The Vagabonds by Jeff Guinn

The Vagabonds by Jeff Guinn

Author:Jeff Guinn
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2019-07-08T16:00:00+00:00


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On Tuesday, reporters and photographers received word that a Vagabonds event of considerable interest would soon take place in the woods just outside the Yama Farms hotel complex. They arrived to find a small crowd comprised of Clara Ford, Mina Edison, Idabelle Firestone, members of the Vagabonds’ retinue, and some other Yama guests gathered in a loose circle. At the circle’s center were Firestone, Edison, Ford, and Burroughs, the latter two holding long-handled axes. Edison brandished a stopwatch. Someone, probably Firestone, explained to the press that Mr. Ford had challenged Mr. Burroughs to a tree-chopping contest. Mr. Edison was to be timekeeper while Firestone served as referee. Whoever brought down his tree first would be declared champion.

It seemed likely to be an uneven match. Burroughs appeared hardly able to heft his axe at all. Ford, at fifty-seven more than a quarter-century Burroughs’s junior, remained lean and strong. But as Firestone explained to the press afterward, Mr. Burroughs had the advantage of knowing trees far better than did the automaker. The naturalist took his stance before a relatively slender birch, while Ford prepared to chop a thicker scrub oak. Edison clicked the stopwatch, Firestone shouted a command, and wood chips commenced flying. By most press accounts, it was four minutes later by Edison’s watch when Burroughs’s birch crashed to the ground while Ford’s oak remained standing. A few reporters described an extended contest, with at least four trees falling before Ford admitted defeat, but that was lily-gilding. Only two trees died in service of Vagabonds publicity.

Edison clapped Burroughs on the back and exclaimed, “These youngsters aren’t in our class at all.” Firestone confided to the press that prior to the tree-chopping, Burroughs had challenged Ford to a tree-climbing contest. The automaker felt his chances were better at chopping. Some press accounts nicknamed the naturalist “Battling Burroughs.” Virtually every article was accompanied by one or more eye-catching photographs of Burroughs and Ford in mid-swing. On Tuesday evening, the Vagabonds and their wives attended a lecture by Carl Lumholtz, who “informed them of the flora and fauna of the South Pacific.” This much more static activity was mentioned briefly in a few of the next day’s newspapers, and only after long, colorful accounts of the tree-chopping contest.



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