Some considerable time ago (SI, March 21, 1955) one Bayard Ashcroft of Boston wrote a letter to his Harvard classmate, Phipps Piper of New York, in which he described in detail the great adventure of his life, a birding expedition led by the famous ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson. As may be surmised from the following letter, Piper was green with envy and has waited all this time to reply, hoping for some adventure of his own with which 10 confound the insufferable Ashcroft. At long last, fortune has smiled on Phipps Piper and propelled him, at high speed, into an exciting wonderland in which one just doesn't have time to watch birds.
Bayard Ashcroft, Harvard '14
My dear Bayard:
First of all I must apologize for not answering your last letter before this. As you shall see, I have been quite busy. However, I wish to say that I enjoyed tremendously your vivid description of the Peterson birding expedition on which you added the snowy owl to your Life List. As one who has seen literally dozens of snowy owls, I congratulate you and say, "Welcome aboard!"
I have just had quite an adventure of my own. It had nothing whatever to do with birding, but rather with modern travel. Specifically, it was an exciting journey to Atlantic City via high-speed bus. Do you remember, Bayard, when it took the better part of the day to make the trip from New York to Atlantic City in the family car? Would you believe that I had breakfast in New York's magnificent Port Authority Bus Terminal and lunch on the Boardwalk? And, thanks to the superb highways and turnpikes in New Jersey, I had no sense whatever of high speed—for which I must also give proper credit to the cool competence of our "skipper" at the wheel.
Of course, travel always presents certain problems and mine began with Mother. We had rather a frightful row. I take the entire blame for I should remember that the dear creature, although in excellent health and still a strong skater, is—after all—93 years of age.
It is Mother's contention, Bayard, that travel has become an absolute absurdity in these incredible days of jet aircraft in which we see greengrocers' clerks, television performers and all sorts of unlikely creatures being whisked about the world in their outlandish wash-and-wear wardrobes that can be contained in a single traveling case. Mother, who has not been abroad since President Hoover's Administration (nor, indeed, beyond our summer place on Long Island), never tires of telling me (and Mr. Pevely who comes to wind our clocks) that when she and Father went abroad, they always took 12 wardrobe trunks, at least as many cases and innumerable boxes of hats, shoes and books. Of course, one took one's own sheets as well as one's own maid and manservant.
Naturally, Mother has forbidden me to use aircraft and recently she extended this ban to include the New Haven Railroad, which, as you know, Bayard, keeps falling off the tracks.
I must admit that I share some of Mother's feeling about some aspects of modern travel. The thing has been carried to such lengths, thanks to the ridiculous go-now-pay-later schemes, that a recent issue of Vogue magazine actually reported that it was "old hat" to go to Hong Kong and that
was currently fashionable. I ask you, Bayard!
I did think, however, that Mother's opinions are extreme. I put the case to her: "What does one do if one is not permitted to use either train or aircraft?"
"One simply stays home," replied Mother. "One busies one's self with worthwhile reading, lunching at one's clubs, working on one's stamp collection, skating in season and birding when the weather is fair."