David and I, and our kids, had supper on Saturday with Bill and Elizabeth McNeill in Colebrook. Itâ€™s always a delight to see Bill, and I get such joy from hearing that he is really and truly pleased with our world history project. He has been a tough counselor for years, and his praise means a great deal.
We also have gardening in common. When he reviewed the biography Iâ€™d drafted for the encyclopedia, he wrote in, â€œand amateur gardener.â€ Billâ€™s family were farmers in Canada, and mine were farmers in Iowa. Itâ€™s not a surprise, really, that on Saturday he had wax beans and rhubarb from last summerâ€™s garden, while we had pulled out the final carton of frozen red currants and made a pie for dessert. After a lengthy discussion about currants and white pine blight with Rachel, who is taking botany this semester, Bill said, â€œI donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve tasted a currant in 70 years.â€ (Remember, we published the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History on his 87th birthday, 31 October 2004.)
One of the things he feels most strongly is that world history is for young people, and he is able to write articles of impeccably scholarship that are also engaging stories. Our kids, Tom and Rachel, have been working in our family business for years now, and as it happens they worked on his articles for World History. So when we were talking about this over supper they were able to say that they had read what he wrote about â€œSalt,â€ and â€œDance,â€ and â€œAncient Greece.â€ A treat all aroundâ€”and even for Tom, a tolerable change from playing computer games and for Rachel from IMing and RPGing! (To understand those, we need the books we have in development on computer games and building virtual communities. I’m operating, of course, on the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em principle of parenting.)