A few weeks ago, rummaging in an antique store, I found a booklet by Ed Robinson, titled How to Do Wonders With a Little Land. The sponsor was Rototiller; I've used Rototiller's inventions for the last forty years with great happiness.
The booklet covers all the bases. The balance of text and photographs eases the eye, with a splash of red on the front and back covers to catch it. This little booklet of mine looks like it has been read a hundred times, but there are no disrespectful dog-ears. (And it still does its magic: After reading it once, almost fifty years after publication, I find myself consumed by a desire to own a Rototiller — as soon as possible.)
The copyright date is 1954. At the time, I was three years old, living in a brownstone in Greenwich Village. Ed and his wife, Carolyn, had already taken the big jump and moved to rural Connecticut. But this booklet, and the simple, all-important book that it helped promote — The Have-More Plan, published by the MacMillan Co. and republished in the first issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS — not only set the course of my life, but also put me on the path of my livelihood as a writer.
This February, MOTHER EARTH NEWS will celebrate its 40th anniversary. How time flies. In 1972, I discovered MOTHER EARTH NEWS at my favorite local bookstore, Grass Roots in Corvallis, Ore. There was a rack with all the back issues, including the first. I purchased every one. (And yes, I still have them.) Took them home, started with No. 1, and inhaled every word. It was like discovering a universe of limitless joy and independence, contained between the covers of a magazine.
It was like planting a seed. In 1980, I sold my first national article to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, about rebuilding a burned-out house. Since then, I’ve earned a living as a freelance, and have churned out many booklets such as the one Ed Robinson wrote. I doubt my booklets have changed any lives. But his began to change my life, for the unimaginably better, when I was still knee-high. Thank you, Ed Robinson.