In January, a man stopped by our booth at Power Show Ohio and mentioned he had met Ora Anderson. He was, the Athens County reader said, the most amazing bird carver.
Ora Anderson. Ora Anderson. Why did that name sound familiar? My brain faltered. It does that these days, you know.
“We talked about what we liked to read,” this gentleman continued, “and I told him I like this paper he’d probably never heard of, Farm and Dairy.”
Never heard of it? Anderson responded. I was once the editor.
Of course. That’s where I know that name. Ora Anderson was editor of Farm and Dairy from 1939 to 1941, sandwiched between Elden Groves’ early years (1934-1939) and his 40-plus-year reign (1942-1982).
Immediately, I thought of interviewing Mr. Anderson. What a great story he would make.
But I was too late. Unbeknownst to the reader who talked to me in January, Mr. Anderson had died last August at age 94.
Then, this spring, I received a preview copy of a new book, Out of the Woods. Its author? Ora Anderson.
Anderson’s career path after Farm and Dairy took him to the Dairymen’s Cooperative Sales Association, then he became the executive secretary to the Ohio Dairy Products Association. Later he was hired by the Ohio Bankers Association, and he retired as executive manager of the association in 1972.
Along the way, he and his wife, Harriet, bought her family’s farm in Athens County. They slowly rebuilt and converted the worn-out farm into a nature preserve.
“Anderson’s lifelong interest in nature included decades of advocacy for natural areas in Ohio,” writes Jean Andrews in the book’s forward.
His accounts of the first land purchases in Appalachian Ohio that eventually became the Wayne National Forest were used to make an award-winning documentary, A Forest Returns.
In 1999, he received the Ohio Arts Council Governor’s Award for Arts, and he was an honorary lifetime director of the Ohio chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
Out of the Woods is a collection of 59 essays and poems (Anderson calls his written observations “love letters”). It’s a journal of seasons and life and nature, and Anderson’s words flow with a melody of one who has lived long and with no regrets.
The essay, “An October Walk,” begins: “It’s mid-October, and the trail this morning is carpeted with the discards of summer. I walk on whispering colors: scarlet and raw sienna, maroon and umber, and a hint of yellow-green.
“The air is a benediction and the sky a proscenium arch of blue. Even my old bones ache less than usual.”
I’m no birder and I despise writers who use description and adjectives just to hear themselves talk. But Anderson’s words are like comfortable conversations between friends. And I, even though a stranger, am a friend.
Toward the book’s end, he offers this life observation in the essay “This Land and I”:
“This story, quite obviously, has no ending. There is sweetness to life that mixes its chemistry with tiny touches of bitterness. Years soften the razor-sharp edges of our days. There most certainly will be bright mornings – tomorrow and tomorrow.”
I wish I would have been able to do that interview.
(Out of the Woods is available from Ohio University Press for $28.98 (hardcover) or $16.95 (paperback). For information, call 800-621-2736. Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)