Back in 1963, for the betterment of his children’s education, Dad had purchased an encyclopaedia set from World Book, and had continued to receive yearbooks from them until the early seventies. I discovered this set sometime in my preteen years, when I was still in single digits. I developed a great love for geography and maps, and for cities and population figures, for countries and which ones bordered them, for details about what were the longest rivers and the highest mountains. If anyone wanted to know which city in the United States was the fifth largest in 1963, all they had to do was ask me.
Hardly anyone ever did ask me, though, so I resorted to telling them whether they wanted to know or not. I would regularly pepper any of my siblings within range of hearing with questions about the things I loved.
“Hey, Peggy! Do you know what the capital city of Uganda is?”
“It’s Kampala. Which river do you think is longer, the Fraser river or the McKenzie river?”
“No, the McKenzie is 2500 miles long, and the Fraser is only 1200 miles. Do you know what the deepest lake in the world is?”
“Jamie, how am I supposed to know all this stuff?”
“Well, it’s all there in the World Book encyclopedias!”
I should have been their poster boy…
I do remember a time in grade six when my knowledge left me in good stead. I was not a very popular boy at school; our bathing habits on the farm kept getting in the way of developing relationships, they could only be done at a safe distance. But we were having a team geography game, and four team captains had been selected by the teacher. They were to pick teams. Shannon Willard picked me first overall, the only time I think that ever happened. “It helps to have Encyclopaedia Brown on your geography team,” she reasoned. They used that nickname for me while the game lasted, I assume because I had knowledge (encyclopaedia), and because I failed to wash up much (brown).