There is evidence that Hindu surgeons may have performed tissue transplants 2,600 years ago.
San Mateo County, California, March 1975
Paul had big butterflies in his stomach. He was nervous because he was on his way to meet with Mr. Jerry Landis. The Mr. Jerry Landis, one of the most important men in the country, according to every business magazine Paul had read. And since other important men had a hard time getting an appointment with Mr. Landis, everybody was impressed that Paul had been granted an audience with him -- especially since Paul was just fifteen years old.
He was sitting in the back of the bus looking at the blood on his finger. Paul chewed his nails whenever he was anxious, and this time he had torn one below the cuticle, drawing a crimson reminder of his apprehension. Paul took a deep breath and tried to relax, but he would need more than air to settle his nerves today. He was delivering an important document to Mr. Landis and he prayed it would make a difference. Paul just wanted to make the world a better place.
The reason Paul had been invited to meet with Mr. Landis in the first place was a civics class project designed to demonstrate the power and importance of a participatory democracy. The project involved writing a letter to someone in a position to influence government or corporate policy. Some of Paul's classmates wrote to city council members; others wrote to senators or representatives. But Paul wrote to Mr. Landis because of something he had read about in the newspaper, something called the Landaq Sierra Nevada Development Project.
According to the newspaper,Landaq had recently purchased a vast tract of land in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, a pristine wilderness area where Paul had attended summer camp as a child. Paul still felt the wondrous charge of emotion he'd experienced when he first saw that land. The stunning granite peaks painted with corn lilies and Indian rhubarb were still vivid in his eyes. He had waded in the clear creeks lined with grass hummocks, bushy splashes of green and bright yellow. He could still smell the sugar and ponderosa pines that dusted the cool lakes with patterns of pollen while mergansers paddled noiselessly about. The dogwoods that bloomed fragrant next to maple and cottonwood alive with noisy squirrels and Stellar's jays had somehow gotten into his blood. And the giant sequoia -- awesome, ancient, and primeval -- had moved his young soul. This land so inspired awe that it must have been created, as John Muir wrote, by tender snowflakes noiselessly falling through unnumbered centuries. It was the world the way it should be, Paul thought.
But Jerry Landis thought it could be improved. Or, as Landaq's press release said, "developed." The newspaper article quoted Jerry Landis: "Landaq merely intends to capitalize on some of the area's natural resources." And Paul knew that meant the land would be destroyed. Paul had read that Jerry Landis supported politicians who helped open national forests to logging, who moved aggressively to scale back clean water programs, and who referred to the Environmental Protection Agency as "the Gestapo of government." Whenever Jerry Landis "developed" a wilderness area, he strip-mined mountainsides, or clear-cut old growth forests, or drilled and spilled crude oil, or dumped toxic wastes, or all of the above.
And his shareholders didn't care one whit. just so Jerry Landis increased dividends.
But Paul wasn't interested in that sort of return. Paul wanted this small part of the world -- his Eden -- to remain as it was. He didn't want to see it destroyed, So he wrote to Mr. Landis and asked him to reconsider. Paul said he would write a plan suggesting alternative uses for the land. A few weeks later Paul received an invitation to meet with Mr. Landis to discuss his ideas. Paul threw himself into the project. He stopped playing with his friends after school. Instead he stayed at the library until it closed. He stopped watching television, except for Chico and the Man and Hawaii Five-0. He spent ungodly hours researching and learning and writing about his subject. He started using terms like "aquifer water volume" and "forest biomass density." And after two months of grueling work, Paul had completed his proposal.
And now he found himself sitting in the back of a city bus going from Atherton to Menlo Park. The bus driver had forced Paul to pay full fare because he looked older than fifteen. Paul was big for his age. His classmates teased him, not terribly, but enough that it hurt. Something about Paul's looks -- half adult, half kid -- kept him from being in any of the cliques. He was big and awkward, no longer a cute boy but not yet the handsome young man be would become.
Sitting several rows ahead of Paul were a woman and her son. The woman looked tired, sad, and troubled. The boy was about Paul's age, and there was something terribly wrong with him. His eyes were strange, and Paul wondered what he saw through them. The boy made loud noises instead of words and periodically he screamed and hit himself. When his mother tried to restrain him, the boy would hit her too. The woman looked embarrassed and frightened every time this happened, and Paul felt sorry for both ofthem. Paul knew the last stop for this bus was the state hospital at Woodside. He imagined this overwhelmed and battered woman was taking her son there. She couldn't deal with it anymore.
Everyone else on the bus tried to ignore them, but Paul couldn't, it bothered him too much. It was so unfair, he thought, that someone could be that way through no fault of his own and that nothing could be done to help. Paul became angry when he heard people shrug this sort of thing off ...The Organ Grinders
. Copyright © by Bill Fitzhugh. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.