California And The Californians By David Starr Jordan

 -  The house was a
place for storing food and keeping one's belongings from the wet. To
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The House Was A Place For Storing Food And Keeping One's Belongings From The Wet.

To hide in it from the weather is to abuse the normal function.

The climate of California is especially kind to childhood and old age. Men live longer there, and, if unwasted by dissipation, strength of body is better conserved. To children the conditions of life are particularly favorable. California could have no better advertisement at some world's fair than a visible demonstration of this fact. A series of measurements of the children of Oakland has recently been taken, in the interest of comparative child study; and should the average of these from different ages be worked into a series of models from Eastern cities, the result would surprise. The children of California, other things being equal, are larger, stronger and better formed than their Eastern cousins of the same age. This advantage of development lasts, unless cigarettes, late hours, or grosser forms of dissipation come in to destroy it. A wholesome, sober, out-of-door life in California invariably means a vigorous maturity.

A third element of charm in California is that of personal freedom. The dominant note in the social development of the state is individualism, with all that it implies of good or evil. Man is man in California: he exists for his own sake, not as part of a social organism. He is, in a sense, superior to society. In the first place, it is not his society; he came from some other region on his own business. Most likely, he did not intend to stay; but, having summered and wintered in California, he has become a Californian, and now he is not contented anywhere else. Life on the coast has, for him, something of the joyous irresponsibility of a picnic. The feeling of children released from school remains with the grown people.

'A Western man," says Dr. Amos Griswold Warner, "is an Eastern man who has had some additional experiences." The Californian is a man from anywhere in America or Europe, typically from New England, perhaps, who has learned a thing or two he did not know in the East, and perhaps, has forgotten some things it would have been as well to remember. The things he has learned relate chiefly to elbow room, nature at first hand and "the unearned increment." The thing that he is most likely to forget is that the escape from public opinion is not escape from the consequences of wrong action.

Of elbow room California offers abundance. In an old civilization men grow like trees in a close-set forest. Individual growth and symmetry give way to the necessity of crowding. Every man spends some large part of his strength in being not himself, but what some dozens of other people expect him to be. There is no room for spreading branches, and the characteristic qualities and fruitage develop only at the top. On the frontier men grow as the California white oak, which, in the open field, sends its branches far and wide.

With plenty of elbow-room the Californian works out his own inborn character. If he is greedy, malicious, intemperate, by nature, his bad qualities rise to the second degree in California, and sometimes to the third. The whole responsibility rests on himself. Society has no part of it, and he does not pretend to be what he is not, out of deference to society. "Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue," but in California no such homage is demanded or accepted. In like manner, the virtues become intensified in freedom. Nowhere in the world can one find men and women more hospitable, more refined, more charming than in the homes of prosperous California. And these homes, whether in the pine forests of the Sierras, in the orange groves of the south, in the peach orchards of the Coast range, or on the great stock ranches, are the delight of all visitors who enter their open doors. To be sure, the bewildering hospitality of the great financiers and greater gamblers of the sixties and seventies is a thing of the past. We shall never again see such prodigal entertainment as that which Ralston, bankrupt, cynical, and magnificent, once dispensed in Belmont Caņon. Nor do we find, nowadays, such lavish outgiving of fruit and wine, or such rushing of tally-hos, as once preceded the auction sale of town lots in paper cities. These gorgeous "spreads" were not hospitality, and disappeared when the traveler had learned his lesson. Their avowed purpose was "the sale of worthless land to old duffers from the East." But real hospitality is characteristic of all parts of California where men and women have an income beyond the needs of the day.

To a very unusual degree the Californian forms his own opinions on matters of politics, religion, and human life, and these views he expresses without reserve. His own head he "carries under his own hat," and whether this be silk or a sombrero is a matter of his own choosing. The dictates of church and party have no binding force on him. The Californian does not confine his views to abstractions. He has his own opinions of individual men and women. If need be, he will analyze the character, motives and actions of his neighbor in a way which will horrify the traveler who has grown up in the shadow of the libel law. The Californian is peculiarly sensitive as to his own personal freedom of action. Toward public rights or duties, he is correspondingly indifferent. In the times of national stress, he paid his debts in gold and asked the same of his creditors, regardless of the laws or customs of the rest of the United States. To him gold is still money and a national promise to pay is not. The general welfare is not a catchword with him. His affairs are individual. But he is not stingy for all this. It is rather a form of largeness, of tolerance.

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