Donald Benson Blanding, later known as Don Blanding, the Vagabond Poet, was born November 7, 1894, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. His father, who had taken part in the opening of the Cherokee Strip, was Hugh Ross Blanding, a lawyer and a judge for many years in Oklahoma. His mother was Ida Kimble Blanding.
Don was the last of four children and is the last of his line; his brothers, James and Hugh, and his sister, Jessie, did not marry. These children were of Scotch-Irish-English, French-Dutch-German descent, and had the pioneering blood of early Oklahoma in their veins.
Restlessness is Blanding's natural heritage. Since the Fourteenth Century, when the name was Blondin, the family has been on the move to new fields, always westward -- from Normandy to England, to New England, to Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, then southwest to Oklahoma. The Blandings were always interested in places while they were growing and developing, moving on as soon as the routine of settled living made it monotonous. Don has inherited this tendency: he is interested in doing something until he knows he can do it well; then he goes on to something new. He says that he loathes repetition.
When Don was seven years of age the Blandings moved from Kingfisher to Lawton, Oklahoma, a new town which had sprung up, mushroom-like, overnight, on the southwestern prairies. It was a lottery town (people drew lots for land) with a motley population.
"The story of Don's childhood is the story of this wild little frontier town, alive with color and excitement."1 He lived a typical prairie boy's life, getting his pleasures from hunting, fishing, camping, round-ups, and barbecues, and putting up with the prairie fires, cyclones, and droughts. His outdoor life developed him into a tall, strong youth, and his early friendships with the Comanche and Apache Indians were invaluable. The Comanche chief, Quannah parker, the bandit, Al Jennings, and other well-known Southwest characters were his heroes. John Loco, the famous Apache Indian guide, showed him secrets of the Wichita mountains and of prairie life.
The windows of the boy's room faced north and he could look over the prairies to the Wichita mountains, which he grew to love with a deep affection. To this day he would not live where there are no mountains.
Blanding read constantly -- any literature he could get -- and he always drew pictures. Every blank space in schoolbooks was covered with sketches. His mother encouraged his artistic ideas, as she had painted well (although not professionally) when a young woman.
The first money Don earned was sixty dollars, from making Indian heads on leather. With this small fortune he went to Yellowstone Park in 1909, to work through the summer season. He returned to the Park several times.
He was a good student in the subjects he enjoyed: English, history, and languages. He disliked chemistry and mathematics, but having a "Kodak mind" he was able to snap-shot impressions and keep them in storage until needed; thus he usually made good grades. In 1912 Don graduated from the Lawton, Oklahoma, High School. He had no ambition to be a writer. He knew that he wanted to be an artist and was determined to achieve his goal.
Under an agreement with his family to try the business world before deciding to be an artist, he went into a bank in Bend, Oregon. He loved the beautiful country around bend, which is on the eastern slopes of the snow-covered Cascade Mountains, but at the end of the year, as the business world held no attractions, he went to the Art Institute of Chicago.
During the Art Institute days he absorbed new color and ideas. He lived on the Chicago North side and knew Ben Hecht, Maxwell Bodenheim, Sherwood Anderson, and others of the Chicago group who were then coming to the fore. While doing the back-drop for one of Ben Hecht's early plays, Publico, he was overcome by heat, turpentine, and gas fumes from an old garage in which he was working, and although he finished the painting, was so ill that he was unable to see the performance. For several years he lived this Bohemian life, with interruptions to wander through the West and Northwest, acting in little theater companies, teaching drawing, or working as a laborer.
He had a deep love for the theater, but no desire to go on the state permanently because of the repetitious quality of acting. However, he ushered in theaters and acted as "super" in Grand Opera in order to see and hear the Operas and to study the technique of great actors. When his family would send him five dollars to buy shoes he would put folded newspapers in the soles of his old shoes and spend the money on a good seat at the Opera. He would not sit in the gallery when he had money to buy a better seat. Mary Garden and Geraldine Farrar of Opera, and Elsie Ferguson of the stage, were objects of heroine-adoration. Blanding later wrote a poem to Garden, "Mary Garden" in Let Us Dream.
In 1915, on his way back to Oklahoma from Canada, Blanding happened to be passing through Kansas City, and having a few hours to wait between trains, boarded a street car, and chanced to see the billings of The Bird of Paradise with Lenore Ulrich in the role of Luana. He went to the theater. Enchanted with the Hawaiian story, music, and atmosphere, he returned to the railway station to inquire, "How much to Hawaii?" He learned that it was five days and ninety dollars from San Francisco. Within a week he was on his way.
Winifred Howe, of the Monterey Peninsula Herald, quotes Blanding: "I landed in the Islands with five dollars in my pocket, but I've been broke in more languages than any one I know ... and what does it matter?"2
From 1915 to 1928 Hawaii was his home, although he did not stay there longer than two years at a time. In fact, he has not stayed longer than two years at a time in any one place since 1912, but he often returns to favorite spots.
In Hawaii he worked as a newspaper man, producer of Little Theater plays, sign painter, portrait painter, and so on.
When the United States entered the war he went into the army as a private in Company I, 2nd Infantry, and was discharged, a Second Lieutenant, at Camp Grant, Illinois, after the Armistice. He then spent a year as Head of the Rockford, Illinois Art Guild before returning to Hawaii.
Blanding has been to Hawaii five times, to the Orient, and to London and Paris to study. he has lived in the United States in every city and village which he has found interesting, from New York to Hollywood. He loves the South Seas and the Orient because he finds color and life more stimulating there. Africa and South America lie ahead to be seen and known.
In Honolulu, while doing some advertising drawings for the Charles R. Frazier Advertising company, he was given a job on the copy-desk as a fill-in. There he had to turn out a daily jingle for Aji-No-Moto, a Japanese condiment, which was being advertised through the Company. For two years he wrote of foods, personalities, recipes, and so on, (the Condiment Shelf from the poem "Vagabond's House" is one of these verses) and got into the habit of thinking in verse terms and rimes. During this time he also wrote a number of poems which he published under the title Leaves From a Grass House. This went to many editions, as did his other books published in the Islands: Paradise Loot and Flowers of the Rainbow.
In 1927 Blanding launched the idea of Lei Day in Hawaii, and the holiday was so popular that in 1929 the day was made official. May Day was the date set for the day when everyone in the Islands wears and gives leis. These flower garlands were woven and worn by Hawaiians so long ago that there is no record of the beginning of the custom. As Blanding says in Hula Moons:
No feast, holiday or dance was complete without
a plenitude of leis, and a boat departure or arrival
was the occasion for extra effort in lei making. It
was the symbol of Aloha, which means love, and is the
key-word of Hawaii.3
Don was once commissioned to write an article on a beautiful villa in Honolulu by the Decorative Arts Magazine. After the owner had graciously taken him through the villa he returned to the newspaper office. A friend asked him if he were not "green with envy". Blanding replied: "No, I came out with everything I wanted." He meant that he had enjoyed the beauty and would possess the memory of it forever. This is the way he has always enjoyed beauty. He has had many beautiful things, but after getting the full benefit of them he has passed them on to friends, for a vagabond cannot keep all the things he loves and picks up in his wanderings. Blanding hates to put things in storage. He says, "Things are only good, alive, when used and enjoyed." The one rule that Blanding believes a vagabond must learn if he would be happy in his "vagabonding" he expresses in these lines from the self portrait of the vagabond, in "Vagabond's Road":
Ready to bid love greeting or farewell
With the same light gesture.4
The same idea is expressed in his poem "Drifters", in the Vagabond's House volume.
Many of the Hawaiian poems, such as "Fragment", were not written in the Islands, but when the author was away and homesick for Hawaii.
The Hawaiian friends of Blanding gave him the rare distinction of a Hawaiian name, "Alohi Lani", which means the light which one sees shining down from behind intervening clouds upon the earth below; the path of the sun, reflected, before you see the sun itself. The Hawaiians knew that Blanding, by his art and writings, would make the Islands known to people before they had seen them; hence the name.
Armine Von Tempski (Mrs. Allan Ball) is one of Don's oldest and best friends from the Islands. She was born on the second largest Island, Maui, and has taught Blanding much about her Islands. Von Tempski has written Lava, Dust, Fire, and other stories and articles about the Hawaiian Islands. Hula is her best-known work, for it was filmed. She is now living and writing in Hollywood, California.
The artist Kimo Wilder, another friend of Blanding's and a native of the Islands, was a descendant of an old missionary family. Wilder Avenue in Honolulu is named for this family. Blanding wrote "At St. Clement's Church On Wilder Avenue" to Wilder, and "Tropical Sunset", in description of a sight which he had watched from Wilder's house on Tantalus. Kimo Wilder was known the world over as a joyous and lusty person, and no one mourned his death more than Blanding.
In the "magic of his mind" Blanding employs the Midas touch and turns lead to gold. He firmly believes that he has learned the secret of laughter. In Hawaii a multi-millionaire picked him up when he was literally "out at the elbows" and took him for a ride. When the ride was over the man offered him a million dollars if he would teach him his secret of laughter. Blanding told him that it was something all the money in the world could not buy. But, with his generous spirit, he spreads as much laughter and happiness as he can by his writings, lectures, and general good will. He has never neglected to answer a letter, particularly "fan" mail or notes from people who are unhappy. James Neill Northe says of him:
He is good to people; he never forgets them,
whether it is a little dried-up old maid in Iowa,
a frustrated, bewildered housewife in Missouri, a
very brittle opera star in New York, a movie queen
whose life he once saved when she was a very little
girl, or the thousands of adoring admirers. They
are all a part of him.5
The song of the weary wanderer, "Tired Vagabond", is dedicated to "Jim and Margaret Northe", editors of Silhouettes magazine and his very dear friends. They have a room in their home called "Don Blanding's Memory Room" in which are sketches and other one time possessions which he has given them. The Northes live in Ontario, California, sixty miles from Hollywood, and besides editing their notable little magazine (for which Blanding designs the covers) and conducting a school of Music, Mr. Northe has a literary page in the Ontario Herald called "Warp and Woof". Northe says: "His last book, Memory Room, takes its name from our attic, for we have mementos and souvenirs of Don Blanding the world over."6
People are continually writing asking Blanding if he minds if they use the name "Vagabond's House" for their summer homes and mountain cottages. They mention that they have treasures similar to those he had in his House, such as a favorite picture or a Chinese bowl, and that they have dogs named for his "Boreas" and "Mickey". Of course, he always gives permission to use the name, and says that he is glad that he has been able to give them a little something to make them happy.
In 1929 Blanding sailed for New York, where he established a studio. "Vagabond's House" was a real house in New York. Blanding found it when he was wandering down East 40th Street. Among a number of old brownstone houses he noticed one with a door of his favorite color (bright blue), and, finding the door unlocked, he walked through the rooms. When he discovered a studio, thirty-five by forty feet, with a slanting roof, he knew that it was his house. When he inquired about renting it he learned that it had once been arranged and lived in by Duncan Phyfe. He moved in immediately and lived there with the treasures described in the poem, "Vagabond's House".
This house was a wish-fancy fulfilled. Blanding has what he calls a "pack-rat" instinct for collecting. He had dreamed of a house where he might collect all his dear, useless possessions together, and finally his dream came true. When Vagabond's House and all his other houses and studios have been left behind while he roams the earth, he has given his belongings to friends. Several of the things he had in Vagabond's House he kept. One of them was
A little mud god with a painted face
That was given to me ... oh, long ago
By a Philippine maid in Olongapo.7
Blanding had two cats in his house, Congo and Congi. These were named for two of the temporary wives to French officers in Siam.
A great number of the possessions he mentions were not real; for example:
... I'll have a nook
For a savage idol that I took
From a ruined temple in Peru,
A demon-chaser named Mang-Chu.8
This was pure word pattern, not reality; but the picture that he "loves best of all" was real, and he still has it:
The picture that I love the best of all
Will hang alone on my study wall
Where the sunset's glow and the moon's cold gleam
Will fall on the face and make it seem
That the eyes in the picture are greeting mine,
That the lips are curved in the fine sweet line
Of the wistful, tender, provocative smile
That has stirred my heart for a wondrous while.
It's a sketch of a girl who loves too well
To tie me down to that bit of Hell
That a drifter knows when he finds he's held
By the soft strong chains that passions weld.9
In 1930, after the fall of Vagabond's House, Don was physically, emotionally, and financially bankrupt, and he says, "It was no consolation to me to know that I had provided my own earthquake."10
Going North to recuperate, he nearly went mad with insomnia. A young Hawaiian musician, living near, who understood the nervous tension under which Don was living, went to him and made him promise to go to bed. The boy said to him: "Alohi Lani, go to bed and think you have lomi-lomi (massage) and say this prayer: 'Lord, I do give Thee thanks for the abundance which is mine!'" Blanding said, cynically, that this was no time to be giving thanks for anything, but because he had promised he did as he was asked. First he thought of the pattern of the words, then he remembered the blind, legless beggar he had seen at the Union station -- and he gave thanks for a strong, healthy body. He thought of his blind friend who successfully ran a bookstore -- and he gave thanks for his eyesight. He thought of all the people who would give anything they owned to have their poems accepted for publication -- and he gave thanks that he had had three books published. He was thankful for so many things that he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep! From that time on he has said the prayer of the Hawaiian boy every day, and is so busy "counting his assets that he has no time to remember his liabilities".11
Of Scott Creager, the scenario writer, Don says: "In these days of quick-sand values, of speed and mad scrambling, of finger-tip contacts, friendship seems to have become a bit oldfashioned. I am proud and happy to claim Scotty as that finest of all relationships, 'best friend'."12 Creager, who has been Blanding's secretary-companion for the past four years, says that Blanding's poetry is the first he has ever enjoyed reading. To him, as to many people, poetry had been something to skim through when there was nothing else at hand to read. One night at a house party, about five years ago, Scott picked up Blanding's Vagabond's House and read it through. It impressed him as no other poetry had, and he was determined to meet the author. After many attempts, he was successful. They have been close friends ever since, and "Scotty" had the pleasure of being Don's secretary during the writing of Memory Room, and the honor of naming his favorite sketch, the lovely "Lotus Dream", included in Memory Room. Creager says of Don:
He is never wrapped up in himself. He gives to his friends more than he received; as the Hawaiians say, "two handed giving", and he hasn't any hands left with which to receive. He is easy tempered ... seldom has morose moods. This even temperament was accomplished by discipline, because morbidness runs in the Blanding family.
Don is one of the best black and white artists living. He speaks in color, although it is only in black and white. For example, the sketch of "Pele" fairly exudes flame ... the living lines of the drawing show red, yellow, wild fire.13
It will be noticed that in Blanding's illustrations the profiles are very similar. He used his own profile, variated, for the "Thousand Lives" drawing, and has used it several other times. Most of his other heads are the Greek profiles, humanized. The Greek head has always been the artist's ideal of beauty, and to Blanding this chiseled symmetry is important.
The illustration, "That's All", in Let Us Dream, shows the life candle burning, though half gone, but still illuminating the two masks, Joy and sadness. Blanding considers that his candle is burned half through now.
Blanding says he has no fear of death. He is, rather, a believer in reincarnation because he feels that no one who loves life so well can completely forsake this earth. His religion is a combination of those of all peoples. He says: "I am essentially pagan in my approach to life; am aware of the gods as Indians are, seeing them in wind, storms, mountains, lightning, etc. This is probably due to early study of mythology."14 He has a deep gratitude to the gods, and his awareness is shown in many of his illustrations -- "Flame", "Pele", "White Death", and others.
Blanding exhibits his sketches wherever he happens to be when they are finished. The sketches for Memory Room were shown at the Highland Hotel, where his Hollywood Studio was located. He has none of the original drawings in his possession. They have been either sold or given away. Creager has "Lotus Dream".
Blanding says, "I love any color so long as it is blue." His rooms are full of blues and his friends have given his studio the name "The Blue Room". he believes that he likes blue because the things of great spaces -- sea, sky, mountains, distance -- are blue. He has an aversion to closed places.
A centaur is Blanding's trademark -- he has a lapis ring on which a very clear, fine centaur is carved. It is the only jewelry he wears. This love for the centaur has been with him since childhood. When he was seven or eight years of age he used to dream that he was running as a horse, yet he was himself. He told this dream to his parents, but they thought it was imagination. One day he saw a picture of a centaur and showed it to his family, saying, "This is how I run in my dreams." From that time the centaur has been his favorite symbol, designating strength, power, and speed.
Blanding always has plants around, and when he is where there can be no garden, he has a window box with everything in it from "hyacinths to garlic".
One of Don's hobbies (the others are "living, laughing, and loving") is to collect tropical fish in every kind of material -- jade, porcelain, silver, malachite, crystal, lapis -- and material. He buys these for himself, and friends send them to him. Many of these weird little fish have served as models for his drawings, as they are set around his studio among lumps of coral gathered in Tahiti, India, Hawaii, and Australia.
Despite having traveled in exotic places, and written of exotic things, Blanding has a love of a home, and particularly of a kitchen. The lines from "Song of the Kitchen" make people realize that though the poet's eyes are on the stars, his feet are firmly and affectionately rooted in the earth:
I can't forget the fragrances that rise
Like homely pleasant incense to the skies
When oven doors reveal the cake or roast,
When butter warmly swoons on golden toast.15
He always likes to go into kitchens and markets in the different countries, for he believes that you can know a person by how and what he eats. For example, Hawaiians eat vast amounts of earthy foods, and they are a lusty, earthy people. The Chinese foods are intricate and elaborate; so is the Chinese mind. These two peoples are his favorites.
In San Francisco, "Scotty" tries not to let Don go alone to China Town because he wants to buy everything he sees. Once, when Blanding had deliberately neglected to take money with him, a Chinese merchant whom he had never before seen looked at him closely and said, "You may buy; I'll take your check". From then on Don's friends called him "the man with the certified face".
A description of Blanding's Hollywood studio gives an insight to his nature. The hangings are of lapis blue (his favorite shade), the couch cover is in three shades of blue, the four high bookcases are of Crater Lake blue. Between the bookcases is a console table on which there is a great bowl of Mexican gourd for fruits and nuts, and a set of carved wooden spoons and forks from Madagascar. Over this table hangs a beautifully woven Japanese tapestry of Dragon design, and on the floor beneath it is an immense diamond-back snake skin. The waste basket is an authentic Chinese vegetable basket, given to him by a Chinese friend. There is a great deal of Ildefonse pottery around, and over the door is attached the famous Elephant Bell spoken of in his poetry. On one wall hangs a great dragon's head incense burner. The incense (which Don buys in China) burns constantly on the dragon's tongue, while the fumes come out of his nostrils. There are many comfortable, roomy chairs, and a Hikiea, a low couch, five by fourteen feet. This sort of couch is part of any Hawaiian house, and Don always has one or two in his studios. A big crocodile-skin portfolio, containing autographed photographs and letters, has a place of honor. A description of "Vagabond's House as it is in Carmel" helps to clarify the insight into Don Blanding, through the house in which he lives in Carmel, California.
... The room is all that one could want. A low ceiling, beautiful redwood walls, small alcoves, many easy chairs, windows opening onto the ocean, books galore, two comfortable couches, and dominating all, the beautiful fireplace... Everywhere you look you see fishes made of glass, porcelain, jade, copper, wood and brass... Over in the corner of a little alcove is a curious wooden bowl known as a kava bowl. The bowl and its sixteen legs are carved from one piece of wood, and the whole thing is a work of art. It came from Tahiti, and was the present of an island chief, whose punch bowl it was. Hanging just above the kava bowl is the skin of an 18-foot rattlesnake with 14 rattles. On each side of the alcove are little masks made of bronze, grinning horribly but amiably at the same time. On the far wall is a lovely square of tapa cloth, a gift from one of Don's Hawaiian friends, in appreciation of his love for Hawaii. One of the outstanding objects in Memory Room is a large Globe of the World. It is well fingermarked. On tables and low benches all about the room are 50 fantastic puppets from the Chinese theater. They are faithful reproductions of characters from old Cathay dramas. They are priceless possessions, as they represent the Orient, Don's favorite part of the world, which he has roamed for many years. On the floor are scattered Indian rugs of the brightest hues, and scattered about on the rugs are many small tables, each with its load of drawings, poems, letters, stories, typewriters, pipes, jars of tobacco, quaint relics of many an adventure, and books, always books. Everyone who is acquainted with Don knows that his favorite color is blue. Deep blue, light blue, the blue of stormy seas, the faded blue of old tapestries -- all of them he loves, and surrounds himself with his favorite color until the room takes on a most pleasant look.16
Blanding went to Taos, New Mexico, for the first time in 1932. He remained seven months, and liked the place so well that he returned in February, 1936, to remain six months. He enjoys Taos because of its "vast, uncluttered distances, highness, and beauty". People there strip life of its non-essentials -- the majority of them have no telephone and radio, use open wood fires, spend most of their time in the sunshine and moonlight, live in native adobe houses, and are free of the uncomfortable restrictions of conventional city life. This is the sort of living Don prefers. He says: "I go to Taos for a spiritual dry-cleaning".
During the summer of 1936 he was merely "free-wheeling" over the Southwest, and while making trips he gathered material to be used in future writing. He went to the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns (which he had seen, and of which he had written), Mesa Verde National Park, Yellowstone Park, and he motored through various other parts of the West. He is at present in Honolulu. He says:
In January and February of last year Vagabond's House was a studio in Hollywood; from March until August it was an adobe house in Taos, New Mexico; during August and September it was a blue roadster with a tarpaulin, collapsible bed, folding stove and a good supply of grub on the road from border to border, Mexico to Canada and west to the sea through Yellowstone Park, Glacier National, Rainier, Columbia River, Crater Lake, the Giant Redwood forest, Yosemite, Bryce and Zion parks, and finally Carmel. Since September the house has been a snug cottage by the sea in Carmel.17
Blanding has always been a follower of hunches. He thinks out rapidly and thoroughly, but then flips a coin. He has always been willing to gamble with life, and all of his important decisions have been made in a short time. Ross C. Miller says: "His next urge is towards Norway. But he candidly admits, he may just as likely start for Tegucigalpa, Zamboanga or Zanzibar. He guides his life almost entirely by chance. . . ."18
In the last seven years Blanding has lectured in nearly every large town in the country, more than once in many cities, among them Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He does not use lecture notes, for he prefers to talk informally with his audience. His platform attitude is completely spontaneous. He usually reads several of his poems to get his audience in the mood for travel, then tells a few amusing incidents before proceeding with his serious lecture. His audiences are always attentive, appreciative, and sincere. Whenever he has had a return lecture his audience has been nearly doubled.
A deep, resonant voice which carries well, and is pleasing to hear, inspires audiences to request readings long after the usual lecture is over. In his talks, Blanding usually reads "Names are Ships" first, to get the listeners in a traveling mood. Then he intersperses his talk with "Dream In Blue" or "Memories In Red" for color' "Wonder" for a Credo poem; "Glamour's Gone", "Aloha Oe", "Baby Street", and other poems pertaining to Hawaii; "Epitaph", and request numbers. "Vagabond's House" is always requested as a finishing number.
At Robinson's (the "Marshall Field's" of Los Angeles) only one other person of note besides Blanding has been asked to return year after year, sometimes several times in one year, to autograph books or prints and meet the public. This other person is the charming tom-boy friend of Don's, Amelia Earhart. He wrote "Flight" to her after her first Pacific air triumph.
Don says when he talks he "rattles like a loose bolt", and so he does, but he never says anything that is not worth stopping all other conversation to hear. Besides being an inspired talker, he is a remarkable listener. He does not monopolize the conversation intentionally, but it is always so much more interesting to listen to him that he is usually the center of all group conversations.
Blanding is never ponderous; he is always entertaining, witty, gay -- interspersing his serious comments with clever phrases and apt words. (He is most ingenious at coining words.) Above all, he is considerate and tactful. Whatever sorrows he has had he does not willingly mention, yet in his writings one can see that the sunshine of his life is flecked with many shadows.
He always appears to be carelessly dressed (never in any color but blue), but it is only a seeming carelessness that arises from discriminating nature.
There is never the slightest sign in him of the self-conscious author. He is himself at all times -- a big, healthy, cheerful boy, grown just a little older in years than he enjoys realizing, but still a youth at heart. Middle age, even old age, hold no fears for him, for he is confident that his mind and heart will always be young. D. H. Lawrence once said (and might well have said it of Don Blanding): "It is not the incidents which befall a character that are important, but what that character is". Blanding's beautiful, generous character predominates everything about him as a man and as a poet.
Nettle Mae Jones says of Blanding:... His unshaken belief in his dreams has taken him far places and batiked his life in strange design, but atop of his faith he keeps a humorous, quizzical attitude towards life. What better shows his whimsical ambidexterous imagination than this terse autobiography: "I was the love-child of a flea and a lightening bug, born on a windy night, cradled in a cob-web, tutored by thistledown. I hitched my wagon to a falling star and my road maps were all drawn with disappearing ink."19
George O'Brien, the actor, once taught Blanding a lesson he will never forget. One day, after lunch with friends at the Brown Derby in North Hollywood, O'Brien was besieged by fans wanting his autograph. He was very obliging, and one of his companions said to him, "Doesn't all this bother you?" O'Brien replied, "When they cease to want my autograph, it will hurt and bother me." Blanding, too, feels proud to have people "bother" him in that way. He loves people, and feels that if they are kind enough to tell him they enjoy his writing and drawing he should be as generous as they. Politeness and congeniality are high lights in his character.
Blanding lives for his friends, his readers -- he writes for them, draws for them, giving them as much of his affection and joie de vivre as he can, and when he dies he hopes that everyone will miss him, but wants none to mourn him. He has written his own "Epitaph":
Do not carve on stone or wood,
"He was honest" or "He was good"
Write in smoke on a passing breeze
Seven words ... and the words are these,
Telling all that a volume could,
"He lived, he laughed and ... he understood."20
1Ross C. Miller, "A Vagabond on the Loose", Pine Cone, Carmel, California, (March 5, 1937), p. 3.
2Winifred Howe, Monterey Peninsula Herald, (September 17, 1936).
3Don Blanding, Hula Moons, p. 271.
4Don Blanding, Vagabond's House, p. 10.
5James Neill Northe, Letter to M. Maloney, (1936).
6James Neill Northe, ibid.
7Don Blanding, op. cit., p. 19.
8Don Blanding, ibid., p. 25.
9Don Blanding, ibid., p. 22.
10Don Blanding, Interview with M. Maloney, (July, 1936).
11Scott Creager, Interview with M. Maloney, (July, 1936).
12Don Blanding, "To My Pal ... Scott Creager", Pine Cone, (March 5, 1937), p. D.
13Scott Creager, op. cit., (August, 1936).
14Don Blanding, Interview with M. Maloney, (July, 1936).
15Don Blanding, Songs of the Seven Senses, p. 71.
16Ronald Johnson, "Vagabond's House as it is in Carmel", Pine Cone, (March 5, 1937), p. 17.
17Don Blanding, op. cit., Pine Cone, (March 5, 1937), p. D.
18Ross C. Miller, op. cit., Pine Cone, (March 5, 1937), p. 4.
19Nettie Mae Jones, (Book Reviewer), "Prince of Dreams", Pine Cone, (March 5, 1937), p. 10.
20Don Blanding, "Memory Room", p. 125.
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The Poetry of Don Blanding, Popular Versifier
Don Blanding Bibliography
Don Blanding's Books