Edwin Legrand Sabin was born on December 23, 1870 in Rockford, Illinois. Before he was a year old, his father, the educator Henry Sabin, moved the family to Clinton, Iowa. Edwin Sabin grew up in that river town and graduated from Clinton High School in 1888. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Sabin then went to work as a reporter for various newspapers in Iowa and Illinois. In May 1893, he joined an expedition to the Bahamas organized by Charles C. Nutting, a professor of zoology and curator of the University of Iowa's natural history museum. Sabin resumed his newspaper work upon his return. While working in Chicago, he met Mary Nicole Nash. They were married on October 7, 1896.
Sabin began publishing poetry and short stories in nationally known magazines around the turn of the century. His work appeared in The Chautauquan, St. Nicholas, Country Life, and many others. In 1902, he wrote his first children's book. Slowly his attention began to focus on the West, and encouraged by his publisher he turned his talents in that direction. His western historical fiction was highly researched and he was proud of its accuracy. He and his wife moved to La Jolla, California in 1913, so he could be closer to his subject matter.
The years 1913 --1931 were fruitful ones for Sabin. His books for boys were being published and received critical acclaim. However, he was hit hard by the Great Depression. He tried to sell his services as a writing consultant and even tried to establish a correspondence school for aspiring writers. These schemes failed, as did his attempts to publish his own work. The public's taste had changed and his western stories, with strong moral lessons of good and evil, were no longer in vogue. Sabin died on November 24, 1954, completely destitute -- a ward of the county.
This is how Desert Dust begins:
In the estimate of the affable brakeman (a gentleman wearing sky-blue army pantaloons tucked into cowhide boots, half-buttoned vest, flannel shirt open at the throat, and upon his red hair a flaring-brimmed black slouch hat) we were making a fair average of twenty miles an hour across the greatest country on earth. It was a flat country of far horizons, and for vast stretches peopled mainly, as one might judge from the car windows, by antelope and the equally curious rodents styled prairie dogs. Yet despite the novelty of such a ride into that unknown new West now being spanned at giant’s strides by the miraculous Pacific Railway, behold me, surfeited with already five days’ steady travel, engrossed chiefly in observing a clear, dainty profile and waiting for the glimpses, time to time, of a pair of exquisite blue eyes. Merely to indulge myself in feminine beauty, however, I need not have undertaken the expense and fatigue of journeying from Albany on the Hudson* out to Omaha on the plains side of the Missouri River; thence by the Union Pacific Railroad of the new transcontinental line into the Indian country. There were handsome women a-plenty in the East; and of access, also, to a youth of family and parts. I had pictures of the same in my social register. A man does not attain to twenty-five years without having accomplished a few pages of the heart book. Nevertheless all such pages were—or had seemed to be—wholly retrospective now, for here I was, advised by the physicians to “go West,” meaning by this not simply the one-time West of Ohio, or Illinois, or even Iowa, but the remote and genuine West lying beyond the Missouri. Whereupon, out of desperation that flung the gauntlet down to hope I had taken the bull by the horns in earnest. West should be full dose, at the utmost procurable by modern conveyance.
From PG, own cover.
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