Posts Tagged ‘Ben D. Peterson’

As posted on July 18, I met with Ben D. Peterson to discuss the early years of Hodges Gardens.  Prior to joining the Marine Corps in 1955, Ben D. installed fence, worked on the plumbing crew, and poured concrete via wheelbarrow at Hodges Gardens.  The following clip is a brief, unedited fraction of our conversation, but I wanted to share something before the summer winds down.

In this video Ben. D. shares on the following:

– A.J. Hodges’ acquisition of the land where the Gardens would be established
– the Cole Family; according to Ben D., the Coles were the last family to sell their property to Hodges, and many of the family members were employed by Hodges Gardens for a number of years
– the character/personality of A.J. Hodges
–  Ben D.’s contribution to the Garden through fencing, plumbing, and concrete work

For more background information on this interview, visit the July 18 post at https://exploringhodgesgardens.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/a-day-with-ben-d-peterson/

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The last couple weeks have been busy here at the office, and I’m happy to take time to catch up on blogging.  Research has continued at Hodges Gardens, we joined the Friends Group for their July Board Meeting, and I presented past research here at NCPTT as part of the summer Lunchtime Lecture series.  More on these items will follow.

Interview with Ben D. Peterson at Lookout Tower, Hodges Gardens State Park.

Intern colleague Addy Smith-Reiman and I arrived at Hodges Gardens at 9am on Thursday, July 7.  We met Ben D. Peterson at the Gift Shop, and from there strolled up the hill to Lookout Tower.  The wind was calm enough on one side of the structure that we were able to interview here in a comfortable spot with table and chairs.  Addy and I joined Ben D. around the table, which I hope created a more relaxed atmosphere for the discussion.

Ben D. began talking about the early years of the Hodges Gardens landscape.  Prior to Hodges’ purchasing the property, Ben D.’s father ran cattle on the hills surrounding the quarried landscape.  As Mr. Hodges purchased the future Hodges Gardens property in the 1940s, Ben D.’s father moved his cattle from the hills and quarry area over to the west side of U.S. Highway 171.

Ben D. shared a story of his father’s cattle getting into a neighbor’s corn crop one year.  A friend notified his father of the incident, and Mr. Peterson made plans to repay the individual for the lost corn crop.   Ben D. fondly remembers the corn farmer’s pleasant surprise at the amount of corn he received; the farmer acknowledged it was well more than he had actually grown and lost to the cattle.

Ben D. built fencelines, worked with the plumbing crew, and laid concrete and rock at the Garden, prior to his joining the Marine Corps in 1955.  He remembers pushing wheelbarrows of wet concrete to the ground stakes, which marked different plans for the groundwork.  According to Ben D. and John Byrd, all the concrete in the original construction years (early 1950s – 1956) was implemented via wheelbarrow.

As Ben D.’s mother was a Hodges Gardens custodian before and after his Marine Corps service, Ben D. returned for periodic visits to the Gardens for many years.  One of  a long line of horse riders in his family, Ben D. continues his equestrian adventures today on Hodges Gardens trails.

Our visit with Ben D. concluded with more conversation at his impressive home garden, as well as a gift of two freshly picked tomatoes for the road back to Natchitoches.

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I was out of the office Friday, July 1 through Monday, July 4 for the Independence Day holiday.  The following is a summary of my notes taken on Thursday, June 30 and Tuesday, July 5.

Thursday, June 30.  I heard from two helpful board members of the Friends of Hodges Gardens: Peggy Bianchi, via email, and Linda Curtis-Sparks, on the telephone.  Both recommended my connecting with Ben D. Peterson, a local who is familiar with the early construction years at Hodges Gardens (1950 –  1955).  Ben D. is one of several generations of his family to be involved in horseback riding, and he is known for his chuckwagon stew that he shares at regional events and gatherings.

A board member with the Friends of Hodges Gardens, Linda has been involved in conservation and tourism development for several years and is in the 6th generation of her family to live along the El Camino Real de los Tejas.
Jeff Guin, NCPTT Public Affairs & Marketing Manager, met with me to discuss some basic video editing suggestions.  I hope to pull together some of our landscape video clips to make a brief Hodges Gardens/summer research introduction video for the blog.

Tuesday, July 5.  Ben D. Peterson called.  I’m happy to report I will be meeting with him tomorrow morning (Thursday), and I’ve also set up an appointment to discuss Sabine Parish area tourism–including Hodges Gardens’ role in this industry–with Linda Curtis-Sparks in Many, LA tomorrow.

Just before the end of the day, I created an account on Flickr.  This will be used for embedding certain images; currently, I am working on updating the interactive Google Map at the top of this page.  I plan to include photos where possible with the (blue)-flagged landscape features.  Though still under the first days of construction, you can check the Flickr page at ExploringHodgesGardens.

I hope to be able to share some of the Hare & Hare landscape architectural drawings on here.  I am awaiting confirmation from the archive on permitted usage of these images.

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