Cowpoke News in Bijou, Montana. Named after a theater somewhere, Bijou doesn't have a ten-plex or even a one-plex. Bijou does however have a huge library, rivaling many a large city, which was built thanks to a local rancher, Bill Bunch.
Bunch left Bijou ten million dollars to build and maintain a library. Rancher, bookworm, and local nut Bill Bunch had a two thousand acre ranch and profitable cattle business. Where all the cash came from remains a mystery and Bunch ain't telling, mostly because he is dead.
The story however isn't about Bunch and his crazy family but rather how he influenced the locals to read. What happened later is the isolation of rural Montana, cold winters, and nothing to do but chase escaped steers. Sometime in the fifties, Bunch's hay day, a reading group was formed that met often and read profusely. By the late sixties and early seventies a number of college grads actually returned to Bijou to learn the family business. Needless to say the fun loving college kids returned with high hopes and a lot of drugs - Marijuana, LSD, peyote, etc.
A small number of the retuning next generation mixed book club with their recreational drugs that ended up a cultish book group by the nineties and book thieves in 2008. The more 'devout' returnees became hardnosed hard drinking ranchers.
The Bunch library opened its doors in 2008 and was the pride of the town. Bijou residents still had to drive forty miles for pizza, and sixty miles for American Chinese, but they could read the New York Times until ten at night. By early 2009 books began to disappear and they weren't even checked out. In retrospect it must have been an inside job. By January of this year over seven thousand books were missing and the ranching community wasn't talking.
The Bunch family had an idea where the books were going and who was responsible but there was no evidence. The Bunches decided to take action in a unique way by motivating others to solve the problem. The Bunches weren't interested in court justice but just to get the books back to the Bunch Library.
The 'Booze for Books' program was started in late February where alcohol was offered for the return of books, no questions asked. The hardnosed ranchers motivated by a fifth of Jim Beam for twenty books began pressuring the Book Cult to disclose the whereabouts of their secret book collection. The cache of books is still hidden but the ranchers who know of the cult members are retrieving books on a regular basis. At gunpoint, fist, or threat of exposure the hardnosed ranchers are able to persuade the thieves to cough up twenty books at a time.
The 'Booze for Books' is a success. Ideally the Bunches were hoping to get all the books at once but they are happy enough to gradually get the Bunch Library restocked. The book cult is relieved that they are not in jail. The hardnosed ranchers are happy with free booze. All are delighted that the sheriff or lawyers were not involved and that western justice prevailed.