With the bookshelf, it is hard to know where to begin. The books are not arranged chronologically or by subject matter. Probably the best place to begin is the copy of The Magnate. A copy was given to all Board members, which I joined in October 2003, much to my surprise. The Board had moved the endowment from the east coast to Northern Trust in Arizona and they needed a Treasurer. The current Treasurer lived in upstate New York and would not be as much help. So I attended the meeting only to offer some advice to the Finance Committee and before I knew what happened, I was on the Board. There was a transition period with the former Treasure but I was walking in his shoes rather quickly.
I did not read The Magnate cover to cover until right before my interview in August of 2008. Once I got through a couple of chapters, I could not put it down. When people said I must be living my dream, I replied that I had merely adopted the Colonel’s dream.
After my selection, I recounted my attempts to learn some flora before my interview by perusing various issues of Desert Plants to one of the Board members. He replied that any self-respecting Arizona botanist would have started with the Arizona Flora by Kearney and Peebles. He first had learned botany at NAU and remembered using the keys in fieldwork. He then wished me luck as it was no longer in print.
Enter an extremely nice lady, Helen Barber of Rainbow Books. She was one of the few people in the early years who took me under their wing and did all they could to help myself and BTA. They donated books, had sales for us and did all they could to help me solidify BTA’s reputation as a place for people who truly love plants. I cannot thank her enough and it was from her I finally find my copy of the Arizona Flora. In my excitement, I called our Board Chairman Mary Irish and told her about my find. She then informed me that the Vegetation and Flora of the Sonoran Desert by Shreve and Wiggins was the other must have for a true Arizona botanist. It took another trip to see Helen, but after that day I had a certain sense of confidence when people visited my office. I knew that if they looked behind me, I had the 3 volumes that let them know that BTA was a serious Arizona institution of plant research.
Speaking of Mary Irish, she is quite the author and I have all of her books. They are all at home as my yard has suffered over my years here at BTA. The Arizona and New Mexico Getting Started book is by her and I always feel better having her and one of her books at my back for support.
Speaking of out-of-print books, the Arizona Rare Plant Field Guide was another huge confidence builder. I found this in my office I believe but pulled it out one day as we were planning a seed collecting trip for Arizona legumes. I had been through the herbarium database and identified some places to go, conveniently located near a state park. Camping at a state park not only saved money but made the trips all that much more fun. The Field Guide not only accompanied me, provided great information and helped me be a full member of the team. It is amazing how little things can help you along.
The remaining items on that page is the Wizard of Oz, a core of rock from when they drilled into Kartchner Caverns State Park and a South African military insignia. All three were gifts from people who meant a lot to me over the years. The rock core signified I was now part of the State Parks team. The cycad insignia was from Monty Crawford and it not only shows how generous Monty Crawford and his wife are, but also how cactus and succulent society members have embraced BTA and myself. They have a passion for plants and sharing it with others as do so many of our volunteers. We could not operate BTA without such people and Monty’s knowledge and generosity with cycads is truly remarkable.
When I first came to the Arboretum and wanted to learn all I could about plants, I read all of our interpretive panels. The one outside the Australian Pavilion has a picture of a cycad. I was so enamored with it, I asked our then Director of Horticulture Steve Carter where such a wondrous plant was. He replied they were too expensive and we did not have any. That launched an appeal to raise $25,000 to buy cycads. I have never looked but we keep adding plants to the Arboretum. There will always be a warm spot in my heart for cycads. I want to thank Monty for keeping the importance of them ever close to me.
The Wizard of Oz was from staff one year. My favorite movie of all time and it is nice to have your staff acknowledge that we all have the right to dream of a place somewhere over the rainbow. In their own way, all my staff has helped created that place for you to enjoy. I think it was Arnold who said if your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough. With my staff, I was never scared, worried yes, scared no. In looking back, maybe I should have been scared but not worried as things are turning out rather well.