Chapter XVII
Work And Play In Later Years

From "John Burroughs - Boy And Man" (1920)
By Clara Barrus

Two essays especially interesting to young readers were written by Mr. Burroughs at Slabsides in 1899 -- " The Art of Seeing Things," in Leaf and Tendril, and "Wild Life about my Cabin," in Far and Near. That spring, when happy in his woodland cabin, poking about the woods, burning brush, rowing on the Shattega, and nibbling betimes at his pen, there came a disturbing proposition -an invitation to go on the Harriman Alaskan Expedition. With all his curiosity about new lands, he shrank from such a departure from his quiet life, but after debating the question, finally turned the key in the door of Slabsides, journeyed across the States, and, on the last day of May took ship at Seattle for Alaska.

Mr. E. H. Harriman and family were joined on this expedition by about forty well-known scientists and artistsbotanists, geologists, zoologists, ornithologists, and so on. There was John Muir, the Great Ice Chief, Dr. Fernow, the Tree Chief, Dr. Grinnell, the expert on Indians, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, the bird portrait painter, and many others eminent in various fields. Mr. Muir knew so much about glaciers, and so considered them his special property, that he hardly allowed anyone else an opinion concerning them. Perhaps of all the thrilling experiences on that expedition of so many thrills, the chief was that early encounter with the glacier named after their fellow voyager. Approaching its front to within two miles of its crumbling wall of ice, which towered two hundred and fifty feet above them, they dropped anchor near the little cabin where the Great Ice Chief had dwelt some years before when he discovered the glacier. They heard the deafening explosions as enormous masses separated, were submerged, then slowly rose like monsters of the deep, their blue forms gradually emerging from snowy clouds of foam. One day while near the Muir, a half mile of the front detached itself, arising again in floating bergs as blue as sapphires.

They visited greater glaciers later, the greatest of which was the Malaspina, one hundred and fifty square miles in extent, with a fifty-mile front on the sea, and running back thirty miles or more to the Saint Elias Range.

At Port Wells, the extreme northeast arm of Prince Williams Sound, they entered another great ice-chest of glaciers. There were, he said:

    Glaciers to right of them,
    Glaciers to left of them,
    Glaciers in front of them, which
    Volleyed and thundered.

To many of these they gave names-Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Amherst, Radcliffe, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, and Wellesley.

While exploring in the vicinity of the Barry glacier, where a ship had -never gone before, they encountered a mighty obstacle effectually barring their way, later named the Harriman glacier. It was while there that their vessel was caught in a strong ebbing tide, and, hesitating to respond to the helm, seemed for a brief period to be making directly for the lofty wall of ice on their port side; but happily the ship soon came about, and on they sailed merrily.

The Seal Islands, the paradise of Kadiak, the Kadiak bear and cub which Mr. Harriman shot, the woods upholstered ankle-deep with moss, the winsome flowers, these and much else are engagingly described in Far and Near. In the New York Zoological Park and also in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University are totem poles which- they brought back from that expedition.

Of course the bird life in Alaska especially interested Mr. Burroughs. Will he ever forget the humming bird he saw on the Muir glacier, carried by its tiny wings three thousand miles or more? Some birds there were which set him to rhyming-the Oregon robin, the golden crowned sparrow, and the Lapland longspur, the last-named reminding him strongly of his boyhood bobolink:

    On Unalaska's emerald lea,
    On lonely isles in Bering Sea,
    On far Siberia's barren shore,
    On North Alaska's tundra floor,
    At morn, at noon, in pallid night
    We heard thy song, and saw thy flight,
    While I, sighing, could but think
    Of my boyhood's bobolink.

He never tired of watching the albatrosses which followed their ship in effortless flight, or the Arctic terns, as with sickle-like wings they reapt the air. There they saw the little water ouzel, and the golden plover with its soft and plaintive call. The familiar barn swallows in that land without barns, seemed at ease; song sparrows, though nearly as large as catbirds, were much like those of the Catskills.

In Bering Sea, while making its perilous way toward Siberia through night and fog, the George W. Elder suddenly grated on the rocks. She trembled from stem to stem. Terrified, all on board sprang to their feet in mute alarm; but the engines were quickly reversed, a sail was hoisted, the ship's prow soon swung to the right, and they were again afloat.

In speaking of this trip Mr. Burroughs often says that he travelled two hours in Asia, and was tempted to write a book about it, but thought better of it. When we read what he did write of that first glimpse of Asia, "crushed down there on the rim of the world, as though with the weight of her centuries, and her cruel Czar's iniquities," we wish he had not checked his impulse.

Of all the live stock that went aboard the ship at Seattle -steers, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses-nothing remained at the end of the voyage but one dependable cow which had gone with them to Siberia and back, and given milk all the way.

Since 1900 Mr. Burroughs has led a more varied and eventful life than theretofore. His son had entered Harvard two years previously, which in itself took him frequently to Boston, and, the "habit of gadding" once established, frequent jaunts became customary. He entered eagerly into the college life, going with Julian to football and baseball games and rowing contests.

During the hours he spent in the library at Harvard while editing his Songs of Nature, he became inoculated with the germs of the rhyming fever, and made many rhymes himself, the most of which he gathered later into Bird and Bough.

The fall of 1901 was. a memorable one to the writer, in that she then made the pilgrimage to Slabsides which resulted in her friendship and long association with John o' Birds. Mr. Burroughs, then working on the Life of Audubon, for the Beacon Biography series, was finding the work, not self-elected, irksome indeed. It* dragged. Finishing touches on Literary Values were also occupying him. He wanted much to strike work and run away to Jamaica with a friend and his son. At length he did run away, entrusting the writer with some of the mechanical work on those volumes, and with seeing the Audubon through the press. Hence it has come about that of the last twelve volumes which have come from his pen (and of three more nearly ready to see the light), the writer has had the privilege of cooperating with the author, relieving him, by typing, proof-reading, and attention to some of the drudgery connected with bookmaking. Twelve books from the age of thirty to sixtyfour, and fifteen since he has passed the four-and-sixtieth milestone! Dr. Osler's much-quoted dictum as to the comparative uselessness of a man after forty is hardly applicable to Oom John!


The West Settlement pupil taking honorary degree at Yale

The West Settlement pupil taking honorary degree at Yale

Mr. Burroughs has said that when (in February 1902) he went to Jamaica, he lost February and found August. And in his "Lost February," his reader finds that he has, on the whole, little admiration for that land of perpetual summer. In fact, we sometimes find him railing against the barbaric Nature encountered there-Nature without the lure of spring, the repose of autumn, or the sternness of winter! Nature with her spikes and spines, her stings and stabs, her rustling and tattered foliage varnished by sun and tropic heat, her fleas and her sand-ants and mosquitoes, her lairs and her jungles-brilliant, barbaric Princess-too ready with her fangs, too chary of tenderness and charm.

And yet we find him saying a good word for the Blue Mountains, the limpid streams, the morning-glory colours of the Caribbean, the soft, luminous nights with the Southern Cross hanging low on the horizon; and above all for the shy solitaire, or "shine eye" -- a bird seldom seen but often heard, whose melodious and plaintive strain -"a series of tinkling, bell-like notes," with an appealing, flute-like ending -- entirely won his heart.

And barbaric Nature treated him to many a novelty he would not have missed-the flying-fish with their mechanical flight, the curious behaviour of the "shame lady," or sensitive plant, the clownish-looking tody in suit of green and massive yellow beak, the mongoose, the queer-looking East Indian oxen, the nearly black humming bird with the two long plumes in its tail, the lubberly pelicans diving for fish, the giant fireflies, so large the travellers thought their lights to be those of the elusive town they were seeking, and then that strange Cock Pit Country with the rough-hewn rocky bowls hundreds of feet deep and a thousand or more feet across. Nevertheless, on his return to familiar scenes, the robins he heard carolling in the treetops at sundown pleased him better than anything seen or heard in Jamaica.

The bark study and summer house

The bark study and summer house

During the spring of 1902 our author had keen delight in helping his son get out stone for the foundations of his cottage built at Riverby, a few yards to the left of the Bark Study. Then the excitement of discussing the building plans, and the pleasure of watching the house grow, and the joy in the fall when the young couple moved in and set up house-keeping in Love-cote, as the cottage was at first named!

After the Jamaican trip, some winters or parts of winters have been spent in Bermuda, in Washington, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, some on the Pacific Coast, some yachting around Cuba, in the Sialia (The Blue Bird) with Mr. Henry Ford, while some have also been cosily spent in The Nest at Riverby, or in the luxurious simplicity of Yama Farms Inn, in the Shawangunk Mountains.

In 1903, our veteran literary naturalist became disturbed over the growing tendency of certain writers to misrepresent Nature-romancing about her when purporting to give straight natural history. With fiction undisguised as fiction, he had no quarrel, but for fiction disguised as natural history he had 'the utmost scorn, so he put on the gloves, entered the arena, and delivered knockout blows to the traducers of his mistress. The first bout was in an essay in the March Atlantic, in 1903, "Real and Sham Natural History." Many another followed for a year or two, the records of which are mostly to be found in his volume called Ways of Nature. It was all a contention for clear seeing and honest reportingin other words, a demand for a square deal with Nature.

John Burroughs with Theodore Roosevelt in Yellowstone

John Burroughs with Theodore Roosevelt in Yellowstone

Seeing a scrap on between Oom John and those whom he dubbed Nature Fakers, the valiant Roosevelt soon came bounding in the ring, striking out right and left with the Big Stick, belabouring the offenders unmercifully, almost skinning them alive! Their joint efforts laid many an offender low, and many another, convinced that, after all, honesty is the best policy, straightway reformed. In time the belligerents cooled off and shook hands, and nature faking became as a tale that is told.

Back in his ranch days Theodore Roosevelt had written ardent letters of appreciation to Mr. Burroughs about his books, and they had met on various occasions-when Roosevelt was Civil Service Commissioner, when he was Governor, when Ted had been to Slabsides for a day or two, and Ted's father had wanted to go but had been too busy setting right certain places in the political world that were out of joint. But it was not until 1903 that the intimate friendship between these two men, so opposite in type, age, character and training, began. They had one passion in common-love of Nature, though courting the Dame in such diverse ways.

In the spring of 1903, when that Big Boy who was playing the game of being President, and playing it for all he was worth, began to pant for the wilds, he decided to take a vacation, Congress or no Congress, in Yellowstone Park, and asked John Burroughs to take it with him. The yellow newspapers, getting wind of the trip, made much of it, calling it a hunting trip, assuming that the President was going into the Park to kill the elk and moose and caribou. Some of the correspondents of Mr. Burroughs hoped he would rebuke the President by refusing to go with him. A Vermont woman wrote urging him to restrain the Hunter as much as possible, and teach him to love the animals as he did. "She little knew," confessed Mr. Burroughs, "that I myself was cherishing the hope that I might shoot a cougar or a bob cat. But as a matter of fact, the President did not go there to hunt. He did not once fire a gun in the Park."

In each city along the route there was a round of handshaking, dining, and speech-making for the Strenuous One who, though declaring it needed the strength of a bull moose to stand it, seemed to thrive on it, keeping fit as a fiddle all through.

The boy in the President came out continually on this trip, and the elder boy concluded that was why they "took" to each other so readily. Roosevelt's unfeigned delight at the hearty demonstrations along the way was refreshing. And when in St. Paul, as their carriage was slowly creeping along in the crowds, they spied a band of schoolgirls carrying a banner-" The John Burroughs Club "-and a blushing maiden pushed her way to the President's carriage and timidly thrust a bouquet on the lap of Mr. Burroughs, the President was greatly tickled.

On this trip Roosevelt gave the name of Oom John to our friend. Saying that he felt like a hen with one chicken, he lived up to this feeling and scratched around and hovered over his lone charge with kindly care. As for Oom John, being a Slabsider, and not having hobnobbed with presidents before, he was at a loss how to address his host. Should he call him Your Excellency, which they say Washington exacted, or Mr. President, or what? As His Excellency was much averse to that epithet, they compromised on His Transparency-as having at least the merit of accuracy!

One day at luncheon, while passing a little settlement in Dakota, they saw a teacher and her pupils watching eagerly as the train passed. Jumping up, with napkin in hand, the President rushed to the platform and waved to them. "Those children wanted to see the President of the United States," said he, "and I couldn't disappoint them-they may never have another chance."

T. R. bubbled with joy when the former foreman of his Elkhorn Ranch, a cowboy friend, boarded the train and rode with him a ways. He bombarded them with questions, recalled events and people they had long since forgotten, remembering even the names of their dogs and horses. At twilight, as the train entered the Bad Lands of North Dakota, he stood on the rear platform and gazed wistfully on the scene. The Bad Lands, over which he had tramped in all seasons, evidently looked very good to the one-time Rancher.

When they entered Yellowstone Park a fine saddle horse was waiting for the President, but an ambulance drawn by mules for Oom John. Somewhat chagrined at being met by such a vehicle, he nevertheless stepped inside as though accustomed to ambulances. With an escort of officers, soldiers, and cowboys, the President, tickled at leaving reporters and politicians behind, started gaily off, the ambulance following. And it immediately followed at such a lively pace, swaying from side to side, that Oom John, grabbing the seat with both hands, said to himself, " This is a Wild West send-off in dead earnest." Faster and wilder grew the ride. Tossed about, he rubbed his bruises with one hand, and clung to the seat with the other. Presently, looking out, he saw the cowboys scrambling up a bank, and the President on his fine stallion, scrambling up there, too, and looking back fiercely as the ambulance thundered by.

"This is certainly the ride of my life," thought Oom John. " I seem to be given the right of way-we have even sidetracked the President!" On they tore for a mile or more till, on reaching Fort Yellowstone, he learned that the mules, excited by the presidential cavalcade, had been running away, the driver's only course being to keep them in the road till the hill at that point should give them pause.

The Mammoth Springs in the Park were all that they were "cracked up" to be. The columns of vapour, the sulphurous odours, the unearthly beauty of colour - were all things of which Oom John had never seen the like before. In one of the steaming pools, about an acre in extent, they saw a pair of mallard ducks swimming, the ducks moving to the warmer waters as the party came near. At length, the waters getting too hot for them, they took to their wings, else the travellers might have had boiled mallard for dinner. In a certain pool they caught a trout, and without changing their position, cast the fish into another pool and cooked it.

For Mr. Burroughs the novelty of the geyser region soon wore off. He says that steam and hot water are the same the world over, and he hated to see so much of it going to waste. The Growler, he said, was only a boiling tea kettle on a huge scale. Old Faithful was another, with its lid off, and its contents thrown high in the air. In fact, he cares little for Nature in her spectacular moods. I remember how, in the Hawaiian Islands six years later, he tired of the lurid spectacle of Kilauea long before the rest of the party did.

Eventful was every hour in the Park-whether listening to Townsend's solitaire, or to the singing gophers; catching sight of black-tailed deer, or blue grouse; whether meeting with the Duke of Hell-roaring Creek, or treeing the pigmy owl -- a bird not much larger than our bluebird -which the President was as happy to get in range of his opera glasses as though he had bagged some bigger game.

One day while making their way down a valley on horseback, T. R., ahead, saw a band of elk a few hundred yards away. Wheeling to the left, he beckoned Oom John to follow, then tore after them. Now Oom John had not been in a saddle since the President was born, but he followed as fast as he could, over rocks and logs and runs. T. R. would now and then look back and beckon impatiently for him to follow faster, as though saying to himself, "If I had a rope around him, he would come faster than that!" At last, his horse puffing, Oom John came up with the President, tarrying at the brow of the hill; and there, scarce fifty yards away, their heads turned toward their pursuers, their tongues hanging out, stood the panting elk, by their whole bearing seeming to beg for mercy. And there sat the President laughing like a boy, delighted at this near view of the noble creatures, and glad to have Oom John see them with him.

Later in the day, from an elevated plateau, they looked down upon fully three thousand elk at one time. In that sightly spot they dismounted and stretched themselves in the sunshine on the flat rocks. The President had his elk, but around Oom John, if the truth must be told, there skurried tiny chipmunks, half the size of those of his native hills, toward which he was drawn far more than to the horde of noble animals they had come so far to see.

One day at Tower Camp, when Billy Hofer, the guide, shouted that a band of mountain sheep were plunging down a sheer wall of trap rock to the creek to drink, all rushed to see the sight. The President, coat off, and towel on neck, had one side of his face shaved and the other lathered when Billy shouted the news.

"By Jove! I must see that," he cried -- "the shaving can wait," and T. R. ran with the others to the brink where they saw the sure-footed creatures leaping down the rock, loosening stones as they went, pausing on narrow shelves, then plunging down, down, without accident, to the stream.

Their jolliest times were evenings around the fire when Roosevelt talked of his ranch days, of the world of politics, of books, of his travels, of everything under the sun, moon, and stars. Once in a never-to-be-forgotten talk he took his hearers with him up Kettle Hill, recreating the scene for them. They saw the Leader's face blanch, as he confessed it did, when, on looking across an open basin, he realized that they had to charge up that hill. They saw the storm of bullets, they heard the shout, "We'll have to take that hill!" They saw the lines of the Ninth Cavalry part, as their officer in command, waiting for orders, let Roosevelt and his men charge through, their intrepidity causing the coloured troops to swing into the charge also. And, finally, they saw the crest of the hill swarming with Rough Riders and coloured troopers.

One of the jolliest stories that Oom John remembers is of a Rough Rider who once wrote to the President for help and sympathy from a jail in Arizona: "Dear Colonel," the letter ran, " I am in trouble. I shot a lady in the eye, but, dear Colonel, I did not intend to hit the lady -- I was shooting at my wife." And over the tree-tops rang the "dear Colonel's" laughter as he told of it.

The President did not use tobacco in any form, to the delight of Oom John, who so loathes tobacco smoke that, while it is enveloping him, he loathes the smoker also.

Although Roosevelt kept his word about killing big game in the Park, there was one wild creature that fell a victim to the hunter's instinct. As they were riding along in a sleigh one day he suddenly jumped out and, with the help of his sombrero, captured and killed a mouse running over the ground. It was a rare variety. He skinned and prepared the pelt and sent it to the National Museum. Oom John crosses his heart and says this is the only game the Great American Hunter killed while in the Park. A week or two later, in Spokane, this incident gave Oom John a sleepless night, for after having told a crowd of people about the capture of that mouse, he got to worrying for fear a malicious reporter, or a stupid typesetter, might change the u to an o, so quoting him as saying that the President had killed a moose.

Racing with Roosevelt on skis in the Park was attended with mishaps and ignominious plights for both, until they "got the hang of the pesky things." Once, gaily passing T. R., floundering in the snow, Oom John called out something about the Downfall of the Administration, only to come to grief later and hear T. R. call out, "Who is laughing now, Oom John?"

The correspondence of J. B. and T. R., extending over the years, is of value, not only for its natural history interest, but in its portrayal of character, the President turning easily from affairs of State to tell of the arrival of the whitecrowned sparrow on the White House lawn, a purple finch's nest at Sagamore Hill, the identification of the Dominican warbler, or of putting a half-fledged flicker back into its nest -- "What a boiling there was when I dropped it in!" Writing of reluctantly shooting the rare warbler, and sending its skin to the American Museum, T. R. said, "The breeding season was past, and no damage came to the species from shooting the specimen, but I must say I care less and less for mere 'collecting' as I grow older."

One day at Sagamore Hill Roosevelt showed Mr. Burroughs a bird journal which he had kept in Egypt, when a lad of fourteen, and a case of African plovers he had set up at that time. That day they examined the skin of a gray timber wolf, and especially its teeth, barely more than an inch long, and had a good laugh at the idea of such teeth reaching the heart of a caribou through the breast with a snap, as a certain nature writer, over his affidavit, had shortly before reported one to have done. Oom John said he doubted if they could reach the heart of a turkey gobbler in that way; and T. R. said one might as well make an affidavit that a Rocky Mountain pack-rat could throw the diamond hitch. As they discussed this and kindred other impossible statements concerning the wild creatures, one can imagine T. R. fairly snapping his teeth while declaring he would like to skin alive the deliberate perpetrator of such lies. Boys don't mince matters, nor always choose their language with extreme nicety, and this boy, who knew what he was talking about, not only delighted in showing up the nature fakers publicly, but in private also let off steam in such expressions as, "What a pestiferous liar that fellow is!"

The last outing T. R. and Oom John ever had together was down at Pine Knot, a secluded place in the woods of Virginia, about a hundred miles from Washington, where they went to name the birds without a gun.

The night before leaving Washington, at dinner in the White House, one of the guests being an officer in the British army, stationed in India, Oom John was amazed to see the extent of the President's knowledge of Indian affairs, for all the world as though he had been cramming for a Regent Examination on the subject. But the next morning, India, England, and even affairs of the United States were given the cold shoulder, as the bird lovers took an early train for Pine Knot.

The spring migration of warblers being on, Roosevelt was not content to ride the ten miles to the cabin, so both boys jumped from the wagon and began the race of identifying the warblers. The younger boy with his "four eyes," two of which were not first class, kept up with Oom John's sharp eyes, matching a black-poll with a redthroated blue, and a Wilson's black-cap with a pine warbler. After reaching the cabin, they started off on another bird hunt, T. R. walking as if for a wager, through fields and briers and marshes. At last, pausing and mopping their brows, they turned back, having seen few birds.

Mrs. Roosevelt evidently took the Strenuous One to task for rushing their guest about in that fashion, for he came around apologetically later and said, "Oom John, that was not the way to go after the birds-we will do differently tomorrow," and the Saunterer who never makes a dead set at the birds, admitted that he had never gone a-birding just that way before.

On the morrow they named more than seventy-five species of birds, of which Mr. Burroughs knew all but two, and the President all but two, the President having taught J. B. the prairie warbler and Bewick's wren and J.B. having taught him the swamp sparrow and one of the rarer warblers. If T. R. had found Lincoln's sparrow, which he usually found there, he would have gone Oom John one better. They loitered in a weedy field a long time, while the President kept his eye peeled for that sparrow, but the sparrow may have been keeping his eye peeled also, for he never came in sight.

One evening at Pine Knot as they sat around the table reading, Mrs. Roosevelt busy with needlework, Roosevelt occupied with Lord Cromer's book on Egypt, and J. B. deep in the horrible account of the man-eating lions of East Africa (the lions carrying their victims into the bushes, and purring as they crunched their bones), suddenly T. R.'s hand came down, on the table with such a bang that Mrs. Roosevelt fairly jumped from her chair, and J. B. thought a lion had him sure.

"Why, my dear, what is the matter?" asked Mrs. Roosevelt in a slightly nettled tone.

" I got him!" triumphed the Slayer-he had killed a mosquito, expending enough energy almost to have demolished an African lion.

When on the return trip, his secretary boarded the train, the President was soon deep in the dictation of letters and the consideration of many weighty matters-wrens, warblers, and the sparrow he did not find, side-tracked for the business of the Administration.

In Yosemite with John Muir

In Yosemite with John Muir

When in February, 1909, Mrs. A- and I went to the Pacific Coast in company with Mr. Burroughs, and on to the Hawaiian Islands, we considered ourselves two of the luckiest women in the United States. Mr. Muir was to meet Mr. Burroughs in Arizona, and conduct him through the Petrified Forest region, in and around the Grand Canyon, camp on the Mojave Desert, tarry awhile in Southern California, and pilot him through Yosemite Valley.

As usual, Mr. Burroughs hesitated about going, telling himself he might better court Nature from his own doorstep, but the Call of the West won the day.


My friend and I wondered how Mr. Muir would relish two women tagging along, but were assured by Mr. Burroughs that it would be all right so long as we were good listeners!

That night when we got off the train at Adamana, a voice called out from the obscurity:

"Hello, Johnny, are ye there?"

"Yes, Muir, and with two women in my train."

"Only two, Johnny?" Then to us, "In Alaska there was a whole flock of women hovering around him, tucking him up in rugs, bringing him a bird or a flower to name, putting a stool at his feet, and sitting there in rapt admiration to catch the pearls of wisdom which did not fall from his lips -- Oh, two is a very moderate number, I think, Johnny!" And the tall, grizzly, teasing Scot led the way to the little inn. And the next day he led the way across the trackless desert, he and the silent driver in the black sombrero, Mr. Muir talking all the way, the most racy talk I ever heard; talk of lonely wanderings on mountains and glaciers; of his long walk from Wisconsin to the Gulf; of trees and ferns in foreign lands; of his boyhood home in bonny Scotland; talk of storms, earthquakes, avalanches, waterfalls; talk of men and women; of scientists, of poets; of everything under the sun; talk grave and gay, sidesplitting anecdotes one minute, tear-provoking recitals the next. On and on we rode, and on and on he talkedunless, haplessly, some one introduced a question, and then, thrown off the track, the monologist would find difficulty in resuming his theme, and the luckless questioner would be treated to a jibe or a hectoring remark.

Mingling with his racy monologue were the impressions being continually borne in on us of the illimitable, desertlike expanse stretching away on all sides-the gray-green vegetation, an occasional leaping jack rabbit, a band of wild horses flying in the distance, and far, far away the curiously carved pink and lilac and purple mountains.

We lingered for days in those petrified forests where the giant trees, which had swayed in the wind millions of years ago, now lay stretched out for many acres over the sand, or projected from the brilliantly coloured. buttes and mesas. Some of them were one hundred and fifty feet long, and five to seven feet in diameter, straight and tapering, no branching as in the trees of to-day. Many were as though sawed into stove lengths. The sand about was strewn with white, glistening chips. We ate luncheon from one of those prostrate trunks whose beautiful wood had been changed to beautiful stone, and from the fissures picked out specimens of jasper, chalcedony, and agate.

One of the three forests which we visited had been discovered by Mr. Muir and his daughter Helen while riding over those plains some years before.

The morning we reached the Grand Canyon, Mr. Muir preceded us to the rim, and waving his long arm said, "There! empty your heads of all vanity, and look"' In awed silence we gazed upon the great abyss.

Mr. Muir jeered at us for wanting to make that perilous descent into the Canyon on muleback. "Why need you straddle a mule and go down that steep winding icy trail, just to get a few shivers down your backs, when you can see the sublimity and glory here from the top?" Thus he talked, but when, on that mild March day, we did go down Bright Angel trail he, too, straddled a little mule and went down with us, though, save for occasional comments to "Johnny" on the geology of the canyon, his remarks were, for once, few and far between. I think he was only a few degrees less frightened than we were. We ate luncheon four thousand feet below the rim, and looked down another thousand or more upon the Colorado whose hoarse voice we could hear from the Cambrian plateau.

One day while standing at Hopi Point and getting a new and vivid realization of the glory and magnitude of the "Divine Abyss," and of our incalculable privilege, I exclaimed to my friend, " Think of having all this, and John Burroughs and John Muir thrown in!"

"I sometimes wish John Muir was thrown in," retorted J. B., "when he gets between me and the Canyon!"

Mr. Muir told us that when he first saw Yosemite, he and a young man walked most of the way from San Francisco, traversing the great San Joaquin valley, scaling mountains, conquering almost impassable heights and depths, and how when at last they stood and looked down into the chasm, the intrepid youth, who under Muir's guidance had balked at nothing, exclaimed, "Great God! have we got to cross that gulch, too?"

As we drove into the valley from Chinquapin Falls, and first saw mighty El Capitan guarding the entrance, Mr. Muir called out, "How does this compare with the Esopus Valley, Johnny?" But his bantering soon ceased, for in the presence of that beauty and sublimity he became reverently mute. Later he told us that when Emerson was in the Valley, he had said that of all the wonders of the West, Yosemite was the only thing that came up to the brag. The sheer granite walls, over three thousand feet high, topped by majestic trees, the thundering waterfalls, the level grassy floor, the placid river, which on its way thither had been so turbulent-what a never-to-be-forgotten scene!


While in the Valley Mr. Muir told us of his struggle as a lad to get his education. He lived on fifty cents a week while going through college, and jealously counted the crackers and watched in dismay his candles dwindle. "But," said he, "all that ended when I got in the Valley. I was still poor, but there were things here to fatten my soul." He described his glorious Sunday raids on the heights, tracing waterfalls to their sources' eating and drinking beauty and sublimity, and descending the perilous cliffs by night to be on hand Monday mornings for work in the saw-mill.

While we were there he was much exercised over the question of San Francisco levying on the lesser Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy, for its increased water supply. Though unwilling to give up the fight to keep the utilitarians out, he admitted that the desecration might have to come in time, adding, "The Lord himself couldn't keep the Devil out of the first reservation that ever was made."

When we lamented that we must leave without going to Glacier Rock, Mirror Lake, the Mariposa Grove, and so on, Mr. Muir tauntingly said, "Yes, I pottered. around here ten years, and you think you can see it all in four days. You excuse yourselves to God Almighty, who has kept these glories waiting for you, by hurrying away 'I've got to get back to Slabsides,' 'We want to go to Honolulu!"'

It was something of a triumph to get Mr. Burroughs to embark on the Pacific for Hawaii-it seemed so far away from home -- although when there, he lost his heart to the happy isles, the rainbow sea, the "liquid sunshine," the warmhearted people. He liked the look of the childish natives with their leis of flowers; liked the courteous Japanese; the charmed valleys; the weird Hawaiian music; yes, and he liked the sweet-fleshed papayas (melons which grow on trees) and the luscious mangoes. He drew the line, however, at taro and poi -- the latter, which he tried at a native luau (feast) tasted, he said, like sour library paste.

One day a teacher in the public schools, thinking to impress upon her pupils what Mr. Burroughs stood for in literature, gave them a little talk about him and his work, ending, by saying, "And this well-known author is now a guest in our city-you may see him on the street; he has a youthful step and young looking eyes, though his hair and beard are white-"

" I know," piped up a little lad, " I saw him yesterdayhe was in our yard stealing mangoes."

Mr. Burroughs enjoyed the great extinct crater, Haleakala, on Maui, more than he did the great active volcano, Kilauea. He soon tired of that boiling, tumbling, everchanging lake of fire which threw its fountains of molten lava sixty or more feet high.

After six weeks of lotus-eating in those tropic isles, we embarked on the Manchuria, laden with fragrant leis, and with a basket of the beloved mangoes; threw back our leis to the waiting friends on shore (in obedience to the tradition that, so doing, one insures his return to those isles); while the tender strains of Aloha came floating to us, outward bound.

In the winter of 1911, Mr. Burroughs again went to California, Mrs. Burroughs accompanying him. Out of the previous trip grew the essays, "The Divine Abyss," "The Spell of Yosemite," and "Holidays in Hawaii."


  1.  In 1914, when his son moved away, the cottage, rechristened The Nest, became the home of the writer, with whom Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs came to live - (Return)

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