Harmon O. Parsons[et. al.]
[Rough draft of letter to Los Angeles Scholars]
Harmon 0. Parsons,
2707 Hobart Block,
cor. 24th St. & Western Ave., 24th St. School.
1812 W. 24th St., Los Angeles.
Marie Wattron & Harmon Parsons.
Dear scholars four:
Your good and kind letters to me were written [while] I was in Australia, and when I got home and read them none of the big pile on my desk pleased me more.
The fine new schoolhouse you so well describe, set on [a] breezy hill, fanned by the breezes before they reach the city, and in sight of the mountains, brings to mind the two schools I attended when a boy in Scotland. They were still nearer the sea. One of them stood so near that at high tide on stormy days the waves seemed to be playing tag on our playground wall, running up the sandy shore and perhaps just touching the base of the wall and running back, but sometimes in wild storms the tops of the waves came flying over the wall into the playground, while the finer spray carried on the wild roaring flood drenched the school-house itself and washed it fresh and clean. These great roaring storms were glorious sights, but we were taught to pity the poor sailors, for many ships were driven ashore on the stormy coast almost every year, and many sailors drowned. From the highest part of the playground we could see the ships sailing past, and often tried to guess whence they came, where they were bound for, and what they were carrying, and judging their depth in the water, how many tons they had aboard. Most of us had ships of our own, carefully, laboriously whittled out of single blocks of wood, and rigged as schooners, barks, sloops, ships, etc.
"I was so young when I first went to school" he wrote, "that I cannot remember the first days. I had a little primer that cost (4)(cts.) in a green bag swung around my neck with a tape string. We had to study hard and were thrashed hard. Our teachers said that thrashing and irritating the skin excited the memory, and I suppose it did, for by the time we were (10) or (ll) years old we had committed whole books to memory -- English, French and Latin grammars and the New Testament, and besides had learned to endure pain with Indian fortitude and take our sorest memory thrashings without flinching or making faces.
But in spite of a' that and a' that, we were very happy and healthy, had many fine merry games, and on Saturdays often ran 20 or 30 miles without stopping or getting out of breath. Our only trouble in these long outlandish runs was an occasional stitch in the side, and I remember once the story went round that sucking a raw egg or two would cure this trouble, and at first opportunity we tried the slobbery cure, and started on a 20 m[ile] race to see if it was true, but were disgusted to find it was not.
I wish I could tell you stories of my trip, but a big book would not hold them all. I visited the parks and gardens and picture galleries of Europe, the great towns and fields of Russia, the beautiful shores of the Black Sea, the grand mountains and forests and glaciers of the Caucasus, the crowded forests of the Ural Mountains. [Thence I traveled] across Siberia and Manchuria to the Amur, Vladivostok, etc. Thence to India, Japan, Shanghai, HongKong. Thence to Egypt. Thence to Ceylon's balmy, palmy isle, Australia, [and] Hew Zealand. Thence home by Port Darien, Manila, China, Japan, and Honolulu.
I feel proud of the honor you did me on your Arbor Day of reading from one of my books, and in particular in dedicating [the] redwood tree to me.03410
[Rough draft of letter to Los Angeles scholars, June, 1904, continued]
2The redwood grows taller than any other tree in the world. In Australia I visited the forests where the Eucalyptus grows tallest - three stories h[igh] - the tallest I could find were about 250 feet high. I measured one near Scotia in Hurn Co. that was 340 feet high, and some may be nearly 400 feet in height. The botanists and tree-lovers I met assured me that as far as known no tree in Australia exceeded 300 feet in height.
[Rough draft of letter marked "To Prof. Butler and Los Angeles Scholars" -letter to Los Angeles Scholars on back of same sheet of paper].
[ca 20 Jul 1904]
Dear David Butler,
My Yosemite magnet and guide:
In all my eventful life, now growing long, no psychological X-ray has proved so positive and strong as that shot from you when you entered Yosemite 35 years ago, which,as you well know. suddenly awakened me from contemplation of the scenery on the top of N[orth] Dome, and pulled me down to you over rocks and brush by a way I knew not.
This has always been to me a prime marvel. But I do not marvel that you still walk the earth. For with tough inherited strength and temperance, however hard you have worked and however often you have had to wipe hot sweat from your brow, as you were doing when I found you at Liberty Cap Rock, your work has been not the killing but the preserving kind, while your soul has always soared high in the clean healthy sky.
And how blest you have been with wife and children - strange that none of the children has yet set foot in Cal[ifornia]. How well I remember James and Anna and little Henry, and Agnes also, though I didn't come to know her until she was in full girl bloom, reading Greek. Give my love to them all.
I got home about a month and a half ago from a long crooked trip around the world. In a camp in a silver fir grove near the brink of the south Yosemite wall just opposite N[orth] Dome I asked the President if he remembered the fine prophetic send-off you gave him, introducing him to an audience in Madison: "Mr. R., not of Mass. nor of N.Y. nor of Dakota, but of the U.S." He said he remembered it very well, and seemed gladly interested. Then I told him the story of our faithful correspondence and how I found you in the Valley long eventful years ago.
May you live a full century at least, bearing the years lightly, like a noble Sequoia, in serene beauty and strength. So with respect, admiration and love prays
Original letter dimensions: 32 x 18 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to Harmon O. Parsons[et. al.], [1904 Jul 17]." (1904). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2833.
Reel 14, Image 0404
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Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters