Bird-Lore/Volume 01/No. 1/John Burroughs at 'Slab Sides'

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Flashlight photograph, by F. M. Chapman, October, 1896

John Burroughs at 'Slab Sides'

SOME years ago a favor to a neighbor resulted in Mr. Burroughs acquiring possession of a small ' muck swamp ' situated in a valley in the hills, a mile or more west of his home at West Park, on the Hudson. To Mr. Burroughs, the agriculturist, this apparently worthless bit of ground promised a rich return after it had yielded to successive attacks of brush-knife, grubbing-hook, plough, and spade. To Burroughs, the literary naturalist and nature-lover, this secluded hollow in the woods offered a retreat to which he could retire when his eyes wearied of the view of nature tamed and trimmed, from his study on the bank of the Hudson.

In the spring of 1895 the muck swamp was a seemingly hopeless tangle of brush and bogs, without sign of human habitation. One year later its black bed was lined with long rows of luxuriant celery, while from a low point at one end of the swamp had arisen a rustic cabin fitting the scene so harmoniously that one had to look twice to see it.

This is 'Slab Sides,' a dwelling of Mr. Burroughs’ own planning, and, in part, construction, its outer covering of rough sawn slabs, which still retain their bark, being the origin of its name. In a future number we hope to present a photograph of the exterior of Slab Sides, with an account of the birds its owner finds about it. Part of its interior is well shown by our photograph of Mr. Burroughs seated before the fireplace, in which, as head mason and stone-cutter, he takes a justifiable pride. Here, from April to November, Mr. Burroughs makes his home, and here his most sympathetic readers may imagine him amid surroundings which are in keeping with the character of his writings.