’s very good.









Spooky Folk






Abdon Gonzalez
Emily Fowler Library

Jet Packs and Flying Cars

Image result for jet packs science fiction

When I was a child dinosaurs roamed the earth. There were no VCRs, DVDs, or any streaming services like Netflix. We had first run movies, reruns, and the library. If you missed a show, or a film, or an issue of a magazine, or a comic book, you were out of luck. You were completely in the moment as far as information went, except when you went to the library. It was the only source of history that my generation knew. If you wanted to find out about something that intrigued you, there was no Google – you had to dig around at the library. I remember checking out insane quantities of books on certain subjects – World War Two (my grandfather was a fighter pilot), Bigfoot (Strange Stories and Amazing Facts), and space exploration, were a few of my go-to topics. A librarian once refused to check out the enormous stack of books on aviation I had strained to place on the counter. It seems there was a limit to how many books you could check out on any single subject. I argued with her about the fine distinction between books about aviation and stories about pilots. She was not convinced, and I was only allowed to take five books.

So, you kids today, count your blessings. Our library doesn’t limit you. You can check out 75 items per library card. And, we have electronic sources like Hoopla which allow you to watch TV shows and films ON YOUR PHONE. Will wonders never cease? My great grandmother used to say that she’d lived a hundred lives. When she was a girl, there were still horse drawn carriages in the streets, but in her lifetime she saw men walking on the moon. That fighter pilot grandfather I mentioned, before he died we were communicating by email. Wonders.

Take a look around and appreciate our rocket ship of an existence. Amidst all of the trips, traps, and foibles of technology, our culture is constantly moving beyond our wildest imaginings. We may not have our flying cars and jetpacks, but we have access to the sum total of human knowledge, and it fits into our phones. Your public library is still here, and we’re ready and willing to help you navigate beyond the edges of the map. 

William James Smith

South Branch Library





Weird Science

I have very little background in science.  I am, however, curious about the world.  Most of my questions arise as I’m doing simple, everyday tasks.  I wonder how air neutralizers work as I spray air freshener in a musty room.  I question why hair turns gray as we age when I look in the mirror.  I’m curious how batteries were invented—and why are the batteries at my house always dead?

Several years ago, I stumbled across the book Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  Mary Roach is a science writer who is very upfront about the fact that she is not a scientist.  I loved how she addresses questions about how things work, why things are developed, and  how they are studied.  Her explanations are clear easy to understand.  She is willing to ask those “dumb” questions that we all have, like “What happens if an astronaut is sick while wearing a spacesuit?”  I find her books insightful and hilarious.

One of my favorite aspects of her research is that she is hands-on.  She backs everything up with plenty of research from science journals and scholarly articles. Ms. Roach actually goes to visit labs, training grounds, and other areas that are off-limits to most people.  Her interviews with scientists, researchers, businesses, and politicians are candid and she is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions.  She asked Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut, if the dandruff and dead skin cells that shed, but have nowhere to go during space flight made it feel like a “snow globe” inside the space capsule.

She observes and often participates in testing and experiments.  In her latest book, Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War, she describes smelling the World War II nonlethal malodorant “Who me?” in great detail, giving detailed accounts of not only the physical outcome, but also her thoughts and emotions as she smelled the stink bomb.

If you have a curious mind, like to laugh, and don’t mind a few squeamish descriptions here and there, give Mary Roach’s books a try.

Jennifer Bekker
North Branch Library
gruntbonk gulp my-planet packing-for-marsspookstiff

A Fountain of History

Every community has its little bits of history hidden away in plain sight. Have you ever noticed the unassuming monument at the North end of the Emily Fowler Central Library parking lot?  It has an odd utilitarian look because it was originally designed to be a drinking fountain for animals. In fact, Denton was one of only six cities in Texas to receive a coveted Ensign Fountain. The plaque mounted to the central column reads: “1911, presented by the National Humane Alliance, Hermon Lee Ensign, Founder.”

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The National Humane Alliance was established by Hermon Lee Ensign in 1897.  An entry from the 1898 World Almanac Encyclopedia describes the organization; “While the Alliance is not exactly a charity, it is founded on humanitarian ideas.  It desires to educate people, particularly the rising generation, to be kind and gentle among themselves and to treat all dumb animals humanely…”  Mr. Ensign died in 1899 leaving most of his considerable wealth to the Alliance. After the bequest, the organization shifted its primary focus from education to the distribution of the fountains.   Between 1906 and 1912 the National Humane Alliance donated over 125 drinking fountains for animals to different cities across the United States and Mexico.

Denton received its fountain in the summer of 1911. The Denton Record and Chronicle credits Mrs. R.H. Garrison and the Woman’s Shakespeare Club for the “persistent solicitations” which put Denton in the running as a prospective site.  This led to a visit by Mr. Louis A. Servier, secretary of the National Humane Alliance, in May 1911.  Mr. Servier approved the placement of one of the fountains in Denton, with two conditions. The first condition was that the new fountain be placed on the Southeast corner of the Courthouse Square and be properly maintained. The second was the old horse trough/fountain on the Northwest corner be repaired and kept in good working order. If you look really, really hard you can just make it out in the center of the postcard (just to the right of, and a little behind, the cow) on the cover of the book Denton County.


The granite fountains were constructed by the Bodwell Granite Company in Vinalhaven, Maine and transported to the various cities by ship, then railroad.  The Bodwell Company produced two styles of the fountains – a larger version with a square central column and a smaller fountain with a round column. Denton received the latter type. The fountain in Seneca Kansas  (shown in the slideshow above) is the same as the one placed in Denton. Denton’s also had a light fixture for the top. The Denton Record and Chronicle reported that it arrived in November 1911, but I am unsure if it was ever installed.

The fountains weighed over 5 tons and were 4 to 5 feet high.  The trough for horses was about 3’ in diameter, fed by spigots each decorated as a lion head. The base of the fountain had small bowls intended for dogs and cats to drink out of.  An article from the June 8, 1911 edition of the Denton Record and Chronicle valued the fountains worth to be between 750 and 1200 dollars.

I found an article stating that the Ensign fountain was installed on August 23, 1911. Unfortunately we do not have a newspaper from that day so I was not able to discover what pomp and circumstance was planned for the unveiling.  I have also yet to find when and why it was moved from the Square to the City Park. My speculation is that it was probably during the 1920s when the automobile replaced the horse as the primary means of transportation. By 1949 it had been moved.

The booklet Fifty Years of the Woman’s Shakespeare Club: 1899-1949 gives a brief mention of the fountain and its history stating that it “now stands in the City Park.” Before the 1981 expansion of the Emily Fowler Central Library, the fountain was just to the east of the library building in the park. When the library was enlarged, the fountain was moved to its present location. In 1984 the fountain was restored by the City Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Denton Historical Commission.

When I was a child we used to visit the fountain on our trips to the library. The odd shape intrigued me and I always wondered why it was designed that way. To my child’s eyes the fountain looked like a very big bird bath. It was a pleasant surprise to discover its true history is much more vivid.

Laura Douglas
Senior Librarian – Special Collections
Emily Fowler Central Library

Texas Library Association Lariat Reading List


Exciting news for adult readers who are looking for titles that are a pleasure to read.  The Texas Library Association has a committee dedicated to putting together a list of outstanding fiction.  Each year the committee puts together a list of titles that merit special attention for adult readers.  These are book that have been published within the past 2 years.  The current brochure features titles from 2015-2016.  Readers are able to view previous lists dating back to 2009.

The Lariat Adult Fiction Reading List was started in 2008 when Corinne Hill approached TLA to start a list for adults that would be a “pleasure to read.”  Former TLA President, Melody Kelly, bestowed the name, “Lariat.”  The Lariat Task Force was started on April 3, 2009.  Since then, the selection of 25 outstanding fiction titles of the year have been carried out in various ways.

Current Titles Include

Armada~Cline, Ernest
Zack cannot wait to finish high school and work at the local video gaming store, but unfortunately his plans are ruined when he has to go fight the aliens who plan to blow up the world. His family and his favorite game, Armada, might be the key to the Earth’s defense.

Black-Eyed Susans~Heaberlin, Julia
This thriller is alternately told by present day Tessa and her 16 year old self, Tessie, the only survivor of the “Black-Eyed Susan” killer in Fort Worth, Texas. Her original testimony sent a man to death row, but the real culprit might still be out there. Tessa teams up with experts who work to free wrongfully convicted death row inmates. The suspense builds as Tessa discovers devastating secrets from her past.

The Book of Speculation~Swyler, Erika
Simon Watson receives a package from a distant bookseller that seems to hold his family’s history, especially that of his mother. It turns out that there’s a spell on the women in his family that threatens to take away Enola, his sister and only family left. Can he save his sister and stop history from recurring?

The Bookseller~Swanson, Cynthia
Kitty Miller lives her carefree life as a single woman running a bookshop with her best friend Frieda until the dreams begin. In her dreams, she is Katharyn Andersson, a loving wife and mother. The lines between what is real and what is imagined begin to haunt her.

The Buried Giant~Ishiguro, Kazuo
Battling a magical forgetfulness, aging Britons Axl and Beatrice are determined to travel to see their son. Though filled with all the trappings of fantasy, this exquisite tale of distantly remembered battles, past wrongs and relentless change offers intricate layers of story, metaphor, reality and dream.

City on Fire~Hallberg, Garth Risk
Meet the Hamilton-Sweeney heirs, Regan and William, and many other characters of this 1970’s epic in the small town that is New York City. Their stories, including a shooting in Central Park and the 1977 blackout, intertwine the characters as they long for love and connection.

Fates and Furies~Groff, Lauren
Told from the point of view of the husband and of the wife, this novel examines not only both sides of their marriage, but also how each person’s perception affects their lives.

The Fishermen~Obioma, Chigozie
A small town Nigerian family struggle with the outcomes of a prophecy made by a madman that threatens to tear them apart.  A fascinating coming-of-age story of four brothers in the 1990’s, the story spirals into tragic consequences and the near unraveling of a family.

The Girl on the Train~Hawkins, Paula
Alcoholic, unemployed Rachel rides the daily commuter train past her old home where her ex-husband still lives with his new wife. She makes up an imagined life about another couple a few doors down, but then sees something unexpected. The next day the woman vanishes. As Rachel gets involved in the investigation, the suspense builds. Things are not what they seem, with many twists and turns in this page turner of a thriller.

Girl Underwater~Kells, Claire
A major plane crash leaves Avery and four others stranded in the harsh wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in late November. After their rescue, she is emotionally torn between coping with what happened in the mountains and fitting back into normal life. Already in a relationship, she must also face her feelings for another man: fellow survivor and teammate, Colin Shea.

The Gods of Tango~De Robertis, Carolina
An Italian woman is married by proxy when her fiancé sends for her to join him in Argentina. At the port, her husband’s friend informs her that she is a widow. Deciding not to go back home, she masters the violin and tries on her husband’s clothes, finding that they and a man’s lifestyle suit her.

The Good Neighbor~ Banner, A.J.
Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, and good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. All too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. One October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

The Marauders~Cooper, Tom
What do drug dealers, shrimpers, a BP oil representative and petty criminals on community service have in common? Told from each of their perspectives, their lives converge in the swampland of Jeannette, Louisiana, five years after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry~Backman, Fredrik
Seven year old Elsa, precocious, different, and bullied, is buoyed by her relationship with Granny, her superhero, and by Granny’s stories of a fairytale kingdom where being different is good. When Granny dies, Elsa carries out “quests” for Granny – delivering letters of apology to people Granny wronged. In the process, Elsa learns much about life, her family and friends, and Granny’s “stories.”

My Sunshine Away~Walsh, M.O.
The adult narrator recalls being a suspect in the rape of his neighborhood friend and crush Lindy Simpson when they were teens in 1989 Baton Rouge. In beautiful prose and with a strong sense of place and time, the story unfolds by alternating between past and current timeframes. Did the narrator commit this terrible act?

The Nightingale~Hannah, Kristin
Vianne and Isabelle live in German occupied France during World War II. Through them, we experience their different ways of living the war’s horrors and hardships. We witness the courage and strength of everyday people to do the impossible and what is necessary to fight for survival, ideals, country, and loved ones.

Paradise Sky~Lansdale Joe R.
A former slave named Willie flees home to the Old West, followed by his enemies and father’s killers. See him become Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick, a masterful gunslinger who comes back to avenge himself for all that he has lost.

The Scribe~Guinn, Matthew
Thomas Canby is brought back to Atlanta to vindicate his name and help solve a gruesome murder spree that threatens to ruin the 1881 International Cotton Exposition. The “Ring” that pushed him out of town may somehow be involved. Alongside him is Cyrus Underwood, Atlanta’s first African American detective. The murders seem to be racially motivated, but there is more than meets the eye when the killings take a turn in another direction.

Seveneves~Stephenson, Neal
The moon has suddenly exploded, leaving the inhabitants of Earth to face their imminent demise. Is there a way to ensure the survival of humanity? Is genetics the key to the solution?

Sofrito~Diederich, Phillippe
Frank Delgado’s restaurant is in financial trouble. He hears of a fabulous secret chicken recipe, stolen from his uncle by the government of Cuba, his parent’s homeland.  Frank travels to Cuba with the dangerous task of trying to steal back the recipe. Amidst espionage, intrigue, love, and discoveries of family secrets, Frank falls in love with the Cuba of his parents’ youth.

The Stranger~Coben, Harlan
“Don’t talk to strangers.” A stranger approaches Adam and divulges a dark secret about his wife, Corinne. After he confronts her, she disappears. Working with Chief Johanna Griffin to unfold the stranger’s mysterious words, Adam learns that the most familiar may be more dangerous.

Sweet Damage~James, Rebecca
Tim Ellison feels lucky to find a cheap room to rent in a mansion close to his work in Sydney. The only condition is to look after the mysterious owner, twenty year old Anna. He slowly learns about her past and her crippling fears. Tim feels uneasy as odd, mysterious things begin to happen, but he is also strangely attracted to Anna. What’s really going on?

The Truth According to Us~Barrows, Annie
During the Depression, pampered Senator’s daughter, Layla Beck, is cut off from allowances and is sent to work as a writer for the WPA’s Writer’s Project in little old Macedonia, West Virginia. Soon she comes to like the small town and her work. She discovers dark secrets that some want to stay hidden, and she finds that people have different versions of the truth and of the town’s history.

Uprooted~Novik, Naomi
The Dragon, the wizard who protects the valley from the Wood’s evil encroachment, demands the most special village girl as payment every 10 years. Neither graceful nor beautiful, Agnieszka is shocked and terrified when the Dragon chooses her, but finds she has an aptitude for learning magic. Her adventures include a deadly quest, true friendship, and court intrigue.

The Water Knife~Bacigalupi, Paolo
After environmental catastrophes, Nevada and California wage a war for water rights. The American Southwest becomes a gritty world of big money, ruthless business and seedy undertakings. Angel, a “Water Knife” who gets water for his employer any way he can, and a journalist search for the elusive paperwork that is behind a slew of murders, while a teenage orphan refugee struggles to find a way out of Phoenix.


Black-Eyed Susans

The Book of Speculation

The Bookseller

The Buried Giant

City on Fire

Fates and Furies

The Fishermen

The Girl on the Train

Girl Underwater

The Gods of Tango

The Good Neighbor

The Marauders

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Sunshine Away

The Nightingale

Paradise Sky

The Scribe



The Stranger

Sweet Damage

The Truth According to Us


The Water Knife

Reka Reynolds
Emily Fowler Central Library