The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

December 14, 2018

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The Regionalist: Ohio’s Backyard Scientist
Bill Kauffman - 04/22/09

A later Peltier book, The Place on Jennings Creek (1977), which I have never been able to lay eyes on, is said to be a rich account of the natural world, the flora and fauna, of his Delphos home. Leslie and Dottie finally bought their own home in 1948, the “old Moennig place” at the western end of town. “We made few changes and even those few were mostly in retrograde motion. What we found here was sound and good. It was a leftover bit of an earlier America and we had no desire to bring it up to date.” He did, of course, move his observatory onto the grounds.

Peltier was unmoved by the glories of the sky when mediated by any technology much beyond two pieces of glass at either end of a tube. “No photograph has yet been made which is not cold and flat and dead when compared with the scenes that meet one’s eyes when the moon is viewed through even a small telescope,” he wrote.

The telescope, he stated “most emphatically,” is “not essential to an enjoyment of the stars.” Just stand ’neath the sky and gaze upward into the firmament. The enchantment, said Peltier, is the same. Without a scope, he concluded, “life for me would change but little. Telescope or not, I would still keep watch.” (He did bemoan the artificial satellites traversing the sky: “mankind’s latest pollution in the name of progress.”)

Leslie Peltier, as a man firmly placed in Delphos, opposed the “conquest of the moon.” The space program he regarded as just another act of “greedy pillage.”

“I know that someday man will reach the moon but I sincerely hope this will not happen for a long, long time. He has a lot of growing up to do before he will be ready for the moon. . . . If man must meet a challenge he can find one here on earth. If he must conquer something let it be himself.”

Night falls in my town somewhere east of Delphos, and I haul my eight-inch Dobsonian reflector out beyond the raspberry patch in our backyard. I bought the telescope several years ago when I finally received a payment I had long before given up on. I couldn’t dust Leslie Peltier’s eyepiece but that doesn’t matter: the moon is there for me, too, rising over the hedgerow.

Leslie Peltier was right. The moon is just fine where it is. Leave it alone. Everything in its place, don’t you know?

The Regionalist is the regular column of Bill Kauffman.

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