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It all began in 1864, in a small log cabin in the wintry valleys of Vancouver, Canada. I was born into a small but loyal family consisting of—at various stages—my mother and father, and identical twin siblings, differing only in age, appearance and often gender. My brother and sister were hailed as quite a medical miracle, considered the only twins ever to be born 4 years apart. What was even more incredible was that I was born in these intervening 4 years. My Mother always considered this “a small blessing in between a great miracle”.
I was named Harold Erdwin Scholes Grosvenor, but this was changed to Harold Erdwin Scholes-Grosvenor when my Great Aunt Maurice presented me with a hyphen as a christening gift. The hyphen was subsequently removed, however, when it was discovered that it was infected with a tropical disease that eventually spread to the Grosvenor. Along with removing my surname, it was thought best that my Christian names should be abbreviated to prevent further infection. I was known after this as H.E. Scholes.
My Father, E.H. Scholes, was also the victim of hyphen sickness as a young child. In fact, the only male member in the history our family not afflicted by the debilitating disease was my great cousin John Louis Scholes Grosvenor, who was affectionately known as “J.L.”.
Even though I struggled with hyphen sickness in my young life, it was soon recognised that I was already far smarter than other boys half my age. I had an early affinity for numbers and was delighted when my father presented me with a complex wooden abacus he had crafted me for my third birthday. I would sit for hours—counting the three pine nuts that my father had strung masterly between two other pine nuts—lost in the mathematical wonder. My father’s carpentry skills did not end with counting tools, however. He had built our original cabin with his bare hands, before, on my mother’s advice, switching to wooden logs. When my mother was pregnant with Yves, my older brother, my father built a fireplace to keep her warm. Unfortunately, his revolutionary design failed to incorporate a chimney. Or, for that matter, a place for the fire to sit. After the flames had died down, my parents built a new house, and it has remained standing (albeit leaning slightly to the left) ever since.
It was 1873, and I was nine, when I first picked up a pen. It felt nice in my hand, and I used it to gut fish caught in the lake near our cabin before my mother suggested I use it to write. Of course, in those days, pens were very much in their infancy. The one I used took three hours to warm up, and could only be used for five minutes at a time before it overheated. Being an academic child, it would often take me five minutes to think up what I would write once the pen had warmed up. As a result, my early pieces consisted mainly of single words. Among my favourite initial works was a piece I entitled Tree. Here it is, for the first time in print, unabridged and in its entirety.
“Tree” by H.E. Scholes, March 19, 1873
I showed this poem to my father one fine spring morning. He began to read it as I played in the snow and by mid-afternoon, when he had finished it, he called me over.
“Young man,” said my father. “This is a work of pure genius.”
I must admit, it was the first time in my life I had entertained thoughts of my own incredible intellectual and artistic capabilities—I had spoken of them often enough, but it was the first time I had thought of them. My father, recognising my talents, immediately bought me three more pens, so that I could write at a rate quadruple that of my previous efforts. This produced some of my finest early poems, such as “That Tree Over There”, “It’s A Fine Morning” and my famous unfinished work, “There’s Snow On My”. Not many people know this, but another poem of this period, “Abacus Oh Abacus Mine” was made into a stage play by Eugene O’Neill, some years later, to limited critical acclaim.
Sadly, in 1879, just as my writing talents were beginning to blossom, my father passed away after a painful battle with cancer and a wild bear. I took it as I sign I should move on.