Wherever people are from, if they stand at all in awe of the Creation, they are likely to refer to their own neck of the woods as "God's Country." This is not so much conceit as it is a simple statement of truth. For if God created all, then all is, indeed, God's Country.
To a lesser degree, some regions of this world are sometimes referred to by the names of more bantam beings. During the Peanut Presidency, a short-lived TV sitcom described the South as "Carter Country." A more compact section of the South may be known as something like "Cajun Country." Walt Disney made a short feature several years ago titled "Bear Country." Signs inside the gymnasiums of high schools might attempt to intimidate opponents by proclaiming "You're in Tiger Country," or whatever the local mascot happens to be.
So, from God's Country on down, the term "country" is often used to apply to an area that is associated with a particular people, individual or theme.
Where, then, is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country?
Is it the environs of Tarzana, California, the town which Burroughs founded and nurtured so many years? Could it be Chicago, where he was born and spent his formative years and began his professional writing career? Might it be the jungles of Africa, where Tarzan roams, or the dead sea bottoms of Mars, where green Martians astride thoats ride in search of adventure? Could it be Arizona, where Burroughs rode with the 7th Cavalry, or the headwaters of the Little Colorado in that same state, where John Carter regaled his nephew with stories of Barsoom?
All of these areas, and more could well be dubbed "Edgar Rice Burroughs Country."
I had the pleasure of visiting a portion of Edgar Rice Burroughs Country on my summer vacation. In this particular case, Edgar Rice Burroughs Country is made up of the states of Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. While it may be obvious in the case of Idaho why it can be referred to as Edgar Rice Burroughs Country, what about the other places? As I began my trip through these areas this summer, I did not think of myself as being about to travel through Edgar Rice Burroughs Country, but as I went along, I realized that was exactly where I was. This is why:
The Evergreen State is deserving of the ERB appellation for no other reason than that it is my home, and I am an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. It is in my Centralia, Wash., home that I have my collection of ERB books and related memorabilia, and where I sometimes have the pleasure of entertaining Burroughs fans from (so far) other parts of Washington, British Columbia and California.
Washington is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country
For the past three years, the rest of this year and, I imagine, for at least another year after that, Washington is the home of the Official Editor of ERB APA (Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association). I did that work for two and a half years and my friend, Alan Hanson, of Spokane, is now in his first term as editor and running (unchallenged most likely) for a second. I know there are other Burroughs fans in this state, too, and I can hope to meet them someday. Our knowledge of each other's existence will only strengthen our claim to be part of Edgar Rice Burroughs Country.
I don't know if Burroughs ever set foot in the Treasure State, but his aura is there nonetheless.
Montana is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country
When I planned my summer vacation around the fact that the Edgar Rice Burroughs Chain of Friendship (ECOF) gathering was to take place in Denver, Colorado, I originally figured on heading south and crossing over to Colorado through lower Idaho and Wyoming. But when a nephew called up to tell me he had moved to Red Lodge, Montana, and was planning to be married there on the first weekend of my vacation, I decided to head that way instead.
Even then, I didn't plan on visiting the Little Bighorn Memorial Battlefield, 54 miles south of Billings, until my mother -- who had been there -- suggested it.
She also told me that some distant relatives operated the store and post office at the small town of Garry Owen, near the battlefields. Garry Owen took its name from the theme song of the 7th Cavalry, the unit which rode into history at the Little Bighorn. My mother indicated that these distant relatives were, in fact, so distant that they might even act a little distant if I stopped in their store to introduce myself.
And so, I ended up at the Little Bighorn Battlefield later in the day, after my nephew was officially married.
This is the type of place I believe Alan Hanson would enjoy. Alan once wrote an ERBapa series called "The Burroughs Battles," in which he detailed the various engagements which Burroughs wrote of. As Alan opened his series in ERBapa 5, he said, "There is something sublime about walking the ground of an old battlefield."
Alan said he was speaking thus mainly in reference to the old battlefields where men fought hand to hand rather than at arrow or rifle range. But although those two weapons were in use as Little Big Horn, there was no doubt some of the eyeball-to-eyeball stuff as well.
I had never knowingly visited a real battlefield before, and there is a certain mystique about it. As a National Park Service-managed area, there were interpretive displays, a museum, charts, lectures, etc., all over the place, so it was easy to find one's way about.
The five-mile-long field of battle is sporadically sprinkled with small white tombstones at the spot where each cavalryman fell and was originally buried, though all bodies have since been moved, some to other cemeteries and the rest to a mass grave near the battlefield entrance.
Once can stand on a small hill and look down a few feet to where Custer and the bulk of his command died; one can picture the Indians coming up the hill on foot and circling around behind it on their ponies. Further back, one sees the broad plain and river, where hundreds of teepees stood that day and where Interstate 90 stretches now.
But why is this Edgar Rice Burroughs Country?
One reason is that Burroughs himself later wrote about Indians vs. cavalry, although the scene was the Southwest rather than Montana. And Burroughs presented the Indians in a more sympathetic light, just as modern analyses of the Little Big Horn tragedy tend to paint the Indians as more victims than villains.
I don't pretend to understand Little Big Horn. The Park Service book shop stocks dozens of volumes, examining what happened from all points of view and prejudices. I chose one recent book, Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell, as one that looks like it is a pretty balanced treatment. My other purchase was a Park Service book detailing what happened, not necessarily why it happened.
The other reason that this became, for me, Edgar Rice Burroughs Country was that Burroughs himself became a member of the 7th Cavalry. But no glory attended his enlistment; it was lackluster and without distinction, and served at a faraway "boring" outpost in Arizona, not Montana.
Yet, as a member of such a unit, young Ed was no doubt familiar with the legacy of the outfit, just as recruits in boot camp today are instilled with military tradition and history and learn to recite facts about great battles and heroes upon command.
As well read and knowledgeable about the world around him as Edgar Rice Burroughs was, I imagine that he knew quite a bit about Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Did it influence any of his tales of cavalry and Indians on this planet or in disguise on other planets? And I've often wondered if Burroughs took the name of an ill-fated 7th Cavalry commander and applied it to a later hero. Historians say Custer always thought he would be president some day. Well, a later Burroughs hero named Custer did not become a president, but did become a king.
We drove from the battlefield as dusk settled, through the gate and down the road past all the Indian teepees where modern day entrepreneurs sell genuine Indian souvenirs and turquoise jewelry to the tourists. We hit Interstate 90 and continued south and, because we wanted to make Sheridan, Wyoming, in time to get a motel, we didn't take the Garry Owen exit to see my distant relatives.
But I smiled as I drove by.
Colorado has the same distinction that Washington has: Edgar Rice Burroughs fans live here. And this summer, there were more of them in the state than usual as they gathered for the annual ECOF meeting at Denver's Oxford Hotel.
Colorado is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country
This was just the second Burroughs gathering I have attended. The first, in Tarzana, California, in 1989, was packed with people and special activities. The one in Colorado was different, perhaps a lot like the earlier ECOF events that I had only read about in fanzines. Just a few people came to this one, but about half of them were members of ERBapa. It was a good opportunity to visit individuals longer and get to know them better.
One illustration of this is the fact that I met Laurence Dunn of South Croydon, Surrey, England at ECOF '89. Later, when Laurence wrote to me as O.E. of ERBapa to purchase some copies, I wrote back and told him that I remembered meeting him. But Laurence just couldn't remember meeting me!
So, three years later I and my wife walked into the Oxford Hotel and I spotted Laurence just as my wife started asking him directions. "Wait a minute," I said. "I know this guy."
Laurence looked a bit taken aback at this stranger who claimed to know him. But puzzlement turned to smiles a moment later as I told him my name.
This time we had a good visit and we'll both remember each other.
Laurence wrote me the other day and said, "At last I can say that we have definitely met -- and that this time I can remember it! When your wife asked me directions . . . as we stood on top of the stairs, and you said that you knew me, but I didn't know you, I felt certain that you had confused me with somebody else! After all, I had only just arrived in the States myself -- who could possibly know me in Denver?
"Anyway, it was good to see you and have a chance to chat this time around -- so much better than a lost handshake somewhere along the line!"
While in Denver, we spent two great evenings visiting with Roy and Dela White and appreciating their collection, which lines the walls of their basement Burroughs room.
We had met Roy and Dela at Tarzana and gotten along well with them, so we made sure to look them up when we arrived in Denver. Roy and Dela have been doing some serious collecting the past few years and their efforts have paid off in the acquisition of lots of great books and plenty of related things, including toys, posters, and collectibles too varied and numerous to list.
It was a good chance to meet some ERBapa members for the first time. At last I made the acquaintance of Bob Hyde, a senior member of the APA and of ERB fandom at large as well, and I shook hands for the first time with new ERBapa members David Robbins of Berthoud, Colorado, and George Alonso of Minden, Nebraska.
John McQuigan hosted the event this year and took the occasion to hand out copies of the latest issue of Tarzine to any there who were subscribers. Other APA members present were Mike Conran, Bill Ross, Ken Webber, Alan Hanson and honorary member Danton Burroughs.
Bob Hyde was honored with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor well deserved.
Wyoming is one of several western states, the mention of whose name immediately brings to mind a picture of the Old West, cowboys, Indians, and so forth. There are towns like Cheyenne, named for the Indian tribe, and towns like Sheridan, named for the men who fought the Indians. Cheyenne was also a TV western, as was Laramie.
Wyoming is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country
John Colter, Buffalo Bill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid all rode here.
And the state is a geological playground, from Yellowstone and Old Faithful in the west to Devil's Tower -- a feature made famous in the film "Close Encounters" -- in the east.
Its entire population, 450,000, is less than that of some major U.S. cities. Wyoming has so few people, according to one of its residents, Gene Gressley, that "You don't talk to somebody about someone else because you're probably talking to their cousin."
One of the 450,000, Gene Gressley enjoyed reading Edgar Rice Burroughs books as a lad and also appreciated the screen characterization of Johnny Weissmuller. Thanks to Gene, the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs will always be a part of the University of Wyoming department of special collections.
Peggy Martin by part of the U of W Collection
Gene Gressley at the Coe Library
John Hanks with ERB editions from the U of W ERB Collection
Gressley served for many years as director of the University's American Heritage Center, which is responsible for the gathering and housing of the special collections; today, he serves as an all-university professor, not limited by any one department but free to do research and teaching and to do fund-raising for his projects. Currently, he is writing a history of the Rocky Mountain petroleum industry.
It was a 25-year-old Gressley who showed up to work as archivist for the university in 1956, when the Laramie-based institution had an archive and research section which featured 284 collections of various kinds.
Today, this university boasts an inventory of 13,000 collections and is recognized as one of the largest university archives in the country.
Gressley himself is largely responsible for the buildup of the collections, though he would point to such UW officials as John T. Fey, Bill Carlson and George "Duke" Humphrey as providing the administrative support and encouragement necessary for providing the wherewithal to acquire the collections.
Gressley it was, though, who did the legwork, traveling the country and communicating to others his infectious enthusiasm for preserving their life work through the University of Wyoming.
Mr. Gressley is a salesman, and a successful salesman must have enthusiasm for what he is selling and he must enjoy being around people; that definition fits him. When I telephoned Gene Gressley out of the blue from Centralia to tell him I was heading his way and would like to drop in to see the Burroughs collection, he immediately invited me to lunch.
Peggy and I arrived in Laramie at the appointed hour and, without too much trouble, tracked Gene down on the UW campus. He drove us several blocks to a nice restaurant where I enjoyed a delicious chicken salad (can't remember what Gene and my wife ate).
While we ate, Gene talked about the world of collecting and I hastily scribbled notes.
The ERB collection is not the centerpiece of the Wyoming library. The first main thrust of Gene's collecting efforts was in oil drilling and mining papers. The collections also include quite a bit of Western Americana, including manuscripts, notes and personal papers of novelists Owen Wister (The Virginian), William MacLeod Raine, Allan Colt MacDonald, Mary O'Hara (My Friend Flicka), Jack Schafer (Shane) and at least 180 others.
Then there's Tim McCoy's gold- and silver-inlaid presentation saddle (donated by Duncan Renaldo); the original screenplay of Robert Block's Psycho, and the complete radio scripts of of the Duffy's Tavern radio shows.
More? You'll find Jack Benny's papers and integral elements of the Dean Martin and George Gobel shows, alongside the country's largest collection of big band and film music.
Actually, describing the collection in just a few words is an impossibility. Subjects include livestock history, economic geology, railroading, aviation, journalism, western art, politics, and revisionist history of the world wars.
The stated purpose of the center is "To collect, preserve, organize and disseminate our western and American heritage in eight major areas of acquisition," and those areas include, in addition to those aforementioned, rare books.
"We're trying to collect for the future," says Gene. "One cannot know what will be useful. A lot of the material that we have collected at Wyoming will end up being worthless." However, he added, "There is going to be a lot of it, which is referred to now as 'dross,' that I bet will be extremely useful."
Gene believes in old fashioned legwork to accomplish the task of collecting. "Personal contact is the only way to build a collection," he said. "You can't do it with letters. You have to visit donors personally, to establish a personal relationship and direct them in deciding what to donate.
"In one sense, I'm offering immortality. It's important to get an agreement with people during their lives and then direct the collection of materials. Families make poor archivists. The widow or children can't imagine that anyone would be interested in 'all those old papers'."
With a collection as large as that of the University's, not everything is within easy reach. Some of the material is readily accessible at the Coe Library, but other is stored at the warehouse a few blocks away. Nonetheless, it is all easily found and can be brought from the warehouse to the library, on request, in about half an hour.
And it isn't necessary to be some greybeard doing a massive research paper in order to gain access to the collections. Even a "John Martin" from Lewis County, Washington, who just wanted to "look at" the collection, was afforded every courtesy.
The Burroughs collection at Wyoming is in two parts. Half of it was donated by William A. Bailey of California. It was Bailey's donation that was in storage, and they would have been happy to go get it and unpack it for me if I'd wanted. I decided to content myself, however, with just looking at the books which were readily accessible in the locked library room across the hall from the office of John Hanks, assistant archivist.
I did get an idea what is in the Bailey portion, though. I was shown a file folder which contains a list of the books therein. The list included the book title and date. For instance, there was one copy of Tarzan and the Golden Lion with the date of 1923 inside, and two copies with the date of 1924.
The publishers of the books weren't listed, and as Burroughs bibliophiles know, the date inside a book isn't always indicative of which edition it is or when it was published. Many reprint editions contain just the original copyright date, even though they may have come out 20 or 30 years later.
So, are the books in the Bailey collection firsts or reprints, and do they have dust jackets? It would have been interesting to know, but I'll leave that for the next Burroughs fan to find out! I did count a total of about 90 books, and that included duplicates of several titles.
After making some notes off the list of the Bailey collection, Hanks escorted us into the library where he showed us the other part of the Burroughs collection. I didn't make a list, but it seems like just about every Burroughs title was represented here. Most were reprints, but very nice reprints with either original dust jackets or, in some cases, photocopies. There were a few firsts, including the true first of John Carter of Mars with Giant on the cloth cover, and a Canadian first of Tarzan of the Apes.
The Canadian first is described in A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs by Henry Hardy Heins and Heins' description seems to differ somewhat from this book. Heins describes the book as having A.C. McClurg on the spine, "McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart" on the title page, and a W.F. Hall imprint in Old English type. The Laramie copy had the first two distinctions but I could not find a Hall imprint at all, Old English type or otherwise.
The Wyoming collection is there to be used. If they can find Burroughs books no place else, researchers will always be able to have access to them at Wyoming. While the collection seems to be near complete as far as Burroughs titles are concerned, it is weak in associated material such as comments on Burroughs books by his fans. These take the form of articles in Burroughs fanzines, of which the University has next to none. Anyone wishing to donate books or fanzines or other ERB material to the library would certainly find interest from Gressley or from the Coe Library staff. Gressley's address at the University is:
Box 3943 ~ University Station ~ Laramie, Wyoming, 82071 USA
Yet another reason that Wyoming is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country is the existence of Yellowstone National Park. Our visit with Gene Gressley actually took place prior to our time at the ECOF in Denver, but we passed through the Equality State again on our way home from Denver and this time we made a detour to take a seep through Yellowstone National Park.
Actually, I didn't want to go to Yellowstone because our car was acting up and, even though we planned to spend several days in Idaho, I preferred to be always heading in the direction of home rather than take side trips.
But after my wife had tolerated every Burroughs-type thing I had wanted to do, I found it hard to come up with a good reason why we couldn't do this one thing she wanted to do, and so we turned north for the park we'd only seen on TV or read articles about.
We didn't stay long -- less than a day -- but at least we could say we'd been there. We stopped long enough to watch Old Faithful go off, and then drove out the west entrance and into the town of West Yellowstone.
On the trip out, we passed an area which was, essentially, a river of fire.
We'll go back some day to further explore Yellowstone but in this brief glimpse I did get another glimmer of Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of the staples of many of his stories was the "lost land" concept. He invented places like Pal-ul-don and Caspak, lands untouched by time, where strange creatures and strange phenomena were to be found. The fact that such lands can exist is amply demonstrated by the existence of Yellowstone National Park, which obviously gathers together in one place such unusual features as to provide a vivid contrast to the surrounding areas. If Burroughs had invented a land such as Yellowstone, critics would probably have sneered. Yet, here it is.
It was also noteworthy in recent months to read of discovery of a lost land in Vietnam, where some strange and heretofore unknown species of animals were discovered. So score a couple for Burroughs in the lost land department.
Idaho is Edgar Rice Burroughs Country. . .
Continued in Part II and Part III
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS COUNTRY
ERB, Inc. & ERBzine References:
Tarzan of the Apes: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Encyclopedia
Tarzan of the Apes: 1918 Film
Edgar Rice Burroughs Bio Timeline
ERB's Personal Library
ERBzine Silver Screen
Minidoka 937th Earl of One Mile Series M.
An Historical Fairy Tale: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Prindle's ERB, Religion and Evolution series
ERB Genealogical Notes
Major George T. Burroughs
ERBzine 2199: Ragtime Talking Eddie Burroughs:
Another Look At Minidoka by R.E. Prindle
ERBzine 0303: Nkima's Chattering From The Shoulder:
"The Wizards of California: Baum & Burroughs"
Burroughs Sweetser Connection Part I
Burroughs Sweetser Connection Part II
Edgar Rice Burroughs Country by John Martin
Part I | Part II | Part III
Jeddak of the North visits Megadoka
(A Ratnaz Parody)
Gloria Draper Sweetser Collection
Irwin Porges: The Man Who Created Tarzan
The Burroughs Bulletin No. 19 article by Phil Burger
Assorted ERB Fan Club, Fanzine and Website Materials
ERB the Contactee: UFO Info.com
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2008/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.