|Frida Kahlo: Luther Burbank, 1931|
I've been a fan of old Luther Burbank for a while. He was the original, if not the only, horticultural superstar, aside from possibly Johnny Appleseed. Actually, both Johnny and Luther were raised in the same area. But anyway, nobody knows who Luther Burbank is now because, who gives a damn about plants, and making plants more beautiful and productive and generally making everyone better fed and more happy? I mean how does that put food on the table, bring the bacon home? Anyone can just go buy some fries and a Coke if they're hungry right? Well anyway, every one of those fries comes from Luther Burbank. Funny that we hardly know his name.
I first picked the guy up on my radar by reading "Autobiography Of A Yogi", by Paramahansa Yogananda who not only devotes a chapter to Luther, but the book is dedicated to him. Now I'm not going to provide you with a Wikipedia link here so that you can bone up on Luther, get off your butt and google it yourself or go to a library for gosh sakes already.
I recently brought a title home from the library titled, "The Garden Of Invention, Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants", by Jane S. Smith. I have extracted a portion in which she describes a speech which Luther gave in 1905 to the California Board of Trade, in which he promised to "be brief, and not to the point."
"Don't feed children on maudlin sentimentalism or dogmatic religion," he urged his listeners. "Give them nature. Let their souls drink all that is pure and sweet... Let nature teach them the lessons of good and proper living, combined with an abundance of well-balanced nourishment. Those children will grow to be the best men and women. Put the best in them by contact with the best outside. They will absorb it as a plant does the sunshine and the dew."
And then he gave the prescription that became the most popular, most quoted passage in The Training of the Human Plant, a wonderful evocation of the joys of his own childhood wandering the fields and woods of nineteenth-century New England. "Every child," Burbank wrote, "should have mud pies. grasshoppers, water-bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud-turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, brooks to wade in, water-lilles, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets; and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education."