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Liberty Hyde Bailey

Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings

Zachary Michael (Editor) Jack

Publication Year: 2008

Before Wendell Berry and Aldo Leopold, there was the horticulturalist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954). For Wendell Berry, Bailey was a revelation, a symbol of the nature-minded agrarianism Berry himself popularized. For Aldo Leopold, Bailey offered a model of the scholar-essayist-naturalist. In his revolutionary work of eco-theology, The Holy Earth, Bailey challenged the anthropomorphism-the people-centeredness-of a vulnerable world.

A trained scientist writing in the lyrical tradition of Emerson, Burroughs, and Muir, Bailey offered the twentieth century its first exquisitely interdisciplinary biocentric worldview; this Michigan farmer's son defined the intellectual and spiritual foundations of what would become the environmental movement. For nearly a half century, Bailey dominated matters agricultural, environmental, and scientific in the United States. He worked both to improve the lives of rural folk and to preserve the land from which they earned their livelihood. Along the way, he popularized nature study in U.S. classrooms, lobbied successfully for women's rights on and off the farm, and bulwarked Teddy Roosevelt's pioneering conservationism.

Here for the first time is an anthology of Bailey's most important writings suitable for the general and scholarly reader alike. Carefully selected and annotated by Zachary Michael Jack, this book offers a comprehensive introduction to Bailey's celebrated and revolutionary thinking on the urgent environmental, agrarian, educational, and ecospiritual dilemmas of his day and our own. Culled from ten of Bailey's most influential works, these lyrical selections highlight Bailey's contributions to the nature-study and the Country Life movements.

Published on the one-hundredth anniversary of Bailey's groundbreaking report on behalf of the Country Life Commission, Liberty Hyde Bailey: Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings will inspire a new generation of nature writers, environmentalists, and those who share with Bailey a profound understanding of the elegance and power of the natural world and humanity's place within it.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-8


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pp. vii-x

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Editor’s Preface: “ Sower and Seer”: Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings of Liberty Hyde Bailey

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pp. xi-xvi

One hundred years after President Theodore Roosevelt handpicked the foremost agrarian of his era, Liberty Hyde Bailey, to chair a once-in-a-lifetime investigation of rural life known as the Country Life Commission, a Liberty Hyde Bailey resurrection is well underway. ...

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Introducing Sower and Seer, Liberty Hyde Bailey

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pp. 1-38

In fact, the works of Wallace, Leopold, and Berry, arguably the most influential land-use voices of the twentieth century, all evoke Bailey as a seminal influence. For Vice President Henry A. Wallace, whose grandfather, “Uncle Henry” Wallace, served on the Country Life Commission with Bailey, Bailey was a personal hero. ...

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I. Workmanship

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pp. 39-59

Workmanship infuses the six quintessentially agrarian essays that follow: “My Father’s Hoe,” “The Honest Day’s Work,” “Nails,” “From Haying-Time to Radio,” “The Soil,” and “The Daily Fare.” Reminiscent of the essays of John Burroughs and Henry David Thoreau in both sentiment and subject, ...

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My Father’s Hoe

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pp. 40-43

On one side is a fearsome musket that one of my ancestors is said to have captured in the War of the American Revolution. On the stock is crudely punctured the legend, “Samuel Mash, 1777.” The bayonet and its leather sheath are still in place; I shudder to think what horrible traffic that blade may have executed. ...

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The Honest Day’s Work

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pp. 44-48

Yesterday for some time I observed eight working men engaged in removing parts of a structure and loading the pieces on a freight car.2 At no time were more than two of the men making any pretension of working at once, most of the time they were all visiting or watching passers-by, ...

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pp. 49-51

The significance of this situation did not come to me then.4 Probably I had been told by some wise person that a boy’s time was worth money and that nails and such trifles are cheaper than hours; and, besides, the old stick and the big rusty nails probably did not look any too attractive to a hungry boy. ...

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From Haying-Time to Radio

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pp. 52-59

“Haying-time” in that day, fifty years and more ago in what was then called “The West,” was a momentous event.5 Dates were reckoned from it. With house-cleaning in early spring and sheep-shearing later on and hog-killing in the autumn, it was one of the epochs of the year. ...

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pp. 60-63

They would have us believe that mechanical power will be so abundantly distributed and so pleasantly adjusted that the farmer may keep his hands in his pockets and not even drive a horse; for all the tillage will be accomplished by oversight rather than by labor.6 ...

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The Daily Fare

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pp. 64-76

It was more than three centuries ago that native Thomas Tusser, musician, chorister, and farmer, gave to the world his incomparable Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.7 He covered the farm year and the farm work as completely as Virgil had covered it more than fifteen centuries before; ...

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II. Conscience

The number of essays in this section, six, evinces conscience as an overriding motif in Bailey’s personal and scholarly work. Leading off, “The Separate Soul” functions as both a tribute to the independent-minded John Muirs of the world and an expression of Bailey’s hopes and dreams for his retirement from higher education and organizational life. ...

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The Separate Soul

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pp. 79-83

Many times in this journey have we come against the importance of the individual.1 We are to develop the man’s social feeling at the same time that we allow him to remain separate. We are to accomplish certain social results otherwise than by the process of thronging, which is so much a part of the philosophy of this anxious epoch; ...

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The Struggle for Existence: War

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pp. 84-88

We may consider even further, although briefly, the nature of the struggle for existence in its spiritual relation.3 It would be violence to assume a holy earth and a holy production from the earth, if the contest between the creatures seems to violate all that we know as rightness. ...

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The Keeping of the Beautiful Earth

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pp. 89-91

The proper caretaking of the earth lies not alone in maintaining its fertility or in safeguarding its products.4 The lines of beauty that appeal to the eye and the charm that satisfies the five senses are in our keeping. ...

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The Habit of Destruction

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pp. 92-97

We have been greatly engaged in digging up the stored resources, and in destroying vast products of the earth for some small kernel that we can apply to our necessities or add to our enjoyments. We excavate the best of the coal and cast away the remainder; blast the minerals and metals from underneath the crust, and leave the earth raw and sore; ...

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The Country-life Phase of Conservation

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pp. 98-105

Neither conservation nor country life is new except in name and as the subject of an organized movement.7 The end of the original resources has been foreseen from time out of mind, and prophetic books have been written on the subject. The need of a quickened country life has been recognized from the time that cities began to dominate civilization; ...

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The Middleman Question

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pp. 106-109

I recognize the service of the middleman to society.19 I know that the distributor and trader are producers of wealth as well as those who raise the raw materials; but this is no justification for abuses. I know that there are hosts of perfectly honest and dependable middlemen. ...

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III. Education

The four essays that follow condense Liberty Hyde Bailey’s views on natural, scientific, and agricultural education, as they reiterate an essentially agrarian pedagogy favoring experiential learning. The first piece, “The Integument Man,” speaks with humor and empathy to all teachers, ...

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The Integument-Man

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pp. 112-114

I wrote a nature-study leaflet on “How a Squash Plant Gets Out of the Seed.” A botanist wrote me that it was a pity to place such an error of statement before the child: it should have read, “How the Squash Plant Gets Out of the Integument.”1 ...

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The Meaning of the Nature-study Movement

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pp. 115-126

It is one of the marks of the evolution of the race that we are coming more and more into sympathy with the objects of the external world.2 These things are a part of our lives. They are central to our thoughts. The happiest life has the greatest number of points of contact with the world, and it has the deepest feeling and sympathy for everything that is. ...

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The Fundamental Question in American Country Life

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pp. 127-131

How to make country life what it is capable of becoming is the question before us; and while we know that the means is not single or simple, we ought to be able to pick out the first and most fundamental thing that needs now to be done.5 ...

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The Outlook to Nature

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pp. 132-134

So great has been the extension of knowledge, and so many the physical appliances that multiply our capabilities, that we are verily burdened with riches.11 We are so eager to enter all the strange and ambitious avenues that open before us that we overlook that soil at our feet. ...

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IV. Community

In the following five essays, Liberty Hyde Bailey approaches an agrarian’s sense of community from very different angles, though in each case he intimates the time-honored questions: Who are we? and Who are we fighting for? In “The Brotherhood Relation” and “The Neighbor’s Access to the Earth,” ...

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The Brotherhood Relation

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pp. 137-142

A constructive and careful handling of the resources of the earth is impossible except on a basis of large cooperation and of association for mutual welfare.1 The great inventions and discoveries of recent time have extensive social significance. ...

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The Neighbor’s Access to the Earth

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pp. 143-153

When one really feels the response to the native earth, one feels also the obligation and the impulse to share it with the neighbor.4 The earth is not selfish. It is open and free to all. It invites everywhere. The naturist is not selfish—he shares all his joys and discoveries, even to the extent of publishing them. ...

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Country and City

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pp. 154-157

Therefore I preach the open country, because it is natural and without affectation. There is very much in the city that we need, but this is so well accepted that there is no occasion to emphasize it: we need to emphasize the things that are free and that are remote from contention and noise.9 ...

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The Principle of Enmity

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pp. 158-161

The pity of it is that they are sacrificed for the ancient Principle of Enmity or Antagonism. On no other principle or theory could they be sacrificed. They throw away their bodies—bodies that have been nurtured in pain and in hope, that have grown and matured through long watchful years—...

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Democracy, What It Is

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pp. 162-165

Now, therefore, may we see more clearly, the scaffolding having been removed. We behold a structure much simpler, and therefore much more beautiful, than we had conceived.11 ...

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V. Nature

The four essays following roundly consider the succor of nature. While much of Bailey’s writing might be included under the umbrella “nature,” these pieces explicitly address how man may be instructed and inspired by the natural world. In “Ways to Approach Nature,” Bailey recalls the importance of one unplowed pasture from his youth, an “Elysian field” ...

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The Ways to Approach Nature

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pp. 168-171

When a youth, I was told that it was impossible for me to study geology to any purpose, because there were no outcroppings of rocks in my region.1 So I grew up in ignorance of the fact that every little part of the earth’s surface has a history, that there are reasons for sandbanks and for bogs as well as for stratified rocks. ...

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The Forest

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pp. 172-176

“This is the forest primeval.” These are the significant words of the poet in Evangeline.3 Perhaps more than any single utterance they have set the American youth against the background of the forest. ...

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The Spiritual Contact with Nature

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pp. 177-179

A useful contact with the earth places man not as superior to nature but as a superior intelligence working in nature as conscious and therefore as a responsible part in a plan of evolution, which is a continuing creation. It distinguishes the elemental virtues as against the acquired, factitious, and pampered virtues.5 ...

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The Holy Earth, the Statement

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pp. 180-187

So bountiful hath been the earth and so securely have we drawn from it our substance, that we have taken it all for granted as if it were only a gift, and with little care or conscious thought of the consequences of our use of it; nor have we very much considered the essential relation that we bear to it as living parts in the vast creation.6 ...

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VI. Farm

The four essays that follow digest Liberty Hyde Bailey’s views on agriculture and country folk. In the first, “The Democratic Basis in Agriculture,” Bailey explores through an agrarian lens the twin “evils” of monopoly and bureaucracy. In this remarkable essay, published not long after the passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, ...

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The Democratic Basis in Agriculture

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pp. 190-194

For years without number—for years that run into the centuries when men have slaughtered each other on many fields, thinking that they were on the fields of honor, when many awful despotisms have ground men into the dust, the despotisms thinking themselves divine— ...

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The National Movement

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pp. 195-202

The present revival of rural interest is immediately an effort to improve farming; but at bottom it is a desire to stimulate new activity in a more or less stationary phase of civilization.2 We may overexploit the movement, but it is sound at the center. ...

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Women’s Contribution to the Country-life Movement

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pp. 203-207

On the women depend to a greater degree than we realize the nature and extent of the movement for a better country life, wholly aside from their personal influence as members of families.14 Farming is a copartnership business. It is a partnership between a man and a woman. ...

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One Hundred and Twenty-nine Farmers

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pp. 208-215

I received reply from 129 persons, sometimes more than one letter, in thirty-three states and four Canadian provinces, fairly indicating the continent from Maine and New Brunswick to California and British Columbia; all the regions at present much distressed are represented, as well as all the New England states. ...

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VII. Poetics

Liberty Hyde Bailey displays his abundant gifts as literary and cultural critic in the three essays that follow, as he explores, broadly, the poetics of agrarianism and environmentalism. The first essay, “What Literature Can Do for Us” originated as one of four lectures Professor Bailey delivered in January 1905 ...

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What Literature Can Do for Us

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pp. 217-222

Some of us do not enjoy nature because there is not enough sheer excitement in it.1 It has not enough dash and go for this uneasy age; and this is the very reason why we need the solace and resource of nature so much. On looking over the lists of Christmas books, I was surprised to find how often the word “sensation” occurs. ...

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The Threatened Literature

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pp. 223-225

A fear seems to be abroad that the inquisitiveness and exactness of science will deprive literature of imagination and sympathy and will destroy artistic expression; and it is said that we are in danger of losing the devotional element in literature.5 If these apprehensions are well founded, then do we have cause for alarm, ...

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The Tones of Industry

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pp. 226-227

One of the clearest notes of our time is the recognition of the holiness of industry and the attempt to formulate the morals of it.6 We accept this fact indirectly by the modern endeavor to give the laboring man his due. ...

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VIII. Appreciations

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pp. 228-248

This grouping of Liberty Hyde Bailey appreciations bubbles up from the emotive wellspring of soulful agrarianism: gratitude. To begin, “Apple Tree” offers fitting overture for a larger Bailey symphony of grace notes and blessings, as the apple was Bailey’s most enduring botanical passion. ...

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Apple Tree

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pp. 229-230

The wind is snapping in the bamboos, knocking together the resonant canes and weaving the myriad flexile wreaths above them.1 The palm heads rustle with a brisk crinkling music. Great ferns stand in the edge of the forest, and giant arums cling their arms about the trunks of trees and rear their dim jacks-in-the-pulpit far in the branches; ...

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pp. 231-234

It is explained that wind is air in motion.2 So be it; but this does not tell me why the wind brought me the scent of April or roared down my chimney when the storm drove over the hills. ...

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pp. 235-238

This morning the boughs are heavy with rain.3 The herbs are laden to the ground, some of them with their heads caught in the soil. The downpour began before midnight. We were aroused by the wind in the trees and the patter on the roof. ...

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pp. 239-241

They called it a weed, but it was only a thistle.4 If thistles were more useful than wheat, we should call them a crop and the wheat would be a weed. Professor [Isaac Phillips] Roberts used to say that the worst weed in cornfields is corn, by which he meant that corn is customarily planted too thick. ...

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pp. 242-243

Here I hold a peach.5 It is a shapely oblong-spherical body nearly three inches in diameter, pleasant to clasp in the fingers, choice in its fragrance, captivating in its intergrade of tints. I do not know why it came here. I know that last winter a bare tree stood in yonder orchard, giving no sign of any intention but to be a bare tree. ...

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pp. 244-247

Whatever may be the case in the present hour, in my youth every farm boy must have a colt of his own.6 This colt was to be of the driving horse type; the boy would break him and train him and have visions of a red buggy with spindle spokes, and felloes with black lines and bowed thills with stripy ornaments. ...

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pp. 248-249

Uncle Daniel quit when the sun did.7 It was “blasphemous-like” to work in the field after the sun had finished. The sun was Uncle Daniel’s timepiece. He was up with the sun, for that was the beginning of a Lord’s day and one should not waste the Lord’s time in bed. ...

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pp. 250-253

If few of us know evening, still fewer know the morning.8 This is attested by the daylight-saving expedient whereby, by setting the clock ahead, we get ourselves up an hour earlier for a season without shocking our sensibilities. ...

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X. Coda, the Agrarian Way

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pp. 254-274

The Seven Stars—doubtless Liberty Hyde Bailey’s most forgotten title from the Background Books series—is the source of this strange and wonderful essay-cum-allegory entitled “Journey’s End.” The final chapter in this fantastical volume finds the protagonist, Questor, arriving, as the chapter title “Journey’s End” intimates, at the threshold of adulthood. ...

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Journey’s End

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pp. 255-258

At last the letter comes, the more welcome because it is earnestly desired.1 It is a letter of keen comment and suggestive advice. When he met her2 in the early college days he was attracted by her wholesome, unaffected manner, by her familiarity with a few real books, by a certain athletic resilient habit, by her dislike of personal publicity, ...


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pp. 259-261

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About the Editor

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p. 282-282

Zachary Michael Jack, fourth-generation Iowa farmer’s son and great-grandson of the farm conservation writer Walter Thomas Jack, is the author or editor of many books, including several previous collections on rural life: ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780801458835
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801447099

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1