At Home With Mr. Burroughs

by Vcare365 - Date: 2010-09-09 - Word Count: 488 Share This!

Youth still peered out at me in spite of his crowning thatch of silvery hair when I first met John Burroughs in 1904. As we walked together on our way to his rustic little house in the woods called "Slabsides," I got the secret that made life ever a new adventure to this aging naturalist, a secret found not in contact with the world and its bustle of new and ever-changing civilization, not with association with other people and their ideas, but rather with the silent communion with the woods and the country and wild life. We crossed the railroad track, and, passing a neighbor's house a little dog ran out, barking a welcome and displaying canine-fashion his eagerness to join our expedition.
Turning off into a side trail, we found ourselves scuffling along among the brown leaves of chestnuts and maples while here and there tall hemlocks waved their soft green boughs, sighing low as a light breeze played among them. Presently we dropped down into a hollow and came upon his house. Mr. Burroughs opened the door, stepped across the rough, creaky board floor to the fireplace, raked out the coals from the ashes and soon had a big fire roaring cheerily on the hearth. He explained as he worked that his evening meal was light; that his wants had been few. He lived simply and needed little.
He warmed some puffed rice in a pan before the fire and we finished with biscuits, sandwiches, crackers and milk. One piece of cake appeared but I was rather backward about accepting it. I thought that Burroughs might want it, and he did. He gave it to the dog, remarking that cake was really better for dogs. After the meal was over, the lights were put out and we sat by the open fire talking of birds, animals, magazines, books and men. He was a good conversationalist, genial, simple and direct as in his writings.
He wrote because he loved it. All he asked of life was to have enough money to live comfortably, travel a little, and still leave most of his time to write. Born in 1837 he had spent his boyhood on a farm and had never lost his keen delight in rural life. It was bred in his bones. However, after ten years of teaching in a country school, he went to Washington as a government clerk and became a national bank examiner. In 1873 the old urge was upon him and he bought a small fruit farm on the Hudson where he afterwards spent his life, chiefly in growing grapes for the market and in philosophizing. His son says of him that he never really knew what it was to work hard and that he admitted himself that he was lazy. He would far rather sit and watch and write about the joys of out-of -doors and farmng than work at the latter.

Related Tags: rural life, open fire, mr burroughs, slabsides, big fire

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