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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/388

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370
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

highest ideal is industry; the highest accomplishment, speed. Our rural population is wearing itself out in an effort to outwear "labor-saving machinery." If you do not believe it, take a journey across the country anywhere through Iowa or Illinois and see how the people are actually living. They know no law but labor, their only recreation is their toil. Now it is needless to say how abnormal all this is. We are as a people entrapped in our machines and are by them ground to powder. The effect of it is apparent already in the public health and will be the most startling factor in the tables studied by the man of science in the generations following. Not to paint too darkly the picture, attention may be called to the fact that rural suicides are not uncommon, and that the wives of farmers are a conspicuous element in the population of some of our public institutions. There must be something done to remedy all this, to preserve for our people their physical and mental health; and to this end, as all experience shows, there is nothing so good as direct contact with Nature, the contemplation of her processes, the enjoyment of her peaceful splendor. If in every county, or even in every township, there were public grounds to which our people might resort in numbers during all the summer season a great step would be taken, as it seems to me, for the perpetuation, not to say restoration, of the public health. We are proud to call ourselves the children of "hardy pioneers," but much of the hardiness of those pioneers was due to the fact that they spent much of their time, women, children, and all, out of doors. All the land was a vast park in which that first generation roamed and reveled. They breathed the air of the forest, they drank the water of springs, they ate the fruit of the hillsides, plum thickets were their orchards, and all accounts go to show that hardier, healthier, or happier people never lived. Such conditions can never come again, but we may yet by public grounds for common enjoyment realize somewhat of the old advantage.

Again, such parks as are here discussed are an educational necessity. Our people as a whole suffer almost as much on the ├Žsthetic side of life as on that which is more strictly sanitary. How few of our landowners, for instance, have any idea of groves or lawns as desirable features of their holdings! If in any community a farm occurs on which a few acres are given over to beauty, the fact is a matter of comment for miles in either direction. A county park well kept and cared for would be a perpetual object lesson to the whole community; would show how the rocky knoll or deep ravine on one's own eighty-acre farm might be made attractive, until presently, instead of the angular maple groves with which our ├Žsthetic sense now vainly seeks appeasement, we should have a country rich in groves conform-