Mother's childhood was always very close to her and she had a tremendous memory for detail. She made the people and events of rural California at the turn of the century as real to me as were those of my own childhood in the 1930s. So i came by my storytelling instincts honestly but, as soon became apparent, their acquisition was all that was honest about them. It wasn't exactly that I was a liar. I don't think i told any more of the usual lies of childhood-those meant to get you out of trouble or get someone else into it-than most children. It was just that when I had something to tell I had an irresistible urge to make it worth telling, and without the rich and rather lengthy past that my parents had to draw on, i was forced to rely on the one commodity. Sometimes when I began an account of something I had heard or witnessed my mother would sigh deeply and say, "Just tell.
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A farmer who had tried photography and teaching and who loved poetry, he writer doted on Dessa, his youngest daughter, and effectively discouraged her early suitors. She became a schoolteacher, attending ucla when it was still Los Angeles Normal School, and devoted herself to teaching and to her father. His death when she was in her early thirties left her rudderless and she suffered what she later referred to as employment a nervous breakdown. On recovering she returned to work and was teaching in Yorba linda, california when she met my father. It was a romance right out of Zane Grey-the bachelor rancher meets the lonely schoolteacher. My parents were living in Lemoore, california when my older sister, Elisabeth, and I were born, my father having accepted what he thought of as a temporary job until he could get back to ranching. But the depression deepened and, to support his growing family, he continued at a job he hated. It was after he was transferred to ventura, california that my younger sister, ruth, was born. Like my father, my mother was a storyteller. Like his, her stories were true accounts of past events.
Fearing that someday old Washboard would tackle a cliff he couldn't handle-"the only horse that ever scared me spitless my father would say-he chickened out and sold him to a gullible passerby; just as innumerable owners had surely done before. It was not until my father was in his forties and the owner the of a small horse ranch in wyoming that he was contacted by his father. Warmly received by his father's second family in California, he decided to relocate there. And it was there that he met Dessa jepson, a thirty-five-year-old spinster schoolteacher, a cousin of his stepmother. The jepsons were quakers. They had lived for many generations in maine, the first Jepson arriving there in 1720, but in the 1870s several branches of the family moved west. My mother was born in California, the youngest of six children. Several years younger than her nearest sibling, she was born when her parents were middle-aged, and on the death of her mother she became her father's housekeeper and companion. I never knew my grandfather, Isaiah Clarkson Jepson, but he must have been a complicated and determined man.
Putting my father and his two younger brothers in an orphanage, my grandfather went to california, promising to send for the boys as soon as he was able. But for some reason the summons to a new life never came. The orphanage, losing patience, allowed the two younger boys to be adopted. But by then my father was too old to interest adoptive parents, and old enough to be of temporary interest to various people, some of them relatives of his mother, roles who needed an extra ranch hand. Forced to do a man's work at the age of eight, often beaten, punished by being sent out mittenless in freezing weather so that his frozen hands very nearly had to be amputated, he survived to become a gentle man with crooked hands, who loved. As a young man he worked as a cowboy, in the days when many ranges were still unfenced; and in later years he told wonderful stories about broncobusting, roundups and stampedes and, above all-horses. He sometimes said that he might forget a man but never a horse, and I'm sure it was true. As a child i knew all his horses through his stories including Old Washboard who had an iron mouth and a penchant for hunting wild horses and who, on spotting a herd of wild ones, took off, completely ignoring the desires of his helpless rider.
Hurlbut's Story of the bible. My favorites were the ones whose lives included episodes that played well, such as noah, daniel and Jonah. Jonah, in particular, was a role that adapted well when one had, as i often did, tonsillitis. Being forced to stay in bed was less of a handicap when the scene being enacted took place in a whale's stomach. But something should be said about the real people who were an important part of those early years. My father, william Solon keatley, was a tall slow-moving man, the memory of whose kindness, patient devotion and unfailing sense of humor is, to me, proof that it is possible to surmount the effects of an appalling childhood. The first child of John William keatley, a young Englishman who immigrated to America in the 1870's, and Zilpha johnson, his Nebraskan bride, my father's first few years of life were happy ones. But when he was five years old his mother died.
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Although they really frightened me, i don't think i would have wanted to be talked out of them. They were my demons and we had a working relationship. Books and reading must have had a beginning somewhere but it is beyond memory. I seemed to have been born reading. Actually my mother claimed I taught myself after eavesdropping on lessons she was giving my older sister. Then one day when she was sick and I was four years old, i offered to read to her. When I proceeded to do so, she thought I had memorized the book until she began to ask me individual words.
Later when I became, briefly, a kind of neighborhood oddity-i had not yet been to school and I could read the newspaper and was sometimes called into neighbors' homes help to demonstrate to skeptical guests-my mother claimed to have had nothing to do with. Actually i think she used two methods which are almost certain to produce an early reader. First of all, she read to us-a lot. And then, when I tried to horn in on my sister's reading lessons, she told me i was too young-a challenge that no self-respecting four-year-old is going to take iying down. Of course the games and the reading merged. Little Orphan Annie and the demons were soon joined by the likes of heidi, dorothy and. Dolittle, not to mention some of the more intriguing characters I met in the pages of a very fat book called.
Among my earliest acquaintances were cows, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats and, a little later on, horses. I can recall in some detail the day we acquired a collie puppy and a young kitten. I was three years old. The kitten was nominally mine and from the mysterious depths of a three-year-old's mind I produced a name-maryland. I can remember some of the ensuing argument-no one else thought it was a sensible name-but I can't remember the reason for my choice.
Neither the kitten nor I had ever been to maryland, nor had either of us, as far as i know, ancestors from there. But Maryland she was, and she and her offspring play a prominent part in many of my early memories. And then there were games. Some were secret, some less so, and most of them grew out of a compulsion to endow everything animal, vegetable and mineral with human characteristics. I suspect that all very young children are naturally given to anthropomorphism, but with me it must have been almost a full-time occupation. Not only animals, but also trees, plants, toys, and many other inanimate objects had personalities, and sometimes complicated life histories. Often these creatures seemed to have been in need of a helping hand. I built leafy shelters for homeless insects, doctored demons, most of whom haunted closets and the dark corners of rooms.
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There will always be miracle-Gro. My autobiography, autobiography, when I look back yardage to the beginning, at least as far back as memory will take me, i see most vividly animals and games and books. People are there, too, my mother and father and older sister, but in those earliest memories they are much less distinct. I don't know what this says about my priorities at the time, but there. There were lots of animals. Although my father worked for Shell Oil, he had grown up on cattle ranches, and by dream and desire he was always a rancher. So we lived in the country where he had room for a garden and as many animals as possible.night
Smith owns Mulligans book store in ukiah. There are rumors that Hawken, ever the entrepreneur, has his mind on the garden tool business again. I hope thats. In some ways, the awakening of the gardener in many of us may be related in some way to those misty black and white photos taken in the marin fog. Smith hawken validated gardening as a hip pursuit. Id love to see what Hawken might do with another opportunity to fill the needs of serious gardeners for quality garden tools. Smith hawken is dead. Long live smith hawken. And if deadly Im ever in the market for an easily-dissolved form of plant crack, i know Ill never go wanting.
jeavons, to import and market. I recently thought of jeavons, hawken, and Smith as I perused the discount coupon display on my local s h counter promoting the benefits of Miracle-Gro to keep that lawn clean green. What a crushing irony that Smith hawken, Scotts latest acquisition, should become leverage to cross-market all manner of grow kill in the soft summer rain. I knew it would be the last time i visited the store. The founding principle had been lost. Though my lifetime guarantee is probably now moot, and Im likely to die holding the damn thing, Smith hawken no longer carried the spade i bought so long ago. They carried nothing like. And now that Smith hawken is shutting down, the lock is now on the door that closed some time ago for. According the marin Independent journal, hawken threw a party on Wednesday night to celebrate the closure.
A floundering Smith hawken was purchased in 1993 for 15 million by a firm best known for marketing the. NordicTrack and The nature biography company. The line expanded to include chintzy table linens and wine bottle totes, and at about that time, i opted out of the catalog subscription. The soul was gone. The newly capitalized company moved on to open 25 retail stores throughout the country. And the company went through several changes in ownership and management, finally landing in the portfolio of Scotts, makers of Miracle-Gro. Hawken started a software company and became a highly sought-after environmental expert and speaker.
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Co-founder, paul Hawken, (indeed, there is a smith) imbued the catalog with a new gardening persona, making organic gardening a hip to be square hippie pastime—still a waft of patchouli, to be sure, but still refined, mysterious, and sexy. Every tool, every garden clog, every piece of gorgeous, pricey teak furniture came to represent for me a vision of organic garden glam, magnified by the sumptuous photography of pretty people getting dirty and having fun doing. Hawken, a superb writer, honed his craft on the garden porn that sold thousands of tools, trugs, and boots. Moving beyond languid descriptions of soft afternoons spent thinning the lettuces in a pair of perfect essay garden clogs, he soon published. Growing a business, a practical and inspirational guide to expanding a lifestyle empire of ones own. Sporting my canvas gardeners pants with the insertable knee pad pockets I drew inspiration from this bible of eco-entrepreneurialism and dreamt of ways to make gardening my career. As Hawken pursued his true calling as an green visionary—beginning with the publication of, the, ecology of Commerce —the company continued to grow, but profits slagged due in part to an overly optimistic focus on the clothing line. Like me, gardeners were practical types who liked to muck up only a couple of sets of drawstring ripstop Japanese farmer pants at a time.