From Tarzana, California
Memories from the 
Danton Burroughs
Family Album 
MY DIVERSIONS
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Source: The Irwin Porges papers in the McWhorter ERB Memorial Collection ~ University of Louisville
An essay prepared for Metropolitan Books in October 1929
but unpublished until the Burroughs Bulletin Issue No. 53, Winter 2003
When I finished school I brought with me a considerable knowledge of football as it was played in those days, a slight proficiency in the manly art of self defense, a smattering of fencing and a high degree of proficiency in the school of the trooper and in what was then known as "Monkey Drill," which included principally trick riding without saddles.

None of these was essentially a social pastime that might be carried on by the ordinary man during the course of a business career, but of them all riding has probably been my principal diversion all of my life and for a great many years past I have been able to maintain a modest stable of five or ten saddle horses.

In considering one's diversions, it is always natural to suppose the possession of a hobby, but in contemplating my knowledge of men who are real hobby riders, I am inclined to believe that I have no hobby. I find keen interest in an infinite number of things.

Recently I was talking with a physician on the subject of hobbies. He told me that a man's hobby is the thing that he thinks about most, and he added that that does not mean necessarily that it was anything that a man might talk about. If his theory is correct, then I presume that my hobby is one what is common to most men, for I think most about making money; not that I care particularly about money in itself, nor do I care particularly about any power which may be derived from the possession of money. I think about what I can do with money and outside of these things which we all wish to do for our families, our friends and for the less fortunate, my greatest desire for money is that it will permit me to carry out a cherished ambition, which is to own a vast track of land somewhere. . . land on which there are hills and streams and trees and rolling meadows. . . a vast piece of land around which I shall be able to afford to build an unclimbable fence ten feet high. Here I should like to have a comfortable home and a few saddle horses. I would have no telephone and no radio. I should like to have a single gate leading into my grounds and this gate would be fastened with a padlock which could not be picked or broken, and I should have a sign on the gate that would doubtless be both rude and profane, but it would inform the world that I am minding my own business and suggest that it do the same.

So, possibly, inasmuch as I think about this a great deal, this is my hobby.

While I am waiting to achieve my ambition, I have other diversions. Most of them are based upon the necessity for keeping in good physical trim and upon the desire to do so. My brain, or what passes for one, is required to produce certain results that my family and I may not become public charges. I have discovered that whatever it is that I use for this purpose functions better when I am physically fit and that I can do my work more easily and get greater enjoyment out of life. I, therefore, spend a considerable part of my waking time in keeping strong and well and I find that from being more or less a task at first, it has become, at last, a source of real pleasure.

There are a great many systems of physical culture, but there is one that has stood the test of time, one which I have seen in operation for many years and always with beneficial results. This system consists in the old seventeen setting-up exercises of the regular army. These I go through religiously every morning after I arise. To them I have added three others; the principal one consists in raising myself to a sitting position while lying on my back and then lowering my body to a horizontal position again. This I go through many times to preserve my girlish figure.

After breakfast I get on my horse and ride up into the hills. I used to ride always before breakfast, but I have come to the conclusion that exercising after eating helps to keep one's weight down.

As soon as I get inside my own pasture gate I strip to the waist, combining a sun bath with my exercises.

This may sound like a course in physical culture and perhaps it is, but it also constitutes one of my principal diversions, a pastime from which I derive considerable pleasure.

Some thirteen years ago I overcame a hereditary antipathy to the English saddle and took lessons from an instructor here in Los Angeles. I have stock saddles and McClellan saddles, but I have finally discarded them both for the English saddle, which is the only saddle in which a man can comfortably ride a trotting horse and get the maximum benefit. I seldom, if ever, ride at anything but a walk or trot. On trails in the hills I always dismount and lead my horse for awhile in order to get that form of exercise as well.

Walking the trails also permits me to enjoy one of the most interesting chapters in Nature's book of life that is rewritten nightly on her dusty pages by the myriad footprints of the innumerable nocturnal creatures, great and small, which share with me their inalienable rights of possession in the upper pasture.

Seldom have I seen most of these creatures, but I know that they are there -- the tiny kangaroo mouse, the great pack rat, the little red fox, the skunk, the badger, the coon, Mabel the coyote, the wild cat, the deer and the lion -- and always the brush rabbit, the cotton tail and the jack, king snakes, gopher snakes and rattlers, ground squirrels and gophers, and this enumerates, doubtless, but a small part of the vast population, permanent and transient, that plays and works and hunts and loves in the upper pasture, for a great moon  and a million stars come there also to play, as my boys and I know, having often slept there in the open.
After I have finished my day's work at the office I try to get in another couple of hours in the sun. I had an old Packard Twin-Six sedan for a number of years and when I found it desirable to replace it with a later model, my sons and I converted the old sedan into a truck, cutting off the tonneau behind the driver's seat and mounting a dump body on the frame. This gives us a powerful two-ton truck and in the afternoon, whenever I am able to do so, I take this truck back into the hills, sometimes hauling a load of manure from the stables on the way out and then loading the truck up with top soil, or gravel, or flagstones for the return trip. The road up into the hills skirts a golf course. I know that the golfers I see would, if they knew what I was doing, think me crazy. When I compare what I am doing with what they are doing, I think we are even, for at least I am getting as good exercise as they. If all the golf courses of the United States were laid end to end they would reach somewhere, which is, I believe, the correct way to impress statistics upon a reader.
A diversion should be pleasant, both physically and mentally. Physically, golf is a pleasant diversion for me, but mentally it is hell, and from what I glean from the conversations with golfers I think it is equally as bad for most of them. Imagine a pastime that utterly ruins a man's entire holiday if he chances to hook or slice his first drive. Imagine the pleasure of a pastime that impels people to throw the implements of their diversion as far as they are physically able to, or to break them across their knees, or leap up and down upon them while they foam at the mouth and tear their hair.
Up on my sidehill, where I have my flagstone quarry, if something goes wrong with one flagstone my afternoon is not ruined. I merely have to dig up another one and when I roll them down the steep sidehill into the barranca when I load them on the truck, if one of them gets in the rough and I have a bad lie for my next roll, at least I do not have to lose a stroke and my score at the end of the day is unaffected.

Of course, I have no nineteenth hole at the end of my day of diversions, but I do not need one. I have no sorrows to drown.

An English reviewer  stated that I had the mind of a child of six. I hope he is right and if he is, I thank god, for if so it may always be active and interested in many things. It will be interested in simple things, from which, I believe, we derive the truest happiness.

My happiest hours are spent in the upper pasture. Here I am well acquainted with many jackrabbits and cotton tails. I see the same Blue Jays every day and there is a road runner or chaparral cock with whom I am upon very good terms. The road runner is an interesting and beautiful bird and also an extremely timid one, and so familiar has this one become to seeing me on my horse that I can ride up to within a few feet of them, where we stand for a minute in silent communion. I do not know what he thinks of me, but I think that he is a very fine gentleman and that he is much better company than the majority of the so-called human race.

I was on very good terms with a little coyote too, until one of my men shot at him. I have not seen him since, and I am sorry to have lost his company. We would stare at each other for several minutes at a time, and then he would move off slowly, apparently unafraid. I think the animals in the upper pasture know that my boys and I will not hurt them. Occasionally I see a wildcat there, but they are not particularly friendly. In the Spring the deer come down, and last year two jumped the fence into the upper pasture. They seemed almost entirely fearless of us and walked between our horses as we were strung out in a line at intervals of about seventy-five feet, and then there are the quail, hundreds of them -- waiting innocently and trustingly for some damn fool with a shotgun to come along.
These, then, are some of my principal diversions, enjoyable, because, perhaps, my mind is the mind of a child. Each morning that I ride up into the hills I am as keenly eager to see some sign of the wild life there as though I had never seen it before and each animal that I see gives me a real thrill. I cannot explain why. Something tells me that at my time of life I should not find interest in such trivial things, but I am glad that I do.

For indoor diversions I enjoy Chess, Auction Bridge and Contract, none of which I play well, but best of all I like books. I get all the fiction that a man requires by writing it; therefore, I read none, but of all the diversions that there are, perhaps there is nothing equal to a good book.

After re-reading this I am of the opinion that my real diversions and hobbies are those that I have scarcely mentioned, though I read them into every paragraph that I have written. . .  my children. . . Joan, Hulbert and Jack.


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