The Stories of

The Patch Sampler

A forthcoming publication from

The Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch

Edith Patch’s children’s stories taught gentle lessons about nature. She wanted children to share in what Rachel Carson would call a “sense of wonder” about nature. In “The Old Boulder” Patch wrote: “For the old boulder has a story of its own quite as marvelous as the tale of anything else on the hill. And in spite of the rock’s quiet way of sitting there, its story is one of travel and adventure and mystery.”

Patch, like Carson, saw human beings as integral parts of the natural world. They both rejected the false dichotomy “Man and Nature” that many people often use. Whatever affected an animal or a plant affected the people who shared that ecosystem. The owner of Holiday Farm was dismayed by the number of young mosquitoes in the bog pools on his farm, and thought he might have to drain the bog. However, the dusky ducks feasted on those wrigglers, so that there were actually fewer mosquitoes than usual that spring. And the mosquitoes that did reach maturity were decimated by the swallows. So the wetland was saved.

Wild things could be useful to people in many ways. When the gardener finds the body of Cock Robin in the garden he is prepared to go to the trouble of burying it. However, the Sexton beetle began the work of burying the body which would provide sustenance for her baby grubs. To the satisfaction of the gardener, the beetle accomplished the work for him.

Patch also teaches that even people who mean well can disturb the natural order. In The Painted Turtle, Eleanor is a nice young girl who wishes to become acquainted with Picta. However, she steals her away from her natural habitat, while at the same time promising to make her “comfortable and happy.” Since Eleanor is a girl who respects all living things, when she sees that she cannot fulfill her promise to Picta while keeping her in captivity, she searches for an appropriate environment and returns the turtle to the wild. Whenever possible, such action is the correct one in dealing with wild animals and insects.

Patch noted in The Cabin of the Common Tree Frog that it will do Hyla “no harm for you to keep him some day long enough to watch him change his color.” Then, of course, Hyla should be restored to his original place outside.

Patch’s young readers knew as well as she that not all people were benevolent towards animals. Cubby Lotor finds this out when his paw is caught in a trap. His mother rescues him by cutting off the three fingers that were gripped by the trap. However, the innate goodness of humans is redeemed by the action of the farmer from Holiday Farm, who, when he comes upon the trap, posts a “No Steel Traps Allowed Here” sign on his property.

Patch often used the scientific names for animals and plants to teach subtly. The raccoons are Mother and Father Lotor.” The wild carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace is “Daucus.” Readers of these stories may learn the terminology without even being aware of it. Patch was always concerned with scientific accuracy. Her stories were to delight but also to educate.

The selections in the Sampler demonstrate Edith Patch’s attitudes and beliefs about nature. Most of the pieces illustrate more than one of these concepts. Above all, Patch wanted to be absolutely accurate in her depiction of nature. Her writings are realistic and true, as well as entertaining.

by Nancy MacKnight

From The Patch Sampler