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The "Fellowship of the Speckled Axe" started way back in 1988. My friends, Mike Shimniok and Suzy Buchroeder, and I wanted to put something together where we could discuss the books we were reading with each other. We were inspired by The Junto formed by Benjamin Franklin, which he discusses in his autobiography (The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin). We also wanted something that would keep us in touch after the college years. It has worked. The group discusses literature, movies and social issues through correspondence.

The number of members varies from year to year, but I’m happy to say that the club is still going well in its 10th year! Mike and I started binding the letters by year back in 1994. The first Speckie Annual was created by the end of 1995. We thought it would be a good reference for the members to see what type of discussions we’ve had about specific titles in the past.

The name, Fellowship of the Speckled Axe, came from a story that Benjamin Franklin tells in his autobiography. When he was a young man in his early twenties, he set himself to be perfect. He decided to obey all the commandments and live a pure life. Well, I’ll just let you read his own telling of the story:

"It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. (p.75) "This article, therefore cost me so much painful attention and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax from a smith, my neighbor, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turned while the smith pressed the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on and at length would take his ax as it was, without further grinding. No, said the smith, turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by and by; as yet, it is only speckled. Yes, says the man, but I think I like a speckled ax best. And I believe this may have been the case with many who, having, for want of some such means as I employed, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue, have given up the struggle, and concluded that a speckled ax was best…" (p.82, The Autobiography of Ben Franklin; Bantam Books, 1982.)

Suzy thought the title might be a clear reminder of our humble beginnings. The story inspired the group to strive for what enjoyment the club could offer instead of what perfection we might want the club to achieve. It has kept us in line ever since.

Since there has been dozens of letters since 1988, I will just share a choice few letters of my own. If you're interested in hearing more about the club, send me an e-mail:

As always, I hope you keep feeding your brain with book food!

PAUL11 - Master of the World - Verne, Book of Vampires - Wright, Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior - Millman, Seize the Day - Bellow, Japanese Death Poems, Night Winds - Wagner

PAUL12 - The Book of Laughter and Forgetting - Kundera, Anthem - Rand, The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet - Hoff, The Pigman - Zindel

PAUL13 - Five Patients - Crichton

PAUL18 - The Merry Wives of Windsor -Shakespeare, Coyote Waits - Hillerman, Gilgamesh the King - Silverberg, Epic of Gilgamesh

PAUL28 - The Bone People - Hulme, Amazing Grace - Kozal, The Gift of Acabar - Mundino and Kaye, leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun - Roberts