Mann and Nature

A comment on Mann & Nature, a book of essays by Perry Mann. (To have your very own copy send me $3 for postage. Julian Martin, 1525 Hampton Road, Charleston, WV 25314. Contact me at for more information on this excellent book.)

A comment on reading Mann and Nature–

As one who like Perry Mann grew up on a farm, an orchard farm at that,  with the marvelous odors and beauty of apple blossoms greeting us  every Spring,   his essays brought back many memories associated with closeness to Nature, memories that I fear (as Perry Mann does) that  present generations   will not experience.

This loss of closeness to  Nature – which has been going on for many years now – is reflected in  the cavalier manner in which plant life and wild life are treated today – as things to be destroyed and discarded, forgetting their role as part of  the independent web of all   existence of which we are (just) a part.  I remember walking through the woods of my uncle’s farm, picking  lady slippers and other wild flowers for bouquets (unfortunately, wild  flowers fade quickly and probably should be left alone).   There was a  brook on the farm too, where clear water rushed by and where in  summer, we would take a dip.   We had wonderful critters around the farm,  squirrels, chipmunks, skunks (not to be messed with) and non-poisonous  snakes, to name a few.

Of course we had chickens and cows.  Nothing exotic, but all part of the rural landscape  that has now virtually  disappeared.   We would pick blueberries in a nearby swamp and there were a host of other berry bushes on the farm – gooseberry,  elderberry, raspberry & blackberry bushes. In summer, we would have  fields of strawberries. My aunt produced some  delicious pies from some of these.

So, like Perry Mann, I feel fortunate to have lived ‘way back then’ when one could be close to Nature effortlessly. Oh yes, we knew poverty too – of a sort – never lacked food or shelter and  we had access to good medical care and very good public education, but  we lacked “money”.  The Great Depression was on (1930’s)…

By the way, this farm of about 50 acres was in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

A blurb on Mann and Nature

Perry Mann has been recognized in Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth. On the back cover of Mann and Nature: A Collection of Essays, compiled by Ann Farrell Bowers, Shetterly wrote these words of praise: “Working and living with nature have taught Perry Mann to respect the great web of life, which he believes is much stronger than any human activity. By abusing the earth and not realizing what we need to support the health of this web, he believes we are in danger of destroying ourselves and much of the earth’s life forms with us.” Not well known outside of his community in West Virginia, Perry Mann presents the importance of thousands of unheralded and critically important voices across our country.”

In her introduction to Mann and Nature, Ann Farrell Bowers paid this tribute to Perry Mann: “He was my high school English teacher, and his effect on me was profound. It has been said that it takes only a few good teachers to change a life forever, and he was mine.”

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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