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Volume7410

MEMORIES OF MY DAD
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
AND TARZANA RANCH
By Hulbert Burroughs
Shared from the Danton Burroughs Family Archive, Tarzana

Tarzana Ranch and Hully At Work In His Tarzana Office

1. Hully with Parents Ed and Emma in Death Valley
2. Hully and His Dad in Wartime Hawaii

My father and mother showed great foresight and wisdom in making Tarzana Ranch our home during our formative childhood years. The outdoor life and close proximity to the world of nature greatly influenced me. To a boy of ten, fresh from the suburbs of Chicago, it was an exciting new world to explore.

Not long after we settled in our new home, my father started teaching the entire family to ride horseback. His training at the Michigan Military Academy and at Fort Grant, as well as on the ranch in Idaho, made him well qualified. He bought Shetland ponies for each of us children. All of us were at first frightened of the animals and this new experience; and until we learned to control the animals ourselves, my father frequently rode beside us, leading one or more of the ponies with halter ropes. Some of our early riding experiences were frightening. I recall one occasion when Joan's pony decided to lie down and roll in the dust. Joan, in tears, tumbled off. Jack's pony was prone to bucking unexpectedly. This terrified Jack, who was only about seven at the time. My pony was great until it came time for us to turn back toward the stables. Every experienced rider is familiar with the eagerness of a horse to return to food and water. "Bud" knew he was stronger than I; and once he took the bit in his teeth, he took off at a dead run. I was too inexperienced to control him. All I could do was ride it out and hope I would not be scraped off by the low-hanging branches of an oak or walnut tree. As a result of our experiences with these half-trained little ponies, Dad soon graduated us to full-sized and properly trained horses. He was convinced that most ponies make poor saddle animals because they are too small for a grown man to ride and properly train.

In the approximately ten years we lived on the ranch, Dad was a vigorous man, always engaged in some activity or project. A typical day usually started with a horseback ride at the first light of dawn before breakfast. Dad usually arose at 5 A.M., seldom later than 6. Both of my parents believed in the adage "early to bed and early to rise." Usually the entire family started the day together. We had two basic riding trails. The first person to the stables wrote on the black-board in the tack room which trail he had taken and what time he had started. With that information, those who followed would be able either to catch up or to intercept him on the return trail.

These early morning rides were always exciting and invigorating. In the early 1920s the Santa Monica Mountains were unspoiled and there was an abundance of animals. On almost every ride we would see coyotes, deer, rabbits, quail, and other birds. On rare occasions we might catch fleeting glimpses of a wary mountain lion or bobcat.

I have strong recollections of my dad during those ranch years. Because horseback riding was a daily occurrence, most of the time he wore riding clothes. English-style breeches and boots, a leather jacket, and felt hat were his customary attire. On the early morning rides he usually packed a Colt .45 automatic pistol, acquired when he was an officer in the Illinois Reserve Militia. One morning this .45 was cause for considerable embarrassment. He was riding alone on his favorite horse, Colonel, following a trail through chaparral along a hogback. In the trail just ahead he spotted a large rattlesnake warming itself in the morning sun. Dad reined Colonel to a stop, unholstered his gun, and took aim at the snake. At that moment Colonel either sensed the snake or was startled by something else. In any event, he suddenly shied to one side. Dad instinctively moved his right hand to join his left on the reins. The quick movement of his gun hand caused him to squeeze the trigger. As the .45 discharged only a few inches from his ears, the horse fell as if pole-axed. Thinking he had shot and killed his horse, Ed rolled clear. Almost immediately the frightened but unhurt Colonel scrambled to his feet and headed for home. As an old cowhand and excavalryman, it was an embarrassed Ed Burroughs who had to walk a couple of miles home.

Although he was thoroughly familiar with the western, or stock, saddle, as well as with the McClellan cavalry saddle, he preferred the flatter English style. It was his opinion that it required more skill and horsemanship to ride the flat saddle than the western rig. Furthermore, it was more comfortable. We all eventually graduated to the English saddle.

Occasionally some visitors to the ranch would be inclined to brag about their riding ability. Dad did not like braggarts, and for them he had a special horse not really mean or dangerous, but a bit unruly and unpredictable. Riding this animal was usually a chastening experience and served to separate the men from the boys.

Dad was inclined to be grumpy and somewhat disagreeable in the morning before breakfast and not very talkative. We learned to accept this and did our best to avoid irritating him. Usually he spent the mornings at his office, working on his stories. He was well disciplined in his work habits and kept regular writing hours.

I do not recall his exact daily schedule, but I do know that he seemed to be involved in a multitude of activities. Although he had farmhands to do most of the labor on the ranch, he planned and supervised everything that went on. He found time to encourage Jack in his growing interest in clay modeling and drawing. Whenever one of us demonstrated an interest in some particular subject or activity, he immediately gave encouragement by either working with us or obtaining books for us. I still have the bird and animal books he gave me during my young naturalist years. When Joan showed an interest in singing, he arranged voice lessons for her.

Dad's creative urge was not limited solely to his writing. He not only was a good cartoonist, but he enjoyed working with his very capable hands. His workshop was well stocked with tools which he encouraged Jack and me to use. He enjoyed making things of wood most of which were of an inventive or imaginative nature. We still have an ingenious little automatic pop-up cigarette dispenser he made. He used cigarettes most of his life; yet strangely he never inhaled. For many years he rolled his own, using the little booklets of cigarette paper and drawstring pouches of Bull Durham tobacco. He took pride in being able to roll a cigarette with one hand. Later he switched to Prince Albert. With the advent of factory-made cigarettes he gave up rolling his own.

Like most successful men, my father was restless and dynamic. His mind was constantly active, and almost by compulsion he had to be involved in something constructive and interesting. He enjoyed stone masonry and was proficient in this skill. On the slope of the hill just below his house he built a series of five cement fish ponds bordered with white flagstone he had excavated from Jackknife Canyon on the ranch. A small waterfall cascaded down his realistically arranged rocks into the highest pool, with the overflow from each pool tumbling over the rocks to the next lower pool. The ponds were planted with water lilies and hyacinth and stocked with an assortment of goldfish.

Most meals were family affairs. My father and mother tried to make these occasions constructive, fun, and interesting. Dad was a prodigious reader and would frequently use the evening mealtime for sharing with us the interesting books he had been reading usually books on travel and exploration in distant lands. He was very articulate, and his natural story-telling ability enabled him to recount most graphically the exciting episodes of these books. We frequently played word and guessing games at the table. Almost every evening after dinner, Dad spent an hour or more reading. His ability to concentrate was a source of wonder to me. When he was engrossed in a book, we'd almost have to throw something at him to gain his attention. I believe it was this power of total concentration that was the secret of his speed in story-writing.

As children we were engrossed with his stories and delighted in identifying with the characters. He liked to recount Jack's experience with meat. Mom and Dad had difficulty persuading Jack to eat cooked meat. He wanted to eat it raw because that's the way Tarzan ate it! One day he noticed Jack following him across the yard on his hands and knees with his nose to the ground. Dad asked Jack what he was doing. "Following your scent spoor," Jack replied.

With my father as the leader and active participant, we frequently played outdoor games on the lawn after dinner. Employees usually joined us in a softball game which Dad called "One Old Cat." Often Dad would take the whole family for an auto drive on the dirt road up the main canyon because he enjoyed seeing the rabbits and quail in the early evening. Always patriotic, he installed a tall flagpole in the front yard. In the evening the lowering of the flag was a family affair.

Dad had inherited from his father the gene for pattern baldness and was self-conscious about this. He had started losing his hair while still in his twenties, and by the time we moved to California there were only a few hairs on top of his head. Whenever possible he wore a hat to hide his head. Finally, not long after moving to the ranch, he bought a toupee at a shop called "Zan's" that advertised WIGS-ZAN-HAIR. Hairpieces in those days were not what they are now, and his looked like a toupee. On one occasion his friend Bill Kiger, a doctor with a sizable paunch, started kidding Dad about his toupee. Irritated, Dad retorted, "At least I don't have to wear a corset yet!" He was such an active man and perspired copiously in warm weather, and the toupee became an intolerable nuisance. Finally he had had enough. I can well remember the day he threw it away in disgust: "To hell with the damned thing!" he exclaimed.

This self-consciousness about his baldness was but one manifestation of a deep sensitivity and feeling of inferiority. Another source of embarrassment to him was the unevenness of his front teeth, and he developed a habit of partially covering his mouth with a hand when he laughed. At times he was thought to be unfriendly or at least uncommunicative among strangers. Actually I believe this was but another example of his natural reticence.

Dad was always warm and loving with his children. He gave us a considerable amount of freedom, though he was a very careful and concerned father. Joan recalled that her only memory of his being angry with her was in 1932 when she confessed to having voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt for president.

He told us bedtime stories almost every night when we were children. They were in serial form, to be continued each following night. He always began exactly where he had left off the night before. "Arabella, the Coyote" and "Grandpa Gazink and His Flying Machine" were among our favorites.

He trusted us and granted us much independence to use our judgment. Joan was sixteen when she started going out on dates, and she often commented that Dad never told her to be home at any certain hour or what to do or not to do. He had confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves. He was stubborn when he made up his mind about something. He demanded respect from us and got it. In the matter of religion he said we were free to choose our own church when we became adults. He did not attend church, and neither did we.

After he contracted Parkinson's disease and suffered further heart attacks, he stayed at home most of the time with a housekeeper-nurse. He was lonely and used to call Joan nearly every day at five o'clock to remind her to come over for their private cocktail hour. In his declining years he enjoyed television and particularly liked the wrestling matches. He used to grunt and groan with the wrestlers and insisted that the matches were genuine.

Although for years Dad was roughly handled by many so-called literary critics, many have since come to recognize the literary merit of his stories and the impact he has had. Sam Moscowitz in his "Under the Moons of Mars, A History and Anthology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912 1920 (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970, page ix), makes this comment:

The publication of Under the Moons of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs in The All-Story Magazine in 1912 brought onto the magazine scene a writer whose instantaneous and phenomenal popularity shaped the policies of the early pulp magazines, making them-the focal center of science fiction and inspiring a school of writers who made the scientific romance he wrote the most accepted form for more than twenty years.

In August of 1962 the prestigious Oxford University Press of London published a condensed version of this novel in its Stories Told and Retold series. Henry Hardy Heins, an ERB authority and compiler of A Golden Anniversary Bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs, has commented: "We look upon the Oxford Princess as an extremely significant milestone in Burroughs' publishing history. This was the author's first novel now brought out in its golden anniversary year as a schoolbook by the venerable Oxford Press."

I have often thought of the prediction Thomas Newell Metcalf made in his letter of October 11, 1912, written shortly after publication of Tarzan of the Apes in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine: "We . . . have no doubts that the time will come when let alone naming race-horses `Tarzan,' the word `Tarzan' will become a generic term for anything that is a huge success. . . .


Hully and Parents Relaxing at Tarzana Ranch

 


HULLY'S PHOTO SCRAPBOOK
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THE HULBERT BURROUGHS COLLECTION
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HULBERT BURROUGHS FAMLY SCRAPBOOK
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BURROUGHS FAMILY: TARZANA YEARS
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EXPLORING EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS' TARZANA
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