Wolfe, Linnie Marsh
Excerpt letter from Helen Muir to Linnie Marsh Wolfe - 2/26/43 PAPA'S STUDY: There was one picture taken of Papa at his desk, (the flat top one he used for writing set in the north windows) -(-Bote: This desk was given to Yosemite toy Thos. R. Hanna, and later returned to Muir house, jhc) The roll top was used only for pictures, specimens, odds and ends he had picked up on his trips, and the drawers for photographs and note books.) with some of his hook cases ia the background. It was taken by a local photographer about 1897, I think. KELEH & WAMDA MEET PAPA; From the time I could run, I guess, I always went down the walk from the house to the packing house at the foot of the hill, when I saw Papa start up toward the house. This was when I was under five years, living in the house on the "upper ranch". There used to be a concrete walk from the house down through a long grape arbor to the packing house. Wanda and I would watch for Papa to start up the walk, then down we ran into his arms. After we moved to the big house on the hill, after Grandpa Strentzel's death, we always watched for Papa coming in his buggy from town, and ran as far as the creek bridge, to climb in the buggy and ride up the driveway with him, except on wet rainy nights, of course, when we listened eagerly for his step on the front porch and threw open the door for him. It was on such a night that after I had my kiss, he told me to put my hand into his overcoat pocket and "find something" -~ a little terrier puppy, Tawny. Excerpt letter from Helen Muir to Linnie Marsh Wolfe - 2/26/43 Helen & Wanda Meet Papa - Continued After the Santa Fe was completed through our place, with Muir station, of course Papa always went to the city on one of the local trains, and then I always walked to the station with him and met him in the evening. Sometimes I met him with the horse and buggy, and dear old Keenie sitting up in the seat with me, much interested in everything. Papa always brought us something. While Wanda was at home it was usually a big box of candy for us to share, or cookies or bananas. After she left for Miss Head's School in Berkeley and later the University, it was candy and fruit or books for Mama and me. . . . and all the while I lived at Adamana I had reminders of his thoughtfulness, for whenever he was at Martinez he sent us from Goldberg, Bowen's in San Francisco, box after box of what he called "Odds and ends", goodies of every sort that he could think of that I might like. Canned meats and sardines and olives and various crackers and cookies and orange marmalade (from Dundee, Scotland) and dried fruits and nuts and candy and bar chocolate. Sometimes a box of oranges or apples, or fresh pineapples and fresh coconuts. . . From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 "My Stickeen" He was a fine Collie dog, given to me when he was about 4 months old by a family friend named Elliot, who had a ranch in Franklin Canyon and raised fine Collie dogs. The name Stickeen was given him because it seemed a nice thing to hand it on to another dog of our's, but we never called him the full name in every day life, it was too hard to call, so Stickeen was shortened down to Keenie and we always called him that. He was a wonderful dog, truly noble, brave and true. There were other dogs before these, but Tawny and Keenie were the outstanding ones in my life. Papa was very fond of Keenie and did his best to comfort him when I was away, and spoke of him in many of his letters. DANCES: I can remember only one neighborhood dance Papa took me to. It was at the Elliot ranch, where Keenie was born. A neighborhood get- to-gether and the dance floor was built out under some great old shade trees. It was in the late summer of 1906, soon after I returned from my year at Adamana. Papa seldom attended such affairs, but for some reason he decided to go. He stood back and talked with the older people while I danced and talked with friends I had not seen for over a year. No, Papa never danced. He had no objection to Wanda and I learning to dance, and Mama engaged a girl dance teacher to come to our home and Wanda and I learned in the big parlor to dance the two step and waltz and polka. (This was about '98 or '99. We learned to two-step to the music of "Dewey's Victory" march Later while Wanda was at the University at Berkeley she took me down for dances at the Gamma Phi house, or would send for me and I would go From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 Dances - Continued to Berkeley alone. Neither Papa nor Mama approved of us going to the public dances in Martinez. We never went to any evening entertainment there. Papa often danced a jig for us when we were little girls and he showed us how the Highland Fling was danced tho I don't imagine he showed us all its steps, just the general idea. He also imitated the Highlanders' bagpipes, very well too, as I realized many years later when I heard the real ones. WALKS IN THE HILLS: The walks in the hills are among my happiest childhood memories, . . . he often laughed heartily, but never loudly. . . Our walks were always happy and often gay times. In the spring we had the wild flowers to enjoy and study too, for lessons in botony were part of the walks. We often chose our walks according to the plants we wanted to see, for some hillsides were blue with brodeas or larkspur, some rocky slope was gay with red Indian paint brushes, some open glade was knee-deep in buttercups. And we knew cool, damp dells under the laurels where maidenhair fern grew beside a little spring. We loved them all. And the buckeye balls that were just starting a baby tree, two or three inches high, from their brown shells, acorns that had lain in the damp leaf mold til life was sitrring within them - what interesting lessons these were for growing children. From Helen to IMS - 2/26/43 Walks in the Hills - Continued Our dog always went with us and enjoyed the walks as much as we did. How he ran through the woods, chasing the squirrels into their holes, sometimes stirring up a cottontail or a bob cat. OTHER LESSONS: Both Wanda and I from the time we could read, were given daily lessons to commit to memory. First such easy poems as Shelly's "Cloud", Scott's Lady of the Lake (I can still remember Mother quoting this - jhc) or rather selections from the latter, Tennyson's Claribel, Lillian, The Owl, The Lady of Shalott, parts of Locksley Hall. Later selections from Shakespeare's plays, and selections from the Bible, many of the Psalms, and poems of Keats, Milton, Longfellow and Burns. His belief was that these beautiful words learned at an early age were literally stored in our minds, to be drawn on and enjoyed all through life. (Turn to page 30 in vol I of Dr. Bade's Life and Letters for Papa's own words in regard to these lessons). Neither Wanda nor I attended public school til we went to High School. Wanda attended Miss Head's School in Berkeley and then went on to the University. There was no High School in or near Martinez until 1902, and I entered it that fall at its beginning. As I was then 16 years old I felt I must hurry so tried to cover the four year course in two years. There were no school buses in those days and I usually rode the two miles on horseback, sometimes in a buggy. . . . Our first real schooling began when Miss Katherine Graydon came to our home and taught us, just how long I don't remember, but it must have been from 1891 to '92 or part of '93. She was a teacher and we had regular school books in use at that time. For more about Miss Graydon I again refer you to the Life and Letters, vol. 2, page 126) From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 OTHER LESSONS: - Continued After Miss Graydon left us we had another teacher, Miss Edith Blaisdell. She lived in Martinez, but part of the time she boarded with us, returning home weekends, and part of the time riding back and forth on her saddle pony so she could help her mother evenings at home. I think she took Wanda up to the sixth or seventh - me to the 4th or 5th - grade. When she had to leave us on account of death in her family and the care of an invalid brother, Wanda gave me daily spelling, reading, history, for about a year. Of course English was easy as I knew by heart so many things from the best writers, and I read in all my spare evening time. The memorized lessons recited at Papa's arm chair continued til I was fifteen. I don't remember how old Wanda was when she gave up the lessons from Papa. After that 1 chose selections from the poets myself and learned them...... PRAYERS AND RELIGION: Papa had both Wanda and me learn the Lord's Prayer, but he did not teach us to pray. Our mother did, however, and I am sure Papa approved tho I cannot remember anything in particular said about it. Mama taught us the little children's prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep" and I know I then added my own personal requests before saying amen. Whenever Papa was away on one of his trips Mama would come to my bedside after I was settled in bed and whisper, "Pray that God watches over dear Papa and brings him safely home to us". I am not sure how Papa felt about a personal God. We never discussed it, but I feel in my own mind his conception of God was as a universal power or force governing the universe. The laws of nature were only another way of saying the laws of God, or something very like that I once heard him tell some writer who had been questioning him. This From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 Prayers and Religion - Continued This, of course, was during his later years, for I am sure he had very different views toward God in his younger days. But it seems to me he must have felt his God in the mountains, glaciers, forests, all the out of doors he loved, for surely he worshiped them and through them he worshipped all nature, God's works. BREAKFAST HABITS: He was always an early riser. His best work was done in the morning. After he had had his coffee, 2 soft-boiled eggs with French bread and butter. Everything was set out ready for him the night before, and he prepared the coffee and eggs himself. After writing til about 10 o'clock he would come downstairs for his "second breakfast" - hot oatmeal (Mother always toasted the Quaker Oats in the oven before making the mush) and he enjoyed this flavor. With it he liked cream and a little sugar. At this time of the day Papa and Mama always talked over whatever he was working on at the time - perhaps he would read to her something he had just written and ask her opinion, or discuss some plan he had for a future book or series of articles, or plans for a trip. Or he would read her a letter from a friend they were both fond of, or if guests were coming they discussed meeting trains, etc. It was a happy, relaxed time for Papa. For several years we had a San Francisco paper thrown from the mail car of a Santa Fe eastbound train that passed about 11 o'clock. I usually (after I dropped out of high school) rode out to the viaduct on my horse and picked the paper up. When I was not there the old Chinaman, Sun, walked over and got it. Then Papa read the paper til about lunch time. At noon a simple lunch, then back to write until he became fagged From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 Breakfast Habits - Continued sometime about the middle of the afternoon. Then came our happy walk in the hills, unless his sister, Margaret was not well, in that case he went to her and spent a visit with her the time we usually spent in the hills. Often our hill walks ended up with a short visit to Aunt Margaret. She looked forward to these daily visits right up to the time of her death, and when he wrote me where she passed away he said it was a comfort to him to know that his presence at her bedside seemed to sooth and comfot her during her last days. They were very dear to each other. I always sensed they were closer than the other sisters and brothers were, tho he loved them all. But with his brothers after they were all grown men there was never the understanding between them there was with his sisters, especially Aunt Margaret. Aunt Sarah Galloway lived with us about one year, I think, part of 1901 and 1902. She was very sweet. (I think I remember her as a very old woman and visited her in Pacific Grove when I was a small child. Also Aunt Ett lived down there. jhc) MAMA'S DEATH: . . . finally my doctor advised a stay in the desert for awhile. Papa decided Palm Springs would be a good place to go first, and later after a rest there we were to go on to Wilcox, Arizona. Through his friend J. D. Hooker, in Los Angeles, Papa had a letter to Mr. William Hooker, J.D.'s brother, who had a big cattle ranch twenty miles south of Wilcox. (William Hooker was the "Don Pedro" Papa wrote of as helping us in our great trouble.) For when we arrived at Wilcox there was a telegram waiting for us from our Martinez doctor saying Mama was From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 Mama's Death - Continued seriously ill and for us to return home. It was decided that Wanda was to return on the next train, and Papa and I would go out to the ranch for one day. We then returned to Martinez. Mama had been in poor health for years, but was up and about tho living quietly and never going out. But all the troubles she had had for years finally reached a crisis now. . . . After reaching home my trouble grew steadily worse. I was losing weight and coughing badly, so it was decided to again send me to a dry climate. As neither Papa nor Wanda could leave Mama to go with me, and some older person had to go, Miss Safford was at last reluctantly chosen. (Note: She had spent pages telling how selfish Miss S. was on a trip to the mountains. She had been one of their teachers, jhc) . . . That leave taking from my mother was a terrible thing for both of us. She knew as well as I that we would never see each other again . . . A few days later Papa joined me at Adamana (Ariz.) I saw him coming from the station and went to meet him. He just took me in his arms. Later we took a walk away from the house and he told me about everything. Still later Wanda came and Papa returned home to pick up the loose ends in his broken life. 1. Palm Springs: Then a very quiet place, a few cottages and small old fashioned hotel run and owned by an old Scotch doctor and his wife, Dr. Murry. When we got there we found Mr. Lukins and Mrs. Gaunt ? Grant ? (then Mrs. Jones) and they were with us the three weeks we were at Palm Springs and camped in San Andreas Canyon. It was during this stay Mrs. Jones first met Mr. Gaut and soon afterwards married him. We had met him in 1901 on the trip to Tuolumne Meadows with Dr. Miriam and his From Helen to LMW - 2/26/43 Mama's Death - Continued 1. Palm Springs Note continued family. That was our first Sierra trip. Papa took Wanda and me and a sorority sister of Wanda's Grace Foulds (Armbruster, Reno, Nev) jhc Mr. Gant was one of Dr. Merriam's biological collectors on that trip and later was at Palm Springs to trap small mamals, chipmonks and rabbits, when Mrs. Jones met him and they fell in love. SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE: (Jim Donohue was apparently a guide who took JM out to Petrified Forest) ... In early April we set up a tent in the Bad Lands, and Jim had a team and light wagon there to take us all over the forest and save time coming and going from Adamana. We spent two weeks there. An unusually hard sand storm came so it was impossible to do much study, so Jim went over to Adamana for the mail, and Papa and I were in the tent, our blankets around us and half hurried in drifted sand, he writing up his notes and I reading, when Jim returned with mail and a San Francisco newspaper telling of the earthquake and fire. That was the first we knew of it. A week later we received a letter from Wanda telling of the damage to our house. Somehow it seemed very unreal away out there among the red buttes. After our camp in the forest Papa returned to Martinez and set the old Chinaman to cleaning up the fallen plaster and chimney bricks. During this upset time May and Arthur Coleman offered Papa their home until ours was repaired and liveable again. They also offered it to Wanda to be married in and she accepted their offer. Her wedding was 6/20/06,
[San Bernardino, Calif.]
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Muir, Helen, "Reminiscence of John Muir by Muir, Helen Excerpt" (2021). Reminiscences about John Muir. 30.