Dogs, Country Sports, and Book Trading

How does an author and country sports enthusiast end up in the book trading business?

| August/September 1998


Author and country sports enthusiast "Dutch" Salmon, wife Cherie, and son Bud seated amidst the clutter of their publishing and book trading business.


It is the summer of '98, and by all accounts the American economy is booming. The stock market climbs to new heights with each summary report. Interest rates and unemployment are low. Pundits declare that the good times are unprecedented and imply that they will last forever.

Yet on a personal level, the level of home economics, the picture is not so pretty. Most people nowadays work for someone else, meaning their economic lives are not their own. They are subject to downsizing, layoffs, massive shifts of industry to foreign lands, the paltry wages of the service industry, and the whims of bosses and corporate boardrooms. Millions who are seemingly well employed are nonetheless understandably nervous.

These same people, when they get "time off," do something entirely different from their day-to-day work. What they enjoy—gardening for example, or fishing, or collecting antiques, or making things, or fixing things around the home—has no connection to their daily employment. The person who feels relief, a sense of escape, upon getting off work may not be well employed at all, regardless of income.

And then there's the family aspect of our current economic condition. The great majority today are forced by their employment to be away from their children the better part of each day, most days of the year. The children, in turn, have no connection to or understanding of the family's economics because all work and income take place outside the home. The social costs of this condition are well documented and show up in the morning paper every day.

None of this current dilemma is within the American economic tradition. As recently as 1940, the most prevalent occupation in America was the family farm, a kind of work that employed the entire family on home ground at a cooperative task. Why can't the work we love be the work we do? Why can't an avocation become a vocation and produce a living wage? Why can't the place where we work be the place where we live? Well, maybe it can.

This is the story of one family where hobbies, work, and a reasonable income have coalesced on one five-acre plot. But don't look for a glorious vision here, or a carefully crafted business plan. Rather, this is the stumbling tale of one family that achieved independent living despite all of the pitfalls and mistakes that can plague the home-based entrepreneur. It means if we can do it, so can you.

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