A crowd of more than 80 packed Southland Books on Feb. 28 to honor a man who traveled around the world but always found his way back to Blount County.
“Ole Bert” is a biography of Bert Garner, a conservationist who traveled extensively, enjoyed the Great Smoky Mountains and was thought of as a philosopher “more Thoreau than David Thoreau.” The book was written in the late 1970s by the late Woody Brinegar, a Blount County businessman who knew Garner. Out-of-print for years, the book was recently reprinted by 27/37 Publishing. A portion of proceeds from the reprinting is being donated to the Foothills Land Conservancy.
Southland Books owner Lisa Misosky was pleased with the turnout for the Saturday afternoon event. “We lost count after 80,” she said.
Brinegar’s daughters, Barbara Burgess and Lisa Slagle, were on hand, as was Barbara Jarrett, who was Misosky’s English teacher at Maryville High School and the sister of Brinegar’s wife, Libby Brinegar.
Misosky said Jarrett helped facilitate the reprinting of the book.
“ ‘Ole Bert’ is one of those books we wanted to do and didn’t see a way to do it because of the copyright. In exchange for donating a portion of proceeds to Land Conservancy, they let us do it,” said Misosky, who is owner with Andy Lombardo of 27/37 Publishing.
Traffic was brisk the day of the event. “It went great. We sold out in 15 minutes and donated a chunk of money to the Foothills Land Conservancy, and we’re getting ready to donate another chunk,” Misosky said. “We sold out for the second run and have a third batch on order.”
Misosky said Brinegar did a small-scale production when he published the book detailing Garner’s life. “Not many people had access to the work, and it was as secret underground work,” Misosky said. “A local doctor ran off 10 or 12 copies for his book club after Woody’s first run and was kind enough to share an original copy he got from Woody. It had its original inscription.”
Misosky published the book through 27/37 Publishing, a company she and Andy Lombardo started. She said the reprint is a way of giving back to the community. “By doing ‘Ole Bert,’ you can keep his spirit and memory alive. And we are donating a portion of proceeds to an organization he would’ve approved of,” she said. “He was probably a conservationist before it was cool to be a conservationist.”
Misosky shared a Brinegar quote that one of his daughters gave to the Southland Book’s owner during the reception for the reprinting of the book.
“We must treat the land for what it is, Mother Earth and the ‘fountain of life.’ We must protect it from those, including ourselves, who have and will violate and destroy it. Should we fail in this task, we fail ourselves and those who follow us. We pass on polluted, depleted, stripped, raped land and impoverished people.”