“Go on, John, with your talk about trees and paths. I tell you I’ve got an ore ship coming in and our mills are waiting for her.” He rubbed his hands with satisfaction—“I’d not miss seeing her come in for all the wood paths in Christendom.” He was then getting $120 to $130 a ton for Bessemer steel rails, and if his mill stopped a minute waiting for ore, he felt that he was missing his life’s chance.
Perhaps it was this same man who often gazed out into the lake with every nerve stretched to try to see an ore ship approaching. One day one of his friends asked him if he could see the boat.
“No-o, no-o,” he reluctantly admitted, “but she’s most in sight.”
This ore trade was of great and absorbing interest at Cleveland. My old employer was paid $4 a ton for carrying ore from the Marquette regions fifty years ago, and to think of the wickedness of this maker of woodland paths, who in later years was moving the ore in great ships for eighty cents a ton and making a fortune at it.
All this reminds me of my experiences in the ore business, but I shall come to that later. I want to say something about landscape gardening, to which I have devoted a great deal of time for more than thirty years.
Like my old friend, others may be surprised at my claim to be an amateur landscape architect in a small way, and my family have been known to employ a great landscape man to make quite sure that I did not ruin the place. The problem was, just where to put the new home at Pocantico Hills, which has recently been built. I thought I had the advantage of knowing every foot of the land, all the old big trees were personal friends of mine, and with the views of any given point I was perfectly familiar—I had studied them hundreds of times; and after this great landscape architect had laid out his plans and had driven his lines of stakes, I asked if I might see what I could do with the job.
In a few days I had worked out a plan so devised that the roads caught just the best views at just the angles where in driving up the hill you came upon impressive outlooks, and at the ending was the final burst of river, hill, cloud, and great sweep of country to crown the whole; and here I fixed my stakes to show where I suggested that the roads should run, and finally the exact place where the house should be.
“Look it all over,” I said, “and decide which plan is best.” It was a proud moment when this real authority accepted my suggestions as bringing out the most favoured spots for views and agreed upon the site of the house. How many miles of roads I have laid out in my time, I can hardly compute, but I have often kept at it until I was exhausted. While surveying roads, I have run the lines until darkness made it impossible to see the little stakes and flags. It is all very vain of me to tell of these landscape enterprises, but perhaps they will offset the business talks which occupy so much of my story.