I want to thank Joan for all the great work she has done on the book, and her taxi service. Thanks to all the Muckers for the event, and the Burroughs Bibliophiles. Also thanks to the members of the Burroughs family, and Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. And thanks to all here.
I do question the sanity of the group that wants me to make a speech. Which reminds me a of a saying from Groucho Marx, and I take liberties with it, ‘ I should be suspect of any group that would have me as a member.’
My reason for thinking of that was mainly the question in my mind of what could I possibly have to speak about to Burroughs collectors, scholars, and even members of the Burroughs family. Since I consider myself a fan - a rookie collector- probably never with as great a collection as some I know of and now seen, like Jerry’s. But, I am just mostly an artist who’s early imagination springs in a large part from the words and works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
So I sat down once again in front of the dreaded blank white page. It is a common problem with artists. We tend to face it often but, rarely with the intent of making a speech.
So I approached the problem like a drawing. With a drawing I try to let all my visual influences and visual memories guide me. But, this time it was for a speech.
My mind raced back to my childhood, and to my discovery of the works of ERB. And what a joy that was. Then I realized that the one thing we all have in common is our discovery of the stories that Edgar Rice Burroughs gave to each of us.
No matter if you prefer the the mist shrouded jungles of Africa, the ancient cities of Mars, the tall trees of Venus, the strangeness of the Earth’s Core, or worlds beyond the farthest stars - we have all discover these tales in our own way - and they have stuck in our imaginations.
This is our common ground, the thing that makes this a personal journey, and it is the thing that makes us a community.
So I thought about the Burroughs events I have attended. It seemed as though each time I saw two Burroughs fans meet, somewhere in the conversation, one or the other always referred to their own discovery of the stories, and characters of ERB. Even though each experience of discovery is slightly different, each one is very personal. Each story seems to have the same elements sort of like a good formula for pulp novel.
But I believe this is what makes us a community with a common ground. And this excitement of discovery is what we carry with us through the years.
For myself, I felt like many of Burroughs’s heroes - split between two worlds.
My parents lived in a small rural town in Nebraska, so small there was no hospital and only one doctor. This resulted in my birth in the closest town with a hospital - Beatrice Nebraska. I later discover that this was also the birthplace of Barney and Victoria Custer, which seemed to give me an even more personal connection to one of ERB’s heroes.
And yes to all the Burroughs scholars out there it is pronounced Be-at-ris to the citizens.
My father’s job carried us to another location in Nebraska before moving us to the wilds of west Texas. With each move we also found ourselves farther from the nearest town - while we continued to live in company houses at the compressor stations. While rural Nebraska was farmland and wooded areas, West Texas proved to be another world. I had expected cowboys and indians, and landscapes like in the movies. What I found was something more like the surface of Mars. Red sand, a straight line horizon in every direction and the night sky filled with millions of visible stars. Then of course the relentless sun, which seemed even larger.
About this time I discover the Weissmuller Tarzan movies that were shown on one of the two tv stations we could tune in. Going to town to see a movie was a logistical nightmare, as we lived 35 miles from the closest town.
So books became my main source of entertainment. The school library had a few Tarzan books but I wanted more.
Throughout the years we retained our connection to Nebraska. Each year when school was out my brother and I were transported back to Nebraska to my grandparents from the summer. Luckily once each summer we journeyed into Beatrice, where I had found a bookstore. This bookstore became my ultimate goal each year. The owner must of been a Burroughs reader or a fan and kept a full line of the Ace pocket books. Either that or I was the only Burroughs reader to enter his shop each year. I would save what little money I could scrape together with doing summer jobs and saving my money all year long to make that journey once a year. As my parents thought it was a waste of time and money I had to sort of sneak around and pretend I only had a few Burroughs books and I was just reading the same ones over and over.
A few years after our move to texas my father passed on. I was still very young so books and the heroes found in them became even more important. Also with my father’s passing, we were ousted from the life of living in company houses in the middle of nowhere. We moved into town and I now had access to more books and the movies.
The stories of ERB also gave me a wanderlust that has taken me around the world several times. I have landed on the shores of Africa, walked in the Cambodian jungles, set foot on the steppes of Russia, and fought the cold of Arctic winds.
The heroes and worlds of the tales of ERB fired my imagination, took me to lost worlds, and other worlds, and taught me honor and duty…..but most of all made my world liveable.