The research into doing the cabin in which Tarzan was born was as fascinating as anything I've ever done. I read all the books in which the cabin is mentioned, researched references to the Africa of that period and talked with a delightful old man who was well-versed in woodcraft and history, telling him of my plan. I wanted to know if Burroughs' hero, John Clayton, really would have been able to construct such a cabin as the author described. According to the book, contrary to the beliefs of many readers, Clayton's cabin was not totally primitive. Burroughs describes in painstaking detail the many ways in which Clayton attempted to make it a civilized abode for his poor wife, even to smoothing and plastering the inner wall. (I learned that a strong man with a sharp axe could smooth the inner walls of a large cabin in one week without difficulty.)
HOME OF TARZAN OF THE APES
By Bobbie Rucker
Miniature-making has been a big part of my life for many wonderful years.
I began construction of my miniature furniture by building little packing crates from rough wood, stenciling the name of the ship "Fuwalda" on some of them and then making them apart to make into a bed, table and other furnishings.
The Claytons had set out from England with a great deal of equipment since they expected to be in Africa for a couple of years, and the mutineers who stranded them on the unfriendly African shore left them all their possessions. I included a toolbox filled with tiny tools appropriate to the period. I made mattresses and pillows for the bed and cradle and stuffed them with dry herbs, giving a pleasant aroma to the little cabin.
The door is constructed of several piles of wood, and described in the books, with wooden hinges and a latch which would drop down and lock if the door were slammed -- an important feature of the story. I probably had almost as much trouble doing those doors in miniature as John Clayton did in reality.
I was unable to make a satisfactory rifle which my research source concluded was a Martini-Henry "Long-Lever" especially made for use in tropical areas and used extensively by the British Army during that period. I had to settle for buying one that resembled it, but I made the hunting knife from a real knife blade and it's wickedly sharp.
I never put human figures in my miniature rooms, but I think it's easy to imagine that John and Alice Clayton have merely stepped out of their cabin with their infant son -- who will later grow up to be Tarzan of the Apes -- and are watching the sun set over the ocean while they dream of home
Bobbie M. Rucker
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Gridley Wave #183 ~ December 1997
Letter to the Editor
Burroughs Bulletin #20 ~ October 1994
The importance of Edgar Rice Burroughs in our lives can be measured by the way we all seem to have total recall for our first encounter with his works. And what pleasure we get from telling about it!
Tarzan and the Lending Libraries
By Bobbie Rucker
Tarzan of the Apes was the first book I ever borrowed in my life, and this is how it came about. When I was about five years old I was taken on a visit to a farm family near Elizabethtown in Kentucky. Already a reader, I immediately looked around to see what books they had. The little boy who lived there was the same age as I but couldn't read yet and had no interesting books of his own, so I surreptitiously investigated the contents of the one family bookcase, a tall one with glass doors which loomed at the end of a dark and forbidding hallway. I say "surreptitiously" because I had already learned that adults were quick to snatch certain books away from me, muttering words like "unsuitable" and "Doesn't she have any children's books, for heaven's sake?"
These books were all in dark and uninviting leather bindings, with fine print and uninteresting illustrations, if any; but on an upper shelf, picked out as if magically by a shaft of sunlight, was a different sort of book with a bright paper cover. I dragged a stool over to the bookcase and pulled down the book, wondering what the man was doing sitting in the tree. (Whatever he was up to, I thoroughly approved of it, for it was always difficult to keep me out of trees.) As any child would, I quickly flipped the pages for more pictures and was disappointed, but I took it down anyhow, to little Millard's impatient disgust, and hurried away to a secluded corner where I could puzzle out the story.
I remember little else of that visit but being periodically and forcibly propelled out to play with little Millard when I much preferred to remain in my corner with Tarzan and his apes. Finally when I returned home those dear people let me borrow the precious book; probably it ws the only way they could get me to leave.
That was the first book I ever borrowed, and I treated it as if it were a holy relic, reluctant to let anybody else touch it. I chattered incessantly about my discover to anyone who would listen, and one person who heard me was the man who stocked the lending library to my father's drug store, on the first floor of the house we lived in.
If you aren't as old as I am (hardly anybody is, or at least admits to being) you may not know that early in this century circulating or lending libraries were very common and popular. You found them in drug stores, department stores, all sorts of commercial outlets. Their organization was varied and erratic and the quality of literature stocked was completely unpredictable. Sometimes drug store clerks started their own libraries with second-hand books and remainders. Free public libraries were not always in easy reach for people who had neither automobiles nor money for streetcar fair. Our main public library 19 long blocks from our house and the nearest branch library was 17 blocks in the opposite direction. Even if I had been permitted to walk there alone at my tender age, I would not have been allowed to check out any but the books I regarded as silly little kids' stories. (After meeting Tarzan I couldn't work up much excitement over Pollyanna.)
The lending library, then, was one popular and inexpensive solution to the problem of entertainment. Even the few pennies a day, however, sometimes proved such a hardship, especially in the later days of the Great Depression, that people who could not pay the rental fee sometimes simply kept the book and quit trading at that particular store. I was always afraid this would happen to a Tarzan book before I had a chance to read it.
It was that splendid, understanding lending library man who heard my childish babbling and told me there were more of those stories. He promised to bring a new one each time he came to stock the shelves, and he kept his promise. I can still recapture for a fleeting moment the sheer joy of holding in my hands a new Tarzan story, studying the picture on the cover, and reciting the title over and over with reverence. "Tarzan and the City of Gold" . . . "Tarzan and the Golden Lion" . . . "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar" . . . Magical titles, every one. I used to linger over the word "jewels" which was unfamiliar to me and seemed inexpressibly lovely to say.
If any of ERB's other works were circulated, they never came my way, and I had no idea until years alter that he had written so much. I had no idea that anybody else in the world loved his books as passionately as I did, since I had no success at all gaining converts among my friends. My family, fortunately for me, was reasonably patient and indulgent -- Dad to the point of sawing out a small ape which became my dearest possession -- but they refused to join me in reading the stories.
Well, the lending libraries began to die out before World War II; at least I know Dad got rid of his shortly before that. While they flourished, however, they provided one little girl with a firm foundation of affection for Edgar Rice Burroughs, an affection which continues to grow. I'm not one of those people who can describe in minute detail what they were doing at the moment of the attack on Pearl Harbor or at the time JFK was killed, but etched deep into my memory is the glint of sunlight pointing to a Tarzan book in an old farmhouse. It still makes me smile to remember it.
Bobbie Rucker is shown here in her basement workshop where she builds miniature rooms to scale. Her unusual model of the Greystoke cabin was carefully researched from her reading TARZAN OF THE APES, and has been exhibited at local art fairs, playing the viola in string quartets and performing frequently with Louisville area orchestral groups.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bobbie with Rob Greer and Sue-On Hillman
Head Table: George McWhorter ~ Bobbie Rucker
Forrest Ackerman ~ Bob Hyde
LOUISVILLE DUM-DUM: Rudy Sigmund Photos
Bobby Rucker, Tony Menegazzo and Ward Ordoff
ERB COLLECTION: PHOTO MEMORIES I
August 28, 2008 Reception to Honour George McWhorter at U of L
Jim Thompson, Jerry Spannraft, George McWhorter, Mike Conran, John Layne Wood.
In front: Bobbie Rucker.
RUDY SIGMUND COLLECTION
Bobbie with George McWhorter and Frank Westwood's wife, Doreen
GREYSTOKE CASTLE GATE ~ Fantastic Worlds of ERB No. 59
|BOBBIE M. RUCKER (1923-2008)
passed away on November 12 from heart stroke, after which she declined
life support treatments. She was a dedicated Burroughs Bibliophile, contributing
articles to the BURROUGHS BULLETIN and attending many Dum-Dums, including
the memorable visit to Greystoke Castle in 1988. Her hand-crafted miniature
of Tarzanís birth cabin, carefully researched from her reading of
of the Apes is famous among ERB fans.
Her sense of humor was refreshing, and she referred to Edgar Rice Burroughs as "the sole remaining prop of my declining years." May she rest in peace.
~ George McWhorter
Gridley Wave #315 ~ December 2008 ~ George McWhorter: Editor
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A CALOT'S STORY Pt. I
A CALOT'S STORY Pt. II
By Bobbie Rucker
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