It is normal for a whale from a fairy tale to come from inside a bookstore.
The story begins with a man who is new to Santa Fe, a transplant recipient from Colorado going through all the usual aches and pains of moving.
He had eight boxes of books in reserve. As the man went through his collection, he had to admit that some of the titles no longer held his interest.
He gathered the books he didn’t want. Instead of just throwing them away, he headed to Book Mountain, a 41-year-old store in Santa Fe that specializes in paperback exchanges.
Book Mountain also recycles books it cannot accept, preventing more paper from going to landfill.
A newcomer hardcover book lands in the pile for recycling. Tom Juster, a partner at Book Mountain, started tearing up the cover, a necessary step in the recycling process.
But this book was unusual. In fact, it wasn’t a book at all.
Lifting the cover, Juster found some stuck, still pages with a deep hole in the middle. The money was stuffed inside.
He took the book to the store owner, Peggy Frank, and told her she had to take a look. She’s probably seen a million books. What could be special about this one?
“I opened it and almost fell off my chair. The book had $ 1,100 inside, ”Frank said.
The man who threw the book away told me it was really kind of a piggy bank.
“In my business I keep a lot of cash and have a number of stashes,” said the man, who asked that I not publish his name.
He hadn’t realized that the “book,” bearing a boring and fictitious title on American business practices in 1953, was one of his caches.
By the time Juster found the money, the man who left the book was long gone from the store.
Frank and his team set out to find him. For all they knew, he might need that big wad of cash to pay the bills for the week.
“A lot of people bring books all day. I didn’t know if we would find him, ”Frank said.
Alert Book Mountain employee Kamille Smith remembered the man’s name. It was a promising start. The customer was on Facebook.
But Frank and his team’s efforts to contact him got nowhere. Frank kept the money in a safe place while the search continued.
A few weeks have passed. The trail was cold. Maybe the man would never be located.
Then he walked into Book Mountain, oblivious to the money he had left behind or the staff’s attempts to find him. An assiduous reader, he arrived to buy paperback books.
Frank handed him the book with a hole in the middle and the title dull as dishwater.
“Mean anything to you?” ” she asked.
“Yeah a little. Why?” He asked.
Then he opened the lid and saw the cavity for storing money. A-ha! The man realized that this was one of the places he had put money, only to forget it.
Frank made sure he was the rightful owner of the book and the $ 1,100.
The 70-year-old retired man said he decided to share his manna. He donated some of the money to a food bank and an animal shelter.
Frank and his lucky client have become friends. He is also present in his store in a role other than a customer.
Frank, 81, does not have a large vehicle, which made it difficult to deliver the discarded books to the recycling center. The man drives a truck, so he’s participating in Book Mountain’s recycling effort.
The story of the money found has inspired people familiar with Book Mountain. One of them, Mary Elliott, sent me a note about the company that went out of its way to help a client.
“It’s good to know that there are honest and ethical people in our community. It’s a wellness story that people should hear about, ”Elliott wrote.
I’m happy to give politicians a day off from my column to get the word out. The man now has a deeper connection with his bookstore and his staff.
“Peggy is a wonderful woman,” he said.
His substitute for books and his hidden $ 1,100 have made new connections. It is the power of the human spirit.
Ringside Seat is an opinion piece on people, politics and the news. Contact Milan Simonich at [email protected] or 505-986-3080.