Meeting Miss Bucks in Bucks
Easy Does It
What is there about Halloween that would remind me of meeting a Pulitzer Prize-winning author in the backyard of her Hilltown Township home?
I was still in college when the wedding invitation arrived. The reception would be held on the lawn of Green Hills Farm, the home of Pearl S. Buck, best known for her novel “The Good Earth.” My cousin was marrying into the Buck family.
Now the 68-acre Green Hills Farm is a Bucks County national historic landmark.
The house where Buck lived and wrote so prolifically so many years ago is the spooky site this Sunday, Oct. 28, of candlelight tours and the telling of many of her stories. Hayrides, refreshments and tours are also on the agenda for all the little ghosts and goblins.
Some of the tales to be told, many from Miss Buck’s writings, include the legends of Devil Harry, the nosy colonial servant; Mrs. Loris, the mysterious housekeeper; Magdalena, the deserted fiancé, and other goose-bump producing tales setting the atmosphere for a good old fashioned Halloween.
The nightly schedule also includes a visit to Pearl Buck’s grave and a candlelight tour of the first floor of her house.
I was a journalism student who because of a wedding was being given the opportunity to meet, shake hands, and talk with the prolific novelist. How lucky was that? It was something I looked forward to. I remember wishing I had some samples of my writing that I could show her.
But my stories in the Rider News long before Rider College became a university and moved from its Trenton concrete campus to the green lawns and quiet pathways of Lawrenceville hardly reached the quality good enough for the eyes of Pearl Buck.
It was the house that I first noticed as my dad pulled the car into the driveway and was guided to a parking area in a nearby pasture. Her fieldstone home, shaded by large old trees, rose majestically not too far from the country road. Although I haven’t been there in decades, I assume the rolling hills and shady timeless pastures of Bucks County haven’t changed that much despite the passage of time and the death of Miss Buck in 1973 at the age of 81.
My first glimpse of our hostess as I walked from the car toward the house was of Buck sitting on a child’s wooden swing seat suspended by two thick ropes rising to a gnarled limb of a large knotty oak tree. For the wedding reception, she wore a colorful flowing spring flowered gown and a wide-brimmed hat that softened the sun’s rays filtering through the branches.
My mother’s sister, mother of the groom, introduced me and my parents to the author. Buck shook my hand. She seemed genuinely interested when I told her I was a journalism and English major in college, and had “written some things” for the school newspaper.
“I would be delighted to see some of your work,” she said warmly. “You should have brought something with you.” I thanked her for her interest and promised I would at a later date, but I knew my opportunity had passed. Another meeting was not to be.
We continued to talk about writing, and she seemed genuinely interested in the courses I was taking at Rider. The thoughts were bouncing around in my head. I really did know a lot about her. I had, after all, done the research just in case we had the opportunity to converse after the introductions.
I already sat through a class on how to interview someone, but thoughts have a way of fleeing, and there were many other guests and of course, the bride and groom.
Buck grew up in China where her parents were missionaries. Educated at RandolphMason Woman’s College in Lynchburg, VA, she returned to China after graduation and lived there until 1934 except for a year at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where she earned an MA degree in 1928.
She began to write in the 1920s, and in 1930 published her first novel, “East Wind, West Wind.” Only a year later came “The Good Earth,” winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature and forming her trilogy about the Wang family.