Friday, December 27, 2013


Letter from Dr. Virgil M. Holland to his daughter, Mary, who has provided some editing additions for clarification. -- Dated July 29, 1982

Dear Mary,
That was an interesting article on the large Ginkgo tree on the old Sam Allison farm out in Fairplay, Texas. There were a few things that even my book did not mention. Sammie was a great one for plants of all types. In his best years, I can remember that he had an orchard with pecan trees, apples, cherries, and pears; in the plot across the road from his house on FM 159 from the Henderson Hwy, US 79, to the north (right) of the barn. In the corner of the garden next to the smokehouse he had raspberries of several different types and colors. It was my delight to pick these through the picket fence when I was about four.

In the chicken yard where the fig trees are now behind the house, there were two huge fig trees. The trees there now are only the remains of one of these large figs. In the turkey yard, he had three fig trees of the large variety. These never seemed to have ever amounted to much... even though one persisted around by the pear tree until a freeze a few years ago did it the roots. Over to the right of the pear tree was an apple tree that ripened in June. It was the first fruit to be available. There were small apples, seldom ever as large as lemons, but they were the best tasting apples that I can remember.

Further back in the orchard proper that now has only three large pecan trees; he had a chinquapin tree, a “Japanese” walnut tree, several varieties of plum and at least a dozen or more peach trees. Among the peaches were the Indian peach for pickles, peaches which the meat adhered to the seed, and peaches of the “clear-seed” kind and several Alberta’s, which are now synonymous with modern day peaches. There were about four apple trees of a type he called “horse apples”. I never saw one ripen. They were fit only for apple cobblers and pies, of which he was very fond. They were also used to make jelly. [Mary’s addition: there were also Hachiya “Japanese” persimmon trees. These had seeds and needed to be fully ripen before eating or they would cause one’s mouth to “pucker”.]

The yard around the house was full of flowers [Mary’s addition from memory: daffodils, hyacinths, jonquils, wisteria, snowflakes, a tulip tree and a massive old name a few] and there was a rose garden (heirloom varieties with trellises) over on the south side of the driveway, by the house. [Mary’s addition: a red crepe myrtle and pomegranate tree were nearby] I can remember Sunday afternoons when he had visitors from all around... that were flower people...that came only to wander through the yard and garden to see his flowers and see what new varieties he had added in previous Winter. These folks usually left with an arm full of cuttings or bulbs. Sammie, no doubt, spent some time admiring their flowers and brought home new varieties.

He always liked to try new flowers and trees as witness the Ginkgo tree and Tulip tree that still blooms. (Mary’s addition: Great Uncle Sam once had a beautiful Japanese red maple outside the kitchen window.] The Ginkgo tree made it under very adverse circumstances. For years, it seemed to have been a mere sprout of a tree. Diamond Pope’s kids all rode it down when they were left under the sycamores while Diamond was working in the field. Sammie would get on to Diamond for letting the kids ride his tree, then she would break switches by the armloads from the same tree to whip the misbehaving kids. (The tree’s ancient ancestors probably survived similar treatment by animals, dinosaurs and such!)

Sammie’s real love was flowers and he always carried bundles to the church every Sunday. He eventually had enough varieties planted to have material for bouquets at any season of the year. In his dotage he even carried this a bit too far...and would make special trips to town just to pass out flowers to people. He didn’t just bring flowers, but had to visit for a spell and give a bit of the history of every flower. (I suspect a lot of his flowers ended up in the waste basket when he was gone.)

He had some of the same interest in certain animals. Pigs were just for bacon and ham ...cows, milk...and horses just draft power.
Poultry was where he gave way to his interests...He always had turkeys as far back as I can remember. He did not like ducks or geese...or Guineas...they always were getting out and messing up his flowers. His chicken yard looked like a Babylon of varieties...He specialized in the bizarre. He had “frizzled” chickens with curled up feathers...”bunnie” chickens that had no tails...bantams, and various other varieties for color and size. He kept all of these together and every setting of eggs was always a surprise package!

Love, Dad

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