As a result of virtual interviews on TV newscasts, it has become intriguing to peek inside the interviewee’s home to see what is on their shelves, kitchen table or desk. Sometimes I become more interested in the things they have in their homes than what they have to say. Don’t you wish the interviewer would take some time to ask, “What kind of plant is that? Is that piece of glassware valuable? Did you paint that picture? Why is that framed flag meaningful to you?”

I enjoy seeing the books on the shelves and I make an effort to read some of the titles just to see what they are reading. I am sure all of the things on display have some purpose. How exactly is that little box on your shelf of value to you? What is the story behind it?

Not that you would be too interested but if you were to watch a virtual interview with me sitting at my desk, here’s what you would see. You would first see that I could be better organized. I don’t have enough tables or shelf space to stack papers so they pile up on my desk. When I want to do some serious writing, I need a clean desk. The papers end up on the floor in a box.

My desk is an old golden oak roll top desk that I inherited from my father who purchased it from my uncle for $25 about 40 years ago. It has 14 pigeon holes going across the top, four drawers on one side and a door on the other side hiding more pigeon holes. It has a rolled top that covers the desk should I want to hide the stacks of papers.

My father spent many hours at the desk doing bookkeeping for two businesses as well as spending countless hours doing income tax for people. After working at the bank all day he would spend a couple of evening hours at his desk in our basement just like I spend a couple of evening hours in my office above our garage. I think he would be very pleased that I have put it to good use. He continued to use the desk even into his 90s. I hope to do the same.

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On top of the desk is a blue and white stoneware salt box where I keep pencils, rulers and scissors. Most every kitchen in days gone by had a salt box hanging on the wall or sitting on the counter. If it could talk I know it would have some interesting stories to tell me. In olden days the kitchens were the center of the households.

You would also see a stapler, tape dispenser and an old-fashioned Rolodex. Remember those? I still use it for names and addresses that are not on my cell phone. Every so often I will discard a name or two and wonder who that person was. Many of the names were typed many years ago by my secretary at Red Lake, Missy Cook. You did a good job, Missy.

I have a small book rack containing about a dozen books. All of them are religious books, which I use as references to write a weekly devotional article for our church's online newsletter.

Among those books is a Bible story book that my grandfather used to read after the evening meal whenever my brother and I would stay at his home for supper. My grandmother would clear the dishes and then my grandfather would read. On occasion he would have one of us read. If every family read something after they ate and took turns reading, we could eventually eliminate most reading deficits in our young people plus our families would be stronger.

There is an assortment of pocket knives just laying on top that I use to open mail. One is an advertising knife for Jim Dandy Collars. It goes back to the days when men wore separate starched collars before manufactured collars were made that were sewn directly to the shirt. My great uncle Fred carried this pocket knife for many years. I wish I could ask him when the last time was that he used it and for what purpose. It would be wonderful if we could bring our loved ones back for a few hours to ask them questions we should have asked when they were living.

In the pigeon holes are an assortment of small flashlights, liquid solution to clean my glasses, two notebooks filled with business cards, Post-it Notes, checkbook, 100% graduation flyers and pins, name labels, stamps and bills. I also have a copy of my riddle and brain buster book, which I wrote about 20 year ago. I wrote it so teachers would have a riddle and brain buster for every day of the school year. You can order one by going to my website: I wouldn't leave home without it. When people ask me where I get my riddles, they come out of this book.

For the past 50 years I have tried to keep a diary of things that happen each day. My diary for 2021 is also on my desk. Among other things I write something each day that happened to me for the very first time. Today I will write, “I wrote a column about what’s on my desk.” I have never done this before.

Of course, what also is on my desk is my MacBook Air computer. I use a software called “Pages” to do most of my writing. The first computer I had was an Apple IIc. I thought that it was really something. No more erasing of text, no ribbons, the computer would save what you wrote, you could print things off right from the computer. Wow! How could things get any better?

Oh, and just to keep up with the times, sitting on my desk is a bottle of Germ-X, a liquid sanitizer. I hope I will no longer have any use for it in the not too distant future.

Where are the photos? They are on an old buffet behind the desk.

You can tell a lot about a person by just looking at their desk or what’s on their shelves or kitchen table. Rather than ask people, “What’s in your wallet?” maybe we should ask, “What’s on your desk?”

Riddle: There were eight cookies in the box and eight girls in the room. Each girl took one cookie, yet one cookie remained in the box. How could this be? (Answer: Each girl took a cookie and one of the girls took the box with the cookie.) By the way, it’s not a good idea to have food on your desk.


The high school graduation rate in Minnesota is 83.7%. For Black students it is 69.9% and for American Indian students it is 50.8%. (Source: Bring Me The News.) Enough said. We have lots of work to do.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.