[NAFEX] Brooks D. Drain

Kieran &/or Donna holycow at frontiernet.net
Fri Jun 12 10:44:14 EDT 2009

Oh Fluff, this is wonderful!  I have tried to find everything I could on his 
UT breeding program.  I had no idea there he'd written an article for 
Pomona.  I was just in high school when that article came out, I doubt I'd 
ever tasted a pear that didn't come out of a can.  So who's got Pomonas that 
old?  Can I just pay the Nafex librarian to photocopy it for me?
    I'm not surprised to hear there's some pathos in the story.  When I did 
an online search of UT's library catalogue looking for his name, I 
discovered that there was a publication of some professor's organization 
regarding the forced retirement of Brooks D. Drain.  It's one of the things 
I wanted to read when I finally make a trip over to the UTK ag library.  I 
think that's why his pears dropped into obscurity, why the last release 
doesn't seem to have any articles published about it.
    You have to really read between the lines when it comes to plants and 
nursery catalogs and star spangled releases.  I'll give you an example. 
I've tried to figure out how Ethan Natelson has kept a European pear like 
Abbe Fetel alive in Houston.  Turns out it's a shy cropper.  A pear I'd come 
across references to as excellent quality, the Sheldon, was mentioned in the 
late 1880's as surviving the blight in IL when other vars were dying.  I 
scrounged up a description in Pears of NY online, first prasing the fruit 
(Corvallis has this part) then condemning the tree (Corvallis seems to have 
left this part out).  Tardy poor croppers have an advantage, no blooms for 
the blight to attack.  Abbe Fetel blooms at the wrong time for Ethan, so the 
bees don't bring pollen and blight from other pears.  I think of the 8 pears 
UT released, the 7 bred in TN were all from seeds planted in the mid 30's. 
They were all released in the 40's and 50's except for Merricourt.  Hmmm... 
what was wrong with it?  Terrific fruit they say.  Corvallis mentions it as 
a shy cropper.  Or maybe it merely suffered in the fallout from Prof Drain's 
fall from grace, was ignored and not released till a dozen years later when 
they were about to bulldoze the lot.  Bulldozers seem to figure large in 
Tennessean's ideas on landscaping.  When I first discovered that UT had 
developed 8 vars, I called David Lockwood their horticulture expert who said 
that UT had recollected them, grafted and planted them, and then bulldozed 
them.  Will I find some evaluation somewhere in some thin dusty bulletin on 
a dark shelf in the UT library?  How would I even find it if no one has ever 
recorded it on computer?  I lived in a perfectly ordinary 200 year old house 
in England, it wasn't even old there.  Americans have no sense of time, no 
patience with anything that takes longer or lives longer than a few years. 
I called the Springfield expt station where the pears were bred and raised, 
and was told that no pears had ever been grown there.  The secretary 
confessed she'd only been there 17 years and that I should have talked to 
the old guy who'd retired years earlier and died last year.  Oh well, 
enough.   Thank you thank you!    Donna 

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