Borrowing from others enriches life
by Ruth Baker
Feb 12, 2012 | 1283 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
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A wise man in 1883 made an observation about a writer and his materials. I quote W.W. Breese, M. D. who wrote “Well-springs of Truth.”

“Nothing is sillier than this charge of plagiarism. There is no 8th Commandment in the Arts. The poet dare help himself wherever he lists — whenever he finds material suited to his work. He may even appropriate entire columns with their carved capitals, if the Temple he thus supports be a beautiful one. Goethe understood this very well, and so did Shakespeare before him.

I have borrowed from everything and everywhere, to the best of my ability; from life in its varied forms, and from the open reservoirs of stolen learning called books. He is richest who borrows most.

As the strippings are said to contain the cream, so the author’s gleanings in the field of knowledge condense the wisdom of many minds and all ages.”

I must confess this has been true in my 34 years of sitting at the feet of our older generation. I have copied their memories as they have related their vivid stories of the past. Much of what I have written in HOME FOLKS has come from others. They have enriched my life with their knowledge of our mutual past.

It seems unreal that I am now considered “elderly.” Others call and write and ask for information of those bygone years and I find myself passing on the stories of those who have gone on before me and so the cycle continues.

I have tried to always use the names of the ones who give the stories to me so that I am placing certain people in certain slots of time. This gives continuity to the stories and places these people in a specific time of history. This will be important at a later time when younger ones become interested in their family history.

These many years of sitting at the feet of the older generation and hearing their stories have enriched my life more than all the books I have read. I know my time is limited and I hope there are those younger scholars who will pick up the load of responsibility to preserve the history of our mutual past.

It seems odd to talk about the older generation and realize I belong in that category. My recent 84th birthday brought nearly 200 birthday greetings from mostly former school children I had taught. To know they care and remember with fondness those days are the best birthday gift any one could receive.

Today, I am just remembering those bygone days and loving every moment of the trip into the past. I hope your memories are stirred and you get a new urge to record your family history. Write it for the purpose of laying a foundation for your children and grandchildren. They will get interested and they will add to it their accomplishments and family stories for the next generation.

I would like to say to you all. I love Walker County, its people, and its history. Given a choice, I would not change the life I have lived here all the way from the farm to Teacher of the year (twice) of Alabama. Awards come seldom, friendship stays forever.