Jul. 22, 2002

One Home

by William Stafford

MONDAY, 22 JULY 2002
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Poem: "One Home," by William Stafford from Stories That Could Be True (Harper & Row).

One Home

Mine was a Midwest home-you can keep your world.
Plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.
We sang hymns in the house; the roof was near God.

The light bulb that hung in the pantry made a wan light,
but we could read by it the names of preserves-
outside, the buffalo grass, and the wind in the night.

A wildcat sprang at Grandpa on the Fourth of July
when he was cutting plum bushes for fuel,
before Indians pulled the West over the edge of the sky.

To anyone who looked at us we said, "My friend";
liking the cut of a thought, we could say "Hello."
(But plain black hats rode the thoughts that made our code.)

The sun was over our town; it was like a blade.
Kicking cottonwood leaves we ran toward storms.
Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.

It's the birthday of American novelist Thomas Eugene Robbins, born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, in 1936, a town he later described as "a Dogpatch town whose economic backbone was picking up empty beer bottles for returns." He interrupted his college career after two years at Washington and Lee University in Virginia to try his hand at supporting himself as a poet in Greenwich Village and, when that didn't work, with a stint in the U.S. Air Force. His first novel was Another Roadside Attraction, published in 1971. Other best selling novels followed: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, and Jitterbug Perfume. Tom Robbins, who said: "You know, religion is organized spirituality. But there's an inherent contradiction there, because the moment you try to organize spirituality, you destroy its essence. So religion is spirituality in which the spiritual has been killed."

It's the birthday of American author and columnist Amy Vanderbilt, born in New York City in 1908, cousin of the wealthy Vanderbilt family. She began in journalism at the age of 16 by writing society and feature articles for the Staten Island Advance. She continued as a columnist through the 1930s but her big break came when she was approached by editors at Doubleday to write a book about etiquette. Four years of writing and research yielded the 700-page Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette in 1952. It sold millions of copies and established her as the foremost authority on the subject. Amy Vanderbilt, who said: "I hate big parties. I like simplicity in people and in entertaining. I have met all kinds of people; I like to talk to and hear them talk. I have no use for people who exhibit manners."

It is the birthday of American poet, novelist, and short-story writer Steven Vincent Benét, born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1898. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929 for his book-length narrative poem about the Civil War, John Brown's Body. His story The Devil and Daniel Webster was rewritten as a play, as a musical, and as a screenplay for the movie All That Money Can Buy.

It's the birthday of the American realist painter Edward Hopper, born in Nyack, New York, in 1882. He worked as a book illustrator until he was in his 40s, when he painted his first famous painting The House by the Railroad. In 1930, his painting called Early Sunday Morning, depicting a deserted row of shops bathed in early morning light, was the most expensive purchase the Whitney museum had made up to that time. Edward Hopper, who said: "The man's the work. Something doesn't come out of nothing."

It's the birthday of the children's author Margery Williams Bianco, born Margery Williams in London in 1881. She is best known for her book The Velveteen Rabbit.

It is the birthday of the Moravian natural scientist and meteorologist Johann Gregor Mendel, born in Czechoslovakia in 1822. From 1856 to 1863, he performed experiments on 28,000 edible pea plants. From his observations, he developed his theory of inheritance, including the notion of recombination of genes, which became the basis of the modern science of genetics.

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