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Title: A Son of the Middle Border
Author: Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Son of the Middle Border" ***




       *       *       *       *       *


 January twenty-second.

 Dear Mrs. LeCron:

In the spring of 1898, after finishing my LIFE OF ULYSSES S. GRANT, I
began to plan to go into the Klondike over the Telegraph Trail. One day
in showing the maps of my route to William Dean Howells, I said, "I
shall go in here and come out there," a trail of nearly twelve hundred
miles through an almost unknown country. As I uttered this I suddenly
realized that I was starting on a path holding many perils and that I
might not come back.

With this in mind, I began to dictate the story of my career up to that
time. It was put in the third person but it was my story and the story
of my people, the Garlands and the McClintocks. This manuscript, crude
and hasty as it was, became the basis of A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER. It
was the beginning of a four-volume autobiography which it has taken me
fifteen years to write. As a typical mid-west settler I felt that the
history of my family would be, in a sense, the chronicle of the era of
settlement lying between 1840 and 1914. I designedly kept it intimate
and personal, the joys and sorrows of a group of migrating families. Of
the four books, Volume One, THE TRAIL MAKERS, is based upon my memory of
the talk around a pioneer fireside. The other three volumes are as true
as my own memory can make them.

 Hamlin Garland

       *       *       *       *       *





Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
by arrangement with
The MacMillan Company

Printed in the United States of America

Copyright, 1914 And 1917
by P. F. Collier & Son

Copyright, 1917
by Hamlin Garland

Set up and electrotyped. Published August, 1917. Reprinted
March, 1925, December, 1925. Reissued, January, 1927,
February, 1928.


 CHAPTER                                                  PAGE

      I. HOME FROM THE WAR                                   1

     II. THE MCCLINTOCKS                                    14

    III. THE HOME IN THE COULEE                             27

     IV. FATHER SELLS THE FARM                              42

      V. THE LAST THRESHING IN THE COULEE                   50

     VI. DAVID AND HIS VIOLIN                               59


   VIII. WE MOVE AGAIN                                      79

     IX. OUR FIRST WINTER ON THE PRAIRIE                    85

      X. THE HOMESTEAD ON THE KNOLL                         99

     XI. SCHOOL LIFE                                       107

    XII. CHORES AND ALMANACS                               116

   XIII. BOY LIFE ON THE PRAIRIE                           125

    XIV. WHEAT AND THE HARVEST                             144

     XV. HARRIET GOES AWAY                                 161

    XVI. WE MOVE TO TOWN                                   173

   XVII. A TASTE OF VILLAGE LIFE                           189

  XVIII. BACK TO THE FARM                                  204

    XIX. END OF SCHOOL DAYS                                221

     XX. THE LAND OF THE DAKOTAS                           234

    XXI. THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT                       248

   XXII. WE DISCOVER NEW ENGLAND                           267

  XXIII. COASTING DOWN MT. WASHINGTON                      279


    XXV. THE LAND OF THE STRADDLE-BUG                      301

   XXVI. ON TO BOSTON                                      318

  XXVII. ENTER A FRIEND                                    333

 XXVIII. A VISIT TO THE WEST                               353

   XXIX. I JOIN THE ANTI-POVERTY BRIGADE                   375

    XXX. MY MOTHER IS STRICKEN                             396

   XXXI. MAIN TRAVELLED ROADS                              410

  XXXII. THE SPIRIT OF REVOLT                              421

 XXXIII. THE END OF THE SUNSET TRAIL                       433

  XXXIV. WE GO TO CALIFORNIA                               440

   XXXV. THE HOMESTEAD IN THE VALLEY                       455


A Son of the Middle Border


Home from the War

All of this universe known to me in the year 1864 was bounded by the
wooded hills of a little Wisconsin coulee, and its center was the
cottage in which my mother was living alone--my father was in the war.
As I project myself back into that mystical age, half lights cover most
of the valley. The road before our doorstone begins and ends in vague
obscurity--and Granma Green's house at the fork of the trail stands on
the very edge of the world in a sinister region peopled with bears and
other menacing creatures. Beyond this point all is darkness and terror.

It is Sunday afternoon and my mother and her three children, Frank,
Harriet and I (all in our best dresses) are visiting the Widow Green,
our nearest neighbor, a plump, jolly woman whom we greatly love. The
house swarms with stalwart men and buxom women and we are all sitting
around the table heaped with the remains of a harvest feast. The women
are "telling fortunes" by means of tea-grounds. Mrs. Green is the
seeress. After shaking the cup with the grounds at the bottom, she turns
it bottom side up in a saucer. Then whirling it three times to the right
and three times to the left, she lifts it and silently studies the
position of the leaves which cling to the sides of the cup, what time we
all wait in breathless suspense for her first word.

"A soldier is coming to you!" she says to my mother. "See," and she
points into the cup. We all crowd near, and I perceive a leaf with a
stem sticking up from its body like a bayonet over a man's shoulder. "He
is almost home," the widow goes on. Then with sudden dramatic turn she
waves her hand toward the road, "Heavens and earth!" she cries. "There's
Richard now!"

We all turn and look toward the road, and there, indeed, is a soldier
with a musket on his back, wearily plodding his way up the low hill just
north of the gate. He is too far away for mother to call, and besides I
think she must have been a little uncertain, for he did not so much as
turn his head toward the house. Trembling with excitement she hurries
little Frank into his wagon and telling Hattie to bring me, sets off up
the road as fast as she can draw the baby's cart. It all seems a dream
to me and I move dumbly, almost stupidly like one in a mist....

We did not overtake the soldier, that is evident, for my next vision is
that of a blue-coated figure leaning upon the fence, studying with
intent gaze our empty cottage. I cannot, even now, precisely divine why
he stood thus, sadly contemplating his silent home,--but so it was. His
knapsack lay at his feet, his musket was propped against a post on whose
top a cat was dreaming, unmindful of the warrior and his folded hands.

He did not hear us until we were close upon him, and even after he
turned, my mother hesitated, so thin, so hollow-eyed, so changed was he.
"Richard, is that you?" she quaveringly asked.

His worn face lighted up. His arms rose. "Yes, Belle! Here I am," he

Nevertheless though he took my mother in his arms, I could not relate
him to the father I had heard so much about. To me he was only a strange
man with big eyes and care-worn face. I did not recognize in him
anything I had ever known, but my sister, who was two years older than
I, went to his bosom of her own motion. She knew him, whilst I submitted
to his caresses rather for the reason that my mother urged me forward
than because of any affection I felt for him. Frank, however, would not
even permit a kiss. The gaunt and grizzled stranger terrified him.

"Come here, my little man," my father said.--"_My little man!_" Across
the space of half-a-century I can still hear the sad reproach in his
voice. "Won't you come and see your poor old father when he comes home
from the war?"

"My little man!" How significant that phrase seems to me now! The war
had in very truth come between this patriot and his sons. I had
forgotten him--the baby had never known him.

Frank crept beneath the rail fence and stood there, well out of reach,
like a cautious kitten warily surveying an alien dog. At last the
soldier stooped and drawing from his knapsack a big red apple, held it
toward the staring babe, confidently calling, "Now, I guess he'll come
to his poor old pap home from the war."

The mother apologized. "He doesn't know you, Dick. How could he? He was
only nine months old when you went away. He'll go to you by and by."

The babe crept slowly toward the shining lure. My father caught him
despite his kicking, and hugged him close. "Now I've got you," he

Then we all went into the little front room and the soldier laid off his
heavy army shoes. My mother brought a pillow to put under his head, and
so at last he stretched out on the floor the better to rest his tired,
aching bones, and there I joined him.

"Oh, Belle!" he said, in tones of utter content. "This is what I've
dreamed about a million times."

Frank and I grew each moment more friendly and soon began to tumble over
him while mother hastened to cook something for him to eat. He asked for
"hot biscuits and honey and plenty of coffee."

That was a mystic hour--and yet how little I can recover of it! The
afternoon glides into evening while the soldier talks, and at last we
all go out to the barn to watch mother milk the cow. I hear him ask
about the crops, the neighbors.--The sunlight passes. Mother leads the
way back to the house. My father follows carrying little Frank in his

He is a "strange man" no longer. Each moment his voice sinks deeper into
my remembrance. He is my father--that I feel ringing through the dim
halls of my consciousness. Harriet clings to his hand in perfect
knowledge and confidence. We eat our bread and milk, the trundle-bed is
pulled out, we children clamber in, and I go to sleep to the music of
his resonant voice recounting the story of the battles he had seen, and
the marches he had made.

The emergence of an individual consciousness from the void is, after
all, the most amazing fact of human life and I should like to spend much
of this first chapter in groping about in the luminous shadow of my
infant world because, deeply considered, childish impressions are the
fundamentals upon which an author's fictional out-put is based; but to
linger might weary my reader at the outset, although I count myself most
fortunate in the fact that my boyhood was spent in the midst of a
charming landscape and during a certain heroic era of western

The men and women of that far time loom large in my thinking for they
possessed not only the spirit of adventurers but the courage of
warriors. Aside from the natural distortion of a boy's imagination I am
quite sure that the pioneers of 1860 still retained something broad and
fine in their action, something a boy might honorably imitate.

The earliest dim scene in my memory is that of a soft warm evening. I am
cradled in the lap of my sister Harriet who is sitting on the door-step
beneath a low roof. It is mid-summer and at our feet lies a mat of
dark-green grass from which a frog is croaking. The stars are out, and
above the high hills to the east a mysterious glow is glorifying the
sky. The cry of the small animal at last conveys to my sister's mind a
notion of distress, and rising she peers closely along the path.
Starting back with a cry of alarm, she calls and my mother hurries out.
She, too, examines the ground, and at last points out to me a long
striped snake with a poor, shrieking little tree-toad in its mouth. The
horror of this scene fixes it in my mind. My mother beats the serpent
with a stick. The mangled victim hastens away, and the curtain falls.

I must have been about four years old at this time, although there is
nothing to determine the precise date. Our house, a small frame cabin,
stood on the eastern slope of a long ridge and faced across a valley
which seemed very wide to me then, and in the middle of it lay a marsh
filled with monsters, from which the Water People sang night by night.
Beyond was a wooded mountain.

This doorstone must have been a favorite evening seat for my sister, for
I remember many other delicious gloamings. Bats whirl and squeak in the
odorous dusk. Night hawks whiz and boom, and over the dark forest wall a
prodigious moon miraculously rolls. Fire-flies dart through the grass,
and in a lone tree just outside the fence, a whippoorwill sounds his
plaintive note. Sweet, very sweet, and wonderful are all these!

The marsh across the lane was a sinister menacing place even by day for
there (so my sister Harriet warned me) serpents swarmed, eager to bite
runaway boys. "And if you step in the mud between the tufts of grass,"
she said, "you will surely sink out of sight."--At night this teeming
bog became a place of dank and horrid mystery. Bears and wolves and
wildcats were reported as ruling the dark woods just beyond--only the
door yard and the road seemed safe for little men--and even there I
wished my mother to be within immediate call.

My father who had bought his farm "on time," just before the war, could
not enlist among the first volunteers, though he was deeply moved to do
so, till his land was paid for--but at last in 1863 on the very day that
he made the last payment on the mortgage, he put his name down on the
roll and went back to his wife, a soldier.

I have heard my mother say that this was one of the darkest moments of
her life and if you think about it you will understand the reason why.
My sister was only five years old, I was three and Frank was a babe in
the cradle. Broken hearted at the thought of the long separation, and
scared by visions of battle my mother begged the soldier not to go; but
he was of the stern stuff which makes patriots--and besides his name was
already on the roll, therefore he went away to join Grant's army at
Vicksburg. "What sacrifice! What folly!" said his pacifist
neighbors--"to leave your wife and children for an idea, a mere
sentiment; to put your life in peril for a striped silken rag." But he
went. For thirteen dollars a month he marched and fought while his plow
rusted in the shed and his cattle called to him from their stalls.

My conscious memory holds nothing of my mother's agony of waiting,
nothing of the dark days when the baby was ill and the doctor far
away--but into my subconscious ear her voice sank, and the words
_Grant_, _Lincoln_, _Sherman_, "_furlough_," "_mustered out_," ring like
bells, deep-toned and vibrant. I shared dimly in every emotional
utterance of the neighbors who came to call and a large part of what I
am is due to the impressions of these deeply passionate and poetic

Dim pictures come to me. I see my mother at the spinning wheel, I help
her fill the candle molds. I hold in my hands the queer carding combs
with their crinkly teeth, but my first definite connected recollection
is the scene of my father's return at the close of the war.

I was not quite five years old, and the events of that day are so
commingled with later impressions,--experiences which came long
after--that I cannot be quite sure which are true and which imagined,
but the picture as a whole is very vivid and very complete.

Thus it happened that my first impressions of life were martial, and my
training military, for my father brought back from his two years'
campaigning under Sherman and Thomas the temper and the habit of a

He became naturally the dominant figure in my horizon, and his scheme of
discipline impressed itself almost at once upon his children.

I suspect that we had fallen into rather free and easy habits under
mother's government, for she was too jolly, too tender-hearted, to
engender fear in us even when she threatened us with a switch or a
shingle. We soon learned, however, that the soldier's promise of
punishment was swift and precise in its fulfillment. We seldom presumed
a second time on his forgetfulness or tolerance. We knew he loved us,
for he often took us to his knees of an evening and told us stories of
marches and battles, or chanted war-songs for us, but the moments of his
tenderness were few and his fondling did not prevent him from almost
instant use of the rod if he thought either of us needed it.

His own boyhood had been both hard and short. Born of farmer folk in
Oxford County, Maine, his early life had been spent on the soil in and
about Lock's Mills with small chance of schooling. Later, as a teamster,
and finally as shipping clerk for Amos Lawrence, he had enjoyed three
mightily improving years in Boston. He loved to tell of his life there,
and it is indicative of his character to say that he dwelt with special
joy and pride on the actors and orators he had heard. He could describe
some of the great scenes and repeat a few of the heroic lines of
Shakespeare, and the roll of his deep voice as he declaimed, "Now is the
winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,"
thrilled us--filled us with desire of something far off and wonderful.
But best of all we loved to hear him tell of "Logan at Peach Tree
Creek," and "Kilpatrick on the Granny White Turnpike."

He was a vivid and concise story-teller and his words brought to us
(sometimes all too clearly), the tragic happenings of the battlefields
of Atlanta and Nashville. To him Grant, Lincoln, Sherman and Sheridan
were among the noblest men of the world, and he would not tolerate any
criticism of them.

Next to his stories of the war I think we loved best to have him
picture "the pineries" of Wisconsin, for during his first years in the
State he had been both lumberman and raftsman, and his memory held
delightful tales of wolves and bears and Indians.

He often imitated the howls and growls and actions of the wild animals
with startling realism, and his river narratives were full of
unforgettable phrases like "the Jinny Bull Falls," "Old Moosinee" and
"running the rapids."

He also told us how his father and mother came west by way of the Erie
Canal, and in a steamer on the Great Lakes, of how they landed in
Milwaukee with Susan, their twelve-year-old daughter, sick with the
smallpox; of how a farmer from Monticello carried them in his big farm
wagon over the long road to their future home in Green county and it was
with deep emotion that he described the bitter reception they
encountered in the village.

It appears that some of the citizens in a panic of dread were all for
driving the Garlands out of town--then up rose old Hugh McClintock, big
and gray as a grizzly bear, and put himself between the leader of the
mob and its victims, and said, "You shall not lay hands upon them. Shame
on ye!" And such was the power of his mighty arm and such the menace of
his flashing eyes that no one went further with the plan of casting the
new comers into the wilderness.

Old Hugh established them in a lonely cabin on the edge of the village,
and thereafter took care of them, nursing grandfather with his own hands
until he was well. "And that's the way the McClintocks and the Garlands
first joined forces," my father often said in ending the tale. "But the
name of the man who carried your Aunt Susan in his wagon from Milwaukee
to Monticello I never knew."

I cannot understand why that sick girl did not die on that long journey
over the rough roads of Wisconsin, and what it all must have seemed to
my gentle New England grandmother I grieve to think about. Beautiful as
the land undoubtedly was, such an experience should have shaken her
faith in western men and western hospitality. But apparently it did not,
for I never heard her allude to this experience with bitterness.

In addition to his military character, Dick Garland also carried with
him the odor of the pine forest and exhibited the skill and training of
a forester, for in those early days even at the time when I began to
remember the neighborhood talk, nearly every young man who could get
away from the farm or the village went north, in November, into the pine
woods which covered the entire upper part of the State, and my father,
who had been a raftsman and timber cruiser and pilot ever since his
coming west, was deeply skilled with axe and steering oars. The
lumberman's life at that time was rough but not vicious, for the men
were nearly all of native American stock, and my father was none the
worse for his winters in camp.

His field of action as lumberman was for several years, in and around
Big Bull Falls (as it was then called), near the present town of Wausau,
and during that time he had charge of a crew of loggers in winter and in
summer piloted rafts of lumber down to Dubuque and other points where
saw mills were located. He was called at this time, "Yankee Dick, the

As a result of all these experiences in the woods, he was almost as much
woodsman as soldier in his talk, and the heroic life he had led made him
very wonderful in my eyes. According to his account (and I have no
reason to doubt it) he had been exceedingly expert in running a raft and
could ride a canoe like a Chippewa. I remember hearing him very
forcefully remark, "God forgot to make the man I could not follow."

He was deft with an axe, keen of perception, sure of hand and foot, and
entirely capable of holding his own with any man of his weight. Amid
much drinking he remained temperate, and strange to say never used
tobacco in any form. While not a large man he was nearly six feet in
height, deep-chested and sinewy, and of dauntless courage. The quality
which defended him from attack was the spirit which flamed from his
eagle-gray eyes. Terrifying eyes they were, at times, as I had many
occasions to note.

As he gathered us all around his knee at night before the fire, he loved
to tell us of riding the whirlpools of Big Bull Falls, or of how he
lived for weeks on a raft with the water up to his knees (sleeping at
night in his wet working clothes), sustained by the blood of youth and
the spirit of adventure. His endurance even after his return from the
war, was marvellous, although he walked a little bent and with a
peculiar measured swinging stride--the stride of Sherman's veterans.

As I was born in the first smoke of the great conflict, so all of my
early memories of Green's coulee are permeated with the haze of the
passing war-cloud. My soldier dad taught me the manual of arms, and for
a year Harriet and I carried broom-sticks, flourished lath sabers, and
hammered on dishpans in imitation of officers and drummers. Canteens
made excellent water-bottles for the men in the harvest fields, and the
long blue overcoats which the soldiers brought back with them from the
south lent many a vivid spot of color to that far-off landscape.

All the children of our valley inhaled with every breath this mingled
air of romance and sorrow, history and song, and through those epic days
runs a deep-laid consciousness of maternal pain. My mother's side of
those long months of waiting was never fully delineated, for she was
natively reticent and shy of expression. But piece by piece in later
years I drew from her the tale of her long vigil, and obtained some hint
of the bitter anguish of her suspense after each great battle.

It is very strange, but I cannot define her face as I peer back into
those childish times, though I can feel her strong arms about me. She
seemed large and quite middle-aged to me, although she was in fact a
handsome girl of twenty-three. Only by reference to a rare daguerreotype
of the time am I able to correct this childish impression.

Our farm lay well up in what is called Green's coulee, in a little
valley just over the road which runs along the LaCrosse river in western
Wisconsin. It contained one hundred and sixty acres of land which
crumpled against the wooded hills on the east and lay well upon a ridge
to the west. Only two families lived above us, and over the height to
the north was the land of the red people, and small bands of their
hunters used occasionally to come trailing down across our meadow on
their way to and from LaCrosse, which was their immemorial trading

Sometimes they walked into our house, always without knocking--but then
we understood their ways. No one knocks at the wigwam of a red neighbor,
and we were not afraid of them, for they were friendly, and our mother
often gave them bread and meat which they took (always without thanks)
and ate with much relish while sitting beside our fire. All this seemed
very curious to us, but as they were accustomed to share their food and
lodging with one another so they accepted my mother's bounty in the same
matter-of-fact fashion.

Once two old fellows, while sitting by the fire, watched Frank and me
bringing in wood for the kitchen stove, and smiled and muttered between
themselves thereat. At last one of them patted my brother on the head
and called out admiringly, "Small pappoose, heap work--good!" and we
were very proud of the old man's praise.


The McClintocks

The members of my mother's family must have been often at our home
during my father's military service in the south, but I have no mental
pictures of them till after my father's homecoming in '65. Their names
were familiar--were, indeed, like bits of old-fashioned song. "Richard"
was a fine and tender word in my ear, but "David" and "Luke," "Deborah"
and "Samantha," and especially "Hugh," suggested something alien as well
as poetic.

They all lived somewhere beyond the hills which walled our coulee on the
east, in a place called Salem, and I was eager to visit them, for in
that direction my universe died away in a luminous mist of unexplored
distance. I had some notion of its near-by loveliness for I had once
viewed it from the top of the tall bluff which stood like a warder at
the gate of our valley, and when one bright morning my father said,
"Belle, get ready, and we'll drive over to Grandad's," we all became
greatly excited.

In those days people did not "call," they went "visitin'." The women
took their knitting and stayed all the afternoon and sometimes all
night. No one owned a carriage. Each family journeyed in a heavy farm
wagon with the father and mother riding high on the wooden spring seat
while the children jounced up and down on the hay in the bottom of the
box or clung desperately to the side-boards to keep from being jolted
out. In such wise we started on our trip to the McClintocks'.

The road ran to the south and east around the base of Sugar Loaf Bluff,
thence across a lovely valley and over a high wooded ridge which was so
steep that at times we rode above the tree tops. As father stopped the
horses to let them rest, we children gazed about us with wondering eyes.
Far behind us lay the LaCrosse valley through which a slender river ran,
while before us towered wind-worn cliffs of stone. It was an exploring
expedition for us.

The top of the divide gave a grand view of wooded hills to the
northeast, but father did not wait for us to enjoy that. He started the
team on the perilous downward road without regard to our wishes, and so
we bumped and clattered to the bottom, all joy of the scenery swallowed
up in fear of being thrown from the wagon.

The roar of a rapid, the gleam of a long curving stream, a sharp turn
through a pair of bars, and we found ourselves approaching a low
unpainted house which stood on a level bench overlooking a river and its

"There it is. That's Grandad's house," said mother, and peering over her
shoulder I perceived a group of people standing about the open door, and
heard their shouts of welcome.

My father laughed. "Looks as if the whole McClintock clan was on
parade," he said.

It was Sunday and all my aunts and uncles were in holiday dress and a
merry, hearty, handsome group they were. One of the men helped my mother
out and another, a roguish young fellow with a pock-marked face,
snatched me from the wagon and carried me under his arm to the threshold
where a short, gray-haired smiling woman was standing. "Mother, here's
another grandson for you," he said as he put me at her feet.

She greeted me kindly and led me into the house, in which a huge old man
with a shock of perfectly white hair was sitting with a Bible on his
knee. He had a rugged face framed in a circle of gray beard and his
glance was absent-minded and remote. "Father," said my grandmother,
"Belle has come. Here is one of her boys."

Closing his book on his glasses to mark the place of his reading he
turned to greet my mother who entered at this moment. His way of speech
was as strange as his look and for a few moments I studied him with
childish intentness. His face was rough-hewn as a rock but it was
kindly, and though he soon turned from his guests and resumed his
reading no one seemed to resent it.

Young as I was I vaguely understood his mood. He was glad to see us but
he was absorbed in something else, something of more importance, at the
moment, than the chatter of the family. My uncles who came in a few
moments later drew my attention and the white-haired dreamer fades from
this scene.

The room swarmed with McClintocks. There was William, a black-bearded,
genial, quick-stepping giant who seized me by the collar with one hand
and lifted me off the floor as if I were a puppy just to see how much I
weighed; and David, a tall young man with handsome dark eyes and a droop
at the outer corner of his eyelids which gave him in repose a look of
melancholy distinction. He called me and I went to him readily for I
loved him at once. His voice pleased me and I could see that my mother
loved him too.

From his knee I became acquainted with the girls of the family. Rachel,
a demure and sweet-faced young woman, and Samantha, the beauty of the
family, won my instant admiration, but Deb, as everybody called her,
repelled me by her teasing ways. They were all gay as larks and their
hearty clamor, so far removed from the quiet gravity of my grandmother
Garland's house, pleased me. I had an immediate sense of being perfectly
at home.

There was an especial reason why this meeting should have been, as it
was, a joyous hour. It was, in fact, a family reunion after the war. The
dark days of sixty-five were over. The Nation was at peace and its
warriors mustered out. True, some of those who had gone "down South" had
not returned. Luke and Walter and Hugh were sleeping in The Wilderness,
but Frank and Richard were safely at home and father was once more the
clarion-voiced and tireless young man he had been when he went away to
fight. So they all rejoiced, with only a passing tender word for those
whose bodies filled a soldier's nameless grave.

There were some boys of about my own age, William's sons, and as they at
once led me away down into the grove, I can say little of what went on
in the house after that. It must have been still in the warm September
weather for we climbed the slender leafy trees and swayed and swung on
their tip-tops like bobolinks. Perhaps I did not go so very high after
all but I had the feeling of being very close to the sky.

The blast of a bugle called us to dinner and we all went scrambling up
the bank and into the "front room" like a swarm of hungry shotes
responding to the call of the feeder. Aunt Deb, however shooed us out
into the kitchen. "You can't stay here," she said. "Mother'll feed you
in the kitchen."

Grandmother was waiting for us and our places were ready, so what did it
matter? We had chicken and mashed potato and nice hot biscuit and
honey--just as good as the grown people had and could eat all we wanted
without our mothers to bother us. I am quite certain about the honey for
I found a bee in one of the cells of my piece of comb, and when I pushed
my plate away in dismay grandmother laughed and said, "That is only a
little baby bee. You see this is wild honey. William got it out of a
tree and didn't have time to pick all the bees out of it."

At this point my memories of this day fuse and flow into another visit
to the McClintock homestead which must have taken place the next year,
for it is my final record of my grandmother. I do not recall a single
word that she said, but she again waited on us in the kitchen, beaming
upon us with love and understanding. I see her also smiling in the midst
of the joyous tumult which her children and grandchildren always
produced when they met. She seemed content to listen and to serve.

She was the mother of seven sons, each a splendid type of sturdy
manhood, and six daughters almost equally gifted in physical beauty.
Four of the sons stood over six feet in height and were of unusual
strength. All of them--men and women alike--were musicians by
inheritance, and I never think of them without hearing the sound of
singing or the voice of the violin. Each of them could play some
instrument and some of them could play any instrument. David, as you
shall learn, was the finest fiddler of them all. Grandad himself was
able to play the violin but he no longer did so. "'Tis the Devil's
instrument," he said, but I noticed that he always kept time to it.

Grandmother had very little learning. She could read and write of
course, and she made frequent pathetic attempts to open her Bible or
glance at a newspaper--all to little purpose, for her days were filled
from dawn to dark with household duties.

I know little of her family history. Beyond the fact that she was born
in Maryland and had been always on the border, I have little to record.
She was in truth overshadowed by the picturesque figure of her husband
who was of Scotch-Irish descent and a most singular and interesting

He was a mystic as well as a minstrel. He was an "Adventist"--that is to
say a believer in the Second Coming of Christ, and a constant student of
the Bible, especially of those parts which predicted the heavens rolling
together as a scroll, and the destruction of the earth. Notwithstanding
his lack of education and his rude exterior, he was a man of marked
dignity and sobriety of manner. Indeed he was both grave and remote in
his intercourse with his neighbors.

He was like Ezekiel, a dreamer of dreams. He loved the Old Testament,
particularly those books which consisted of thunderous prophecies and
passionate lamentations. The poetry of _Isaiah_, The visions of _The
Apocalypse_, formed his emotional outlet, his escape into the world of
imaginative literature. The songs he loved best were those which
described chariots of flaming clouds, the sound of the resurrection
trump--or the fields of amaranth blooming "on the other side of Jordan."

As I close my eyes and peer back into my obscure childish world I can
see him sitting in his straight-backed cane-bottomed chair, drumming on
the rungs with his fingers, keeping time to some inaudible tune--or
chanting with faintly-moving lips the wondrous words of _John_ or
_Daniel_. He must have been at this time about seventy years of age, but
he seemed to me as old as a snow-covered mountain.

My belief is that Grandmother did not fully share her husband's faith in
The Second Coming but upon her fell the larger share of the burden of
entertainment when Grandad made "the travelling brother" welcome. His
was an open house to all who came along the road, and the fervid
chantings, the impassioned prayers of these meetings lent a singular air
of unreality to the business of cooking or plowing in the fields.

I think he loved his wife and children, and yet I never heard him speak
an affectionate word to them. He was kind, he was just, but he was not
tender. With eyes turned inward, with a mind filled with visions of
angel messengers with trumpets at their lips announcing "The Day of
Wrath," how could he concern himself with the ordinary affairs of human

Too old to bind grain in the harvest field, he was occasionally
intrusted with the task of driving the reaper or the mower--and
generally forgot to oil the bearings. His absent-mindedness was a source
of laughter among his sons and sons-in-law. I've heard Frank say: "Dad
would stop in the midst of a swath to announce the end of the world." He
seldom remembered to put on a hat even in the blazing sun of July and
his daughters had to keep an eye on him to be sure he had his vest on
right-side out.

Grandmother was cheerful in the midst of her toil and discomfort, for
what other mother had such a family of noble boys and handsome girls?
They all loved her, that she knew, and she was perfectly willing to
sacrifice her comfort to promote theirs. Occasionally Samantha or Rachel
remonstrated with her for working so hard, but she only put their
protests aside and sent them back to their callers, for when the
McClintock girls were at home, the horses of their suitors tied before
the gate would have mounted a small troop of cavalry.

It was well that this pioneer wife was rich in children, for she had
little else. I do not suppose she ever knew what it was to have a
comfortable well-aired bedroom, even in childbirth. She was practical
and a good manager, and she needed to be, for her husband was as weirdly
unworldly as a farmer could be. He was indeed a sad husbandman. Only the
splendid abundance of the soil and the manual skill of his sons, united
to the good management of his wife, kept his family fed and clothed.
"What is the use of laying up a store of goods against the early
destruction of the world?" he argued.

He was bitterly opposed to secret societies, for some reason which I
never fully understood, and the only fury I ever knew him to express was
directed against these "dens of iniquity."

Nearly all his neighbors, like those in our coulee, were native American
as their names indicated. The Dudleys, Elwells, and Griswolds came from
Connecticut, the McIldowneys and McKinleys from New York and Ohio, the
Baileys and Garlands from Maine. Buoyant, vital, confident, these sons
of the border bent to the work of breaking sod and building fence quite
in the spirit of sportsmen.

They were always racing in those days, rejoicing in their abounding
vigor. With them reaping was a game, husking corn a test of endurance
and skill, threshing a "bee." It was a Dudley against a McClintock, a
Gilfillan against a Garland, and my father's laughing descriptions of
the barn-raisings, harvestings and railsplittings of the valley filled
my mind with vivid pictures of manly deeds. Every phase of farm work was
carried on by hand. Strength and skill counted high and I had good
reason for my idolatry of David and William. With the hearts of woodsmen
and fists of sailors they were precisely the type to appeal to the
imagination of a boy. Hunters, athletes, skilled horsemen--everything
they did was to me heroic.

Frank, smallest of all these sons of Hugh, was not what an observer
would call puny. He weighed nearly one hundred and eighty pounds and
never met his match except in his brothers. William could outlift him,
David could out-run him and outleap him, but he was more, agile than
either--was indeed a skilled acrobat.

His muscles were prodigious. The calves of his legs would not go into
his top boots, and I have heard my father say that once when the
"tumbling" in the little country "show" seemed not to his liking, Frank
sprang over the ropes into the arena and went around the ring in a
series of professional flip-flaps, to the unrestrained delight of the
spectators. I did not witness this performance, I am sorry to say, but I
have seen him do somersaults and turn cart-wheels in the door-yard just
from the pure joy of living. He could have been a professional
acrobat--and he came near to being a professional ball-player.

He was always smiling, but his temper was fickle. Anybody could get a
fight out of Frank McClintock at any time, simply by expressing a desire
for it. To call him a liar was equivalent to contracting a doctor's
bill. He loved hunting, as did all his brothers, but was too excitable
to be a highly successful shot--whereas William and David were veritable
Leather-stockings in their mastery of the heavy, old-fashioned rifle.
David was especially dreaded at the turkey shoots of the county.

William was over six feet in height, weighed two hundred and forty
pounds, and stood "straight as an Injun." He was one of the most
formidable men of the valley--even at fifty as I first recollect him, he
walked with a quick lift of his foot like that of a young Chippewa. To
me he was a huge gentle black bear, but I firmly believed he could whip
any man in the world--even Uncle David--if he wanted to. I never
expected to see him fight, for I could not imagine anybody foolish
enough to invite his wrath.

Such a man did develop, but not until William was over sixty,
gray-haired and ill, and even then it took two strong men to engage him
fully, and when it was all over (the contest filled but a few seconds),
one assailant could not be found, and the other had to call in a doctor
to piece him together again.

William did not have a mark--his troubles began when he went home to his
quaint little old wife. In some strange way she divined that he had been
fighting, and soon drew the story from him. "William McClintock," said
she severely, "hain't you old enough to keep your temper and not go
brawling around like that and at a school meeting too!"

William hung his head. "Well, I dunno!--I suppose my dyspepsy has made
me kind o' irritable," he said by way of apology.

My father was the historian of most of these exploits on the part of his
brothers-in-law, for he loved to exalt their physical prowess at the
same time that he deplored their lack of enterprise and system. Certain
of their traits he understood well. Others he was never able to
comprehend, and I am not sure that they ever quite understood

A deep vein of poetry, of sub-conscious celtic sadness, ran through them
all. It was associated with their love of music and was wordless. Only
hints of this endowment came out now and again, and to the day of his
death my father continued to express perplexity, and a kind of
irritation at the curious combination of bitterness and sweetness, sloth
and tremendous energy, slovenliness and exaltation which made Hugh
McClintock and his sons the jest and the admiration of those who knew
them best.

Undoubtedly to the Elwells and Dudleys, as to most of their definite,
practical, orderly and successful New England neighbors, my uncles were
merely a good-natured, easy-going lot of "fiddlers," but to me as I grew
old enough to understand them, they became a group of potential poets,
bards and dreamers, inarticulate and moody. They fell easily into somber
silence. Even Frank, the most boisterous and outspoken of them all,
could be thrown into sudden melancholy by a melody, a line of poetry or
a beautiful landscape.

The reason for this praise of their quality, if the reason needs to be
stated, lies in my feeling of definite indebtedness to them. They
furnished much of the charm and poetic suggestion of my childhood. Most
of what I have in the way of feeling for music, for rhythm, I derive
from my mother's side of the house, for it was almost entirely Celt in
every characteristic. She herself was a wordless poet, a sensitive
singer of sad romantic songs.

Father was by nature an orator and a lover of the drama. So far as I am
aware, he never read a poem if he could help it, and yet he responded
instantly to music, and was instinctively courtly in manner. His mind
was clear, positive and definite, and his utterances fluent. Orderly,
resolute and thorough in all that he did, he despised William
McClintock's easy-going habits of husbandry, and found David's lack of
"push," of business enterprise, deeply irritating. And yet he loved them
both and respected my mother for defending them.

To me, in those days, the shortcomings of the McClintocks did not appear
particularly heinous. All our neighbors were living in log houses and
frame shanties built beside the brooks, or set close against the
hillsides, and William's small unpainted dwelling seemed a natural
feature of the landscape, but as the years passed and other and more
enterprising settlers built big barns, and shining white houses, the
gray and leaning stables, sagging gates and roofs of my uncle's farm,
became a reproach even in my eyes, so that when I visited it for the
last time just before our removal to Iowa, I, too, was a little ashamed
of it. Its disorder did not diminish my regard for the owner, but I
wished he would clean out the stable and prop up the wagon-shed.

My grandmother's death came soon after our second visit to the
homestead. I have no personal memory of the event, but I heard Uncle
David describe it. The setting of the final scene in the drama was
humble. The girls were washing clothes in the yard and the silent old
mother was getting the mid-day meal. David, as he came in from the
field, stopped for a moment with his sisters and in their talk Samantha
said: "Mother isn't at all well today."

David, looking toward the kitchen, said, "Isn't there some way to keep
her from working?"

"You know how she is," explained Deborah. "She's worked so long she
don't know how to rest. We tried to get her to lie down for an hour but
she wouldn't."

David was troubled. "She'll have to stop sometime," he said, and then
they passed to other things, hearing meanwhile the tread of their
mother's busy feet.

Suddenly she appeared at the door, a frightened look on her face.

"Why, mother!--what is the matter?" asked her daughter.

She pointed to her mouth and shook her head, to indicate that she could
not speak. David leaped toward her, but she dropped before he could
reach her.

Lifting her in his strong arms he laid her on her bed and hastened for
the doctor. All in vain! She sank into unconsciousness and died without
a word of farewell.

She fell like a soldier in the ranks. Having served uncomplainingly up
to the very edge of her evening bivouac, she passed to her final sleep
in silent dignity.


The Home in the Coulee

Our postoffice was in the village of Onalaska, situated at the mouth of
the Black River, which came down out of the wide forest lands of the
north. It was called a "boom town" for the reason that "booms" or yards
for holding pine logs laced the quiet bayou and supplied several large
mills with timber. Busy saws clamored from the islands and great rafts
of planks and lath and shingles were made up and floated down into the
Mississippi and on to southern markets.

It was a rude, rough little camp filled with raftsmen, loggers,
mill-hands and boomsmen. Saloons abounded and deeds of violence were
common, but to me it was a poem. From its position on a high plateau it
commanded a lovely southern expanse of shimmering water bounded by
purple bluffs. The spires of LaCrosse rose from the smoky distance, and
steamships' hoarsely giving voice suggested illimitable reaches of
travel. Some day I hoped my father would take me to that shining
market-place whereto he carried all our grain.

In this village of Onalaska, lived my grandfather and grandmother
Garland, and their daughter Susan, whose husband, Richard Bailey, a
quiet, kind man, was held in deep affection by us all. Of course he
could not quite measure up to the high standards of David and William,
even though he kept a store and sold candy, for he could neither kill a
bear, nor play the fiddle, nor shoot a gun--much less turn hand-springs
or tame a wild horse, but we liked him notwithstanding his limitations
and were always glad when he came to visit us.

Even at this time I recognized the wide differences which separated the
McClintocks from the Garlands. The fact that my father's people lived to
the west and in a town helped to emphasize the divergence.

All the McClintocks were farmers, but grandfather Garland was a
carpenter by trade, and a leader in his church which was to him a club,
a forum and a commercial exchange. He was a native of Maine and proud of
the fact. His eyes were keen and gray, his teeth fine and white, and his
expression stern. His speech was neat and nipping. As a workman he was
exact and his tools were always in perfect order. In brief he was a
Yankee, as concentrated a bit of New England as was ever transplanted to
the border. Hopelessly "sot" in all his eastern ways, he remained the
doubter, the critic, all his life.

We always spoke of him with formal precision as Grandfather Garland,
never as "Grandad" or "Granpap" as we did in alluding to Hugh
McClintock, and his long prayers (pieces of elaborate oratory) wearied
us, while those of Grandad, which had the extravagance, the lyrical
abandon of poetry, profoundly pleased us. Grandfather's church was a
small white building in the edge of the village, Grandad's place of
worship was a vision, a cloud-built temple, a house not made with hands.

The contrast between my grandmothers was equally wide. Harriet Garland
was tall and thin, with a dark and serious face. She was an invalid, and
confined to a chair, which stood in the corner of her room. On the walls
within reach of her hand hung many small pockets, so ordered that she
could obtain her sewing materials without rising. She was always at work
when I called, but it was her habit to pause and discover in some one
of her receptacles a piece of candy or a stick of "lickerish root"
which she gave to me "as a reward for being a good boy."

She was always making needle rolls and thimble boxes and no doubt her
skill helped to keep the family fed and clothed.

Notwithstanding all divergence in the characters of Grandmother Garland
and Grandmother McClintock, we held them both in almost equal affection.
Serene, patient, bookish, Grandmother Garland brought to us, as to her
neighbors in this rude river port, some of the best qualities of
intellectual Boston, and from her lips we acquired many of the precepts
and proverbs of our Pilgrim forbears.

Her influence upon us was distinctly literary. She gloried in New
England traditions, and taught us to love the poems of Whittier and
Longfellow. It was she who called us to her knee and told us sadly yet
benignly of the death of Lincoln, expressing only pity for the misguided
assassin. She was a constant advocate of charity, piety, and learning.
Always poor, and for many years a cripple, I never heard her complain,
and no one, I think, ever saw her face clouded with a frown.

Our neighbors in Green's Coulee were all native American. The first and
nearest, Al Randal and his wife and son, we saw often and on the whole
liked, but the Whitwells who lived on the farm above us were a constant
source of comedy to my father. Old Port, as he was called, was a
mild-mannered man who would have made very little impression on the
community, but for his wife, a large and rather unkempt person, who
assumed such man-like freedom of speech that my father was never without
an amusing story of her doings.

She swore in vigorous pioneer fashion, and dominated her husband by
force of lung power as well as by a certain painful candor. "Port,
you're an old fool," she often said to him in our presence. It was her
habit to apologize to her guests, as they took their seats at her
abundant table, "Wal, now, folks, I'm sorry, but there ain't a blank
thing in this house fit for a dawg to eat--" expecting of course to have
everyone cry out, "Oh, Mrs. Whitwell, this is a splendid dinner!" which
they generally did. But once my father took her completely aback by
rising resignedly from the table--"Come, Belle," said he to my mother,
"let's go home. I'm not going to eat food not fit for a dog."

The rough old woman staggered under this blow, but quickly recovered.
"Dick Garland, you blank fool. Sit down, or I'll fetch you a swipe with
the broom."

In spite of her profanity and ignorance she was a good neighbor and in
time of trouble no one was readier to relieve any distress in the
coulee. However, it was upon Mrs. Randal and the widow Green that my
mother called for aid, and I do not think Mrs. Whitwell was ever quite
welcome even at our quilting bees, for her loud voice silenced every
other, and my mother did not enjoy her vulgar stories.--Yes, I can
remember several quilting bees, and I recall molding candles, and that
our "company light" was a large kerosene lamp, in the glass globe of
which a strip of red flannel was coiled. Probably this was merely a
device to lengthen out the wick, but it made a memorable spot of color
in the room--just as the watch-spring gong in the clock gave off a sound
of fairy music to my ear. I don't know why the ring of that coil had
such a wondrous appeal, but I often climbed upon a chair to rake its
spirals with a nail in order that I might float away on its "dying

Life was primitive in all the homes of the coulee. Money was hard to
get. We always had plenty to eat, but little in the way of luxuries. We
had few toys except those we fashioned for ourselves, and our garments
were mostly home-made. I have heard my father say, "Belle could go to
town with me, buy the calico for a dress and be wearing it for
supper"--but I fear that even this did not happen very often. Her "dress
up" gowns, according to certain precious old tintypes, indicate that
clothing was for her only a sort of uniform,--and yet I will not say
this made her unhappy. Her face was always smiling. She knit all our
socks, made all our shirts and suits. She even carded and spun wool, in
addition to her housekeeping, and found time to help on our kites and
bows and arrows.

       *       *       *       *       *

Month by month the universe in which I lived lightened and widened. In
my visits to Onalaska, I discovered the great Mississippi River, and the
Minnesota Bluffs. The light of knowledge grew stronger. I began to
perceive forms and faces which had been hidden in the dusk of babyhood.
I heard more and more of LaCrosse, and out of the mist filled lower
valley the booming roar of steamboats suggested to me distant countries
and the sea.

My father believed in service. At seven years of age, I had regular
duties. I brought firewood to the kitchen and broke nubbins for the
calves and shelled corn for the chickens. I have a dim memory of helping
him (and grandfather) split oak-blocks into rafting pins in the kitchen.
This seems incredible to me now, and yet it must have been so. In summer
Harriet and I drove the cows to pasture, and carried "switchel" to the
men in the hay-fields by means of a jug hung in the middle of a long

Haying was a delightful season to us, for the scythes of the men
occasionally tossed up clusters of beautiful strawberries, which we
joyfully gathered. I remember with especial pleasure the delicious
shortcakes which my mother made of the wild fruit which we picked in the
warm odorous grass along the edge of the meadow.

Harvest time also brought a pleasing excitement (something unwonted,
something like entertaining visitors) which compensated for the extra
work demanded of us. The neighbors usually came in to help and life was
a feast.

There was, however, an ever-present menace in our lives, the snake!
During mid-summer months blue racers and rattlesnakes swarmed and the
terror of them often chilled our childish hearts. Once Harriet and I,
with little Frank in his cart, came suddenly upon a monster diamond-back
rattler sleeping by the roadside. In our mad efforts to escape, the cart
was overturned and the baby scattered in the dust almost within reach of
the snake. As soon as she realized what had happened, Harriet ran back
bravely, caught up the child and brought him safely away.

Another day, as I was riding on the load of wheat-sheaves, one of the
men, in pitching the grain to the wagon lifted a rattlesnake with his
fork. I saw it writhing in the bottom of the sheaf, and screamed out, "A
snake, a snake!" It fell across the man's arm but slid harmlessly to the
ground, and he put a tine through it.

As it chanced to be just dinner time he took it with him to the house
and fastened it down near the door of a coop in which an old hen and her
brood of chickens were confined. I don't know why he did this but it
threw the mother hen into such paroxysms of fear that she dashed herself
again and again upon the slats of her house. It appeared that she
comprehended to the full the terrible power of the writhing monster.

Perhaps it was this same year that one of the men discovered another
enormous yellow-back in the barnyard, one of the largest ever seen on
the farm--and killed it just as it was moving across an old barrel. I
cannot now understand why it tried to cross the barrel, but I distinctly
visualize the brown and yellow band it made as it lay for an instant
just before the bludgeon fell upon it, crushing it and the barrel
together. He was thicker than my leg and glistened in the sun with
sinister splendor. As he hung limp over the fence, a warning to his
fellows, it was hard for me to realize that death still lay in his
square jaws and poisonous fangs.

Innumerable garter-snakes infested the marsh, and black snakes inhabited
the edges of the woodlands, but we were not so much afraid of them. We
accepted them as unavoidable companions in the wild. They would run from
us. Bears and wildcats we held in real terror, though they were
considered denizens of the darkness and hence not likely to be met with
if one kept to the daylight.

The "hoop snake" was quite as authentic to us as the blue racer,
although no one had actually seen one. Den Green's cousin's uncle had
killed one in Michigan, and a man over the ridge had once been stung by
one that came rolling down the hill with his tail in his mouth. But
Den's cousin's uncle, when he saw the one coming toward him, had stepped
aside quick as lightning, and the serpent's sharp fangs had buried
themselves so deep in the bark of a tree, that he could not escape.

Various other of the myths common to American boyhood, were held in
perfect faith by Den and Ellis and Ed, myths which made every woodland
path an ambush and every marshy spot a place of evil. Horsehairs would
turn to snakes if left in the spring, and a serpent's tail would not die
till sundown.

Once on the high hillside, I started a stone rolling, which as it went
plunging into a hazel thicket, thrust out a deer, whose flight seemed
fairly miraculous to me. He appeared to drift along the hillside like a
bunch of thistle-down, and I took a singular delight in watching him

Once my little brother and I, belated in our search for the cows, were
far away on the hills when night suddenly came upon us. I could not have
been more than eight years old and Frank was five. This incident reveals
the fearless use our father made of us. True, we were hardly a mile from
the house, but there were many serpents on the hillsides and wildcats in
the cliffs, and eight is pretty young for such a task.

We were following the cows through the tall grass and bushes, in the
dark, when father came to our rescue, and I do not recall being sent on
a similar expedition thereafter. I think mother protested against the
danger of it. Her notions of our training were less rigorous.

I never hear a cow-bell of a certain timbre that I do not relive in some
degree the terror and despair of that hour on the mountain, when it
seemed that my world had suddenly slipped away from me.

Winter succeeds summer abruptly in my memory. Behind our house rose a
sharp ridge down which we used to coast. Over this hill, fierce winds
blew the snow, and wonderful, diamonded drifts covered the yard, and
sometimes father was obliged to dig deep trenches in order to reach the

On winter evenings he shelled corn by drawing the ears across a spade
resting on a wash tub, and we children built houses of the cobs, while
mother sewed carpet rags or knit our mittens. Quilting bees of an
afternoon were still recognized social functions and the spread quilt on
its frame made a gorgeous tent under which my brother and I camped on
our way to "Colorado." Lath swords and tin-pan drums remained a part of
our equipment for a year or two.

One stormy winter day, Edwin Randal, riding home in a sleigh behind his
uncle, saw me in the yard and, picking an apple from an open barrel
beside which he was standing, threw it at me. It was a very large apple,
and as it struck the drift it disappeared leaving a round deep hole.
Delving there I recovered it, and as I brushed the rime from its scarlet
skin it seemed the most beautiful thing in this world. From this vividly
remembered delight, I deduce the fact that apples were not very
plentiful in our home.

My favorite place in winter time was directly under the kitchen stove.
It was one of the old-fashioned high-stepping breed, with long hind legs
and an arching belly, and as the oven was on top, the space beneath the
arch offered a delightful den for a cat, a dog or small boy, and I was
usually to be found there, lying on my stomach, spelling out the
"continued" stories which came to us in the county paper, for I was born
with a hunger for print.

We had few books in our house. Aside from the Bible I remember only one
other, a thick, black volume filled with gaudy pictures of cherries and
plums, and portraits of ideally fat and prosperous sheep, pigs and cows.
It must have been a _Farmer's Annual_ or State agricultural report, but
it contained in the midst of its dry prose, occasional poems like "_I
remember, I remember_," "_The Old Armchair_" and other pieces of a
domestic or rural nature. I was especially moved by The Old Armchair,
and although some of the words and expressions were beyond my
comprehension, I fully understood the defiant tenderness of the lines:

    I love it, I love it, and who shall dare
    To chide me for loving the old armchair?

I fear the horticultural side of this volume did not interest me, but
this sweetly-sad poem tinged even the gaudy pictures of prodigious plums
and shining apples with a literary glamor. The preposterously plump
cattle probably affected me as only another form of romantic fiction.
The volume also had a pleasant smell, not so fine an odor as the Bible,
but so delectable that I loved to bury my nose in its opened pages. What
caused this odor I cannot tell--perhaps it had been used to press
flowers or sprigs of sweet fern.

Harriet's devotion to literature, like my own, was a nuisance. If my
mother wanted a pan of chips she had to wrench one of us from a book, or
tear us from a paper. If she pasted up a section of _Harper's Weekly_
behind the washstand in the kitchen, I immediately discovered a special
interest in that number, and likely enough forgot to wash myself. When
mother saw this (as of course she very soon did), she turned the paper
upside down, and thereafter accused me, with some justice, of standing
on my head in order to continue my tale. "In fact," she often said, "it
is easier for me to do my errands myself than to get either of you young
ones to move."

The first school which we attended was held in a neighboring farm-house,
and there is very little to tell concerning it, but at seven I began to
go to the public school in Onalaska and memory becomes definite, for the
wide river which came silently out of the unknown north, carrying
endless millions of pine logs, and the clamor of saws in the island
mills, and especially the men walking the rolling logs with pike-poles
in their hands filled me with a wordless joy. To be one of these brave
and graceful "drivers" seemed almost as great an honor as to be a
Captain in the army. Some of the boys of my acquaintance were sons of
these hardy boomsmen, and related wonderful stories of their fathers'
exploits--stories which we gladly believed. We all intended to be
rivermen when we grew up.

The quiet water below the booms harbored enormous fish at that time, and
some of the male citizens who were too lazy to work in the mills got an
easy living by capturing cat-fish, and when in liquor joined the
rivermen in their drunken frays. My father's tales of the exploits of
some of these redoubtable villains filled my mind with mingled
admiration and terror. No one used the pistol, however, and very few the
knife. Physical strength counted. Foot and fist were the weapons which
ended each contest and no one was actually slain in these meetings of
rival crews.

In the midst of this tumult, surrounded by this coarse, unthinking life,
my Grandmother Garland's home stood, a serene small sanctuary of lofty
womanhood, a temple of New England virtue. From her and from my great
aunt Bridges who lived in St. Louis, I received my first literary
instruction, a partial offset to the vulgar yet heroic influence of the
raftsmen and mill hands.

The school-house, a wooden two story building, occupied an unkempt lot
some distance back from the river and near a group of high sand dunes
which possessed a sinister allurement to me. They had a mysterious
desert quality, a flavor as of camels and Arabs. Once you got over
behind them it seemed as if you were in another world, a far-off arid
land where no water ran and only sear, sharp-edged grasses grew. Some of
these mounds were miniature peaks of clear sand, so steep and dry that
you could slide all the way down from top to bottom, and do no harm to
your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. On rainy days you could dig caves in
their sides.

But the mills and the log booms were after all much more dramatic and we
never failed to hurry away to the river if we had half an hour to spare.
The "drivers," so brave and skilled, so graceful, held us in breathless
admiration as they leaped from one rolling log to another, or walked the
narrow wooden bridges above the deep and silently sweeping waters. The
piles of slabs, the mounds of sawdust, the intermittent, ferocious snarl
of the saws, the slap of falling lumber, the never ending fires eating
up the refuse--all these sights and sounds made a return to school
difficult. Even the life around the threshing machine seemed a little
tame in comparison with the life of the booms.

We were much at the Greens', our second-door neighbors to the south, and
the doings of the men-folks fill large space in my memory. Ed, the
oldest of the boys, a man of twenty-three or four, was as prodigious in
his way as my Uncle David. He was mighty with the axe. His deeds as a
railsplitter rivaled those of Lincoln. The number of cords of wood he
could split in a single day was beyond belief. It was either seven or
eleven, I forget which--I am perfectly certain of the number of
buckwheat pancakes he could eat for I kept count on several occasions.
Once he ate nine the size of a dinner plate together with a suitable
number of sausages--but what would you expect of a man who could whirl a
six pound axe all day in a desperate attack on the forest, without once
looking at the sun or pausing for breath?

However, he fell short of my hero in other ways. He looked like a fat
man and his fiddling was only middling, therefore, notwithstanding his
prowess with the axe and the maul, he remained subordinate to David, and
though they never came to a test of strength we were perfectly sure that
David was the finer man. His supple grace and his unconquerable pride
made him altogether admirable.

Den, the youngest of the Greens, was a boy about three years my senior,
and a most attractive lad. I met him some years ago in California, a
successful doctor, and we talked of the days when I was his slave and
humbly carried his powder horn and game bag. Ellis Usher, who lived in
Sand Lake and often hunted with Den, is an editor in Milwaukee and one
of the political leaders of his state. In those days he had a small
opinion of me. No doubt I _was_ a nuisance.

The road which led from our farm to the village school crossed a sandy
ridge and often in June our path became so hot that it burned the soles
of our feet. If we went out of the road there were sand-burrs and we
lost a great deal of time picking needles from our toes. How we hated
those sand-burrs!--However, on these sand barrens many luscious
strawberries grew. They were not large, but they gave off a delicious
odor, and it sometimes took us a long time to reach home.

There was a recognized element of danger in this road. Wildcats were
plentiful around the limestone cliffs, and bears had been seen under the
oak trees. In fact a place on the hillside was often pointed out with
awe as "the place where Al Randal killed the bear." Our way led past the
village cemetery also, and there was to me something vaguely awesome in
that silent bivouac of the dead.

Among the other village boys in the school were two lads named
Gallagher, one of whom, whose name was Matt, became my daily terror. He
was two years older than I and had all of a city gamin's cunning and
self-command. At every intermission he sidled close to me, walking round
me, feeling my arms, and making much of my muscle. Sometimes he came
behind and lifted me to see how heavy I was, or called attention to my
strong hands and wrists, insisting with the most terrifying candor of
conviction, "I'm sure you can lick me." We never quite came to combat,
and finally he gave up this baiting for a still more exquisite method of

My sister and I possessed a dog named Rover, a meek little yellow,
bow-legged cur of mongrel character, but with the frankest, gentlest and
sweetest face, it seemed to us, in all the world. He was not allowed to
accompany us to school and scarcely ever left the yard, but Matt
Gallagher in some way discovered my deep affection for this pet and
thereafter played upon my fears with a malevolence which knew no mercy.
One day he said, "Me and brother Dan are going over to your place to get
a calf that's in your pasture. We're going to get excused fifteen
minutes early. We'll get there before you do and we'll fix that dog of
yours!--There won't be nothin' left of him but a grease spot when we are
done with him."

These words, spoken probably in jest, instantly filled my heart with an
agony of fear. I saw in imagination just how my little playmate would
come running out to meet his cruel foes, his brown eyes beaming with
love and trust,--I saw them hiding sharp stones behind their backs while
snapping their left-hand fingers to lure him within reach, and then I
saw them drive their murdering weapons at his head.

I could think of nothing else. I could not study, I could only sit and
stare out of the window with tears running down my cheeks, until at
last, the teacher observing my distress, inquired, "What is the matter?"
And I, not knowing how to enter upon so terrible a tale, whined out,
"I'm sick, I want to go home."

"You may go," said the teacher kindly.

Snatching my cap from beneath the desk where I had concealed it at
recess, I hurried out and away over the sand-lot on the shortest way
home. No stopping now for burrs!--I ran like one pursued. I shall never
forget as long as I live, the pain, the panic, the frenzy of that race
against time. The hot sand burned my feet, my side ached, my mouth was
dry, and yet I ran on and on and on, looking back from moment to moment,
seeing pursuers in every moving object.

At last I came in sight of home, and Rover frisked out to meet me just
as I had expected him to do, his tail wagging, his gentle eyes smiling
up at me. Gasping, unable to utter a word, I frantically dragged the dog
into the house and shut the door.

"What is the matter?" asked my mother.

I could not at the moment explain even to her what had threatened me,
but her calm sweet words at last gave my story vent. Out it came in
torrential flow.

"Why, you poor child!" she said. "They were only fooling--they wouldn't
dare to hurt your dog!"

This was probably true. Matt had spoken without any clear idea of the
torture he was inflicting.

It is often said, "How little is required to give a child joy," but
men--and women too--sometimes forget how little it takes to give a child


Father Sells the Farm

Green's Coulee was a delightful place for boys. It offered hunting and
coasting and many other engrossing sports, but my father, as the seasons
went by, became thoroughly dissatisfied with its disadvantages. More and
more he resented the stumps and ridges which interrupted his plow. Much
of his quarter-section remained unbroken. There were ditches to be dug
in the marsh and young oaks to be uprooted from the forest, and he was
obliged to toil with unremitting severity. There were times, of course,
when field duties did not press, but never a day came when the necessity
for twelve hours' labor did not exist.

Furthermore, as he grubbed or reaped he remembered the glorious prairies
he had crossed on his exploring trip into Minnesota before the war, and
the oftener he thought of them the more bitterly he resented his
up-tilted, horse-killing fields, and his complaining words sank so deep
into the minds of his sons that for years thereafter they were unable to
look upon any rise of ground as an object to be admired.

It irked him beyond measure to force his reaper along a steep slope, and
he loathed the irregular little patches running up the ravines behind
the timbered knolls, and so at last like many another of his neighbors
he began to look away to the west as a fairer field for conquest. He no
more thought of going east than a liberated eagle dreams of returning to
its narrow cage. He loved to talk of Boston, to boast of its splendor,
but to live there, to earn his bread there, was unthinkable. Beneath the
sunset lay the enchanted land of opportunity and his liberation came

Sometime in the spring of 1868, a merchant from LaCrosse, a plump man
who brought us candy and was very cordial and condescending, began
negotiations for our farm, and in the discussion of plans which
followed, my conception of the universe expanded. I began to understand
that "Minnesota" was not a bluff but a wide land of romance, a prairie,
peopled with red men, which lay far beyond the big river. And then, one
day, I heard my father read to my mother a paragraph from the county
paper which ran like this, "It is reported that Richard Garland has sold
his farm in Green's Coulee to our popular grocer, Mr. Speer. Mr. Speer
intends to make of it a model dairy farm."

This intention seemed somehow to reflect a ray of glory upon us, though
I fear it did not solace my mother, as she contemplated the loss of home
and kindred. She was not by nature an emigrant,--few women are. She was
content with the pleasant slopes, the kindly neighbors of Green's
Coulee. Furthermore, most of her brothers and sisters still lived just
across the ridge in the valley of the Neshonoc, and the thought of
leaving them for a wild and unknown region was not pleasant.

To my father, on the contrary, change was alluring. Iowa was now the
place of the rainbow, and the pot of gold. He was eager to push on
toward it, confident of the outcome. His spirit was reflected in one of
the songs which we children particularly enjoyed hearing our mother
sing, a ballad which consisted of a dialogue between a husband and wife
on this very subject of emigration. The words as well as its wailing
melody still stir me deeply, for they lay hold of my sub-conscious
memory--embodying admirably the debate which went on in our home as
well as in the homes of other farmers in the valley,--only, alas! our
mothers did not prevail.

It begins with a statement of unrest on the part of the husband who
confesses that he is about to give up his plow and his cart--

    Away to Colorado a journey I'll go,
    For to double my fortune as other men do,
    _While here I must labor each day in the field
    And the winter consumes all the summer doth yield_.

To this the wife replies:

    Dear husband, I've noticed with a sorrowful heart
    That you long have neglected your plow and your cart,
    Your horses, sheep, cattle at random do run,
    And your new Sunday jacket goes every day on.
    _Oh, stay on your farm and you'll suffer no loss,
    For the stone that keeps rolling will gather no moss._

But the husband insists:

    Oh, wife, let us go; Oh, don't let us wait;
    I long to be there, and I long to be great,
    While you some fair lady and who knows but I
    May be some rich governor long 'fore I die,
    _Whilst here I must labor each day in the field,
    And the winter consumes all the summer doth yield_.

But wife shrewdly retorts:

    Dear husband, remember those lands are so dear
    They will cost you the labor of many a year.
    Your horses, sheep, cattle will all be to buy,
    You will hardly get settled before you must die.
    Oh, stay on the farm,--etc.

The husband then argues that as in that country the lands are all
cleared to the plow, and horses and cattle not very dear, they would
soon be rich. Indeed, "we will feast on fat venison one-half of the
year." Thereupon the wife brings in her final argument:

    Oh, husband, remember those lands of delight
    Are surrounded by Indians who murder by night.
    Your house will be plundered and burnt to the ground
    While your wife and your children lie mangled around.

This fetches the husband up with a round turn:

    Oh, wife, you've convinced me, I'll argue no more,
    I never once thought of your dying before.
    I love my dear children although they are small
    And you, my dear wife, I love greatest of all.

        Refrain (both together)

    We'll stay on the farm and we'll suffer no loss
    For the stone that keeps rolling will gather no moss.

This song was not an especial favorite of my father. Its minor strains
and its expressions of womanly doubts and fears were antipathetic to his
sanguine, buoyant, self-confident nature. He was inclined to ridicule
the conclusions of its last verse and to say that the man was a
molly-coddle--or whatever the word of contempt was in those days. As an
antidote he usually called for "O'er the hills in legions, boys," which
exactly expressed his love of exploration and adventure.

This ballad which dates back to the conquest of the Allegheny mountains
opens with a fine uplifting note,

    Cheer up, brothers, as we go
    O'er the mountains, westward ho,
    Where herds of deer and buffalo
    Furnish the fare.

and the refrain is at once a bugle call and a vision:

    Then o'er the hills in legions, boys,
    Fair freedom's star
    Points to the sunset regions, boys,
    Ha, ha, ha-ha!

and when my mother's clear voice rose on the notes of that exultant
chorus, our hearts responded with a surge of emotion akin to that which
sent the followers of Daniel Boone across the Blue Ridge, and lined the
trails of Kentucky and Ohio with the canvas-covered wagons of the

A little farther on in the song came these words,

    When we've wood and prairie land,
    Won by our toil,
    We'll reign like kings in fairy land,
    Lords of the soil!

which always produced in my mind the picture of a noble farm-house in a
park-like valley, just as the line, "Well have our rifles ready, boys,"
expressed the boldness and self-reliance of an armed horseman.

The significance of this song in the lives of the McClintocks and the
Garlands cannot be measured. It was the marching song of my
Grandfather's generation and undoubtedly profoundly influenced my father
and my uncles in all that they did. It suggested shining mountains, and
grassy vales, swarming with bear and elk. It called to green savannahs
and endless flowery glades. It voiced as no other song did, the pioneer
impulse throbbing deep in my father's blood. That its words will not
bear close inspection today takes little from its power. Unquestionably
it was a directing force in the lives of at least three generations of
my pioneering race. Its strains will be found running through this book
from first to last, for its pictures continued to allure my father on
and on toward "the sunset regions," and its splendid faith carried him
through many a dark vale of discontent.

Our home was a place of song, notwithstanding the severe toil which was
demanded of every hand, for often of an evening, especially in winter
time, father took his seat beside the fire, invited us to his knees, and
called on mother to sing. These moods were very sweet to us and we
usually insisted upon his singing for us. True, he hardly knew one tune
from another, but he had a hearty resounding chant which delighted us,
and one of the ballads which we especially like to hear him repeat was
called _Down the Ohio_. Only one verse survives in my memory:

    The river is up, the channel is deep,
    The winds blow high and strong.
    The flash of the oars, the stroke we keep,
    As we row the old boat along,
      Down the O-h-i-o.

Mother, on the contrary, was gifted with a voice of great range and
sweetness, and from her we always demanded _Nettie Wildwood_, _Lily
Dale_, _Lorena_ or some of Root's stirring war songs. We loved her
noble, musical tone, and yet we always enjoyed our father's tuneless
roar. There was something dramatic and moving in each of his ballads. He
made the words mean so much.

It is a curious fact that nearly all of the ballads which the
McClintocks and other of these powerful young sons of the border loved
to sing were sad. _Nellie Wildwood_, _Minnie Minturn_, _Belle Mahone_,
_Lily Dale_ were all concerned with dead or dying maidens or with
mocking birds still singing o'er their graves. Weeping willows and
funeral urns ornamented the cover of each mournful ballad. Not one
smiling face peered forth from the pages of _The Home Diadem_.

    Lonely like a withered tree,
      What is all the world to me?
    Light and life were all in thee,
      Sweet Belle Mahone,

wailed stalwart David and buxom Deborah, and ready tears moistened my
tanned plump cheeks.

Perhaps it was partly by way of contrast that the jocund song of
_Freedom's Star_ always meant so much to me, but however it came about,
I am perfectly certain that it was an immense subconscious force in the
life of my father as it had been in the westward marching of the
McClintocks. In my own thinking it became at once a vision and a lure.

The only humorous songs which my uncles knew were negro ditties, like
_Camp Town Racetrack_ and _Jordan am a Hard Road to Trabbel_ but in
addition to the sad ballads I have quoted, they joined my mother in _The
Pirate's Serenade_, _Erin's Green Shore_, _Bird of the Wilderness_, and
the memory of their mellow voices creates a golden dusk between me and
that far-off cottage.

During the summer of my eighth year, I took a part in haying and
harvest, and I have a painful recollection of raking hay after the
wagons, for I wore no shoes and the stubble was very sharp. I used to
slip my feet along close to the ground, thus bending the stubble away
from me before throwing my weight on it, otherwise walking was painful.
If I were sent across the field on an errand I always sought out the
path left by the broad wheels of the mowing machine and walked therein
with a most delicious sense of safety.

It cannot be that I was required to work very hard or very steadily, but
it seemed to me then, and afterward, as if I had been made one of the
regular hands and that I toiled the whole day through. I rode old Josh
for the hired man to plow corn, and also guided the lead horse on the
old McCormick reaper, my short legs sticking out at right angles from my
body, and I carried water to the field.

It appears that the blackbirds were very thick that year and
threatened, in August, to destroy the corn. They came in gleeful clouds,
settling with multitudinous clamor upon the stalks so that it became the
duty of Den Green to scare them away by shooting at them, and I was
permitted to follow and pick up the dead birds and carry them as "game."

There was joy and keen excitement in this warfare. Sometimes when Den
fired into a flock, a dozen or more came fluttering down. At other times
vast swarms rose at the sound of the gun with a rush of wings which
sounded like a distant storm. Once Den let me fire the gun, and I took
great pride in this until I came upon several of the shining little
creatures bleeding, dying in the grass. Then my heart was troubled and I
repented of my cruelty. Mrs. Green put the birds into potpies but my
mother would not do so. "I don't believe in such game," she said. "It's
bad enough to shoot the poor things without eating them."

Once we came upon a huge mountain rattlesnake and Den killed it with a
shot of his gun. How we escaped being bitten is a mystery, for we
explored every path of the hills and meadows in our bare feet, our
trousers rolled to the knee. We hunted plums and picked blackberries and
hazelnuts with very little fear of snakes, and yet we must have always
been on guard. We loved our valley, and while occasionally we yielded to
the lure of "Freedom's star," we were really content with Green's Coulee
and its surrounding hills.


The Last Threshing in the Coulee

Life on a Wisconsin farm, even for the women, had its compensations.
There were times when the daily routine of lonely and monotonous
housework gave place to an agreeable bustle, and human intercourse
lightened the toil. In the midst of the slow progress of the fall's
plowing, the gathering of the threshing crew was a most dramatic event
to my mother, as to us, for it not only brought unwonted clamor, it
fetched her brothers William and David and Frank, who owned and ran a
threshing machine, and their coming gave the house an air of festivity
which offset the burden of extra work which fell upon us all.

In those days the grain, after being brought in and stacked around the
barn, was allowed to remain until October or November when all the other
work was finished.

Of course some men got the machine earlier, for all could not thresh at
the same time, and a good part of every man's fall activities consisted
in "changing works" with his neighbors, thus laying up a stock of unpaid
labor against the home job. Day after day, therefore, father or the
hired man shouldered a fork and went to help thresh, and all through the
autumn months, the ceaseless ringing hum and the _bow-ouw, ouw-woo,
boo-oo-oom_ of the great balance wheels on the separator and the deep
bass purr of its cylinder could be heard in every valley like the
droning song of some sullen and gigantic autumnal insect.

I recall with especial clearness the events of that last threshing in
the coulee.--I was eight, my brother was six. For days we had looked
forward to the coming of "the threshers," listening with the greatest
eagerness to father's report of the crew. At last he said, "Well, Belle,
get ready. The machine will be here tomorrow."

All day we hung on the gate, gazing down the road, watching, waiting for
the crew, and even after supper, we stood at the windows still hoping to
hear the rattle of the ponderous separator.

Father explained that the men usually worked all day at one farm and
moved after dark, and we were just starting to "climb the wooden hill"
when we heard a far-off faint halloo.

"There they are," shouted father, catching up his old square tin lantern
and hurriedly lighting the candle within it. "That's Frank's voice."

The night air was sharp, and as we had taken off our boots we could only
stand at the window and watch father as he piloted the teamsters through
the gate. The light threw fantastic shadows here and there, now lighting
up a face, now bringing out the separator which seemed a weary and
sullen monster awaiting its den. The men's voices sounded loud in the
still night, causing the roused turkeys in the oaks to peer about on
their perches, uneasy silhouettes against the sky.

We would gladly have stayed awake to greet our beloved uncles, but
mother said, "You must go to sleep in order to be up early in the
morning," and reluctantly we turned away.

Lying thus in our cot under the sloping raftered roof we could hear the
squawk of the hens, as father wrung their innocent necks, and the crash
of the "sweeps" being unloaded sounded loud and clear and strange. We
longed to be out there, but at last the dance of lights and shadows on
the plastered wall died away, and we fell into childish dreamless sleep.

We were awakened at dawn by the ringing beat of the iron mauls as Frank
and David drove the stakes to hold the "power" to the ground. The rattle
of trace chains, the clash of iron rods, the clang of steel bars,
intermixed with the laughter of the men, came sharply through the frosty
air, and the smell of sizzling sausage from the kitchen warned us that
our busy mother was hurrying the breakfast forward. Knowing that it was
time to get up, although it was not yet light, I had a sense of being
awakened into a romantic new world, a world of heroic action.

As we stumbled down the stairs, we found the lamp-lit kitchen empty of
the men. They had finished their coffee and were out in the stack-yard
oiling the machine and hitching the horses to the power. Shivering yet
entranced by the beauty of the frosty dawn we crept out to stand and
watch the play. The frost lay white on every surface, the frozen ground
rang like iron under the steel-shod feet of the horses, and the breath
of the men rose up in little white puffs of steam.

Uncle David on the feeder's stand was impatiently awaiting the coming of
the fifth team. The pitchers were climbing the stacks like blackbirds,
and the straw-stackers were scuffling about the stable door.--Finally,
just as the east began to bloom, and long streamers of red began to
unroll along the vast gray dome of sky Uncle Frank, the driver, lifted
his voice in a "Chippewa war-whoop."

On a still morning like this his signal could be heard for miles. Long
drawn and musical, it sped away over the fields, announcing to all the
world that the McClintocks were ready for the day's race. Answers came
back faintly from the frosty fields where dim figures of laggard hands
could be seen hurrying over the plowed ground, the last team came
clattering in and was hooked into its place, David called "All right!"
and the cylinder began to hum.

In those days the machine was either a "J. I. Case" or a "Buffalo
Pitts," and was moved by five pairs of horses attached to a "power"
staked to the ground, round which they travelled pulling at the ends of
long levers or sweeps, and to me the force seemed tremendous. "Tumbling
rods" with "knuckle joints" carried the motion to the cylinder, and the
driver who stood upon a square platform above the huge, greasy
cog-wheels (round which the horses moved) was a grand figure in my eyes.

Driving, to us, looked like a pleasant job, but Uncle Frank thought it
very tiresome, and I can now see that it was. To stand on that small
platform all through the long hours of a cold November day, when the
cutting wind roared down the valley sweeping the dust and leaves along
the road, was work. Even I perceived that it was far pleasanter to sit
on the south side of the stack and watch the horses go round.

It was necessary that the "driver" should be a man of judgment, for the
horses had to be kept at just the right speed, and to do this he must
gauge the motion of the cylinder by the pitch of its deep bass song.

The three men in command of the machine were set apart as "the
threshers."--William and David alternately "fed" or "tended," that is,
one of them "fed" the grain into the howling cylinder while the other,
oil-can in hand, watched the sieves, felt of the pinions and so kept the
machine in good order. The feeder's position was the high place to which
all boys aspired, and on this day I stood in silent admiration of Uncle
David's easy powerful attitudes as he caught each bundle in the crook
of his arm and spread it out into a broad, smooth band of yellow straw
on which the whirling teeth caught and tore with monstrous fury. He was
the ideal man in my eyes, grander in some ways than my father, and to be
able to stand where he stood was the highest honor in the world.

It was all poetry for us and we wished every day were threshing day. The
wind blew cold, the clouds went flying across the bright blue sky, and
the straw glistened in the sun. With jarring snarl the circling zone of
cogs dipped into the sturdy greasy wheels, and the single-trees and
pulley-chains chirped clear and sweet as crickets. The dust flew, the
whip cracked, and the men working swiftly to get the sheaves to the
feeder or to take the straw away from the tail-end of the machine, were
like warriors, urged to desperate action by battle cries. The stackers
wallowing to their waists in the fluffy straw-pile seemed gnomes acting
for our amusement.

The straw-pile! What delight we had in that! What joy it was to go up to
the top where the men were stationed, one behind the other, and to have
them toss huge forkfuls of the light fragrant stalks upon us, laughing
to see us emerge from our golden cover. We were especially impressed by
the bravery of Ed Green who stood in the midst of the thick dust and
flying chaff close to the tail of the stacker. His teeth shone like a
negro's out of his dust-blackened face and his shirt was wet with sweat,
but he motioned for "more straw" and David, accepting the challenge,
signalled for more speed. Frank swung his lash and yelled at the
straining horses, the sleepy growl of the cylinder rose to a howl and
the wheat came pulsing out at the spout in such a stream that the
carriers were forced to trot on their path to and from the granary in
order to keep the grain from piling up around the measurer.--There was
a kind of splendid rivalry in this backbreaking toil--for each sack
weighed ninety pounds.

We got tired of wallowing in the straw at last, and went down to help
Rover catch the rats which were being uncovered by the pitchers as they
reached the stack bottom.--The horses, with their straining,
out-stretched necks, the loud and cheery shouts, the whistling of the
driver, the roar and hum of the great wheel, the flourishing of the
forks, the supple movement of brawny arms, the shouts of the men, all
blended with the wild sound of the wind in the creaking branches of the
oaks, forming a glorious poem in our unforgetting minds.

At last the call for dinner sounded. The driver began to call, "Whoa
there, boys! Steady, Tom," and to hold his long whip before the eyes of
the more spirited of the teams in order to convince them that he really
meant "stop." The pitchers stuck their forks upright in the stack and
leaped to the ground. Randal, the band-cutter, drew from his wrist the
looped string of his big knife, the stackers slid down from the
straw-pile, and a race began among the teamsters to see whose span would
be first unhitched and at the watering trough. What joyous rivalry it
seemed to us!--

Mother and Mrs. Randal, wife of our neighbor, who was "changing works,"
stood ready to serve the food as soon as the men were seated.--The table
had been lengthened to its utmost and pieced out with boards, and planks
had been laid on stout wooden chairs at either side.

The men came in with a rush, and took seats wherever they could find
them, and their attack on the boiled potatoes and chicken should have
been appalling to the women, but it was not. They enjoyed seeing them
eat. Ed Green was prodigious. One cut at a big potato, followed by two
stabbing motions, and it was gone.--Two bites laid a leg of chicken as
bare as a slate pencil. To us standing in the corner waiting our turn,
it seemed that every "smitch" of the dinner was in danger, for the
others were not far behind Ed and Dan.

At last even the gauntest of them filled up and left the room and we
were free to sit at "the second table" and eat, while the men rested
outside. David and William, however, generally had a belt to sew or a
bent tooth to take out of the "concave." This seemed of grave dignity to
us and we respected their self-sacrificing labor.

Nooning was brief. As soon as the horses had finished their oats, the
roar and hum of the machine began again and continued steadily all the
afternoon, till by and by the sun grew big and red, the night began to
fall, and the wind died out.

This was the most impressive hour of a marvellous day. Through the
falling dusk, the machine boomed steadily with a new sound, a solemn
roar, rising at intervals to a rattling impatient yell as the cylinder
ran momentarily empty. The men moved now in silence, looming dim and
gigantic in the half-light. The straw-pile mountain high, the pitchers
in the chaff, the feeder on his platform, and especially the driver on
his power, seemed almost superhuman to my childish eyes. Gray dust
covered the handsome face of David, changing it into something both sad
and stern, but Frank's cheery voice rang out musically as he called to
the weary horses, "Come on, Tom! Hup there, Dan!"

The track in which they walked had been worn into two deep circles and
they all moved mechanically round and round, like parts of a machine,
dull-eyed and covered with sweat.

At last William raised the welcome cry, "All done!"--the men threw down
their forks. Uncle Frank began to call in a gentle, soothing voice,
"_Whoa_, lads! _Steady_, boys! Whoa, there!"

But the horses had been going so long and so steadily that they could
not at once check their speed. They kept moving, though slowly, on and
on till their owners slid from the stacks and seizing the ends of the
sweeps, held them. Even then, after the power was still, the cylinder
kept its hum, till David throwing a last sheaf into its open maw, choked
it into silence.

Now came the sound of dropping chains, the clang of iron rods, and the
thud of hoofs as the horses walked with laggard gait and weary
down-falling heads to the barn. The men, more subdued than at dinner,
washed with greater care, and combed the chaff from their beards. The
air was still and cool, and the sky a deep cloudless blue starred with
faint fire.

Supper though quiet was more dramatic than dinner had been. The table
lighted with kerosene lamps, the clean white linen, the fragrant dishes,
the women flying about with steaming platters, all seemed very cheery
and very beautiful, and the men who came into the light and warmth of
the kitchen with aching muscles and empty stomachs, seemed gentler and
finer than at noon. They were nearly all from neighboring farms, and my
mother treated even the few hired men like visitors, and the talk was
all hearty and good tempered though a little subdued.

One by one the men rose and slipped away, and father withdrew to milk
the cows and bed down the horses, leaving the women and the youngsters
to eat what was left and "do up the dishes."

After we had eaten our fill Frank and I also went out to the barn (all
wonderfully changed now to our minds by the great stack of straw), there
to listen to David and father chatting as they rubbed their tired
horses.--The lantern threw a dim red light on the harness and on the
rumps of the cattle, but left mysterious shadows in the corners. I could
hear the mice rustling in the straw of the roof, and from the farther
end of the dimly-lighted shed came the regular _strim-stram_ of the
streams of milk falling into the bottom of a tin pail as the hired hand
milked the big roan cow.

All this was very momentous to me as I sat on the oat box, shivering in
the cold air, listening with all my ears, and when we finally went
toward the house, the stars were big and sparkling. The frost had
already begun to glisten on the fences and well-curb, and high in the
air, dark against the sky, the turkeys were roosting uneasily, as if
disturbed by premonitions of approaching Thanksgiving. Rover pattered
along by my side on the crisp grass and my brother clung to my hand.

How bright and warm it was in the kitchen with mother putting things to
rights while father and my uncles leaned their chairs against the wall
and talked of the west and of moving. "I can't get away till after New
Year's," father said. "But I'm going. I'll never put in another crop on
these hills."

With speechless content I listened to Uncle William's stories of bears
and Indians, and other episodes of frontier life, until at last we were
ordered to bed and the glorious day was done.

Oh, those blessed days, those entrancing nights! How fine they were
then, and how mellow they are now, for the slow-paced years have dropped
nearly fifty other golden mists upon that far-off valley. From this
distance I cannot understand how my father brought himself to leave that
lovely farm and those good and noble friends.


David and His Violin

Most of the events of our last autumn in Green's Coulee have slipped
into the fathomless gulf, but the experiences of Thanksgiving day, which
followed closely on our threshing day, are in my treasure house. Like a
canvas by Rembrandt only one side of the figures therein is defined, the
other side melts away into shadow--a luminous shadow, through which
faint light pulses, luring my wistful gaze on and on, back into the
vanished world where the springs of my life lie hidden.

It is a raw November evening. Frank and Harriet and I are riding into a
strange land in a clattering farm wagon. Father and mother are seated
before us on the spring seat. The ground is frozen and the floor of the
carriage pounds and jars. We cling to the iron-lined sides of the box to
soften the blows. It is growing dark. Before us (in a similar vehicle)
my Uncle David is leading the way. I catch momentary glimpses of him
outlined against the pale yellow sky. He stands erect, holding the reins
of his swiftly-moving horses in his powerful left hand. Occasionally he
shouts back to my father, whose chin is buried in a thick buffalo-skin
coat. Mother is only a vague mass, a figure wrapped in shawls. The wind
is keen, the world gray and cheerless.

My sister is close beside me in the straw. Frank is asleep. I am on my
knees looking ahead. Suddenly with rush of wind and clatter of hoofs, we
enter the gloom of a forest and the road begins to climb. I see the
hills on the right. I catch the sound of wheels on a bridge. I am cold.
I snuggle down under the robes and the gurgle of ice-bound water is
fused with my dreams.

I am roused at last by Uncle David's pleasant voice, "Wake up, boys, and
pay y'r lodging!" I look out and perceive him standing beside the wheel.
I see a house and I hear the sound of Deborah's voice from the
warmly-lighted open door.

I climb down, heavy with cold and sleep. As I stand there my uncle
reaches up his arms to take my mother down. Not knowing that she has a
rheumatic elbow, he squeezes her playfully. She gives a sharp scream,
and his team starts away on a swift run around the curve of the road
toward the gate. Dropping my mother, he dashes across the yard to
intercept the runaways. We all stand in silence, watching the flying
horses and the wonderful race he is making toward the gate. He runs with
magnificent action, his head thrown high. As the team dashes through the
gate his outflung left hand catches the end-board of the wagon,--he
leaps into the box, and so passes from our sight.

We go into the cottage. It is a small building with four rooms and a
kitchen on the ground floor, but in the sitting room we come upon an
open fireplace,--the first I had ever seen, and in the light of it sits
Grandfather McClintock, the glory of the flaming logs gilding the edges
of his cloud of bushy white hair. He does not rise to greet us, but
smiles and calls out, "Come in! Come in! Draw a cheer. Sit ye down."

A clamor of welcome fills the place. Harriet and I are put to warm
before the blaze. Grandad takes Frank upon his knee and the cutting wind
of the gray outside world is forgotten.

This house in which the McClintocks were living at this time, belonged
to a rented farm. Grandad had sold the original homestead on the
LaCrosse River, and David who had lately married a charming young
Canadian girl, was the head of the family. Deborah, it seems, was also
living with him and Frank was there--as a visitor probably.

The room in which we sat was small and bare but to me it was very
beautiful, because of the fire, and by reason of the merry voices which
filled my ears with music. Aunt Rebecca brought to us a handful of
crackers and told us that we were to have oyster soup for supper. This
gave us great pleasure even in anticipation, for oysters were a
delicious treat in those days.

"Well, Dick," Grandad began, "so ye're plannin' to go west, air ye?"

"Yes, as soon as I get all my grain and hogs marketed I'm going to pull
out for my new farm over in Iowa."

"Ye'd better stick to the old coulee," warned my grandfather, a touch of
sadness in his voice. "Ye'll find none better."

My father was disposed to resent this. "That's all very well for the few
who have the level land in the middle of the valley," he retorted, "but
how about those of us who are crowded against the hills? You should see
the farm I have in Winnesheik!! Not a hill on it big enough for a boy to
coast on. It's right on the edge of Looking Glass Prairie, and I have a
spring of water, and a fine grove of trees just where I want them, not
where they have to be grubbed out."

"But ye belong here," repeated Grandfather. "You were married here, your
children were born here. Ye'll find no such friends in the west as you
have here in Neshonoc. And Belle will miss the family."

My father laughed. "Oh, you'll all come along. Dave has the fever
already. Even William is likely to catch it."

Old Hugh sighed deeply. "I hope ye're wrong," he said. "I'd like to
spend me last days here with me sons and daughters around me, sich as
are left to me," here his voice became sterner. "It's the curse of our
country,--this constant moving, moving. I'd have been better off had I
stayed in Ohio, though this valley seemed very beautiful to me the first
time I saw it."

At this point David came in, and everybody shouted, "Did you stop them?"
referring of course to the runaway team.

"I did," he replied with a smile. "But how about the oysters. I'm holler
as a beech log."

The fragrance of the soup thoroughly awakened even little Frank, and
when we drew around the table, each face shone with the light of peace
and plenty, and all our elders tried to forget that this was the last
Thanksgiving festival which the McClintocks and Garlands would be able
to enjoy in the old valley. How good those oysters were! They made up
the entire meal,--excepting mince pie which came as a closing sweet.

Slowly, one by one, the men drew back and returned to the sitting room,
leaving the women to wash up the dishes and put the kitchen to rights.
David seized the opportunity to ask my father to tell once again of the
trip he had made, of the lands he had seen, and the farm he had
purchased, for his young heart was also fired with desire of
exploration. The level lands toward the sunset allured him. In his
visions the wild meadows were filled with game, and the free lands
needed only to be tickled with a hoe to laugh into harvest.

He said, "As soon as Dad and Frank are settled on a farm here, I'm going
west also. I'm as tired of climbing these hills as you are. I want a
place of my own--and besides, from all you say of that wheat country out
there, a threshing machine would pay wonderfully well."

As the women came in, my father called out, "Come, Belle, sing 'O'er the
Hills in Legions Boys!'--Dave get out your fiddle--and tune us all up."

David tuned up his fiddle and while he twanged on the strings mother
lifted her voice in our fine old marching song.

    Cheer up, brothers, as we go,
    O'er the mountains, westward ho--

and we all joined in the jubilant chorus--

    Then o'er the hills in legions, boys,
    Fair freedom's star
    Points to the sunset regions, boys,
    Ha, ha, ha-ha!--

My father's face shone with the light of the explorer, the pioneer. The
words of this song appealed to him as the finest poetry. It meant all
that was fine and hopeful and buoyant in American life, to him--but on
my mother's sweet face a wistful expression deepened and in her fine
eyes a reflective shadow lay. To her this song meant not so much the
acquisition of a new home as the loss of all her friends and relatives.
She sang it submissively, not exultantly, and I think the other women
were of the same mood though their faces were less expressive to me. To
all of the pioneer wives of the past that song had meant deprivation,
suffering, loneliness, heart-ache.

From this they passed to other of my father's favorite songs, and it is
highly significant to note that even in this choice of songs he
generally had his way. He was the dominating force. "Sing 'Nellie
Wildwood,'" he said, and they sang it.--This power of getting his will
respected was due partly to his military training but more to a
distinctive trait in him. He was a man of power, of decision, a natural
commander of men.

They sang "Minnie Minturn" to his request, and the refrain,--

    I have heard the angels warning,
    I have seen the golden shore--

meant much to me. So did the line,

    But I only hear the drummers
    As the armies march away.

Aunt Deb was also a soul of decision. She called out, "No more of these
sad tones," and struck up "The Year of Jubilo," and we all shouted till
the walls shook with the exultant words:

    Ol' massa run--ha-ha!
    De darkies stay,--ho-ho!
    It must be now is the kingdom a-comin'
    In the year of Jubilo.

At this point the fire suggested an old English ballad which I loved,
and so I piped up, "Mother, sing, 'Pile the Wood on Higher!'" and she
complied with pleasure, for this was a song of home, of the unbroken
fireside circle.

    Oh, the winds howl mad outdoors
      The snow clouds hurry past,
    The giant trees sway to and fro
      Beneath the sweeping blast.

and we children joined in the chorus:

    Then we'll gather round the fire
      And we'll pile the wood on higher,
    Let the song and jest go round;
      What care we for the storm,
      When the fireside is so warm,
      And pleasure here is found?

Never before did this song mean so much to me as at this moment when the
winds were actually howling outdoors, and Uncle Frank was in very truth
piling the logs higher. It seemed as though my stuffed bosom could not
receive anything deeper and finer, but it did, for father was saying,
"Well, Dave, now for some _tunes_."

This was the best part of David to me. He could make any room mystical
with the magic of his bow. True, his pieces were mainly venerable dance
tunes, cotillions, hornpipes,--melodies which had passed from fiddler to
fiddler until they had become veritable folk-songs,--pieces like "Money
Musk," "Honest John," "Haste to the Wedding," and many others whose
names I have forgotten, but with a gift of putting into even the
simplest song an emotion which subdued us and silenced us, he played on,
absorbed and intent. From these familiar pieces he passed to others for
which he had no names, melodies strangely sweet and sad, full of longing
cries, voicing something which I dimly felt but could not understand.

At the moment he was the somber Scotch Highlander, the true Celt, and as
he bent above his instrument his black eyes glowing, his fine head
drooping low, my heart bowed down in worship of his skill. He was my
hero, the handsomest, most romantic figure in all my world.

He played, "Maggie, Air Ye Sleepin," and the wind outside went to my
soul. Voices wailed to me out of the illimitable hill-land forests,
voices that pleaded:

    Oh, let me in, for loud the linn
    Goes roarin' o'er the moorland craggy.

He appeared to forget us, even his young wife. His eyes looked away into
gray storms. Vague longing ached in his throat. Life was a struggle,
love a torment.

He stopped abruptly, and put the violin into its box, fumbling with the
catch to hide his emotion and my father broke the tense silence with a
prosaic word. "Well, well! Look here, it's time you youngsters were
asleep. Beckie, where are you going to put these children?"

Aunt Rebecca, a trim little woman with brown eyes, looked at us
reflectively, "Well, now, I don't know. I guess we'll have to make a bed
for them on the floor."

This was done, and for the first time in my life, I slept before an open
fire. As I snuggled into my blankets with my face turned to the blaze,
the darkness of the night and the denizens of the pineland wilderness to
the north had no terrors for me.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was awakened in the early light by Uncle David building the fire, and
then came my father's call, and the hurly burly of jovial greeting from
old and young. The tumult lasted till breakfast was called, and
everybody who could find place sat around the table and attacked the
venison and potatoes which formed the meal. I do not remember our
leave-taking or the ride homeward. I bring to mind only the desolate
cold of our own kitchen into which we tramped late in the afternoon,
sitting in our wraps until the fire began to roar within its iron cage.

Oh, winds of the winter night! Oh, firelight and the shine of tender
eyes! How far away you seem tonight!

    So faint and far,
    Each dear face shineth as a star.

Oh, you by the western sea, and you of the south beyond the reach of
Christmas snow, do not your hearts hunger, like mine tonight for that
Thanksgiving Day among the trees? For the glance of eyes undimmed of
tears, for the hair untouched with gray?

It all lies in the unchanging realm of the past--this land of my
childhood. Its charm, its strange dominion cannot return save in the
poet's reminiscent dream. No money, no railway train can take us back to
it. It did not in truth exist--it was a magical world, born of the
vibrant union of youth and firelight, of music and the voice of moaning
winds--a union which can never come again to you or me, father, uncle,
brother, till the coulee meadows bloom again unscarred of spade or


Winnesheik "Woods and Prairie Lands"

Our last winter in the Coulee was given over to preparations for our
removal but it made very little impression on my mind which was deeply
engaged on my school work. As it was out of the question for us to
attend the village school the elders arranged for a neighborhood school
at the home of John Roche, who had an unusually large living room. John
is but a shadowy figure in this chronicle but his daughter Indiana, whom
we called "Ingie," stands out as the big girl of my class.

Books were scarce in this house as well as in our own. I remember piles
of newspapers but no bound volumes other than the Bible and certain
small Sunday school books. All the homes of the valley were equally
barren. My sister and I jointly possessed a very limp and soiled cloth
edition of "Mother Goose." Our stories all came to us by way of the
conversation of our elders. No one but grandmother Garland ever
deliberately told us a tale--except the hired girls, and their romances
were of such dark and gruesome texture that we often went to bed
shivering with fear of the dark.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, miraculously, I came into possession of two
books, one called _Beauty and The Beast_, and the other _Aladdin and His
Wonderful Lamp_. These volumes mark a distinct epoch in my life. The
grace of the lovely Lady as she stood above the cringing Beast gave me
my first clear notion of feminine dignity and charm. On the magic Flying
Carpet I rose into the wide air of Oriental romance. I attended the
building of towered cities and the laying of gorgeous feasts. I carried
in my hand the shell from which, at the word of command, the cool clear
water gushed. My feet were shod with winged boots, and on my head was
the Cap of Invisibility. My body was captive in our snowbound little
cabin but my mind ranged the golden palaces of Persia--so much I know.
Where the wonder-working romances came from I cannot now tell but I
think they were Christmas presents, for Christmas came this year with
unusual splendor.

The sale of the farm had put into my father's hands a considerable sum
of money and I assume that some small part of this went to make our
holiday glorious. In one of my stockings was a noble red and blue tin
horse with a flowing mane and tail, and in the other was a monkey who
could be made to climb a stick. Harriet had a new china doll and Frank a
horn and china dog, and all the corners of our stockings were stuffed
with nuts and candies. I hope mother got something beside the potatoes
and onions which I remember seeing her pull out and unwrap with
delightful humor--an old and rather pathetic joke but new to us.

The snow fell deep in January and I have many glorious pictures of the
whirling flakes outlined against the darkly wooded hills across the
marsh. Father was busy with his team drawing off wheat and hogs and hay,
and often came into the house at night, white with the storms through
which he had passed. My trips to school were often interrupted by the
cold, and the path which my sister and I trod was along the
ever-deepening furrows made by the bob-sleighs of the farmers. Often
when we met a team or were overtaken by one, we were forced out of the
road into the drifts, and I can feel to this moment, the wedge of snow
which caught in the tops of my tall boots and slowly melted into my gray

We were not afraid of the drifts, however. On the contrary mother had to
fight to keep us from wallowing beyond our depth. I had now a sled which
was my inseparable companion. I could not feed the hens or bring in a
pan of chips without taking it with me. My heart swelled with pride and
joy whenever I regarded it, and yet it was but a sober-colored thing, a
frame of hickory built by the village blacksmith in exchange for a cord
of wood--delivered. I took it to school one day, but Ed Roche abused it,
took it up and threw it into the deep snow among the weeds.--Had I been
large enough, I would have killed that boy with pleasure, but being
small and fat and numb with cold I merely rescued my treasure as quickly
as I could and hurried home to pour my indignant story into my mother's
sympathetic ears.

I seldom spoke of my defeats to my father for he had once said, "Fight
your own battles, my son. If I hear of your being licked by a boy of
anything like your own size, I'll give you another when you get home."
He didn't believe in molly-coddling, you will perceive. His was a stern
school, the school of self-reliance and resolution.

Neighbors came in now and again to talk of our migration, and yet in
spite of all that, in spite of our song, in spite of my father's
preparation I had no definite premonition of coming change, and when the
day of departure actually dawned, I was as surprised, as unprepared as
though it had all happened without the slightest warning.

So long as the kettle sang on the hearth and the clock ticked on its
shelf, the idea of "moving" was pleasantly diverting, but when one raw
winter day I saw the faithful clock stuffed with rags and laid on its
back in a box, and the chairs and dishes being loaded into a big sleigh,
I began to experience something very disturbing and very uncomfortable.
"O'er the hills in legions, boys," did not sound so inspiring to me
then. "The woods and prairie lands" of Iowa became of less account to me
than the little cabin in which I had lived all my short life.

Harriet and I wandered around, whining and shivering, our own misery
augmented by the worried look on mother's face. It was February, and she
very properly resented leaving her home for a long, cold ride into an
unknown world, but as a dutiful wife she worked hard and silently in
packing away her treasures, and clothing her children for the journey.

At last the great sleigh-load of bedding and furniture stood ready at
the door, the stove, still warm with cheerful service, was lifted in,
and the time for saying good-bye to our coulee home had come.

"Forward march!" shouted father and led the way with the big bob-sled,
followed by cousin Jim and our little herd of kine, while mother and the
children brought up the rear in a "pung" drawn by old Josh, a flea-bit
gray.--It is probable that at the moment the master himself was slightly

A couple of hours' march brought us to LaCrosse, the great city whose
wonders I had longed to confront. It stood on the bank of a wide river
and had all the value of a sea-port to me for in summertime great
hoarsely bellowing steamboats came and went from its quay, and all about
it rose high wooded hills. Halting there, we overlooked a wide expanse
of snow-covered ice in the midst of which a dark, swift, threatening
current of open water ran. Across this chasm stretching from one
ice-field to another lay a flexible narrow bridge over which my father
led the way toward hills of the western shore. There was something
especially terrifying in the boiling heave of that black flood, and I
shivered with terror as I passed it, having vividly in my mind certain
grim stories of men whose teams had broken through and been swept
beneath the ice never to reappear.

It was a long ride to my mother, for she too was in terror of the ice,
but at last the Minnesota bank was reached, La Crescent was passed, and
our guide entering a narrow valley began to climb the snowy hills. All
that was familiar was put behind; all that was strange and dark, all
that was wonderful and unknown, spread out before us, and as we crawled
along that slippery, slanting road, it seemed that we were entering on a
new and marvellous world.

We lodged that night in Hokah, a little town in a deep valley. The
tavern stood near a river which flowed over its dam with resounding roar
and to its sound I slept. Next day at noon we reached Caledonia, a town
high on the snowy prairie. Caledonia! For years that word was a poem in
my ear, part of a marvellous and epic march. Actually it consisted of a
few frame houses and a grocery store. But no matter. Its name shall ring
like a peal of bells in this book.

It grew colder as we rose, and that night, the night of the second day,
we reached Hesper and entered a long stretch of woods, and at last
turned in towards a friendly light shining from a low house beneath a
splendid oak.

As we drew near my father raised a signal shout, "Hallo-o-o the House!"
and a man in a long gray coat came out. "Is that thee, friend Richard?"
he called, and my father replied, "Yea, neighbor Barley, here we are!"

I do not know how this stranger whose manner of speech was so peculiar,
came to be there, but he was and in answer to my question, father
replied, "Barley is a Quaker," an answer which explained nothing at that
time. Being too sleepy to pursue the matter, or to remark upon anything
connected with the exterior, I dumbly followed Harriet into the kitchen
which was still in possession of good Mrs. Barley.

Having filled our stomachs with warm food mother put us to bed, and when
we awoke late the next day the Barleys were gone, our own stove was in
its place, and our faithful clock was ticking calmly on the shelf. So
far as we knew, mother was again at home and entirely content.

This farm, which was situated two miles west of the village of Hesper,
immediately won our love. It was a glorious place for boys. Broad-armed
white oaks stood about the yard, and to the east and north a deep forest
invited to exploration. The house was of logs and for that reason was
much more attractive to us than to our mother. It was, I suspect, both
dark and cold. I know the roof was poor, for one morning I awoke to find
a miniature peak of snow on the floor at my bedside. It was only a rude
little frontier cabin, but it was perfectly satisfactory to me.

Harriet and I learned much in the way of woodcraft during the months
which followed. Night by night the rabbits, in countless numbers printed
their tell-tale records in the snow, and quail and partridges nested
beneath the down-drooping branches of the red oaks. Squirrels ran from
tree to tree and we were soon able to distinguish and name most of the
tracks made by the birds and small animals, and we took a never-failing
delight in this study of the wild. In most of my excursions my sister
was my companion. My brother was too small.

All my memories of this farm are of the fiber of poetry. The silence of
the snowy aisles of the forest, the whirring flight of partridges, the
impudent bark of squirrels, the quavering voices of owls and coons, the
music of the winds in the high trees,--all these impressions unite in my
mind like parts of a woodland symphony. I soon learned to distinguish
the raccoon's mournful call from the quavering cry of the owl, and I
joined the hired man in hunting rabbits from under the piles of brush in
the clearing. Once or twice some ferocious, larger animal, possibly a
panther, hungrily yowled in the impenetrable thickets to the north, but
this only lent a still more enthralling interest to the forest.

To the east, an hour's walk through the timber, stood the village, built
and named by the "Friends" who had a meeting house not far away, and
though I saw much of them, I never attended their services.

Our closest neighbor was a gruff loud-voiced old Norwegian and from his
children (our playmates) we learned many curious facts. All Norwegians,
it appeared, ate from wooden plates or wooden bowls. Their food was soup
which they called "bean swaagen" and they were all yellow haired and

Harriet and I and one Lars Peterson gave a great deal of time to an
attempt to train a yoke of yearling calves to draw our handsled. I call
it an attempt, for we hardly got beyond a struggle to overcome the
stubborn resentment of the stupid beasts, who very naturally objected to
being forced into service before their time. Harriet was ten, I was not
quite nine, and Lars was only twelve, hence we spent long hours in
yoking and unyoking our unruly span. I believe we did actually haul
several loads of firewood to the kitchen door, but at last Buck and Brin
"turned the yoke" and broke it, and that ended our teaming.

The man from whom we acquired our farm had in some way domesticated a
flock of wild geese, and though they must have been a part of the
farm-yard during the winter, they made no deep impression on my mind
till in the spring when as the migratory instinct stirred in their blood
they all rose on the surface of the water in a little pool near the barn
and with beating wings lifted their voices in brazen clamor calling to
their fellows driving by high overhead. At times their cries halted the
flocks in their arrowy flight and brought them down to mix
indistinguishably with the captive birds.

The wings of these had been clipped but as the weeks went on their
pinions grew again and one morning when I went out to see what had
happened to them, I found the pool empty and silent. We all missed their
fine voices and yet we could not blame them for a reassertion of their
freeborn nature. They had gone back to their summer camping grounds on
the lakes of the far north.

Early in April my father hired a couple of raw Norwegians to assist in
clearing the land, and although neither of these immigrants could speak
a word of English, I was greatly interested in them. They slept in the
granary but this did not prevent them from communicating to our
house-maid a virulent case of smallpox. Several days passed before my
mother realized what ailed the girl. The discovery must have horrified
her, for she had been through an epidemic of this dread disease in
Wisconsin, and knew its danger.

It was a fearsome plague in those days, much more fatal than now, and my
mother with three unvaccinated children, a helpless handmaid to be
nursed, was in despair when father developed the disease and took to his
bed. Surely it must have seemed to her as though the Lord had visited
upon her more punishment than belonged to her, for to add the final
touch, in the midst of all her other afflictions she was expecting the
birth of another child.

I do not know what we would have done had not a noble woman of the
neighborhood volunteered to come in and help us. She was not a friend,
hardly an acquaintance, and yet she served us like an angel of mercy.
Whether she still lives or not I cannot say, but I wish to acknowledge
here the splendid heroism which brought Mary Briggs, a stranger, into
our stricken home at a time when all our other neighbors beat their
horses into a mad gallop whenever forced to pass our gate.

Young as I was I realized something of the burden which had fallen upon
my mother, and when one night I was awakened from deep sleep by hearing
her calling out in pain, begging piteously for help, I shuddered in my
bed, realizing with childish, intuitive knowledge that she was passing
through a cruel convulsion which could not be softened or put aside. I
went to sleep again at last, and when I woke, I had a little sister.

Harriet and I having been vaccinated, escaped with what was called the
"verylide" but father was ill for several weeks. Fortunately he was
spared, as we all were, the "pitting" which usually follows this dreaded
disease, and in a week or two we children had forgotten all about it.
Spring was upon us and the world was waiting to be explored.

One of the noblest features of this farm was a large spring which boiled
forth from the limestone rock about eighty rods north of the house, and
this was a wonder-spot to us. There was something magical in this
never-failing fountain, and we loved to play beside its waters. One of
our delightful tasks was riding the horses to water at this spring, and
I took many lessons in horsemanship on these trips.

As the seeding time came on, enormous flocks of pigeons, in clouds
which almost filled the sky, made it necessary for some one to sentinel
the new-sown grain, and although I was but nine years of age, my father
put a double-barrelled shotgun into my hands, and sent me out to defend
the fields.

This commission filled me with the spirit of the soldier. Proudly
walking my rounds I menaced the flocks as they circled warily over my
head, taking shot at them now and again as they came near enough,
feeling as duty bound and as martial as any Roman sentry standing guard
over a city. Up to this time I had not been allowed to carry arms,
although I had been the companion of Den Green and Ellis Usher on their
hunting expeditions in the coulee--now with entire discretion over my
weapon, I loaded it, capped it and fired it, marching with sedate and
manly tread, while little Frank at my heels, served as subordinate in
his turn.

The pigeons passed after a few days, but my warlike duties continued,
for the ground-squirrels, called "gophers" by the settlers, were almost
as destructive of the seed corn as the pigeons had been of the wheat.
Day after day I patrolled the edge of the field listening to the saucy
whistle of the striped little rascals, tracking them to their burrows
and shooting them as they lifted their heads above the ground. I had
moments of being sorry for them, but the sight of one digging up the
seed, silenced my complaining conscience and I continued to slay.

The school-house of this district stood out upon the prairie to the west
a mile distant, and during May we trudged our way over a pleasant road,
each carrying a small tin pail filled with luncheon. Here I came in
contact with the Norwegian boys from the colony to the north, and a
bitter feud arose (or existed) between the "Yankees," as they called us,
and "the Norskies," as we called them. Often when we met on the road,
showers of sticks and stones filled the air, and our hearts burned with
the heat of savage conflict. War usually broke out at the moment of
parting. Often after a fairly amicable half-mile together we suddenly
split into hostile ranks, and warred with true tribal frenzy as long as
we could find a stone or a clod to serve as missile. I had no personal
animosity in this, I was merely a Pict willing to destroy my Angle

As I look back upon my life on that woodland farm, it all seems very
colorful and sweet. I am re-living days when the warm sun, falling on
radiant slopes of grass, lit the meadow phlox and tall tiger lilies into
flaming torches of color. I think of blackberry thickets and odorous
grapevines and cherry trees and the delicious nuts which grew in
profusion throughout the forest to the north. This forest which seemed
endless and was of enchanted solemnity served as our wilderness. We
explored it at every opportunity. We loved every day for the color it
brought, each season for the wealth of its experience, and we welcomed
the thought of spending all our years in this beautiful home where the
wood and the prairie of our song did actually meet and mingle.


We Move Again

One day there came into our home a strange man who spoke in a fashion
new to me. He was a middle-aged rather formal individual, dressed in a
rough gray suit, and father alluded to him privately as "that English
duke." I didn't know exactly what he meant by this, but our visitor's
talk gave me a vague notion of "the old country."

"My home," he said, "is near Manchester. I have come to try farming in
the American wilderness."

He was kindly, and did his best to be democratic, but we children stood
away from him, wondering what he was doing in our house. My mother
disliked him from the start for as he took his seat at our dinner table,
he drew from his pocket a case in which he carried a silver fork and
spoon and a silver-handled knife. Our cutlery was not good enough for

Every family that we knew at that time used three-tined steel forks and
my mother naturally resented the implied criticism of her table ware. I
heard her say to my father, "If our ways don't suit your English friend
he'd better go somewhere else for his meals."

This fastidious pioneer also carried a revolver, for he believed that
having penetrated far into a dangerous country, he was in danger, and I
am not at all sure but that he was right, for the Minnesota woods at
this time were filled with horse-thieves and counterfeiters, and it was
known that many of these landhunting Englishmen carried large sums of
gold on their persons.

We resented our guest still more when we found that he was trying to buy
our lovely farm and that father was already half-persuaded. We loved
this farm. We loved the log house, and the oaks which sheltered it, and
we especially valued the glorious spring and the plum trees which stood
near it, but father was still dreaming of the free lands of the farther
west, and early in March he sold to the Englishman and moved us all to a
rented place some six miles directly west, in the township of Burr Oak.

This was but a temporary lodging, a kind of camping place, for no sooner
were his fields seeded than he set forth once again with a covered
wagon, eager to explore the open country to the north and west of us.
The wood and prairie land of Winnesheik County did not satisfy him,
although it seemed to me then, as it does now, the fulfillment of his
vision, the realization of our song.

For several weeks he travelled through southern Minnesota and northern
Iowa, always in search of the perfect farm, and when he returned, just
before harvest, he was able to report that he had purchased a quarter
section of "the best land in Mitchell County" and that after harvest we
would all move again.

If my mother resented this third removal she made no comment which I can
now recall. I suspect that she went rather willingly this time, for her
brother David wrote that he had also located in Mitchell County, not two
miles from the place my father had decided upon for our future home, and
Samantha, her younger sister, had settled in Minnesota. The circle in
Neshonoc seemed about to break up. A mighty spreading and shifting was
going on all over the west, and no doubt my mother accepted her part in
it without especial protest.

Our life in Burr Oak township that summer was joyous for us children. It
seems to have been almost all sunshine and play. As I reflect upon it I
relive many delightful excursions into the northern woods. It appears
that Harriet and I were in continual harvest of nuts and berries. Our
walks to school were explorations and we spent nearly every Saturday and
Sunday in minute study of the country-side, devouring everything which
was remotely edible. We gorged upon May-apples until we were ill, and
munched black cherries until we were dizzy with their fumes. We
clambered high trees to collect baskets of wild grapes which our mother
could not use, and we garnered nuts with the insatiable greed of
squirrels. We ate oak-shoots, fern-roots, leaves, bark,
seed-balls,--everything!--not because we were hungry but because we
loved to experiment, and we came home, only when hungry or worn out or
in awe of the darkness.

It was a delightful season, full of the most satisfying companionship
and yet of the names of my playmates I can seize upon only two--the
others have faded from the tablets of my memory. I remember Ned who
permitted me to hold his plow, and Perry who taught me how to tame the
half-wild colts that filled his father's pasture. Together we spent long
days lassoing--or rather snaring--the feet of these horses and subduing
them to the halter. We had many fierce struggles but came out of them
all without a serious injury.

Late in August my father again loaded our household goods into wagons,
and with our small herd of cattle following, set out toward the west,
bound once again to overtake the actual line of the middle border.

This journey has an unforgettable epic charm as I look back upon it.
Each mile took us farther and farther into the unsettled prairie until
in the afternoon of the second day, we came to a meadow so wide that
its western rim touched the sky without revealing a sign of man's
habitation other than the road in which we travelled.

The plain was covered with grass tall as ripe wheat and when my father
stopped his team and came back to us and said, "Well, children, here we
are on The Big Prairie," we looked about us with awe, so endless seemed
this spread of wild oats and waving blue-joint.

Far away dim clumps of trees showed, but no chimney was in sight, and no
living thing moved save our own cattle and the hawks lazily wheeling in
the air. My heart filled with awe as well as wonder. The majesty of this
primeval world exalted me. I felt for the first time the poetry of the
unplowed spaces. It seemed that the "herds of deer and buffalo" of our
song might, at any moment, present themselves,--but they did not, and my
father took no account even of the marsh fowl.

"Forward march!" he shouted, and on we went.

Hour after hour he pushed into the west, the heads of his tired horses
hanging ever lower, and on my mother's face the shadow deepened, but her
chieftain's voice cheerily urging his team lost nothing of its clarion
resolution. He was in his element. He loved this shelterless sweep of
prairie. This westward march entranced him, I think he would have gladly
kept on until the snowy wall of the Rocky Mountains met his eyes, for he
was a natural explorer.

Sunset came at last, but still he drove steadily on through the sparse
settlements. Just at nightfall we came to a beautiful little stream, and
stopped to let the horses drink. I heard its rippling, reassuring song
on the pebbles. Thereafter all is dim and vague to me until my mother
called out sharply, "Wake up, children! Here we are!"

Struggling to my feet I looked about me. Nothing could be seen but the
dim form of a small house.--On every side the land melted into
blackness, silent and without boundary.

Driving into the yard, father hastily unloaded one of the wagons and
taking mother and Harriet and Jessie drove away to spend the night with
Uncle David who had preceded us, as I now learned, and was living on a
farm not far away. My brother and I were left to camp as best we could
with the hired man.

Spreading a rude bed on the floor, he told us to "hop in" and in ten
minutes we were all fast asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sound of a clattering poker awakened me next morning and when I
opened my sleepy eyes and looked out a new world displayed itself before

The cabin faced a level plain with no tree in sight. A mile away to the
west stood a low stone house and immediately in front of us opened a
half-section of unfenced sod. To the north, as far as I could see, the
land billowed like a russet ocean, with scarcely a roof to fleck its
lonely spread.--I cannot say that I liked or disliked it. I merely
marvelled at it, and while I wandered about the yard, the hired man
scorched some cornmeal mush in a skillet and this with some butter and
gingerbread, made up my first breakfast in Mitchell County.

An hour or two later father and mother and the girls returned and the
work of setting up the stove and getting the furniture in place began.
In a very short time the experienced clock was voicing its contentment
on a new shelf, and the kettle was singing busily on its familiar stove.
Once more and for the sixth time since her marriage, Belle Garland
adjusted herself to a pioneer environment, comforted no doubt by the
knowledge that David and Deborah were near and that her father was
coming soon. No doubt she also congratulated herself on the fact that
she had not been carried beyond the Missouri River--and that her house
was not "surrounded by Indians who murder by night."

A few hours later, while my brother and I were on the roof of the house
with intent to peer "over the edge of the prairie" something grandly
significant happened. Upon a low hill to the west a herd of horses
suddenly appeared running swiftly, led by a beautiful sorrel pony with
shining white mane. On they came, like a platoon of cavalry rushing down
across the open sod which lay before our door. The leader moved with
lofty and graceful action, easily out-stretching all his fellows.
Forward they swept, their long tails floating in the wind like
banners,--on in a great curve as if scenting danger in the smoke of our
fire. The thunder of their feet filled me with delight. Surely, next to
a herd of buffalo this squadron of wild horses was the most satisfactory
evidence of the wilderness into which we had been thrust.

Riding as if to intercept the leader, a solitary herder now appeared,
mounted upon a horse which very evidently was the mate of the leader. He
rode magnificently, and under him the lithe mare strove resolutely to
overtake and head off the leader.--All to no purpose! The halterless
steeds of the prairie snorted derisively at their former companion,
bridled and saddled, and carrying the weight of a master. Swiftly they
thundered across the sod, dropped into a ravine, and disappeared in a
cloud of dust.

Silently we watched the rider turn and ride slowly homeward. The plain
had become our new domain, the horseman our ideal.


Our First Winter on the Prairie

For a few days my brother and I had little to do other than to keep the
cattle from straying, and we used our leisure in becoming acquainted
with the region round about.

It burned deep into our memories, this wide, sunny, windy country. The
sky so big, and the horizon line so low and so far away, made this new
world of the plain more majestic than the world of the Coulee.--The
grasses and many of the flowers were also new to us. On the uplands the
herbage was short and dry and the plants stiff and woody, but in the
swales the wild oat shook its quivers of barbed and twisted arrows, and
the crow's foot, tall and sere, bowed softly under the feet of the wind,
while everywhere, in the lowlands as well as on the ridges, the
bleaching white antlers of by-gone herbivora lay scattered, testifying
to "the herds of deer and buffalo" which once fed there. We were just a
few years too late to see them.

To the south the sections were nearly all settled upon, for in that
direction lay the county town, but to the north and on into Minnesota
rolled the unplowed sod, the feeding ground of the cattle, the home of
foxes and wolves, and to the west, just beyond the highest ridges, we
loved to think the bison might still be seen.

The cabin on this rented farm was a mere shanty, a shell of pine boards,
which needed re-enforcing to make it habitable and one day my father
said, "Well, Hamlin, I guess you'll have to run the plow-team this
fall. I must help neighbor Button wall up the house and I can't afford
to hire another man."

This seemed a fine commission for a lad of ten, and I drove my horses
into the field that first morning with a manly pride which added an inch
to my stature. I took my initial "round" at a "land" which stretched
from one side of the quarter section to the other, in confident mood. I
was grown up!

But alas! my sense of elation did not last long. To guide a team for a
few minutes as an experiment was one thing--to plow all day like a hired
hand was another. It was not a chore, it was a job. It meant moving to
and fro hour after hour, day after day, with no one to talk to but the
horses. It meant trudging eight or nine miles in the forenoon and as
many more in the afternoon, with less than an hour off at noon. It meant
dragging the heavy implement around the corners, and it meant also many
ship-wrecks, for the thick, wet stubble matted with wild buckwheat often
rolled up between the coulter and the standard and threw the share
completely out of the ground, making it necessary for me to halt the
team and jerk the heavy plow backward for a new start.

Although strong and active I was rather short, even for a ten-year-old,
and to reach the plow handles I was obliged to lift my hands above my
shoulders; and so with the guiding lines crossed over my back and my
worn straw hat bobbing just above the cross-brace I must have made a
comical figure. At any rate nothing like it had been seen in the
neighborhood and the people on the road to town looking across the
field, laughed and called to me, and neighbor Button said to my father
in my hearing, "That chap's too young to run a plow," a judgment which
pleased and flattered me greatly.

Harriet cheered me by running out occasionally to meet me as I turned
the nearest corner, and sometimes Frank consented to go all the way
around, chatting breathlessly as he trotted along behind. At other times
he was prevailed upon to bring to me a cookie and a glass of milk, a
deed which helped to shorten the forenoon. And yet, notwithstanding all
these ameliorations, plowing became tedious.

The flies were savage, especially in the middle of the day, and the
horses, tortured by their lances, drove badly, twisting and turning in
their despairing rage. Their tails were continually getting over the
lines, and in stopping to kick their tormentors from their bellies they
often got astride the traces, and in other ways made trouble for me.
Only in the early morning or when the sun sank low at night were they
able to move quietly along their ways.

The soil was the kind my father had been seeking, a smooth dark sandy
loam, which made it possible for a lad to do the work of a man. Often
the share would go the entire "round" without striking a root or a
pebble as big as a walnut, the steel running steadily with a crisp
craunching ripping sound which I rather liked to hear. In truth work
would have been quite tolerable had it not been so long drawn out. Ten
hours of it even on a fine day made about twice too many for a boy.

Meanwhile I cheered myself in every imaginable way. I whistled. I sang.
I studied the clouds. I gnawed the beautiful red skin from the seed
vessels which hung upon the wild rose bushes, and I counted the prairie
chickens as they began to come together in winter flocks running through
the stubble in search of food. I stopped now and again to examine the
lizards unhoused by the share, tormenting them to make them sweat their
milky drops (they were curiously repulsive to me), and I measured the
little granaries of wheat which the mice and gophers had deposited deep
under the ground, storehouses which the plow had violated. My eyes dwelt
enviously upon the sailing hawk, and on the passing of ducks. The
occasional shadowy figure of a prairie wolf made me wish for Uncle David
and his rifle.

On certain days nothing could cheer me. When the bitter wind blew from
the north, and the sky was filled with wild geese racing southward, with
swiftly-hurrying clouds, winter seemed about to spring upon me. The
horses' tails streamed in the wind. Flurries of snow covered me with
clinging flakes, and the mud "gummed" my boots and trouser legs,
clogging my steps. At such times I suffered from cold and
loneliness--all sense of being a man evaporated. I was just a little
boy, longing for the leisure of boyhood.

Day after day, through the month of October and deep into November, I
followed that team, turning over two acres of stubble each day. I would
not believe this without proof, but it is true! At last it grew so cold
that in the early morning everything was white with frost and I was
obliged to put one hand in my pocket to keep it warm, while holding the
plow with the other, but I didn't mind this so much, for it hinted at
the close of autumn. I've no doubt facing the wind in this way was
excellent discipline, but I didn't think it necessary then and my heart
was sometimes bitter and rebellious.

The soldier did not intend to be severe. As he had always been an early
riser and a busy toiler it seemed perfectly natural and good discipline,
that his sons should also plow and husk corn at ten years of age. He
often told of beginning life as a "bound boy" at nine, and these stories
helped me to perform my own tasks without whining. I feared to voice my

At last there came a morning when by striking my heel upon the ground I
convinced my boss that the soil was frozen too deep for the mold-board
to break. "All right," he said, "you may lay off this forenoon."

Oh, those beautiful hours of respite! With time to play or read I
usually read, devouring anything I could lay my hands upon. Newspapers,
whether old or new, or pasted on the wall or piled up in the
attic,--anything in print was wonderful to me. One enthralling book,
borrowed from Neighbor Button, was _The Female Spy_, a Tale of the
Rebellion. Another treasure was a story called _Cast Ashore_, but this
volume unfortunately was badly torn and fifty pages were missing so that
I never knew, and do not know to this day, how those indomitable
shipwrecked seamen reached their English homes. I dimly recall that one
man carried a pet monkey on his back and that they all lived on

Finally the day came when the ground rang like iron under the feet of
the horses, and a bitter wind, raw and gusty, swept out of the
northwest, bearing gray veils of sleet. Winter had come! Work in the
furrow had ended. The plow was brought in, cleaned and greased to
prevent its rusting, and while the horses munched their hay in
well-earned holiday, father and I helped farmer Button husk the last of
his corn.

Osman Button, a quaint and interesting man of middle age, was a native
of York State and retained many of the traditions of his old home
strangely blent with a store of vivid memories of Colorado, Utah and
California, for he had been one of the gold-seekers of the early
fifties. He loved to spin yarns of "When I was in gold camps," and he
spun them well. He was short and bent and spoke in a low voice with a
curious nervous sniff, but his diction was notably precise and clear. He
was a man of judgment, and a citizen of weight and influence. From O.
Button I got my first definite notion of Bret Harte's country, and of
the long journey which they of the ox team had made in search of

His family "mostly boys and girls" was large, yet they all lived in a
low limestone house which he had built (he said) to serve as a granary
till he should find time to erect a suitable dwelling. In order to make
the point dramatic, I will say that he was still living in the "granary"
when last I called on him thirty years later!

A warm friendship sprang up between him and my father, and he was often
at our house but his gaunt and silent wife seldom accompanied him. She
was kindly and hospitable, but a great sufferer. She never laughed, and
seldom smiled, and so remains a pathetic figure in all my memories of
the household.

The younger Button children, Eva and Cyrus, became our companions in
certain of our activities, but as they were both very sedate and slow of
motion, they seldom joined us in our livelier sports. They were both
much older than their years. Cyrus at this time was almost as venerable
as his father, although his years were, I suppose, about seventeen.
Albert and Lavinia, we heard, were much given to dancing and parties.

One night as we were all seated around the kerosene lamp my father said,
"Well, Belle, I suppose we'll have to take these young ones down to town
and fit 'em out for school." These words so calmly uttered filled our
minds with visions of new boots, new caps and new books, and though we
went obediently to bed we hardly slept, so excited were we, and at
breakfast next morning not one of us could think of food. All our
desires converged upon the wondrous expedition--our first visit to town.

Our only carriage was still the lumber wagon but it had now two spring
seats, one for father, mother and Jessie, and one for Harriet, Frank and
myself. No one else had anything better, hence we had no sense of being
poorly outfitted. We drove away across the frosty prairie toward
Osage--moderately comfortable and perfectly happy.

Osage was only a little town, a village of perhaps twelve hundred
inhabitants, but to me as we drove down its Main Street, it was almost
as impressive as LaCrosse had been. Frank clung close to father, and
mother led Jessie, leaving Harriet and me to stumble over nail-kegs and
dodge whiffle trees what time our eyes absorbed jars of pink and white
candy, and sought out boots and buckskin mittens. Whenever Harriet spoke
she whispered, and we pointed at each shining object with cautious
care.--Oh! the marvellous exotic smells! Odors of salt codfish and
spices, calico and kerosene, apples and ginger-snaps mingle in my mind
as I write.

Each of us soon carried a candy marble in his or her cheek (as a
chipmunk carries a nut) and Frank and I stood like sturdy hitching posts
whilst the storekeeper with heavy hands screwed cotton-plush caps upon
our heads,--but the most exciting moment, the crowning joy of the day,
came with the buying of our new boots.--If only father had not insisted
on our taking those which were a size too large for us!

They were real boots. No one but a Congressman wore "gaiters" in those
days. War fashions still dominated the shoe-shops, and high-topped
cavalry boots were all but universal. They were kept in boxes under the
counter or ranged in rows on a shelf and were of all weights and degrees
of fineness. The ones I selected had red tops with a golden moon in the
center but my brother's taste ran to blue tops decorated with a golden
flag. Oh! that deliciously oily _new_ smell! My heart glowed every time
I looked at mine. I was especially pleased because they did _not_ have
copper toes. Copper toes belonged to little boys. A youth who had
plowed seventy acres of land could not reasonably be expected to dress
like a child.--How smooth and delightfully stiff they felt on my feet.

Then came our new books, a McGuffey reader, a Mitchell geography, a
Ray's arithmetic, and a slate. The books had a delightful new smell
also, and there was singular charm in the smooth surface of the unmarked
slates. I was eager to carve my name in the frame. At last with our
treasures under the seat (so near that we could feel them), with our
slates and books in our laps we jolted home, dreaming of school and
snow. To wade in the drifts with our fine high-topped boots was now our

It is strange but I cannot recall how my mother looked on this trip.
Even my father's image is faint and vague (I remember only his keen
eagle-gray terrifying eyes), but I can see every acre of that rented
farm. I can tell you exactly how the house looked. It was an unpainted
square cottage and stood bare on the sod at the edge of Dry Run ravine.
It had a small lean-to on the eastern side and a sitting room and
bedroom below. Overhead was a low unplastered chamber in which we
children slept. As it grew too cold to use the summer kitchen we cooked,
ate and lived in the square room which occupied the entire front of the
two story upright, and which was, I suppose, sixteen feet square. As our
attic was warmed only by the stove-pipe, we older children of a frosty
morning made extremely simple and hurried toilets. On very cold days we
hurried down stairs to dress beside the kitchen fire.

Our furniture was of the rudest sort. I cannot recall a single piece in
our house or in our neighbors' houses that had either beauty or
distinction. It was all cheap and worn, for this was the middle border,
and nearly all our neighbors had moved as we had done in covered
wagons. Farms were new, houses were mere shanties, and money was scarce.
"War times" and "war prices" were only just beginning to change. Our
clothing was all cheap and ill fitting. The women and children wore
home-made "cotton flannel" underclothing for the most part, and the men
wore rough, ready-made suits over which they drew brown denim blouses or
overalls to keep them clean.

Father owned a fine buffalo overcoat (so much of his song's promise was
redeemed) and we possessed two buffalo robes for use in our winter
sleigh, but mother had only a sad coat and a woolen shawl. How she kept
warm I cannot now understand--I think she stayed at home on cold days.

All of the boys wore long trousers, and even my eight year old brother
looked like a miniature man with his full-length overalls, high-topped
boots and real suspenders. As for me I carried a bandanna in my hip
pocket and walked with determined masculine stride.

My mother, like all her brothers and sisters, was musical and played the
violin--or fiddle, as we called it,--and I have many dear remembrances
of her playing. _Napoleon's March_, _Money Musk_, _The Devil's Dream_
and half-a-dozen other simple tunes made up her repertoire. It was very
crude music of course but it added to the love and admiration in which
her children always held her. Also in some way we had fallen heir to a
Prince melodeon--one that had belonged to the McClintocks, but only my
sister played on that.

Once at a dance in neighbor Button's house, mother took the "dare" of
the fiddler and with shy smile played _The Fisher's Hornpipe_ or some
other simple melody and was mightily cheered at the close of it, a brief
performance which she refused to repeat. Afterward she and my father
danced and this seemed a very wonderful performance, for to us they were
"old"--far past such frolicking, although he was but forty and she

At this dance I heard, for the first time, the local professional
fiddler, old Daddy Fairbanks, as quaint a character as ever entered
fiction, for he was not only butcher and horse doctor but a renowned
musician as well. Tall, gaunt and sandy, with enormous nose and sparse
projecting teeth, he was to me the most enthralling figure at this dance
and his queer "Calls" and his "York State" accent filled us all with
delight. "_Ally_ man left," "Chassay _by_ your pardners," "Dozy-do"
were some of the phrases he used as he played _Honest John_ and
_Haste to the Wedding_. At times he sang his calls in high nasal chant,
"_First_ lady lead to the _right_, deedle, deedle dum-dum--
_gent_ foller after--dally-deedle-do-do--_three_ hands round"--and
everybody laughed with frank enjoyment of his words and action.

It was a joy to watch him "start the set." With fiddle under his chin he
took his seat in a big chair on the kitchen table in order to command
the floor. "Farm on, farm on!" he called disgustedly. "Lively now!" and
then, when all the couples were in position, with one mighty No. 14 boot
uplifted, with bow laid to strings he snarled, "Already--GELANG!" and with
a thundering crash his foot came down, "Honors TEW your pardners--right and
left FOUR!" And the dance was on!

I suspect his fiddlin' was not even "middlin'," but he beat time fairly
well and kept the dancers somewhere near to rhythm, and so when his
ragged old cap went round he often got a handful of quarters for his
toil. He always ate two suppers, one at the beginning of the party and
another at the end. He had a high respect for the skill of my Uncle
David and was grateful to him and other better musicians for their
non-interference with his professional engagements.

The school-house which was to be the center of our social life stood on
the bare prairie about a mile to the southwest and like thousands of
other similar buildings in the west, had not a leaf to shade it in
summer nor a branch to break the winds of savage winter. "There's been a
good deal of talk about setting out a wind-break," neighbor Button
explained to us, "but nothing has as yet been done." It was merely a
square pine box painted a glaring white on the outside and a desolate
drab within; at least drab was the original color, but the benches were
mainly so greasy and hacked that original intentions were obscured. It
had two doors on the eastern end and three windows on each side.

A long square stove (standing on slender legs in a puddle of bricks), a
wooden chair, and a rude table in one corner, for the use of the
teacher, completed the movable furniture. The walls were roughly
plastered and the windows had no curtains.

It was a barren temple of the arts even to the residents of Dry Run, and
Harriet and I, stealing across the prairie one Sunday morning to look
in, came away vaguely depressed. We were fond of school and never missed
a day if we could help it, but this neighborhood center seemed small and
bleak and poor.

With what fear, what excitement we approached the door on that first
day, I can only faintly indicate. All the scholars were strange to me
except Albert and Cyrus Button, and I was prepared for rough treatment.
However, the experience was not so harsh as I had feared. True, Rangely
Field did throw me down and wash my face in snow, and Jack Sweet tripped
me up once or twice, but I bore these indignities with such grace and
could command, and soon made a place for myself among the boys.

Burton Babcock was my seat-mate, and at once became my chum. You will
hear much of him in this chronicle. He was two years older than I and
though pale and slim was unusually swift and strong for his age. He was
a silent lad, curiously timid in his classes and not at ease with his

I cannot recover much of that first winter of school. It was not an
experience to remember for its charm. Not one line of grace, not one
touch of color relieved the room's bare walls or softened its harsh
windows. Perhaps this very barrenness gave to the poetry in our readers
an appeal that seems magical, certainly it threw over the faces of
Frances Babcock and Mary Abbie Gammons a lovelier halo.--They were "the
big girls" of the school, that is to say, they were seventeen or
eighteen years old,--and Frances was the special terror of the teacher,
a pale and studious pigeon-toed young man who was preparing for college.

In spite of the cold, the boys played open air games all winter. "Dog
and Deer," "Dare Gool" and "Fox and Geese" were our favorite diversions,
and the wonder is that we did not all die of pneumonia, for we battled
so furiously during each recess that we often came in wet with
perspiration and coughing so hard that for several minutes recitations
were quite impossible.--But we were a hardy lot and none of us seemed
the worse for our colds.

There was not much chivalry in the school--quite the contrary, for it
was dominated by two or three big rough boys and the rest of us took our
tone from them. To protect a girl, to shield her from remark or
indignity required a good deal of bravery and few of us were strong
enough to do it. Girls were foolish, ridiculous creatures, set apart to
be laughed at or preyed upon at will. To shame them was a great
joke.--How far I shared in these barbarities I cannot say but that I did
share in them I know, for I had very little to do with my sister Harriet
after crossing the school-house yard. She kept to her tribe as I to

This winter was made memorable also by a "revival" which came over the
district with sudden fury. It began late in the winter--fortunately, for
it ended all dancing and merry-making for the time. It silenced Daddy
Fairbanks' fiddle and subdued my mother's glorious voice to a wail. A
cloud of puritanical gloom settled upon almost every household. Youth
and love became furtive and hypocritic.

The evangelist, one of the old-fashioned shouting, hysterical,
ungrammatical, gasping sort, took charge of the services, and in his
exhortations phrases descriptive of lakes of burning brimstone and ages
of endless torment abounded. Some of the figures of speech and violent
gestures of the man still linger in my mind, but I will not set them
down on paper. They are too dreadful to perpetuate. At times he roared
with such power that he could have been heard for half a mile.

And yet we went, night by night, mother, father, Jessie, all of us. It
was our theater. Some of the roughest characters in the neighborhood
rose and professed repentance, for a season, even old Barton, the
profanest man in the township, experienced a "change of heart."

We all enjoyed the singing, and joined most lustily in the tunes. Even
little Jessie learned to sing _Heavenly Wings_, _There is a Fountain
filled with Blood_, and _Old Hundred_.

As I peer back into that crowded little schoolroom, smothering hot and
reeking with lamp smoke, and recall the half-lit, familiar faces of the
congregation, it all has the quality of a vision, something experienced
in another world. The preacher, leaping, sweating, roaring till the
windows rattle, the mothers with sleeping babes in their arms, the
sweet, strained faces of the girls, the immobile wondering men, are
spectral shadows, figures encountered in the phantasmagoria of
disordered sleep.


The Homestead on the Knoll

Spring came to us that year with such sudden beauty, such sweet
significance after our long and depressing winter, that it seemed a
release from prison, and when at the close of a warm day in March we
heard, pulsing down through the golden haze of sunset, the mellow _boom,
boom, boom_ of the prairie cock our hearts quickened, for this, we were
told, was the certain sign of spring.

Day by day the call of this gay herald of spring was taken up by others
until at last the whole horizon was ringing with a sunrise symphony of
exultant song. "_Boom, boom, boom!_" called the roosters; "_cutta,
cutta, wha-whoop-squaw, squawk!_" answered the hens as they fluttered
and danced on the ridges--and mingled with their jocund hymn we heard at
last the slender, wistful piping of the prairie lark.

With the coming of spring my duties as a teamster returned. My father
put me in charge of a harrow, and with old Doll and Queen--quiet and
faithful span--I drove upon the field which I had plowed the previous
October, there to plod to and fro behind my drag, while in the sky above
my head and around me on the mellowing soil the life of the season,

Aided by my team I was able to study at close range the prairie roosters
as they assembled for their parade. They had regular "stamping grounds"
on certain ridges, Where the soil was beaten smooth by the pressure of
their restless feet. I often passed within a few yards of them.--I can
see them now, the cocks leaping and strutting, with trailing wings and
down-thrust heads, displaying their bulbous orange-colored neck
ornaments while the hens flutter and squawk in silly delight. All the
charm and mystery of that prairie world comes back to me, and I ache
with an illogical desire to recover it and hold it, and preserve it in
some form for my children.--It seems an injustice that they should miss
it, and yet it is probable that they are getting an equal joy of life,
an equal exaltation from the opening flowers of the single lilac bush in
our city back-yard or from an occasional visit to the lake in Central

Dragging is even more wearisome than plowing, in some respects, for you
have no handles to assist you and your heels sinking deep into the soft
loam bring such unwonted strain upon the tendons of your legs that you
can scarcely limp home to supper, and it seems that you cannot possibly
go on another day,--but you do--at least I did.

There was something relentless as the weather in the way my soldier
father ruled his sons, and yet he was neither hard-hearted nor
unsympathetic. The fact is easily explained. His own boyhood had been
task-filled and he saw nothing unnatural in the regular employment of
his children. Having had little play-time himself, he considered that we
were having a very comfortable boyhood. Furthermore the country was new
and labor scarce. Every hand and foot must count under such conditions.

There are certain ameliorations to child-labor on a farm. Air and
sunshine and food are plentiful. I never lacked for meat or clothing,
and mingled with my records of toil are exquisite memories of the joy I
took in following the changes in the landscape, in the notes of birds,
and in the play of small animals on the sunny soil.

There were no pigeons on the prairie but enormous flocks of ducks came
sweeping northward, alighting at sunset to feed in the fields of
stubble. They came in countless myriads and often when they settled to
earth they covered acres of meadow like some prodigious cataract from
the sky. When alarmed they rose with a sound like the rumbling of

At times the lines of their cloud-like flocks were so unending that
those in the front rank were lost in the northern sky, while those in
the rear were but dim bands beneath the southern sun.--I tried many
times to shoot some of them, but never succeeded, so wary were they.
Brant and geese in formal flocks followed and to watch these noble birds
pushing their arrowy lines straight into the north always gave me
special joy. On fine days they flew high--so high they were but faint
lines against the shining clouds.

I learned to imitate their cries, and often caused the leaders to turn,
to waver in their course as I uttered my resounding call.

The sand-hill crane came last of all, loitering north in lonely easeful
flight. Often of a warm day, I heard his sovereign cry falling from the
azure dome, so high, so far his form could not be seen, so close to the
sun that my eyes could not detect his solitary, majestic circling sweep.
He came after the geese. He was the herald of summer. His brazen,
reverberating call will forever remain associated in my mind with
mellow, pulsating earth, springing grass and cloudless glorious May-time

As my team moved to and fro over the field, ground sparrows rose in
countless thousands, flinging themselves against the sky like grains of
wheat from out a sower's hand, and their chatter fell upon me like the
voices of fairy sprites, invisible and multitudinous. Long swift narrow
flocks of a bird we called "the prairie-pigeon" swooped over the swells
on sounding wing, winding so close to the ground, they seemed at times
like slender air-borne serpents,--and always the brown lark whistled as
if to cheer my lonely task.

Back and forth across the wide field I drove, while the sun crawled
slowly up the sky. It was tedious work and I was always hungry by nine,
and famished at ten. Thereafter the sun appeared to stand still. My
chest caved in and my knees trembled with weakness, but when at last the
white flag fluttering from a chamber window summoned to the mid-day
meal, I started with strength miraculously renewed and called,
"_Dinner!_" to the hired hand. Unhitching my team, with eager haste I
climbed upon old Queen, and rode at ease toward the barn.

Oh, it was good to enter the kitchen, odorous with fresh biscuit and hot
coffee! We all ate like dragons, devouring potatoes and salt pork
without end, till mother mildly remarked, "Boys, boys! Don't 'founder'

From such a meal I withdrew torpid as a gorged snake, but luckily I had
half an hour in which to get my courage back,--and besides, there was
always the stirring power of father's clarion call. His energy appeared
superhuman to me. I was in awe of him. He kept track of everything,
seemed hardly to sleep and never complained of weariness. Long before
the nooning was up, (or so it seemed to me) he began to shout: "Time's
up, boys. Grab a root!"

And so, lame, stiff and sore, with the sinews of my legs shortened, so
that my knees were bent like an old man's, I hobbled away to the barn
and took charge of my team. Once in the field, I felt better. A subtle
change, a mellower charm came over the afternoon earth. The ground was
warmer, the sky more genial, the wind more amiable, and before I had
finished my second "round" my joints were moderately pliable and my
sinews relaxed.

Nevertheless the temptation to sit on the corner of the harrow and dream
the moments away was very great, and sometimes as I laid my tired body
down on the tawny, sunlit grass at the edge of the field, and gazed up
at the beautiful clouds sailing by, I wished for leisure to explore
their purple valleys.--The wind whispered in the tall weeds, and sighed
in the hazel bushes. The dried blades touching one another in the
passing winds, spoke to me, and the gophers, glad of escape from their
dark, underground prisons, chirped a cheery greeting. Such respites were
strangely sweet.

So day by day, as I walked my monotonous round upon the ever mellowing
soil, the prairie spring unrolled its beauties before me. I saw the last
goose pass on to the north, and watched the green grass creeping up the
sunny slopes. I answered the splendid challenge of the loitering crane,
and studied the ground sparrow building her grassy nest. The prairie
hens began to seek seclusion in the swales, and the pocket gopher,
busily mining the sod, threw up his purple-brown mounds of cool fresh
earth. Larks, blue-birds and king-birds followed the robins, and at last
the full tide of May covered the world with luscious green.

Harriet and Frank returned to school but I was too valuable to be
spared. The unbroken land of our new farm demanded the plow and no
sooner was the planting on our rented place finished than my father
began the work of fencing and breaking the sod of the homestead which
lay a mile to the south, glowing like a garden under the summer sun. One
day late in May my uncle David (who had taken a farm not far away),
drove over with four horses hitched to a big breaking plow and together
with my father set to work overturning the primeval sward whereon we
were to be "lords of the soil."

I confess that as I saw the tender plants and shining flowers bow
beneath the remorseless beam, civilization seemed a sad business, and
yet there was something epic, something large-gestured and splendid in
the "breaking" season. Smooth, glossy, almost unwrinkled the thick
ribbon of jet-black sod rose upon the share and rolled away from the
mold-board's glistening curve to tuck itself upside down into the furrow
behind the horse's heels, and the picture which my uncle made, gave me
pleasure in spite of the sad changes he was making.

The land was not all clear prairie and every ounce of David's great
strength was required to guide that eighteen-inch plow as it went
ripping and snarling through the matted roots of the hazel thickets, and
sometimes my father came and sat on the beam in order to hold the
coulter to its work, while the giant driver braced himself to the shock
and the four horses strained desperately at their traces. These contests
had the quality of a wrestling match but the men always won. My own job
was to rake and burn the brush which my father mowed with a heavy
scythe.--Later we dug postholes and built fences but each day was spent
on the new land.

Around us, on the swells, gray gophers whistled, and the nesting plover
quaveringly called. Blackbirds clucked in the furrow and squat badgers
watched with jealous eye the plow's inexorable progress toward their
dens. The weather was perfect June. Fleecy clouds sailed like snowy
galleons from west to east, the wind was strong but kind, and we worked
in a glow of satisfied ownership.

Many rattlesnakes ("massasaugas" Mr. Button called them), inhabited the
moist spots and father and I killed several as we cleared the ground.
Prairie wolves lurked in the groves and swales, but as foot by foot and
rod by rod, the steady steel rolled the grass and the hazel brush under,
all of these wild things died or hurried away, never to return. Some
part of this tragedy I was able even then to understand and regret.

At last the wide "quarter section" lay upturned, black to the sun and
the garden that had bloomed and fruited for millions of years, waiting
for man, lay torn and ravaged. The tender plants, the sweet flowers, the
fragrant fruits, the busy insects, all the swarming lives which had been
native here for untold centuries were utterly destroyed. It was sad and
yet it was not all loss, even to my thinking, for I realized that over
this desolation the green wheat would wave and the corn silks shed their
pollen. It was not precisely the romantic valley of our song, but it was
a rich and promiseful plot and my father seemed entirely content.

Meanwhile, on a little rise of ground near the road, neighbor Gammons
and John Bowers were building our next home. It did not in the least
resemble the foundation of an everlasting family seat, but it deeply
excited us all. It was of pine and had the usual three rooms below and a
long garret above and as it stood on a plain, bare to the winds, my
father took the precaution of lining it with brick to hold it down. It
was as good as most of the dwellings round about us but it stood naked
on the sod, devoid of grace as a dry goods box. Its walls were rough
plaster, its floor of white pine, its furniture poor, scanty and worn.
There was a little picture on the face of the clock, a chromo on the
wall, and a printed portrait of General Grant--nothing more. It was
home by reason of my mother's brave and cheery presence, and the prattle
of Jessie's clear voice filled it with music. Dear child,--with her it
was always spring!


School Life

Our new house was completed during July but we did not move into it till
in September. There was much to be done in way of building sheds,
granaries and corn-cribs and in this work father was both carpenter and
stone-mason. An amusing incident comes to my mind in connection with the
digging of our well.

Uncle David and I were "tending mason," and father was down in the well
laying or trying to lay the curbing. It was a tedious and difficult job
and he was about to give it up in despair when one of our neighbors, a
quaint old Englishman named Barker, came driving along. He was one of
these men who take a minute inquisitive interest in the affairs of
others; therefore he pulled his team to a halt and came in.

Peering into the well he drawled out, "Hello, Garland. W'at ye doin'
down there?"

"Tryin' to lay a curb," replied my father lifting a gloomy face, "and I
guess it's too complicated for me."

"Nothin' easier," retorted the old man with a wink at my uncle, "jest
putt two a-top o' one and one a-toppo two--and the big eend out,"--and
with a broad grin on his red face he went back to his team and drove

My father afterwards said, "I saw the whole process in a flash of light.
He had given me all the rule I needed. I laid the rest of that wall
without a particle of trouble."

Many times after this Barker stopped to offer advice but he never quite
equalled the startling success of his rule for masonry.

The events of this harvest, even the process of moving into the new
house, are obscured in my mind by the clouds of smoke which rose from
calamitous fires all over the west. It was an unprecedentedly dry season
so that not merely the prairie, but many weedy cornfields burned. I had
a good deal of time to meditate upon this for I was again the plow-boy.
Every day I drove away from the rented farm to the new land where I was
cross-cutting the breaking, and the thickening haze through which the
sun shone with a hellish red glare, produced in me a growing uneasiness
which became terror when the news came to us that Chicago was on fire.
It seemed to me then that the earth was about to go up in a flaming
cloud just as my grandad had so often prophesied.

This general sense of impending disaster was made keenly personal by the
destruction of uncle David's stable with all his horses. This building
like most of the barns of the region was not only roofed with straw but
banked with straw, and it burned so swiftly that David was trapped in a
stall while trying to save one of his teams. He saved himself by
burrowing like a gigantic mole through the side of the shed, and so,
hatless, covered with dust and chaff, emerged as if from a fiery burial
after he had been given up for dead.

This incident combined with others so filled my childish mind that I
lived in apprehension of similar disaster. I feared the hot wind which
roared up from the south, and I never entered our own stable in the
middle of the day without a sense of danger. Then came the rains--the
blessed rains--and put an end to my fears.

In a week we had forgotten all the "conflagrations" except that in
Chicago. There was something grandiose and unforgettable in the tales
which told of the madly fleeing crowds in the narrow streets. These
accounts pushed back the walls of my universe till its far edge included
the ruined metropolis whose rebuilding was of the highest importance to
us, for it was not only the source of all our supplies, but the great
central market to which we sent our corn and hogs and wheat.

My world was splendidly romantic. It was bounded on the west by THE
PLAINS with their Indians and buffalo; on the north by THE GREAT WOODS,
filled with thieves and counterfeiters; on the south by OSAGE AND CHICAGO;
and on the east by HESPER, ONALASKA and BOSTON. A luminous trail ran from
Dry Run Prairie to Neshonoc--all else was "chaos and black night."

For seventy days I walked behind my plow on the new farm while my father
finished the harvest on the rented farm and moved to the house on the
knoll. It was lonely work for a boy of eleven but there were frequent
breaks in the monotony and I did not greatly suffer. I disliked
cross-cutting for the reason that the unrotted sods would often pile up
in front of the coulter and make me a great deal of trouble. There is a
certain pathos in the sight of that small boy tugging and kicking at the
stubborn turf in the effort to free his plow. Such misfortunes loom
large in a lad's horizon.

One of the interludes, and a lovely one, was given over to gathering the
hay from one of the wild meadows to the north of us. Another was the
threshing from the shock on the rented farm. This was the first time we
had seen this done and it interested us keenly. A great many teams were
necessary and the crew of men was correspondingly large. Uncle David was
again the thresher with a fine new separator, and I would have enjoyed
the season with almost perfect contentment had it not been for the fact
that I was detailed to hold sacks for Daddy Fairbanks who was the

Our first winter had been without much wind but our second taught us the
meaning of the word "blizzard" which we had just begun to hear about.
The winds of Wisconsin were "gentle zephyrs" compared to the blasts
which now swept down over the plain to hammer upon our desolate little
cabin and pile the drifts around our sheds and granaries, and even my
pioneer father was forced to admit that the hills of Green's Coulee had
their uses after all.

One such storm which leaped upon us at the close of a warm and beautiful
day in February lasted for two days and three nights, making life on the
open prairie impossible even to the strongest man. The thermometer fell
to thirty degrees below zero and the snow-laden air moving at a rate of
eighty miles an hour pressed upon the walls of our house with giant
power. The sky of noon was darkened, so that we moved in a pallid
half-light, and the windows thick with frost shut us in as if with gray

Hour after hour those winds and snows in furious battle, howled and
roared and whistled around our frail shelter, slashing at the windows
and piping on the chimney, till it seemed as if the Lord Sun had been
wholly blotted out and that the world would never again be warm. Twice
each day my father made a desperate sally toward the stable to feed the
imprisoned cows and horses or to replenish our fuel--for the remainder
of the long pallid day he sat beside the fire with gloomy face. Even his
indomitable spirit was awed by the fury of that storm.

So long and so continuously did those immitigable winds howl in our ears
that their tumult persisted, in imagination, when on the third morning,
we thawed holes in the thickened rime of the window panes and looked
forth on a world silent as a marble sea and flaming with sunlight. My
own relief was mingled with surprise--surprise to find the landscape so

True, the yard was piled high with drifts and the barns were almost lost
to view but the far fields and the dark lines of Burr Oak Grove remained

We met our school-mates that day, like survivors of shipwreck, and for
many days we listened to gruesome stories of disaster, tales of stages
frozen deep in snow with all their passengers sitting in their seats,
and of herders with their silent flocks around them, lying stark as
granite among the hazel bushes in which they had sought shelter. It was
long before we shook off the awe with which this tempest filled our

The school-house which stood at the corner of our new farm was less than
half a mile away, and yet on many of the winter days which followed, we
found it quite far enough. Hattie was now thirteen, Frank nine and I a
little past eleven but nothing, except a blizzard such as I have
described, could keep us away from school. Facing the cutting wind,
wallowing through the drifts, battling like small intrepid animals, we
often arrived at the door moaning with pain yet unsubdued, our ears
frosted, our toes numb in our boots, to meet others in similar case
around the roaring hot stove.

Often after we reached the school-house another form of suffering
overtook us in the "thawing out" process. Our fingers and toes, swollen
with blood, ached and itched, and our ears burned. Nearly all of us
carried sloughing ears and scaling noses. Some of the pupils came two
miles against these winds.

The natural result of all this exposure was of course, chilblains! Every
foot in the school was more or less touched with this disease to which
our elders alluded as if it were an amusing trifle, but to us it was no

After getting thoroughly warmed up, along about the middle of the
forenoon, there came into our feet a most intense itching and burning
and aching, a sensation so acute that keeping still was impossible, and
all over the room an uneasy shuffling and drumming arose as we pounded
our throbbing heels against the floor or scraped our itching toes
against the edge of our benches. The teacher understood and was kind
enough to overlook this disorder.

The wonder is that any of us lived through that winter, for at recess,
no matter what the weather might be we flung ourselves out of doors to
play "fox and geese" or "dare goal," until, damp with perspiration, we
responded to the teacher's bell, and came pouring back into the entry
ways to lay aside our wraps for another hour's study.

Our readers were almost the only counterchecks to the current of
vulgarity and baseness which ran through the talk of the older boys, and
I wish to acknowledge my deep obligation to Professor McGuffey, whoever
he may have been, for the dignity and literary grace of his selections.
From the pages of his readers I learned to know and love the poems of
Scott, Byron, Southey, Wordsworth and a long line of the English
masters. I got my first taste of Shakespeare from the selected scenes
which I read in these books.

With terror as well as delight I rose to read _Lochiel's Warning_, _The
Battle of Waterloo_ or _The Roman Captive_. Marco Bozzaris and William
Tell were alike glorious to me. I soon knew not only my own reader, the
fourth, but all the selections in the fifth and sixth as well. I could
follow almost word for word the recitations of the older pupils and at
such times I forgot my squat little body and my mop of hair, and became
imaginatively a page in the train of Ivanhoe, or a bowman in the army
of Richard the Lion Heart battling the Saracen in the Holy Land.

With a high ideal of the way in which these grand selections should be
read, I was scared almost voiceless when it came my turn to read them
reduced me to a trembling breathlessness. The sight of the emphatic
print was a call to the best that was in me and yet I could not meet the
test. Excess of desire to do it just right often brought a ludicrous
gasp and I often fell back into my seat in disgrace, the titter of the
girls adding to my pain.

Then there was the famous passage, "Did ye not hear it?" and the
careless answer, "No, it was but the wind or the car rattling o'er the
stony street."--I knew exactly how those opposing emotions should be
expressed but to do it after I rose to my feet was impossible. Burton
was even more terrified than I. Stricken blind as well as dumb he
usually ended by helplessly staring at the words which, I conceive, had
suddenly become a blur to him.

No matter, we were taught to feel the force of these poems and to
reverence the genius that produced them, and that was worth while.
Falstaff and Prince Hal, Henry and his wooing of Kate, Wolsey and his
downfall, Shylock and his pound of flesh all became a part of our
thinking and helped us to measure the large figures of our own
literature, for Whittier, Bryant and Longfellow also had place in these
volumes. It is probable that Professor McGuffey, being a Southern man,
did not value New England writers as highly as my grandmother did,
nevertheless _Thanatopsis_ was there and _The Village Blacksmith_, and
extracts from _The Deer Slayer_ and _The Pilot_ gave us a notion that
in Cooper we had a novelist of weight and importance, one to put beside
Scott and Dickens.

A by-product of my acquaintance with one of the older boys was a stack
of copies of the _New York Weekly_, a paper filled with stories of noble
life in England and hair-breadth escapes on the plain, a shrewd mixture,
designed to meet the needs of the entire membership of a prairie
household. The pleasure I took in these tales should fill me with shame,
but it doesn't--I rejoice in the memory of it.

I soon began, also, to purchase and trade "Beadle's Dime Novels" and, to
tell the truth, I took an exquisite delight in _Old Sleuth_ and _Jack
Harkaway_. My taste was catholic. I ranged from _Lady Gwendolin_ to
_Buckskin Bill_ and so far as I can now distinguish one was quite as
enthralling as the other. It is impossible for any print to be as
magical to any boy these days as those weeklies were to me in 1871.

One day a singular test was made of us all. Through some agency now lost
to me my father was brought to subscribe for _The Hearth and Home_ or
some such paper for the farmer, and in this I read my first chronicle of
everyday life.

In the midst of my dreams of lords and ladies, queens and dukes, I found
myself deeply concerned with backwoods farming, spelling schools,
protracted meetings and the like familiar homely scenes. This serial
(which involved my sister and myself in many a spat as to who should
read it first) was _The Hoosier Schoolmaster_, by Edward Eggleston, and
a perfectly successful attempt to interest western readers in a story of
the middle border.

To us "Mandy" and "Bud Means," "Ralph Hartsook," the teacher, "Little
Shocky" and sweet patient "Hannah," were as real as Cyrus Button and
Daddy Fairbanks. We could hardly wait for the next number of the paper,
so concerned were we about "Hannah" and "Ralph." We quoted old lady
Means and we made bets on "Bud" in his fight with the villainous drover.
I hardly knew where Indiana was in those days, but Eggleston's
characters were near neighbors.

The illustrations were dreadful, even in my eyes, but the artist
contrived to give a slight virginal charm to Hannah and a certain
childish sweetness to Shocky, so that we accepted the more than mortal
ugliness of old man Means and his daughter Mirandy (who simpered over
her book at us as she did at Ralph), as a just interpretation of their

This book is a milestone in my literary progress as it is in the
development of distinctive western fiction, and years afterward I was
glad to say so to the aged author who lived a long and honored life as a
teacher and writer of fiction.

It was always too hot or too cold in our schoolroom and on certain days
when a savage wind beat and clamored at the loose windows, the girls,
humped and shivering, sat upon their feet to keep them warm, and the
younger children with shawls over their shoulders sought permission to
gather close about the stove.

Our dinner pails (stored in the entry way) were often frozen solid and
it was necessary to thaw out our mince pie as well as our bread and
butter by putting it on the stove. I recall, vividly, gnawing, dog-like,
at the mollified outside of a doughnut while still its frosty heart made
my teeth ache.

Happily all days were not like this. There were afternoons when the sun
streamed warmly into the room, when long icicles formed on the eaves,
adding a touch of grace to the desolate building, moments when the
jingling bells of passing wood-sleighs expressed the natural cheer and
buoyancy of our youthful hearts.


Chores and Almanacs

Our farm-yard would have been uninhabitable during this winter had it
not been for the long ricks of straw which we had piled up as a shield
against the prairie winds. Our horse-barn, roofed with hay and banked
with chaff, formed the west wall of the cowpen, and a long low shed gave
shelter to the north.

In this triangular space, in the lee of shed and straw-rick, the cattle
passed a dolorous winter. Mostly they burrowed in the chaff, or stood
about humped and shivering--only on sunny days did their arching backs
subside. Naturally each animal grew a thick coat of long hair, and
succeeded in coming through to grass again, but the cows of some of our
neighbors were less fortunate. Some of them got so weak that they had to
be "tailed" up as it was called. This meant that they were dying of
hunger and the sight of them crawling about filled me with indignant
wrath. I could not understand how a man, otherwise kind, could let his
stock suffer for lack of hay when wild grass was plentiful.

One of my duties, and one that I dreaded, was pumping water for our
herd. This was no light job, especially on a stinging windy morning, for
the cows, having only dry fodder, required an enormous amount of liquid,
and as they could only drink while the water was fresh from the well,
some one must work the handle till the last calf had absorbed his
fill--and this had to be done when the thermometer was thirty below,
just the same as at any other time.

And this brings up an almost forgotten phase of bovine psychology. The
order in which the cows drank as well as that in which they entered the
stable was carefully determined and rigidly observed. There was always
one old dowager who took precedence, all the others gave way before her.
Then came the second in rank who feared the leader but insisted on
ruling all the others, and so on down to the heifer. This order, once
established, was seldom broken (at least by the females of the herd, the
males were more unstable) even when the leader grew old and almost

We took advantage of this loyalty when putting them into the barn. The
stall furthest from the door belonged to "old Spot," the second to
"Daisy" and so on, hence all I had to do was to open the door and let
them in--for if any rash young thing got out of her proper place she was
set right, very quickly, by her superiors.

Some farms had ponds or streams to which their flocks were driven for
water but this to me was a melancholy winter function, and sometimes as
I joined Burt or Cyrus in driving the poor humped and shivering beasts
down over the snowy plain to a hole chopped in the ice, and watched them
lay their aching teeth to the frigid draught, trying a dozen times to
temper their mouths to the chill I suffered with them. As they streamed
along homeward, heavy with their sloshing load, they seemed the
personification of a desolate and abused race.

Winter mornings were a time of trial for us all. It required stern
military command to get us out of bed before daylight, in a chamber
warmed only by the stove-pipe, to draw on icy socks and frosty boots and
go to the milking of cows and the currying of horses. Other boys did not
rise by candle-light but I did, not because I was eager to make a
record but for the very good reason that my commander believed in early
rising. I groaned and whined but I rose--and always I found mother in
the kitchen before me, putting the kettle on.

It ought not to surprise the reader when I say that my morning toilet
was hasty--something less than "a lick and a promise." I couldn't (or
didn't) stop to wash my face or comb my hair; such refinements seem
useless in an attic bedchamber at five in the morning of a December
day--I put them off till breakfast time. Getting up at five A. M. even
in June was a hardship, in winter it was a punishment.

Our discomforts had their compensations! As we came back to the house at
six, the kitchen was always cheery with the smell of browning flapjacks,
sizzling sausages and steaming coffee, and mother had plenty of hot
water on the stove so that in "half a jiffy," with shining faces and
sleek hair we sat down to a noble feast. By this time also the eastern
sky was gorgeous with light, and two misty "sun dogs" dimly loomed,
watching at the gate of the new day.

Now that I think of it, father was the one who took the brunt of our
"revellee." He always built the fire in the kitchen stove before calling
the family. Mother, silent, sleepy, came second. Sometimes she was just
combing her hair as I passed through the kitchen, at other times she
would be at the biscuit dough or stirring the pancake batter--but she
was always there!

"What did you gain by this disagreeable habit of early rising?"--This is
a question I have often asked myself since. Was it only a useless
obsession on the part of my pioneer dad? Why couldn't we have slept till
six, or even seven? Why rise before the sun?

I cannot answer this, I only know such was our habit summer and winter,
and that most of our neighbors conformed to the same rigorous tradition.
None of us got rich, and as I look back on the situation, I cannot
recall that those "sluggards" who rose an hour or two later were any
poorer than we. I am inclined to think it was all a convention of the
border, a custom which might very well have been broken by us all.

My mother would have found these winter days very long had it not been
for baby Jessie, for father was busily hauling wood from the Cedar River
some six or seven miles away, and the almost incessant, mournful piping
of the wind in the chimney was dispiriting. Occasionally Mrs. Button,
Mrs. Gammons or some other of the neighbors would drop in for a visit,
but generally mother and Jessie were alone till Harriet and Frank and I
came home from school at half-past four.

Our evenings were more cheerful. My sister Hattie was able to play a few
simple tunes on the melodeon and Cyrus and Eva or Mary Abbie and John
occasionally came in to sing. In this my mother often took part. In
church her clear soprano rose above all the others like the voice of
some serene great bird. Of this gift my father often expressed his open

There was very little dancing during our second winter but Fred Jewett
started a singing school which brought the young folks together once a
week. We boys amused ourselves with "Dare Gool" and "Dog and Deer." Cold
had little terror for us, provided the air was still. Often we played
"Hi Spy" around the barn with the thermometer twenty below zero, and not
infrequently we took long walks to visit Burton and other of our boy
friends or to borrow something to read. I was always on the trail of a

Harriet joined me in my search for stories and nothing in the
neighborhood homes escaped us. Anything in print received our most
respectful consideration. Jane Porter's _Scottish Chiefs_ brought to us
both anguish and delight. _Tempest and Sunshine_ was another discovery.
I cannot tell to whom I was indebted for _Ivanhoe_ but I read and
re-read it with the most intense pleasure. At the same time or near it I
borrowed a huge bundle of _The New York Saturday Night_ and _The New
York Ledger_ and from them I derived an almost equal enjoyment. "Old
Sleuth" and "Buckskin Bill" were as admirable in their way as "Cedric
the Saxon."

At this time _Godey's Ladies Book_ and _Peterson's Magazine_ were the
only high-class periodicals known to us. _The Toledo Blade_ and _The New
York Tribune_ were still my father's political advisers and Horace
Greeley and "Petroleum V. Nasby" were equally corporeal in my mind.

Almanacs figured largely in my reading at this time, and were a source
of frequent quotation by my father. They were nothing but small,
badly-printed, patent medicine pamphlets, each with a loop of string at
the corner so that they might be hung on a nail behind the stove, and of
a crude green or yellow or blue. Each of them made much of a
calm-featured man who seemed unaware of the fact that his internal
organs were opened to the light of day. Lines radiated from his middle
to the signs of the zodiac. I never knew what all this meant, but it
gave me a sense of something esoteric and remote. Just what "Aries" and
"Pisces" had to do with healing or the weather is still a mystery.

These advertising bulletins could be seen in heaps on the counter at the
drug store especially in the spring months when "Healey's Bitters" and
"Allen's Cherry Pectoral" were most needed to "purify the blood." They
were given out freely, but the price of the marvellous mixtures they
celebrated was always one dollar a bottle, and many a broad coin went
for a "bitter" which should have gone to buy a new dress for an
overworked wife.

These little books contained, also, concise aphorisms and weighty words
of advice like "After dinner rest awhile; after supper run a mile," and
"Be vigilant, be truthful and your life will never be ruthful." "Take
care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves" (which
needed a little translating to us) probably came down a long line of
English copy books. No doubt they were all stolen from _Poor Richard_.

Incidentally they called attention to the aches and pains of humankind,
and each page presented the face, signature and address of some far-off
person who had been miraculously relieved by the particular "balsam" or
"bitter" which that pamphlet presented. Hollow-cheeked folk were shown
"before taking," and the same individuals plump and hearty "after
taking," followed by very realistic accounts of the diseases from which
they had been relieved gave encouragement to others suffering from the
same "complaints."

Generally the almanac which presented the claims of a "pectoral" also
had a "salve" that was "sovereign for burns" and some of them humanely
took into account the ills of farm animals and presented a cure for bots
or a liniment for spavins. I spent a great deal of time with these
publications and to them a large part of my education is due.

It is impossible that printed matter of any kind should possess for any
child of today the enchantment which came to me, from a grimy,
half-dismembered copy of Scott or Cooper. _The Life of P. T. Barnum_,
Franklin's _Autobiography_ we owned and they were also wellsprings of
joy to me. Sometimes I hold with the Lacedemonians that "hunger is the
best sauce" for the mind as well as for the palate. Certainly we made
the most of all that came our way.

Naturally the school-house continued to be the center of our interest by
day and the scene of our occasional neighborhood recreation by night. In
its small way it was our Forum as well as our Academy and my memories of
it are mostly pleasant.

Early one bright winter day Charles Babcock and Albert Button, two of
our big boys, suddenly appeared at the school-house door with their best
teams hitched to great bob-sleds, and amid much shouting and laughter,
the entire school (including the teacher) piled in on the straw which
softened the bottom of the box, and away we raced with jangling bells,
along the bright winter roads with intent to "surprise" the Burr Oak
teacher and his flock.

I particularly enjoyed this expedition for the Burr Oak School was
larger than ours and stood on the edge of a forest and was protected by
noble trees. A deep ravine near it furnished a mild form of coasting.
The schoolroom had fine new desks with iron legs and the teacher's desk
occupied a deep recess at the front. Altogether it possessed something
of the dignity of a church. To go there was almost like going to town,
for at the corners where the three roads met, four or five houses stood
and in one of these was a postoffice.

That day is memorable to me for the reason that I first saw Bettie and
Hattie and Agnes, the prettiest girls in the township. Hattie and Bettie
were both fair-haired and blue-eyed but Agnes was dark with great
velvety black eyes. Neither of them was over sixteen, but they had all
taken on the airs of young ladies and looked with amused contempt on
lads of my age. Nevertheless, I had the right to admire them in secret
for they added the final touch of poetry to this visit to "the Grove
School House."

Often, thereafter, on a clear night when the thermometer stood twenty
below zero, Burton and I would trot away toward the Grove to join in
some meeting or to coast with the boys on the banks of the creek. I feel
again the iron clutch of my frozen boots. The tippet around my neck is
solid ice before my lips. My ears sting. Low-hung, blazing, the stars
light the sky, and over the diamond-dusted snow-crust the moonbeams

Though sensing the glory of such nights as these I was careful about
referring to it. Restraint in such matters was the rule. If you said,
"It is a fine day," or "The night is as clear as a bell," you had gone
quite as far as the proprieties permitted. Love was also a forbidden
word. You might say, "I love pie," but to say "I love Bettie," was
mawkish if not actually improper.

Caresses or terms of endearment even between parents and their children
were very seldom used. People who said "Daddy dear," or "Jim dear," were
under suspicion. "They fight like cats and dogs when no one else is
around" was the universal comment on a family whose members were very
free of their terms of affection. We were a Spartan lot. We did not
believe in letting our wives and children know that they were an
important part of our contentment.

Social changes were in progress. We held no more quilting bees or
barn-raisings. Women visited less than in Wisconsin. The work on the new
farms was never ending, and all teams were in constant use during week
days. The young people got together on one excuse or another, but their
elders met only at public meetings.

Singing, even among the young people was almost entirely confined to
hymn-tunes. The new Moody and Sankey Song Book was in every home. _Tell
Me the Old Old Story_ did not refer to courtship but to salvation, and
_Hold the Fort for I am Coming_ was no longer a signal from Sherman, but
a Message from Jesus. We often spent a joyous evening singing _O, Bear
Me Away on Your Snowy Wings_, although we had no real desire to be taken
"to our immortal home." Father no longer asked for _Minnie Minturn_ and
_Nellie Wildwood_,--but his love for Smith's _Grand March_ persisted and
my sister Harriet was often called upon to play it for him while he
explained its meaning. The war was passing into the mellow, reminiscent
haze of memory and he loved the splendid pictures which this descriptive
piece of martial music recalled to mind. So far as we then knew his
pursuit of the Sunset was at an end.


Boy Life on the Prairie

The snows fell deep in February and when at last the warm March winds
began to blow, lakes developed with magical swiftness in the fields, and
streams filled every swale, transforming the landscape into something
unexpected and enchanting. At night these waters froze, bringing fields
of ice almost to our door. We forgot all our other interests in the joy
of the games which we played thereon at every respite from school, or
from the wood-pile, for splitting firewood was our first spring task.

From time to time as the weather permitted, father had been cutting and
hauling maple and hickory logs from the forests of the Cedar River, and
these logs must now be made into stove-wood and piled for summer use.
Even before the school term ended we began to take a hand at this work,
after four o'clock and on Saturdays. While the hired man and father ran
the cross-cut saw, whose pleasant song had much of the seed-time
suggestion which vibrated in the _caw-caw_ of the hens as they burrowed
in the dust of the chip-yard, I split the easy blocks and my brother
helped to pile the finished product.

The place where the wood-pile lay was slightly higher than the barnyard
and was the first dry ground to appear in the almost universal slush and
mud. Delightful memories are associated with this sunny spot and with a
pond which appeared as if by some conjury, on the very field where I had
husked the down-row so painfully in November. From the wood-pile I was
often permitted to go skating and Burton was my constant companion in
these excursions. However, my joy in his companionship was not unmixed
with bitterness, for I deeply envied him the skates which he wore. They
were trimmed with brass and their runners came up over his toes in
beautiful curves and ended in brass acorns which transfigured their
wearer. To own a pair of such skates seemed to me the summit of all
earthly glory.

My own wooden "contraptions" went on with straps and I could not make
the runners stay in the middle of my soles where they belonged, hence my
ankles not only tipped in awkwardly but the stiff outer edges of my boot
counters dug holes in my skin so that my outing was a kind of torture
after all. Nevertheless, I persisted and, while Burton circled and
swooped like a hawk, I sprawled with flapping arms in a mist of ignoble
rage. That I learned to skate fairly well even under these disadvantages
argues a high degree of enthusiasm.

Father was always willing to release us from labor at times when the ice
was fine, and at night we were free to explore the whole country round
about, finding new places for our games. Sometimes the girls joined us,
and we built fires on the edges of the swales and played "gool" and a
kind of "shinny" till hunger drove us home.

We held to this sport to the last--till the ice with prodigious booming
and cracking fell away in the swales and broke through the icy drifts
(which lay like dams along the fences) and vanished, leaving the
corn-rows littered with huge blocks of ice. Often we came in from the
pond, wet to the middle, our boots completely soaked with water. They
often grew hard as iron during the night, and we experienced the
greatest trouble in getting them on again. Greasing them with hot
tallow was a regular morning job.

Then came the fanning mill. The seed grain had to be fanned up, and that
was a dark and dusty "trick" which we did not like anything near as well
as we did skating or even piling wood. The hired man turned the mill, I
dipped the wheat into the hopper, Franklin held sacks and father scooped
the grain in. I don't suppose we gave up many hours to this work, but it
seems to me that we spent weeks at it. Probably we took spells at the
mill in the midst of the work on the chip pile.

Meanwhile, above our heads the wild ducks again pursued their northward
flight, and the far honking of the geese fell to our ears from the
solemn deeps of the windless night. On the first dry warm ridges the
prairie cocks began to boom, and then at last came the day when father's
imperious voice rang high in familiar command. "Out with the drags,
boys! We start seeding tomorrow."

Again we went forth on the land, this time to wrestle with the tough,
unrotted sod of the new breaking, while all around us the larks and
plover called and the gray badgers stared with disapproving bitterness
from their ravaged hills.

Maledictions on that tough northwest forty! How many times I harrowed
and cross-harrowed it I cannot say, but I well remember the maddening
persistency with which the masses of hazel roots clogged the teeth of
the drag, making it necessary for me to raise the corner of it--a
million times a day! This had to be done while the team was in motion,
and you can see I did not lack for exercise. It was necessary also to
"lap-half" and this requirement made careful driving needful for father
could not be fooled. He saw every "balk."

As the ground dried off the dust arose from under the teeth of the
harrow and flew so thickly that my face was not only coated with it but
tears of rebellious rage stained my cheeks with comic lines. At such
times it seemed unprofitable to be the twelve-year-old son of a western

One day, just as the early sown wheat was beginning to throw a tinge of
green over the brown earth, a tremendous wind arose from the southwest
and blew with such devastating fury that the soil, caught up from the
field, formed a cloud, hundreds of feet high,--a cloud which darkened
the sky, turning noon into dusk and sending us all to shelter. All the
forenoon this blizzard of loam raged, filling the house with dust,
almost smothering the cattle in the stable. Work was impossible, even
for the men. The growing grain, its roots exposed to the air, withered
and died. Many of the smaller plants were carried bodily away.

As the day wore on father fell into dumb, despairing rage. His rigid
face and smoldering eyes, his grim lips, terrified us all. It seemed to
him (as to us), that the entire farm was about to take flight and the
bitterest part of the tragic circumstance lay in the reflection that our
loss (which was much greater than any of our neighbors) was due to the
extra care with which we had pulverized the ground.

"If only I hadn't gone over it that last time," I heard him groan in
reference to the "smooch" with which I had crushed all the lumps making
every acre friable as a garden. "Look at Woodring's!"

Sure enough. The cloud was thinner over on Woodring's side of the line
fence. His rough clods were hardly touched. My father's bitter revolt,
his impotent fury appalled me, for it seemed to me (as to him), that
nature was, at the moment, an enemy. More than seventy acres of this
land had to be resown.

Most authors in writing of "the merry merry farmer" leave out
experiences like this--they omit the mud and the dust and the grime,
they forget the army worm, the flies, the heat, as well as the smells
and drudgery of the barns. Milking the cows is spoken of in the
traditional fashion as a lovely pastoral recreation, when as a matter of
fact it is a tedious job. We all hated it. We saw no poetry in it. We
hated it in summer when the mosquitoes bit and the cows slashed us with
their tails, and we hated it still more in the winter time when they
stood in crowded malodorous stalls.

In summer when the flies were particularly savage we had a way of
jamming our heads into the cows' flanks to prevent them from kicking
into the pail, and sometimes we tied their tails to their legs so that
they could not lash our ears. Humboldt Bunn tied a heifer's tail to his
boot straps once--and regretted it almost instantly.--No, no, it won't
do to talk to me of "the sweet breath of kine." I know them too
well--and calves are not "the lovely, fawn-like creatures" they are
supposed to be. To the boy who is teaching them to drink out of a pail
they are nasty brutes--quite unlike fawns. They have a way of filling
their nostrils with milk and blowing it all over their nurse. They are
greedy, noisy, ill-smelling and stupid. They look well when running with
their mothers in the pasture, but as soon as they are weaned they lose
all their charm--for me.

Attendance on swine was less humiliating for the reason that we could
keep them at arm's length, but we didn't enjoy that. We liked teaming
and pitching hay and harvesting and making fence, and we did not greatly
resent plowing or husking corn but we did hate the smell, the filth of
the cow-yard. Even hostling had its "outs," especially in spring when
the horses were shedding their hair. I never fully enjoyed the taste of
equine dandruff, and the eternal smell of manure irked me, especially
at the table.

Clearing out from behind the animals was one of our never ending jobs,
and hauling the compost out on the fields was one of the tasks which, as
my father grimly said, "We always put off till it rains so hard we can't
work out doors." This was no joke to us, for not only did we work out
doors, we worked while standing ankle deep in the slime of the yard,
getting full benefit of the drizzle. Our new land did not need the
fertilizer, but we were forced to haul it away or move the barn. Some
folks moved the barn. But then my father was an idealist.

Life was not all currying or muck-raking for Burt or for me. Herding the
cows came in to relieve the monotony of farm-work. Wide tracts of
unbroken sod still lay open to the north and west, and these were the
common grazing grounds for the community. Every farmer kept from
twenty-five to a hundred head of cattle and half as many colts, and no
sooner did the green begin to show on the fire-blackened sod in April
than the winter-worn beasts left the straw-piles under whose lee they
had fed during the cold months, and crawled out to nip the first tender
spears of grass in the sheltered swales. They were still "free
commoners" in the eyes of the law.

The colts were a fuzzy, ungraceful lot at this season. Even the best of
them had big bellies and carried dirty and tangled manes, but as the
grazing improved, as the warmth and plenty of May filled their veins
with new blood, they sloughed off their mangy coats and lifted their
wide-blown nostrils to the western wind in exultant return to freedom.
Many of them had never felt the weight of a man's hand, and even those
that had wintered in and around the barn-yard soon lost all trace of
domesticity. It was not unusual to find that the wildest and wariest of
all the leaders bore a collar mark or some other ineffaceable badge of
previous servitude.

They were for the most part Morgan grades or "Canuck," with a strain of
broncho to give them fire. It was curious, it was glorious to see how
deeply-buried instincts broke out in these halterless herds. In a few
days, after many trials of speed and power the bands of all the region
united into one drove, and a leader, the swiftest and most tireless of
them all, appeared from the ranks and led them at will.

Often without apparent cause, merely for the joy of it, they left their
feeding grounds to wheel and charge and race for hours over the swells,
across the creeks and through the hazel thickets. Sometimes their
movements arose from the stinging of gadflies, sometimes from a battle
between two jealous leaders, sometimes from the passing of a wolf--often
from no cause at all other than that of abounding vitality.

In much the same fashion, but less rapidly, the cattle went forth upon
the plain and as each herd not only contained the growing steers, but
the family cows, it became the duty of one boy from each farm to mount a
horse at five o'clock every afternoon and "hunt the cattle," a task
seldom shirked. My brother and I took turn and turn about at this
delightful task, and soon learned to ride like Comanches. In fact we
lived in the saddle, when freed from duty in the field. Burton often met
us on the feeding grounds, and at such times the prairie seemed an
excellent place for boys. As we galloped along together it was easy to
imagine ourselves Wild Bill and Buckskin Joe in pursuit of Indians or

We became, by force of unconscious observation, deeply learned in the
language and the psychology of kine as well as colts. We watched the
big bull-necked stags as they challenged one another, pawing the dust or
kneeling to tear the sod with their horns. We possessed perfect
understanding of their battle signs. Their boastful, defiant cries were
as intelligible to us as those of men. Every note, every motion had a
perfectly definite meaning. The foolish, inquisitive young heifers, the
staid self-absorbed dowagers wearing their bells with dignity, the
frisky two-year-olds and the lithe-bodied wide-horned, truculent
three-year-olds all came in for interpretation.

Sometimes a lone steer ranging the sod came suddenly upon a trace of
blood. Like a hound he paused, snuffling the earth. Then with wide mouth
and outthrust, curling tongue, uttered voice. Wild as the tiger's
food-sick cry, his warning roar burst forth, ending in a strange, upward
explosive whine. Instantly every head in the herd was lifted, even the
old cows heavy with milk stood as if suddenly renewing their youth,
alert and watchful.

Again it came, that prehistoric bawling cry, and with one mind the herd
began to center, rushing with menacing swiftness, like warriors
answering their chieftain's call for aid. With awkward lope or jolting
trot, snorting with fury they hastened to the rescue, only to meet in
blind bewildered mass, swirling to and fro in search of an imaginary
cause of some ancestral danger.

At such moments we were glad of our swift ponies. From our saddles we
could study these outbreaks of atavistic rage with serene enjoyment.

In herding the cattle we came to know all the open country round about
and found it very beautiful. On the uplands a short, light-green,
hairlike grass grew, intermixed with various resinous weeds, while in
the lowland feeding grounds luxuriant patches of blue-joint, wild oats,
and other tall forage plants waved in the wind. Along the streams and
in the "sloos" cat-tails and tiger-lilies nodded above thick mats of
wide-bladed marsh grass. Almost without realizing it, I came to know the
character of every weed, every flower, every living thing big enough to
be seen from the back of a horse.

Nothing could be more generous, more joyous, than these natural meadows
in summer. The flash and ripple and glimmer of the tall sunflowers, the
myriad voices of gleeful bobolinks, the chirp and gurgle of red-winged
blackbirds swaying on the willows, the meadow-larks piping from grassy
bogs, the peep of the prairie chick and the wailing call of plover on
the flowery green slopes of the uplands made it all an ecstatic world to
me. It was a wide world with a big, big sky which gave alluring hint of
the still more glorious unknown wilderness beyond.

Sometimes of a Sunday afternoon, Harriet and I wandered away to the
meadows along Dry Run, gathering bouquets of pinks, sweet-williams,
tiger-lilies and lady slippers, thus attaining a vague perception of
another and sweeter side of life. The sun flamed across the splendid
serial waves of the grasses and the perfumes of a hundred spicy plants
rose in the shimmering mid-day air. At such times the mere joy of living
filled our young hearts with wordless satisfaction.

Nor were the upland ridges less interesting, for huge antlers lying
bleached and bare in countless numbers on the slopes told of the herds
of elk and bison that had once fed in these splendid savannahs, living
and dying in the days when the tall Sioux were the only hunters.

The gray hermit, the badger, still clung to his deep den on the rocky
unplowed ridges, and on sunny April days the mother fox lay out with her
young, on southward-sloping swells. Often we met the prairie wolf or
startled him from his sleep in hazel copse, finding in him the spirit
of the wilderness. To us it seemed that just over the next long swell
toward the sunset the shaggy brown bulls still fed in myriads, and in
our hearts was a longing to ride away into the "sunset regions" of our

All the boys I knew talked of Colorado, never of New England. We dreamed
of the plains, of the Black Hills, discussing cattle raising and mining
and hunting. "We'll have our rifles ready, boys, ha, ha, ha-ha!" was
still our favorite chorus, "Newbrasky" and Wyoming our far-off
wonderlands, Buffalo Bill our hero.

David, my hunter uncle who lived near us, still retained his long
old-fashioned, muzzle-loading rifle, and one day offered it to me, but
as I could not hold it at arm's length, I sorrowfully returned it. We
owned a shotgun, however, and this I used with all the confidence of a
man. I was able to kill a few ducks with it and I also hunted gophers
during May when the sprouting corn was in most danger. Later I became
quite expert in catching chickens on the wing.

On a long ridge to the north and west, the soil, too wet and cold to
cultivate easily, remained unplowed for several years and scattered over
these clay lands stood small groves of popple trees which we called
"tow-heads." They were usually only two or three hundred feet in
diameter, but they stood out like islands in the waving seas of grasses.
Against these dark-green masses, breakers of blue-joint radiantly
rolled.--To the east some four miles ran the Little Cedar River, and
plum trees and crab-apples and haws bloomed along its banks. In June
immense crops of strawberries offered from many meadows. Their delicious
odor rose to us as we rode our way, tempting us to dismount and gather
and eat.

Over these uplands, through these thickets of hazel brush, and around
these coverts of popple, Burton and I careered, hunting the cows,
chasing rabbits, killing rattlesnakes, watching the battles of bulls,
racing the half-wild colts and pursuing the prowling wolves. It was an
alluring life, and Harriet, who rode with us occasionally, seemed to
enjoy it quite as much as any boy. She could ride almost as well as
Burton, and we were all expert horse-tamers.

We all rode like cavalrymen,--that is to say, while holding the reins in
our left hands we guided our horses by the pressure of the strap across
the neck, rather than by pulling at the bit. Our ponies were never
allowed to trot. We taught them a peculiar gait which we called "the
lope," which was an easy canter in front and a trot behind (a very good
gait for long distances), and we drilled them to keep this pace steadily
and to fall at command into a swift walk without any jolting intervening
trot.--We learned to ride like circus performers standing on our
saddles, and practised other of the tricks we had seen, and through it
all my mother remained unalarmed. To her a boy on a horse was as natural
as a babe in the cradle. The chances we took of getting killed were so
numerous that she could not afford to worry.

Burton continued to be my almost inseparable companion at school and
whenever we could get together, and while to others he seemed only a
shy, dull boy, to me he was something more. His strength and skill were
remarkable and his self-command amazing. Although a lad of instant,
white-hot, dangerous temper, he suddenly, at fifteen years of age, took
himself in hand in a fashion miraculous to me. He decided (I never knew
just why or how)--that he would never again use an obscene or profane
word. He kept his vow. I knew him for over thirty years and I never
heard him raise his voice in anger or utter a word a woman would have
shrunk from,--and yet he became one of the most fearless and indomitable
mountaineers I ever knew.

This change in him profoundly influenced me and though I said nothing
about it, I resolved to do as well. I never quite succeeded, although I
discouraged as well as I could the stories which some of the men and
boys were so fond of telling, but alas! when the old cow kicked over my
pail of milk, I fell from grace and told her just what I thought of her
in phrases that Burton would have repressed. Still, I manfully tried to
follow his good trail.

       *       *       *       *       *

Corn-planting, which followed wheat-seeding, was done by hand, for a
year or two, and this was a joyous task.--We "changed works" with
neighbor Button, and in return Cyrus and Eva came to help us. Harriet
and Eva and I worked side by side, "dropping" the corn, while Cyrus and
the hired man followed with the hoes to cover it. Little Frank skittered
about, planting with desultory action such pumpkin seeds as he did not
eat. The presence of our young friends gave the job something of the
nature of a party and we were sorry when it was over.

After the planting a fortnight of less strenuous labor came on, a period
which had almost the character of a holiday. The wheat needed no
cultivation and the corn was not high enough to plow. This was a time
for building fence and fixing up things generally. This, too, was the
season of the circus. Each year one came along from the east, trailing
clouds of glorified dust and filling our minds with the color of

From the time the "advance man" flung his highly colored posters over
the fence till the coming of the glorious day we thought of little else.
It was India and Arabia and the jungle to us. History and the magic and
pomp of chivalry mingled in the parade of the morning, and the crowds,
the clanging band, the haughty and alien beauty of the women, the gold
embroidered housings, the stark majesty of the acrobats subdued us into
silent worship.

I here pay tribute to the men who brought these marvels to my eyes. To
rob me of my memories of the circus would leave me as poor as those to
whom life was a drab and hopeless round of toil. It was our brief season
of imaginative life. In one day--in a part of one day--we gained a
thousand new conceptions of the world and of human nature. It was an
embodiment of all that was skillful and beautiful in manly action. It
was a compendium of biologic research but more important still, it
brought to our ears the latest band pieces and taught us the most
popular songs. It furnished us with jokes. It relieved our dullness. It
gave us something to talk about.

We always went home wearied with excitement, and dusty and fretful--but
content. We had seen it. We had grasped as much of it as anybody and
could remember it as well as the best. Next day as we resumed work in
the field the memory of its splendors went with us like a golden cloud.

       *       *       *       *       *

Most of the duties of the farmer's life require the lapse of years to
seem beautiful in my eyes, but haying was a season of well-defined
charm. In Iowa, summer was at its most exuberant stage of vitality
during the last days of June, and it was not strange that the faculties
of even the toiling hay-maker, dulled and deadened with never ending
drudgery, caught something of the superabundant glow and throb of
nature's life.

As I write I am back in that marvellous time.--The cornfield, dark-green
and sweetly cool, is beginning to ripple in the wind with multitudinous
stir of shining, swirling leaf. Waves of dusk and green and gold, circle
across the ripening barley, and long leaves upthrust, at intervals, like
spears. The trees are in heaviest foliage, insect life is at its height,
and the shimmering air is filled with buzzing, dancing forms, and the
clover is gay with the sheen of innumerable gauzy wings.

The west wind comes to me laden with ecstatic voices. The bobolinks sail
and tinkle in the sensuous hush, now sinking, now rising, their
exquisite notes filling the air as with the sound of fairy bells. The
king-bird, alert, aggressive, cries out sharply as he launches from the
top of a poplar tree upon some buzzing insect, and the plover makes the
prairie sad with his wailing call. Vast purple-and-white clouds move
like stately ships before the breeze, dark with rain, which they drop
momentarily in trailing garments upon the earth, and so pass in majesty
amidst a roll of thunder.

The grasshoppers move in clouds with snap and buzz, and out of the
luxurious stagnant marshes comes the ever-thickening chorus of the
toads, while above them the kildees and the snipe shuttle to and fro in
sounding flight. The blackbirds on the cat-tails sway and swing,
uttering through lifted throats their liquid gurgle, mad with delight of
the sun and the season--and over all, and laving all, moves the slow
wind, heavy with the breath of the far-off blooms of other lands, a wind
which covers the sunset plain with a golden entrancing haze.

At such times it seemed to me that we had reached the "sunset region" of
our song, and that we were indeed "lords of the soil."

I am not so sure that haying brought to our mothers anything like this
rapture, for the men added to our crew made the duties of the kitchens
just that much heavier. I doubt if the women--any of them--got out into
the fields or meadows long enough to enjoy the birds and the breezes.
Even on Sunday as they rode away to church, they were too tired and too
worried to re-act to the beauties of the landscape.

I now began to dimly perceive that my mother was not well. Although
large and seemingly strong, her increasing weight made her long days of
housework a torture. She grew very tired and her sweet face was often
knotted with physical pain.

She still made most of our garments as well as her own. She tailored
father's shirts and underclothing, sewed carpet rags, pieced quilts and
made butter for market,--and yet, in the midst of it all, found time to
put covers on our baseball, and to do up all our burns and bruises.
Being a farmer's wife in those days, meant laboring outside any
regulation of the hours of toil. I recall hearing one of the tired
house-wives say, "Seems like I never get a day off, not even on Sunday,"
a protest which my mother thoroughly understood and sympathized with,
notwithstanding its seeming inhospitality.

No history of this time would be complete without a reference to the
doctor. We were a vigorous and on the whole a healthy tribe but
accidents sometimes happened and "Go for the doctor!" was the first
command when the band-cutter slashed the hand of the thresher or one of
the children fell from the hay-rick.

One night as I lay buried in deep sleep close to the garret eaves I
heard my mother call me--and something in her voice pierced me, roused
me. A poignant note of alarm was in it.

"Hamlin," she called, "get up--at once. You must go for the doctor. Your
father is very sick. _Hurry!_"

I sprang from my bed, dizzy with sleep, yet understanding her appeal. "I
hear you, I'm coming," I called down to her as I started to dress.

"Call Hattie. I need her too."

The rain was pattering on the roof, and as I dressed I had a disturbing
vision of the long cold ride which lay before me. I hoped the case was
not so bad as mother thought. With limbs still numb and weak I stumbled
down the stairs to the sitting room where a faint light shone.

Mother met me with white, strained face. "Your father is suffering
terribly. Go for the doctor at once."

I could hear the sufferer groan even as I moved about the kitchen,
putting on my coat and lighting the lantern. It was about one o'clock of
the morning, and the wind was cold as I picked my way through the mud to
the barn. The thought of the long miles to town made me shiver but as
the son of a soldier I could not falter in my duty.

In their warm stalls the horses were resting in dreamful doze. Dan and
Dick, the big plow team, stood near the door. Jule and Dolly came next.
Wild Frank, a fleet but treacherous Morgan, stood fifth and for a moment
I considered taking him. He was strong and of wonderful staying powers
but so savage and unreliable that I dared not risk an accident. I passed
on to bay Kittie whose bright eyes seemed to inquire, "What is the

Flinging the blanket over her and smoothing it carefully, I tossed the
light saddle to her back and cinched it tight, so tight that she
grunted. "I can't take any chances of a spill," I explained to her, and
she accepted the bit willingly. She was always ready for action and
fully dependable.

Blowing out my lantern I hung it on a peg, led Kit from her stall out
into the night, and swung to the saddle. She made off with a spattering
rush through the yard, out into the road. It was dark as pitch but I was
fully awake now. The dash of the rain in my face had cleared my brain
but I trusted to the keener senses of the mare to find the road which
showed only in the strips of water which filled the wagon tracks.

We made way slowly for a few minutes until my eyes expanded to take in
the faint lines of light along the lane. The road at last became a river
of ink running between faint gray banks of sward, and my heart rose in
confidence. I took on dignity. I was a courier riding through the night
to save a city, a messenger on whose courage and skill thousands of
lives depended.

"Get out o' this!" I shouted to Kit, and she leaped away like a wolf, at
a tearing gallop.

She knew her rider. We had herded the cattle many days on the prairie,
and in races with the wild colts I had tested her speed. Snorting with
vigor at every leap she seemed to say, "My heart is brave, my limbs are
strong. Call on me."

Out of the darkness John Martin's Carlo barked. A half-mile had passed.
Old Marsh's fox hound clamored next. Two miles were gone. From here the
road ran diagonally across the prairie, a velvet-black band on the dim
sod. The ground was firmer but there were swales full of water. Through
these Kittie dashed with unhesitating confidence, the water flying from
her drumming hooves. Once she went to her knees and almost unseated me,
but I regained my saddle and shouted, "Go on, Kit."

The fourth mile was in the mud, but the fifth brought us to the village
turnpike and the mare was as glad of it as I. Her breath was labored
now. She snorted no more in exultation and confident strength. She began
to wonder--to doubt, and I, who knew her ways as well as I knew those of
a human being, realized that she was beginning to flag. The mud had
begun to tell on her.

It hurt me to urge her on, but the memory of my mother's agonized face
and the sound of my father's groan of pain steeled my heart. I set lash
to her side and so kept her to her highest speed.

At last a gleam of light! Someone in the village was awake. I passed
another lighted window. Then the green and red lamps of the drug store
cheered me with their promise of aid, for the doctor lived next door.
There too a dim ray shone.

Slipping from my weary horse I tied her to the rail and hurried up the
walk toward the doctor's bell. I remembered just where the knob rested.
Twice I pulled sharply, strongly, putting into it some part of the
anxiety and impatience I felt. I could hear its imperative jingle as it
died away in the silent house.

At last the door opened and the doctor, a big blonde handsome man in a
long night gown, confronted me with impassive face. "What is it, my
boy?" he asked kindly.

As I told him he looked down at my water-soaked form and wild-eyed
countenance with gentle patience. Then he peered out over my head into
the dismal night. He was a man of resolution but he hesitated for a
moment. "Your father is suffering sharply, is he?"

"Yes, sir. I could hear him groan.--Please hurry."

He mused a moment. "He is a soldier. He would not complain of a little
thing--I will come."

Turning in relief, I ran down the walk and climbed upon my shivering
mare. She wheeled sharply, eager to be off on her homeward way. Her
spirit was not broken, but she was content to take a slower pace. She
seemed to know that our errand was accomplished and that the warm
shelter of the stall was to be her reward.

Holding her down to a slow trot I turned often to see if I could detect
the lights of the doctor's buggy which was a familiar sight on our road.
I had heard that he kept one of his teams harnessed ready for calls
like this, and I confidently expected him to overtake me. "It's a
terrible night to go out, but he said he would come," I repeated as I

At last the lights of a carriage, crazily rocking, came into view and
pulling Kit to a walk I twisted in my saddle, ready to shout with
admiration of the speed of his team. "He's driving the 'Clay-Banks,'" I
called in great excitement.

The Clay-Banks were famous throughout the county as the doctor's
swiftest and wildest team, a span of bronchos whose savage spirits no
journey could entirely subdue, a team he did not spare, a team that
scorned petting and pity, bony, sinewy, big-headed. They never walked
and had little care of mud or snow.

They came rushing now with splashing feet and foaming, half-open jaws,
the big doctor, calm, iron-handed, masterful, sitting in the swaying top
of his light buggy, his feet against the dash board, keeping his furious
span in hand as easily as if they were a pair of Shetland ponies. The
nigh horse was running, the off horse pacing, and the splatter of their
feet, the slash of the wheels and the roaring of their heavy breathing,
made my boyish heart leap. I could hardly repress a yell of delight.

As I drew aside to let him pass the doctor called out with mellow cheer,
"Take your time, boy, take your time!"

Before I could even think of an answer, he was gone and I was alone with
Kit and the night.

My anxiety vanished with him. I had done all that could humanly be done,
I had fetched the doctor. Whatever happened I was guiltless. I knew also
that in a few minutes a sweet relief would come to my tortured mother,
and with full faith and loving confidence in the man of science, I
jogged along homeward, wet to the bone but triumphant.


Wheat and the Harvest

The early seventies were years of swift change on the Middle Border. Day
by day the settlement thickened. Section by section the prairie was
blackened by the plow. Month by month the sweet wild meadows were fenced
and pastured and so at last the colts and cows all came into captivity,
and our horseback riding ceased, cut short as if by some imperial
decree. Lanes of barbed wire replaced the winding wagon trails, our
saddles gathered dust in the grain-sheds, and groves of Lombardy poplar
and European larch replaced the tow-heads of aspen and hazel through
which we had pursued the wolf and fox.

I will not say that this produced in me any keen sense of sorrow at the
time, for though I missed our horse-herds and the charm of the open
spaces, I turned to tamer sports with the resilient adaptability of
youth. If I could not ride I could at least play baseball, and the
swimming hole in the Little Cedar remained untouched. The coming in of
numerous Eastern settlers brought added charm to neighborhood life.
Picnics, conventions, Fourth of July celebrations--all intensified our
interest, and in their increasing drama we were compensated, in some
degree at least, for the delights which were passing with the prairie.

Our school-house did not change--except for the worse. No one thought of
adding a tree or a vine to its ugly yard. Sun-smit, bare as a nose it
stood at the cross-roads, receiving us through its drab door-way as it
had done from the first. Its benches, hideously hacked and thick with
grime, were as hard and uncomfortable as when I first saw them, and the
windows remained unshaded and unwashed. Most of the farm-houses in the
region remained equally unadorned, but Deacon Gammons had added an "ell"
and established a "parlor," and Anson Burtch had painted his barn. The
plain began to take on a comfortable look, for some of the trees of the
wind-breaks had risen above the roofs, and growing maples softened the
effect of the bleak expanse.

My mother, like most of her neighbors, still cooked and served meals in
our one living room during the winter but moved into a "summer kitchen"
in April. This change always gave us a sense of luxury--which is
pathetic, if you look at it that way. Our front room became suddenly and
happily a parlor, and was so treated. Mother at once got down the rag
carpet and gave orders for us to shake out and bring in some clean straw
to put under it, and when we had tacked it down and re-arranged the
furniture, it was no longer a place for muddy boots and shirt-sleeved
shiftlessness, it had an air of being in perpetual Sabbath leisure.

The Garlands were not so poor as all this would seem to imply, for we
were now farming over three hundred acres of land and caring for a herd
of cattle and many swine. It merely meant that my father did not feel
the need of a "best room" and mother and Harriet were not yet able to
change his mind. Harriet wanted an organ like Mary Abby Gammons, mother
longed for a real "in-grain" carpet and we all clamored for a spring
wagon. We got the wagon first.

That bleak little house is clearly defined in my mind at this moment.
The low lean-to kitchen, the rag-carpeted sitting room with its two
chromos of _Wide Awake_ and _Fast Asleep_--its steel engraving of
General Grant, and its tiny melodeon in the corner--all these come back
to me. There are very few books or magazines in the scene, but there are
piles of newspapers, for my father was an omnivorous reader of all
things political. It was not a hovel, it was a pioneer cabin persisting
into a settled community, that was all.

During these years the whole middle border was menaced by bands of
horse-thieves operating under a secret well-organized system. Horses
disappeared night by night and were never recovered, till at last the
farmers, in despair of the local authorities, organized a Horse Thief
Protective Association which undertook to pursue and punish the robbers
and to pay for such animals as were not returned. Our county had an
association of this sort and shortly after we opened our new farm my
father became a member. My first knowledge of this fact came when he
nailed on our barn-door the white cloth poster which proclaimed in bold
black letters a warning and a threat signed by "the Committee."--I was
always a little in doubt as to whether the horse-thieves or ourselves
were to be protected, for the notice was fair warning to them as well as
an assurance to us. Anyhow very few horses were stolen from barns thus

The campaign against the thieves gave rise to many stirring stories
which lost nothing in my father's telling of them. Jim McCarty was agent
for our association and its effectiveness was largely due to his swift
and fearless action. We all had a pleasant sense of the mystery of the
night riding which went on during this period and no man could pass with
a led horse without being under suspicion of being either a thief or a
deputy. Then, too, the thieves were supposed to have in every community
a spy who gave information as to the best horses, and informed the gang
as to the membership of the Protective Society.

One of our neighbors fell under suspicion at this time and never got
clear of it. I hope we did him no injustice in this for never after
could I bring myself to enter his house, and he was clearly ostracized
by all the neighbors.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I look back over my life on that Iowa farm the song of the reaper
fills large place in my mind. We were all worshippers of wheat in those
days. The men thought and talked of little else between seeding and
harvest, and you will not wonder at this if you have known and bowed
down before such abundance as we then enjoyed.

Deep as the breast of a man, wide as the sea, heavy-headed,
supple-stocked, many-voiced, full of multitudinous, secret, whispered
colloquies,--a meeting place of winds and of sunlight,--our fields ran
to the world's end.

We trembled when the storm lay hard upon the wheat, we exulted as the
lilac shadows of noon-day drifted over it! We went out into it at noon
when all was still--so still we could hear the pulse of the transforming
sap as it crept from cool root to swaying plume. We stood before it at
evening when the setting sun flooded it with crimson, the bearded heads
lazily swirling under the wings of the wind, the mousing hawk dipping
into its green deeps like the eagle into the sea, and our hearts
expanded with the beauty and the mystery of it,--and back of all this
was the knowledge that its abundance meant a new carriage, an addition
to the house or a new suit of clothes.

Haying was over, and day by day we boys watched with deepening interest
while the hot sun transformed the juices of the soil into those stately
stalks. I loved to go out into the fairy forest of it, and lying there,
silent in its swaying deeps, hear the wild chickens peep and the wind
sing its subtle song over our heads. Day by day I studied the barley as
it turned yellow, first at the root and then at the neck (while the
middle joints, rank and sappy, retained their blue-green sheen), until
at last the lower leaves began to wither and the stems to stiffen in
order to uphold the daily increasing weight of the milky berries, and
then almost in an hour--lo! the edge of the field became a banded ribbon
of green and yellow, languidly waving in and out with every rush of the

Now we got out the reaper, put the sickles in order, and father laid in
a store of provisions. Extra hands were hired, and at last, early on a
hot July morning, the boss mounted to his seat on the self-rake
"McCormick" and drove into the field. Frank rode the lead horse, four
stalwart hands and myself took "stations" behind the reaper and the
battle was on!

Reaping generally came about the 20th of July, the hottest and dryest
part of the summer, and was the most pressing work of the year. It
demanded early rising for the men, and it meant an all day broiling over
the kitchen stove for the women. Stern, incessant toil went on inside
and out from dawn till sunset, no matter how the thermometer sizzled. On
many days the mercury mounted to ninety-five in the shade, but with wide
fields all yellowing at the same moment, no one thought of laying off. A
storm might sweep it flat, or if neglected too long, it might "crinkle."

Our reaper in 1874 was a new model of the McCormick self-rake,--the
Marsh Harvester was not yet in general use. The Woods Dropper, the
Seymour and Morgan hand-rake "contraptions" seemed a long way in the
past. True the McCormick required four horses to drag it but it was
effective. It was hard to believe that anything more cunning would ever
come to claim the farmer's money. Weird tales of a machine on which two
men rode and bound twelve acres of wheat in ten hours came to us, but
we did not potently believe these reports--on the contrary we accepted
the self-rake as quite the final word in harvesting machinery and
cheerily bent to the binding of sheaves with their own straw in the good
old time-honored way.

No task save that of "cradling" surpassed in severity "binding on a
station." It was a full-grown man's job, but every boy was ambitious to
try his hand, and when at fourteen years of age I was promoted from
"bundle boy" to be one of the five hands to bind after the reaper, I
went to my corner with joy and confidence. For two years I had been
serving as binder on the corners, (to keep the grain out of the way of
the horses) and I knew my job.

I was short and broad-shouldered with large strong hands admirably
adapted for this work, and for the first two hours, easily held my own
with the rest of the crew, but as the morning wore on and the sun grew
hotter, my enthusiasm waned. A painful void developed in my chest. My
breakfast had been ample, but no mere stomachful of food could carry a
growing boy through five hours of desperate toil. Along about a quarter
to ten, I began to scan the field with anxious eye, longing to see
Harriet and the promised luncheon basket.

Just when it seemed that I could endure the strain no longer she came
bearing a jug of cool milk, some cheese and some deliciously fresh
fried-cakes. With keen joy I set a couple of tall sheaves together like
a tent and flung myself down flat on my back in their shadow to devour
my lunch.

Tired as I was, my dim eyes apprehended something of the splendor of the
shining clouds which rolled like storms of snow through the deep-blue
spaces of sky and so, resting silently as a clod I could hear the chirp
of the crickets, the buzzing wings of flies and the faint, fairylike
tread of smaller unseen insects hurrying their way just beneath my ear
in the stubble. Strange green worms, grasshoppers and shining beetles
crept over me as I dozed.

This delicious, dreamful respite was broken by the far-off approaching
purr of the sickle, flicked by the faint snap of the driver's whip, and
out of the low rustle of the everstirring lilliputian forest came the
wailing cry of a baby wild chicken lost from its mother--a falling,
thrilling, piteous little pipe.

Such momentary communion with nature seemed all the sweeter for the work
which had preceded it, as well as that which was to follow it. It took
resolution to rise and go back to my work, but I did it, sustained by a
kind of soldierly pride.

At noon we hurried to the house, surrounded the kitchen table and fell
upon our boiled beef and potatoes with such ferocity that in fifteen
minutes our meal was over. There was no ceremony and very little talking
till the hid wolf was appeased. Then came a heavenly half-hour of rest
on the cool grass in the shade of the trees, a siesta as luxurious as
that of a Spanish monarch--but alas!--this "nooning," as we called it,
was always cut short by father's word of sharp command, "Roll out,
boys!" and again the big white jugs were filled at the well, the horses,
lazy with food, led the way back to the field, and the stern contest
began again.

All nature at this hour seemed to invite to repose rather than to labor,
and as the heat increased I longed with wordless fervor for the green
woods of the Cedar River. At times the gentle wind hardly moved the
bended heads of the barley, and the hawks hung in the air like trout
sleeping in deep pools. The sunlight was a golden, silent, scorching
cataract--yet each of us must strain his tired muscles and bend his
aching back to the harvest.

Supper came at five, another delicious interval--and then at six we all
went out again for another hour or two in the cool of the
sunset.--However, the pace was more leisurely now for the end of the day
was near. I always enjoyed this period, for the shadows lengthening
across the stubble, and the fiery sun, veiled by the gray clouds of the
west, had wondrous charm. The air began to moisten and grow cool. The
voices of the men pulsed powerfully and cheerfully across the narrowing
field of unreaped grain, the prairie hens led forth their broods to
feed, and at last, father's long-drawn and musical cry, "Turn OUT! All
hands TURN OUT!" rang with restful significance through the dusk. Then,
slowly, with low-hung heads the freed horses moved toward the barn,
walking with lagging steps like weary warriors going into camp.

In all the toil of the harvest field, the water jug filled a large
place. It was a source of anxiety as well as comfort. To keep it cool,
to keep it well filled was a part of my job. No man passed it at the
"home corner" of the field. It is a delightful part of my recollections
of the harvest.

    O cool gray jug that touched the lips
    In kiss that softly closed and clung,
    No Spanish wine the tippler sips,
    No port the poet's praise has sung--
    Such pure, untainted sweetness yields
    As cool gray jug in harvest fields.

    I see it now!--a clover leaf
    Out-spread upon its sweating side!--
    As from the sheltering sheaf
    I pluck and swing it high, the wide
    Field glows with noon-day heat,
    The winds are tangled in the wheat.

    The swarming crickets blithely cheep,
    Across the stir of waving grain
    I see the burnished reaper creep--
    The lunch-boy comes, and once again
    The jug its crystal coolness yields--
    O cool gray jug in harvest fields!

My father did not believe in serving strong liquor to his men, and
seldom treated them to even beer. While not a teetotaler he was strongly
opposed to all that intemperance represented. He furnished the best of
food, and tea and coffee, but no liquor, and the men respected him for

The reaping on our farm that year lasted about four weeks. Barley came
first, wheat followed, the oats came last of all. No sooner was the
final swath cut than the barley was ready to be put under cover, and
"stacking," a new and less exacting phase of the harvest, began.

This job required less men than reaping, hence a part of our hands were
paid off, only the more responsible ones were retained. The rush, the
strain of the reaping gave place to a leisurely, steady, day-by-day
garnering of the thoroughly seasoned shocks into great conical piles,
four in a place in the midst of the stubble, which was already growing
green with swiftly-springing weeds.

A full crew consisted of a stacker, a boy to pass bundles, two drivers
for the heavy wagon-racks, and a pitcher in the field who lifted the
sheaves from the shock with a three-tined fork and threw them to the man
on the load.

At the age of ten I had been taught to "handle bundles" on the stack,
but now at fourteen I took my father's place as stacker, whilst he
passed the sheaves and told me how to lay them. This exalted me at the
same time that it increased my responsibility. It made a man of me--not
only in my own estimation, but in the eyes of my boy companions to whom
I discoursed loftily on the value of "bulges" and the advantages of the
stack over the rick.

No sooner was the stacking ended than the dreaded task of plowing began
for Burton and John and me. Every morning while our fathers and the
hired men shouldered their forks and went away to help some neighbor
thrash--("changing works") we drove our teams into the field, there to
plod round and round in solitary course. Here I acquired the feeling
which I afterward put into verse--

    A lonely task it is to plow!
    All day the black and shining soil
    Rolls like a ribbon from the mold-board's
    Glistening curve. All day the horses toil,
    Battling with savage flies, and strain
    Their creaking single-trees. All day
    The crickets peer from wind-blown stacks of grain.

Franklin's job was almost as lonely. He was set to herd the cattle on
the harvested stubble and keep them out of the corn field. A little
later, in October, when I was called to take my place as corn-husker, he
was promoted to the plow. Our only respite during the months of October
and November was the occasional cold rain which permitted us to read or
play cards in the kitchen.

Cards! I never look at a certain type of playing card without
experiencing a return of the wonder and the guilty joy with which I
bought of Metellus Kirby my first "deck," and slipped it into my pocket.
There was an alluring oriental imaginative quality in the drawing on the
face cards. They brought to me vague hints of mad monarchs, desperate
stakes, and huge sudden rewards. All that I had heard or read of
Mississippi gamblers came back to make those gaudy bits of pasteboard

My father did not play cards, hence, although I had no reason to think
he would forbid them to me, I took a fearsome joy in assuming his bitter
opposition. For a time my brother and I played in secret, and then one
day, one cold bleak day as we were seated on the floor of the granary
playing on an upturned half-bushel measure, shivering with the chill,
our fingers numb and blue, the door opened and father looked in.

We waited, while his round, eagle-gray eyes took in the situation and it
seemed a long, terrifying interval, then at last he mildly said, "I
guess you'd better go in and play by the stove. This isn't very

Stunned by this unexpected concession, I gathered up the cards, and as I
took my way to the house, I thought deeply. The meaning of that quiet
voice, that friendly invitation was not lost on me. The soldier rose to
grand heights by that single act, and when I showed the cards to mother
and told her that father had consented to our playing, she looked grave
but made no objection to our use of the kitchen table. As a matter of
fact they both soon after joined our game. "If you are going to play,"
they said, "we'd rather you played right here with us." Thereafter rainy
days were less dreary, and the evenings shorter.

Everybody played Authors at this time also, and to this day I cannot
entirely rid myself of the estimations which our pack of cards fixed in
my mind. _Prue and I_ and _The Blithedale Romance_ were on an equal
footing, so far as our game went, and Howells, Bret Harte and Dickens
were all of far-off romantic horizon. Writers were singular, exalted
beings found only in the East--in splendid cities. They were not folks,
they were demigods, men and women living aloof and looking down
benignantly on toiling common creatures like us.

It never entered my mind that anyone I knew could ever by any chance
meet an author, or even hear one lecture--although it was said that they
did sometimes come west on altruistic educational journeys and that they
sometimes reached our county town.

I am told--I do not know that it is true--that I am one of the names on
a present-day deck of Author cards. If so, I wish I could call in that
small plow-boy of 1874 and let him play a game with this particular

The crops on our farms in those first years were enormous and prices
were good, and yet the homes of the neighborhood were slow in taking on
grace or comfort. I don't know why this was so, unless it was that the
men were continually buying more land and more machinery. Our own
stables were still straw-roofed sheds, but the trees which we had
planted had grown swiftly into a grove, and a garden, tended at odd
moments by all hands, brought small fruits and vegetables in season.
Although a constantly improving collection of farm machinery lightened
the burdens of the husbandman, the drudgery of the house-wife's
dish-washing and cooking did not correspondingly lessen. I fear it
increased, for with the widening of the fields came the doubling of the
harvest hands, and my mother continued to do most of the housework
herself--cooking, sewing, washing, churning, and nursing the sick from
time to time. No one in trouble ever sent for Isabelle Garland in vain,
and I have many recollections of neighbors riding up in the night and
calling for her with agitated voices.

Of course I did not realize, and I am sure my father did not realize,
the heavy burden, the endless grind of her toil. Harriet helped, of
course, and Frank and I churned and carried wood and brought water; but
even with such aid, the round of mother's duties must have been as
relentless as a tread-mill. Even on Sunday, when we were free for a part
of the day, she was required to furnish forth three meals, and to help
Frank and Jessie dress for church.--She sang less and less, and the
songs we loved were seldom referred to.--If I could only go back for one
little hour and take her in my arms, and tell her how much I owe her for
those grinding days!

Meanwhile we were all growing away from our life in the old Wisconsin
Coulee. We heard from William but seldom, and David, who had bought a
farm of his own some ten miles to the south of us, came over to see us
only at long intervals. He still owned his long-barrelled rifle but it
hung unused on a peg in the kitchen. Swiftly the world of the hunter was
receding, never to return. Prairie chickens, rabbits, ducks, and other
small game still abounded but they did not call for the bullet, and
turkey shoots were events of the receding past. Almost in a year the
ideals of the country-side changed. David was in truth a survival of a
more heroic age, a time which he loved to lament with my father who was
almost as great a lover of the wilderness as he. None of us sang "O'er
the hills in legions, boys." Our share in the conquest of the west
seemed complete.

Threshing time, which was becoming each year less of a "bee" and more of
a job (many of the men were mere hired hands), was made distinctive by
David who came over from Orchard with his machine--the last time as it
turned out--and stayed to the end. As I cut bands beside him in the dust
and thunder of the cylinder I regained something of my boyish worship of
his strength and skill. The tireless easy swing of his great frame was
wonderful to me and when, in my weariness, I failed to slash a band he
smiled and tore the sheaf apart--thus deepening my love for him. I
looked up at him at such times as a sailor regards his captain on the
bridge. His handsome immobile bearded face, his air of command, his
large gestures as he rolled the broad sheaves into the howling maw of
the machine made of him a chieftain.--The touch of melancholy which even
then had begun to develop, added to his manly charm.

One day in late September as I was plowing in the field at the back of
the farm, I encountered a particularly troublesome thicket of weeds and
vines in the stubble, and decided to burn the way before the coulter. We
had been doing this ever since the frost had killed the vegetation but
always on lands after they had been safeguarded by strips of plowing. On
this particular land no fire had been set for the reason that four large
stacks of wheat still stood waiting the thresher. In my irritation and
self-confidence I decided to clear away the matted stubble on the same
strip though at some distance from the stacks. This seemed safe enough
at the time for the wind was blowing gently from the opposite direction.

It was a lovely golden day and as I stood watching the friendly flame
clearing the ground for me, I was filled with satisfaction. Suddenly I
observed that the line of red was moving steadily against the wind and
_toward_ the stacks. My satisfaction changed to alarm. The matted weeds
furnished a thick bed of fuel, and against the progress of the flame I
had nothing to offer. I could only hope that the thinning stubble would
permit me to trample it out. I tore at the ground in desperation, hoping
to make a bare spot which the flame could not leap. I trampled the fire
with my bare feet. I beat at it with my hat. I screamed for help.--Too
late I thought of my team and the plow with which I might have drawn a
furrow around the stacks. The flame touched the high-piled sheaves. It
ran lightly, beautifully up the sides--and as I stood watching it, I
thought, "It is all a dream. It can't be true."

But it was. In less than twenty minutes the towering piles had melted
into four glowing heaps of ashes. Four hundred dollars had gone up in
that blaze.

Slowly, painfully I hobbled to the plow and drove my team to the house.
Although badly burned, my mental suffering was so much greater that I
felt only part of it.--Leaving the horses at the well I hobbled into the
house to my mother. She, I knew, would sympathize with me and shield me
from the just wrath of my father who was away, but was due to return in
an hour or two.

Mother received me in silence, bandaged my feet and put me to bed where
I lay in shame and terror.

At last I heard father come in. He questioned, mother's voice replied.
He remained ominously silent. She went on quietly but with an eloquence
unusual in her. What she said to him I never knew, but when he came up
the stairs and stood looking down at me his anger had cooled. He merely
asked me how I felt, uncovered my burned feet, examined them, put the
sheet back, and went away, without a word either of reproof or

None of us except little Jessie, ever alluded to this tragic matter
again; she was accustomed to tell my story as she remembered it,--"an
'nen the moon changed--the fire ran up the stacks and burned 'em all

When I think of the myriads of opportunities for committing mistakes of
this sort, I wonder that we had so few accidents. The truth is our
captain taught us to think before we acted at all times, and we had
little of the heedlessness which less experienced children often show.
We were in effect small soldiers and carried some of the
responsibilities of soldiers into all that we did.

While still I was hobbling about, suffering from my wounds my uncles
William and Frank McClintock drove over from Neshonoc bringing with them
a cloud of strangely-moving revived memories of the hills and woods of
our old Wisconsin home. I was peculiarly delighted by this visit, for
while the story of my folly was told, it was not dwelt upon. They soon
forgot me and fell naturally into discussion of ancient neighbors and
far-away events.

To me it was like peering back into a dim, dawn-lit world wherein all
forms were distorted or wondrously aggrandized. William, big,
black-bearded and smiling, had lost little of his romantic appeal.
Frank, still the wag, was able to turn hand-springs and somersaults
almost as well as ever, and the talk which followed formed an absorbing
review of early days in Wisconsin.

It brought up and defined many of the events of our life in the coulee,
pictures which were becoming a little vague, a little blurred. Al Randal
and Ed Green, who were already almost mythical, were spoken of as living
creatures and thus the far was brought near. Comparisons between the old
and the new methods of seeding and harvest also gave me a sense of
change, a perception which troubled me a little, especially as a wistful
note had crept into the voices of these giants of the middle border.
They all loved the wilderness too well not to be a little saddened by
the clearing away of bosky coverts and the drying up of rippling

We sent for Uncle David who came over on Sunday to spend a night with
his brothers and in the argument which followed, I began to sense in him
a spirit of restlessness, a growing discontent which covered his
handsome face with a deepening shadow. He disliked being tied down to
the dull life of the farm, and his horse-power threshing machine no
longer paid him enough to compensate for the loss of time and care on
the other phases of his industry. His voice was still glorious and he
played the violin when strongly urged, though with a sense of

He and mother and Aunt Deborah sang _Nellie Wildwood_ and _Lily Dale_
and _Minnie Minturn_ just as they used to do in the coulee, and I forgot
my disgrace and the pain of my blistered feet in the rapture of that
exquisite hour of blended melody and memory. The world they represented
was passing and though I did not fully realize this, I sensed in some
degree the transitory nature of this reunion. In truth it never came
again. Never again did these three brothers meet, and when they said
good-bye to us next morning, I wondered why it was, we must be so widely
separated from those we loved the best.


Harriet Goes Away

Girls on the Border came to womanhood early. At fifteen my sister
Harriet considered herself a young lady and began to go out to dances
with Cyrus and Albert and Frances. She was small, moody and silent, and
as all her interests became feminine I lost that sense of comradeship
with which we used to ride after the cattle and I turned back to my
brother who was growing into a hollow-chested lanky lad--and in our
little sister Jessie we took increasing interest. She was a joyous
child, always singing like a canary. SHE was never a "trial."

Though delicate and fair and pretty, she manifested a singular
indifference to the usual games of girls. Contemptuous of dolls, she
never played house so far as I know. She took no interest in sewing, or
cooking, but had a whole yard full of "horses," that is to say, sticks
of varying sizes and shapes. Each pole had its name and its "stall" and
she endlessly repeated the chores of leading them to water and feeding
them hay. She loved to go with me to the field and was never so happy as
when riding on old Jule.--Dear little sister, I fear I neglected you at
times, turning away from your sweet face and pleading smile to lose
myself in some worthless book. I am comforted to remember that I did
sometimes lift you to the back of a real horse and permit you to ride "a
round," chattering like a sparrow as we plodded back and forth across
the field.

Frank cared little for books but he could take a hand at games although
he was not strong. Burton who at sixteen was almost as tall as his
father was the last to surrender his saddle to the ash-bin. He often
rode his high-headed horse past our house on his way to town, and I
especially recall one day, when as Frank and I were walking to town (one
fourth of July) Burt came galloping along with five dollars in his
pocket.--We could not see the five dollars but we did get the full force
and dignity of his cavalier approach, and his word was sufficient proof
of the cash he had to spend. As he rode on we, in crushed humility,
resumed our silent plodding in the dust of his horse's hooves.

His round of labor, like my own, was well established. In spring he
drove team and drag. In haying he served as stacker. In harvest he bound
his station. In stacking he pitched bundles. After stacking he plowed or
went out "changing works" and ended the season's work by husking corn--a
job that increased in severity from year to year, as the fields grew
larger. In '74 it lasted well into November. Beginning in the warm and
golden September we kept at it (off and on) until sleety rains coated
the ears with ice and the wet soil loaded our boots with huge balls of
clay and grass--till the snow came whirling by on the wings of the north
wind and the last flock of belated geese went sprawling sidewise down
the ragged sky. Grim business this! At times our wet gloves froze on our

How primitive all our notions were! Few of the boys owned overcoats and
the same suit served each of us for summer and winter alike. In lieu of
ulsters most of us wore long, gay-colored woolen scarfs wound about our
heads and necks--scarfs which our mothers, sisters or sweethearts had
knitted for us. Our footwear continued to be boots of the tall cavalry
model with pointed toes and high heels. Our collars were either
home-made ginghams or "boughten" ones of paper at fifteen cents per box.
Some men went so far as to wear "dickies," that is to say, false shirt
fronts made of paper, but this was considered a silly cheat. No one in
our neighborhood ever saw a tailor-made suit, and nothing that we wore
fitted,--our clothes merely enclosed us.

Harriet, like the other women, made her own dresses, assisted by my
mother, and her best gowns in summer were white muslin tied at the waist
with ribbons. All the girls dressed in this simple fashion, but as I
write, recalling the glowing cheeks and shining eyes of Hattie and Agnes
and Bess, I feel again the thrill of admiration which ran through my
blood as they came down the aisle at church, or when at dancing parties
they balanced or "sashayed" in _Honest John_ or _Money Musk_.--To me
they were perfectly clothed and divinely fair.

The contrast between the McClintocks, my hunter uncles, and Addison
Garland, my father's brother who came to visit us at about this time was
strikingly significant even to me. Tall, thoughtful, humorous and of
frail and bloodless body, "A. Garland" as he signed himself, was of the
Yankee merchant type. A general store in Wisconsin was slowly making him
a citizen of substance and his quiet comment brought to me an entirely
new conception of the middle west and its future. He was a philosopher.
He peered into the years that were to come and paid little heed to the
passing glories of the plain. He predicted astounding inventions and
great cities, and advised my father to go into dairying and diversified
crops. "This is a natural butter country," said he.

He was an invalid, and it was through him that we first learned of
graham flour. During his stay (and for some time after) we suffered an
infliction of sticky "gems" and dark soggy bread. We all resented this
displacement of our usual salt-rising loaf and delicious saleratus
biscuits but we ate the hot gems, liberally splashed with butter, just
as we would have eaten dog-biscuit or hardtack had it been put before

One of the sayings of my uncle will fix his character in the mind of the
reader. One day, apropos of some public event which displeased him, he
said, "Men can be infinitely more foolish in their collective capacity
than on their own individual account." His quiet utterance of these
words and especially the phrase "collective capacity" made a deep
impression on me. The underlying truth of the saying came to me only
later in my life.

He was full of "_citrus-belt_" enthusiasm and told us that he was about
to sell out and move to Santa Barbara. He did not urge my father to
accompany him, and if he had, it would have made no difference. A
winterless climate and the raising of fruit did not appeal to my
Commander. He loved the prairie and the raising of wheat and cattle, and
gave little heed to anything else, but to me Addison's talk of "the
citrus belt" had the value of a romance, and the occasional Spanish
phrases which he used afforded me an indefinable delight. It was
unthinkable that I should ever see an _arroyo_ but I permitted myself to
dream of it while he talked.

I think he must have encouraged my sister in her growing desire for an
education, for in the autumn after his visit she entered the Cedar
Valley Seminary at Osage and her going produced in me a desire to
accompany her. I said nothing of it at the time, for my father gave but
reluctant consent to Harriet's plan. A district school education seemed
to him ample for any farmer's needs.

Many of our social affairs were now connected with "the Grange." During
these years on the new farm while we were busied with breaking and
fencing and raising wheat, there had been growing up among the farmers
of the west a social organization officially known as The Patrons of
Husbandry. The places of meeting were called "Granges" and very
naturally the members were at once called "Grangers."

My father was an early and enthusiastic member of the order, and during
the early seventies its meetings became very important dates on our
calendar. In winter "oyster suppers," with debates, songs and essays,
drew us all to the Burr Oak Grove school-house, and each spring, on the
twelfth of June, the Grange Picnic was a grand "turn-out." It was almost
as well attended as the circus.

We all looked forward to it for weeks and every young man who owned a
top-buggy got it out and washed and polished it for the use of his best
girl, and those who were not so fortunate as to own "a rig" paid high
tribute to the livery stable of the nearest town. Others, less able or
less extravagant, doubled teams with a comrade and built a "bowery
wagon" out of a wagon-box, and with hampers heaped with food rode away
in state, drawn by a four or six-horse team. It seemed a splendid and
daring thing to do, and some day I hoped to drive a six-horse bowery
wagon myself.

The central place of meeting was usually in some grove along the Big
Cedar to the west and south of us, and early on the appointed day the
various lodges of our region came together one by one at convenient
places, each one moving in procession and led by great banners on which
the women had blazoned the motto of their home lodge. Some of the
columns had bands and came preceded by far faint strains of music, with
marshals in red sashes galloping to and fro in fine assumption of
military command.

It was grand, it was inspiring--to us, to see those long lines of
carriages winding down the lanes, joining one to another at the cross
roads till at last all the granges from the northern end of the county
were united in one mighty column advancing on the picnic ground, where
orators awaited our approach with calm dignity and high resolve. Nothing
more picturesque, more delightful, more helpful has ever risen out of
American rural life. Each of these assemblies was a most grateful relief
from the sordid loneliness of the farm.

Our winter amusements were also in process of change. We held no more
singing schools--the "Lyceum" had taken its place. Revival meetings were
given up, although few of the church folk classed them among the
amusements. The County Fair on the contrary was becoming each year more
important as farming diversified. It was even more glorious than the
Grange Picnic, was indeed second only to the fourth of July, and we
looked forward to it all through the autumn.

It came late in September and always lasted three days. We all went on
the second day, (which was considered the best day) and mother, by
cooking all the afternoon before our outing, provided us a dinner of
cold chicken and cake and pie which we ate while sitting on the grass
beside our wagon just off the racetrack while the horses munched hay and
oats from the box. All around us other families were grouped, picnicking
in the same fashion, and a cordial interchange of jellies and pies made
the meal a delightful function. However, we boys never lingered over
it,--we were afraid of missing something of the program.

Our interest in the races was especially keen, for one of the citizens
of our town owned a fine little trotting horse called "Huckleberry"
whose honest friendly striving made him a general favorite. Our survey
of fat sheep, broad-backed bulls and shining colts was a duty, but to
cheer Huckleberry at the home stretch was a privilege.

To us from the farm the crowds were the most absorbing show of all. We
met our chums and their sisters with a curious sense of strangeness, of
discovery. Our playmates seemed alien somehow--especially the girls in
their best dresses walking about two and two, impersonal and haughty of

Cyrus and Walter were there in their top-buggies with Harriet and Bettie
but they seemed to be having a dull time, for while they sat holding
their horses we were dodging about in freedom--now at the contest of
draft horses, now at the sledge-hammer throwing, now at the candy-booth.
We were comical figures, with our long trousers, thick gray coats and
faded hats, but we didn't know it and were happy.

One day as Burton and I were wandering about on the fair grounds we came
upon a patent medicine cart from which a faker, a handsome fellow with
long black hair and an immense white hat, was addressing the crowd while
a young and beautiful girl with a guitar in her lap sat in weary
relaxation at his feet. A third member of the "troupe," a short and very
plump man of commonplace type, was handing out bottles. It was "Doctor"
Lightner, vending his "Magic Oil."

At first I perceived only the doctor whose splendid gray suit and
spotless linen made the men in the crowd rustic and graceless, but as I
studied the woman I began to read into her face a sadness, a weariness,
which appealed to my imagination. Who was she? Why was she there? I had
never seen a girl with such an expression. She saw no one, was
interested in nothing before her--and when her master, or husband, spoke
to her in a low voice, she raised her guitar and joined in the song
which he had started, all with the same air of weary disgust. Her
voice, a childishly sweet soprano, mingled with the robust baritone of
the doctor and the shouting tenor of the fat man, like a thread of
silver in a skein of brass.

I forgot my dusty clothes, my rough shoes,--I forgot that I was a boy.
Absorbed and dreaming I listened to these strange new songs and studied
the singular faces of these alien songsters. Even the shouting tenor had
a far-away gleam in the yellow light of his cat-like eyes. The leader's
skill, the woman's grace and the perfect blending of their voices made
an ineffaceable impression on my sensitive, farm-bred brain.

The songs which they sang were not in themselves of a character to
warrant this ecstasy in me. One of them ran as follows:

        O Mary had a little lamb,
        Its fleece was black as jet,
    In the little old log cabin in the lane;
        And everywhere that Mary went,
        The lamb went too, you bet.
    In the little old log cabin in the lane.

        In the little old log cabin O!
        The little old log cabin O!
    The little old log cabin in the lane,
        They're hangin' men and women now
        For singing songs like this
    In the little old log cabin in the lane.

Nevertheless I listened without a smile. It was art to me. It gave me
something I had never known. The large, white, graceful hand of the
doctor sweeping the strings, the clear ringing shout of the tenor and
the chiming, bird-like voice of the girl lent to the absurd words of
this ballad a singular dignity. They made all other persons and events
of the day of no account.

In the intervals between the songs the doctor talked of catarrh and its
cure, and offered his medicines for sale, and in this dull part of the
program the tenor assisted, but the girl, sinking back in her seat,
resumed her impersonal and weary air.

That was forty years ago, and I can still sing those songs and imitate
the whoop of the shouting tenor, but I have never been able to put that
woman into verse or fiction although I have tried. In a story called
_Love or the Law_ I once made a laborious attempt to account for her,
but I did not succeed, and the manuscript remains in the bottom of my

No doubt the doctor has gone to his long account and the girl is a gray
old woman of sixty-five but in this book they shall be forever young,
forever beautiful, noble with the grace of art. The medicine they
peddled was of doubtful service, but the songs they sang, the story they
suggested were of priceless value to us who came from the monotony of
the farm, and went back to it like bees laden with the pollen of new
intoxicating blooms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sorrowfully we left Huckleberry's unfinished race, reluctantly we
climbed into the farm wagon, sticky with candy, dusty, tired, some of us
suffering with sick-headache, and rolled away homeward to milk the cows,
feed the pigs and bed down the horses.

As I look at a tintype of myself taken at about this time, I can hardly
detect the physical relationship between that mop-headed, long-lipped
lad, and the gray-haired man of today. But the coat, the tie, the little
stick-pin on the lapel of my coat all unite to bring back to me with
painful stir, the curious debates, the boyish delights, the dawning
desires which led me to these material expressions of manly pride. There
is a kind of pathos too, in the memory of the keen pleasure I took in
that absurd ornament--and yet my joy was genuine, my satisfaction

Harriet came home from school each Friday night but we saw little of
her, for she was always engaged for dances or socials by the neighbors'
sons, and had only a young lady's interest in her cub brothers. I
resented this and was openly hostile to her admirers. She seldom rode
with us to spelling schools or "soshybles." There was always some youth
with a cutter, or some noisy group in a big bob-sleigh to carry her
away, and on Monday morning father drove her back to the county town
with growing pride in her improving manners.

Her course at the Seminary was cut short in early spring by a cough
which came from a long ride in the keen wind. She was very ill with a
wasting fever, yet for a time refused to go to bed. She could not resign
herself to the loss of her school-life.

The lack of room in our house is brought painfully to my mind as I
recall that she lay for a week or two in a corner of our living room
with all the noise and bustle of the family going on around her. Her own
attic chamber was unwarmed (like those of all her girl friends), and so
she was forced to lie near the kitchen stove.

She grew rapidly worse all through the opening days of April and as we
were necessarily out in the fields at work, and mother was busied with
her household affairs, the lonely sufferer was glad to have her bed in
the living room--and there she lay, her bright eyes following mother at
her work, growing whiter and whiter until one beautiful, tragic morning
in early May, my father called me in to say good-bye to her.

She was very weak, but her mind was perfectly clear, and as she kissed
me farewell with a soft word about being a good boy, I turned away
blinded with tears and fled to the barnyard, there to hide like a
wounded animal, appalled by the weight of despair and sorrow which her
transfigured face had suddenly thrust upon me. All about me the young
cattle called, the spring sun shone and the gay fowls sang, but they
could not mitigate my grief, my dismay, my sense of loss. My sister was
passing from me--that was the agonizing fact which benumbed me. She who
had been my playmate, my comrade, was about to vanish into air and

This was my first close contact with death, and it filled me with awe.
Human life suddenly seemed fleeting and of a part with the impermanency
and change of the westward moving Border Line.--Like the wild flowers
she had gathered, Harriet was now a fragrant memory. Her dust mingled
with the soil of the little burial ground just beyond the village

       *       *       *       *       *

My mother's heart was long in recovering from the pain of this loss, but
at last Jessie's sweet face, which had in it the light of the sky and
the color of a flower, won back her smiles. The child's acceptance of
the funeral as a mere incident of her busy little life, in some way
enabled us all to take up and carry forward the routine of our shadowed

Those years on the plain, from '71 to '75, held much that was alluring,
much that was splendid. I did not live an exceptional life in any way.
My duties and my pleasures were those of the boys around me. In all
essentials my life was typical of the time and place. My father was
counted a good and successful farmer. Our neighbors all lived in the
same restricted fashion as ourselves, in barren little houses of wood or
stone, owning few books, reading only weekly papers. It was a pure
democracy wherein my father was a leader and my mother beloved by all
who knew her. If anybody looked down upon us we didn't know it, and in
all the social affairs of the township we fully shared.

Nature was our compensation. As I look back upon it, I perceive
transcendent sunsets, and a mighty sweep of golden grain beneath a sea
of crimson clouds. The light and song and motion of the prairie return
to me. I hear again the shrill, myriad-voiced choir of leaping insects
whose wings flash fire amid the glorified stubble. The wind wanders by,
lifting my torn hat-rim. The locusts rise in clouds before my weary
feet. The prairie hen soars out of the unreaped barley and drops into
the sheltering deeps of the tangled oats, green as emerald. The lone
quail pipes in the hazel thicket, and far up the road the cow-bell's
steady clang tells of the homecoming herd.

Even in our hours of toil, and through the sultry skies, the sacred
light of beauty broke; worn and grimed as we were, we still could fall
a-dream before the marvel of a golden earth beneath a crimson sky.


We Move to Town

One day, soon after the death of my sister Harriet, my father came home
from a meeting of the Grange with a message which shook our home with
the force of an earth-quake. The officers of the order had asked him to
become the official grain-buyer for the county, and he had agreed to do
it. "I am to take charge of the new elevator which is just being
completed in Osage," he said.

The effect of this announcement was far-reaching. First of all it put an
end not merely to our further pioneering but, (as the plan developed)
promised to translate us from the farm to a new and shining world, a
town world where circuses, baseball games and county fairs were events
of almost daily occurrence. It awed while it delighted us for we felt
vaguely our father's perturbation.

For the first time since leaving Boston, some thirty years before, Dick
Garland began to dream of making a living at something less backbreaking
than tilling the soil. It was to him a most abrupt and startling
departure from the fixed plan of his life, and I dimly understood even
then that he came to this decision only after long and troubled
reflection. Mother as usual sat in silence. If she showed exultation, I
do not recall the fashion of it.

Father assumed his new duties in June and during all that summer and
autumn, drove away immediately after breakfast each morning, to the
elevator some six miles away, leaving me in full charge of the farm and
its tools. All his orders to the hired men were executed through me. On
me fell the supervision of their action, always with an eye to his
general oversight. I never forgot that fact. He possessed the eye of an
eagle. His uncanny powers of observation kept me terrified. He could
detect at a glance the slightest blunder or wrong doing in my day's
activities. Every afternoon, about sunset he came whirling into the
yard, his team flecked with foam, his big gray eyes flashing from side
to side, and if any tool was out of place or broken, he discovered it at
once, and his reproof was never a cause of laughter to me or my brother.

As harvest came on he took command in the field, for most of the harvest
help that year were rough, hardy wanderers from the south, nomads who
had followed the line of ripening wheat from Missouri northward, and
were not the most profitable companions for boys of fifteen. They
reached our neighborhood in July, arriving like a flight of alien
unclean birds, and vanished into the north in September as mysteriously
as they had appeared. A few of them had been soldiers, others were the
errant sons of the poor farmers and rough mechanics of older States,
migrating for the adventure of it. One of them gave his name as "Harry
Lee," others were known by such names as "Big Ed" or "Shorty." Some
carried valises, others had nothing but small bundles containing a clean
shirt and a few socks.

They all had the most appalling yet darkly romantic conception of women.
A "girl" was the most desired thing in the world, a prize to be worked
for, sought for and enjoyed without remorse. She had no soul. The maid
who yielded to temptation deserved no pity, no consideration, no aid.
Her sufferings were amusing, her diseases a joke, her future of no
account. From these men Burton and I acquired a desolating fund of
information concerning South Clark Street in Chicago, and the river
front in St. Louis. Their talk did not allure, it mostly shocked and
horrified us. We had not known that such cruelty, such baseness was in
the world and it stood away in such violent opposition to the teaching
of our fathers and uncles that it did not corrupt us. That man, the
stronger animal, owed chivalry and care to woman, had been deeply
grounded in our concept of life, and we shrank from these vile stories
as from something disloyal to our mothers and sisters.

To those who think of the farm as a sweetly ideal place in which to
bring up a boy, all this may be disturbing--but the truth is, low-minded
men are low-minded everywhere, and farm hands are often creatures with
enormous appetites and small remorse, men on whom the beauty of nature
has very little effect.

To most of our harvest hands that year Saturday night meant a visit to
town and a drunken spree, and they did not hesitate to say so in the
presence of Burton and myself. Some of them did not hesitate to say
anything in our presence. After a hard week's work we all felt that a
trip to town was only a fair reward.

Saturday night in town! How it all comes back to me! I am a timid
visitor in the little frontier village. It is sunset. A whiskey-crazed
farmhand is walking bare footed up and down the middle of the road
defying the world.--From a corner of the street I watch with tense
interest another lithe, pock-marked bully menacing with cat-like action,
a cowering young farmer in a long linen coat. The crowd jeers at him for
his cowardice--a burst of shouting is heard. A trampling follows and
forth from the door of a saloon bulges a throng of drunken, steaming,
reeling, cursing ruffians followed by brave Jim McCarty, the city
marshal, with an offender under each hand.--The scene changes to the
middle of the street. I am one of a throng surrounding a smooth-handed
faker who is selling prize boxes of soap and giving away dollars.--"Now,
gentlemen," he says, "if you will hand me a dollar I will give you a
sample package of soap to examine, afterwards if you don't want the
soap, return it to me, and I'll return your dollar." He repeats this
several times, returning the dollars faithfully, then slightly varies
his invitation by saying, "so that I can return your dollars."

No one appears to observe this significant change, and as he has
hitherto returned the dollars precisely according to promise, he now
proceeds to his harvest. Having all his boxes out he abruptly closes the
lid of his box and calmly remarks, "I said, 'so that I _can_ return your
dollars,' I didn't say I would.--Gentlemen, I have the dollars and _you_
have the experience." He drops into his seat and takes up the reins to
drive away. A tall man who has been standing silently beside the wheel
of the carriage, snatches the whip from its socket, and lashes the
swindler across the face. Red streaks appear on his cheek.--The crowd
surges forward. Up from behind leaps a furious little Scotchman who
snatches off his right boot and beats the stranger over the head with
such fury that he falls from his carriage to the ground.--I rejoice in
his punishment, and admire the tall man who led the assault.--The
marshal comes, the man is led away, and the crowd smilingly scatters.--

We are on the way home. Only two of my crew are with me. The others are
roaring from one drinking place to another, having a "good time." The
air is soothingly clean and sweet after the tumult and the reek of the
town. Appalled, yet fascinated, I listen to the oft repeated tales of
just how Jim McCarty sprang into the saloon and cleaned out the brawling
mob. I feel very young, very defenceless, and very sleepy as I

On Sunday, Burton usually came to visit me or I went over to his house
and together we rode or walked to service at the Grove school-house. He
was now the owner of a razor, and I was secretly planning to buy one.
The question of dress had begun to trouble us both acutely. Our best
suits were not only made from woolen cloth, they were of blizzard
weight, and as on week days (in summer) our entire outfit consisted of a
straw hat, a hickory shirt and a pair of brown denim overalls you may
imagine what tortures we endured when fully encased in our "Sunday
best," with starched shirts and paper collars.

No one, so far as I knew, at that time possessed an extra, light-weight
suit for hot-weather wear, although a long, yellow, linen robe called a
"duster" was in fashion among the smart dressers. John Gammons, who was
somewhat of a dandy in matters of toilet, was among the first of my
circle to purchase one of these very ultra garments, and Burton soon
followed his lead, and then my own discontent began. I, too, desired a

Unfortunately my father did not see me as I saw myself. To him I was
still a boy and subject to his will in matters of dress as in other
affairs, and the notion that I needed a linen coat was absurd. "If you
are too warm, take your coat off," he said, and I not only went without
the duster, but suffered the shame of appearing in a flat-crown black
hat while Burton and all the other fellows were wearing light brown
ones, of a conical shape.

I was furious. After a period of bitter brooding I rebelled, and took
the matter up with the Commander-in-Chief. I argued, "As I am not only
doing a man's work on a boy's pay but actually superintending the stock
and tools, I am entitled to certain individual rights in the choice of
a hat."

The soldier listened in silence but his glance was stern. When I had
ended he said, "You'll wear the hat I provide."

For the first time in my life I defied him. "I will not," I said. "And
you can't make me."

He seized me by the arm and for a moment we faced each other in silent
clash of wills. I was desperate now. "Don't you strike me," I warned.
"You can't do that any more."

His face changed. His eyes softened. He perceived in my attitude
something new, something unconquerable. He dropped my arm and turned
away. After a silent struggle with himself he took two dollars from his
pocket and extended them to me. "Get your own hat," he said, and walked

This victory forms the most important event of my fifteenth year. Indeed
the chief's recession gave me a greater shock than any punishment could
have done. Having forced him to admit the claims of my growing
personality as well as the value of my services, I retired in a panic.
The fact that he, the inexorable old soldier, had surrendered to my
furious demands awed me, making me very careful not to go too fast or
too far in my assumption of the privileges of manhood.

Another of the milestones on my road to manhood was my first employment
of the town barber. Up to this time my hair had been trimmed by mother
or mangled by one of the hired men,--whereas both John and Burton
enjoyed regular hair-cuts and came to Sunday school with the backs of
their necks neatly shaved. I wanted to look like that, and so at last,
shortly after my victory concerning the hat, I plucked up courage to ask
my father for a quarter and got it! With my money tightly clutched in
my hand I timidly entered the Tonsorial Parlor of Ed Mills and took my
seat in his marvellous chair--thus touching another high point on the
road to self-respecting manhood. My pleasure, however, was mixed with
ignoble childish terror, for not only did the barber seem determined to
force upon me a shampoo (which was ten cents extra), but I was in
unremitting fear lest I should lose my quarter, the only one I
possessed, and find myself accused as a swindler.

Nevertheless I came safely away, a neater, older and graver person,
walking with a manlier stride, and when I confronted my classmates at
the Grove school-house on Sunday, I gave evidence of an accession of
self-confidence. The fact that my back hair was now in fashionable order
was of greatest comfort to me. If only my trousers had not continued
their distressing habit of climbing up my boot-tops I would have been
almost at ease but every time I rose from my seat it became necessary to
make each instep smooth the leg of the other pantaloon, and even then
they kept their shameful wrinkles, and a knowledge of my exposed ankles
humbled me.

Burton, although better dressed than I, was quite as confused and
wordless in the presence of girls, but John Gammons was not only
confident, he was irritatingly facile. Furthermore, as son of the
director of the Sunday school he had almost too much distinction. I
bitterly resented his linen collars, his neat suit and his smiling
assurance, for while we professed to despise everything connected with
church, we were keenly aware of the bright eyes of Bettie and noted that
they rested often on John's curly head. He could sing, too, and
sometimes, with sublime audacity, held the hymn book with her.

The sweetness of those girlish faces held us captive through many a long
sermon, but there were times when not even their beauty availed. Three
or four of us occasionally slipped away into the glorious forest to pick
berries or nuts, or to loaf in the odorous shade of the elms along the
creek. The cool aisles of the oaks seemed more sweetly sanctifying
(after a week of sun-smit soil on the open plain) than the crowded
little church with its droning preacher, and there was something
mystical in the melody of the little brook and in the flecking of light
and shade across the silent woodland path.

To drink of the little ice-cold spring beneath the maple tree in
Frazer's pasture was almost as delight-giving as the plate of ice-cream
which we sometimes permitted ourselves to buy in the village on
Saturday, and often we wandered on and on, till the sinking sun warned
us of duties at home and sent us hurrying to the open.

It was always hard to go back to the farm after one of these days of
leisure--back to greasy overalls and milk-bespattered boots, back to the
society of fly-bedevilled cows and steaming, salty horses, back to the
curry-comb and swill bucket,--but it was particularly hard during this
our last summer on the prairie. But we did it with a feeling that we
were nearing the end of it. "Next year we'll be living in town!" I said
to the boys exultantly. "No more cow-milking for me!"

I never rebelled at hard, clean work, like haying or harvest, but the
slavery of being nurse to calves and scrub-boy to horses cankered my
spirits more and more, and the thought of living in town filled me with
an incredulous anticipatory delight. A life of leisure, of intellectual
activity seemed about to open up to me, and I met my chums in a
restrained exaltation which must have been trying to their souls. "I'm
sorry to leave you," I jeered, "but so it goes. Some are chosen, others
are left. Some rise to glory, others remain plodders--" such was my airy
attitude. I wonder that they did not roll me in the dust.

Though my own joy and that of my brother was keen and outspoken, I have
no recollection that my mother uttered a single word of pleasure. She
must have been as deeply excited, and as pleased as we, for it meant
more to her than to us, it meant escape from the drudgery of the farm,
from the pain of early rising, and yet I cannot be sure of her feeling.
So far as she knew this move was final. Her life as a farmer's wife was
about to end after twenty years of early rising and never ending labor,
and I think she must have palpitated with joy of her approaching freedom
from it all.

As we were not to move till the following March, and as winter came on
we went to school as usual in the bleak little shack at the corner of
our farm and took part in all the neighborhood festivals. I have
beautiful memories of trotting away across the plain to spelling schools
and "Lyceums" through the sparkling winter nights with Franklin by my
side, while the low-hung sky blazed with stars, and great white owls
went flapping silently away before us.--I am riding in a long sleigh to
the north beneath a wondrous moon to witness a performance of _Lord
Dundreary_ at the Barker school-house.--I am a neglected onlooker at a
Christmas tree at Burr Oak. I am spelled down at the Shehan school--and
through all these scenes runs a belief that I am leaving the district
never to return to it, a conviction which lends to every experience a
peculiar poignancy of appeal.

Though but a shaggy colt in those days, I acknowledged a keen longing to
join in the parties and dances of the grown-up boys and girls. I was not
content to be merely the unnoticed cub in the corner. A place in the
family bob-sled no longer satisfied me, and when at the "sociable" I
stood in the corner with tousled hair and clumsy ill-fitting garments I
was in my desire, a confident, graceful squire of dames.

The dancing was a revelation to me of the beauty and grace latent in the
awkward girls and hulking men of the farms. It amazed and delighted me
to see how gloriously Madeleine White swayed and tip-toed through the
figures of the "Cotillion," and the sweet aloofness of Agnes Farwell's
face filled me with worship. I envied Edwin Blackler his supple grace,
his fine sense of rhythm, and especially the calm audacity of his manner
with his partners. Bill, Joe, all the great lunking farm hands seemed
somehow uplifted, carried out of their everyday selves, ennobled by some
deep-seated emotion, and I was eager for a chance to show that I, too,
could balance and bow and pay court to women, but--alas, I never did, I
kept to my corner even though Stelle Gilbert came to drag me out.

Occasionally a half-dozen of these audacious young people would turn a
church social or donation party into a dance, much to the scandal of the
deacons. I recall one such performance which ended most dramatically. It
was a "shower" for the minister whose salary was too small to be even an
honorarium, and the place of meeting was at the Durrells', two
well-to-do farmers, brothers who lived on opposite sides of the road
just south of the Grove school-house.

Mother put up a basket of food, father cast a quarter of beef into the
back-part of the sleigh, and we were off early of a cold winter night in
order to be on hand for the supper. My brother and I were mere
passengers on the straw behind, along with the slab of beef, but we gave
no outward sign of discontent. It was a clear, keen, marvellous
twilight, with the stars coming out over the woodlands to the east. On
every road the sound of bells and the voices of happy young people came
to our ears. Occasionally some fellow with a fast horse and a gay cutter
came slashing up behind us and called out "Clear the track!" Father gave
the road, and the youth and his best girl went whirling by with a gay
word of thanks. Watch-dogs guarding the Davis farm-house, barked in
savage warning as we passed and mother said, "Everybody's gone. I hope
we won't be late."

We were, indeed, a little behind the others for when we stumbled into
the Ellis Durrell house we found a crowd of merry folks clustered about
the kitchen stove. Mrs. Ellis flattered me by saying, "The young people
are expecting you over at Joe's." Here she laughed, "I'm afraid they are
going to dance."

As soon as I was sufficiently thawed out I went across the road to the
other house which gave forth the sound of singing and the rhythmic tread
of dancing feet. It was filled to overflowing with the youth of the
neighborhood, and Agnes Farwell, Joe's niece, the queenliest of them
all, was leading the dance, her dark face aglow, her deep brown eyes

The dance was "The Weevilly Wheat" and Ed Blackler was her partner.
Against the wall stood Marsh Belford, a tall, crude, fierce young savage
with eyes fixed on Agnes. He was one of her suitors and mad with
jealousy of Blackler to whom she was said to be engaged. He was a
singular youth, at once bashful and baleful. He could not dance, and for
that reason keenly resented Ed's supple grace and easy manners with the

Crossing to where Burton stood, I heard Belford say as he replied to
some remark by his companions, "I'll roll him one o' these days." He
laughed in a constrained way, and that his mood was dangerous was
evident. In deep excitement Burton and I awaited the outcome.

The dancing was of the harmless "donation" sort. As musical instruments
were forbidden, the rhythm was furnished by a song in which we all
joined with clapping hands.

    Come hither, my love, and trip together
    In the morning early,
    Give to you the parting hand
    Although I love you dearly.
    I won't have none of your weevilly wheat
    I won't have none of your barley,
    I'll have some flour
    In half an hour
    To bake a cake for Charley.--
    Oh, Charley, he is a fine young man,
    Charley he is a dandy,
    Charley he is a fine young man
    For he buys the girls some candy.

The figures were like those in the old time "Money Musk" and as Agnes
bowed and swung and gave hands down the line I thought her the loveliest
creature in the world, and so did Marsh, only that which gladdened me,
maddened him. I acknowledged Edwin's superior claim,--Marsh did not.

Burton, who understood the situation, drew me aside and said, "Marsh has
been drinking. There's going to be war."

As soon as the song ceased and the dancers paused, Marsh, white with
resolution, went up to Agnes, and said something to her. She smiled, but
shook her head and turned away. Marsh came back to where his brother Joe
was standing and his face was tense with fury. "I'll make her wish she
hadn't," he muttered.

Edwin, as floor manager, now called out a new "set" and as the dancers
began to "form on," Joe Belford hunched his brother. "Go after him now,"
he said. With deadly slowness of action, Marsh sauntered up to Blackler
and said something in a low voice.

"You're a liar!" retorted Edwin sharply.

Belford struck out with a swing of his open hand, and a moment later
they were rolling on the floor in a deadly grapple. The girls screamed
and fled, but the boys formed a joyous ring around the contestants and
cheered them on to keener strife while Joe Belford, tearing off his
coat, stood above his brother, warning others to keep out of it. "This
is to be a fair fight," he said. "The best man wins!"

He was a redoubtable warrior and the ring widened. No one thought of
interfering, in fact we were all delighted by this sudden outbreak of
the heroic spirit.

Ed threw off his antagonist and rose, bleeding but undaunted. "You
devil," he said, "I'll smash your face."

Marsh again struck him a staggering blow, and they were facing each
other in watchful fury as Agnes forced her way through the crowd and,
laying her hand on Belford's arm, calmly said, "Marsh Belford, what are
you doing?"

Her dignity, her beauty, her air of command, awed the bully and silenced
every voice in the room. She was our hostess and as such assumed the
right to enforce decorum. Fixing her glance upon Joe whom she recognized
as the chief disturber, she said, "You'd better go home. This is no
place for either you or Marsh."

Sobered, shamed, the Belfords fell back and slipped out while Agnes
turned to Edwin and wiped the blood from his face with self-contained

       *       *       *       *       *

This date may be taken as fairly ending my boyhood, for I was rapidly
taking on the manners of men. True, I did not smoke or chew tobacco and
I was not greatly given to profanity, but I was able to shoulder a two
bushel sack of wheat and could hold my own with most of the harvesters.
Although short and heavy, I was deft with my hands, as one or two of
the neighborhood bullies had reason to know and in many ways I was
counted a man.

I read during this year nearly one hundred dime novels, little
paper-bound volumes filled with stories of Indians and wild horsemen and
dukes and duchesses and men in iron masks, and sewing girls who turned
out to be daughters of nobility, and marvellous detectives who bore
charmed lives and always trapped the villains at the end of the story--

Of all these tales, those of the border naturally had most allurement.
There was the _Quaker Sleuth_, for instance, and _Mad Matt the Trailer_,
and _Buckskin Joe_ who rode disdainfully alone (like Lochinvar),
rescuing maidens from treacherous Apaches, cutting long rows of death
notches on the stock of his carbine. One of these narratives contained a
phantom troop of skeleton horsemen, a grisly squadron, which came like
an icy wind out of the darkness, striking terror to the hearts of the
renegades and savages, only to vanish with clatter of bones, and click
of hoofs.

In addition to these delight-giving volumes, I traded stock with other
boys of the neighborhood. From Jack Sheet I derived a bundle of
_Saturday Nights_ in exchange for my _New York Weeklys_ and from one of
our harvest hands, a near-sighted old German, I borrowed some
twenty-five or thirty numbers of _The Sea Side Library_. These also cost
a dime when new, but you could return them and get a nickel in credit
for another,--provided your own was in good condition.

It is a question whether the reading of all this exciting fiction had an
ill effect on my mind or not. Apparently it had very little effect of
any sort other than to make the borderland a great deal more exciting
than the farm, and yet so far as I can discover, I had no keen desire to
go West and fight Indians and I showed no disposition to rob or murder
in the manner of my heroes. I devoured _Jack Harkaway_ and _The Quaker
Sleuth_ precisely as I played ball--to pass the time and because I
enjoyed the game.

Deacon Garland was highly indignant with my father for permitting such
reading, and argued against it furiously, but no one paid much attention
to his protests--especially after we caught the old gentleman sitting
with a very lurid example of "The Damnable Lies" open in his hand. "I
was only looking into it to see how bad it was," he explained.

Father was so tickled at the old man's downfall that he said, "Stick to
it till you find how it turns out."

Grandsire, we all perceived, was human after all. I think we liked him
rather better after this sign of weakness.

It would not be fair to say that we read nothing else but these
easy-going tales. As a matter of fact, I read everything within reach,
even the copy of _Paradise Lost_ which my mother presented to me on my
fifteenth birthday. Milton I admit was hard work, but I got considerable
joy out of his cursing passages. The battle scenes also interested me
and I went about spouting the extraordinary harangues of Satan with such
vigor that my team one day took fright of me, and ran away with the
plow, leaving an erratic furrow to be explained. However, my father was
glad to see me taking on the voice of the orator.

The five years of life on this farm had brought swift changes into my
world. Nearly all the open land had been fenced and plowed, and all the
cattle and horses had been brought into pasture, and around most of the
buildings, groves of maples were beginning to make the homesteads a
little less barren and ugly. And yet with all these growing signs of
prosperity I realized that something sweet and splendid was dying out of
the prairie. The whistling pigeons, the wailing plover, the migrating
ducks and geese, the soaring cranes, the shadowy wolves, the wary foxes,
all the untamed things were passing, vanishing with the blue-joint
grass, the dainty wild rose and the tiger-lily's flaming torch.
Settlement was complete.


A Taste of Village Life

The change from farm to village life, though delightful, was not so
complete as we had anticipated, for we not only carried with us several
cows and a span of horses, but the house which we had rented stood at
the edge of town and possessed a large plot; therefore we not only
continued to milk cows and curry horses, but set to work at once
planting potatoes and other vegetables almost as if still upon the farm.
The soil had been poorly cultivated for several years, and the weeds
sprang up like dragons' teeth. Work, it seemed, was not to be escaped
even in the city.

Though a little resentful of this labor and somewhat disappointed in our
dwelling, we were vastly excited by certain phases of our new
surroundings. To be within a few minutes' walk of the postoffice, and to
be able to go to the store at any moment, were conditions quite as
satisfactory as we had any right to expect. Also we slept later, for my
father was less disposed to get us out of bed at dawn and this in itself
was an enormous gain, especially to my mother.

Osage, a small town, hardly more than a village, was situated on the
edge of a belt of hardwood timber through which the Cedar River ran, and
was quite commonplace to most people but to me it was both mysterious
and dangerous, for it was the home of an alien tribe, hostile and
pitiless--"The Town Boys."

Up to this time I had both hated and feared them, knowing that they
hated and despised me, and now, suddenly I was thrust among them and put
on my own defenses. For a few weeks I felt like a young rooster in a
strange barn-yard,--knowing that I would be called upon to prove my
quality. In fact it took but a week or two to establish my place in the
tribe for one of the leaders of the gang was Mitchell Scott, a powerful
lad of about my own age, and to his friendship I owe a large part of my
freedom from persecution.

Uncle David came to see us several times during the spring and his talk
was all about "going west." He was restless under the conditions of his
life on a farm. I don't know why this was so, but a growing bitterness
clouded his voice. Once I heard him say, "I don't know what use I am in
the world. I am a failure." This was the first note of doubt, of
discouragement that I had heard from any member of my family and it made
a deep impression on me. Disillusionment had begun.

During the early part of the summer my brother and I worked in the
garden with frequent days off for fishing, swimming and berrying, and we
were entirely content with life. No doubts assailed us. We swam in the
pond at Rice's Mill and we cast our hooks in the sunny ripples below it.
We saw the circus come to town and go into camp on a vacant lot, and we
attended every movement of it with a delicious sense of leisure. We
could go at night with no long ride to take after it was over.--The
fourth of July came to seek us this year and we had but to step across
the way to see a ball-game. We were at last in the center of our world.

In June my father called me to help in the elevator and this turned out
to be a most informing experience. "The Street," as it was called, was
merely a wagon road which ran along in front of a row of wheat
ware-houses of various shapes and sizes, from which the buyers emerged
to meet the farmers as they drove into town. Two or three or more of the
men would clamber upon the load, open the sacks, sample the grain and
bid for it. If one man wanted the load badly, or if he chanced to be in
a bad temper, the farmer was the gainer. Hence very few of them, even
the members of the Grange, were content to drive up to my father's
elevator and take the honest market price. They were all hoping to get a
little more than the market price.

This vexed and embittered my father who often spoke of it to me. "It
only shows," he said, "how hard it will be to work out any reform among
the farmers. They will never stand together. These other buyers will
force me off the market and then there will be no one here to represent
the farmers' interest."

These merchants interested me greatly. Humorous, self-contained,
remorseless in trade, they were most delightful companions when off
duty. They liked my father in his private capacity, but as a factor of
the Grange he was an enemy. Their kind was new to me and I loved to
linger about and listen to their banter when there was nothing else to

One of them by reason of his tailor-made suit and a large ring on his
little finger, was especially attractive to me. He was a handsome man of
a sinister type, and I regarded his expressionless face as that of a
gambler. I didn't know that he was a poker player but it amused me to
think so. Another buyer was a choleric Cornishman whom the other men
sometimes goaded into paying five or six cents more than the market
admitted, by shrewdly playing on his hot temper. A third was a tall
gaunt old man of New England type, obstinate, honest, but of sanguine
temperament. He was always on the bull side of the market and a loud
debater.--The fourth, a quiet little man of smooth address, acted as

Among these men my father moved as an equal, notwithstanding the fact of
his country training and prejudices, and it was through the man Morley
that we got our first outlook upon the bleak world of Agnosticism, for
during the summer a series of lectures by Robert Ingersoll was reported
in one of the Chicago papers and the West rang with the controversy.

On Monday as soon as the paper came to town it was the habit of the
grain-buyers to gather at their little central office, and while Morley,
the man with the seal ring, read the lecture aloud, the others listened
and commented on the heresies. Not all were sympathizers with the great
iconoclast, and the arguments which followed were often heated and
sometimes fiercely personal.

After they had quite finished with the paper, I sometimes secured it for
myself, and hurrying back to my office in the elevator pored over it
with intense zeal. Undoubtedly my father as well as I was profoundly
influenced by "The Mistakes of Moses." The faith in which we had been
reared had already grown dim, and under the light of Ingersoll's
remorseless humor most of our superstitions vanished. I do not think my
father's essential Christianity was in any degree diminished, he merely
lost his respect for certain outworn traditions and empty creeds.

My work consisted in receiving the grain and keeping the elevator going
and as I weighed the sacks, made out checks for the payment and kept the
books--in all ways taking a man's place,--I lost all sense of being a

The motive power of our hoisting machinery was a blind horse, a handsome
fellow weighing some fifteen hundred pounds, and it was not long before
he filled a large space in my thoughts. There was something appealing
in his sightless eyes, and I never watched him (as he patiently went his
rounds in the dusty shed) without pity. He had a habit of kicking the
wall with his right hind foot at a certain precise point as he circled,
and a deep hollow in the sill attested his accuracy. He seemed to do
this purposely--to keep count, as I imagined, of his dreary circling
through sunless days.

A part of my duty was to watch the fanning mill (in the high cupola) in
order that the sieves should not clog. Three flights of stairs led to
the mill and these had to be mounted many times each day. I always ran
up the steps when the mill required my attention, but in coming down I
usually swung from beam to beam, dropping from footway to footway like a
monkey from a tall tree. My mother in seeing me do this called out in
terror, but I assured her that there was not the slightest danger--and
this was true, for I was both sure-footed and sure-handed in those days.

This was a golden summer for us all. My mother found time to read. My
father enjoyed companionship with the leading citizens of the town,
while Franklin, as first assistant in a candy store, professed himself
to be entirely content. My own holidays were spent in fishing or in
roving the woods with Mitchell and George, but on Sundays the entire
family dressed for church as for a solemn social function, fully alive
to the dignity of Banker Brush, and the grandeur of Congressman Deering
who came to service regularly--but on foot, so intense was the spirit of
democracy among us.

Theoretically there were no social distinctions in Osage, but after all
a large house and a two seated carriage counted, and my mother's
visitors were never from the few pretentious homes of the town but from
the farms. However, I do not think she worried over her social position
and I know she welcomed callers from Dry Run and Burr Oak with cordial
hospitality. She was never envious or bitter.

In spite of my busy life, I read more than ever before, and everything I
saw or heard made a deep and lasting record on my mind. I recall with a
sense of gratitude a sermon by the preacher in the Methodist Church
which profoundly educated me. It was the first time I had ever heard the
power of art and the value of its mission to man insisted upon. What was
right and what was wrong had been pointed out to me, but things of
beauty were seldom mentioned.

With most eloquent gestures, with a face glowing with enthusiasm, the
young orator enumerated the beautiful phases of nature. He painted the
starry sky, the sunset clouds, and the purple hills in words of
prismatic hue and his rapturous eloquence held us rigid. "We have been
taught," he said in effect, "that beauty is a snare of the evil one;
that it is a lure to destroy, but I assert that God desires loveliness
and hates ugliness. He loves the shimmering of dawn, the silver light on
the lake and the purple and snow of every summer cloud. He honors bright
colors, for has he not set the rainbow in the heavens and made water to
reflect the moon? He prefers joy and pleasure to hate and despair. He is
not a God of pain, of darkness and ugliness, he is a God of beauty, of
delight, of consolation."

In some such strain he continued, and as his voice rose in fervent chant
and his words throbbed with poetry, the sunlight falling through the
window-pane gave out a more intense radiance, and over the faces of the
girls, a more entrancing color fell. He opened my eyes to a new world,
the world of art.

I recognized in this man not only a moving orator but a scholar and I
went out from that little church vaguely resolved to be a student also,
a student of the beautiful. My father was almost equally moved and we
all went again and again to hear our young evangel speak but never again
did he touch my heart. That one discourse was his contribution to my
education and I am grateful to him for it. In after life I had the
pleasure of telling him how much he had suggested to me in that sermon.

There was much to allure a farmer boy in the decorum of well-dressed men
and the grace of daintily clad women as well as in the music and the dim
interior of the church (which seemed to me of great dignity and charm)
and I usually went both morning and evening to watch the regal daughters
of the county aristocracy go up the aisle. I even joined a Sunday school
class because charming Miss Culver was the teacher. Outwardly a stocky,
ungraceful youth, I was inwardly a bold squire of romance, needing only
a steed and a shield to fight for my lady love. No one could be more
essentially romantic than I was at this time--but fortunately no one
knew it!

Mingling as I did with young people who had been students at the
Seminary, I naturally developed a new ambition. I decided to enter for
the autumn term, and to that end gained from my father a leave of
absence during August and hired myself out to bind grain in the harvest
field. I demanded full wages and when one blazing hot day I rode on a
shining new Marsh harvester into a field of wheat just south of the Fair
Ground, I felt myself a man, and entering upon a course which put me
nearer the clothing and the education I desired.

Binding on a harvester was desperately hard work for a sixteen-year-old
boy for it called for endurance of heat and hunger as well as for
unusual celerity and precision of action. But as I considered myself
full-grown physically, I could not allow myself a word of complaint. I
kept my place beside my partner hour after hour, taking care of my half
of ten acres of grain each day. My fingers, raw and bleeding with the
briars and smarting with the rust on the grain, were a torture but I
persisted to the end of harvest. In this way I earned enough money to
buy myself a Sunday suit, some new boots and the necessary books for the
seminary term which began in September.

Up to this time I had never owned an overcoat nor a suit that fitted me.
My shirts had always been made by my mother and had no real cuffs. I now
purchased two boxes of paper cuffs and a real necktie. My intense
satisfaction in these garments made mother smile with pleasure and
understanding humor.

In spite of my store suit and my high-heeled calf-skin boots I felt very
humble as I left our lowly roof that first day and started for the
chapel. To me the brick building standing in the center of its ample
yard was as imposing as I imagine the Harper Memorial Library must be to
the youngster of today as he enters the University of Chicago.

To enter the chapel meant running the gauntlet of a hundred citified
young men and women, fairly entitled to laugh at a clod-jumper like
myself, and I would have balked completely had not David Pointer, a
neighbor's son, volunteered to lead the way. Gratefully I accepted his
offer, and so passed for the first time into the little hall which came
to mean so much to me in after years.

It was a large room swarming with merry young people and the Corinthian
columns painted on the walls, the pipe organ, the stately professors on
the platform, the self-confident choir, were all of such majesty that I
was reduced to hare-like humility. What right had I to share in this
splendor? Sliding hurriedly into a seat I took refuge in the obscurity
which my youth and short stature guaranteed to me.

Soon Professor Bush, the principal of the school, gentle, blue-eyed,
white-haired, with a sweet and mellow voice, rose to greet the old
pupils and welcome the new ones, and his manner so won my confidence
that at the close of the service I went to him and told him who I was.
Fortunately he remembered my sister Harriet, and politely said, "I am
glad to see you, Hamlin," and from that moment I considered him a
friend, and an almost infallible guide.

The school was in truth a very primitive institution, hardly more than a
high school, but it served its purpose. It gave farmers' boys like
myself the opportunity of meeting those who were older, finer, more
learned than they, and every day was to me like turning a fresh and
delightful page in a story book, not merely because it brought new
friends, new experiences, but because it symbolized freedom from the hay
fork and the hoe. Learning was easy for me. In all but mathematics I
kept among the highest of my class without much effort, but it was in
the "Friday Exercises" that I earliest distinguished myself.

It was the custom at the close of every week's work to bring a section
of the pupils upon the platform as essayists or orators, and these
"exercises" formed the most interesting and the most passionately
dreaded feature of the entire school. No pupil who took part in it ever
forgot his first appearance. It was at once a pillory and a burning. It
called for self-possession, memory, grace of gesture and a voice!

My case is typical. For three or four days before my first ordeal, I
could not eat. A mysterious uneasiness developed in my solar plexus, a
pain which never left me--except possibly in the morning before I had
time to think. Day by day I drilled and drilled and drilled, out in the
fields at the edge of the town or at home when mother was away, in the
barn while milking--at every opportunity I went through my selection
with most impassioned voice and lofty gestures, sustained by the legends
of Webster and Demosthenes, resolved upon a blazing victory. I did
everything but mumble a smooth pebble--realizing that most of the boys
in my section were going through precisely the same struggle. Each of us
knew exactly how the others felt, and yet I cannot say that we displayed
acute sympathy one with another; on the contrary, those in the free
section considered the antics of the suffering section a very amusing
spectacle and we were continually being "joshed" about our lack of

The test was, in truth, rigorous. To ask a bashful boy or shy girl fresh
from the kitchen to walk out upon a platform and face that crowd of
mocking students was a kind of torture. No desk was permitted. Each
victim stood bleakly exposed to the pitiless gaze of three hundred eyes,
and as most of us were poorly dressed, in coats that never fitted and
trousers that climbed our boot-tops, we suffered the miseries of the
damned. The girls wore gowns which they themselves had made, and were,
of course, equally self-conscious. The knowledge that their sleeves did
not fit was of more concern to them than the thought of breaking
down--but the fear of forgetting their lines also contributed to their
dread and terror.

While the names which preceded mine were called off that first
afternoon, I grew colder and colder till at last I shook with a nervous
chill, and when, in his smooth, pleasant tenor, Prof. Bush called out
"Hamlin Garland" I rose in my seat with a spring like Jack from his box.
My limbs were numb, so numb that I could scarcely feel the floor beneath
my feet and the windows were only faint gray glares of light. My head
oscillated like a toy balloon, seemed indeed to be floating in the air,
and my heart was pounding like a drum.

However, I had pondered upon this scene so long and had figured my
course so exactly that I made all the turns with moderate degree of
grace and succeeded finally in facing my audience without falling up the
steps (as several others had done) and so looked down upon my fellows
like Tennyson's eagle on the sea. In that instant a singular calm fell
over me, I became strangely master of myself. From somewhere above me a
new and amazing power fell upon me and in that instant I perceived on
the faces of my classmates a certain expression of surprise and serious
respect. My subconscious oratorical self had taken charge.

I do not at present recall what my recitation was, but it was probably
_Catiline's Defense_ or some other of the turgid declamatory pieces of
classic literature with which all our readers were filled. It was
bombastic stuff, but my blind, boyish belief in it gave it dignity. As I
went on my voice cleared. The window sashes regained their outlines. I
saw every form before me, and the look of surprise and pleasure on the
smiling face of my principal exalted me.

Closing amid hearty applause, I stepped down with a feeling that I had
won a place among the orators of the school, a belief which did no harm
to others and gave me a good deal of satisfaction. As I had neither
money nor clothes, and was not of figure to win admiration, why should I
not express the pride I felt in my power to move an audience? Besides I
was only sixteen!

The principal spoke to me afterwards, both praising and criticising my
method. The praise I accepted, the criticism I naturally resented. I
realized some of my faults of course, but I was not ready to have even
Prof. Bush tell me of them. I hated "elocution" drill in class, I
relied on "inspiration." I believed that orators were born, not made.

There was one other speaker in my section, a little girl, considerably
younger than myself, who had the mysterious power of the born actress,
and I recognized this quality in her at once. I perceived that she spoke
from a deep-seated, emotional, Celtic impulse. Hardly more than a child
in years, she was easily the most dramatic reader in the school. She
too, loved tragic prose and passionate, sorrowful verse and to hear her

    One of them dead in the East by the sea
    And one of them dead in the West by the sea,

was to be shaken by inexplicable emotion. Her face grew pale as silver
as she went on and her eyes darkened with the anguish of the poet

Most of the students were the sons and daughters of farmers round about
the county, but a few were from the village homes in western Iowa and
southern Minnesota. Two or three boys wore real tailor-made suits, and
the easy flow of their trouser legs and the set of their linen collars
rendered me at once envious and discontented. "Some day," I said to
myself, "I too, will have a suit that will not gape at the neck and
crawl at the ankle," but I did not rise to the height of expecting a
ring and watch.

Shoes were just coming into fashion and one young man wore pointed "box
toes" which filled all the rest of us with despair. John Cutler also
wore collars of linen--real linen--which had to be laundered, but few of
us dared fix our hopes as high as that. John also owned three neckties,
and wore broad cuffs with engraved gold buttons, and on Fridays waved
these splendors before our eyes with a malicious satisfaction which
aroused our hatred. Of such complexion are the tragedies and triumphs of

How I envied Arthur Peters his calm and haughty bearing! Most of us
entered chapel like rabbits sneaking down a turnip patch, but Arthur and
John and Walter loitered in with the easy and assured manner of Senators
or Generals--so much depends upon leather and prunella. Gradually I lost
my terror of this ordeal, but I took care to keep behind some friendly
bulk like young Blakeslee, who stood six feet two in his gaiters.

With all these anxieties I loved the school and could hardly be wrested
from it even for a day. I bent to my books with eagerness, I joined a
debating society, and I took a hand at all the games. The days went by
on golden, noiseless, ball-bearing axles--and almost before I realized
it, winter was upon the land. But oh! the luxury of that winter, with no
snow drifts to climb, no corn-stalks to gather and no long walk to
school. It was sweet to wake each morning in the shelter of our little
house and know that another day of delightful schooling was ours. Our
hands softened and lightened. Our walk became each day less of a
"galumping plod." The companionship of bright and interesting young
people, and the study of well-dressed men and women in attendance upon
lectures and socials was a part of our instruction and had their
refining effect upon us, graceless colts though we were.

Sometime during this winter Wendell Phillips came to town and lectured
on _The Lost Arts_. My father took us all to see and hear this orator
hero of his boyhood days in Boston.

I confess to a disappointment in the event. A tall old gentleman with
handsome clean-cut features, rose from behind the pulpit in the
Congregational Church, and read from a manuscript--read quietly,
colloquially, like a teacher addressing a group of students, with
scarcely a gesture and without raising his voice. Only once toward the
end of the hour did he thrill us, and then only for a moment.

Father was a little saddened. He shook his head gravely. "He isn't the
orator he was in the good old anti-slavery days," he explained and
passed again into a glowing account of the famous "slave speech" in
Faneuil Hall when the pro-slavery men all but mobbed the speaker.

Per contra, I liked, (and the boys all liked) a certain peripatetic
temperance lecturer named Beale, for _he_ was an orator, one of those
who rise on an impassioned chant, soaring above the snows of Chimborazo,
mingling the purple and gold of sunset with the saffron and silver of
the dawn. None of us could tell just what these gorgeous passages meant,
but they were beautiful while they lasted, and sadly corrupted our
oratorical style. It took some of us twenty years to recover from the
fascination of this man's absurd and high falutin' elocutionary

I forgot the farm, I forgot the valley of my birth, I lived wholly and
with joy in the present. Song, poetry, history mingled with the sports
which made our life so unceasingly interesting. There was a certain
girl, the daughter of the shoe merchant, who (temporarily) displaced the
image of Agnes in the niche of my shrine, and to roll the platter for
her at a "sociable" was a very high honor indeed, and there was another,
a glorious contralto singer, much older than I--but there--I must not
claim to have even attracted her eyes, and my meetings with Millie were
so few and so public that I cannot claim to have ever conversed with
her. They were all boyish adorations.

Much as I enjoyed this winter, greatly as it instructed me, I cannot now
recover from its luminous dark more than here and there an incident, a
poem, a song. It was all delightful, that I know, so filled with joyous
hours that I retain but a mingled impression of satisfaction and
regret--satisfaction with life as I found it, regret at its inevitable
ending--for my father, irritated by the failure of his renter, announced
that he had decided to put us all back upon the farm.


Back to the Farm

Judging from the entries in a small diary of this date, I was neither an
introspective youth nor one given to precocious literary subtleties.

On March 27th, 1877, I made this entry; "Today we move back upon the

This is all of it! No more, no less. Not a word to indicate whether I
regretted the decision or welcomed it, and from subsequent equally bald
notes, I derive the information that my father retained his position as
grain buyer, and that he drove back and forth daily over the five miles
which lay between the farm and the elevator. There is no mention of my
mother, no hint as to how she felt, although the return to the
loneliness and drudgery of the farm must have been as grievous to her as
to her sons.

Our muscles were soft and our heads filled with new ambitions but there
was no alternative. It was "back to the field," or "out into the cold,
cold world," so forth we went upon the soil in the old familiar way,
there to plod to and fro endlessly behind the seeder and the harrow. It
was harder than ever to follow a team for ten hours over the soft
ground, and early rising was more difficult than it had ever been
before, but I discovered some compensations which helped me bear these
discomforts. I saw more of the beauty of the landscape and I now had an
aspiration to occupy my mind.

My memories of the Seminary, the echoes of the songs we had heard, gave
the morning chorus of the prairie chickens a richer meaning than before.
The west wind, laden with the delicious smell of uncovered earth, the
tender blue of the sky, the cheerful chirping of the ground sparrows,
the jocund whistling of the gophers, the winding flight of the prairie
pigeons--all these sights and sounds of spring swept back upon me,
bringing something sweeter and more significant than before. I had
gained in perception and also in the power to assimilate what I

This year in town had other far-reaching effects. It tended to warp us
from our father's designs. It placed the rigorous, filthy drudgery of
the farm-yard in sharp contrast with the carefree companionable
existence led by my friends in the village, and we longed to be of their
condition. We had gained our first set of comparative ideas, and with
them an unrest which was to carry us very far away.

True, neither Burton nor I had actually shared the splendors of
Congressman Deering's house but we had obtained revelatory glimpses of
its well-kept lawn, and through the open windows we had watched the
waving of its lace curtains. We had observed also how well Avery Brush's
frock coat fitted and we comprehended something of the elegant leisure
which the sons and daughters of Wm. Petty's general store enjoyed.

Over against these comforts, these luxurious conditions, we now set our
ugly little farmhouse, with its rag carpets, its battered furniture, its
barren attic, and its hard, rude beds.--All that we possessed seemed
very cheap and deplorably commonplace.

My brother, who had passed a vivid and wonderful year riding race
horses, clerking in an ice cream parlor, with frequent holidays of
swimming and baseball, also went groaning and grumbling to the fields.
He too resented the curry-comb and the dung fork. We both loathed the
smell of manure and hated the greasy clothing which our tasks made
necessary. Secretly we vowed that when we were twenty-one we would leave
the farm, never to return to it. However, as the ground dried off, and
the grass grew green in the door-yard some part of this bitterness, this
resentment, faded away, and we made no further complaint.

My responsibilities were now those of a man. I was nearly full grown,
quick and powerful of hand, and vain of my strength, which was, in fact,
unusual and of decided advantage to me. Nothing ever really tired me
out. I could perform any of my duties with ease, and none of the men
under me ever presumed to question my authority. As harvest came on I
took my place on our new Marsh harvester, and bound my half of over one
hundred acres of heavy grain.

The crop that year was enormous. At times, as I looked out over the
billowing acres of wheat which must not only be reaped and bound and
shocked and stacked but also threshed, before there was the slightest
chance of my returning to the Seminary, my face grew long and my heart

Burton shared this feeling, for he, too, had become profoundly
interested in the Seminary and was eager to return, eager to renew the
friendships he had gained. We both wished to walk once more beneath the
maple trees in clean well-fitting garments, and above all we hungered to
escape the curry-comb and the cow.

Both of us retained our membership in the Adelphian Debating Society,
and occasionally drove to town after the day's work to take part in the
Monday meetings. Having decided, definitely, to be an orator, I now went
about with a copy of Shakespeare in my pocket and ranted the immortal
soliloquies of _Hamlet_ and _Richard_ as I held the plow, feeling
certain that I was following in the footprints of Lincoln and

Sundays brought a special sweet relief that summer, a note of finer
poetry into all our lives, for often after a bath behind the barn we put
on clean shirts and drove away to Osage to meet George and Mitchell, or
went to church to see some of the girls we had admired at the Seminary.
On other Sabbaths we returned to our places at the Burr Oak
school-house, enjoying as we used to do, a few hours' forgetfulness of
the farm.

My father, I am glad to say, never insisted upon any religious
observance on the part of his sons, and never interfered with any
reasonable pleasure even on Sunday. If he made objection to our trips it
was usually on behalf of the cattle. "Go where you please," he often
said, "only get back in time to do the milking." Sometimes he would ask,
"Don't you think the horses ought to have a rest as well as yourselves?"
He was a stern man but a just man, and I am especially grateful to him
for his non-interference with my religious affairs.

All that summer and all the fall I worked like a hired man, assuming in
addition the responsibilities of being boss. I bound grain until my arms
were raw with briars and in stacking-time I wallowed round and round
upon my knees, building great ricks of grain, taking obvious pride in
the skill which this task required until my trousers, reinforced at the
knees, bagged ungracefully and my hands, swollen with the act of
grappling the heavy bundles as they were thrown to me, grew horny and
brown and clumsy, so that I quite despaired of ever being able to write
another letter. I was very glad not to have my Seminary friends see me
in this unlovely condition.

However, I took a well-defined pride in stacking, for it was a test of
skill. It was clean work. Even now, as I ride a country lane, and see
men at work handling oats or hay, I recall the pleasurable sides of work
on the farm and long to return to it.

The radiant sky of August and September on the prairie was a never
failing source of delight to me. Nature seemed resting, opulent,
self-satisfied and honorable. Every phase of the landscape indicated a
task fulfilled. There were still and pulseless days when slaty-blue
clouds piled up in the west and came drifting eastward with thunderous
accompaniment, to break the oppressive heat and leave the earth cool and
fresh from having passed. There were misty, windy days when the
sounding, southern breeze swept the yellow stubble like a scythe; when
the sky, without a cloud, was whitened by an overspreading haze; when
the crickets sang sleepily as if in dream of eternal summer; and the
grasshoppers clicked and buzzed from stalk to stalk in pure delight of
sunshine and the harvest.

Another humbler source of pleasure in stacking was the watermelon which,
having been picked in the early morning and hidden under the edge of the
stack, remained deliciously cool till mid-forenoon, when at a signal,
the men all gathered in the shadow of the rick, and leisurely ate their
fill of juicy "mountain sweets." Then there was the five o'clock supper,
with its milk and doughnuts and pie which sent us back to our
task--replete, content, ready for another hour of toil.

Of course, there were unpleasant days later in the month, noons when the
skies were filled with ragged, swiftly moving clouds, and the winds blew
the sheaves inside out and slashed against my face the flying grain as
well as the leaping crickets. Such days gave prophecy of the passing of
summer and the coming of fall. But there was a mitigating charm even in
these conditions, for they were all welcome promises of an early return
to school.

Crickets during stacking time were innumerable and voracious as rust or
fire. They ate our coats or hats if we left them beside the stack. They
gnawed the fork handles and devoured any straps that were left lying
about, but their multitudinous song was a beautiful inwrought part of
the symphony.

That year the threshing was done in the fields with a traction engine.
My uncle David came no more to help us harvest. He had almost passed out
of our life, and I have no recollection of him till several years later.
Much of the charm, the poetry of the old-time threshing vanished with
the passing of horse power and the coming of the nomadic hired hand.
There was less and less of the "changing works" which used to bring the
young men of the farms together. The grain was no longer stacked round
the stable. Most of it we threshed in the field and the straw after
being spread out upon the stubble was burned. Some farmers threshed
directly from the shock, and the new "Vibrator" took the place of the
old Buffalo Pitts Separator with its ringing bell-metal pinions. Wheeled
plows were common and self-binding harvesters were coming in.

Although my laconic little diary does not show it, I was fiercely
resolved upon returning to the Seminary. My father was not very
sympathetic. In his eyes I already had a very good equipment for the
battle of life, but mother, with a woman's ready understanding, divined
that I had not merely set my heart on graduating at the Seminary, but
that I was secretly dreaming of another and far more romantic career
than that of being a farmer. Although a woman of slender schooling
herself, she responded helpfully to every effort which her sons made to
raise themselves above the commonplace level of neighborhood life.

All through the early fall whenever Burton and I met the other boys of a
Sunday our talk was sure to fall upon the Seminary, and Burton stoutly
declared that he, too, was going to begin in September. As a matter of
fact the autumn term opened while we were still hard at work around a
threshing machine with no definite hope of release till the plowing and
corn-husking were over. Our fathers did not seem to realize that the men
of the future (even the farmers of the future) must have a considerable
amount of learning and experience, and so October went by and November
was well started before parole was granted and we were free to return to
our books.

With what sense of liberty, of exultation, we took our way down the road
on that gorgeous autumn morning! No more dust, no more grime, no more
mud, no more cow milking, no more horse currying! For five months we
were to live the lives of scholars, of boarders.--Yes, through some
mysterious channel our parents had been brought to the point of engaging
lodgings for us in the home of a townsman named Leete. For two dollars a
week it was arranged that we could eat and sleep from Monday night to
Friday noon, but we were not expected to remain for supper on Friday;
and Sunday supper, was of course, extra. I thought this a great deal of
money then, but I cannot understand at this distance how our landlady
was able to provide, for that sum, the raw material of her kitchen, to
say nothing of bed linen and soap.

The house, which stood on the edge of the town, was small and without
upstairs heat, but it seemed luxurious to me, and the family straightway
absorbed my interest. Leete, the nominal head of the establishment, was
a short, gray, lame and rather inefficient man of changeable temper who
teamed about the streets with a span of roans almost as dour and
crippled as himself. His wife, who did nearly all the housework for five
boarders as well as for the members of her own family, was a soul of
heroic pride and most indomitable energy. She was a tall, dark, thin
woman who had once been handsome. Poor creature--how incessantly she
toiled, and how much she endured!

She had three graceful and alluring daughters,--Ella, nineteen, Cora,
sixteen, and Martha, a quiet little mouse of about ten years of age.
Ella was a girl of unusual attainment, a teacher, self-contained and
womanly, with whom we all, promptly, fell in love. Cora, a moody,
dark-eyed, passionate girl who sometimes glowed with friendly smiles and
sometimes glowered in anger, was less adored. Neither of them considered
Burton or myself worthy of serious notice. On the contrary, we were
necessary nuisances.

To me Ella was a queen, a kindly queen, ever ready to help me out with
my algebra. Everything she did seemed to me instinct with womanly grace.
No doubt she read the worship in my eyes, but her attitude was that of
an older sister. Cora, being nearer my own age, awed me not at all. On
the contrary, we were more inclined to battle than to coo. Her coolness
toward me, I soon discovered, was sustained by her growing interest in a
young man from Cerro Gordo County.

We were a happy, noisy gang, and undoubtedly gave poor Mrs. Leete a
great deal of trouble. There was Boggs (who had lost part of one ear in
some fracas with Jack Frost) who paced up and down his room declining
Latin verbs with painful pertinacity, and Burton who loved a jest but
never made one, and Joe Pritchard, who was interested mainly in politics
and oratory, and finally that criminally well-dressed young book agent
(with whom we had very little in common) and myself. In cold weather we
all herded in the dining room to keep from freezing, and our weekly
scrub took place after we got home to our own warm kitchens and the
family wash-tubs.

Life was a pure joy to Burton as to me. Each day was a poem, each night
a dreamless sleep! Each morning at half past eight we went to the
Seminary and at four o'clock left it with regret. I should like to say
that we studied hard every night, burning a great deal of kerosene oil,
but I cannot do so.--We had a good time. The learning, (so far as I can
recall) was incidental.

It happened that my closest friends, aside from Burton, were pupils of
the public school and for that reason I kept my membership in the
Adelphian Society which met every Monday evening. My activities there, I
find, made up a large part of my life during this second winter. I not
only debated furiously, disputing weighty political questions, thus
advancing the forensic side of my education, but later in the winter I
helped to organize a dramatic company which gave a play for the benefit
of the Club Library.

Just why I should have been chosen "stage director" of our "troupe," I
cannot say, but something in my ability to declaim _Regulus_ probably
led to this high responsibility. At any rate, I not only played the
leading juvenile, I settled points of action and costume without the
slightest hesitation. Cora was my _ingenue_ opposite, it fell out, and
so we played at love-making, while meeting coldly at the family dining

Our engagement in the town hall extended through two March evenings and
was largely patronized. It would seem that I was a dominant figure on
both occasions, for I declaimed a "piece" on the opening night, one of
those resounding orations (addressed to the Carthaginians), which we all
loved, and which permitted of thunderous, rolling periods and passionate
gestures. If my recollection is not distorted, I was masterful that
night--at least, Joe Pritchard agreed that I was "the best part of the
show." Joe was my friend, and I hold him in especial affection for his
hearty praise of my effort.

On this same night I also appeared in a little sketch representing the
death of a veteran of the Revolutionary War, in which the dying man
beholds in a vision his beloved Leader. Walter Blakeslee was the
"Washington" and I, with heavily powdered hair, was the veteran. On the
second night I played the juvenile lover in a drama called _His
Brother's Keeper_. Cora as "Shellie," my sweetheart, was very lovely in
pink mosquito netting, and for the first time I regretted her interest
in the book agent from Cerro Gordo. Strange to say I had no fear at all
as I looked out over the audience which packed the town hall to the
ceiling. Father and mother were there with Frank and Jessie, all quite
dazed (as I imagined) by my transcendent position behind the foot

It may have been this very night that Willard Eaton, the county
attorney, spoke to my father saying, "Richard, whenever that boy of
yours finishes school and wants to begin to study law, you send him
right to me," which was, of course, a very great compliment, for the
county attorney belonged to the best known and most influential firm of
lawyers in the town. At the moment his offer would have seemed very dull
and commonplace to me. I would have refused it.

Our success that night was so great that it appeared a pity not to
permit other towns to witness our performance, hence we boldly organized
a "tour." We booked a circuit which included St. Ansgar and Mitchell,
two villages, one four, the other ten miles to the north. Audacious as
this may seem, it was deliberately decided upon, and one pleasant day
Mitchell and George and I loaded all our scenery into a wagon and drove
away across the prairie to our first "stand" very much as Molière did in
his youth, leaving the ladies to follow (in the grandeur of hired
buggies) later in the day.

That night we played with "artistic success"--that is to say, we lost
some eighteen dollars, which so depressed the management that it
abandoned the tour, and the entire organization returned to Osage in
diminished glory. This cut short my career as an actor. I never again
took part in a theatrical performance.

Not long after this disaster, "Shellie," as I now called Cora, entered
upon some mysterious and romantic drama of her own. The travelling man
vanished, and soon after she too disappeared. Where she went, what she
did, no one seemed to know, and none of us quite dared to ask. I never
saw her again but last year, after nearly forty years of wandering, I
was told that she is married and living in luxurious ease near London.
Through what deep valleys she has travelled to reach this height, with
what loss or gain, I cannot say, but I shall always remember her as she
was that night in St. Ansgar, in her pink-mosquito-bar dress, her eyes
shining with excitement, her voice vibrant with girlish gladness.

Our second winter at the Seminary passed all too quickly, and when the
prairie chickens began to boom from the ridges our hearts sank within
us. For the first time the grouse's cheery dance was unwelcome for it
meant the closing of our books, the loss of our pleasant companions, the
surrender of our leisure, and a return to the mud of the fields.

It was especially hard to say good-bye to Ella and Maud, for though they
were in no sense sweethearts they were very pleasant companions. There
were others whom it was a pleasure to meet in the halls and to emulate
in the class-rooms, and when early in April, we went home to enter upon
the familiar round of seeding, corn-planting, corn plowing, harvesting,
stacking and threshing, we had only the promise of an occasional trip to
town to cheer us.

It would seem that our interest in the girls of Burr Oak had diminished,
for we were less regular in our attendance upon services in the little
school-house, and whenever we could gain consent to use a horse, we
hitched up and drove away to town. These trips have golden,
unforgettable charm, and indicate the glamor which approaching manhood
was flinging over my world.

My father's world was less jocund, was indeed filled with increasing
anxiety, for just before harvest time a new and formidable enemy of the
wheat appeared in the shape of a minute, ill-smelling insect called the
chinch bug. It already bore an evil reputation with us for it was
reported to have eaten out the crops of southern Wisconsin and northern
Illinois, and, indeed, before barley cutting was well under way the
county was overrun with laborers from the south who were anxious to get
work in order to recoup them for the loss of their own harvest. These
fugitives brought incredible tales of the ravages of the enemy and
prophesied our destruction but, as a matter of fact, only certain dry
ridges proclaimed the presence of the insect during this year.

The crop was rather poor for other reasons, and Mr. Babcock, like my
father, objected to paying board bills. His attitude was so unpromising
that Burton and I cast about to see how we could lessen the expense of
upkeep during our winter term of school.

Together we decided to hire a room and board ourselves (as many of the
other fellows did) and so cut our expenses to a mere trifle. It was
difficult, even in those days, to live cheaper than two dollars per
week, but we convinced our people that we could do it, and so at last
wrung from our mothers a reluctant consent to our trying it. We got away
in October, only two weeks behind our fellows.

I well remember the lovely afternoon on which we unloaded our scanty
furniture into the two little rooms which we had hired for the term. It
was still glorious autumn weather, and we were young and released from
slavery. We had a table, three chairs, a little strip of carpet, and a
melodeon, which belonged to Burton's sister, and when we had spread our
carpet and put up our curtains we took seats, and cocking our feet upon
the window sill surveyed our surroundings with such satisfaction as only
autocrats of the earth may compass. We were absolute masters of our
time--that was our chiefest joy. We could rise when we pleased and go to
bed when we pleased. There were no stables to clean, no pigs to feed,
nothing marred our days. We could study or sing or dance at will. We
could even wrestle at times with none to molest or make us afraid.

My photograph shows the new suit which I had bought on my own
responsibility this time, but no camera could possibly catch the glow of
inward satisfaction which warmed my heart. It was a brown cassimere,
coat, trousers and vest all alike,--and the trousers fitted me!
Furthermore as I bought it without my father's help, my selection was
made for esthetic reasons without regard to durability or warmth. It was
mine--in the fullest sense--and when I next entered chapel I felt not
merely draped, but defended. I walked to my seat with confident
security, a well-dressed person. I had a "boughten" shirt also, two
boxes of paper cuffs, and two new ties, a black one for every day and a
white one for Sunday.

I don't know that any of the girls perceived my new suit, but I hoped
one or two of them did. The boys were quite outspoken in their approval
of it.

I had given up boots, also, for most of the townsmen wore shoes, thus
marking the decline of the military spirit. I never again owned a pair
of those man-killing top-boots--which were not only hard to get on and
off but pinched my toes, and interrupted the flow of my trouser-legs.
Thus one great era fades into another. The Jack-boot period was over,
the shoe, commonplace and comfortable, had won.

Our housekeeping was very simple. Each of us brought from home on Monday
morning a huge bag of doughnuts together with several loaves of bread,
and (with a milkman near at hand) our cooking remained rudimentary. We
did occasionally fry a steak and boil some potatoes, and I have a dim
memory of several disastrous attempts to make flapjacks out of flour and
sweet milk. However we never suffered from hunger as some of the other
fellows actually did.

Pretty Ethel Beebe comes into the record of this winter, like a quaint
illustration to an old-fashioned story, for she lived near us and went
to school along the same sidewalk. Burton was always saying, "Some day I
am going to brace up and ask Ethel to let me carry her books, and I'm
going to walk beside her right down Main Street." But he never did.
Ultimately I attained to that incredible boldness, but Burton only
followed along behind.

Ethel was a slender, smiling, brown-eyed girl with a keen appreciation
of the ridiculous, and I have no doubt she catalogued all our
peculiarities, for she always seemed to be laughing at us, and I think
it must have been her smiles that prevented any romantic attachment. We
walked and talked without any deeper interest than good comradeship.

Mrs. Babcock was famous for her pies and cakes, and Burton always
brought some delicious samples of her skill. As regularly as the clock,
on every Tuesday evening he said, in precisely the same tone, "Well,
now, we'll have to eat these pies right away or they'll spoil," and as I
made no objection, we had pie for luncheon, pie and cake for supper, and
cake and pie for breakfast until all these "goodies" which were intended
to serve as dessert through the week were consumed. By Thursday morning
we were usually down to dry bread and butter.

We simplified our housework in other ways in order that we might have
time to study and Burton wasted a good deal of time at the fiddle,
sawing away till I was obliged to fall upon him and roll him on the
floor to silence him.

I still have our ledger which gives an itemized account of the cost of
this experiment in self board, and its footings are incredibly small.
Less than fifty cents a day for both of us! Of course our mothers,
sisters and aunts were continually joking us about our housekeeping, and
once or twice Mrs. Babcock called upon us unexpectedly and found the
room "a sight." But we did not mind her very much. We only feared the
bright eyes of Ethel and Maude and Carrie. Fortunately they could not
properly call upon us, even if they had wished to do so, and we were
safe. It is probable, moreover, that they fully understood our methods,
for they often slyly hinted at hasty dish-washing and primitive cookery.
All of this only amused us, so long as they did not actually discover
the dirt and disorder of which our mothers complained.

Our school library at that time was pitifully small and ludicrously
prescriptive, but its shelves held a few of the fine old classics,
Scott, Dickens and Thackeray--the kind of books which can always be had
in sets at very low prices--and in nosing about among these I fell, one
day, upon two small red volumes called _Mosses from an Old Manse_. Of
course I had read of the author, for these books were listed in my
_History of American Literature_, but I had never, up to this moment,
dared to open one of them. I was a discoverer.

I turned a page or two, and instantly my mental horizon widened. When I
had finished the _Artist of the Beautiful_, the great Puritan romancer
had laid his spell upon me everlastingly. Even as I walked homeward to
my lunch, I read. I ate with the book beside my plate. I neglected my
classes that afternoon, and as soon as I had absorbed this volume I
secured the other and devoted myself to it with almost equal intensity.
The stately diction, the rich and glowing imagery, the mystical
radiance, and the aloofness of the author's personality all united to
create in me a worshipful admiration which made all other interests pale
and faint. It was my first profound literary passion and I was dazzled
by the glory of it.

It would be a pleasant task to say that this book determined my
career--it would form a delightful literary assumption, but I cannot
claim it. As a realist I must remain faithful to fact. I did not then
and there vow to be a romantic novelist like Hawthorne. On the contrary,
I realized that this great poet (to me he was a poet) like Edgar Allan
Poe, was a soul that dwelt apart from ordinary mortals.

To me he was a magician, a weaver of magic spells, a dreamer whose
visions comprehended the half-lights, the borderlands, of the human
soul. I loved the roll of his words in _The March of Time_ and the
quaint phrasing of the _Rill from the Town Pump_; _Rappacini's Daughter_
whose breath poisoned the insects in the air, uplifted me. _Drowne and
His Wooden Image_, the _Great Stone Face_--each story had its special
appeal. For days I walked amid enchanted mist, my partner--(even the
maidens I most admired), became less appealing, less necessary to me.
Eager to know more of this necromancer I searched the town for others of
his books, but found only _American Notes_ and _the Scarlet Letter_.

Gradually I returned to something like my normal interests in baseball
and my classmates, but never again did I fall to the low level of _Jack
Harkaway_. I now possessed a literary touchstone with which I tested the
quality of other books and other minds, and my intellectual arrogance, I
fear, sometimes made me an unpleasant companion. The fact that Ethel did
not "like" Hawthorne, sank her to a lower level in my estimation.


End of School Days

Though my years at the Seminary were the happiest of my life they are
among the most difficult for me to recover and present to my readers.
During half the year I worked on the farm fiercely, unsparing of myself,
in order that I might have an uninterrupted season of study in the
village. Each term was very like another so far as its broad program
went but innumerable, minute but very important progressions carried me
toward manhood, events which can hardly be stated to an outsider.

Burton remained my room-mate and in all our vicissitudes we had no vital
disagreements but his unconquerable shyness kept him from making a good
impression on his teachers and this annoyed me--it made him seem stupid
when he was not. Once, as chairman of a committee it became his duty to
introduce a certain lecturer who was to speak on "Elihu Burritt," and by
some curious twist in my chum's mind this name became "Lu-hi Burritt"
and he so stated it in his introductory remarks. This amused the
lecturer and raised a titter in the audience. Burton bled in silence
over this mishap for he was at heart deeply ambitious to be a public
speaker. He never alluded to that speech even to me without writhing in
retrospective shame.

Another incident will illustrate his painfully shy character. One of our
summer vacations was made notable by the visit of an exceedingly pretty
girl to the home of one of Burton's aunts who lived on the road to the
Grove, and my chum's excitement over the presence of this alien bird of
paradise was very amusing to me as well as to his brother Charles who
was inclined, as an older brother, to "take it out" of Burt.

I listened to my chum's account of his cousin's beauty with something
more than fraternal interest. She came, it appeared, from Dubuque and
had the true cosmopolitan's air of tolerance. Our small community amused
her. Her hats and gowns (for it soon developed that she had at least
two), were the envy of all the girls, and the admiration of the boys. No
disengaged or slightly obligated beau of the district neglected to hitch
his horse at Mrs. Knapp's gate.

Burton's opportunity seemed better than that of any other youth, for he
could visit his aunt as often as he wished without arousing comment,
whereas for me, a call would have been equivalent to an offer of
marriage. My only chance of seeing the radiant stranger was at church.
Needless to say we all made it a point to attend every service during
her stay.

One Sunday afternoon as I was riding over to the Grove, I met Burton
plodding homeward along the grassy lane, walking with hanging head and
sagging shoulders. He looked like a man in deep and discouraged thought,
and when he glanced up at me, with a familiar defensive smile twisting
his long lips, I knew something had gone wrong.

"Hello," I said. "Where have you been?"

"Over to Aunt Sallie's," he said.

His long, linen duster was sagging at the sides, and peering down at his
pockets I perceived a couple of quarts of lovely Siberian crab-apples.
"Where did you get all that fruit?" I demanded.

"At home."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"Take it back again."

"What do you mean by such a performance?"

With the swift flush and silent laugh which always marked his
confessions of weakness, or failure, he replied, "I went over to see
Nettie. I intended to give her these apples," he indicated the fruit by
a touch on each pocket, "but when I got there I found old Bill Watson,
dressed to kill and large as life, sitting in the parlor. I was so
afraid of his finding out what I had in my pockets that I didn't go in.
I came away leaving him in possession."

Of course I laughed--but there was an element of pathos in it after all.
Poor Burt! He always failed to get his share of the good things in this

       *       *       *       *       *

We continued to board ourselves,--now here, now there, and always to the
effect of being starved out by Friday night, but we kept well and active
even on doughnuts and pie, and were grateful of any camping place in

Once Burton left a soup-bone to simmer on the stove while we went away
to morning recitations, and when we reached home, smoke was leaking from
every keyhole. The room was solid with the remains of our bone. It took
six months to get the horrid smell of charred beef out of our wardrobe.
The girls all sniffed and wondered as we came near.

On Fridays we went home and during the winter months very generally
attended the Lyceum which met in the Burr Oak school-house. We often
debated, and on one occasion I attained to the honor of being called
upon to preside over the session. Another memorable evening is that in
which I read with what seemed to me distinguished success Joaquin
Miller's magnificent new poem, _Kit Carson's Ride_ and in the splendid
roar and trample of its lines discovered a new and powerful American
poet. His spirit appealed to me. He was at once American and western. I
read every line of his verse which the newspapers or magazines brought
to me, and was profoundly influenced by its epic quality.

And so, term by term, in growing joy and strength, in expanding
knowledge of life, we hurried toward the end of our four years' course
at this modest little school, finding in it all the essential elements
of an education, for we caught at every chance quotation from the
scientists, every fleeting literary allusion in the magazines,
attaining, at last, a dim knowledge of what was going on in the great
outside world of letters and discovery. Of course there were elections
and tariff reforms and other comparatively unimportant matters taking
place in the state but they made only the most transient impression on
our minds.

During the last winter of our stay at the Seminary, my associate in
housekeeping was one Adelbert Jones, the son of a well-to-do farmer who
lived directly east of town. "Del," as we called him, always alluded to
himself as "Ferguson." He was tall, with a very large blond face
inclined to freckle and his first care of a morning was to scrutinize
himself most anxiously to see whether the troublesome brown flecks were
increasing or diminishing in number. Often upon reaching the open air he
would sniff the east wind and say lugubriously, "This is the kind of day
that brings out the freckles on your Uncle Ferg."

He was one of the best dressed men in the school, and especially finicky
about his collars and ties,--was, indeed, one of the earliest to
purchase linen. He also parted his yellow hair in the middle (which was
a very noticeable thing in those days) and was always talking of taking
a girl to a social or to prayer meeting. But, like Burton, he never
did. So far as I knew he never "went double," and most of the girls
looked upon him as more or less of a rustic, notwithstanding his fine
figure and careful dress.

As for me I did once hire a horse and carriage of a friend and took
Alice for a drive! More than thirty-five years have passed since that
adventure and yet I can see every turn in that road! I can hear the
crackle of my starched shirt and the creak of my suspender buckles as I

Alice, being quite as bashful as myself, kept our conversation to the
high plane of Hawthorne and Poe and Schiller with an occasional tired
droop to the weather, hence I infer that she was as much relieved as I
when we reached her boarding house some two hours later. It was my first
and only attempt at this, the most common of all ways of entertaining
one's best girl.

The youth who furnished the carriage betrayed me, and the outcry of my
friends so intimidated me that I dared not look Alice in the face. My
only comfort was that no one but ourselves could possibly know what an
erratic conversationalist I had been. However, she did not seem to lay
it up against me. I think she was as much astonished as I and I am
persuaded that she valued the compliment of my extravagant gallantry.

It is only fair to say that I had risen by this time to the dignity of
"boughten shirts," linen collars and "Congress gaiters," and my suit
purchased for graduating purposes was of black diagonal with a long
tail, a garment which fitted me reasonably well. It was hot, of course,
and nearly parboiled me of a summer evening, but I bore my suffering
like the hero that I was, in order that I might make a presentable
figure in the eyes of my classmates. I longed for a white vest but did
not attain to that splendor.

Life remained very simple and very democratic in our little town.
Although the county seat, it was slow in taking on city ways. I don't
believe a real bath-tub distinguished the place (I never heard of one)
but its sidewalks kept our feet out of the mud (even in March or April),
and this was a marvellous fact to us. One or two fine lawns and flower
gardens had come in, and year by year the maples had grown until they
now made a pleasant shade in June, and in October glorified the plank
walks. To us it was beautiful.

As county town, Osage published two papers and was, in addition, the
home of two Judges, a state Senator and a Congressman. A new opera house
was built in '79 and an occasional "actor troupe" presented military
plays like _Our Boys_ or farces like _Solon Shingle_. The brass band and
the baseball team were the best in the district, and were loyally upheld
by us all.

With all these attractions do you wonder that whenever Ed and Bill and
Joe had a day of leisure they got out their buggies, washed them till
they glistened like new, and called for their best girls on the way to

Circuses, Fourth of Julys, County Fairs, all took place in Osage, and to
own a "covered rig" and to take your sweetheart to the show were the
highest forms of affluence and joy--unless you were actually able to
live in town, as Burton and I now did for five days in each week, in
which case you saw everything that was free and denied yourself
everything but the circus. Nobody went so far in economy as that.

As a conscientious historian I have gone carefully into the records of
this last year, in the hope of finding something that would indicate a
feeling on the part of the citizens that Dick Garland's boy was in some
ways a remarkable youth, but (I regret to say) I cannot lay hands on a
single item. It appears that I was just one of a hundred healthy,
hearty, noisy students--but no, wait! There is one incident which has
slight significance. One day during my final term of school, as I stood
in the postoffice waiting for the mail to be distributed, I picked up
from the counter a book called _The Undiscovered Country_.

"What is this about?" I asked.

The clerk looked up at me with an expression of disgust. "I bought it
for a book of travel," said he, "but it is only a novel. Want it? I'll
sell it cheap."

Having no money to waste in that way, I declined, but as I had the
volume in my hands, with a few minutes to spare, I began to read. It did
not take me long to discover in this author a grace and precision of
style which aroused both my admiration and my resentment. My resentment
was vague, I could not have given a reason for it, but as a matter of
fact, the English of this new author made some of my literary heroes
seem either crude or stilted. I was just young enough and conservative
enough to be irritated and repelled by the modernity of William Dean

I put the book down and turned away, apparently uninfluenced by it.
Indeed, I remained, if anything, more loyal to the grand manner of
Hawthorne, but my love of realism was growing. I recall a rebuke from my
teacher in rhetoric, condemning, in my essay on Mark Twain, an over
praise of _Roughing It_. It is evident, therefore that I was even then a
lover of the modern when taken off my guard.

Meanwhile I had definitely decided not to be a lawyer, and it happened
in this way. One Sunday morning as I was walking toward school, I met a
young man named Lohr, a law student several years older than myself, who
turned and walked with me for a few blocks.

"Well, Garland," said he, "what are you going to do after you graduate
this June?"

"I don't know," I frankly replied. "I have a chance to go into a law

"Don't do it," protested he with sudden and inexplicable bitterness.
"Whatever you do, don't become a lawyer's hack."

His tone and the words, "lawyer's hack" had a powerful effect upon my
mind. The warning entered my ears and stayed there. I decided against
the law, as I had already decided against the farm.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yes, these were the sweetest days of my life for I was carefree and
glowing with the happiness which streams from perfect health and
unquestioning faith. If any shadow drifted across this sunny year it
fell from a haunting sense of the impermanency of my leisure. Neither
Burton nor I had an ache or a pain. We had no fear and cherished no
sorrow, and we were both comparatively free from the lover's almost
intolerable longing. Our loves were hardly more than admirations.

As I project myself back into those days I re-experience the keen joy I
took in the downpour of vivid sunlight, in the colorful clouds of
evening, and in the song of the west wind harping amid the maple leaves.
The earth was new, the moonlight magical, the dawns miraculous. I shiver
with the boy's solemn awe in the presence of beauty. The little
recitation rooms, dusty with floating chalk, are wide halls of romance
and the voices of my girl classmates (even though their words are
algebraic formulas), ring sweet as bells across the years.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the years '79 and '80, while Burton and I had been living our
carefree jocund life at the Seminary, a series of crop failures had
profoundly affected the county, producing a feeling of unrest and
bitterness in the farmers which was to have a far-reaching effect on my
fortunes as well as upon those of my fellows. For two years the crop had
been almost wholly destroyed by chinch bugs.

The harvest of '80 had been a season of disgust and disappointment to us
for not only had the pestiferous mites devoured the grain, they had
filled our stables, granaries, and even our kitchens with their
ill-smelling crawling bodies--and now they were coming again in added
billions. By the middle of June they swarmed at the roots of the
wheat--innumerable as the sands of the sea. They sapped the growing
stalks till the leaves turned yellow. It was as if the field had been
scorched, even the edges of the corn showed signs of blight. It was
evident that the crop was lost unless some great change took place in
the weather, and many men began to offer their land for sale.

Naturally the business of grain-buying had suffered with the decline of
grain-growing, and my father, profoundly discouraged by the outlook,
sold his share in the elevator and turned his face toward the free lands
of the farther west. He became again the pioneer.

DAKOTA was the magic word. The "Jim River Valley" was now the "land of
delight," where "herds of deer and buffalo" still "furnished the cheer."
Once more the spirit of the explorer flamed up in the soldier's heart.
Once more the sunset allured. Once more my mother sang the marching song
of the McClintocks,

    O'er the hills in legions, boys,
      Fair freedom's star
    Points to the sunset regions, boys,
      Ha, ha, ha-ha!

and sometime, in May I think it was, father again set out--this time by
train, to explore the Land of The Dakotas which had but recently been
wrested from the control of Sitting Bull.

He was gone only two weeks, but on his return announced with triumphant
smile that he had taken up a homestead in Ordway, Brown County, Dakota.
His face was again alight with the hope of the borderman, and he had
much to say of the region he had explored.

As graduation day came on, Burton and I became very serious. The
question of our future pressed upon us. What were we to do when our
schooling ended? Neither of us had any hope of going to college, and
neither of us had any intention of going to Dakota, although I had taken
"Going West" as the theme of my oration. We were also greatly worried
about these essays. Burton fell off in appetite and grew silent and
abstracted. Each of us gave much time to declaiming our speeches, and
the question of dress troubled us. Should we wear white ties and white
vests, or white ties and black vests?

The evening fell on a dark and rainy night, but the Garlands came down
in their best attire and so did the Babcocks, the Gilchrists and many
other of our neighbors. Burton was hoping that his people would not
come, he especially dreaded the humorous gaze of his brother Charles who
took a much less serious view of Burton's powers as an orator than
Burton considered just. Other interested parents and friends filled the
New Opera House to the doors, producing in us a sense of awe for this
was the first time the "Exercises" had taken place outside the chapel.

Never again shall I feel the same exultation, the same pleasure mingled
with bitter sadness, the same perception of the irrevocable passing of
beautiful things, and the equally inexorable coming on of care and
trouble, as filled my heart that night. Whether any of the other members
of my class vibrated with similar emotion or not I cannot say, but I do
recall that some of the girls annoyed me by their excessive attentions
to unimportant ribbons, flounces, and laces. "How do I look?" seemed
their principal concern. Only Alice expressed anything of the prophetic
sadness which mingled with her exultation.

The name of my theme, (which was made public for the first time in the
little programme) is worthy of a moment's emphasis. _Going West_ had
been suggested, of course by the emigration fever, then at its height,
and upon it I had lavished a great deal of anxious care. As an oration
it was all very excited and very florid, but it had some stirring ideas
in it and coming in the midst of the profound political discourses of my
fellows and the formal essays of the girls, it seemed much more singular
and revolutionary, both in form and in substance, than it really was.

As I waited my turn, I experienced that sense of nausea, that numbness
which always preceded my platform trials, but as my name was called I
contrived to reach the proper place behind the footlights, and to bow to
the audience. My opening paragraph perplexed my fellows, and naturally,
for it was exceedingly florid, filled with phrases like "the lure of the
sunset," "the westward urge of men," and was neither prose nor verse.
Nevertheless I detected a slight current of sympathy coming up to me,
and in the midst of the vast expanse of faces, I began to detect here
and there a friendly smile. Mother and father were near but their faces
were very serious.

After a few moments the blood began to circulate through my limbs and I
was able to move about a little on the stage. My courage came back, but
alas!--just in proportion as I attained confidence my emotional chant
mounted too high! Since the writing was extremely ornate, my manner
should have been studiedly cold and simple. This I knew perfectly well,
but I could not check the perfervid rush of my song. I ranted
deplorably, and though I closed amid fairly generous applause, no
flowers were handed up to me. The only praise I received came from
Charles Lohr, the man who had warned me against becoming a lawyer's
hack. He, meeting me in the wings of the stage as I came off, remarked
with ironic significance, "Well, that was an original piece of

This delighted me exceedingly, for I had written with special deliberate
intent to go outside the conventional grind of graduating orations.
Feeling dimly, but sincerely, the epic march of the American pioneer I
had tried to express it in an address which was in fact a sloppy poem. I
should not like to have that manuscript printed precisely as it came
from my pen, and a phonographic record of my voice would serve admirably
as an instrument of blackmail. However, I thought at the time that I had
done moderately well, and my mother's shy smile confirmed me in the

Burton was white with stage-fright as he stepped from the wings but he
got through very well, better than I, for he attempted no oratorical

Now came the usual hurried and painful farewells of classmates. With
fervid hand-clasp we separated, some of us never again to meet. Our
beloved principal (who was even then shadowed by the illness which
brought about his death) clung to us as if he hated to see us go, and
some of us could not utter a word as we took his hand in parting. What I
said to Alice and Maud and Ethel I do not know, but I do recall that I
had an uncomfortable lump in my throat while saying it.

As a truthful historian, I must add that Burton and I, immediately after
this highly emotional close of our school career, were both called upon
to climb into the family carriage and drive away into the black night,
back to the farm,--an experience which seemed to us at the time a sad
anticlimax. When we entered our ugly attic rooms and tumbled wearily
into our hard beds, we retained very little of our momentary sense of
victory. Our carefree school life was ended. Our stern education in life
had begun.


The Land of the Dakotas

The movement of settlers toward Dakota had now become an exodus, a
stampede. Hardly anything else was talked about as neighbors met one
another on the road or at the Burr Oak school-house on Sundays. Every
man who could sell out had gone west or was going. In vain did the
county papers and Farmer's Institute lecturers advise cattle raising and
plead for diversified tillage, predicting wealth for those who held on;
farmer after farmer joined the march to Kansas, Nebraska, and Dakota.
"We are wheat raisers," they said, "and we intend to keep in the wheat

Our own family group was breaking up. My uncle David of pioneer spirit
had already gone to the far Missouri Valley. Rachel had moved to
Georgia, and Grandad McClintock was with his daughters, Samantha and
Deborah, in western Minnesota. My mother, thus widely separated from her
kin, resigned herself once more to the thought of founding a new home.
Once more she sang, "O'er the hills in legions, boys," with such spirit
as she could command, her clear voice a little touched with the
huskiness of regret.

I confess I sympathized in some degree with my father's new design.
There was something large and fine in the business of wheat-growing, and
to have a plague of insects arise just as our harvesting machinery was
reaching such perfection that we could handle our entire crop without
hired help, was a tragic, abominable injustice. I could not blame him
for his resentment and dismay.

My personal plans were now confused and wavering. I had no intention of
joining this westward march; on the contrary, I was looking toward
employment as a teacher, therefore my last weeks at the Seminary were
shadowed by a cloud of uncertainty and vague alarm. It seemed a time of
change, and immense, far-reaching, portentous readjustment. Our
homestead was sold, my world was broken up. "What am I to do?" was my

Father had settled upon Ordway, Brown County, South Dakota, as his
future home, and immediately after my graduation, he and my brother set
forth into the new country to prepare the way for the family's removal,
leaving me to go ahead with the harvest alone. It fell out, therefore,
that immediately after my flowery oration on _Going West_ I found myself
more of a slave to the cattle than ever before in my life.

Help was scarce; I could not secure even so much as a boy to aid in
milking the cows; I was obliged to work double time in order to set up
the sheaves of barley which were in danger of mouldering on the wet
ground. I worked with a kind of bitter, desperate pleasure, saying,
"This is the last time I shall ever lift a bundle of this accursed

And then, to make the situation worse, in raising some heavy machinery
connected with the self-binder, I strained my side so seriously that I
was unable to walk. This brought the harvesting to a stand, and made my
father's return necessary. For several weeks I hobbled about, bent like
a gnome, and so helped to reap what the chinch bugs had left, while my
mother prepared to "follow the sunset" with her "Boss."

September first was the day set for saying good-bye to Dry Run, and it
so happened that her wedding anniversary fell close upon the same date
and our neighbors, having quietly passed the word around, came together
one Sunday afternoon to combine a farewell dinner with a Silver Wedding
"surprise party."

Mother saw nothing strange in the coming of the first two carriages, the
Buttons often came driving in that way,--but when the Babcocks, the
Coles, and the Gilchrists clattered in with smiling faces, we all stood
in the yard transfixed with amazement. "What's the meaning of all this?"
asked my father.

No one explained. The women calmly clambered down from their vehicles,
bearing baskets and bottles and knobby parcels, and began instant and
concerted bustle of preparation. The men tied their horses to the fence
and hunted up saw-horses and planks, and soon a long table was spread
beneath the trees on the lawn. One by one other teams came whirling into
the yard. The assembly resembled a "vandoo" as Asa Walker said. "It's
worse than that," laughed Mrs. Turner. "It's a silver wedding and a
'send off' combined."

They would not let either the "bride" or the "groom" do a thing, and
with smiling resignation my mother folded her hands and sank into a
chair. "All right," she said. "I am perfectly willing to sit by and see
you do the work. I won't have another chance right away." And there was
something sad in her voice. She could not forget that this was the
beginning of a new pioneering adventure.

The shadows were long on the grass when at the close of the supper old
John Gammons rose to make a speech and present the silver tea set. His
voice was tremulous with emotion as he spoke of the loss which the
neighborhood was about to suffer, and tears were in many eyes when
father made reply. The old soldier's voice failed him several times
during his utterance of the few short sentences he was able to frame,
and at last he was obliged to take his seat, and blow his nose very hard
on his big bandanna handkerchief to conceal his emotion.

It was a very touching and beautiful moment to me, for as I looked
around upon that little group of men and women, rough-handed, bent and
worn with toil, silent and shadowed with the sorrow of parting, I
realized as never before the high place my parents had won in the
estimation of their neighbors. It affected me still more deeply to see
my father stammer and flush with uncontrollable emotion. I had thought
the event deeply important before, but I now perceived that our going
was all of a piece with the West's elemental restlessness. I could not
express what I felt then, and I can recover but little of it now, but
the pain which filled my throat comes back to me mixed with a singular
longing to relive it.

There, on a low mound in the midst of the prairie, in the shadow of the
house we had built, beneath the slender trees we had planted, we were
bidding farewell to one cycle of emigration and entering upon another.
The border line had moved on, and my indomitable Dad was moving with it.
I shivered with dread of the irrevocable decision thus forced upon me. I
heard a clanging as of great gates behind me and the field of the future
was wide and wan.

From this spot we had seen the wild prairies disappear. On every hand
wheat and corn and clover had taken the place of the wild oat, the
hazelbush and the rose. Our house, a commonplace frame cabin, took on
grace. Here Hattie had died. Our yard was ugly, but there Jessie's small
feet had worn a slender path. Each of our lives was knit into these
hedges and rooted in these fields and yet, notwithstanding all this, in
response to some powerful yearning call, my father was about to set out
for the fifth time into the still more remote and untrodden west. Small
wonder that my mother sat with bowed head and tear-blinded eyes, while
these good and faithful friends crowded around her to say good-bye.

She had no enemies and no hatreds. Her rich singing voice, her smiling
face, her ready sympathy with those who suffered, had endeared her to
every home into which she had gone, even as a momentary visitor. No
woman in childbirth, no afflicted family within a radius of five miles
had ever called for her in vain. Death knew her well, for she had closed
the eyes of youth and age, and yet she remained the same laughing,
bounteous, whole-souled mother of men that she had been in the valley of
the Neshonoc. Nothing could permanently cloud her face or embitter the
sunny sweetness of her creed.

One by one the women put their worn, ungraceful arms about her, kissed
her with trembling lips, and went away in silent grief. The scene became
too painful for me at last, and I fled away from it--out into the
fields, bitterly asking, "Why should this suffering be? Why should
mother be wrenched from all her dearest friends and forced to move away
to a strange land?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not see the actual packing up and moving of the household goods,
for I had determined to set forth in advance and independently, eager to
be my own master, and at the moment I did not feel in the least like

Some two years before, when the failure of our crop had made the matter
of my continuing at school an issue between my father and myself, I had
said, "If you will send me to school until I graduate, I will ask
nothing further of you," and these words I now took a stern pleasure in
upholding. Without a dollar of my own, I announced my intention to fare
forth into the world on the strength of my two hands, but my father, who
was in reality a most affectionate parent, offered me thirty dollars to
pay my carfare.

This I accepted, feeling that I had abundantly earned this money, and
after a sad parting with my mother and my little sister, set out one
September morning for Osage. At the moment I was oppressed with the
thought that this was the fork in the trail, that my family and I had
started on differing roads. I had become a man. With all the ways of the
world before me I suffered from a feeling of doubt. The open gate
allured me, but the homely scenes I was leaving suddenly put forth a
latent magic.

I knew every foot of this farm. I had traversed it scores of times in
every direction, following the plow, the harrow, or the seeder. With a
great lumber wagon at my side I had husked corn from every acre of it,
and now I was leaving it with no intention of returning. My action, like
that of my father, was final. As I looked back up the lane at the tall
Lombardy poplar trees bent like sabres in the warm western wind, the
landscape I was leaving seemed suddenly very beautiful, and the old home
very peaceful and very desirable. Nevertheless I went on.

Try as I may, I cannot bring back out of the darkness of that night any
memory of how I spent the time. I must have called upon some of my
classmates, but I cannot lay hold upon a single word or look or phrase
from any of them. Deeply as I felt my distinction in thus riding forth
into the world, all the tender incidents of farewell are lost to me.
Perhaps my boyish self-absorption prevented me from recording outside
impressions, for the idea of travelling, of crossing the State line,
profoundly engaged me. Up to this time, notwithstanding all my dreams of
conquest in far countries, I had never ridden in a railway coach! Can
you wonder therefore that I trembled with joyous excitement as I paced
the platform next morning waiting for the chariot of my romance? The
fact that it was a decayed little coach at the end of a "mixed
accommodation train" on a stub road did not matter. I was ecstatic.

However, I was well dressed, and my inexperience appeared only in a
certain tense watchfulness. I closely observed what went on around me
and was careful to do nothing which could be misconstrued as ignorance.
Thrilling with excitement, feeling the mighty significance of my
departure, I entered quietly and took my seat, while the train roared on
through Mitchell and St. Ansgar, the little towns in which I had played
my part as an actor,--on into distant climes and marvellous cities. My
emotion was all very boyish, but very natural as I look back upon it.

The town in which I spent my first night abroad should have been called
Thebes or Athens or Palmyra; but it was not. On the contrary, it was
named Ramsey, after an old pioneer, and no one but a youth of fervid
imagination at the close of his first day of adventure in the world
would have found it worth a second glance. To me it was both beautiful
and inspiring, for the reason that it was new territory and because it
was the home of Alice, my most brilliant school mate, and while I had in
mind some notion of a conference with the county superintendent of
schools, my real reason for stopping off was a desire to see this girl
whom I greatly admired.

I smile as I recall the feeling of pride with which I stepped into the
'bus and started for the Grand Central Hotel. And yet, after all, values
are relative. That boy had something which I have lost. I would give
much of my present knowledge of the world for the keen savor of life
which filled my nostrils at that time.

The sound of a violin is mingled with my memories of Ramsey, and the
talk of a group of rough men around the bar-room stove is full of savage
charm. A tall, pale man, with long hair and big black eyes, one who
impressed me as being a man of refinement and culture, reduced by drink
to poverty and to rebellious bitterness of soul, stands out in powerful
relief--a tragic and moving figure.

Here, too, I heard my first splendid singer. A patent medicine cart was
in the street and one of its troupe, a basso, sang _Rocked in the Cradle
of the Deep_ with such art that I listened with delight. His lion-like
pose, his mighty voice, his studied phrasing, revealed to me higher
qualities of musical art than I had hitherto known.

From this singer, I went directly to Alice's home. I must have appeared
singularly exalted as I faced her. The entire family was in the sitting
room as I entered--but after a few kindly inquiries concerning my people
and some general remarks they each and all slipped away, leaving me
alone with the girl--in the good old-fashioned American way.

It would seem that in this farewell call I was permitting myself an
exaggeration of what had been to Alice only a pleasant association, for
she greeted me composedly and waited for me to justify my presence.

After a few moments of explanation, I suggested that we go out and hear
the singing of the "troupe." To this she consented, and rose
quietly--she never did anything hurriedly or with girlish alertness--and
put on her hat. Although so young, she had the dignity of a woman, and
her face, pale as a silver moon, was calm and sweet, only her big gray
eyes expressed the maiden mystery. She read my adoration and was a
little afraid of it.

As we walked, I spoke of the good days at "the Sem," of our classmates,
and their future, and this led me to the announcement of my own plans.
"I shall teach," I said. "I hope to be able to work into a professorship
in literature some day.--What do you intend to do?"

"I shall go on with my studies for a while," she replied. "I may go to
some eastern college for a few years."

"You must not become too learned," I urged. "You'll forget me."

She did not protest this as a coquette might have done. On the contrary,
she remained silent, and I was aware that while she liked and respected
me, she was not profoundly moved by this farewell call. Nevertheless I
hoped, and in that hope I repeated, "You will write to me, won't you?"

"Of course!" she replied, and again I experienced a chilling perception
that her words arose from friendliness rather than from tenderness, but
I was glad of even this restrained promise, and I added, "I shall write
often, for I shall be lonely--for a while."

As I walked on, the girl's soft warm arm in mine, a feeling of
uncertainty, of disquiet, took possession of me. "Success" seemed a long
way off and the road to it long and hard. However, I said nothing
further concerning my doubts.

The street that night had all the enchantment of Granada to me. The
girl's voice rippled with a music like that of the fountain Lindarazza,
and when I caught glimpses of her sweet, serious face beneath her
hat-rim, I dreaded our parting. The nearer to her gate we drew the more
tremulous my voice became, and the more uncertain my step.

At last on the door-step she turned and said, "Won't you come in again?"

In her tone was friendly dismissal, but I would not have it so. "You
will write to me, won't you?" I pleaded with choking utterance.

She was moved (by pity perhaps).

"Why, yes, with pleasure," she answered. "Good-bye, I hope you'll
succeed. I'm sure you will."

She extended her hand and I, recalling the instructions of my most
romantic fiction, raised it to my lips. "Good-bye!" I huskily said, and
turned away.

My next night was spent in Faribault. Here I touched storied ground, for
near this town Edward Eggleston had laid the scene of his novel, _The
Mystery of Metropolisville_ and my imagination responded to the magic
which lay in the influence of the man of letters. I wrote to Alice a
long and impassioned account of my sensations as I stood beside the
Cannonball River.

My search for a school proving futile, I pushed on to the town of
Farmington, where the Dakota branch of the Milwaukee railroad crossed my
line of march. Here I felt to its full the compelling power of the swift
stream of immigration surging to the west. The little village had
doubled in size almost in a day. It was a junction point, a place of
transfer, and its thin-walled unpainted pine hotels were packed with
men, women and children laden with bags and bundles (all bound for the
west) and the joyous excitement of these adventurers compelled me to
change my plan. I decided to try some of the newer counties in western
Minnesota. Romance was still in the West for me.

I slept that night on the floor in company with four or five young Iowa
farmers, and the smell of clean white shavings, the wailing of tired
children, the excited muttering of fathers, the plaintive voices of
mothers, came through the partitions at intervals, producing in my mind
an effect which will never pass away. It seemed to me at the moment as
if all America were in process of change, all hurrying to overtake the
vanishing line of the middle border, and the women at least were
secretly or openly doubtful of the outcome. Woman is not by nature an
explorer. She is the home-lover.

Early the next morning I bought a ticket for Aberdeen, and entered the
train crammed with movers who had found the "prairie schooner" all too
slow. The epoch of the canvas-covered wagon had passed. The era of the
locomotive, the day of the chartered car, had arrived. Free land was
receding at railroad speed, the borderline could be overtaken only by
steam, and every man was in haste to arrive.

All that day we rumbled and rattled into a strange country, feeding our
little engine with logs of wood, which we stopped occasionally to secure
from long ricks which lined the banks of the river. At Chaska, at
Granite Falls, I stepped off, but did not succeed in finding employment.
It is probable that being filled with the desire of exploration I only
half-heartedly sought for work; at any rate, on the third day, I found
myself far out upon the unbroken plain where only the hairlike buffalo
grass grew--beyond trees, beyond the plow, but not beyond settlement,
for here at the end of my third day's ride at Millbank, I found a hamlet
six months old, and the flock of shining yellow pine shanties strewn
upon the sod, gave me an illogical delight, but then I was
twenty-one--and it was sunset in the Land of the Dakotas!

All around me that night the talk was all of land, land! Nearly every
man I met was bound for the "Jim River valley," and each voice was
aquiver with hope, each eye alight with anticipation of certain
success. Even the women had begun to catch something of this
enthusiasm, for the night was very beautiful and the next day promised

Again I slept on a cot in a room of rough pine, slept dreamlessly, and
was out early enough to witness the coming of dawn,--a wonderful moment
that sunrise was to me. Again, as eleven years before, I felt myself a
part of the new world, a world fresh from the hand of God. To the east
nothing could be seen but a vague expanse of yellow plain, misty purple
in its hollows, but to the west rose a long low wall of hills, the
Eastern Coteaux, up which a red line of prairie fire was slowly

It was middle September. The air, magnificently crisp and clear, filled
me with desire of exploration, with vague resolution to do and dare. The
sound of horses and mules calling for their feed, the clatter of hammers
and the rasping of saws gave evidence of eager builders, of alert
adventurers, and I was hotly impatient to get forward.

At eight o'clock the engine drew out, pulling after it a dozen box-cars
laden with stock and household goods, and on the roof of a freight
caboose, together with several other young Jasons, I rode, bound for the
valley of the James.

It was a marvellous adventure. All the morning we rattled and rumbled
along, our engine snorting with effort, struggling with a load almost
too great for its strength. By noon we were up amid the rounded grassy
hills of the Sisseton Reservation where only the coyote ranged and the
Sioux made residence.

Here we caught our first glimpse of the James River valley, which seemed
to us at the moment as illimitable as the ocean and as level as a floor,
and then pitching and tossing over the rough track, with our cars
leaping and twisting like a herd of frightened buffaloes, we charged
down the western slope, down into a level land of ripened grass, where
blackbirds chattered in the willows, and prairie chickens called from
the tall rushes which grew beside the sluggish streams.

Aberdeen was the end of the line, and when we came into it that night it
seemed a near neighbor to Sitting Bull and the bison. And so, indeed, it
was, for a buffalo bull had been hunted across its site less than a year

It was twelve miles from here to where my father had set his stakes for
his new home, hence I must have stayed all night in some small hotel,
but that experience has also faded from my mind. I remember only my walk
across the dead-level plain next day. For the first time I set foot upon
a landscape without a tree to break its sere expanse--and I was at once
intensely interested in a long flock of gulls, apparently rolling along
the sod, busily gathering their morning meal of frosted locusts. The
ones left behind kept flying over the ones in front so that a ceaseless
change of leadership took place.

There was beauty in this plain, delicate beauty and a weird charm,
despite its lack of undulation. Its lonely unplowed sweep gave me the
satisfying sensation of being at last among the men who held the
outposts,--sentinels for the marching millions who were approaching from
the east. For two hours I walked, seeing Aberdeen fade to a series of
wavering, grotesque notches on the southern horizon line, while to the
north an equally irregular and insubstantial line of shadows gradually
took on weight and color until it became the village in which my father
was at this very moment busy in founding his new home.

My experienced eyes saw the deep, rich soil, and my youthful imagination
looking into the future, supplied the trees and vines and flowers which
were to make this land a garden.

I was converted. I had no doubts. It seemed at the moment that my father
had acted wisely in leaving his Iowa farm in order to claim his share of
Uncle Sam's rapidly-lessening unclaimed land.


The Grasshopper and the Ant

Without a doubt this trip, so illogical and so recklessly extravagant,
was due entirely to a boy's thirst for adventure. Color it as I may, the
fact of my truancy remains. I longed to explore. The valley of the James
allured me, and though my ticket and my meals along the route had used
up my last dollar, I felt amply repaid as I trod this new earth and
confronted this new sky--for both earth and sky were to my perception
subtly different from those of Iowa and Minnesota.

The endless stretches of short, dry grass, the gorgeous colors of the
dawn, the marvellous, shifting, phantom lakes and headlands, the violet
sunset afterglow,--all were widely different from our old home, and the
far, bare hills were delightfully suggestive of the horseman, the Indian
and the buffalo. The village itself was hardly more than a summer camp,
and yet its hearty, boastful citizens talked almost deliriously of
"corner lots" and "boulevards," and their chantings were timed to the
sound of hammers. The spirit of the builder seized me and so with my
return ticket in my pocket, I joined the carpenters at work on my
father's claim some two miles from the village with intent to earn money
for further exploration.

Grandfather Garland had also taken a claim (although he heartily
disliked the country) and in order to provide for both families a double
house was being built across the line between the two farms. I helped
shingle the roof, and being twenty-one now, and my own master, I
accepted wages from my father without a qualm. I earned every cent of my
two dollars per day, I assure you, but I carefully omitted all reference
to shingling, in my letters to my classmates.

At the end of a fortnight with my pay in my pocket I started eastward on
a trip which I fully intended to make very long and profoundly
educational. That I was green, very green, I knew but all that could be
changed by travel.

At the end of my second day's journey, I reached Hastings, a small town
on the Mississippi river, and from there decided to go by water to
Redwing some thirty miles below. All my life I had longed to ride on a
Mississippi steamboat, and now, as I waited on the wharf at the very
instant of the fulfillment of my desire, I expanded with anticipatory

The arrival of the _War Eagle_ from St. Paul carried a fine foreign
significance, and I ascended its gang-plank with the air of a traveller
embarking at Cairo for Assouan. Once aboard the vessel I mingled,
aloofly, with the passengers, absorbed in study of the river winding
down among its wooded hills.

This ecstasy lasted during the entire trip--indeed it almost took on
poetic form as the vessel approached the landing at Redwing, for at this
point the legendary appeal made itself felt. This lovely valley had once
been the home of a chieftain, and his body, together with that of his
favorite warhorse, was buried on the summit of a hill which overlooks
the river, "in order" (so runs the legend) "that the chief might see the
first faint glow of the resurrection morn and ride to meet it."

In truth Redwing was a quiet, excessively practical little town, quite
commonplace to every other passenger, except myself. My excited
imagination translated it into something very distinctive and far-off
and shining.

I took lodgings that night at a very exclusive boarding house at six
dollars per week, reckless of the effect on my very slender purse. For a
few days I permitted myself to wander and to dream. I have disturbing
recollections of writing my friends from this little town, letters
wherein I rhapsodized on the beauty of the scenery in terms which I
would not now use in describing the Grand Canyon, or in picturing the
peaks of Wyoming. After all I was right. A landscape is precisely as
great as the impression it makes upon the perceiving mind. I was a
traveller at last!--that seemed to be my chiefest joy and I extracted
from each day all the ecstasy it contained.

My avowed object was to obtain a school and I did not entirely neglect
my plans but application to the county superintendent came to nothing. I
fear I was half-hearted in my campaign.

At last, at the beginning of the week and at the end of my money, I
bought passage to Wabasha and from there took train to a small town
where some of my mother's cousins lived. I had been in correspondence
with one of them, a Mrs. Harris, and I landed at her door (after a
glorious ride up through the hills, amid the most gorgeous autumn
colors) with just three cents in my pocket--a poverty which you may be
sure I did not publish to my relations who treated me with high respect
and manifested keen interest in all my plans.

As nothing offered in the township round about the Harris home, I
started one Saturday morning to walk to a little cross-roads village
some twenty miles away, in which I was told a teacher was required. My
cousins, not knowing that I was penniless, supposed, of course, that I
would go by train, and I was too proud to tell them the truth. It was
very muddy, and when I reached the home of the committeeman his mid-day
meal was over, and his wife did not ask if I had dined--although she was
quick to tell me that the teacher had just been hired.

Without a cent in my pocket, I could not ask for food--therefore, I
turned back weary, hungry and disheartened. To make matters worse a cold
rain was falling and the eighteen or twenty miles between me and the
Harris farm looked long.

I think it must have been at this moment that I began, for the first
time, to take a really serious view of my plan "to see the world." It
became evident with startling abruptness, that a man might be both
hungry and cold in the midst of abundance. I recalled the fable of the
grasshopper who, having wasted the summer hours in singing, was
mendicant to the ant. My weeks of careless gayety were over. The money I
had spent in travel looked like a noble fortune to me at this hour.

The road was deep in mud, and as night drew on the rain thickened. At
last I said, "I will go into some farm-house and ask the privilege of a
bed." This was apparently a simple thing to do and yet I found it
exceedingly hard to carry out. To say bluntly, "Sir, I have no money, I
am tired and hungry," seemed a baldly disgraceful way of beginning. On
the other hand to plead relationship with Will Harris involved a
relative, and besides they might not know my cousin, or they might think
my statement false.

Arguing in this way I passed house after house while the water dripped
from my hat and the mud clogged my feet. Though chilled and hungry to
the point of weakness, my suffering was mainly mental. A sudden
realization of the natural antagonism of the well-to-do toward the tramp
appalled me. Once, as I turned in toward the bright light of a kitchen
window, the roar of a watch dog stopped me before I had fairly passed
the gate. I turned back with a savage word, hot with resentment at a
house-owner who would keep a beast like that. At another cottage I was
repulsed by an old woman who sharply said, "We don't feed tramps."

I now had the precise feeling of the penniless outcast. With morbidly
active imagination I conceived of myself as a being forever set apart
from home and friends, condemned to wander the night alone. I worked on
this idea till I achieved a bitter, furtive and ferocious manner.

However, I knocked at another door and upon meeting the eyes of the
woman at the threshold, began with formal politeness to explain, "I am a
teacher, I have been to look for a school, and I am on my way back to
Byron, where I have relatives. Can you keep me all night?"

The woman listened in silence and at length replied with ungracious
curtness, "I guess so. Come in."

She gave me a seat by the fire, and when her husband returned from the
barn, I explained the situation to him. He was only moderately cordial.
"Make yourself at home. I'll be in as soon as I have finished my
milking," he said and left me beside the kitchen fire.

The woman of the house, silent, suspicious (it seemed to me) began to
spread the table for supper while I, sitting beside the stove, began to
suffer with the knowledge that I had, in a certain sense, deceived them.
I was fairly well dressed and my voice and manner, as well as the fact
that I was seeking a school, had given them, no doubt, the impression
that I was able to pay for my entertainment, and the more I thought of
this the more uneasy I became. To eat of their food without making an
explanation was impossible but the longer I waited the more difficult
the explanation grew.

Suffering keenly, absurdly, I sat with hanging head going over and over
the problem, trying to formulate an easy way of letting them know my
predicament. There was but one way of escape--and I took it. As the
woman stepped out of the room for a moment, I rose, seized my hat and
rushed out into the rain and darkness like a fugitive.

I have often wondered what those people thought when they found me gone.
Perhaps I am the great mystery of their lives, an unexplained visitant
from "the night's Plutonian shore."

I plodded on for another mile or two in the darkness, which was now so
intense I could scarcely keep the road. Only by the feel of the mud
under my feet could I follow the pike. Like Jean Valjean, I possessed a
tempest in my brain. I experienced my first touch of despair.

Although I had never had more than thirty dollars at any one time, I had
never been without money. Distinctions had not counted largely in the
pioneer world to which I belonged. I was proud of my family. I came of
good stock, and knew it and felt it, but now here I was, wet as a sponge
and without shelter simply because I had not in my pocket a small piece
of silver with which to buy a bed.

I walked on until this dark surge of rebellious rage had spent its force
and reason weakly resumed her throne. I said, "What nonsense! Here I am
only a few miles from relatives. All the farmers on this road must know
the Harris family. If I tell them who I am, they will certainly feel
that I have the claim of a neighbor upon them."--But these deductions,
admirable as they were, did not lighten my sky or make begging easier.

After walking two miles further I found it almost impossible to proceed.
It was black night and I did not know where I stood. The wind had risen
and the rain was falling in slant cataracts. As I looked about me and
caught the gleam from the windows of a small farmhouse, my stubborn
pride gave way. Stumbling up the path I rapped on the door. It was
opened by a middle-aged farmer in his stocking feet, smoking a pipe.
Having finished his supper he was taking his ease beside the fire, and
fortunately for me, was in genial mood.

"Come in," he said heartily. "'Tis a wet night."

I began, "I am a cousin of William Harris of Byron--"

"You don't say! Well, what are you doing on the road a night like this?
Come in!"

I stepped inside and finished my explanation there.

This good man and his wife will forever remain the most hospitable
figures in my memory. They set me close beside the stove insisting that
I put my feet in the oven to dry, talking meanwhile of my cousins and
the crops, and complaining of the incessant rainstorms which were
succeeding one another almost without intermission, making this one of
the wettest and most dismal autumns the country had ever seen. Never in
all my life has a roof seemed more heavenly, or hosts more sweet and

After breakfast next morning I shook hands with the farmer saying: "I
shall send you the money for my entertainment the first time my cousin
comes to town," and under the clamor of his hospitable protestations
against payment, set off up the road.

The sun came out warm and beautiful and all about me on every farm the
teamsters were getting into the fields. The mud began to dry up and with
the growing cheer of the morning my heart expanded and the experience of
the night before became as unreal as a dream and yet it had happened,
and it had taught me a needed lesson. Hereafter I take no narrow
chances, I vowed to myself.

Upon arrival at my cousin's home I called him aside and said, "Will, you
have work to do and I have need of wages,--I am going to strip off this
'boiled shirt' and white collar, and I am going to work for you just
the same as any other hand, and I shall expect the full pay of the best
man on your place."

He protested, "I don't like to see you do this. Don't give up your
plans. I'll hitch up and we'll start out and keep going till we find you
a school."

"No," I said, "not till I earn a few dollars to put in my pocket. I've
played the grasshopper for a few weeks--from this time on I'm the busy

So it was settled, and the grasshopper went forth into the fields and
toiled as hard as any slave. I plowed, threshed, and husked corn, and
when at last December came, I had acquired money enough to carry me on
my way. I decided to visit Onalaska and the old coulee where my father's
sister and two of the McClintocks were still living. With swift return
of confidence, I said good-bye to my friends in Zumbrota and took the
train. It seemed very wonderful that after a space of thirteen years I
should be returning to the scenes of my childhood, a full-grown man and
paying my own way. I expanded with joy of the prospect.

Onalaska, the reader may remember, was the town in which I had gone to
school when a child, and in my return to it I felt somewhat like the man
in the song, _Twenty Years Ago_--indeed I sang, "I've wandered through
the village, Tom, I've sat beneath the tree" for my uncle that first
night. There was the river, filled as of old with logs, and the clamor
of the saws still rose from the sawdust islands. Bleakly white the
little church, in which we used to sit in our Sunday best, remained
unchanged but the old school-house was not merely altered, it was gone!
In its place stood a commonplace building of brick. The boys with whom I
used to play "Mumblety Peg" were men, and some of them had developed
into worthless loafers, lounging about the doors of the saloons, and
although we looked at one another with eyes of sly recognition, we did
not speak.

Eagerly I visited the old coulee, but the magic was gone from the hills,
the glamour from the meadows. The Widow Green no longer lived at the
turn of the road, and only the Randals remained. The marsh was drained,
the big trees cleared away. The valley was smaller, less mysterious,
less poetic than my remembrances of it, but it had charm nevertheless,
and I responded to the beauty of its guarding bluffs and the deep-blue
shadows which streamed across its sunset fields.

Uncle William drove down and took me home with him, over the long hill,
back to the little farm where he was living much the same as I
remembered him. One of his sons was dead, the other had shared in the
rush for land, and was at this time owner of a homestead in western
Minnesota. Grandfather McClintock, still able to walk about, was
spending the autumn with William and we had a great deal of talk
concerning the changes which had come to the country and especially to
our family group. "Ye scatter like the leaves of autumn," he said
sadly--then added, "Perhaps in the Final Day the trumpet of the Lord
will bring us all together again."

We sang some of his old Adventist hymns together and then he asked me
what I was planning to do. "I haven't any definite plans," I answered,
"except to travel. I want to travel. I want to see the world."

"To see the world!" he exclaimed. "As for me I wait for it to pass away.
I watch daily for the coming of the Chariot."

This gray old crag of a man interested me as deeply as ever and yet, in
a sense, he was an alien. He was not of my time--scarcely of my country.
He was a survival of the days when the only book was the Bible, when
the newspaper was a luxury. Migration had been his lifelong adventure
and now he was waiting for the last great remove. His thought now was of
"the region of the Amaranth," his new land "the other side of Jordan."

He engaged my respect but I was never quite at ease with him. His
valuations were too intensely religious; he could not understand my
ambitions. His mind filled with singular prejudices,--notions which came
down from the Colonial age, was impervious to new ideas. His character
had lost something of its mellow charm--but it had gained in dramatic
significance. Like my uncles he had ceased to be a part of my childish

I went away with a sense of sadness, of loss as though a fine picture on
the walls of memory had been dimmed or displaced. I perceived that I had
idealized him as I had idealized all the figures and scenes of my
boyhood--"but no matter, they were beautiful to me then and beautiful
they shall remain," was the vague resolution with which I dismissed

The whole region had become by contrast with Dakota, a "settled"
community. The line of the middle border had moved on some three hundred
miles to the west. The Dunlaps, McIldowneys, Dudleys and Elwells were
the stay-at-homes. Having had their thrust at the job of pioneering
before the war they were now content on their fat soil. To me they all
seemed remote. Their very names had poetic value, for they brought up in
my mind shadowy pictures of the Coulee country as it existed to my
boyish memories.

I spent nearly two months in Onalaska, living with my Aunt Susan, a
woman of the loveliest character. Richard Bailey, her husband, one of
the kindliest of men, soon found employment for me, and so, for a time,
I was happy and secure.

However, this was but a pause by the roadside. I was not satisfied. It
was a show of weakness to settle down on one's relations. I wanted to
make my way among strangers. I scorned to lean upon my aunt and uncle,
though they were abundantly able to keep me. It was mid-winter, nothing
offered and so I turned (as so many young men similarly placed have
done), toward a very common yet difficult job. I attempted to take
subscriptions for a book.

After a few days' experience in a neighboring town I decided that
whatever else I might be fitted for in this world, I was not intended
for a book agent. Surrendering my prospectus to the firm, I took my way
down to Madison, the capital of the state, a city which seemed at this
time very remote, and very important in my world. Only when travelling
did I have the feeling of living up to the expectations of Alice and
Burton who put into their letters to me, an envy which was very sweet.
To them I was a bold adventurer!

Alas for me! In the shining capital of my state I felt again the world's
rough hand. First of all I tried The State House. This was before the
general use of typewriters and I had been told that copyists were in
demand. I soon discovered that four men and two girls were clamoring for
every job. Nobody needed me. I met with blunt refusals and at last
turned to other fields.

Every morning I went among the merchants seeking an opportunity to clerk
or keep books, and at last obtained a place at six dollars per week in
the office of an agricultural implement firm. I was put to work in the
accounting department, as general slavey, under the immediate
supervision of a youth who had just graduated from my position and who
considered me his legitimate victim. He was only seventeen and not
handsome, and I despised him with instant bitterness. Under his
direction I swept out the office, made copies of letters, got the mail,
stamped envelopes and performed other duties of a manual routine kind,
to which I would have made no objection, had it not been for the
gloating joy with which that chinless cockerel ordered me about. I had
never been under that kind of discipline, and to have a pin-headed gamin
order me to clean spittoons was more than I could stomach.

At the end of the week I went to the proprietor, and said, "If you have
nothing better for me to do than sweep the floor and run errands, I
think I'll quit."

With some surprise my boss studied me. At last he said: "Very well, sir,
you can go, and from all accounts I don't think we'll miss you much,"
which was perfectly true. I was an absolute failure so far as any
routine work of that kind was concerned.

So here again I was thrown upon a cruel world with only six dollars
between myself and the wolf. Again I fell back upon my physical powers.
I made the round of all the factories seeking manual labor. I went out
on the Catfish, where, through great sheds erected for the manufacture
of farm machinery, I passed from superintendent to foreman, from foreman
to boss,--eager to wheel sand, paint woodwork, shovel coal--anything at
all to keep from sending home for money--for, mind you, my father or my
uncle would have helped me out had I written to them, but I could not do
that. So long as I was able to keep a roof over my head, I remained
silent. I was in the world and I intended to keep going without asking a
cent from anyone. Besides, the grandiloquent plans for travel and
success which I had so confidently outlined to Burton must be carried

I should have been perfectly secure had it been summertime, for I knew
the farmer's life and all that pertained to it, but it was winter. How
to get a living in a strange town was my problem. It was a bright,
clear, intensely cold February, and I was not very warmly dressed--hence
I kept moving.

Meanwhile I had become acquainted with a young clergyman in one of the
churches, and had showed to him certain letters and papers to prove that
I was not a tramp, and no doubt his word kept my boarding mistress from
turning me into the street.

Mr. Eaton was a man of books. His library contained many volumes of
standard value and we met as equals over the pages of Scott and Dickens.
I actually forced him to listen to a lecture which I had been writing
during the winter and so wrought upon him that he agreed to arrange a
date for me in a neighboring country church.--Thereafter while I glowed
with absurd dreams of winning money and renown by delivering that
lecture in the churches and school-houses of the state, I continued to
seek for work, any work that would bring me food and shelter.

One bitter day in my desperate need I went down upon the lake to watch
the men cutting ice. The wind was keen, the sky gray and filled with
glittering minute flecks of frost, and my clothing (mainly cotton)
seemed hardly thicker than gossamer, and yet I looked upon those working
men with a distinct feeling of envy. Had I secured "a job" I should have
been pulling a saw up and down through the ice, at the same time that I
dreamed of touring the west as a lecturer--of such absurd contradictions
are the visions of youth.

I don't know exactly what I would have done had not my brother happened
along on his way to a school near Chicago. To him I confessed my
perplexity. He paid my board bill (which was not very large) and in
return I talked him into a scheme which promised great things for us
both--I contracted to lecture under his management! He was delighted at
the opportunity of advancing me, and we were both happy.

Our first engagement was at Cyene, a church which really belonged to
Eaton's circuit, and according to my remembrance the lecture was a
moderate success. After paying all expenses we had a little money for
carfare, and Franklin was profoundly impressed. It really seemed to us
both that I had at last entered upon my career. It was the kind of
service I had been preparing for during all my years at school--but
alas! our next date was a disaster. We attempted to do that which an
older and fully established lecturer would not have ventured. We tried
to secure an audience with only two days' advance work, and of course we

I called a halt. I could not experiment on the small fund which my
father had given Frank for his business education.

However, I borrowed a few dollars of him and bought a ticket to Rock
River, a town near Chicago. I longed to enter the great western
metropolis, but dared not do so--yet. I felt safe only when in sight of
a plowed field.

At a junction seventy miles out of the city, we separated, he to attend
a school, and I to continue my education in the grim realities of life.

From office to office in Rock River I sullenly plodded, willing to work
for fifty cents a day, until at last I secured a clerkship in a small
stationery jobbing house which a couple of school teachers had strangely
started, but on Saturday of the second week the proprietor called me to
him and said kindly, but firmly, "Garland, I'm afraid you are too
literary and too musical for this job. You have a fine baritone voice
and your ability to vary the text set before you to copy, is remarkable,
and yet I think we must part."

The reasons for this ironical statement were (to my mind) ignoble;
first of all he resented my musical ability, secondly, my literary skill
shamed him, for as he had put before me a badly composed circular
letter, telling me to copy it one hundred times, I quite naturally
improved the English.--However, I admitted the charge of
insubordination, and we parted quite amicably.

It was still winter, and I was utterly without promise of employment. In
this extremity, I went to the Y. M. C. A. (which had for one of its aims
the assistance of young men out of work) and confided my homelessness to
the secretary, a capital young fellow who knew enough about men to
recognize that I was not a "bum." He offered me the position of
night-watch and gave me a room and cot at the back of his office. These
were dark hours!

During the day I continued to pace the streets. Occasionally some little
job like raking up a yard would present itself, and so I was able to buy
a few rolls, and sometimes I indulged in milk and meat. I lived along
from noon to noon in presentable condition, but I was always hungry. For
four days I subsisted on five cents worth of buns.

Having left my home for the purpose of securing experience in the world,
I had this satisfaction--I was getting it! Very sweet and far away
seemed all that beautiful life with Alice and Burton and Hattie at the
Seminary, something to dream over, to regret, to versify, something
which the future (at this moment) seemed utterly incapable of
reproducing. I still corresponded with several of my classmates, but was
careful to conceal the struggle that I was undergoing. I told them only
of my travels and my reading.

As the ironical jobber remarked, I had a good voice, and upon being
invited to accompany the Band of Hope which went to sing and pray in the
County Jail, I consented, at least I took part in the singing. In this
way I partly paid the debt I owed the Association, and secured some
vivid impressions of prison life which came into use at a later time. My
three associates in this work were a tinner, a clothing salesman and a
cabinet maker. More and more I longed for the spring, for with it I knew
would come seeding, building and a chance for me.

At last in the midst of a grateful job of raking up yards and planting
shrubs, I heard the rat-tat-tat of a hammer, and resolved upon a bold
plan. I decided to become a carpenter, justifying myself by reference to
my apprenticeship to my grandfather. One fine April morning I started
out towards the suburbs, and at every house in process of construction
approached the boss and asked for a job. Almost at once I found
encouragement. "Yes, but where are your tools?"

In order to buy the tools I must work, work at anything. Therefore, at
the next place I asked if there was any rough labor required around the
house. The foreman replied: "Yes, there is some grading to be done."
Accordingly I set to work with a wheelbarrow, grading the bank around
the almost completed building. This was hard work, the crudest form of
manual labor, but I grappled with it desperately, knowing that the pay
(a dollar and a half a day) would soon buy a kit of tools.

Oh, that terrible first day! The heavy shovel blistered my hands and
lamed my wrists. The lifting of the heavily laden wheelbarrow strained
my back and shoulders. Half-starved and weak, quite unfitted for
sustained effort of this kind, I struggled on, and at the end of an
interminable afternoon staggered home to my cot. The next morning came
soon,--too soon. I was not merely lame, I was lacerated. My muscles
seemed to have been torn asunder, but I toiled (or made a show of
toiling) all the second day. On the warrant of my wages I borrowed
twenty-five cents of a friend and with this bought a meat dinner which
helped me through another afternoon.

The third day was less painful and by the end of the week, I was able to
do anything required of me. Upon receiving my pay I went immediately to
the hardware store and bought a set of tools and a carpenter's apron,
and early on Monday morning sallied forth in the _opposite direction_ as
a carpenter seeking a job. I soon came to a big frame house in course of
construction. "Do you need another hand?" I asked. "Yes," replied the
boss. "Take hold, right here, with this man."

"This man" turned out to be a Swede, a good-natured fellow, who made no
comment on my deficiencies. We sawed and hammered together in very
friendly fashion for a week, and I made rapid gains in strength and
skill and took keen pleasure in my work. The days seemed short and life
promising and as I was now getting two dollars per day, I moved out of
my charity bed and took a room in a decayed mansion in the midst of a
big lawn. My bearing became confident and easy. Money had straightened
my back.

The spring advanced rapidly while I was engaged on this work and as my
crew occasionally took contracts in the country I have vivid pictures of
the green and pleasant farm lands, of social farmers at barn-raisings,
and of tables filled with fatness. I am walking again in my stocking
feet, high on the "purline plate," beetle in hand, driving home the
oaken "pins." I am shingling on the broad roof of a suburban house from
which I can see the sunny slopes of a meadow and sheep feeding therein.
I am mending a screen door for a farmer's wife while she confides to me
the tragedy of her life--and always I have the foolish boyish notion
that I am out in the world and seeing life.

Into the midst of this busy peaceful season of manual labor came my
first deeply romantic admiration. Edwin Booth was announced as "the
opening attraction of the New Opera House" and I fairly trembled with
anticipatory delight, for to me the word _Booth_ meant all that was
splendid and tragic and glorious in the drama. I was afraid that
something might prevent me from hearing him.

At last the night came and so great was the throng, so strong the
pressure on the doors that the lock gave way and I, with my dollar
clutched tightly in my hand, was borne into the hall and half-way up the
stairs without touching foot to the floor, and when at last, safe in my
balcony seat I waited for the curtain to rise, I had a distinct
realization that a shining milestone was about to be established in my
youthful trail.

My father had told me of the elder Booth, and of Edwin's beautiful
Prince of Denmark I had heard many stories, therefore I waited with awe
as well as eagerness, and when the curtain, rising upon the court scene,
discovered the pale, handsome face and graceful form of the noble Dane,
and the sound of his voice,--that magic velvet voice--floated to my ear
with the words, "Seems, madame, I know not seems," neither time nor
space nor matter existed for me--I was in an ecstasy of attention.

I had read much of Shakespeare. I could recite many pages of the
tragedies and historical plays, and I had been assured by my teachers
that _Hamlet_ was the greatest of all dramas, but Edwin Booth in one
hour taught me more of its wonders, more of the beauty of the English
language than all my instructors and all my books. He did more, he
aroused in me a secret ambition to read as he read, to make the dead
lines of print glow with color and throb with music. There was something
magical in his interpretation of the drama's printed page. With voice
and face and hand he restored for duller minds the visions of the poet,
making Hamlet's sorrows as vital as our own.

From this performance, which filled me with vague ambitions and a
glorious melancholy, I returned to my association with a tinker, a
tailor, and a tinner, whose careless and stupid comments on the play
both pained and angered me. I went to my work next day in such absorbed
silence as only love is supposed to give.

I re-read my _Hamlet_ now with the light of Booth's face in my eyes and
the music of his glorious voice in my ear. As I nailed and sawed at pine
lumber, I murmured inaudibly the lofty lines of the play, in the hope of
fixing forever in my mind the cadences of the great tragedian's
matchless voice.

Great days! Growing days! Lonely days! Days of dream and development,
needing only the girl to be perfect--but I had no one but Alice to whom
I could voice my new enthusiasm and she was not only out of the reach of
my voice, but serenely indifferent to my rhapsodic letters concerning
_Hamlet_ and the genius of Edwin Booth.


We Discover New England

Edwin Booth's performance of _Hamlet_ had another effect. It brought to
my mind the many stories of Boston which my father had so often related
to his children. I recalled his enthusiastic accounts of the elder Booth
and Edwin Forrest, and especially his descriptions of the wonderful
scenic effects in _Old Put_ and _The Gold Seekers_, wherein actors rode
down mimic stone steps or debarked from theatrical ships which sailed
into pictured wharves, and one day in the midst of my lathing and
sawing, I evolved a daring plan--I decided to visit Boston and explore
New England.

With all his feeling for the East my father had never revisited it. This
was a matter of pride with him. "I never take the back trail," he said,
and yet at times, as he dwelt on the old home in the state of Maine a
wistful note had crept into his voice, and so now in writing to him, I
told him that I intended to seek out his boyhood haunts in order that I
might tell him all about the friends and relations who still lived

Without in any formal way intending it the old borderman had endowed
both his sons with a large sense of the power and historic significance
of Massachusetts. He had contrived to make us feel some part of his
idolatry of Wendell Phillips, for his memory of the great days of _The
Liberator_ were keen and worshipful. From him I derived a belief that
there were giants in those days and the thought of walking the streets
where Garrison was mobbed and standing in the hall which Webster had
hallowed with his voice gave me a profound anticipatory stir of delight.

As first assistant to a quaint and dirty old carpenter, I was now
earning two dollars per day, and saving it. There was no occasion in
those days for anyone to give me instructions concerning the care of
money. I knew how every dollar came and I was equally careful to know
where every nickel went. Travel cost three cents per mile, and the
number of cities to be visited depended upon the number of dimes I
should save.

With my plan of campaign mapped out to include a stop at Niagara Falls
and fourth of July on Boston Common I wrote to my brother at Valparaiso,
Indiana, inviting him to join me in my adventure. "If we run out of
money and of course we shall, for I have only about thirty dollars,
we'll flee to the country. One of my friends here says we can easily
find work in the meadows near Concord."

The audacity of my design appealed to my brother's imagination. "I'm
your huckleberry!" he replied. "School ends the last week in June. I'll
meet you at the Atlantic House in Chicago on the first. Have about
twenty dollars myself."

At last the day came for my start. With all my pay in my pocket and my
trunk checked I took the train for Chicago. I shall never forget the
feeling of dismay with which, an hour later, I perceived from the car
window a huge smoke-cloud which embraced the whole eastern horizon, for
this, I was told was the soaring banner of the great and gloomy inland
metropolis, whose dens of vice and houses of greed had been so often
reported to me by wandering hired men. It was in truth only a huge
flimsy country town in those days, but to me it was august as well as

Up to this moment Rockford was the largest town I had ever seen, and the
mere thought of a million people stunned my imagination. "How can so
many people find a living in one place?" Naturally I believed most of
them to be robbers. "If the city is miles across, how am I to get from
the railway station to my hotel without being assaulted?" Had it not
been for the fear of ridicule, I think I should have turned back at the
next stop. The shining lands beyond seemed hardly worth a struggle
against the dragon's brood with which the dreadful city was a-swarm.
Nevertheless I kept my seat and was carried swiftly on.

Soon the straggling farm-houses thickened into groups, the villages
merged into suburban towns, and the train began to clatter through sooty
freight yards filled with box cars and switching engines; at last, after
crawling through tangled, thickening webs of steel, it plunged into a
huge, dark and noisy shed and came to a halt and a few moments later I
faced the hackmen of Chicago, as verdant a youth as these experienced
pirates had ever made common cause against.

I knew of them (by report), and was prepared for trouble, but their
clanging cries, their cynical eyes, their clutching insolent hands were
more terrifying than anything I had imagined. Their faces expressed
something remorseless, inhuman and mocking. Their grins were like those
of wolves.

In my hand I carried an imitation leather valise, and as I passed, each
of the drivers made a snatch at it, almost tearing it from my hands, but
being strong as well as desperate, I cleared myself of them, and so,
following the crowd, not daring to look to right or left, reached the
street and crossed the bridge with a sigh of relief. So much was

Without knowing where I should go, I wandered on, shifting my bag from
hand to hand, till my mind recovered its balance. My bewilderment, my
depth of distrust, was augmented by the roar and tumult of the crowd. I
was like some wild animal with exceedingly sensitive ears. The waves of
sound smothered me.

At last, timidly approaching a policeman, I asked the way to the
Atlantic Hotel.

"Keep straight down the street five blocks and turn to the left," he
said, and his kind voice filled me with a glow of gratitude.

With ears benumbed and brain distraught, I threaded the rush, the clamor
of Clark street and entered the door of the hotel, with such relief as a
sailor must feel upon suddenly reaching safe harbor after having been
buffeted on a wild and gloomy sea by a heavy northeast gale.

It was an inconspicuous hotel of the "Farmer's Home" type, but I
approached the desk with meek reluctance and explained, "I am expecting
to meet my brother here. I'd like permission to set my bag down and

With bland impersonal courtesy the clerk replied, "Make yourself at

Gratefully sinking into a chair by the window, I fell into study of the
people streaming by, and a chilling sense of helplessness fell upon me.
I realized my ignorance, my feebleness. As a minute bubble in this
torrent of human life, with no friend in whom I could put trust, and
with only a handful of silver between myself and the gray wolf, I lost
confidence. The Boston trip seemed a foolish tempting of Providence and
yet, scared as I was, I had no real intention of giving it up.

My brother's first words as he entered the door, were gayly derisive.
"Oh, see the whiskers!" he cried and his calm acceptance of my plan
restored my own courage.

Together we planned our itinerary. We were to see Niagara Falls, of
course, but to spend the fourth of July on Boston Common, was our true
objective. "When our money is used up," I said, "we'll strike out into
the country."

To all this my brother agreed. Neither of us had the slightest fear of
hunger in the country. It was the city that gave us pause.

All the afternoon and evening we wandered about the streets (being very
careful not to go too far from our hotel), counting the stories of the
tall buildings, and absorbing the drama of the pavement. Returning now
and again to our sanctuary in the hotel lobby we ruminated and rested
our weary feet.

Everything interested us. The business section so sordid to others was
grandly terrifying to us. The self-absorption of the men, the calm
glances of the women humbled our simple souls. Nothing was commonplace,
nothing was ugly to us.

We slept that night in a room at the extreme top of the hotel. It
couldn't have been a first class accommodation, for the frame of the bed
fell in the moment we got into it, but we made no complaint--we would
not have had the clerk know of our mishap for twice our bill. We merely
spread the mattress on the floor and slept till morning.

Having secured our transportation we were eager to be off, but as our
tickets were second class, and good only on certain trains, we waited.
We did not even think of a sleeping car. We had never known anyone rich
enough to occupy one. Grant and Edwin Booth probably did, and senators
were ceremonially obliged to do so, but ordinary folks never looked
forward to such luxury. Neither of us would have known what to do with a
berth if it had been presented to us, and the thought of spending two
dollars for a night's sleep made the cold chills run over us. We knew of
no easier way to earn two dollars than to save them, therefore we rode
in the smoker.

Late that night as we were sitting stoically in our places, a brakeman
came along and having sized us up for the innocents we were,
good-naturedly said, "Boys, if you'll get up I'll fix your seats so's
you can lie down and catch a little sleep."

Silently, gratefully we watched him while he took up the cushions and
turned them lengthwise, thus making a couch. To be sure, it was a very
short and very hard bed but with the health and strength of nineteen and
twenty-two, we curled up and slept the remainder of the night like
soldiers resting on their guns. Pain, we understood, was an unavoidable
accompaniment of travel.

When morning dawned the train was running through Canada, and excitedly
calling upon Franklin to rouse, I peered from the window, expecting to
see a land entirely different from Wisconsin and Illinois. We were both
somewhat disappointed to find nothing distinctive in either the land or
its inhabitants. However, it was a foreign soil and we had seen it. So
much of our exploration was accomplished.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon when we came in sight of the
suspension bridge and Niagara Falls. I suppose it would be impossible
for anyone now to feel the same profound interest in any natural
phenomenon whatsoever. We believed that we were approaching the most
stupendous natural wonder in all the world, and we could scarcely credit
the marvel of our good fortune.

All our lives we had heard of this colossal cataract. Our school readers
contained stately poems and philosophical dissertations concerning it.
Gough, the great orator, had pointed out the likeness of its resistless
torrent to the habit of using spirituous liquors. The newspapers still
printed descriptions of its splendor and no foreigner (so we understood)
ever came to these shores without visiting and bowing humbly before the
voice of its waters.--And to think that we, poor prairie boys, were soon
to stand upon the illustrious brink of that dread chasm and listen to
its mighty song was wonderful, incredible, benumbing!

Alighting at the squalid little station on the American side, we went to
the cheapest hotel our keen eyes could discover, and leaving our
valises, we struck out immediately toward the towering white column of
mist which could be seen rising like a ghostly banner behind the trees.
We were like those who first discover a continent.

As we crept nearer, the shuddering roar deepened, and our awe, our
admiration, our patriotism deepened with it, and when at last we leaned
against the rail and looked across the tossing spread of river swiftly
sweeping to its fall, we held our breaths in wonder. It met our

Of course we went below and spent two of our hard-earned dollars in
order to be taken behind the falls. We were smothered with spray and
forced to cling frenziedly to the hands of our guide, but it was a part
of our duty, and we did it. No one could rob us of the glory of having
adventured so far.

That night we resumed our seats in the smoking car, and pushed on toward
Boston in patiently-endured discomfort. Early the following morning we
crossed the Hudson, and as the Berkshire hills began to loom against the
dawn, I asked the brakeman, with much emotion, "Have we reached the
Massachusetts line?" "We have," he said, and by pressing my nose against
the glass and shading my face with my hands I was able to note the
passing landscape.

Little could be seen other than a tumbled, stormy sky with wooded
heights dimly outlined against it, but I had all the emotions of a
pilgrim entering upon some storied oriental vale. Massachusetts to me
meant Whittier and Hawthorne and Wendell Phillips and Daniel Webster. It
was the cradle of our liberty, the home of literature, the province of
art--and it contained Boston!

As the sun rose, both of us sat with eyes fixed upon the scenery,
observant of every feature. It was all so strange, yet familiar! Barns
with long, sloping roofs stood with their backs against the hillsides,
precisely as in the illustrations to Hawthorne's stories, and Whittier's
poems. The farm-houses, old and weather-beaten and guarded by giant
elms, looked as if they might have sheltered Emerson and Lowell. The
little villages with narrow streets lined with queer brick-walled houses
(their sides to the gutter) reminded us of the pictures in Ben
Franklin's _Autobiography_.

Everything was old, delightfully old. Nothing was new.--Most of the
people we saw were old. The men working in the fields were bent and
gray, scarcely a child appeared, though elderly women abounded. (This
was thirty-five years ago, before the Canadians and Italians had begun
to swarm). Everywhere we detected signs of the historical, the
traditional, the Yankee. The names of the stations rang in our ears like
bells, _Lexington_, _Concord_, _Cambridge_, _Charlestown_, and--at last

What a strange, new world this ancient city was to us, as we issued from
the old Hoosac Tunnel station! The intersection of every street was a
bit of history. The houses standing sidewise to the gutter, the narrow,
ledge-like pavements, the awkward two-wheeled drays and carts, the men
selling lobsters on the corner, the newsboys with their "papahs," the
faces of the women so thin and pale, the men, neat, dapper, small, many
of them walking with finicky precision as though treading on
eggs,--everything had a Yankee tang, a special quality, and then, the
noise! We had thought Chicago noisy, and so it was, but here the clamor
was high-keyed, deafening for the reason that the rain-washed streets
were paved with cobble stones over which enormous carts bumped and
clattered with resounding riot.

Bewildered,--with eyes and ears alert, we toiled up Haymarket Square
shoulder to shoulder, seeking the Common. Of course we carried our
hand-bags--(the railway had no parcel rooms in those days, or if it had
we didn't know it) clinging to them like ants to their eggs and so
slowly explored Tremont Street. Cornhill entranced us with its amazing
curve. We passed the Granary Burying Ground and King's Chapel with awe,
and so came to rest at last on the upper end of the Common! We had
reached the goal of our long pilgrimage.

To tell the truth, we were a little disappointed in our first view of
it. It was much smaller than we had imagined it to be and the pond was
ONLY a pond, but the trees were all that father had declared them to be.
We had known broad prairies and splendid primitive woodlands--but these
elms dated back to the days of Washington, and were to be reverenced
along with the State House and Bunker Hill.

We spent considerable time there on that friendly bench, resting in the
shadows of the elms, and while sitting there, we ate our lunch, and
watched the traffic of Tremont Street, in perfect content till I
remembered that the night was coming on, and that we had no place to

Approaching a policeman I inquired the way to a boarding house.

The officer who chanced to be a good-natured Irishman, with a courtesy
almost oppressive, minutely pointed the way to a house on Essex Street.
Think of it--Essex Street! It sounded like Shakespeare and Merrie

Following his direction, we found ourselves in the door of a small house
on a narrow alley at the left of the Common. The landlady, a kindly
soul, took our measure at once and gave us a room just off her little
parlor, and as we had not slept, normally, for three nights, we decided
to go at once to bed. It was about five o'clock, one of the noisiest
hours of a noisy street, but we fell almost instantly into the kind of
slumber in which time and tumult do not count.

When I awoke, startled and bewildered, the sounds of screaming children,
roaring, jarring drays, and the clatter of falling iron filled the room.
At first I imagined this to be the business of the morning, but as I
looked out of the window I perceived that it was sunset! "Wake up!" I
called to Franklin. "_It's the next day!_" "We've slept twenty-four
hours!--What will the landlady think of us?"

Frank did not reply. He was still very sleepy, but he dressed, and with
valise in hand dazedly followed me into the sitting room. The woman of
the house was serving supper to her little family. To her I said,
"You've been very kind to let us sleep all this time. We were very

"All this time?" she exclaimed.

"Isn't it the next day?" I asked.

Then she laughed, and her husband laughed, doubling himself into a knot
of merriment. "Oh, but that's rich!" said he. "You've been asleep
exactly an hour and a quarter," he added. "How long did you _think_
you'd slept--two days?"

Sheepishly confessing that I thought we had, I turned back to bed, and
claimed ten hours more of delicious rest.

All "the next day" we spent in seeing Bunker Hill, Faneuil Hall, the old
North Church, King's Chapel, Longfellow's home, the Washington Elm, and
the Navy Yard.--It was all glorious but a panic seized us as we found
our money slipping away from us, and late in the afternoon we purchased
tickets for Concord, and fled the roaring and turbulent capital.

We had seen the best of it anyway. We had tasted the ocean and found it
really salt, and listened to "the sailors with bearded lips" on the
wharves where the ships rocked idly on the tide,--The tide! Yes, that
most inexplicable wonder of all we had proved. We had watched it come in
at the Charles River Bridge, mysterious as the winds. We knew it was so.

Why Concord, do you ask? Well, because Hawthorne had lived there, and
because the region was redolent of Emerson and Thoreau, and I am glad to
record that upon reaching it of a perfect summer evening, we found the
lovely old village all that it had been pictured by the poets. The wide
and beautiful meadows, the stone walls, the slow stream, the bridge and
the statue of the "Minute Man" guarding the famous battlefield, the gray
old Manse where Hawthorne lived, the cemetery of Sleepy Hollow, the
grave of Emerson--all these historic and charming places enriched and
inspired us. This land, so mellowed, so harmonious, so significant,
seemed hardly real. It was a vision.

We rounded out our day by getting lodgings in the quaint old Wright's
tavern which stood (and still stands) at the forks of the road, a
building whose date painted on its chimney showed that it was nearly two
hundred years old! I have since walked Carnarvan's famous walls, and sat
in the circus at Nismes--but I have never had a deeper thrill of
historic emotion than when I studied the beamed ceiling of that little
dining room. Our pure joy in its age amused our landlord greatly.

Being down to our last dollar, we struck out into the country next
morning, for the purpose of finding work upon a farm but met with very
little encouragement. Most of the fields were harvested and those that
were not were well supplied with "hands." Once we entered a beautiful
country place where the proprietor himself (a man of leisure, a type we
had never before seen) interrogated us with quizzical humor, and at last
sent us to his foreman with honest desire to make use of us. But the
foreman had nothing to give, and so we went on.

All day we loitered along beautiful wood roads, passing wonderful old
homesteads gray and mossy, sheltered by trees that were almost human in
the clasp of their protecting arms. We paused beside bright streams, and
drank at mossy wells operated by rude and ancient sweeps, contrivances
which we had seen only in pictures. It was all beautiful, but we got no
work. The next day, having spent our last cent in railway tickets, we
rode to Ayer Junction, where we left our trunks in care of the baggage
man and resumed our tramping.


Coasting Down Mt. Washington

In spite of all our anxiety, we enjoyed this search for work. The
farmers were all so comically inquisitive. A few of them took us for
what we were, students out on a vacation. Others though kind enough,
seemed lacking in hospitality, from the western point of view, and some
were openly suspicious--but the roads, the roads! In the west
thoroughfares ran on section lines and were defined by wire fences. Here
they curved like Indian trails following bright streams, and the stone
walls which bordered them were festooned with vines as in a garden.

That night we lodged in the home of an old farmer, an octogenarian who
had never in all his life been twenty miles from his farm. He had never
seen Boston, or Portland, but he had been twice to Nashua, returning,
however, in time for supper. He, as well as his wife (dear simple soul),
looked upon us as next door to educated Indians and entertained us in a
flutter of excited hospitality.

We told them of Dakota, of the prairies, describing the wonderful farm
machinery, and boasting of the marvellous crops our father had raised in
Iowa, and the old people listened in delighted amaze.

They put us to bed at last in a queer high-posted, corded bedstead and I
had a feeling that we were taking part in a Colonial play. It was like
living a story book. We stared at each other in a stupor of
satisfaction. We had never hoped for such luck. To be thrust back
abruptly into the very life of our forebears was magical, and the
excitement and delight of it kept us whispering together long after we
should have been asleep.

This was thirty years ago, and those kindly old souls have long since
returned to dust, but their big four-posted bed is doing service, no
doubt, in the home of some rich collector. I have forgotten their names
but they shall live here in my book as long as its print shall endure.

They seemed sorry to have us go next morning, but as they had nothing
for us to do, they could only say, "Good-bye, give our love to Jane, if
you see her, she lives in Illinois." Illinois and Dakota were all the
same to them!

Again we started forth along the graceful, irregular, elm-shaded roads,
which intersected the land in every direction, perfectly happy except
when we remembered our empty pockets. We could not get accustomed to the
trees and the beauty of the vineclad stone walls. The lanes made
_pictures_ all the time. So did the apple trees and the elms and the
bending streams.

About noon of this day we came to a farm of very considerable size and
fairly level, on which the hay remained uncut. "Here's our chance," I
said to my brother, and going in, boldly accosted the farmer, a youngish
man with a bright and pleasant face. "Do you want some skilled help?" I
called out.

The farmer admitted that he did, but eyed us as if jokers. Evidently we
did not look precisely like workmen to him, but I jolted him by saying,
"We are Iowa schoolboys out for a vacation. We were raised on a farm,
and know all about haying. If you'll give us a chance we'll make you
think you don't know much about harvesting hay."

This amused him. "Come in," he said, "and after dinner we'll see about

At dinner we laid ourselves out to impress our host. We told him of the
mile-wide fields of the west, and enlarged upon the stoneless prairies
of Dakota. We described the broadcast seeders they used in Minnesota and
bragged of the amount of hay we could put up, and both of us professed a
contempt for two-wheeled carts. In the end we reduced our prospective
employer to humbleness. He consulted his wife a moment and then said,
"All right, boys, you may take hold."

We stayed with him two weeks and enjoyed every moment of our stay.

"Our expedition is successful," I wrote to my parents.

On Sundays we picked berries or went fishing or tumbled about the lawn.
It was all very beautiful and delightfully secure, so that when the time
came to part with our pleasant young boss and his bright and cheery
wife, we were as sorry as they.

"We must move on," I insisted. "There are other things to see."

After a short stay in Portland we took the train for Bethel, eager to
visit the town which our father had described so many times. We had
resolved to climb the hills on which he had gathered berries and sit on
the "Overset" from which he had gazed upon the landscape. We felt
indeed, a certain keen regret that he could not be with us.

At Locks Mills, we met his old playmates, Dennis and Abner Herrick, men
bent of form and dim of eye, gnarled and knotted by their battle with
the rocks and barren hillsides, and to them we, confident lads, with our
tales of smooth and level plow-lands, must have seemed like denizens
from some farmers' paradise,--or perhaps they thought us fictionists. I
certainly put a powerful emphasis on the pleasant side of western life
at that time.

Dennis especially looked upon us with amazement, almost with awe. To
think that we, unaided and alone, had wandered so far and dared so much,
while he, in all his life, had not been able to visit Boston, was
bewildering. This static condition of the population was a constant
source of wonder to us. How could people stay all their lives in one
place? Must be something the matter with them.--Their ox-teams and
tipcarts amused us, their stony fields appalled us, their restricted,
parsimonious lives saddened us, and so, not wishing to be a burden, we
decided to cut our stay short.

On the afternoon of our last day, Abner took us on a tramp over the
country, pointing out the paths "where Dick and I played," tracing the
lines of the old farm, which had long since been given over to pasture,
and so to the trout brook and home. In return for our "keep" we sang
that night, and told stories of the west, and our hosts seemed pleased
with the exchange. Shouldering our faithful "grips" next morning, we
started for the railway and took the train for Gorham.

Each mile brought us nearer the climax of our trip. We of the plains had
longed and dreamed of the peaks. To us the White Mountains were at once
the crowning wonder and chief peril of our expedition. They were to be
in a very real sense the test of our courage. The iron crest of Mount
Washington allured us as a light-house lures sea-birds.

Leaving Gorham on foot, and carrying our inseparable valises, we started
westward along the road leading to the peaks, expecting to get lodging
at some farm-house, but as we stood aside to let gay coaches pass laden
with glittering women and haughty men, we began to feel abused.

We were indeed, quaint objects. Each of us wore a long yellow linen
"duster" and each bore a valise on a stick, as an Irishman carries a
bundle. We feared neither wind nor rain, but wealth and coaches
oppressed us.

Nevertheless we trudged cheerily along, drinking at the beautiful
springs beside the road, plucking blackberries for refreshment, lifting
our eyes often to the snow-flecked peaks to the west. At noon we stopped
at a small cottage to get some milk, and there again met a pathetic
lonely old couple. The woman was at least eighty, and very crusty with
her visitors, till I began to pet the enormous maltese cat which came
purring to our feet. "What a magnificent animal!" I said to Frank.

This softened the old woman's heart. She not only gave us bread and milk
but sat down to gossip with us while we ate. She, too, had relatives
"out there, somewhere in Iowa" and would hardly let us go, so eager was
she to know all about her people. "Surely you must have met them."

As we neared the foot of the great peak we came upon hotels of all sizes
but I had not the slightest notion of staying even at the smallest.
Having walked twelve miles to the foot of the mountain we now decided to
set out for the top, still carrying those precious bags upon our

What we expected to do after we got to the summit, I cannot say, for we
knew nothing of conditions there and were too tired to imagine--we just
kept climbing, sturdily, doggedly, breathing heavily, more with
excitement than with labor, for it seemed that we were approaching the
moon,--so bleak and high the roadway ran. I had miscalculated sadly. It
had looked only a couple of hours' brisk walk from the hotel, but the
way lengthened out toward the last in a most disheartening fashion.

"Where will we stay?" queried Frank.

"Oh, we'll find a place somewhere," I answered, but I was far from being
as confident as I sounded.

We had been told that it cost five dollars for a night's lodging at the
hotel, but I entertained some vague notion that other and cheaper places
offered. Perhaps I thought that a little village on the summit presented
boarding houses.

"No matter, we're in for it now," I stoutly said. "We'll find a
place--we've got to find a place."

It grew cold as we rose, surprisingly, dishearteningly cold and we both
realized that to sleep in the open would be to freeze. As the night
fell, our clothing, wet with perspiration, became almost as clammy as
sheet iron, and we shivered with weakness as well as with frost. The
world became each moment more barren, more wind-swept and Frank was
almost at his last gasp.

It was long after dark, and we were both trembling with fatigue and
hollow with hunger as we came opposite a big barn just at the top of the
trail. The door of this shelter stood invitingly open, and creeping into
an empty stall we went to sleep on the straw like a couple of homeless
dogs. We did not for a moment think of going to the hotel which loomed
like a palace a few rods further on.

A couple of hours later I was awakened by the crunch of a boot upon my
ankle, followed by an oath of surprise. The stage-driver, coming in from
his last trip, was looking down upon me. I could not see his face, but I
did note the bright eyes and pricking ears of a noble gray horse
standing just behind his master and champing his bit with impatience.

Sleepy, scared and bewildered, I presented my plea with such eloquence
that the man put his team in another stall and left us to our straw.
"But you get out o' here before the boss sees you," said he, "or
there'll be trouble."

"We'll get out before daybreak," I replied heartily.

When I next awoke it was dawn, and my body was so stiff I could hardly
move. We had slept cold and our muscles resented it. However, we hurried
from the barn. Once safely out of reach of the "boss" we began to leap
and dance and shout to the sun as it rose out of the mist, for this was
precisely what we had come two thousand miles to see--sunrise on Mount
Washington! It chanced, gloriously, that the valleys were filled with a
misty sea, breaking soundlessly at our feet and we forgot cold, hunger,
poverty, in the wonder of being "above the clouds!"

In course of time our stomachs moderated our transports over the view
and I persuaded my brother (who was younger and more delicate in
appearance) to approach the kitchen and purchase a handout. Frank being
harshly persuaded by his own need, ventured forth and soon came back
with several slices of bread and butter and part of a cold chicken,
which made the day perfectly satisfactory, and in high spirits we
started to descend the western slope of the mountain.

Here we performed the incredible. Our muscles were so sore and weak that
as we attempted to walk down the railway track, our knees refused to
bear our weight, and while creeping over the ties, groaning and sighing
with pain, a bright idea suddenly irradiated my mind. As I studied the
iron groove which contained the cogs in the middle of the track, I
perceived that its edges were raised a little above the level of the
rails and covered with oil. It occurred to me that it might be possible
to slide down this track on a plank--if only I had a plank!

I looked to the right. A miracle! There in the ditch lay a plank of
exactly the right dimensions. I seized it, I placed it cross-wise of the
rails. "All aboard," I called. Frank obeyed. I took my place at the
other end, and so with our valises between us, we began to slip slowly,
smoothly, and with joyous ease down the shining track! Hoopla! We had
taken wing!

We had solved our problem. The experiment was successful. Laughing and
shouting with exultation, we swept on. We had but to touch every other
tie with our heels in order to control our speed, so we coasted,
smoothly, genially.

On we went, mile after mile, slipping down the valley into the vivid
sunlight, our eyes on the glorious scenery about us, down, down like a
swooping bird. Once we passed above some workmen, who looked up in
open-mouthed amazement, and cursed us in voices which seemed far and
faint and futile. A little later the superintendent of the water tank
warningly shouted, "_Stop that! Get Off!_" but we only laughed at him
and swept on, out over a high trestle, where none could follow.

At times our heads grew dizzy with the flicker and glitter of the rocks
beneath us and as we rounded dangerous curves of the track, or descended
swift slides with almost uncontrollable rapidity, I had some doubts, but
we kept our wits, remained upon the rails, and at last spun round the
final bend and came to a halt upon a level stretch of track, just above
the little station.

There, kicking aside our faithful plank, we took up our valises and with
trembling knees and a sense of triumph set off down the valley of the
wild Amonoosuc.


Tramping, New York, Washington, and Chicago

For two days we followed the Amonoosuc (which is a lovely stream),
tramping along exquisite winding roads, loitering by sunny ripples or
dreaming in the shadow of magnificent elms. It was all very, very
beautiful to us of the level lands of Iowa and Dakota. These brooks
rushing over their rocky beds, these stately trees and these bleak
mountain-tops looming behind us, all glowed with the high splendor, of
which we had dreamed.

At noon we called at a farm-house to get something to eat and at night
we paid for lodging in a rude tavern beside the way, and so at last
reached the railway and the Connecticut River. Here we gained our trunks
(which had been sent round by express) and as the country seemed poor
and the farms barren, we spent nearly all our money in riding down the
railway fifty or sixty miles. At some small town (I forget the name), we
again took to the winding roads, looking for a job.

Jobs, it turned out, were exceedingly hard to get. The haying was over,
the oats mainly in shock, and the people on the highway suspicious and
inhospitable. As we plodded along, our dimes melting away, hunger came,
at last, to be a grim reality. We looked less and less like college boys
and more and more like tramps, and the householders began to treat us
with hostile contempt.

No doubt these farmers, much beset with tramps, had reasonable excuse
for their inhospitable ways, but to us it was all bitter and uncalled
for. I knew that cities were filled with robbers, brigands, burglars and
pirates, but I had held (up to this time), the belief that the country,
though rude and barren of luxury was nevertheless a place of plenty
where no man need suffer hunger.

Frank, being younger and less hardy than I, became clean disheartened,
and upon me fell the responsibility and burden of the campaign. I
certainly was to blame for our predicament.

We came finally to the point of calling at every house where any crops
lay ungathered, desperately in hope of securing something to do. At last
there came a time when we no longer had money for a bed, and were forced
to sleep wherever we could find covert. One night we couched on the
floor of an old school-house, the next we crawled into an oat-shock and
covered ourselves with straw. Let those who have never slept out on the
ground through an August night say that it is impossible that one should
be cold! During all the early warm part of the night a family of skunks
rustled about us, and toward morning we both woke because of the chill.

On the third night we secured the blessed opportunity of nesting in a
farmer's granary. All humor had gone out of our expedition. Each day the
world grew blacker, and the men of the Connecticut Valley more cruel and
relentless. We both came to understand (not to the full, but in a large
measure) the bitter rebellion of the tramp. To plod on and on into the
dusk, rejected of comfortable folk, to couch at last with pole-cats in a
shock of grain is a liberal education in sociology.

On the fourth day we came upon an old farmer who had a few acres of
badly tangled oats which he wished gathered and bound. He was a large,
loose-jointed, good-natured sloven who looked at me with stinging,
penetrating stare, while I explained that we were students on a vacation
tramping and in need of money. He seemed not particularly interested
till Frank said with tragic bitterness, "If we ever get back to Dakota
we'll never even look this way again." This interested the man. He said,
"Turn in and cut them oats," and we gladly buckled to our job.

Our spirits rose with the instant resiliency of youth, but what a task
that reaping proved to be! The grain, tangled and flattened close to the
ground, had to be caught up in one hand and cut with the old-fashioned
reaping-hook, the kind they used in Egypt five thousand years ago--a
thin crescent of steel with a straight handle, and as we bowed ourselves
to the ground to clutch and clip the grain, we nearly broke in two
pieces. It was hot at mid-day and the sun fell upon our bended shoulders
with amazing power, but we toiled on, glad of the opportunity to earn a
dollar. "Every cent means escape from this sad country," I repeated.

We stayed some days with this reticent gardener, sleeping in the attic
above his kitchen like two scullions, uttering no complaint till we had
earned seven dollars apiece; then we said, "Good luck," and bought
tickets for Greenfield, Massachusetts. We chose this spot for the reason
that a great railway alluringly crossed the river at that place. We
seemed in better situation to get west from such a point.

Greenfield was so like Rockford (the western town in which I had worked
as a carpenter), that I at once purchased a few tools and within a few
hours secured work shingling a house on the edge of the town, while my
brother took a hand at harvesting worms from a field of tobacco near by.

The builder, a tall man, bent and grizzled, complimented me warmly at
the close of my second day, and said, "You may consider yourself hired
for as long as you please to stay. You're a rattler." No compliment
since has given me more pleasure than this. A few days later he invited
both of us to live at his home. We accepted and were at once established
in most comfortable quarters.

Tranquil days followed. The country was very attractive, and on Sundays
we walked the neighboring lanes, or climbed the high hills, or visited
the quaint and lonely farm-houses round about, feeling more akin each
week to the life of the valley, but we had no intention of remaining
beyond a certain time. Great rivers called and cities allured. New York
was still to be explored and to return to the west before winter set in
was our plan.

At last the time came when we thought it safe to start toward Albany and
with grateful words of thanks to the carpenter and his wife, we set
forth upon our travels. Our courage was again at topmost gauge. My
success with the saw had given me confidence. I was no longer afraid of
towns, and in a glow of high resolution and with thirty dollars in my
pocket, I planned to invade New York which was to me the wickedest and
the most sorrowful as well as the most splendid city in the world.

Doubtless the true story of how I entered Manhattan will endanger my
social position, but as an unflinching realist, I must begin by
acknowledging that I left the Hudson River boat carrying my own luggage.
I shudder to think what we two boys must have looked like as we set off,
side by side, prospecting for Union Square and the Bowery. Broadway, we
knew, was the main street and Union Square the center of the island,
therefore we turned north and paced along the pavement, still clamped to
our everlasting bags.

Broadway was not then the deep canon that it is today. It was walled by
low shops of red brick--in fact, the whole city seemed low as compared
with the high buildings of Chicago, nevertheless I was keenly worried
over the question of housing.

Food was easy. We could purchase a doughnut and a cup of coffee almost
anywhere, or we could eat a sandwich in the park, but the matter of a
bed, the business of sleeping in a maelstrom like New York was something
more than serious--it was dangerous. Frank, naturally of a more prodigal
nature, was all for going to the Broadway Hotel. "It's only for one
night," said he. He always was rather careless of the future!

I reminded him that we still had Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington
to "do" and every cent must be husbanded--so we moved along toward Union
Square with the question of a hotel still undecided, our arms aching
with fatigue. "If only we could get rid of these awful bags," moaned

To us Broadway was a storm, a cyclone, an abnormal unholy congestion of
human souls. The friction of feet on the pavement was like the hissing
of waves on the beach. The passing of trucks jarred upon our ears like
the sevenfold thunders of Patmos, but we kept on, shoulder to shoulder,
watchful, alert, till we reached Union Square, where with sighs of deep
relief we sank upon the benches along with the other "rubes" and
"jay-hawkers" lolling in sweet repose with weary soles laxly turned to
the kindly indiscriminating breeze.

The evening was mild, the scene enthralling, and we would have been
perfectly happy but for the deeply disturbing question of a bed.
Franklin, resting upon my resourceful management, made no motion even
when the sun sank just about where that Venetian fronted building now
stands, but whilst the insolent, teeming populace in clattering carts
and drays charged round our peaceful sylvan haven (each driver plying
the lash with the fierce aspect of a Roman charioteer) I rose to a
desperate mission.

With a courage born of need I led the way straight toward the basement
portal of a small brown hotel on Fourth Avenue, and was startled almost
into flight to find myself in a bar-room. Not knowing precisely how to
retreat, I faltered out, "Have you a bed for us?"

It is probable that the landlord, a huge foreign-looking man understood
our timidity--at any rate, he smiled beneath his black mustache and
directed a clerk to show us a room.

In charge of this man, a slim youth, with a very bad complexion, we
climbed a narrow stairway (which grew geometrically shabbier as we rose)
until, at last, we came into a room so near the roof that it could
afford only half-windows--but as we were getting the chamber at
half-price we could not complain.

No sooner had the porter left us than we both stretched out on the bed,
in such relief and ecstasy of returning confidence as only weary youth
and honest poverty can know.--It was heavenly sweet, this sense of
safety in the heart of a tempest of human passion but as we rested, our
hunger to explore returned. "Time is passing. We shall probably never
see New York again," I argued, "and besides our bags are now safely
_cached_. Let's go out and see how the city looks by night."

To this Franklin agreed, and forth we went into the Square, rejoicing in
our freedom from those accursed bags.

Here for the first time, I observed the electric light shadows, so
clear-cut, so marvellous. The park was lighted by several sputtering,
sizzling arc-lamps, and their rays striking down through the trees,
flung upon the pavement a wavering, exquisite tracery of sharply
defined, purple-black leaves and branches. This was, indeed, an entirely
new effect in our old world and to my mind its wonder surpassed nature.
It was as if I had suddenly been translated to some realm of magic art.

Where we dined I cannot say, probably we ate a doughnut at some lunch
counter but I am glad to remember that we got as far as Madison
Square--which was like discovering another and still more enchanting
island of romance. To us the Fifth Avenue Hotel was a great and historic
building, for in it Grant and Sherman and Lincoln and Greeley had often

Ah, what a night that was! I did not expend a dollar, not even a
quarter, but I would give half of all I now own for the sensitive heart,
the absorbent brain I then possessed. Each form, each shadow was a
miracle. Romance and terror and delight peopled every dusky side street.

Submerged in the wondrous, drenched with the spray of this measureless
ocean of human life, we wandered on and on till overborne nature called
a halt. It was ten o'clock and prudence as well as weariness advised
retreat. Decisively, yet with a feeling that we would never again glow
beneath the lights of this radiant city, I led the way back to our
half-rate bed in the Union Square Hungarian hotel.

It is worth recording that on reaching our room, we opened our small
window and leaning out, gazed away over the park, what time the tumult
and the thunder and the shouting died into a low, continuous roar. The
poetry and the majesty of the city lost nothing of its power under the

Although I did not shake my fist over the town and vow to return and
conquer it (as penniless writers in fiction generally do) I bowed down
before its power. "It's too much for us," I told my brother. "Two
millions of people--think of it--of course London is larger, but then
London is so far off."

Sleep for us both was but a moment's forgetfulness. At one moment it was
night and at another it was morning. We were awakened by the voice of
the pavement, that sound which Whitman calls "the loud, proud, restive
bass of the streets," and again I leaned forth to listen to the
widespread crescendo roar of the deepening traffic. The air being cool
and clear, the pedestrians stepped out with brisker, braver movement,
and we, too, rose eager to meet the day at the gate of the town.

All day we tramped, absorbing everything that went on in the open.
Having explored the park, viewed the obelisk and visited the zoo, we
wandered up and down Broadway, mooning upon the life of the streets.
Curbstone fights, police manoeuvres, shop-window comedies, building
operations--everything we saw instructed us. We soaked ourselves in the
turbulent rivers of the town with a feeling that we should never see
them again.

We had intended to stay two days but a tragic encounter with a
restaurant bandit so embittered and alarmed us that we fled New York (as
we supposed), forever. At one o'clock, being hungry, very hungry, we
began to look for a cheap eating house, and somewhere in University
Place we came upon a restaurant which looked humble enough to afford a
twenty-five cent dinner (which was our limit of extravagance), and so,
timidly, we ventured in.

A foreign-looking waiter greeted us, and led us to one of a number of
very small tables covered with linen which impressed even Frank's
uncritical eyes with its mussiness. With a feeling of having
inadvertently entered a den of thieves, I wished myself out of it but
lacked the courage to rise and when the man returned and placed upon
the table two glasses and a strange looking bottle with a metal stopper
which had a kind of lever at the side, Frank said, "Hi! Good thing!--I'm
thirsty." Quite against my judgment he fooled around with the lever till
he succeeded in helping himself to some of the liquid with which the
bottle was filled. It was soda water and he drank heartily, although I
was sure it would be extra on the bill.

The food came on slowly, by fits and starts, and the dishes were all so
cold and queer of taste that even Frank complained. But we ate with a
terrifying premonition of trouble. "This meal will cost us at least
thirty-five cents each!" I said.

"No matter, it's an experience," my spendthrift brother retorted.

At last when the limp lettuce, the amazing cheese and the bitter coffee
were all consumed, I asked the soiled, outlandish waiter the price.

In reply he pencilled on a slip as though we were deaf, and finally laid
the completed bill face down beside my plate. I turned it over and grew

It totalled _one dollar and twenty cents_!

I felt weak and cold as if I had been suddenly poisoned. I trembled,
then grew hot with indignation. "Sixty cents apiece!" I gasped. "Didn't
I warn you?"

Frank was still in reckless mood. "Well, this is the only time we have
to do it. They won't catch us here again."

I paid the bill and hurried out, bitterly exclaiming, "No more New York
for me. I will not stay in such a robbers' den another night."

And I didn't. At sunset we crossed the ferry and took the train for New
Brunswick, New Jersey. Why we selected this town I cannot say, but I
think it must have been because it was half-way to Philadelphia--and
that we were just about as scared of Philadelphia as we were resentful
of New York.

After a night battle with New Jersey mosquitoes and certain plantigrade
bed-fellows native to cheap hotels, we passed on to Philadelphia and to
Baltimore, and at sunset of the same day reached Washington, the storied
capital of the nation.

Everything we saw here was deeply significant, national, rousing our
patriotism. We were at once and profoundly interested by the negro life
which flowered here in the free air of the District as under an African
sun; the newsboys, the bootblacks, the muledrivers, all amused us. We
spent that first night in Washington in a little lodging house just at
the corner of the Capitol grounds where beds were offered for
twenty-five cents. It was a dreadful place, but we slept without waking.
It took a large odor, a sharp lance to keep either of us awake in those

Tramping busily all the next day, we climbed everything that could be
climbed. We visited the Capitol, the war building, the Treasury and the
White House grounds. We toiled through all the museums, working harder
than we had ever worked upon the farm, till Frank cried out for mercy. I
was inexorable. "Our money is getting low. We must be very saving of
carfare," I insisted. "We must see all we can. We'll never be here

Once more we slept (among the negroes in a bare little lodging house),
and on the third day, brimming with impressions, boarded the Chicago
express and began our glorious, our exultant return over the
Alleghanies, toward the west.

It was with a feeling of joy, of distinct relief that we set our faces
toward the sunset. Every mile brought us nearer home. I knew the West. I
knew the people, and I had no fear of making a living beyond the
Alleghanies. Every mile added courage and hope to our hearts, and
increased the value of the splendid, if sometimes severe experiences
through which we had passed. Frank was especially gay for he was
definitely on his way home, back to Dakota.

And when next day on the heights of the Alleghany mountains, the train
dipped to the west, and swinging around a curve, disclosed to us the
tumbled spread of mountain-land descending to the valley of the Ohio, we
sang "O'er the hills in legions, boys" as our forefathers did of old. We
were about to re-enter the land of the teeming furrow.

Late that night as we were riding through the darkness in the smoking
car, I rose and, placing in my brother's hands all the money I had, said
good-bye, and at Mansfield, Ohio, swung off the train, leaving him to
proceed on his homeward way alone.

It was about one o'clock of an autumn night, sharp and clear, and I
spent the remainder of the morning on a bench in the railway station,
waiting for the dawn. I could not sleep, and so spent the time in
pondering on my former experiences in seeking work. "Have I been wrong?"
I asked myself. "Is the workman in America, as in the old world, coming
to be a man despised?"

Having been raised in the splendid patriotism, perhaps one might say
flamboyant patriotism, of the West during and following our Civil War, I
had been brought up to believe that labor was honorable, that idlers
were to be despised, but now as I sat with bowed head, cold, hungry and
penniless, knowing that I must go forth at daylight--seeking work, the
world seemed a very hostile place to me. Of course I did not consider
myself a workman in the ordinary hopeless sense. My need of a job was
merely temporary, for it was my intention to return to the Middle West
in time to secure a position as teacher in some country school.
Nevertheless a lively imagination gave me all the sensations of the
homeless man.

The sun rose warm and golden, and with a return of my courage I started
forth, confident of my ability to make a place for myself. With a wisdom
which I had not hitherto shown I first sought a home, and luckily, I say
luckily because I never could account for it, I knocked at the door of a
modest little boarding house, whose mistress, a small blonde lady,
invited me in and gave me a room without a moment's hesitation. Her
dinner--a delicious mid-day meal, so heartened me that before the end of
the day, I had secured a place as one of a crew of carpenters. My
spirits rose. I was secure.

My evenings were spent in reading Abbott's _Life of Napoleon_ which I
found buried in an immense pile of old magazines. I had never before
read a full history of the great Corsican, and this chronicle moved me
almost as profoundly as Hugo's _Les Misérables_ had done the year

On Sundays I walked about the country under the splendid oaks and
beeches which covered the ridges, dreaming of the West, and of the
future which was very vague and not very cheerful in coloring. My plan
so far as I had a plan, was not ambitious. I had decided to return to
some small town in Illinois and secure employment as a teacher, but as I
lingered on at my carpenter trade till October nothing was left for me
but a country school, and when Orrin Carter, county superintendent of
Grundy County, (he is Judge Carter now) informed me that a district
school some miles out would pay fifty dollars a month for a teacher, I
gladly accepted the offer.

On the following afternoon I started forth a passenger with Hank Ring
on his way homeward in an empty corn wagon. The box had no seat,
therefore he and I both rode standing during a drive of six miles. The
wind was raw, and the ground, frozen hard as iron, made the ride a kind
of torture, but our supper of buckwheat pancakes and pork sausages at
Deacon Ring's was partial compensation. On the following Monday I
started my school.

The winter which followed appalled the oldest inhabitant. Snow fell
almost daily, and the winds were razor-bladed. In order to save every
dollar of my wages, I built my own fires in the school-house. This means
that on every week-day morning, I was obliged to push out into the
stinging dawn, walk a mile to the icy building, split kindling, start a
flame in the rude stove, and have the room comfortable at half-past
eight. The thermometer often went to a point twenty degrees below zero,
and my ears were never quite free from peeling skin and fevered tissues.

My pupils were boys and girls of all sizes and qualities, and while it
would be too much to say that I made the best teacher of mathematics in
the county, I think I helped them in their reading, writing, and
spelling, which after all are more important than algebra. On Saturday I
usually went to town, for I had in some way become acquainted with the
principal of a little normal school which was being carried on in Morris
by a young Quaker from Philadelphia. Prof. Forsythe soon recognized in
me something more than the ordinary "elocutionist" and readily aided me
in securing a class in oratory among his students.

This work and Forsythe's comradeship helped me to bear the tedium of my
work in the country. No Saturday was too stormy, and the roads were
never too deep with snow to keep me from my weekly visit to Morris
where I came in contact with people nearer to my ways of thinking and

But after all this was but the final section of my eastern
excursion--for as the spring winds set in, the call of "the sunset
regions" again overcame my love of cities. The rush to Dakota in March
was greater than ever before and a power stronger than my will drew me
back to the line of the middle border which had moved on into the
Missouri Valley, carrying my people with it. As the spring odors filled
my nostrils, my wish to emigrate was like that of the birds. "Out there
is my share of the government land--and, if I am to carry out my plan of
fitting myself for a professorship," I argued--"these claims are worth
securing. My rights to the public domain are as good as any other

My recollections of the James River Valley were all pleasant. My brother
and father both wrote urging me to come and secure a claim, and so at
last I replied, "I'll come as soon as my school is out," thus committing
all my future to the hazard of the homestead.

And so it came about that in the second spring after setting my face to
the east I planned a return to the Border. I had had my glimpse of
Boston, New York and Washington. I was twenty-three years of age, and
eager to revisit the plain whereon my father with the faith of a
pioneer, was again upturning the sod and building a fourth home. And
yet, Son of the Middle Border--I had discovered that I was also a
Grandson of New England.


The Land of the Straddle-Bug

A night in Chicago (where I saw Salvini play Othello), a day in Neshonoc
to visit my Uncle Richard, and I was again in the midst of a jocund rush
of land-seekers.

The movement which had begun three years before was now at its height.
Thousands of cars, for lack of engines to move them, were lying idle on
the switches all over the west. Trains swarming with immigrants from
every country of the world were haltingly creeping out upon the level
lands. Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Scotchmen, Englishmen, and Russians
all mingled in this flood of land-seekers rolling toward the sundown
plain, where a fat-soiled valley had been set aside by good Uncle Sam
for the enrichment of every man. Such elation, such hopefulness could
not fail to involve an excitable youth like myself.

My companion, Forsythe, dropped off at Milbank, but I kept on, on into
the James Valley, arriving at Ordway on the evening of the second day--a
clear cloudless evening in early April, with the sun going down red in
the west, the prairie chickens calling from the knolls and hammers still
sounding in the village, their tattoo denoting the urgent need of roofs
to shelter the incoming throng.

The street swarmed with boomers. All talk was of lots, of land. Hour by
hour as the sun sank, prospectors returned to the hotel from their trips
into the unclaimed territory, hungry and tired but jubilant, and as they
assembled in my father's store after supper, their boastful talk of
"claims secured" made me forget all my other ambitions. I was as eager
to clutch my share of Uncle Sam's bounty as any of them. The world
seemed beginning anew for me as well as for these aliens from the
crowded eastern world. "I am ready to stake a claim," I said to my

Early the very next day, with a party of four (among them Charles
Babcock, a brother of Burton), I started for the unsurveyed country
where, some thirty miles to the west, my father had already located a
pre-emption claim and built a rough shed, the only shelter for miles

"We'll camp there," said Charles.

It was an inspiring ride! The plain freshly uncovered from the snow was
swept by a keen wind which held in spite of that an acrid prophecy of
sudden spring. Ducks and geese rose from every icy pond and resumed
their flight into the mystic north, and as we advanced the world
broadened before us. The treelessness of the wide swells, the crispness
of the air and the feeling that to the westward lay the land of the
Sioux, all combined to make our trip a kind of epic in miniature.
Charles also seemed to feel the essential poetry of the expedition,
although he said little except to remark, "I wish Burton were here."

It was one o'clock before we reached the cabin and two before we
finished luncheon. The afternoon was spent in wandering over the near-by
obtainable claims and at sundown we all returned to the shed to camp.

As dusk fell, and while the geese flew low gabbling confidentially, and
the ducks whistled by overhead in swift unerring flight, Charles and I
lay down on the hay beside the horses, feeling ourselves to be, in some
way, partners with God in this new world. I went to sleep hearing the
horses munching their grain in the neighboring stalls, entirely
contented with my day and confident of the morrow. All questions were
answered, all doubts stilled.

We arose with the sun and having eaten our rude breakfast set forth,
some six miles to the west, to mark the location of our claims with the

The straddle-bug, I should explain, was composed of three boards set
together in tripod form and was used as a monument, a sign of occupancy.
Its presence defended a claim against the next comer. Lumber being very
scarce at the moment, the building of a shanty was impossible, and so
for several weeks these signs took the place of "improvements" and were
fully respected. No one could honorably jump these claims within thirty
days and no one did.

At last, when far beyond the last claimant, we turned and looked back
upon a score of these glittering guidons of progress, banners of the
army of settlement, I realized that I was a vedette in the van of
civilization, and when I turned to the west where nothing was to be seen
save the mysterious plain and a long low line of still more mysterious
hills, I thrilled with joy at all I had won.

It seemed a true invasion, this taking possession of the virgin sod, but
as I considered, there was a haunting sadness in it, for these shining
pine pennons represented the inexorable plow. They prophesied the death
of all wild creatures and assured the devastation of the beautiful, the
destruction of all the signs and seasons of the sod.

Apparently none of my companions shared this feeling, for they all
leaped from the wagon and planted their stakes, each upon his chosen
quarter-section with whoops of joy, cries which sounded faint and far,
like the futile voices of insects, diminished to shrillness by the
echoless abysses of the unclouded sky.

As we had measured the distance from the township lines by counting the
revolutions of our wagon-wheels, so now with pocket compass and a couple
of laths, Charles and I laid out inner boundaries and claimed three
quarter-sections, one for Frank and one each for ourselves. Level as a
floor these acres were, and dotted with the bones of bison.

We ate our dinner on the bare sod while all around us the birds of
spring-time moved in myriads, and over the swells to the east other
wagons laden with other land-seekers crept like wingless
beetles--stragglers from the main skirmish line.

Having erected our pine-board straddle-bugs with our names written
thereon, we jubilantly started back toward the railway. Tired but
peaceful, we reached Ordway at dark and Mrs. Wynn's supper of ham and
eggs and potatoes completed our day most satisfactorily.

My father, who had planned to establish a little store on his claim, now
engaged me as his representative, his clerk, and I spent the next week
in hauling lumber and in helping to build the shanty and ware-room on
the section line. As soon as the place was habitable, my mother and
sister Jessie came out to stay with me, for in order to hold his
pre-emption my father was obliged to make it his "home."

Before we were fairly settled, my mother was forced to feed and house a
great many land-seekers who had no other place to stay. This brought
upon her once again all the drudgery of a pioneer house-wife, and filled
her with longing for the old home in Iowa. It must have seemed to her as
if she were never again to find rest except beneath the sod.

Nothing that I have ever been called upon to do caused me more worry
than the act of charging those land-seekers for their meals and bunks,
and yet it was perfectly right that they should pay. Our buildings had
been established with great trouble and at considerable expense, and my
father said, "We cannot afford to feed so many people without return,"
and yet it seemed to me like taking an unfair advantage of poor and
homeless men. It was with the greatest difficulty that I brought myself
to charge them anything at all. Fortunately the prices had been fixed by
my father.

Night by night it became necessary to lift a lantern on a high pole in
front of the shack, in order that those who were traversing the plain
after dark might find their way, and often I was aroused from my bed by
the arrival of a worn and bewildered party of pilgrims rescued from a
sleepless couch upon the wet sod.

For several weeks mother was burdened with these wayfarers, but at last
they began to thin out. The skirmish line moved on, the ranks halted,
and all about the Moggeson ranch hundreds of yellow shanties sparkled at
dawn like flecks of gold on a carpet of green velvet. Before the end of
May every claim was taken and "improved"--more or less.

Meanwhile I had taken charge of the store and Frank was the stage
driver. He was a very bad salesman, but I was worse--that must be
confessed. If a man wanted to purchase an article and had the money to
pay for it, we exchanged commodities right there, but as far as my
selling anything--father used to say, "Hamlin couldn't sell gold dollars
for ninety cents a piece," and he was right--entirely right.

I found little to interest me in the people who came to the store for
they were "just ordinary folk" from Illinois, and Iowa, and I had never
been a youth who made acquaintances easily, so with nothing of the
politician in me, I seldom inquired after the babies or gossiped with
the old women about their health and housekeeping. I regretted this
attitude afterward. A closer relationship with the settlers would have
furnished me with a greater variety of fictional characters, but at the
time I had no suspicion that I was missing anything.

As the land dried off and the breaking plow began its course, a most
idyllic and significant period of life came on. The plain became very
beautiful as the soil sent forth its grasses. On the shadowed sides of
the ridges exquisite shades of pink and purple bloomed, while the most
radiant yellow-green flamed from slopes on which the sunlight fell. The
days of May and June succeeded one another in perfect harmony like the
notes in a song, broken only once or twice by thunderstorms.

An opalescent mist was in the air, and everywhere, on every swell, the
settlers could be seen moving silently to and fro with their teams,
while the women sang at their work about the small shanties, and in
their new gardens. On every side was the most cheerful acceptance of
hard work and monotonous fare. No one acknowledged the transient quality
of this life, although it was only a novel sort of picnic on the
prairie, soon to end.

Many young people and several groups of girls (teachers from the east)
were among those who had taken claims, and some of these made life
pleasant for themselves and helpful to others by bringing to their
cabins, books and magazines and pictures. The store was not only the
social center of the township but the postoffice, and Frank, who carried
the mail (and who was much more gallant than I) seemed to draw out all
the school ma'ams of the neighborhood. The raising of a flag on a high
pole before the door was the signal for the post which brought the women
pouring in from every direction eager for news of the eastern world.

In accordance with my plan to become a teacher, I determined to go to
the bottom of the laws which govern literary development, and so with
an unexpurgated volume of Taine, a set of Chambers' _Encyclopædia of
English Literature_, and a volume of Greene's _History of the English
People_, I set to work to base myself profoundly in the principles which
govern a nation's self-expression. I still believed that in order to
properly teach an appreciation of poetry, a man should have the power of
dramatic expression, that he should be able to read so as to make the
printed page live in the ears of his pupils. In short I had decided to
unite the orator and the critic.

As a result, I spent more time over my desk than beside the counter. I
did not absolutely refuse to wait on a purchaser but no sooner was his
package tied up than I turned away to my work of digesting and
transcribing in long hand Taine's monumental book.

Day after day I bent to this task, pondering all the great Frenchman had
to say of _race_, _environment_, and _momentum_ and on the walls of the
cabin I mapped out in chalk the various periods of English society as he
had indicated them. These charts were the wonder and astonishment of my
neighbors whenever they chanced to enter the living room, and they
appeared especially interested in the names written on the ceiling over
my bed. I had put my favorites there so that when I opened my eyes of a
morning, I could not help absorbing a knowledge of their dates and

However, on Saturday afternoon when the young men came in from their
claims, I was not above pitching quoits or "putting the shot" with
them--in truth I took a mild satisfaction in being able to set a big
boulder some ten inches beyond my strongest competitor. Occasionally I
practiced with the rifle but was not a crack shot. I could still pitch a
ball as well as any of them and I served as pitcher in the games which
the men occasionally organized.

As harvest came on, mother and sister returned to Ordway, and cooking
became a part of my daily routine. Charles occasionally helped out and
we both learned to make biscuits and even pies. Frank loyally declared
my apple-pies to be as good as any man could make.

Meanwhile an ominous change had crept over the plain. The winds were hot
and dry and the grass, baked on the stem, had became as inflammable as
hay. The birds were silent. The sky, absolutely cloudless, began to
scare us with its light. The sun rose through the dusty air, sinister
with flare of horizontal heat. The little gardens on the breaking
withered, and many of the women began to complain bitterly of the
loneliness, and lack of shade. The tiny cabins were like ovens at

Smiling faces were less frequent. Timid souls began to inquire, "Are all
Dakota summers like this?" and those with greatest penetration reasoned,
from the quality of the grass which was curly and fine as hair, that
they had unwittingly settled upon an arid soil.

And so, week by week the holiday spirit faded from the colony and men in
feverish unrest uttered words of bitterness. Eyes ached with light and
hearts sickened with loneliness. Defeat seemed facing every man.

By the first of September many of those who were in greatest need of
land were ready to abandon their advanced position on the border and
fall back into the ranks behind. We were all nothing but squatters. The
section lines had not been run and every pre-emptor looked and longed
for the coming of the surveying crew, because once our filings were made
we could all return to the east, at least for six months, or we could
prove up and buy our land. In other words, the survey offered a chance
to escape from the tedious monotony of the burning plain into which we
had so confidently thrust ourselves.

But the surveyors failed to appear though they were reported from day to
day to be at work in the next township and so, one by one, those of us
who were too poor to buy ourselves food, dropped away. Hundreds of
shanties were battened up and deserted. The young women returned to
their schools, and men who had counted upon getting work to support
their families during the summer, and who had failed to do so, abandoned
their claims and went east where settlement had produced a crop. Our
song of emigration seemed but bitter mockery now.

Moved by the same desire to escape, I began writing to various small
towns in Minnesota and Iowa in the hope of obtaining a school, but with
little result. My letters written from the border line did not inspire
confidence in the School Boards of "the East." Then winter came.

Winter! No man knows what winter means until he has lived through one in
a pine-board shanty on a Dakota plain with only buffalo bones for fuel.
There were those who had settled upon this land, not as I had done with
intent to prove up and sell, but with plans to make a home, and many of
these, having toiled all the early spring in hope of a crop, now at the
beginning of winter found themselves with little money and no coal. Many
of them would have starved and frozen had it not been for the buffalo
skeletons which lay scattered over the sod, and for which a sudden
market developed. Upon the proceeds of this singular harvest they almost
literally lived. Thus "the herds of deer and buffalo" did indeed
strangely "furnish the cheer."

As for Charles and myself, we also returned to Ordway and there spent a
part of each month, brooding darkly over the problem of our future. I
already perceived the futility of my return to the frontier. The
mysterious urgings of a vague yet deep-seated longing to go east
rendered me restless, sour and difficult. I saw nothing before me, and
yet my hard experiences in Wisconsin and in New England made me hesitate
about going far. Teaching a country school seemed the only thing I was
fitted for, and there shone no promise of that.

Furthermore, like other pre-emptors I was forced to hold my claim by
visiting it once every thirty days, and these trips became each time
more painful, more menacing. February and March were of pitiless
severity. One blizzard followed another with ever-increasing fury. No
sooner was the snow laid by a north wind than it took wing above a
southern blast and returned upon us sifting to and fro until at last its
crystals were as fine as flour, so triturated that it seemed to drive
through an inch board. Often it filled the air for hundreds of feet
above the earth like a mist, and lay in long ridges behind every bush or
weed. Nothing lived on these desolate uplands but the white owl and the

One cold, bright day I started for my claim accompanied by a young
Englishman, a fair-faced delicate young clerk from London, and before we
had covered half our journey the west wind met us with such fury that
the little cockney would certainly have frozen had I not forced him out
of the sleigh to run by its side.

Poor little man! This was not the romantic home he had expected to gain
when he left his office on the Strand.

Luckily, his wretched shanty was some six miles nearer than mine or he
would have died. Leaving him safe in his den, I pushed on toward my own
claim, in the teeth of a terrific gale, the cold growing each moment
more intense. "The sunset regions" at that moment did not provoke me to

In order to reach my cabin before darkness fell, I urged my team
desperately, and it was well that I did, for I could scarcely see my
horses during the last mile, and the wind was appalling even to me--an
experienced plainsman. Arriving at the barn I was disheartened to find
the doors heavily banked with snow, but I fell to in desperate haste,
and soon shoveled a passageway.

This warmed me, but in the delay one of my horses became so chilled that
he could scarcely enter his stall. He refused to eat also, and this
troubled me very much. However, I loaded him with blankets and fell to
work rubbing his legs with wisps of hay, to start the circulation, and
did not desist until the old fellow began nibbling his forage.

By this time the wind was blowing seventy miles an hour, and black
darkness was upon the land. With a rush I reached my shanty only to find
that somebody had taken all my coal and nearly all my kindling, save a
few pieces of pine. This was serious, but I kindled a fire with the
blocks, a blaze which was especially grateful by reason of its quick

Hardly was the stove in action, when a rap at the door startled me.
"Come," I shouted. In answer to my call, a young man, a neighbor,
entered, carrying a sack filled with coal. He explained with some
embarrassment, that in his extremity during the preceding blizzard, he
had borrowed from my store, and that (upon seeing my light) he had
hurried to restore the fuel, enough, at any rate, to last out the night.
His heroism appeased my wrath and I watched him setting out on his
return journey with genuine anxiety.

That night is still vivid in my memory. The frail shanty, cowering
close, quivered in the wind like a frightened hare. The powdery snow
appeared to drive directly through the solid boards, and each hour the
mercury slowly sank. Drawing my bed close to the fire, I covered myself
with a buffalo robe and so slept for an hour or two.

When I woke it was still dark and the wind, though terrifying, was
intermittent in its attack. The timbers of the house creaked as the
blast lay hard upon it, and now and again the faint fine crystals came
sifting down upon my face,--driven beneath the shingles by the tempest.
At last I lit my oil lamp and shivered in my robe till dawn. I felt none
of the exultation of a "king in fairyland" nor that of a "lord of the

The morning came, bright with sun but with the thermometer forty degrees
below zero. It was so cold that the horses refused to face the northwest
wind. I could not hitch them to the sleigh until I had blanketed them
both beneath their harness; even then they snorted and pawed in terror.
At last, having succeeded in hooking the traces I sprang in and,
wrapping the robe about me, pushed eastward with all speed, seeking food
and fire.

This may be taken as a turning point in my career, for this experience
(followed by two others almost as severe) permanently chilled my
enthusiasm for pioneering the plain. Never again did I sing "Sunset
Regions" with the same exultant spirit. "O'er the hills in legions,
boys," no longer meant sunlit savannahs, flower meadows and deer-filled
glades. The mingled "wood and prairie land" of the song was gone and
Uncle Sam's domain, bleak, semi-arid, and wind-swept, offered little
charm to my imagination. From that little cabin on the ridge I turned my
face toward settlement, eager to escape the terror and the loneliness of
the treeless sod. I began to plan for other work in other airs.

Furthermore, I resented the conditions under which my mother lived and
worked. Our home was in a small building next to the shop, and had all
the shortcomings of a cabin and none of its charm. It is true nearly all
our friends lived in equal discomfort, but it seemed to me that mother
had earned something better. Was it for this she had left her home in
Iowa. Was she never to enjoy a roomy and comfortable dwelling?

She did not complain and she seldom showed her sense of discomfort. I
knew that she longed for the friends and neighbors she had left behind,
and yet so far from being able to help her I was even then planning to
leave her.

In a sullen rage I endured the winter and when at last the sun began to
ride the sky with fervor and the prairie cock announced the spring, hope
of an abundant crop, the promise of a new railroad, the incoming of
jocund settlers created in each of us a confidence which expressed
itself in a return to the land. With that marvellous faith which marks
the husbandmen, we went forth once more with the drill and the harrow,
planting seed against another harvest.

Sometime during these winter days, I chanced upon a book which effected
a profound change in my outlook on the world and led to far-reaching
complications in my life. This volume was the Lovell edition of
_Progress and Poverty_ which was at that time engaging the attention of
the political economists of the world.

Up to this moment I had never read any book or essay in which our land
system had been questioned. I had been raised in the belief that this
was the best of all nations in the best of all possible worlds, in the
happiest of all ages. I believed (of course) that the wisdom of those
who formulated our constitution was but little less than that of
archangels, and that all contingencies of our progress in government had
been provided for or anticipated in that inspired and deathless

Now as I read this book, my mind following step by step the author's
advance upon the citadel of privilege, I was forced to admit that his
main thesis was right. Unrestricted individual ownership of the earth I
acknowledged to be wrong and I caught some glimpse of the radiant
plenty of George's ideal Commonwealth. The trumpet call of the closing
pages filled me with a desire to battle for the right. Here was a theme
for the great orator. Here was opportunity for the most devoted evangel.

Raw as I was, inconspicuous as a grasshopper by the roadside, I still
had something in me which responded to the call of "the prophet of San
Francisco," and yet I had no definite intention of becoming a
missionary. How could I?

Penniless, dependent upon the labor of my hands for a livelihood,
discontented yet unable to decide upon a plan of action, I came and went
all through that long summer with laggard feet and sorrowful

My brother Franklin having sold his claim had boldly advanced upon
Chicago. His ability as a bookkeeper secured him against want, and his
letters were confident and cheerful.

At last in the hour when my perplexity was greatest--the decisive
impetus came, brought by a chance visitor, a young clergyman from
Portland, Maine, who arrived in the town to buy some farms for himself
and a friend. Though a native of Madison Mr. Bashford had won a place in
the east and had decided to put some part of his salary into Dakota's
alluring soil. Upon hearing that we were also from Wisconsin he came to
call and stayed to dinner, and being of a jovial and candid nature soon
drew from me a fairly coherent statement of my desire to do something in
the world.

At the end of a long talk he said, "Why don't you come to Boston and
take a special course at the University? I know the Professor of
Literature, and I can also give you a letter to the principal of a
school of Oratory."

This offer threw me into such excitement that I was unable to properly
thank my adviser, but I fell into depths of dejection as soon as he left
town. "How can I go east? How can I carry out such a plan?" I asked
myself with bitter emphasis.

All I had in the world was a small trunk, a couple of dozen books, a
valise and a few acres of barren unplowed land. My previous visit to
Boston was just the sort to tempt me to return, but my experiences as a
laborer in New England had lessened my confidence in its resources--and
yet the thought of being able to cross the Common every day opened a
dazzling vista. The very fact that Mr. Bashford had gone there from the
west as a student, a poor student, made the prodigiously daring step
seem possible to me. "If only I had a couple of hundred dollars," I said
to my mother who listened to my delirious words in silence. She divined
what was surging in my heart and feared it.

Thereafter I walked the floor of my room or wandered the prairie roads
in continual debate. "What is there for me to do out here?" I demanded.
"I can farm on these windy dusty acres--that's all. I am a failure as a
merchant and I am sick of the country."

There were moments of a morning or at sunset when the plain was splendid
as a tranquil sea, and in such moments I bowed down before its
mysterious beauty--but for the most part it seemed an empty, desolate,
mocking world. The harvest was again light and the earth shrunk and
seamed for lack of moisture.

A hint of winter in the autumn air made me remember the remorseless
winds and the iron earth over which the snows swept as if across an icy
polar sea. I shuddered as I thought of again fighting my way to that
desolate little cabin in McPherson County. I recalled but dimly the
exultation with which I had made my claim. Boston, by contrast, glowed
with beauty, with romance, with history, with glory like the vision of
some turreted town built in the eastern sky at sunset.

"I'll do it," I said at last. "I'll sell my claim. I'll go east. I'll
find some little hole to creep into. I'll study night and day and so fit
myself for teaching, then I'll come back west to Illinois or Wisconsin.
Never will I return to this bleak world."

I offered my claim for sale and while I continued my daily labor on the
farm, my mind was far-away amid the imagined splendors of the east.

My father was puzzled and a good deal irritated by his son's dark moods.
My failure to fit into the store was unaccountable and unreasonable. "To
my thinking," said he, "you have all the school you need. You ought to
find it easy to make a living in a new, progressive community like

To him, a son who wanted to go east was temporarily demented. It was an
absurd plan. "Why, it's against the drift of things. You can't make a
living back east. Hang onto your land and you'll come out all right. The
place for a young man is in the west."

Bitter and rebellious of mood, uneasy and uncertain of purpose my talks
with him resulted only in irritation and discord, but my mother, with an
abiding faith in my powers, offered no objection. She could not advise,
it was all so far above and beyond her, but she patted my hand and said,
"Cheer up! I'm sure it will come out all right. I hate to have you go,
but I guess Mr. Bashford is right. You need more schooling."

I could see that she was saddened by the thought of the separation which
was to follow--with a vague knowledge of the experience of all the
mothers of pioneer sons she feared that the days of our close
companionship were ended. The detachment was not for a few months, it
was final. Her face was very wistful and her voice tremulous as she
told me to go.

"It is hard for me to leave you and sister," I replied, "but I must. I'm
only rotting here. I'll come back--at least to visit you."

In tremendous excitement I mortgaged my claim for two hundred dollars
and with that in my hand, started for the land of Emerson, Longfellow,
and Hawthorne, believing that I was in truth reversing all the laws of
development, breasting the current of progress, stemming the tide of
emigration. All about me other young men were streaming toward the
sunset, pushing westward to escape the pressure of the earth-lords
behind, whilst I alone and poor, was daring all the dangers, all the
difficulties from which they were so eagerly escaping.

There was in my heart an illogical exaltation as though I too were about
to escape something--and yet when the actual moment of parting came, I
embraced my sorrowing mother, and kissed my quaint little sister
good-bye without feeling in the least heroic or self-confident. At the
moment sadness weakened me, reducing me to boyish timidity.


On to Boston

With plenty of time to think, I thought, crouched low in my seat silent
as an owl. True, I dozed off now and again but even when shortened by
these periods of forgetfulness, the journey seemed interminable and when
I reached the grimy old shed of a station which was the Chicago terminal
of the Northwestern in those days, I was glad of a chance to taste
outside air, no matter how smoky it reported itself to be.

My brother, who was working in the office of a weekly farm journal, met
me with an air of calm superiority. He had become a true Chicagoan.
Under his confident leadership I soon found a boarding place and a
measure of repose. I must have stayed with him for several days for I
recall being hypnotized into ordering a twenty-dollar tailor-made suit
from a South Clark street merchant--you know the kind. It was a "Prince
Albert Soot"--my first made-to-order outfit, but the extravagance seemed
justified in face of the known elegance of man's apparel in Boston.

It took me thirty-six hours more to get to Boston, and as I was ill all
the way (I again rode in the smoking car) a less triumphant Jason never
entered the City of Light and Learning. The day was a true November day,
dark and rainy and cold, and when I confronted my cloud-built city of
domes and towers I was concerned only with a place to sleep--I had
little desire of battle and no remembrance of the Golden Fleece.

Up from the Hoosac Station and over the slimy, greasy pavement I trod
with humped back, carrying my heavy valise (it was the same
imitation-leather concern with which I had toured the city two years
before), while gay little street cars tinkled by, so close to my
shoulder that I could have touched them with my hand.

Again I found my way through Haymarket Square to Tremont street and so
at last to the Common, which presented a cold and dismal face at this
time. The glory of my dream had fled. The trees, bare and brown and
dripping with rain, offered no shelter. The benches were sodden, the
paths muddy, and the sky, lost in a desolate mist shut down over my head
with oppressive weight. I crawled along the muddy walk feeling about as
important as a belated beetle in a July thunderstorm. Half of me was
ready to surrender and go home on the next train but the other half, the
obstinate half, sullenly forged ahead, busy with the problem of a roof
and bed.

My experience in Rock River now stood me in good hand. Stopping a
policeman I asked the way to the Young Men's Christian Association. The
officer pointed out a small tower not far away, and down the Tremont
street walk I plodded as wretched a youth as one would care to see.

Humbled, apologetic, I climbed the stairway, approached the desk, and in
a weak voice requested the address of a cheap lodging place.

From the cards which the clerk carelessly handed to me I selected the
nearest address, which chanced to be on Boylston Place, a short narrow
street just beyond the Public Library. It was a deplorably wet and
gloomy alley, but I ventured down its narrow walk and desperately
knocked on the door of No. 12.

A handsome elderly woman with snow-white hair met me at the threshold.
She looked entirely respectable, and as she named a price which I could
afford to pay I accepted her invitation to enter. The house swarmed with
life. Somebody was strumming a banjo, a girl was singing, and as I
mounted the stair to the first floor, a slim little maid of about
fourteen met us. "This is my daughter Fay," said the landlady with
manifest pride.

Left to myself I sank into a chair with such relief as only the poor
homeless country boy knows when at the end of a long tramp from the
station, he lets slip his hand-bag and looks around upon a room for
which he has paid. It was a plain little chamber, but it meant shelter
and sleep and I was grateful. I went to bed early.

I slept soundly and the world to which I awoke was new and resplendent.
My headache was gone, and as I left the house in search of breakfast I
found the sun shining.

Just around the corner on Tremont street I discovered a little old man
who from a sidewalk booth, sold delicious coffee in cups of two
sizes,--one at three cents and a larger one at five cents. He also
offered doughnuts at a penny each.

Having breakfasted at an outlay of exactly eight cents I returned to my
chamber, which was a hall-room, eight feet by ten, and faced the north.
It was heated (theoretically) from a register in the floor, and there
was just space enough for my trunk, a cot and a small table at the
window but as it cost only six dollars per month I was content. I
figured that I could live on five dollars per week which would enable me
to stay till spring. I had about one hundred and thirty dollars in my

From this sunless nook, this narrow niche, I began my study of Boston,
whose historic significance quite overpowered me. I was alone. Mr.
Bashford, in Portland, Maine, was the only person in all the east on
whom I could call for aid or advice in case of sickness. My father wrote
me that he had relatives living in the city but I did not know how to
find them. No one could have been more absolutely alone than I during
that first month. I made no acquaintances, I spoke to no one.

A part of each day was spent in studying the historical monuments of the
city, and the remaining time was given to reading at the Young Men's
Union or in the Public Library, which stood next door to my lodging

At night I made detailed studies of the habits of the cockroaches with
which my room was peopled. There was something uncanny in the action of
these beasts. They were new to me and apparently my like had never
before been observed by them. They belonged to the shadow, to the cold
and to the damp of the city, whereas I was fresh from the sunlight of
the plain, and as I watched them peering out from behind my wash-basin,
they appeared to marvel at me and to confer on my case with almost
elfish intelligence.

Tantalized by an occasional feeble and vacillating current of warm air
from the register, I was forced at times to wear my overcoat as I read,
and at night I spread it over my cot. I did not see the sun for a month.
The wind was always filled with rain or sleet, and as the lights in
Bates' Hall were almost always blazing, I could hardly tell when day
left off and night began. It seemed as if I had been plunged into
another and darker world, a world of storm, of gray clouds, of endless

Having resolved to keep all my expenses within five dollars per week, I
laid down a scientific plan for cheap living. I first nosed out every
low-priced eating place within ten minutes walk of my lodging and soon
knew which of these "joints" were wholesome, and which were not. Just
around the corner was a place where a filling dinner could be procured
for fifteen cents, including pudding, and the little lunch counter on
Tremont street supplied my breakfast. Not one nickel did I spend in
carfare, and yet I saw almost every celebrated building in the city.
However, I tenderly regarded my shoe soles each night, for the cost of
tapping was enormous.

My notion of studying at some school was never carried out. The Boston
University classes did not attract me. The Harvard lectures were
inaccessible, and my call upon the teacher of "Expression" to whom Mr.
Bashford had given me a letter led to nothing. The professor was a
nervous person and made the mistake of assuming that I was as timid as I
was silent. His manner irritated me and the outburst of my resentment
was astonishing to him. I was hungry at the moment and to be patronized
was too much!

This encounter plunged me into deep discouragement and I went back to my
reading in the library with a despairing resolution to improve every
moment, for my stay in the east could not last many weeks. At the rate
my money was going May would see me bankrupt.

I read both day and night, grappling with Darwin, Spencer, Fiske,
Helmholtz, Haeckel,--all the mighty masters of evolution whose books I
had not hitherto been able to open. For diversion I dived into early
English poetry and weltered in that sea of song which marks the
beginnings of every literature, conning the ballads of Ireland and
Wales, the epics of Ireland, the early German and the songs of the
troubadours, a course of reading which started me on a series of
lectures to be written directly from a study of the authors themselves.
This dimly took shape as a volume to be called _The Development of
English Ideals_, a sufficiently ambitious project.

Among other proscribed books I read Whitman's _Leaves of Grass_ and
without doubt that volume changed the world for me as it did for many
others. Its rhythmic chants, its wonderful music filled me with a keen
sense of the mystery of the near at hand. I rose from that first reading
with a sense of having been taken up into high places. The spiritual
significance of America was let loose upon me.

Herbert Spencer remained my philosopher and master. With eager haste I
sought to compass the "Synthetic Philosophy." The universe took on order
and harmony as, from my five cent breakfast, I went directly to the
consideration of Spencer's theory of the evolution of music or painting
or sculpture. It was thrilling, it was joyful to perceive that
everything moved from the simple to the complex--how the bow-string
became the harp, and the egg the chicken. My mental diaphragm creaked
with the pressure of inrushing ideas. My brain young, sensitive to every
touch, took hold of facts and theories like a phonographic cylinder, and
while my body softened and my muscles wasted from disuse, I skittered
from pole to pole of the intellectual universe like an impatient bat. I
learned a little of everything and nothing very thoroughly. With so many
peaks in sight, I had no time to spend on digging up the valley soil.

My only exercise was an occasional slow walk. I could not afford to
waste my food in physical effort, and besides I was thinly dressed and
could not go out except when the sun shone. My overcoat was considerably
more than half cotton and a poor shield against the bitter wind which
drove straight from the arctic sea into my bones. Even when the weather
was mild, the crossings were nearly always ankle deep in slush, and
walking was anything but a pleasure, therefore it happened that for days
I took no outing whatsoever. From my meals I returned to my table in
the library and read until closing time, conserving in every way my
thirty cents' worth of "food units."

In this way I covered a wide literary and scientific territory. Humped
over my fitful register I discussed the Nebular Hypothesis. My poets and
scientists not merely told me of things I had never known, they
confirmed me in certain conceptions which had come to me without effort
in the past. I became an evolutionist in the fullest sense, accepting
Spencer as the greatest living thinker. Fiske and Galton and Allen were
merely assistants to the Master Mind whose generalizations included in
their circles all modern discovery.

It was a sad change when, leaving the brilliant reading room where my
mind had been in contact with these masters of scientific world, I crept
back to my minute den, there to sit humped and shivering (my overcoat
thrown over my shoulders) confronting with scared resentment the sure
wasting of my little store of dollars. In spite of all my care, the
pennies departed from my pockets like grains of sand from an hour-glass
and most disheartening of all I was making no apparent gain toward
fitting myself for employment in the west.

Furthermore, the greatness, the significance, the beauty of Boston was
growing upon me. I felt the neighboring presence of its autocrats more
definitely and powerfully each day. Their names filled the daily papers,
their comings and goings were carefully noted. William Dean Howells,
Oliver Wendell Holmes, John G. Whittier, Edwin Booth, James Russell
Lowell, all these towering personalities seemed very near to me now, and
their presence, even if I never saw their faces, was an inspiration to
one who had definitely decided to compose essays and poems, and to write
possibly a history of American Literature. Symphony concerts, the
Lowell Institute Lectures, the _Atlantic Monthly_--(all the distinctive
institutions of the Hub) had become very precious to me notwithstanding
the fact that I had little actual share in them. Their nearness while
making my poverty more bitter, aroused in me a vague ambition to
succeed--in something. "I won't be beaten, I will not surrender," I

Being neither a resident of the city nor a pupil of any school I could
not take books from the library and this inhibition wore upon me till at
last I determined to seek the aid of Edward Everett Hale who had long
been a great and gracious figure in my mind. His name had been among the
"Authors" of our rainy-day game on the farm. I had read his books, and I
had heard him preach and as his "Lend-a-hand" helpfulness was
proverbial, I resolved to call upon him at his study in the church, and
ask his advice. I was not very definite as to what I expected him to do,
probably I hoped for sympathy in some form.

The old man received me with kindness, but with a look of weariness
which I quickly understood. Accustomed to helping people he considered
me just another "Case." With hesitation I explained my difficulty about
taking out books.

With a bluff roar he exclaimed, "Well, well! That is strange! Have you
spoken to the Librarian about it?"

"I have, Dr. Hale, but he told me there were twenty thousand young
students in the city in precisely my condition. People not residents and
with no one to vouch for them cannot take books home."

"I don't like that," he said. "I will look into that. You shall be
provided for. Present my card to Judge Chamberlain; I am one of the
trustees, and he will see that you have all the books you want."

I thanked him and withdrew, feeling that I had gained a point. I
presented the card to the librarian whose manner softened at once. As a
protégé of Dr. Hale I was distinguished. "I will see what can be done
for you," said Judge Chamberlain. Thereafter I was able to take books to
my room, a habit which still further imperilled my health, for I read
fourteen hours a day instead of ten.

Naturally I grew white and weak. My Dakota tan and my corn-fed muscle
melted away. The only part of me which flourished was my hair. I
begrudged every quarter which went to the barbers and I was cold most of
the time (except when I infested the library) and I was hungry _all_ the

I knew that I was physically on the down-grade, but what could I do?
Nothing except to cut down my expenses. I was living on less than five
dollars a week, but even at that the end of my _stay_ in the city was
not far off. Hence I walked gingerly and read fiercely.

Bates' Hall was deliciously comfortable, and every day at nine o'clock I
was at the door eager to enter. I spent most of my day at a desk in the
big central reading room, but at night I haunted the Young Men's Union,
thus adding myself to a dubious collection of half-demented, ill-clothed
derelicts, who suffered the contempt of the attendants by reason of
their filling all the chairs and monopolizing all the newspaper racks.
We never conversed one with another and no one knew my name, but there
came to be a certain diplomatic understanding amongst us somewhat as
snakes, rabbits, hyenas, and turtles sometimes form "happy families."

There was one old ruffian who always sniffled and snuffled like a fat
hog as he read, monopolizing my favorite newspaper. Another member of
the circle perused the same page of the same book day after day,
laughing vacuously over its contents. Never by any mistake did he call
for a different book, and I never saw him turn a leaf. No doubt I was
counted as one of this group of irresponsibles.

All this hurt me. I saw no humor in it then, for I was even at this time
an intellectual aristocrat. I despised brainless folk. I hated these
loafers. I loathed the clerk at the desk who dismissed me with a
contemptuous smirk, and I resented the formal smile and impersonal
politeness of Mr. Baldwin, the President. Of course I understood that
the attendants knew nothing of my dreams and my ambitions, and that they
were treating me quite as well as my looks warranted, but I blamed them
just the same, furious at my own helplessness to demonstrate my claims
for higher honors.

During all this time the only woman I knew was my landlady, Mrs. Davis,
and her daughter Fay. Once a week I curtly said, "Here is your rent,
Mrs. Davis," and yet, several times she asked with concern, "How are you
feeling?--You don't look well. Why don't you board with me? I can feed
you quite as cheaply as you can board yourself."

It is probable that she read slow starvation in my face, but I haughtily
answered, "Thank you, I prefer to take my meals out." As a matter of
fact, I dreaded contact with the other boarders.

As a member of the Union a certain number of lectures were open to me
and so night by night, in company with my fellow "nuts," I called for my
ticket and took my place in line at the door, like a charity patient at
a hospital. However, as I seldom occupied a seat to the exclusion of
anyone else and as my presence usually helped to keep the speaker in
countenance, I had no qualms.

The Union audience was notoriously the worst audience in Boston, being
in truth a group of intellectual mendicants waiting for oratorical
hand-me-outs. If we didn't happen to like the sandwiches or the dry
doughnuts given us, we threw them down and walked away.

Nevertheless in this hall I heard nearly all the great preachers of the
city, and though some of their cant phrases worried me, I was benefited
by the literary allusions of others. Carpenter retained nothing of the
old-fashioned theology, and Hale was always a delight--so was Minot
Savage. Dr. Bartol, a quaint absorbing survival of the Concord School of
Philosophy, came once, and I often went to his Sunday service. It was
always joy to enter the old West Meeting House for it remained almost
precisely as it was in Revolutionary days. Its pews, its curtains, its
footstools, its pulpit, were all deliciously suggestive of the time when
stately elms looked in at the window, and when the minister, tall,
white-haired, black-cravatted arose in the high pulpit and began to read
with curious, sing-song cadences a chant from _Job_ I easily imagined
myself listening to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

His sermons held no cheap phrases and his sentences delighted me by
their neat literary grace. Once in an address on Grant he said, "He was
an atmospheric man. He developed from the war-cloud like a bolt of

Perhaps Minot Savage pleased me best of all for he too was a disciple of
Spencer, a logical, consistent, and fearless evolutionist. He often
quoted from the poets in his sermon. Once he read Whitman's "Song of
Myself" with such power, such sense of rhythm that his congregation
broke into applause at the end. I heard also (at Tremont temple and
elsewhere) men like George William Curtis, Henry Ward Beecher, and
Frederick Douglass, but greatest of all in a certain sense was the
influence of Edwin Booth who taught me the greatness of Shakespeare and
the glory of English speech.

Poor as I was, I visited the old Museum night after night, paying
thirty-five cents which admitted me to a standing place in the first
balcony, and there on my feet and in complete absorption, I saw in
wondrous procession _Hamlet_, _Lear_, _Othello_, _Petruchio_, _Sir Giles
Overreach_, _Macbeth_, _Iago_, and _Richelieu_ emerge from the shadow
and re-enact their tragic lives before my eyes. These were my purple,
splendid hours. From the light of this glorious mimic world I stumbled
down the stairs out into the night, careless of wind or snow, my brain
in a tumult of revolt, my soul surging with high resolves.

The stimulation of these performances was very great. The art of this
"Prince of Tragedy" was a powerful educational influence along the lines
of oratory, poetry and the drama. He expressed to me the soul of English
Literature. He exemplified the music of English speech. His acting was
at once painting and sculpture and music and I became still more
economical of food in order that I might the more often bask in the
golden atmosphere of his world. I said, "I, too, will help to make the
dead lines of the great poets speak to the living people of today," and
with new fervor bent to the study of oratory as the handmaid of poetry.

The boys who acted as ushers in the balcony came at length to know me,
and sometimes when it happened that some unlucky suburbanite was forced
to leave his seat near the railing, one of the lads would nod at me and
allow me to slip down and take the empty place.

In this way I got closer to the marvellous lines of the actor's face,
and was enabled to read and record the subtler, fleeter shadows of his
expression. I have never looked upon a face with such transcendent power
of externalizing and differentiating emotions, and I have never heard a
voice of equal beauty and majesty.

Booth taught millions of Americans the dignity, the power and the music
of the English tongue. He set a high mark in grace and precision of
gesture, and the mysterious force of his essentially tragic spirit made
so deep an impression upon those who heard him that they confused him
with the characters he portrayed. As for me--I could not sleep for hours
after leaving the theater.

Line by line I made mental note of the actor's gestures, accents, and
cadences and afterward wrote them carefully down. As I closed my eyes
for sleep I could hear that solemn chant "_Duncan is in his grave. After
life's fitful fever he sleeps well._" With horror and admiration I
recalled him, when as _Sir Giles_, with palsied hand helpless by his
side, his face distorted, he muttered as if to himself, "Some undone
widow sits upon my sword," or when as _Petruchio_ in making a playful
snatch at Kate's hand with the blaze of a lion's anger in his eye his
voice rang out, "Were it the paw of an angry bear, I'd smite it off--but
as it's Kate's I kiss it."

To the boy from the cabin on the Dakota plain these stage pictures were
of almost incommunicable beauty and significance. They justified me in
all my daring. They made any suffering past, present, or future, worth
while, and the knowledge that these glories were evanescent and that I
must soon return to the Dakota plain only deepened their power and added
to the grandeur of every scene.

Booth's home at this time was on Beacon Hill, and I used to walk
reverently by just to see where the great man housed. Once, the door
being open, I caught a momentary glimpse of a curiously ornate umbrella
stand, and the soft glow of a distant lamp, and the vision greatly
enriched me. This singularly endowed artist presented to me the radiant
summit of human happiness and glory, and to see him walk in or out of
his door was my silent hope, but alas, this felicity was denied me!

Under the spell of these performers, I wrote a series of studies of the
tragedian in his greatest rôles. "Edwin Booth as Lear," "Edwin Booth as
Hamlet," and so on, recording with minutest fidelity every gesture,
every accent, till four of these impersonations were preserved on the
page as if in amber. I re-read my Shakespeare in the light of Booth's
eyes, in the sound of his magic voice, and when the season ended, the
city grew dark, doubly dark for me. Thereafter I lived in the fading
glory of that month.

These were growing days! I had moments of tremendous expansion, hours
when my mind went out over the earth like a freed eagle, but these
flights were always succeeded by fits of depression as I realized my
weakness and my poverty. Nevertheless I persisted in my studies.

Under the influence of Spencer I traced a parallel development of the
Arts and found a measure of scientific peace. Under the inspiration of
Whitman I pondered the significance of democracy and caught some part of
its spiritual import. With Henry George as guide, I discovered the main
cause of poverty and suffering in the world, and so in my little room,
living on forty cents a day, I was in a sense profoundly happy. So long
as I had a dollar and a half with which to pay my rent and two dollars
for the keepers of the various dives in which I secured my food, I was
imaginatively the equal of Booth and brother to the kings of song.

And yet one stern persistent fact remained, my money was passing and I
was growing weaker and paler every day. The cockroaches no longer amused
me. Coming as I did from a land where the sky made up half the world I
resented being thus condemned to a nook from which I could see only a
gray rag of mist hanging above a neighboring chimney.

In the moments when I closely confronted my situation the glory of the
western sky came back to me, and it must have been during one of these
dreary storms that I began to write a poor faltering little story which
told of the adventures of a cattleman in the city. No doubt it was the
expression of the homesickness at my own heart but only one or two of
the chapters ever took shape, for I was tortured by the feeling that no
matter how great the intellectual advancement caused by hearing Edwin
Booth in _Hamlet_ might be, it would avail me nothing when confronted by
the school committee of Blankville, Illinois.

I had moments of being troubled and uneasy and at times experienced a
feeling that was almost despair.


Enter a Friend

One night seeing that the principal of a well known School of Oratory
was bulletined to lecture at the Young Men's Union upon "The Philosophy
of Expression" I went to hear him, more by way of routine than with any
expectation of being enlightened or even interested, but his very first
words surprised and delighted me. His tone was positive, his phrases
epigrammatic, and I applauded heartily. "Here is a man of thought," I

At the close of the address I ventured to the platform and expressed to
him my interest in what he had said. He was a large man with a broad and
smiling face, framed in a brown beard. He appeared pleased with my
compliments and asked if I were a resident of Boston. "No, I am a
western man," I replied. "I am here to study and I was especially
interested in your quotations from Darwin's book on _Expression in Man
and Animals_."

His eyes expressed surprise and after a few minutes' conversation, he
gave me his card saying, "Come and see me tomorrow morning at my

I went home pleasantly excited by this encounter. After months of
unbroken solitude in the midst of throngs of strangers, this man's
cordial invitation meant much to me.

On the following morning, at the hour set, I called at the door of his
office on the top floor of No. 7 Beacon Street, which was an
old-fashioned one-story building without an elevator.

Brown asked me where I came from, what my plans were, and I replied with
eager confidence. Then we grew harmoniously enthusiastic over Herbert
Spencer and Darwin and Mantegazza and I talked a stream. My long silence
found vent. Words poured from me in a torrent but he listened smilingly,
his big head cocked on one side, waiting patiently for me to blow off
steam. Later, when given a chance, he showed me the manuscript of a book
upon which he was at work and together we discussed its main thesis. He
asked me my opinion of this passage and that--and I replied, not as a
pupil but as an equal, and the author seemed pleased at my candor.

Two hours passed swiftly in this way and as the interview was about to
end he asked, "Where do you live?"

I told him and explained that I was trying to fit myself for teaching
and that I was living as cheaply as possible. "I haven't any money for
tuition," I confessed.

He mused a moment, then said, "If you wish to come into my school I
shall be glad to have you do so. Never mind about tuition,--pay me when
you can."

This generous offer sent me away filled with gratitude and an illogical
hope. Not only had I gained a friend, I had found an intellectual
comrade, one who was far more widely read, at least in science, than I.
I went to my ten-cent lunch with a feeling that a door had unexpectedly
opened and that it led into broader, sunnier fields of toil.

The school, which consisted of several plain offices and a large
class-room, was attended by some seventy or eighty pupils, mostly girls
from New England and Canada with a few from Indiana and Ohio. It was a
simple little workshop but to me it was the most important institution
in Boston. It gave me welcome, and as I came into it on Monday morning
at nine o'clock and was introduced to the pretty teacher of Delsarte,
Miss Maida Craigen, whose smiling lips and big Irish-gray eyes made her
beloved of all her pupils, I felt that my lonely life in Boston was

The teachers met me with formal kindliness, finding in me only another
crude lump to be moulded into form, and while I did not blame them for
it, I instantly drew inside my shell and remained there--thus robbing
myself of much that would have done me good. Some of the girls went out
of their way to be nice to me, but I kept aloof, filled with a savage
resentment of my poverty and my threadbare clothing.

Before the week was over, Professor Brown asked me to assist in reading
the proof-sheets of his new book and this I did, going over it with him
line by line. His deference to my judgment was a sincere compliment to
my reading and warmed my heart like some elixir. It was my first
authoritative appreciation and when at the end of the third session he
said, "I shall consider your criticism more than equal to the sum of
your tuition," I began to faintly forecast the time when my brain would
make me self-supporting.

My days were now cheerful. My life had direction. For two hours each
afternoon (when work in the school was over) I sat with Brown discussing
the laws of dramatic art, and to make myself still more valuable in this
work, I read every listed book or article upon expression, and
translated several French authorities, transcribing them in longhand for
his use.

In this work the weeks went by and spring approached. In a certain sense
I felt that I was gaining an education which would be of value to me but
I was not earning one cent of money, and my out-go was more than five
dollars per week, for I occasionally went to the theater, and I had
also begun attendance at the Boston Symphony concerts in Music Hall.

By paying twenty-five cents students were allowed to fill the gallery
and to stand on the ground floor, and Friday afternoons generally found
me leaning against the wall listening to Brahms and Wagner. At such
times I often thought of my mother, and my uncle David and wished that
they too might hear these wondrous harmonies. I tried to imagine what
the effect of this tumult of sound would be, as it beat in upon their
inherited deeply musical brain-cells!

One by one I caught up the threads of certain other peculiar Boston
interests, and by careful reading of the _Transcript_ was enabled to
vibrate in full harmony with the local hymn of gratitude. New York
became a mere emporium, a town without a library, a city without a first
class orchestra, the home of a few commercial painters and several
journalistic poets! Chicago was a huge dirty town on the middle border.
Washington a vulgar political camp--only Philadelphia was admitted to
have the quality of a real city and her literary and artistic resources
were pitiably slender and failing!

But all the time that I was feasting on these insubstantial glories, my
meat was being cut down and my coat hung ever more loosely over my ribs.
Pale and languid I longed for spring, for sunshine, with all the passion
of a prisoner, and when at last the grass began to show green in the
sheltered places on the Common and the sparrows began to utter their
love notes, I went often of an afternoon to a bench in lee of a clump of
trees and there sprawled out like a debilitated fox, basking in the
tepid rays of a diminished sun.

For all his expressed admiration of my literary and scientific acumen,
Brown did not see fit to invite me to dinner, probably because of my
rusty suit and frayed cuffs. I did not blame him. I was in truth a
shabby figure, and the dark-brown beard which had come upon me added to
the unhealthy pallor of my skin, so that Mrs. Brown, a rather smart and
socially ambitious lady, must have regarded me as something of an
anarchist, a person to avoid. She always smiled as we met, but her smile
was defensive.

However, a blessed break in the monotony of my fare came during April
when my friend Bashford invited me to visit him in Portland. I accepted
his invitation with naïve precipitation and furbished up my wardrobe as
best I could, feeling that even the wife of a clergyman might not
welcome a visitor with fringed cuffs and celluloid collars.

This was my first sea voyage and I greatly enjoyed the trip--after I got

Mrs. Bashford received me kindly, but (I imagined) with a trace of
official hospitality in her greeting. It was plain that she (like Mrs.
Brown) considered me a "Charity Patient." Well, no matter, Bashford and
I got on smoothly.

Their house was large and its grandeur was almost oppressive to me, but
I spent nearly a week in it. As I was leaving, Bashford gave me a card
to Dr. Cross, a former parishioner in Jamaica Plain, saying, "Call upon
the Doctor as soon as you return. He'll be glad to hear of Dakota."

My little den in Boylston Place was almost intolerable to me now. Spring
sunshine, real sunshine flooded the land and my heart was full of
longing for the country. Therefore--though I dreaded meeting another
stranger,--I decided to risk a dime and make the trip to Jamaica Plains,
to call upon Dr. Cross.

This ride was a further revelation of the beauty of New England. For
half an hour the little horse-car ran along winding lanes under great
overarching elm trees, past apple-orchards in bursting bloom. On every
hand luscious lawns spread, filled with crocuses and dandelions just
beginning to spangle the green. The effect upon me was somewhat like
that which would be produced in the mind of a convict who should
suddenly find his prison doors opening into a June meadow. Standing with
the driver on the front platform, I drank deep of the flower-scented
air. I had never seen anything more beautiful.

Dr. Cross, a sweet and gentle man of about sixty years of age (not
unlike in manner and habit Professor Bush, my principal at the Cedar
Valley Seminary) received his seedy visitor with a kindly smile. I liked
him and trusted him at once. He was tall and very thin, with dark eyes
and a long gray beard. His face was absolutely without suspicion or
guile. It was impossible to conceive of his doing an unkind or hasty
act, and he afterward said that I had the pallor of a man who had been
living in a cellar. "I was genuinely alarmed about you," he said.

His small frame house was simple, but it stood in the midst of a clump
of pear trees, and when I broke out in lyrical praise of the beauty of
the grass and glory of the flowers, the doctor smiled and became even
more distinctly friendly. It appeared that through Mr. Bashford he had
purchased a farm in Dakota, and the fact that I knew all about it and
all about wheat farming gave me distinction.

He introduced me to his wife, a wholesome hearty soul who invited me to
dinner. I stayed. It was my first chance at a real meal since my visit
to Portland, and I left the house with a full stomach, as well as a full
heart, feeling that the world was not quite so unfriendly after all.
"Come again on Sunday," the doctor almost commanded. "We shall expect

My money had now retired to the lower corner of my left-hand pocket and
it was evident that unless I called upon my father for help I must go
back to the West; and much as I loved to talk of the broad fields and
pleasant streams of Dakota, I dreaded the approach of the hour when I
must leave Boston, which was coming to mean more and more to me every

In a blind vague way I felt that to leave Boston was to leave all hope
of a literary career and yet I saw no way of earning money in the city.
In the stress of my need I thought of an old friend, a carpenter in
Greenfield. "I'm sure he will give me a job," I said.

With this in mind I went into Professor Brown's office one morning and I
said, "Well, Professor, I must leave you."

"What's that? What's the matter?" queried the principal shrilly.

"My money's gone. I've got to get out and earn more," I answered sadly.

He eyed me gravely. "What are you going to do?" he inquired.

"I am going back to shingling," I said with tragic accent.

"Shingling!" the old man exclaimed, and then began to laugh, his big
paunch shaking up and down with the force of his mirth. "Shingling!" he
shouted finally. "Can _you_ shingle?"

"You bet I can," I replied with comical access of pride, "but I don't
like to. That is to say I don't like to give up my work here in Boston
just when I am beginning to feel at home."

Brown continued to chuckle. To hear that a man who knew Mantegazza and
Darwin and Whitman and Browning could even _think_ of shingling, was
highly humorous, but as he studied my forlorn face he sensed the
despairing quiver in my voice and his kind heart softened. He ceased to
smile. "Oh, you mustn't do that," he said earnestly. "You mustn't
surrender now. We'll fix up some way for you to earn your keep. Can't
you borrow a little?"

"Yes, I could get a few dollars from home, but I don't feel justified in
doing so,--times are hard out there and besides I see no way of repaying
a loan."

He pondered a moment, "Well, now I'll tell you what we'll do. I'll make
you our Instructor in Literature for the summer term and I'll put your
Booth lecture on the programme. That will give you a start, and perhaps
something else will develop for the autumn."

This noble offer so emboldened me that I sent west for twenty-five
dollars to pay my board, and to have my suit dyed.--It was the very same
suit I had bought of the Clark Street tailor, and the aniline purple had
turned pink along the seams--or if not pink it was some other color
equally noticeable in the raiment of a lecturer, and not to be endured.
I also purchased a new pair of shoes and a necktie of the Windsor
pattern. This cravat and my long Prince Albert frock, while not strictly
in fashion, made me feel at least presentable.

Another piece of good fortune came to me soon after. Dr. Cross again
invited me to dine and after dinner as we were driving together along
one of the country lanes, the good doctor said, "Mrs. Cross is going up
into New Hampshire for the summer and I shall be alone in the house. Why
don't you come and stay with me? You need the open air, and I need

This generous offer nearly shipwrecked my dignity. Several moments
passed before I could control my voice to thank him. At last I said,
"That's very kind of you, Doctor. I'll come if you will let me pay at
least the cost of my board."

The Doctor understood this feeling and asked, "How much are you paying

With slight evasion I replied, "Well, I try to keep within five dollars
a week."

He smiled. "I don't see how you do it, but I can give you an attic room
and you can pay me at your convenience."

This noble invitation translated me from my dark, cold, cramped den
(with its night-guard of redoubtable cockroaches) into the light and air
of a comfortable suburban home. It took me back to the sky and the birds
and the grass--and Irish Mary, the cook, put red blood into my veins. In
my sabbath walks along the beautiful country roads, I heard again the
song of the cat-bird and the trill of the bobolink. For the first time
in months I slept in freedom from hunger, in security of the morrow. Oh,
good Hiram Cross, your golden crown should be studded with jewels, for
your life was filled with kindnesses like this!

Meanwhile, in preparation for the summer term I gladly helped stamp and
mail Brown's circulars. The lecture "Edwin Booth as Iago" I carefully
re-wrote--for Brown had placed it on his printed programme and had also
announced me as "Instructor in Literature." I took care to send this
circular to all my friends and relatives in the west.

Decidedly that summer of Taine in a Dakota cabin was bearing fruit, and
yet just in proportion as Brown came to believe in my ability so did he
proceed to "hector" me. He never failed to ask of a morning, "Well, when
are you going back to shingling?"

The Summer School opened in July. It was well attended, and the
membership being made up of teachers of English and Oratory from
several states was very impressive to me. Professors of elocution and of
literature from well-known colleges and universities gave dignity and
distinction to every session.

My class was very small and paid me very little but it brought me to
know Mrs. Payne, a studious, kindly woman (a resident of Hyde Park), who
for some reason which will forever remain obscure, considered me not
merely a youth of promise, but a lecturer of value. Having heard from
Brown how sadly I needed money--perhaps she even detected poverty in my
dyed coat, she not only invited me to deliver an immediate course of
lectures at her house in Hyde Park but proceeded to force tickets upon
all her friends.

The importance of this engagement will appear when the reader is
informed that I was owing the Doctor for a month's board, and saw no way
of paying it, and that my one suit was distressingly threadbare. There
are other and more interesting ways of getting famous but alas! I rose
only by inches and incredible effort. My reader must be patient with me.

My subjects were ambitious enough, "The Art of Edwin Booth," was ready
for delivery, but "Victor Hugo and his Prose Masterpieces," was only
partly composed and "The Modern German Novel" and "The American Novel"
were in notes merely, therefore with puckered brow and sturdy pen I set
to work in my little attic room, and there I toiled day and night to put
on paper the notions I had acquired concerning these grandiose subjects.

In after years I was appalled at the audacity of that schedule, and I
think I had the grace to be scared at the time, but I swung into it
recklessly. Tickets had been taken by some of the best known men among
the teachers, and I was assured by Mrs. Payne that we would have the
most distinguished audience that ever graced Hyde Park. "Among your
listeners will be the literary editors of several Boston papers, two
celebrated painters, and several well-known professors of oratory," she
said, and like Lieutenant Napoleon called upon to demonstrate his
powers, I graved with large and ruthless fist, and approached my opening
date with palpitating but determined heart.

It was a tense moment for me as (while awaiting my introduction) I
looked into the faces of the men and women seated in that crowded
parlor. Just before the dais, shading his eyes with his hand, was a
small man with a pale face and brown beard. This was Charles E. Hurd,
literary editor of the _Transcript_. Near him sat Theodore Weld, as
venerable in appearance as Socrates (with long white hair and rosy
cheeks), well known as one of the anti-slavery guard, a close friend of
Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison. Beside him was Professor
Raymond of Princeton, the author of several books, while Churchill of
Andover and half a dozen other representatives of great colleges loomed
behind him. I faced them all with a gambler's composure but behind my
mask I was jellied with fear.

However, when I rose to speak, the tremor passed out of my limbs, the
blood came back to my brain, and I began without stammering. This first
paper, fortunately for us all, dealt with Edwin Booth, whom I revered.
To my mind he not only expressed the highest reach of dramatic art in
his day, he was the best living interpreter of Shakespeare, and no doubt
it was the sincerity of my utterance which held my hearers, for they all
listened intently while I analyzed the character of _Iago_, and
disclosed what seemed to me to be the sources of the great tragedian's
power, and when I finished they applauded with unmistakable approval,
and Mrs. Payne glowed with a sense of proprietorship in her protégé who
had seized the opportunity and made it his. I was absurd but

Many of the guests (kindly of spirit) came up to shake hands and
congratulate me. Mr. Hurd gave me a close grip and said, "Come up to the
_Transcript_ office and see me." John J. Enneking, a big, awkward
red-bearded painter, elbowed up and in his queer German way spoke in
approval. Churchill, Raymond, both said, "You'll do," and Brown finally
came along with a mocking smile on his big face, eyed me with an air of
quizzical comradeship, nudged me slyly with his elbow as he went by, and
said, "Going back to shingling, are you?"

On the homeward drive, Dr. Cross said very solemnly, "You have no need
to fear the future."

It was a very small event in the history of Hyde Park, but it was a
veritable bridge of Lodi for me. I never afterward felt lonely or
disheartened in Boston. I had been tested both as teacher and orator and
I must be pardoned for a sudden growth of boyish self-confidence.

The three lectures which followed were not so successful as the first,
but my audience remained. Indeed I think it would have increased night
by night had the room permitted it, and Mrs. Payne was still perfectly
sure that her protégé had in him all the elements of success, but I fear
Prof. Church expressed the sad truth when he said in writing, "Your man
Garland is a diamond in the rough!" Of course I must have appeared very
seedy and uncouth to these people and I am filled with wonder at their
kindness to me. My accent was western. My coat sleeves shone at the
elbows, my trousers bagged at the knees. Considering the anarch I must
have been, I marvel at their toleration. No western audience could have
been more hospitable, more cordial.

The ninety dollars which I gained from this series of lectures was, let
me say, the less important part of my victory, and yet it was wondrous
opportune. They enabled me to cancel my indebtedness to the Doctor, and
still have a little something to keep me going until my classes began in
October, and as my landlord did not actually evict me, I stayed on
shamelessly, fattening visibly on the puddings and roasts which Mrs.
Cross provided and dear old Mary cooked with joy. She was the true
artist. She loved to see her work appreciated.

My class in English literature that term numbered twenty and the money
which this brought carried me through till the mid-winter vacation, and
permitted another glorious season of Booth and the Symphony Orchestra.
In the month of January I organized a class in American Literature, and
so at last became self-supporting in the city of Boston! No one who has
not been through it can realize the greatness of this victory.

I permitted myself a few improvements in hose and linen. I bought a
leather hand-bag with a shoulder strap, and every day joined the stream
of clerks and students crossing the Common. I began to feel a
proprietary interest in the Hub. My sleeping room (also my study),
continued to be in the attic (a true attic with a sloping roof and one
window) but the window faced the south, and in it I did all my reading
and writing. It was hot on sunny days and dark on cloudy days, but it
was a refuge.

As a citizen with a known habitation I was permitted to carry away books
from the library, and each morning from eight until half-past twelve I
sat at my desk writing, tearing away at some lecture, or historical
essay, and once in a while I composed a few lines of verse. Five
afternoons in each week I went to my classes and to the library,
returning at six o'clock to my dinner and to my reading. This was my
routine, and I was happy in it. My letters to my people in the west
were confident, more confident than I ofttimes felt.

During my second summer Burton Babcock, who had decided to study for the
Unitarian ministry, came east with intent to enter the Divinity School
at Harvard. He was the same old Burton, painfully shy, thoughtful,
quaintly abrupt in manner, and together we visited the authorities at
Cambridge and presented his case as best we could.

For some reason not clear to either of us, the school refused to aid and
after a week's stay with me Burton, a little disheartened but not
resentful, went to Meadville, Pennsylvania. Boston seemed very wonderful
to him and I enjoyed his visit keenly. We talked inevitably of old
friends and old days in the manner of middle-aged men, and he told me
that John Gammons had entered the Methodist ministry and was stationed
in Decorah, that Charles, my former partner in Dakota, had returned to
the old home very ill with some obscure disease. Mitchell Morrison was a
watch-maker and jeweler in Winona and Lee Moss had gone to Superior. The
scattering process had begun. The diverging wind-currents of destiny had
already parted our little group and every year would see its members
farther apart. How remote it all seems to me now,--like something
experienced on another planet!

Each month saw me more and more the Bostonian by adoption. My teaching
paid my board, leaving me free to study and to write. I never did any
hack-work for the newspapers. Hawthorne's influence over me was still
powerful, and in my first attempts at writing fiction I kept to the
essay form and sought for a certain distinction in tone. In poetry,
however, Bret Harte, Joaquin Miller, and Walt Whitman were more to my
way of thinking than either Poe or Emerson. In brief I was sadly
"mixed." Perhaps the enforced confinement of my city life gave all poems
of the open air, of the prairies, their great and growing power over me
for I had resolved to remain in Boston until such time as I could return
to the West in the guise of a conqueror. Just what I was about to
conquer and in what way I was to secure eminence was not very clear to
me, but I was resolved none the less, and had no immediate intention of

In the summer of 1886 Brown held another Summer School and again I
taught a class. Autumn brought a larger success. Mrs. Lee started a
Browning Class in Chelsea, and another loyal pupil organized a
Shakespeare class in Waltham. I enjoyed my trips to these classes very
much and one of the first stories I ever wrote was suggested by some
characters I saw in an old grocery store in Waltham. As I recall my
method of teaching, it consisted chiefly of readings. My critical
comment could not have been profound.

I was earning now twelve dollars per week, part of this went for railway
fare, but I still had a margin of profit. True I still wore reversible
cuffs and carried my laundry bundles in order to secure the discount,
but I dressed in better style and looked a little less like a starving
Russian artist, and I was becoming an author!

My entrance into print came about through my good friend, Mr. Hurd, the
book reviewer of the _Transcript_. For him I began to write an
occasional critical article or poem just to try my hand. One of my
regular "beats" was up the three long flights of stairs which led to
Hurd's little den above Washington Street, for there I felt myself a
little more of the literary man, a little nearer the current of American

Let me repeat my appreciation of the fact that I met with the quickest
response and the most generous aid among the people of Boston. There was
nothing cold or critical in their treatment of me. My success,
admittedly, came from some sympathy in them rather than from any real
deserving on my part. I cannot understand at this distance why those
charming people should have consented to receive from me, opinions
concerning anything whatsoever,--least of all notions of
literature,--but they did, and they seemed delighted at "discovering"
me. Perhaps they were surprised at finding so much intelligence in a man
from the plains.

It was well that I was earning my own living at last, for things were
not going especially well at home. A couple of dry seasons had made a
great change in the fortunes of my people. Frank, with his usual
careless good nature as clerk in the store had given credit to almost
every comer, and as the hard times came on, many of those indebted
failed to pay, and father was forced to give up his business and go back
to the farm which he understood and could manage without the aid of an

"The Junior" as I called my brother, being footloose and discontented,
wrote to say that he was planning to go farther west--to Montana, I
think it was. His letter threw me into dismay. I acknowledged once again
that my education had in a sense been bought at his expense. I recalled
the many weeks when the little chap had plowed in my stead whilst I was
enjoying the inspiration of Osage. It gave me distress to think of him
separating himself from the family as David had done, and yet my own
position was too insecure to warrant me promising much in his aid.
Nevertheless, realizing that mother would suffer less if she knew her
two sons were together, I wrote, saying, "If you have definitely decided
on leaving home, don't go west. Come to Boston, and I will see if I
cannot get you something to do."

It ended in his coming to Boston, and my mother was profoundly
relieved. Father gave no sign either of pleasure or regret. He set to
work once more increasing his acreage, vigorous and unsubdued.

Frank's coming added to my burden of responsibility and care, but
increased my pleasure in the city, for I now had someone to show it to.
He secured a position as an accountant in a railway office and though we
seldom met during the week, on Sundays we roamed the parks, or took
excursions down the bay, and in a short time he too became an
enthusiastic Bostonian with no thought of returning to Dakota. Little
Jessie was now the sole stay and comfort of our mother.

As I look back now upon the busy, happy days of 1885 and 1886, I can
grasp only a few salient experiences.... A terrific storm is on the sea.
We are at Nantasket to study it. The enormous waves are charging in from
the illimitable sky like an army of horses, only to fall and waste
themselves in wrath upon the sand. I feel the stinging blast against my
face.... I am riding on a train over the marshes on my way to my class
in Chelsea. I look across the level bay and behold a soaring banner of
sunshot mist, spun by a passing engine, rising, floating, vanishing in
the air.... I am sitting in an old grocery shop in Waltham listening to
the quaint aphorism of a group of loafers around the stove.... I am
lecturing before a summer school in Pepperel, New Hampshire.... I am at
the theater, I hear Salvini thunderously clamoring on the stage. I see
Modjeska's beautiful hands. I thrill to Sarah Bernhardt's velvet somber

It is summer, Frank and I are walking the lovely lanes of Milton under
gigantic elms, or lying on the grass of the park in West Roxbury,
watching the wild birds come and go, hearing the sound of the
scythestone in the meadow. Day by day, week by week, Boston, New
England, comes to fuse that part of me which is eastern. I grow at last
into thinking myself a fixture. Boston is the center of music, of art,
of literature. My only wish now is to earn money enough to visit my
people in the West.

And yet, notwithstanding all this, neither of us ever really became a
Bostonian. We never got beyond a feeling for the beauty, the
picturesqueness and the charm of our surroundings. The East caused me to
cry out in admiration, but it did not inspire me to write. It did not
appeal to me as my material. It was rather as a story already told, a
song already sung.

When I walked a lane, or saw the sloping roof of a house set against a
hillside I thought of Whittier or Hawthorne and was silent. The sea
reminded me of Celia Thaxter or Lucy Larcom. The marshes brought up the
_Wayside Inn_ of Longfellow; all, all was of the past. New England, rich
with its memories of great men and noble women, had no direct
inspiration for me, a son of the West. It did not lay hold upon my
creative imagination, neither did it inspire me to sing of its glory. I
remained immutably of the Middle Border and strange to say, my desire to
celebrate the West was growing.

Each season dropped a thickening veil of mist between me and the scenes
of my youth, adding a poetic glamour to every rememberable form and
fact. Each spring when the smell of fresh, uncovered earth returned to
fret my nostrils I thought of the wide fields of Iowa, of the level
plains of Dakota, and a desire to hear once more the prairie chicken
calling from the ridges filled my heart. In the autumn when the wind
swept through the bare branches of the elm, I thought of the lonely days
of plowing on the prairie, and the poetry and significance of those wild
gray days came over me with such power that I instinctively seized my
pen to write of them.

One day, a man shoveling coal in the alley below my window reminded me
of that peculiar ringing _scrape_ which the farm shovel used to make
when (on the Iowa farm) at dusk I scooped my load of corn from the wagon
box to the crib, and straightway I fell a-dreaming, and from dreaming I
came to composition, and so it happened that my first writing of any
significance was an article depicting an Iowa corn-husking scene.

It was not merely a picture of the life my brother and I had lived,--it
was an attempt to set forth a typical scene of the Middle Border. "The
Farm Life of New England has been fully celebrated by means of
innumerable stories and poems," I began, "its husking bees, its dances,
its winter scenes are all on record; is it not time that we of the west
should depict our own distinctive life? The middle border has its
poetry, its beauty, if we can only see it."

To emphasize these differences I called this first article "The Western
Corn Husking," and put into it the grim report of the man who had "been
there," an insistence on the painful as well as the pleasant truth, a
quality which was discovered afterwards to be characteristic of my work.
The bitter truth was strongly developed in this first article.

Up to this time I had composed nothing except several more or less
high-falutin' essays, a few poems and one or two stories somewhat in
imitation of Hawthorne, but in this my first real shot at the
delineation of prairie life, I had no models. Perhaps this clear field
helped me to be true. It was not fiction, as I had no intention at that
time of becoming a fictionist, but it was fact, for it included the mud
and cold of the landscape as well as its bloom and charm.

I sent "The Corn Husking" to the _New American Magazine_, and almost by
return mail the editor, William Wyckoff, wrote an inspiring letter to
the effect that the life I had described was familiar to him, and that
it had never been treated in this way. "I shall be very glad to read
anything you have written or may write, and I suggest that you follow up
this article by others of the same nature."

It was just the encouragement I needed. I fell to work at once upon
other articles, taking up the seasons one by one. Wyckoff accepted them
gladly, but paid for them slowly and meagerly--but I did not blame him
for that. His magazine was even then struggling for life.

It must have been about this time that I sold to _Harper's Weekly_ a
long poem of the prairie, for which I was paid the enormous sum of
twenty-five dollars. With this, the first money I ever had received for
magazine writing, I hastened to purchase some silk for my mother, and
the _Memoirs of General Grant_ for my father, with intent to suitably
record and celebrate my entrance into literature. For the first time in
her life, my mother was able to wear a silk dress, and she wrote, soon
after, a proud and grateful letter saying things which blurred my eyes
and put a lump into my throat. If only I could have laid the silk in her
lap, and caught the light of her happy smile!


A Visit to the West

At twenty-seven years of age, and after having been six years absent
from Osage, the little town in which I went to school, I found myself
able to revisit it. My earnings were still humiliatingly less than those
of a hod-carrier, but by shameless economy I had saved a little over one
hundred dollars and with this as a travelling fund, I set forth at the
close of school, on a vacation tour which was planned to include the old
home in the Coulee, the Iowa farm, and my father's house in Dakota. I
took passage in a first class coach this time, but was still a long way
from buying a berth in a sleeping car.

To find myself actually on the train and speeding westward was deeply
and pleasurably exciting, but I did not realize how keen my hunger for
familiar things had grown, till the next day when I reached the level
lands of Indiana. Every field of wheat, every broad hat, every honest
treatment of the letter "r" gave me assurance that I was approaching my
native place. The reapers at work in the fields filled my mind with
visions of the past. The very weeds at the roadside had a magical appeal
and yet, eager as I was to reach old friends, I found in Chicago a new
friend whose sympathy was so stimulating, so helpful that I delayed my
journey for two days in order that I might profit by his critical

This meeting came about in a literary way. Some months earlier, in May,
to be exact, Hurd of the _Transcript_ had placed in my hands a novel
called _Zury_ and my review of it had drawn from its author, a western
man, a letter of thanks and a cordial invitation to visit him as I
passed through Chicago, on my way to my old home. This I had gladly
accepted, and now with keen interest, I was on my way to his home.

Joseph Kirkland was at this time nearly sixty years of age, a small,
alert, dark-eyed man, a lawyer, who lived in what seemed to me at the
time, plutocratic grandeur, but in spite of all this, and
notwithstanding the difference in our ages, I liked him and we formed an
immediate friendship. "Mrs. Kirkland and my daughters are in Michigan
for the summer," he explained, "and I am camping in my study." I was
rather glad of this arrangement for, having the house entirely to
ourselves, we could discuss realism, Howells and the land-question with
full vigor and all night if we felt like it.

Kirkland had read some of my western sketches and in the midst of his
praise of them suddenly asked, "Why don't you write fiction?"

To this I replied, "I can't manage the dialogue."

"Nonsense!" said he. "You're lazy, that's all. You use the narrative
form because it's easier. Buckle to it--you can write stories as well as
I can--but you must sweat!"

This so surprised me that I was unable to make any denial of his charge.
The fact is he was right. To compose a page of conversation, wherein
each actor uses his own accent and speaks from his own point of view,
was not easy. I had dodged the hard spots.

The older man's bluntness and humor, and his almost wistful appreciation
of my youth and capacity for being moved, troubled me, absorbed my mind
even during our talk. Some of his words stuck like burrs, because they
seemed so absurd. "When your name is known all over the West," he said
in parting, "remember what I say. You can go far if you'll only work. I
began too late. I can't emotionalize present day western life--you can,
but you must bend to your desk like a man. You must grind!"

I didn't feel in the least like a successful fictionist and being a
household word seemed very remote,--but I went away resolved to "grind"
if grinding would do any good.

Once out of the city, I absorbed "atmosphere" like a sponge. It was with
me no longer (as in New England) a question of warmed-over themes and
appropriated characters. Whittier, Hawthorne, Holmes, had no connection
with the rude life of these prairies. Each weedy field, each wire fence,
the flat stretches of grass, the leaning Lombardy trees,--everything was
significant rather than beautiful, familiar rather than picturesque.

Something deep and resonant vibrated within my brain as I looked out
upon this monotonous commonplace landscape. I realized for the first
time that the east had surfeited me with picturesqueness. It appeared
that I had been living for six years amidst painted, neatly arranged
pasteboard scenery. Now suddenly I dropped to the level of nature
unadorned, down to the ugly unkempt lanes I knew so well, back to the
pungent realities of the streamless plain.

Furthermore I acknowledged a certain responsibility for the conditions
of the settlers. I felt related to them, an intolerant part of them.
Once fairly out among the fields of northern Illinois everything became
so homely, uttered itself so piercingly to me that nothing less than
song could express my sense of joy, of power. This was my country--these
my people.

It was the third of July, a beautiful day with a radiant sky, darkened
now and again with sudden showers. Great clouds, trailing veils of
rain, enveloped the engine as it roared straight into the west,--for an
instant all was dark, then forth we burst into the brilliant sunshine
careening over the green ridges as if drawn by runaway dragons with
breath of flame.

It was sundown when I crossed the Mississippi river (at Dubuque) and the
scene which I looked out upon will forever remain a splendid page in my
memory. The coaches lay under the western bluffs, but away to the south
the valley ran, walled with royal purple, and directly across the flood,
a beach of sand flamed under the sunset light as if it were a bed of
pure untarnished gold. Behind this an island rose, covered with noble
trees which suggested all the romance of the immemorial river. The
redman's canoe, the explorer's batteau, the hunter's lodge, the
emigrant's cabin, all stood related to that inspiring vista. For the
first time in my life I longed to put this noble stream into verse.

All that day I had studied the land, musing upon its distinctive
qualities, and while I acknowledged the natural beauty of it, I revolted
from the gracelessness of its human habitations. The lonely boxlike
farm-houses on the ridges suddenly appeared to me like the dens of wild
animals. The lack of color, of charm in the lives of the people
anguished me. I wondered why I had never before perceived the futility
of woman's life on a farm.

I asked myself, "Why have these stern facts never been put into our
literature as they have been used in Russia and in England? Why has this
land no story-tellers like those who have made Massachusetts and New
Hampshire illustrious?"

These and many other speculations buzzed in my brain. Each moment was a
revelation of new uglinesses as well as of remembered beauties.

At four o'clock of a wet morning I arrived at Charles City, from which
I was to take "the spur" for Osage. Stiffened and depressed by my
night's ride, I stepped out upon the platform and watched the train as
it passed on, leaving me, with two or three other silent and sleepy
passengers, to wait until seven o'clock in the morning for the
"accommodation train." I was still busy with my problem, but the salient
angles of my interpretation were economic rather than literary.

Walking to and fro upon the platform, I continued to ponder my
situation. In a few hours I would be among my old friends and
companions, to measure and be measured. Six years before I had left them
to seek my fortune in the eastern world. I had promised
little,--fortunately--and I was returning, without the pot of gold and
with only a tinge of glory.

Exteriorly I had nothing but a crop of sturdy whiskers to show for my
years of exile but mentally I was much enriched. Twenty years of
development lay between my thought at the moment and those of my simpler
days. My study of Spencer, Whitman and other of the great leaders of the
world, my years of absorbed reading in the library, my days of
loneliness and hunger in the city had swept me into a far bleak land of
philosophic doubt where even the most daring of my classmates would
hesitate to follow me.

A violent perception of the mysterious, the irrevocable march of human
life swept over me and I shivered before a sudden realization of the
ceaseless change and shift of western life and landscape. How few of
those I knew were there to greet me! Walter and Charles were dead, Maud
and Lena were both married, and Burton was preaching somewhere in the

Six short years had made many changes in the little town and it was in
thinking upon these changes that I reached a full realization of the
fact that I was no longer a "promising boy" of the prairie but a man,
with a notion of human life and duty and responsibility which was
neither cheerful nor resigned. I was returning as from deep valleys,
from the most alien climate.

Looking at the sky above me, feeling the rush of the earth beneath my
feet I saw how much I had dared and how little, how pitifully little I
had won. Over me the ragged rainclouds swept, obscuring the stars and in
their movement and in the feeling of the dawn lay something illimitable
and prophetic. Such moments do not come to men often--but to me for an
hour, life was painfully purposeless. "What does it all mean?" I asked

At last the train came, and as it rattled away to the north and I drew
closer to the scenes of my boyhood, my memory quickened. The Cedar
rippling over its limestone ledges, the gray old mill and the pond where
I used to swim, the farm-houses with their weedy lawns, all seemed not
only familiar but friendly, and when at last I reached the station (the
same grimy little den from which I had started forth six years before),
I rose from my seat with the air of a world-traveller and descended upon
the warped and splintered platform, among my one time friends and
neighbors, with quickened pulse and seeking eye.

It was the fourth of July and a crowd was at the station, but though I
recognized half the faces, not one of them lightened at sight of me. The
'bus driver, the ragged old dray-man (scandalously profane), the common
loafers shuffling about, chewing and spitting, seemed absolutely
unchanged. One or two elderly citizens eyed me closely as I slung my
little Boston valise with a long strap over my shoulder and started up
the billowing board sidewalk toward the center of the town, but I gave
out no word of recognition. Indeed I took a boyish pride in the
disguising effect of my beard.

How small and flat and leisurely the village seemed. The buildings which
had once been so imposing in my eyes were now of very moderate elevation
indeed, and the opera house was almost indistinguishable from the
two-story structures which flanked it; but the trees had increased in
dignity, and some of the lawns were lovely.

With eyes singling out each familiar object I loitered along the walk.
There stood the grimy wagon shop from which a hammer was ringing
cheerily, like the chirp of a cricket,--just as aforetime. Orrin Blakey
stood at the door of his lumber yard surveying me with curious eyes but
I passed him in silence. I wished to spend an hour or two in going about
in guise of a stranger. There was something instructive as well as
deliciously exciting in thus seeing old acquaintances as from behind a
mask. They were at once familiar and mysterious--mysterious with my new
question, "Is this life worth living?"

The Merchants' Hotel which once appeared so luxurious (within the reach
only of great lecturers like Joseph Cook and Wendell Phillips) had
declined to a shabby frame tavern, but entering the dining room I
selected a seat near an open window, from which I could look out upon
the streets and survey the throng of thickening sightseers as they moved
up and down before me like the figures in a vitascope.

I was waited upon by a slatternly girl and the breakfast she brought to
me was so bad (after Mary's cooking) that I could only make a pretense
of eating it, but I kept my seat, absorbed by the forms coming and
going, almost within the reach of my hand. Among the first to pace
slowly by was Lawyer Ricker, stately, solemn and bibulous as ever, his
red beard flowing over a vest unbuttoned in the manner of the
old-fashioned southern gentleman, his spotless linen and neat tie
showing that his careful, faithful wife was still on guard.

Him I remembered for his astounding ability to recite poetry by the hour
and also because of a florid speech which I once heard him make in the
court room. For six mortal hours he spoke on a case involving the
stealing of a horse-blanket worth about four dollars and a half. In the
course of his argument he ranged with leisurely self-absorption, from
ancient Egypt and the sacred Crocodile down through the dark ages,
touching at Athens and Mount Olympus, reviewing Rome and the court of
Charlemagne, winding up at four P. M. with an impassioned appeal to the
jury to remember the power of environment upon his client. I could not
remember how the suit came out, but I did recall the look of
stupefaction which rested on the face of the accused as he found himself
likened to Gurth the swine-herd and a peasant of Carcassone.

Ricker seemed quite unchanged save for the few gray hairs which had come
into his beard and, as he stood in conversation with one of the
merchants of the town, his nasal voice, his formal speech and the
grandiloquent gesture of his right hand brought back to me all the
stories I had heard of his drinking and of his wife's heroic rescuing
expeditions to neighboring saloons. A strange, unsatisfactory end to a
man of great natural ability.

Following him came a young girl leading a child of ten. I knew them at
once. Ella McKee had been of the size of the little one, her sister,
when I went away, and nothing gave me a keener realization of the years
which had passed than the flowering of the child I had known into this
charming maiden of eighteen. Her resemblance to her sister Flora was too
marked to be mistaken, and the little one by her side had the same
flashing eyes and radiant smile with which both of her grown up sisters
were endowed. Their beauty fairly glorified the dingy street as they
walked past my window.

Then an old farmer, bent and worn of frame, halted before me to talk
with a merchant. This was David Babcock, Burton's father, one of our old
time neighbors, a little more bent, a little thinner, a little
grayer--that was all, and as I listened to his words I asked, "What
purpose does a man serve by toiling like that for sixty years with no
increase of leisure, with no growth in mental grace?"

There was a wistful note in his voice which went straight to my heart.
He said: "No, our wheat crop ain't a-going to amount to much this year.
Of course we don't try to raise much grain--it's mostly stock, but I
thought I'd try wheat again. I wisht we could get back to the good old
days of wheat raising--it w'ant so confining as stock-raisin'." His good
days were also in the past!

As I walked the street I met several neighbors from Dry Run as well as
acquaintances from the Grove. Nearly all, even the young men, looked
worn and weather-beaten and some appeared both silent and sad. Laughter
was curiously infrequent and I wondered whether in my days on the farm
they had all been as rude of dress, as misshapen of form and as wistful
of voice as they now seemed to me to be. "Have times changed? Has a
spirit of unrest and complaining developed in the American farmer?"

I perceived the town from the triple viewpoint of a former resident, a
man from the city, and a reformer, and every minutest detail of dress,
tone and gesture revealed new meaning to me. Fancher and Gammons were
feebler certainly, and a little more querulous with age, and their faded
beards and rough hands gave pathetic evidence of the hard wear of wind
and toil. At the moment nothing glozed the essential tragic futility of
their existence.

Then down the street came "The Ragamuffins," the little Fourth of July
procession, which in the old days had seemed so funny, so exciting to
me. I laughed no more. It filled me with bitterness to think that such a
makeshift spectacle could amuse anyone. "How dull and eventless life
must be to enable such a pitiful travesty to attract and hold the
attention of girls like Ella and Flora," I thought as I saw them
standing with their little sister to watch "the parade."

From the window of a law office, Emma and Matilda Leete were leaning and
I decided to make myself known to them. Emma, who had been one of my
high admirations, had developed into a handsome and interesting woman
with very little of the village in her dress or expression, and when I
stepped up to her and asked, "Do you know me?" her calm gray eyes and
smiling lips denoted humor. "Of course I know you--in spite of the
beard. Come in and sit with us and tell all of us about yourself."

As we talked, I found that they, at least, had kept in touch with the
thought of the east, and Ella understood in some degree the dark mood
which I voiced. She, too, occasionally doubted whether the life they
were all living was worth while. "We make the best of it," she said,
"but none of us are living up to our dreams."

Her musical voice, thoughtful eyes and quick intelligence, re-asserted
their charm, and I spent an hour or more in her company talking of old
friends. It was not necessary to talk down to her. She was essentially
urban in tone while other of the girls who had once impressed me with
their beauty had taken on the airs of village matrons and did not
interest me. If they retained aspirations they concealed the fact. Their
husbands and children entirely occupied their minds.

Returning to the street, I introduced myself to Uncle Billy Fraser and
Osmund Button and other Sun Prairie neighbors and when it became known
that "Dick Garland's boy" was in town, many friends gathered about to
shake my hand and inquire concerning "Belle" and "Dick."

The hard, crooked fingers, which they laid in my palm completed the
sorrowful impression which their faces had made upon me. A twinge of
pain went through my heart as I looked into their dim eyes and studied
their heavy knuckles. I thought of the hand of Edwin Booth, of the
flower-like palm of Helena Modjeska, of the subtle touch of Inness, and
I said, "Is it not time that the human hand ceased to be primarily a
bludgeon for hammering a bare living out of the earth? Nature all
bountiful, undiscriminating, would, under justice, make such toil
unnecessary." My heart burned with indignation. With William Morris and
Henry George I exclaimed, "Nature is not to blame. Man's laws are to
blame,"--but of this I said nothing at the time--at least not to men
like Babcock and Fraser.

Next day I rode forth among the farms of Dry Run, retracing familiar
lanes, standing under the spreading branches of the maple trees I had
planted fifteen years before. I entered the low stone cabin wherein
Neighbor Button had lived for twenty years (always intending sometime to
build a house and make a granary of this), and at the table with the
family and the hired men, I ate again of Ann's "riz" biscuit and sweet
melon pickles. It was not a pleasant meal, on the contrary it was
depressing to me. The days of the border were over, and yet Arvilla his
wife was ill and aging, still living in pioneer discomfort toiling like
a slave.

At neighbor Gardner's home, I watched his bent complaining old wife
housekeeping from dawn to dark, literally dying on her feet. William
Knapp's home was somewhat improved but the men still came to the table
in their shirt sleeves smelling of sweat and stinking of the stable,
just as they used to do, and Mrs. Knapp grown more gouty, more unwieldy
than ever (she spent twelve or fourteen hours each day on her swollen
and aching feet), moved with a waddling motion because, as she
explained, "I can't limp--I'm just as lame in one laig as I am in
t'other. But 'tain't no use to complain, I've just so much work to do
and I might as well go ahead and do it."

I slept that night in her "best room," yes, at last, after thirty years
of pioneer life, she had a guest chamber and a new "bedroom soot." With
open pride and joy she led Belle Garland's boy in to view this precious
acquisition, pointing out the soap and towels, and carefully removing
the counterpane! I understood her pride, for my mother had not yet
acquired anything so luxurious as this. She was still on the border!

Next day, I called upon Andrew Ainsley and while the women cooked in a
red-hot kitchen, Andy stubbed about the barnyard in his bare feet,
showing me his hogs and horses. Notwithstanding his town-visitor and the
fact that it was Sunday, he came to dinner in a dirty, sweaty,
collarless shirt, and I, sitting at his oil-cloth covered table, slipped
back, deeper, ever deeper among the stern realities of the life from
which I had emerged. I recalled that while my father had never allowed
his sons or the hired men to come to the table unwashed or uncombed, we
usually ate while clothed in our sweaty garments, glad to get food into
our mouths in any decent fashion, while the smell of the horse and the
cow mingled with the savor of the soup. There is no escape even on a
modern "model farm" from the odor of the barn.

Every house I visited had its individual message of sordid struggle and
half-hidden despair. Agnes had married and moved away to Dakota, and
Bess had taken upon her girlish shoulders the burdens of wifehood and
motherhood almost before her girlhood had reached its first period of
bloom. In addition to the work of being cook and scrub-woman, she was
now a mother and nurse. As I looked around upon her worn chairs, faded
rag carpets, and sagging sofas,--the bare walls of her pitiful little
house seemed a prison. I thought of her as she was in the days of her
radiant girlhood and my throat filled with rebellious pain.

All the gilding of farm life melted away. The hard and bitter realities
came back upon me in a flood. Nature was as beautiful as ever. The
soaring sky was filled with shining clouds, the tinkle of the bobolink's
fairy bells rose from the meadow, a mystical sheen was on the odorous
grass and waving grain, but no splendor of cloud, no grace of sunset
could conceal the poverty of these people, on the contrary they brought
out, with a more intolerable poignancy, the gracelessness of these
homes, and the sordid quality of the mechanical daily routine of these

I perceived beautiful youth becoming bowed and bent. I saw lovely
girlhood wasting away into thin and hopeless age. Some of the women I
had known had withered into querulous and complaining spinsterhood, and
I heard ambitious youth cursing the bondage of the farm. "Of such pain
and futility are the lives of the average man and woman of both city and
country composed," I acknowledged to myself with savage candor, "Why lie
about it?"

Some of my playmates opened their acrid hearts to me. My presence
stimulated their discontent. I was one of them, one who having escaped
had returned as from some far-off glorious land of achievement. My
improved dress, my changed manner of speech, everything I said, roused
in them a kind of rebellious rage and gave them unwonted power of
expression. Their mood was no doubt transitory, but it was as real as my

Men who were growing bent in digging into the soil spoke to me of their
desire to see something of the great eastern world before they died.
Women whose eyes were faded and dim with tears, listened to me with
almost breathless interest whilst I told them of the great cities I had
seen, of wonderful buildings, of theaters, of the music of the sea.
Young girls expressed to me their longing for a life which was better
worth while, and lads, eager for adventure and excitement, confided to
me their secret intention to leave the farm at the earliest moment. "I
don't intend to wear out my life drudging on this old place," said
Wesley Fancher with a bitter oath.

In those few days, I perceived life without its glamor. I no longer
looked upon these toiling women with the thoughtless eyes of youth. I
saw no humor in the bent forms and graying hair of the men. I began to
understand that my own mother had trod a similar slavish round with
never a full day of leisure, with scarcely an hour of escape from the
tugging hands of children, and the need of mending and washing clothes.
I recalled her as she passed from the churn to the stove, from the stove
to the bedchamber, and from the bedchamber back to the kitchen, day
after day, year after year, rising at daylight or before, and going to
her bed only after the evening dishes were washed and the stockings and
clothing mended for the night.

The essential tragedy and hopelessness of most human life under the
conditions into which our society was swiftly hardening embittered me,
called for expression, but even then I did not know that I had found my
theme. I had no intention at the moment of putting it into fiction.

The reader may interrupt at this point to declare that all life, even
the life of the city is futile, if you look at it in that way, and I
reply by saying that I still have moments when I look at it that way.
What is it all about, anyhow, this life of ours? Certainly to be forever
weary and worried, to be endlessly soiled with thankless labor and to
grow old before one's time soured and disappointed, is not the whole
destiny of man!

Some of these things I said to Emma and Matilda but their optimism was
too ingrained to yield to my gray mood. "We can't afford to grant too
much," said Emma. "We are in it, you see."

Leaving the village of Osage, with my mind still in a tumult of revolt,
I took the train for the Northwest, eager to see my mother and my little
sister, yet beginning to dread the changes which I must surely find in
them. Not only were my senses exceedingly alert and impressionable, my
eyes saw nothing but the loneliness and the lack of beauty in the
landscape, and the farther west I went, the lonelier became the boxlike
habitations of the plain. Here were the lands over which we had hurried
in 1881, lured by the "Government Land" of the farther west. Here, now,
a kind of pioneering behind the lines was going on. The free lands were
gone and so, at last, the price demanded by these speculators must be

This wasteful method of pioneering, this desolate business of lonely
settlement took on a new and tragic significance as I studied it.
Instructed by my new philosophy I now perceived that these plowmen,
these wives and daughters had been pushed out into these lonely ugly
shacks by the force of landlordism behind. These plodding Swedes and
Danes, these thrifty Germans, these hairy Russians had all fled from the
feudalism of their native lands and were here because they had no share
in the soil from which they sprung, and because in the settled
communities of the eastern states, the speculative demand for land had
hindered them from acquiring even a leasing right to the surface of the

I clearly perceived that our Song of Emigration had been, in effect, the
hymn of fugitives!

And yet all this did not prevent me from acknowledging the beauty of the
earth. On the contrary, social injustice intensified nature's
prodigality. I said, "Yes, the landscape is beautiful, but how much of
its beauty penetrates to the heart of the men who are in the midst of it
and battling with it? How much of consolation does the worn and weary
renter find in the beauty of cloud and tree or in the splendor of the
sunset?--Grace of flower does not feed or clothe the body, and when the
toiler is both badly clothed and badly fed, bird-song and leaf-shine
cannot bring content." Like Millet, I asked, "Why should all of a man's
waking hours be spent in an effort to feed and clothe his family? Is
there not something wrong in our social scheme when the unremitting
toiler remains poor?"

With such thoughts filling my mind, I passed through this belt of recent
settlement and came at last into the valley of the James. One by one the
familiar flimsy little wooden towns were left behind (strung like beads
upon a string), and at last the elevator at Ordway appeared on the edge
of the horizon, a minute, wavering projection against the sky-line, and
half an hour later we entered the village, a sparse collection of
weather-beaten wooden houses, without shade of trees or grass of lawns,
a desolate, drab little town.

Father met me at the train, grayer of beard and hair, but looking hale
and cheerful, and his voice, his peculiar expressions swept away all my
city experience. In an instant I was back precisely where I had been
when I left the farm. He was Captain, I was a corporal in the rear

And yet he was distinctly less harsh, less keen. He had mellowed. He had
gained in sentiment, in philosophy, that was evident, and as we rode
away toward the farm we fell into intimate, almost tender talk.

I was glad to note that he had lost nothing either in dignity or
manliness in my eyes. His speech though sometimes ungrammatical was
vigorous and precise and his stories gave evidence of his native
constructive skill. "Your mother is crazy to see you," he said, "but I
have only this one-seated buggy, and she couldn't come down to meet

When nearly a mile away I saw her standing outside the door of the house
waiting for us, so eager that she could not remain seated, and as I
sprang from the carriage she came hurrying out to meet me, uttering a
curious little murmuring sound which touched me to the heart.

The changes in her shocked me, filled me with a sense of guilt.
Hesitation was in her speech. Her voice once so glowing and so jocund,
was tremulous, and her brown hair, once so abundant, was thin and gray.
I realized at once that in the three years of my absence she had topped
the high altitude of her life and was now descending swiftly toward
defenseless age, and in bitter sadness I entered the house to meet my
sister Jessie who was almost a stranger to me.

She had remained small and was quaintly stooped in neck and shoulders
but retained something of her childish charm. To her I was quite alien,
in no sense a brother. She was very reticent, but it did not take me
long to discover that in her quiet fashion she commanded the camp. For
all his military bluster, the old soldier was entirely subject to her.
She was never wilful concerning anything really important, but she
assumed all the rights of an individual and being the only child left in
the family, went about her affairs without remark or question, serene,
sweet but determined.

The furniture and pictures of the house were quite as humble as I had
remembered them to be, but mother wore with pride the silk dress I had
sent to her and was so happy to have me at home that she sat in silent
content, while I told her of my life in Boston (boasting of my success
of course, I had to do that to justify myself), and explaining that I
must return, in time to resume my teaching in September.

Harvest was just beginning, and I said, "Father, if you'll pay me full
wages, I'll take a hand."

This pleased him greatly, but he asked, "Do you think you can stand it?"

"I can try," I responded. Next day I laid off my city clothes and took
my place as of old on the stack.

On the broad acres of the arid plains the header and not the binder was
then in use for cutting the wheat, and as stacker I had to take care of
the grain brought to me by the three header boxes.

It was very hard work that first day. It seemed that I could not last
out the afternoon, but I did, and when at night I went to the house for
supper, I could hardly sit at the table with the men, so weary were my
bones. I sought my bed early and rose next day so sore that movement was
torture. This wore away at last and on the third day I had no difficulty
in keeping up my end of the whiffletree.

The part of labor that I hated was the dirt. Night after night as I came
in covered with dust, too tired to bathe, almost too weary to change my
shirt, I declared against any further harvesting. However, I generally
managed to slosh myself with cold water from the well, and so went to my
bed with a measure of self-respect, but even the "spare room" was hot
and small, and the conditions of my mother's life saddened me. It was so
hot and drear for her!

Every detail of the daily life of the farm now assumed literary
significance in my mind. The quick callousing of my hands, the swelling
of my muscles, the sweating of my scalp, all the unpleasant results of
severe physical labor I noted down, but with no intention of exalting
toil into a wholesome and regenerative thing as Tolstoi, an aristocrat,
had attempted to do. Labor when so prolonged and severe as at this time
my toil had to be, is warfare. I was not working as a visitor but as a
hired hand, and doing my full day's work and more.

At the end of the week I wrote to my friend Kirkland, enclosing some of
my detailed notes and his reply set me thinking. "You're the first
actual farmer in American fiction,--now tell the truth about it," he

Thereafter I studied the glory of the sky and the splendor of the wheat
with a deepening sense of the generosity of nature and monstrous
injustice of social creeds. In the few moments of leisure which came to
me as I lay in the shade of a grain-rick, I pencilled rough outlines of
poems. My mind was in a condition of tantalizing productivity and I felt
vaguely that I ought to be writing books instead of pitching grain.
Conceptions for stories began to rise from the subconscious deeps of my
thought like bubbles, noiseless and swift--and still I did not realize
that I had entered upon a new career.

At night or on Sunday I continued my conferences with father and mother.
Together we went over the past, talking of old neighbors and from one of
these conversations came the theme of my first story. It was a very
simple tale (told by my mother) of an old woman, who made a trip back
to her York state home after an absence in the West of nearly thirty
years. I was able to remember some of the details of her experience and
when my mother had finished speaking I said to her, "That is too good to
lose. I'm going to write it out." Then to amuse her, I added, "Why,
that's worth seventy-five dollars to me. I'll go halves with you."

Smilingly she held out her hand. "Very well, you may give me my share

"Wait till I write it," I replied, a little taken aback.

Going to my room I set to work and wrote nearly two thousand words of
the sketch. This I brought out later in the day and read to her with
considerable excitement. I really felt that I had struck out a character
which, while it did not conform to the actual woman in the case, was
almost as vivid in my mind.

Mother listened very quietly until I had finished, then remarked with
sententious approval. "That's good. Go on." She had no doubt of my
ability to go on--indefinitely!

I explained to her that it wasn't so easy as all that, but that I could
probably finish it in a day or two. (As a matter of fact, I completed
the story in Boston but mother got her share of the "loot" just the

Soon afterward, while sitting in the door looking out over the fields, I
pencilled the first draft of a little poem called _Color in the Wheat_
which I also read to her.

She received this in the same manner as before, from which it appeared
that nothing I wrote could surprise her. Her belief in my powers was
quite boundless. Father was inclined to ask, "What's the good of it?"

Of course all of my visit was not entirely made up of hard labor in the
field. There were Sundays when we could rest or entertain the neighbors,
and sometimes a shower gave us a few hours' respite, but for the most
part the weeks which I spent at home were weeks of stern service in the
ranks of the toilers.

There was a very good reason for my close application to the
fork-handle. Father paid me an extra price as "boss stacker," and I
could not afford to let a day pass without taking the fullest advantage
of it. At the same time, I was careful not to convey to my pupils and
friends from Boston the disgraceful fact that I was still dependent upon
my skill with a pitch-fork to earn a living. I was not quite sure of
their approval of the case.

At last there came the time when I must set my face toward the east.

It seemed a treachery to say good-bye to my aging parents, leaving them
and my untrained sister to this barren, empty, laborious life on the
plain, whilst I returned to the music, the drama, the inspiration, the
glory of Boston. Opposite poles of the world could not be farther apart.
Acute self-accusation took out of my return all of the exaltation and
much of the pleasure which I had expected to experience as I dropped my
harvester's fork and gloves and put on the garments of civilization once

With heart sore with grief and rebellion at "the inexorable trend of
things," I entered the car, and when from its window I looked back upon
my grieving mother, my throat filled with a suffocating sense of guilt.
I was deserting her, recreant to my blood!--That I was re-enacting the
most characteristic of all American dramas in thus pursuing an ambitious
career in a far-off city I most poignantly realized and yet--I went! It
seemed to me at the time that my duty lay in the way of giving up all my
selfish plans in order that I might comfort my mother in her growing
infirmity, and counsel and defend my sister--but I did not. I went away
borne on a stream of purpose so strong that I seemed but a leak in its
resistless flood.

This feeling of bitterness, of rebellion, of dissatisfaction with
myself, wore gradually away, and by the time I reached Chicago I had
resolved to climb high. "I will carry mother and Jessie to comfort and
to some small share, at least, in the world of art," was my resolve. In
this way I sought to palliate my selfish plan.

Obscurely forming in my mind were two great literary concepts--that
truth was a higher quality than beauty, and that to spread the reign of
justice should everywhere be the design and intent of the artist. The
merely beautiful in art seemed petty, and success at the cost of the
happiness of others a monstrous egotism.

In the spirit of these ideals I returned to my small attic room in
Jamaica Plain and set to work to put my new conceptions into some sort
of literary form.


I Join the Anti-Poverty Brigade

In the slow procession of my struggling fortunes this visit to the West
seems important, for it was the beginning of my career as a fictionist.
My talk with Kirkland and my perception of the sordid monotony of farm
life had given me a new and very definite emotional relationship to my
native state. I perceived now the tragic value of scenes which had
hitherto appeared merely dull or petty. My eyes were opened to the
enforced misery of the pioneer. As a reformer my blood was stirred to
protest. As a writer I was beset with a desire to record in some form
this newly-born conception of the border.

No sooner did I reach my little desk in Jamaica Plain than I began to
write, composing in the glow of a flaming conviction. With a delightful
(and deceptive) sense of power, I graved with heavy hand, as if with pen
of steel on brazen tablets, picture after picture of the plain. I had no
doubts, no hesitations about the kind of effect I wished to produce. I
perceived little that was poetic, little that was idyllic, and nothing
that was humorous in the man, who, with hands like claws, was scratching
a scanty living from the soil of a rented farm, while his wife walked
her ceaseless round from tub to churn and from churn to tub. On the
contrary, the life of such a family appealed to me as an almost
unrelievedly tragic futility.

In the few weeks between my return and the beginning of my teaching, I
wrote several short stories, and outlined a propagandist play. With very
little thought as to whether such stories would sell rapidly or not at
all I began to send them away, to the _Century_, to _Harper's_, and
other first class magazines without permitting myself any deep
disappointment when they came back--as they all did!

However, having resolved upon being printed by the best periodicals I
persisted. Notwithstanding rejection after rejection I maintained an
elevated aim and continued to fire away.

There was a certain arrogance in all this, I will admit, but there was
also sound logic, for I was seeking the ablest editorial judgment and in
this way I got it. My manuscripts were badly put together (I used cheap
paper and could not afford a typist), hence I could not blame the
readers who hurried my stories back at me. No doubt my illegible writing
as well as the blunt, unrelenting truth of my pictures repelled them.
One or two friendly souls wrote personal notes protesting against my
"false interpretation of western life."

The fact that I, a working farmer, was presenting for the first time in
fiction the actualities of western country life did not impress them as
favorably as I had expected it to do. My own pleasure in being true was
not shared, it would seem, by others. "Give us charming love stories!"
pleaded the editors.

"No, we've had enough of lies," I replied. "Other writers are telling
the truth about the city,--the artisan's narrow, grimy, dangerous job is
being pictured, and it appears to me that the time has come to tell the
truth about the barn-yard's daily grind. I have lived the life and I
know that farming is not entirely made up of berrying, tossing the
new-mown hay and singing _The Old Oaken Bucket_ on the porch by

"The working farmer," I went on to argue, "has to live in February as
well as June. He must pitch manure as well as clover. Milking as
depicted on a blue china plate where a maid in a flounced petticoat is
caressing a gentle Jersey cow in a field of daisies, is quite unlike
sitting down to the steaming flank of a stinking brindle heifer in
flytime. Pitching odorous timothy in a poem and actually putting it into
a mow with the temperature at ninety-eight in the shade are widely
separated in fact as they should be in fiction. For me," I concluded,
"the grime and the mud and the sweat and the dust exist. They still form
a large part of life on the farm, and I intend that they shall go into
my stories in their proper proportions."

Alas! Each day made me more and more the dissenter from accepted
economic as well as literary conventions. I became less and less of the
booming, indiscriminating patriot. Precisely as successful politicians,
popular preachers and vast traders diminished in importance in my mind,
so the significance of Whitman, and Tolstoi and George increased, for
they all represented qualities which make for saner, happier and more
equitable conditions in the future. Perhaps I despised idlers and
time-savers unduly, but I was of an age to be extreme.

During the autumn Henry George was announced to speak in Faneuil Hall,
sacred ark of liberty, and with eager feet my brother and I hastened to
the spot to hear this reformer whose fame already resounded throughout
the English-speaking world. Beginning his campaign in California he had
carried it to Ireland, where he had been twice imprisoned for speaking
his mind, and now after having set Bernard Shaw and other English
Fabians aflame with indignant protest, was about to run for mayor of New
York City.

I have an impression that the meeting was a noon-day meeting for men,
at any rate the historical old hall, which had echoed to the voices of
Garrison and Phillips and Webster was filled with an eager expectant
throng. The sanded floor was packed with auditors standing shoulder to
shoulder and the galleries were crowded with these who, like ourselves,
had gone early in order to ensure seats. From our places in the front
row we looked down upon an almost solid mosaic of derby hats, the
majority of which were rusty by exposure to wind and rain.

As I waited I recalled my father's stories of the stern passions of
anti-slavery days. In this hall Wendell Phillips in the pride and power
of his early manhood, had risen to reply to the cowardly apologies of
entrenched conservatism, and here now another voice was about to be
raised in behalf of those whom the law oppressed. My brother had also
read _Progress and Poverty_ and both of us felt that we were taking part
in a distinctly historical event, the beginning of a new abolition

At last, a stir at the back of the platform announced the approach of
the speaker. Three or four men suddenly appeared from some concealed
door and entered upon the stage. One of them, a short man with a full
red beard, we recognized at once,--"The prophet of San Francisco" as he
was then called (in fine derision) was not a noticeable man till he
removed his hat. Then the fine line of his face from the crown of his
head to the tip of his chin printed itself ineffaceably upon our minds.
The dome-like brow was that of one highly specialized on lines of logic
and sympathy. There was also something in the tense poise of his body
which foretold the orator.

Impatiently the audience endured the speakers who prepared the way and
then, finally, George stepped forward, but prolonged waves of cheering
again and again prevented his beginning. Thereupon he started pacing to
and fro along the edge of the platform, his big head thrown back, his
small hands clenched as if in anticipation of coming battle. He no
longer appeared small. His was the master mind of that assembly.

His first words cut across the air with singular calmness. Coming after
the applause, following the nervous movement of a moment before, his
utterance was surprisingly cold, masterful, and direct. Action had
condensed into speech. Heat was transformed into light.

His words were orderly and well chosen. They had precision and grace as
well as power. He spoke as other men write, with style and arrangement.
His address could have been printed word for word as it fell from his
lips. This self-mastery, this graceful lucidity of utterance combined
with a personal presence distinctive and dignified, reduced even his
enemies to respectful silence. His altruism, his sincere pity and his
hatred of injustice sent me away in the mood of a disciple.

Meanwhile a few of his followers had organized an "Anti-Poverty Society"
similar to those which had already sprung up in New York, and my brother
and I used to go of a Sunday evening to the old Horticultural Hall on
Tremont Street, contributing our presence and our dimes in aid of the
meeting. Speakers were few and as the weeks went by the audiences grew
smaller and smaller till one night Chairman Roche announced with sad
intonation that the meetings could not go on. "You've all got tired of
hearing us repeat ourselves and we have no new speaker, none at all for
next week. I am afraid we'll have to quit."

My brother turned to me--"Here's your 'call,'" he said. "Volunteer to
speak for them."

Recognizing my duty I rose just as the audience was leaving and sought
the chairman. With a tremor of excitement in my voice I said, "If you
can use me as a speaker for next Sunday I will do my best for you."

Roche glanced at me for an instant, and then without a word of question,
shouted to the audience, "Wait a moment! We _have_ a speaker for next
Sunday." Then, bending down, he asked of me, "What is your name and

I told him, and again he lifted his voice, this time in triumphant
shout, "Professor Hamlin Garland will speak for us next Sunday at eight
o'clock. Come and bring all your friends."

"You are in for it now," laughed my brother gleefully. "You'll be lined
up with the anarchists sure!"

That evening was in a very real sense a parting of the ways for me. To
refuse this call was to go selfishly and comfortably along the lines of
literary activity I had chosen. To accept was to enter the arena where
problems of economic justice were being sternly fought out. I understood
already something of the disadvantage which attached to being called a
reformer, but my sense of duty and the influence of Herbert Spencer and
Walt Whitman rose above my doubts. I decided to do my part.

All the week I agonized over my address, and on Sunday spoke to a
crowded house with a kind of partisan success. On Monday my good friend
Chamberlin, _The Listener_ of _The Transcript_ filled his column with a
long review of my heretical harangue.--With one leap I had reached the
lime-light of conservative Boston's disapproval!

Chamberlin, himself a "philosophical anarchist," was pleased with the
individualistic note which ran through my harangue. The Single Taxers
were of course, delighted for I admitted my discipleship to George, and
my socialistic friends urged that the general effect of my argument was
on their side. Altogether, for a penniless student and struggling story
writer, I created something of a sensation. All my speeches thereafter
helped to dye me deeper than ever with the color of reform.

However, in the midst of my Anti-Poverty Campaign, I did not entirely
forget my fiction and my teaching. I was becoming more and more a
companion of artists and poets, and my devotion to things literary
deepened from day to day. A dreadful theorist in some ways, I was, after
all, more concerned with literary than with social problems. Writing was
my life, land reform one of my convictions.

High in my attic room I bent above my manuscript with a fierce resolve.
From eight o'clock in the morning until half past twelve, I dug and
polished. In the afternoon, I met my classes. In the evening I revised
what I had written and in case I did not go to the theater or to a
lecture (I had no social engagements) I wrote until ten o'clock. For
recreation I sometimes drove with Dr. Cross on his calls or walked the
lanes and climbed the hills with my brother.

In this way most of my stories of the west were written. Happy in my own
work, I bitterly resented the laws which created millionaires at the
expense of the poor.

These were days of security and tranquillity, and good friends
thickened. Each week I felt myself in less danger of being obliged to
shingle, though I still had difficulty in clothing myself properly.

Again I saw Booth play his wondrous round of parts and was able to
complete my monograph which I called _The Art of Edwin Booth_. I even
went so far as to send to the great actor the chapter on his _Macbeth_
and received from him grateful acknowledgments, in a charming letter.

A little later I had the great honor of meeting him for a moment and it
happened in this way. The veteran reader, James E. Murdock, was giving a
recital in a small hall on Park Street, and it was privately announced
that Edwin Booth and Lawrence Barrett would be present. This was enough
to justify me in giving up one of my precious dollars on the chance of
seeing the great tragedian enter the room.

He came in a little late, flushing, timid, apologetic! It seemed to me a
very curious and wonderful thing that this man who had spoken to
millions of people from behind the footlights should be timid as a maid
when confronted by less than two hundred of his worshipful fellow
citizens in a small hall. So gentle and kindly did he seem.

My courage grew, and after the lecture I approached the spot where he
stood, and Mr. Barrett introduced me to him as "the author of the
lecture on _Macbeth_."--Never had I looked into such eyes--deep and dark
and sad--and my tongue failed me miserably. I could not say a word.
Booth smiled with kindly interest and murmured his thanks for my
critique, and I went away, down across the Common in a glow of delight
and admiration.

In the midst of all my other duties I was preparing my brother Franklin
for the stage. Yes, through some mischance, this son of the prairie had
obtained the privilege of studying with a retired "leading lady" who
still occasionally made tours of the "Kerosene Circuit" and who had
agreed to take him out with her, provided he made sufficient progress to
warrant it. It was to prepare him for this trip that I met him three
nights in the week at his office (he was bookkeeper in a cutlery firm)
and there rehearsed _East Lynne_, _Leah the Forsaken_, and _The Lady of

From seven o'clock until nine I held the book whilst he pranced and
shouted and gesticulated through his lines.

At last, emboldened by his star's praise, he cut loose from his ledger
and went out on a tour which was extremely diverting but not at all
remunerative. The company ran on a reef and Frank sent for carfare which
I cheerfully remitted, crediting it to his educational account.

The most vital literary man in all America at this time was Wm. Dean
Howells who was in the full tide of his powers and an issue. All through
the early eighties, reading Boston was divided into two parts,--those
who liked Howells and those who fought him, and the most fiercely
debated question at the clubs was whether his heroines were true to life
or whether they were caricatures. In many homes he was read aloud with
keen enjoyment of his delicate humor, and his graceful, incisive
English; in other circles he was condemned because of his "injustice to
the finer sex."

As for me, having begun my literary career (as the reader may recall) by
assaulting this leader of the realistic school I had ended, naturally,
by becoming his public advocate. How could I help it?

It is true a large part of one of my lectures consisted of a gratuitous
slam at "Mr. Howells and the so-called realists," but further reading
and deeper thought along the lines indicated by Whitman, had changed my
view. One of Walt's immortal invitations which had appealed to me with
special power was this:

    Stop this day and night with me
    And you shall possess the origin of all poems;
    You shall no longer take things at second or third hand
    Nor look through the eyes of the dead,
    Nor through my eyes either,
    But through your own eyes....
    You shall listen to all sides,
    And filter them from yourself.

Thus by a circuitous route I had arrived at a position where I found
myself inevitably a supporter not only of Howells but of Henry James
whose work assumed ever larger significance in my mind. I was ready to
concede with the realist that the poet might go round the earth and come
back to find the things nearest at hand the sweetest and best after all,
but that certain injustices, certain cruel facts must not be blinked at,
and so, while admiring the grace, the humor, the satire of Howells'
books, I was saved from anything like imitation by the sterner and
darker material in which I worked.

My wall of prejudice against the author of _A Modern Instance_ really
began to sag when during the second year of my stay in Boston, I took up
and finished _The Undiscovered Country_ (which I had begun five or six
years before), but it was _The Minister's Charge_ which gave the final
push to my defenses and fetched them tumbling about my ears in a cloud
of dust. In fact, it was a review of this book, written for the
_Transcript_ which brought about a meeting with the great novelist.

My friend Hurd liked the review and had it set up. The editor, Mr.
Clement, upon reading it in proof said to Hurd, "This is an able review.
Put it in as an editorial. Who is the writer of it?" Hurd told him about
me and Clement was interested. "Send him to me," he said.

On Saturday I was not only surprised and delighted by the sight of my
article in large type at the head of the literary page, I was fluttered
by the word which Mr. Clement had sent to me.

Humbly as a minstrel might enter the court of his king, I went before
the editor, and stood expectantly while he said: "That was an excellent
article. I have sent it to Mr. Howells. You should know him and sometime
I will give you a letter to him, but not now. Wait awhile. War is being
made upon him just now, and if you were to meet him your criticism
would have less weight. His enemies would say that you had come under
his personal influence. Go ahead with the work you have in hand, and
after you have put yourself on record concerning him and his books I
will see that you meet him."

Like a knight enlisted in a holy war I descended the long narrow
stairway to the street, and went to my home without knowing what passed

I ruminated for hours on Mr. Clement's praise. I read and re-read my
"able article" till I knew it by heart and then I started in, seriously,
to understand and estimate the school of fiction to which Mr. Howells
belonged. I read every one of his books as soon as I could obtain them.
I read James, too, and many of the European realists, but it must have
been two years before I called upon Mr. Clement to redeem his promise.

Deeply excited, with my note of introduction carefully stowed in my
inside pocket, I took the train one summer afternoon bound for Lee's
Hotel in Auburndale, where Mr. Howells was at this time living.

I fervently hoped that the building would not be too magnificent for I
felt very small and very poor on alighting at the station, and every rod
of my advance sensibly decreased my self-esteem. Starting with faltering
feet I came to the entrance of the grounds in a state of panic, and as I
looked up the path toward the towering portico of the hotel, it seemed
to me the palace of an emperor and my resolution entirely left me.
Actually I walked up the street for some distance before I was able to
secure sufficient grip on myself to return and enter.

"It is entirely unwarranted and very presumptuous in me to be thus
intruding on a great author's time," I admitted, but it was too late to
retreat, and so I kept on. Entering the wide central hall I crept warily
across its polished, hardwood floor to the desk where a highly ornate
clerk presided. In a meek, husky voice I asked, "Is Mr. Howells in?"

"He is, but he's at dinner," the despot on the other side of the counter
coldly replied, and his tone implied that he didn't think the great
author would relish being disturbed by an individual who didn't even
know the proper time to call. However, I produced my letter of
introduction and with some access of spirit requested His Highness to
have it sent in.

A colored porter soon returned, showed me to a reception room off the
hall, and told me that Mr. Howells would be out in a few minutes. During
these minutes I sat with eyes on the portieres and a frog in my throat.
"How will he receive me? How will he look? What shall I say to him?" I
asked myself, and behold I hadn't an idea left!

Suddenly the curtains parted and a short man with a large head stood
framed in the opening. His face was impassive but his glance was one of
the most piercing I had ever encountered. In the single instant before
he smiled he discovered my character and my thought as though his eyes
had been the lenses of some singular and powerful x-ray instrument. It
was the glance of a novelist.

Of course all this took but a moment's time. Then his face softened,
became winning and his glance was gracious. "I'm glad to see you," he
said, and his tone was cordial. "Won't you be seated?"

We took seats at the opposite ends of a long sofa, and Mr. Howells began
at once to inquire concerning the work and the purposes of his visitor.
He soon drew forth the story of my coming to Boston and developed my
theory of literature, listening intently while I told him of my history
of American Ideals and my attempt at fiction.

My conception of the local novel and of its great importance in American
literature, especially interested the master who listened intently while
I enlarged upon my reasons for believing that the local novel would
continue to grow in power and insight. At the end I said, "In my
judgment the men and women of the south, the west and the east, are
working (without knowing it) in accordance with a great principle, which
is this: American literature, in order to be great, must be national,
and in order to be national, must deal with conditions peculiar to our
own land and climate. Every genuinely American writer must deal with the
life he knows best and for which he cares the most. Thus Joel Chandler
Harris, George W. Cable, Joseph Kirkland, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Mary
Wilkins, like Bret Harte, are but varying phases of the same movement, a
movement which is to give us at last a really vital and original

Once set going I fear I went on like the political orator who doesn't
know how to sit down. I don't think I did quit. Howells stopped me with
a compliment. "You're doing a fine and valuable work," he said, and I
thought he meant it--and he did mean it. "Each of us has had some
perception of this movement but no one has correlated it as you have
done. I hope you will go on and finish and publish your essays."

These words uttered, perhaps, out of momentary conviction brought the
blood to my face and filled me with conscious satisfaction. Words of
praise by this keen thinker were like golden medals. I had good reason
to know how discriminating he was in his use of adjectives for he was
even then the undisputed leader in the naturalistic school of fiction
and to gain even a moment's interview with him would have been a rich
reward for a youth who had only just escaped from spreading manure on
an Iowa farm. Emboldened by his gracious manner, I went on. I confessed
that I too was determined to do a little at recording by way of fiction
the manners and customs of my native West. "I don't know that I can
write a novel, but I intend to try," I added.

He was kind enough then to say that he would like to see some of my
stories of Iowa. "You have almost a clear field out there--no one but
Howe seems to be tilling it."

How long he talked or how long I talked, I do not know, but at last
(probably in self-defense), he suggested that we take a walk. We
strolled about the garden a few minutes and each moment my spirits rose,
for he treated me, not merely as an aspiring student, but as a fellow
author in whom he could freely confide. At last, in his gentle way, he
turned me toward my train.

It was then as we were walking slowly down the street, that he faced me
with the trust of a comrade and asked, "What would you think of a story
dealing with the effect of a dream on the life of a man?--I have in mind
a tale to be called _The Shadow of a Dream_, or something like that,
wherein a man is to be influenced in some decided way by the memory of a
vision, a ghostly figure which is to pursue him and have some share in
the final catastrophe, whatever it may turn out to be. What would you
think of such a plot?"

Filled with surprise at his trust and confidence, I managed to stammer a
judgment. "It would depend entirely upon the treatment," I answered.
"The theme is a little like Hawthorne, but I can understand how, under
your hand, it would not be in the least like Hawthorne."

His assent was instant. "You think it not quite like me? You are right.
It does sound a little lurid. I may never write it, but if I do, you
may be sure it will be treated in my own way and not in Hawthorne's

Stubbornly I persisted. "There are plenty who can do the weird kind of
thing, Mr. Howells, but there is only one man who can write books like
_A Modern Instance_ and _Silas Lapham_."

All that the novelist said, as well as his manner of saying it was
wonderfully enriching to me. To have such a man, one whose fame was even
at this time international, desire an expression of my opinion as to the
fitness of his chosen theme, was like feeling on my shoulder the touch
of a kingly accolade.

I went away, exalted. My apprenticeship seemed over! To America's chief
literary man I was a fellow-writer, a critic, and with this recognition
the current of my ambition shifted course. I began to hope that I, too,
might some day become a social historian as well as a teacher of
literature. The reformer was still present, but the literary man had
been reinforced, and yet, even here, I had chosen the unpopular,
unprofitable side!

Thereafter the gentle courtesy, the tact, the exquisite, yet simple
English of this man was my education. Every hour of his delicious humor,
his wise advice, his ready sympathy sent me away in mingled exaltation
and despair--despair of my own blunt and common diction, exaltation over
his continued interest and friendship.

How I must have bored that sweet and gracious soul! He could not escape
me. If he moved to Belmont I pursued him. If he went to Nahant or
Magnolia or Kittery I spent my money like water in order to follow him
up and bother him about my work, or worry him into a public acceptance
of the single tax, and yet every word he spoke, every letter he wrote
was a benediction and an inspiration.

He was a constant revelation to me of the swift transitions of mood to
which a Celtic man of letters is liable. His humor was like a low, sweet
bubbling geyser spring. It rose with a chuckle close upon some very
somber mood and broke into exquisite phrases which lingered in my mind
for weeks. Side by side with every jest was a bitter sigh, for he, too,
had been deeply moved by new social ideals, and we talked much of the
growing contrasts of rich and poor, of the suffering and loneliness of
the farmer, the despair of the proletariat, and though I could never
quite get him to perceive the difference between his program and ours
(he was always for some vague socialistic reform), he readily admitted
that land monopoly was the chief cause of poverty, and the first
injustice to be destroyed. "But you must go farther, much farther," he
would sadly say.

Of all of my literary friends at this time, Edgar Chamberlin of the
_Transcript_ was the most congenial. He, too, was from Wisconsin, and
loved the woods and fields with passionate fervor. At his house I met
many of the young writers of Boston--at least they were young
then--Sylvester Baxter, Imogene Guiney, Minna Smith, Alice Brown, Mary
E. Wilkins, and Bradford Torrey were often there. No events in my life
except my occasional calls on Mr. Howells were more stimulating to me
than my visits to the circle about Chamberlin's hearth--(he was the kind
of man who could not live without an open fire) and Mrs. Chamberlin's
boundlessly hospitable table was an equally appealing joy.

How they regarded me at that time I cannot surely define--perhaps they
tolerated me out of love for the West. But I here acknowledge my
obligation to "The Listener." He taught me to recognize literary themes
in the city, for he brought the same keen insight, the same tender
sympathy to bear upon the crowds of the streets that he used in
describing the songs of the thrush or the whir of the partridge.

He was especially interested in the Italians who were just beginning to
pour into The North End, displacing the Irish as workmen in the streets,
and often in his column made gracious and charming references to them,
softening without doubt the suspicion and dislike with which many
citizens regarded them.

Hurd, on the contrary, was a very bookish man. He sat amidst mountains
of "books for review" and yet he was always ready to welcome the slender
volume of the new poet. To him I owe much. From him I secured my first
knowledge of James Whitcomb Riley, and it was Hurd who first called my
attention to Kirkland's _Zury_. Through him I came to an enthusiasm for
the study of Ibsen and Bjornsen, for he was widely read in the
literature of the north.

On the desk of this hard-working, ill-paid man of letters (who never
failed to utter words of encouragement to me) I wish to lay a tardy
wreath of grateful praise. He deserves the best of the world beyond, for
he got little but hard work from this. He loved poetry of all kinds and
enjoyed a wide correspondence with those "who could not choose but
sing." His desk was crammed with letters from struggling youths whose
names are familiar now, and in whom he took an almost paternal interest.

One day as I was leaving Hurd's office he said, "By the way, Garland,
you ought to know Jim Herne. He's doing much the same sort of work on
the stage that you and Miss Wilkins are putting into the short story.
Here are a couple of tickets to his play. Go and see it and come back
and tell what you think of it."

Herne's name was new to me but Hurd's commendation was enough to take me
down to the obscure theater in the South End where _Drifting Apart_ was
playing. The play was advertised as "a story of the Gloucester
fishermen" and Katharine Herne was the "Mary Miller" of the piece.
Herne's part was that of a stalwart fisherman, married to a delicate
young girl, and when the curtain went up on his first scene I was
delighted with the setting. It was a veritable cottage interior--not an
English cottage but an American working man's home. The worn chairs, the
rag rugs, the sewing machine doing duty as a flowerstand, all were in

The dialogue was homely, intimate, almost trivial and yet contained a
sweet and touching quality. It was, indeed, of a piece with the work of
Miss Jewett only more humorous, and the action of Katharine and James
Herne was in key with the text. The business of "Jack's" shaving and
getting ready to go down the street was most delightful in spirit and
the act closed with a touch of true pathos.

The second act, a "dream act" was not so good, but the play came back to
realities in the last act and sent us all away in joyous mood. It was
for me the beginning of the local color American drama, and before I
went to sleep that night I wrote a letter to Herne telling him how
significant I found his play and wishing him the success he deserved.

Almost by return mail came his reply thanking me for my good wishes and
expressing a desire to meet me. "We are almost always at home on Sunday
and shall be very glad to see you whenever you can find time to come."

A couple of weeks later--as soon as I thought it seemly--I went out to
Ashmont to see them, for my interest was keen. I knew no one connected
with the stage at this time and I was curious to know--I was almost
frenziedly eager to know the kind of folk the Hernes were.

My first view of their house was a disappointment. It was quite like any
other two-story suburban cottage. It had a small garden but it faced
directly on the walk and was a most uninspiring color. But if the house
disappointed me the home did not. Herne, who looked older than when on
the stage, met me with a curiously impassive face but I felt his
friendship through this mask. Katharine who was even more charming than
"Mary Miller" wore no mask. She was radiantly cordial and we were
friends at once. Both persisted in calling me "professor" although I
explained that I had no right to any such title. In the end they
compromised by calling me "the Dean," and "the Dean" I remained in all
the happy years of our friendship.

Not the least of the charms of this home was the companionship of
Herne's three lovely little daughters Julie, Chrystal and Dorothy, who
liked "the Dean"--I don't know why--and were always at the door to greet
me when I came. No other household meant as much to me. No one
understood more clearly than the Hernes the principles I stood for, and
no one was more interested in my plans for uniting the scattered members
of my family. Before I knew it I had told them all about my mother and
her pitiful condition, and Katharine's expressive face clouded with
sympathetic pain. "You'll work it out," she said, "I am sure of it," and
her confident words were a comfort to me.

They were true Celts, swift to laughter and quick with tears; they
inspired me to bolder flights. They met me on every plane of my
intellectual interests, and our discussions of Herbert Spencer, Henry
George, and William Dean Howells often lasted deep into the night. In
all matters concerning the American Drama we were in accord.

Having found these rare and inspiring souls I was not content until I
had introduced them to all my literary friends. I became their publicity
agent without authority and without pay, for I felt the injustice of a
situation where such artists could be shunted into a theater in The
South End where no one ever saw them--at least no one of the world of
art and letters. Their cause was my cause, their success my chief

_Drifting Apart_, I soon discovered, was only the beginning of Herne's
ambitious design to write plays which should be as true in their local
color as Howells' stories. He was at this time working on two plays
which were to bring lasting fame and a considerable fortune. One of
these was a picture of New England coast life and the other was a study
of factory life. One became _Shore Acres_ and the other _Margaret

From time to time as we met he read me these plays, scene by scene, as
he wrote them, and when _Margaret Fleming_ was finished I helped him put
it on at Chickering Hall. My brother was in the cast and I served as
"Man in Front" for six weeks--again without pay of course--and did my
best to let Boston know what was going on there in that little
theater--the first of all the "Little Theaters" in America. Then came
the success of _Shore Acres_ at the Boston Museum and my sense of
satisfaction was complete.

How all this puts me back into that other shining Boston! I am climbing
again those three long flights of stairs to the _Transcript_ office.
Chamberlin extends a cordial hand, Clement nods as I pass his door. It
is raining, and in the wet street the vivid reds, greens, and yellows of
the horse-cars, splash the pavement with gaudy color. Round the tower of
the Old South Church the doves are whirling.

It is Saturday. I am striding across the Common to Park Square, hurrying
to catch the 5:02 train. The trees of the Mall are shaking their heavy
tears upon me. Drays thunder afar off. Bells tinkle.--How simple, quiet,
almost village-like this city of my vision seems in contrast with the
Boston of today with its diabolic subways, its roaring overhead trains,
its electric cars and its streaming automobiles!

Over and over again I have tried to re-discover that Boston, but it is
gone, never to return. Herne is dead, Hurd is dead, Clement no longer
edits the _Transcript_, Howells and Mary Wilkins live in New York.
Louise Chandler Moulton lies deep in that grave of whose restful quiet
she so often sang, and Edward Everett Hale, type of a New England that
was old when I was young, has also passed into silence. His name like
that of Higginson and Holmes is only a faint memory in the marble
splendors of the New Public Library. The ravening years--how they


My Mother is Stricken

In the summer of 1889, notwithstanding a widening opportunity for
lectures in the East, I decided to make another trip to the West. In all
my mother's letters I detected a tremulous undertone of sadness, of
longing, and this filled me with unrest even in the midst of the
personal security I had won. I could not forget the duty I owed to her
who had toiled so uncomplainingly that I might be clothed and fed and
educated, and so I wrote to her announcing the date of my arrival.

My friend, Dr. Cross, eager to see The Short-Grass Country which was a
far-off and romantic territory to him, arranged to go with me. It was in
July, and very hot the day we started, but we were both quite disposed
to make the most of every good thing and to ignore all discomforts. I'm
not entirely certain, but I think I occupied a sleeping car berth on
this trip; if I did so it was for the first time in my life. Anyhow, I
must have treated myself to regular meals, for I cannot recall being ill
on the train. This, in itself, was remarkable.

Strange to say, most of the incidents of the journey between Boston and
Wisconsin are blended like the faded figures on a strip of sun-smit
cloth, nothing remains definitely distinguishable except the memory of
our visit to my Uncle William's farm in Neshonoc, and the recollection
of the pleasure we took in the vivid bands of wild flowers which spun,
like twin ribbons of satin, from beneath the wheels of the rear coach as
we rushed across the state. All else has vanished as though it had
never been.

These primitive blossoms along the railroad's right-of-way deeply
delighted my friend, but to me they were more than flowers, they were
cups of sorcery, torches of magic incense. Each nodding pink brought
back to me the sights and sounds and smells of the glorious meadows of
my boyhood's vanished world. Every weed had its mystic tale. The slopes
of the hills, the cattle grouped under the trees, all wrought upon me
like old half-forgotten poems.

My uncle, big, shaggy, gentle and reticent, met us at the faded little
station and drove us away toward the sun-topped "sleeping camel" whose
lines and shadows were so lovely and so familiar. In an hour we were at
the farm-house where quaint Aunt Maria made us welcome in true pioneer
fashion, and cooked a mess of hot biscuit to go with the honey from the
bees in the garden. They both seemed very remote, very primitive even to
me, to my friend Cross they were exactly like characters in a story. He
could only look and listen and smile from his seat in the corner.

William, a skilled bee-man, described to us his methods of tracking wild
swarms, and told us how he handled those in his hives. "I can scoop 'em
up as if they were so many kernels of corn," he said. After supper as we
all sat on the porch watching the sunset, he reverted to the brave days
of fifty-five when deer and bear came down over the hills, when a rifle
was almost as necessary as a hoe, and as he talked I revived in him the
black-haired smiling young giant of my boyhood days, untouched of age or

He was a poet, in his dreamy reticent way, for when next morning I
called attention to the beauty of the view down the valley, his face
took on a kind of wistful sweetness and a certain shyness as he
answered with a visible effort to conceal his feeling--"I like it--No
place better. I wish your father and mother had never left the valley."
And in this wish I joined.

On the third day we resumed our journey toward Dakota, and the Doctor,
though outwardly undismayed by the long hard ride and the increasing
barrenness of the level lands, sighed with relief when at last I pointed
out against the level sky-line the wavering bulk of the grain elevator
which alone marked the wind-swept deserted site of Ordway, the end of
our journey. He was tired.

Business, I soon learned, had not been going well on the border during
the two years of my absence. None of the towns had improved. On the
contrary, all had lost ground.

Another dry year was upon the land and the settlers were deeply
disheartened. The holiday spirit of eight years before had entirely
vanished. In its place was a sullen rebellion against government and
against God. The stress of misfortune had not only destroyed hope, it
had brought out the evil side of many men. Dissensions had grown common.
Two of my father's neighbors had gone insane over the failure of their
crops. Several had slipped away "between two days" to escape their
debts, and even little Jessie, who met us at the train, brave as a
meadow lark, admitted that something gray had settled down over the

Graveyards, jails, asylums, all the accompaniments of civilization, were
now quite firmly established. On the west lay the lands of the Sioux and
beyond them the still more arid foot-hills. The westward movement of the
Middle Border for the time seemed at an end.

My father, Jessie told me, was now cultivating more than five hundred
acres of land, and deeply worried, for his wheat was thin and light and
the price less than sixty cents per bushel.

It was nearly sunset as we approached the farm, and a gorgeous sky was
overarching it, but the bare little house in which my people lived
seemed a million miles distant from Boston. The trees which my father
had planted, the flowers which my mother had so faithfully watered, had
withered in the heat. The lawn was burned brown. No green thing was in
sight, and no shade offered save that made by the little cabin. On every
side stretched scanty yellowing fields of grain, and from every worn
road, dust rose like smoke from crevices, giving upon deep-hidden
subterranean fires. It was not a good time to bring a visitor to the
homestead, but it was too late to retreat.

Mother, grayer, older, much less vigorous than she had been two years
before, met us, silently, shyly, and I bled, inwardly, every time I
looked at her. A hesitation had come into her speech, and the indecision
of her movements scared me, but she was too excited and too happy to
admit of any illness. Her smile was as sweet as ever.

Dr. Cross quietly accepted the hot narrow bedroom which was the best we
could offer him, and at supper took his place among the harvest help
without any noticeable sign of repugnance. It was all so remote, so
characteristic of the border that interest dominated disgust.

He was much touched, as indeed was I, by the handful of wild roses which
father brought in to decorate the little sitting-room. "There's nothing
I like better," he said, "than a wild rose." The old trailer had
noticeably softened. While retaining his clarion voice and much of his
sleepless energy, he was plainly less imperious of manner, less harsh of

Jessie's case troubled me. As I watched her, studied her, I perceived
that she possessed uncommon powers, but that she must be taken out of
this sterile environment. "She must be rescued at once or she will live
and die the wife of some Dakota farmer," I said to mother.

Again I was disturbed by the feeling that in some way my own career was
disloyal, something built upon the privations of my sister as well as
upon those of my mother. I began definitely to plan their rescue. "They
must not spend the rest of their days on this barren farm," I said to
Dr. Cross, and my self-accusation spurred me to sterner resolve.

It was not a pleasant time for my good friend, but, as it turned out,
there was a special providence in his being there, for a few days later,
while Jessie and I were seated in the little sitting-room busily
discussing plans for her schooling we heard a short, piercing cry,
followed by low sobbing.

Hurrying out into the yard, I saw my mother standing a few yards from
the door, her sweet face distorted, the tears streaming down her cheeks.
"What is it, mother?" I called out.

"I can't lift my feet," she stammered, putting her arms about my neck.
"I can't move!" and in her voice was such terror and despair that my
blood chilled.

It was true! She was helpless. From the waist downward all power of
locomotion had departed. Her feet were like lead, drawn to the earth by
some terrible magnetic power.

In a frenzy of alarm, Jessie and I carried her into the house and laid
her on her bed. My heart burned with bitter indignation. "This is the
end," I said. "Here is the result of long years of ceaseless toil. She
has gone as her mother went, in the midst of the battle."

At the moment I cursed the laws of man, I cursed myself. I accused my
father. Each moment my remorse and horror deepened, and yet I could do
nothing, nothing but kneel beside the bed and hold her hand while
Jessie ran to call the doctor. She returned soon to say she could not
find him.

Slowly the stricken one grew calmer and at last, hearing a wagon drive
into the yard, I hurried out to tell my father what had happened. He
read in my face something wrong. "What's the matter?" he asked as I drew

"Mother is stricken," I said. "She cannot walk."

He stared at me in silence, his gray eyes expanding like those of an
eagle, then calmly, mechanically he got down and began to unhitch the
team. He performed each habitual act with most minute care, till I,
impatient of his silence, his seeming indifference, repeated, "Don't you
understand? Mother has had a stroke! She is absolutely helpless."

Then he asked, "Where is your friend Dr. Cross?"

"I don't know, I thought he was with you."

Even as I was calling for him, Dr. Cross came into the cabin, his arms
laden with roses. He had been strolling about on the prairie.

With his coming hope returned. Calmly yet skillfully he went to the aid
of the sufferer, while father, Jessie and I sat in agonized suspense
awaiting his report.

At last he came back to us with gentle reassuring smile.

"There is no immediate danger," he said, and the tone in which he spoke
was even more comforting than his words. "As soon as she recovers from
her terror she will not suffer"--then he added gravely, "A minute blood
vessel has ruptured in her brain, and a small clot has formed there. If
this is absorbed, as I think it will be, she will recover. Nothing can
be done for her. No medicine can reach her. It is just a question of
rest and quiet." Then to me he added something which stung like a
poisoned dart. "She should have been relieved from severe household
labor years ago."

My heart filled with bitterness and rebellion, bitterness against the
pioneering madness which had scattered our family, and rebellion toward
my father who had kept my mother always on the border, working like a
slave long after the time when she should have been taking her ease.
Above all, I resented my own failure, my own inability to help in the
case. Here was I, established in a distant city, with success just
opening her doors to me, and yet still so much the struggler that my
will to aid was futile for lack of means.

Sleep was difficult that night, and for days thereafter my mind was rent
with a continual and ineffectual attempt to reach a solution of my
problem, which was indeed typical of ambitious young America everywhere.
"Shall I give up my career at this point? How can I best serve my
mother?" These were my questions and I could not answer either of them.

At the end of a week the sufferer was able to sit up, and soon recovered
a large part of her native cheerfulness although it was evident to me
that she would never again be the woman of the ready hand. Her days of
labor were over.

Her magnificent voice was now weak and uncertain. Her speech painfully
hesitant. She who had been so strong, so brave, was now both easily
frightened and readily confused. She who had once walked with the grace
and power of an athlete was now in terror of an up-rolled rug upon the
floor. Every time I looked at her my throat ached with remorseful pain.
Every plan I made included a vow to make her happy if I could. My
success now meant only service to her. In no other way could I justify
my career.

Dr. Cross though naturally eager to return to the comfort of his own
home stayed on until his patient had regained her poise. "The clot seems
in process of being taken up," he said to me, one morning, "and I think
it safe to leave her. But you had better stay on for a few weeks."

"I shall stay until September, at least," I replied. "I will not go back
at all if I am needed here."

"Don't fail to return," he earnestly advised. "The field is just opening
for you in Boston, and your earning capacity is greater there than it is
here. Success is almost won. Your mother knows this and tells me that
she will insist on your going on with your work."

Heroic soul! She was always ready to sacrifice herself for others.

The Doctor's parting words comforted me as I returned to the shadeless
farmstead to share in the work of harvesting the grain which was already
calling for the reaper, and could not wait either upon sickness or age.
Again I filled the place of stacker while my father drove the four-horse
header, and when at noon, covered with sweat and dust, I looked at
myself, I had very little sense of being a "rising literary man."

I got back once again to the solid realities of farm life, and the
majesty of the colorful sunsets which ended many of our days could not
conceal from me the starved lives and lonely days of my little sister
and my aging mother.

"Think of it!" I wrote to my brother. "After eight years of cultivation,
father's farm possesses neither tree nor vine. Mother's head has no
protection from the burning rays of the sun, except the shadow which the
house casts on the dry, hard door-yard. Where are the 'woods and prairie
lands' of our song? Is this the 'fairy land' in which we were all to
'reign like kings'? Doesn't the whole migration of the Garlands and
McClintocks seem a madness?"

Thereafter when alone, my mother and I often talked of the good old days
in Wisconsin, of David and Deborah and William and Frank. I told her of
Aunt Loretta's peaceful life, of the green hills and trees.

"Oh, I wish we had never left Green's Coulee!" she said.

But this was as far as her complaint ever went, for father was still
resolute and undismayed. "We'll try again," he declared. "Next year will
surely bring a crop."

In a couple of weeks our patient, though unable to lift her feet, was
able to shuffle across the floor into the kitchen, and thereafter
insisted on helping Jessie at her tasks. From a seat in a convenient
corner she picked over berries, stirred cake dough, ground coffee and
wiped dishes, almost as cheerfully as ever, but to me it was a pitiful
picture of bravery, and I burned ceaselessly with desire to do something
to repay her for this almost hopeless disaster.

The worst of the whole situation lay in the fact that my earnings both
as teacher and as story writer were as yet hardly more than enough to
pay my own carefully estimated expenses, and I saw no way of immediately
increasing my income. On the face of it, my plain duty was to remain on
the farm, and yet I could not bring myself to sacrifice my Boston life.
In spite of my pitiful gains thus far, I held a vital hope of
soon,--very soon--being in condition to bring my mother and my sister
east. I argued, selfishly of course, "It must be that Dr. Cross is
right. My only chance of success lies in the east."

Mother did her best to comfort me. "Don't worry about us," she said. "Go
back to your work. I am gaining. I'll be all right in a little while."
Her brave heart was still unsubdued.

While I was still debating my problem, a letter came which greatly
influenced me, absurdly influenced all of us. It contained an invitation
from the Secretary of the Cedar Valley Agriculture Society to be "the
Speaker of the Day" at the County Fair on the twenty-fifth of September.
This honor not only flattered me, it greatly pleased my mother. It was
the kind of honor she could fully understand. In imagination she saw her
son standing up before a throng of old-time friends and neighbors
introduced by Judge Daly and applauded by all the bankers and merchants
of the town. "You must do it," she said, and her voice was decisive.

Father, though less open in his expression, was equally delighted. "You
can go round that way just as well as not," he said. "I'd like to visit
the old town myself."

This letter relieved the situation in the most unexpected way. We all
became cheerful. I began to say, "Of course you are going to get well,"
and I turned again to my plan of taking my sister back to the seminary.
"We'll hire a woman to stay with you," I said, "and Jessie can run up
during vacation, or you and father can go down and spend Christmas with
old friends."

Yes, I confess it, I was not only planning to leave my mother again--I
was intriguing to take her only child away from her. There is no excuse
for this, none whatever except the fact that I had her co-operation in
the plan. She wanted her daughter to be educated quite as strongly as I
could wish, and was willing to put up with a little more loneliness and
toil if only her children were on the road to somewhere.

Jessie was the obstructionist. She was both scared and resentful. She
had no desire to go to school in Osage. She wanted to stay where she
was. Mother needed her,--and besides she didn't have any decent clothes
to wear.

Ultimately I overcame all her scruples, and by promising her a visit to
the great city of Minneapolis (with the privilege of returning if she
didn't like the school) I finally got her to start with me. Poor, little
scared sister, I only half realized the agony of mind through which you
passed as we rode away into the Minnesota prairies!

The farther she got from home the shabbier her gown seemed and the more
impossible her coat and hat. At last, as we were leaving Minneapolis on
our way to Osage she leaned her tired head against me and sobbed out a
wild wish to go home.

Her grief almost wrecked my own self-control but I soothed her as best I
could by telling her that she would soon be among old friends and that
she couldn't turn back now. "Go on and make a little visit anyway," I
added. "It's only a few hours from Ordway and you can go home at any

She grew more cheerful as we entered familiar scenes, and one of the
girls she had known when a child took charge of her, leaving me free to
play the part of distinguished citizen.

The last day of the races was in action when I, with a certain amount of
justifiable pride, rode through the gate (the old familiar sagging gate)
seated beside the President of the Association. I wish I could believe
that as "Speaker of the Day," I filled the sons of my neighbors with
some small part of the awe with which the speakers of other days filled
me, and if I assumed something of the polite condescension with which
all public personages carry off such an entrance, I trust it will be
forgiven me.

The event, even to me, was more inspiring in anticipation than in
fulfillment, for when I rose to speak in the band-stand the wind was
blowing hard, and other and less intellectual attractions were in full
tide. My audience remained distressingly small--and calm. I have a dim
recollection of howling into the face of the equatorical current certain
disconnected sentences concerning my reform theory, and of seeing on the
familiar faces of David Babcock, John Gammons and others of my bronzed
and bent old neighbors a mild wonder as to what I was talking about.

On the whole I considered it a defeat. In the evening I spoke in the
Opera House appearing on the same platform whence, eight years before, I
had delivered my impassioned graduating oration on "Going West." True, I
had gone east but then, advice is for others, not for oneself. Lee Moss,
one of my classmates, and in those Seminary days a rival orator, was in
my audience, and so was Burton, wordless as ever, and a little sad, for
his attempt at preaching had not been successful--his ineradicable
shyness had been against him. Hattie was there looking thin and old, and
Ella and Matilda with others of the girls I had known eight years
before. Some were accompanied by their children.

I suspect I aroused their wonder rather than their admiration. My
radicalism was only an astonishment to them. However, a few of the men,
the more progressive of them, came to me at the close of my talk and
shook hands and said, "Go on! The country needs just such talks." One of
these was Uncle Billy Frazer and his allegiance surprised me, for he had
never shown radical tendencies before.

Summing it all up on my way to Chicago I must admit that as a great man
returning to his native village I had not been a success.

After a few hours of talk with Kirkland I started east by way of
Washington in order that I might stop at Camden and call upon old Walt
Whitman whose work I had been lecturing about, and who had expressed a
willingness to receive me.

It was hot and dry in the drab little city in which he lived, and the
street on which the house stood was as cheerless as an ash-barrel, even
to one accustomed to poverty, like myself, and when I reached the door
of his small, decaying wooden tenement, I was dismayed. It was all so
unlike the home of a world-famous poet.

It was indeed very like that in which a very destitute mechanic might be
living, and as I mounted the steps to Walt's room on the second story my
resentment increased. Not a line of beauty or distinction or grace
rewarded my glance. It was all of the same unesthetic barrenness, and
not overly clean at that.

The old man, majestic as a stranded sea-God, was sitting in an arm
chair, his broad Quaker hat on his head, waiting to receive me. He was
spotlessly clean. His white hair, his light gray suit, his fine linen
all gave the effect of exquisite neatness and wholesome living. His
clear tenor voice, his quiet smile, his friendly hand-clasp charmed me
and calmed me. He was so much gentler and sweeter than I had expected
him to be.

He sat beside a heap of half-read books, marked newspapers, clippings
and letters, a welter of concerns which he refused to have removed by
the broom of the caretaker, and now and again as he wished to show me
something he rose and hobbled a step or two to fish a book or a letter
out of the pile. He was quite lame but could move without a crutch. He
talked mainly of his good friends in Boston and elsewhere, and alluded
to his enemies without a particle of rancor. The lines on his noble face
were as placid as those on the brow of an ox--not one showed petulance
or discouragement. He was the optimist in every word.

He spoke of one of my stories to which Traubel had called his attention,
and reproved me gently for not "letting in the light."

It was a memorable meeting for me and I went away back to my work in
Boston with a feeling that I had seen one of the very greatest literary
personalities of the century, a notion I have had no cause to change in
the twenty-seven years which have intervened.


Main Travelled Roads

My second visit to the West confirmed me in all my sorrowful notions of
life on the plain, and I resumed my writing in a mood of bitter
resentment, with full intention of telling the truth about western farm
life, irrespective of the land-boomer or the politicians. I do not
defend this mood, I merely report it.

In this spirit I finished a story which I called _A Prairie Heroine_ (in
order that no one should mistake my meaning, for it was the study of a
crisis in the life of a despairing farmer's wife), and while even here,
I did not tell the whole truth, I succeeded in suggesting to the
sympathetic observer a tragic and hopeless common case.

It was a tract, that must be admitted, and realizing this, knowing that
it was entirely too grim to find a place in the pages of the _Century_
or _Harper's_ I decided to send it to the _Arena_, a new Boston review
whose spirit, so I had been told, was frankly radical.

A few days later I was amazed to receive from the editor a letter of
acceptance enclosing a check, but a paragraph in the letter astonished
me more than the check which was for one hundred dollars.

"I herewith enclose a check," wrote the editor, "which I hope you will
accept in payment of your story.... I note that you have cut out certain
paragraphs of description with the fear, no doubt, that the editor would
object to them. I hope you will restore the manuscript to its original
form and return it. When I ask a man to write for me, I want him to
utter his mind with perfect freedom. My magazine is not one that is
afraid of strong opinions."

This statement backed up by the writer's signature on a blue slip
produced in me a moment of stupefaction. Entertaining no real hope of
acceptance, I had sent the manuscript in accordance with my principle of
trying every avenue, and to get such an answer--an immediate
answer--with a check!

As soon as I recovered the use of my head and hand, I replied in eager
acknowledgment. I do not recall the precise words of my letter, but it
brought about an early meeting between B. O. Flower, the editor, and

Flower's personality pleased me. Hardly more than a boy at this time, he
met me with the friendliest smile, and in our talk we discovered many
common lines of thought.

"Your story," he said, "is the kind of fiction I need. If you have any
more of that sort let me see it. My magazine is primarily for discussion
but I want to include at least one story in each issue. I cannot match
the prices of magazines like the _Century_ of course, but I will do the
best I can for you."

It would be difficult to exaggerate the value of this meeting to me, for
no matter what anyone may now say of the _Arena's_ logic or literary
style, its editor's life was nobly altruistic. I have never known a man
who strove more single-heartedly for social progress, than B. O. Flower.
He was the embodiment of unselfish public service, and his ready
sympathy for every genuine reform made his editorial office a center of
civic zeal. As champions of various causes we all met in his open lists.

In the months which followed he accepted for his magazine several of my
short stories and bought and printed _Under the Wheel_, an entire play,
not to mention an essay or two on _The New Declaration of Rights_. He
named me among his "regular contributors," and became not merely my
comforter and active supporter but my banker, for the regularity of his
payments raised me to comparative security. I was able to write home the
most encouraging reports of my progress.

At about the same time (or a little later) the _Century_ accepted a
short story which I called _A Spring Romance_, and a three-part tale of
Wisconsin. For these I received nearly five hundred dollars!
Accompanying the note of acceptance was a personal letter from Richard
Watson Gilder, so hearty in its words of appreciation that I was assured
of another and more distinctive avenue of expression.

It meant something to get into the _Century_ in those days. The praise
of its editor was equivalent to a diploma. I regarded Gilder as second
only to Howells in all that had to do with the judgment of fiction.
Flower's interests were ethical, Gilder's esthetic, and after all my
ideals were essentially literary. My reform notions were subordinate to
my desire to take honors as a novelist.

I cannot be quite sure of the precise date of this good fortune, but I
think it must have been in the winter of 1890 for I remember writing a
lofty letter to my father, in which I said, "If you want any money, let
me know."

As it happened he had need of seed wheat, and it was with deep
satisfaction that I repaid the money I had borrowed of him, together
with three hundred dollars more and so faced the new year clear of debt.

Like the miner who, having suddenly uncovered a hidden vein of gold,
bends to his pick in a confident belief in his "find" so I humped above
my desk without doubts, without hesitations. I had found my work in the
world. If I had any thought of investment at this time, which I am sure
I had not, it was concerned with the west. I had no notion of settling
permanently in the east.

My success in entering both the _Century_ and the _Arena_ emboldened me
to say to Dr. Cross, "I shall be glad to come down out of the attic and
take a full-sized chamber at regular rates."

Alas! he had no such room, and so after much perturbation, my brother
and I hired a little apartment on Moreland street in Roxbury and moved
into it joyously. With a few dollars in my pocket, I went so far as to
buy a couple of pictures and a new book rack, the first property I had
ever owned, and when, on that first night, with everything in place we
looked around upon our "suite," we glowed with such exultant pride as
only struggling youth can feel. After years of privation, I had, at
last, secured a niche in the frowning escarpment of Boston's social

Frank was twenty-seven, I was thirty, and had it not been for a haunting
sense of our father's defeat and a growing fear of mother's decline, we
would have been entirely content. "How can we share our good fortune
with her and with sister Jessie?" was the question which troubled us
most. Jessie's fate seemed especially dreary by contrast with our busy
and colorful life.

"We can't bring them here," I argued. "They would never be happy here.
Father is a borderman. He would enjoy coming east on a visit, but to
shut him up in Boston would be like caging an eagle. The case seems

The more we discussed it the more insoluble the problem became. The best
we could do was to write often and to plan for frequent visits to them.

One day, late in March, Flower, who had been using my stories in almost
every issue of his magazine, said to me: "Why don't you put together
some of your tales of the west, and let us bring them out in book form?
I believe they would have instant success."

His words delighted me for I had not yet begun to hope for an appearance
as the author of a book. Setting to work at once to prepare such a
volume I put into it two unpublished novelettes called _Up the Cooley_
and _The Branch Road_, for the very good reason that none of the
magazines, not even _The Arena_, found them "available." This reduced
the number of sketches to six so that the title page read:

 Six Mississippi Valley Stories

The phrase "main travelled road" is common in the west. Ask a man to
direct you to a farmhouse and he will say, "Keep the main travelled road
till you come to the second crossing and turn to the left." It seemed to
me not only a picturesque title, significant of my native country, but
one which permitted the use of a grimly sardonic foreword. This I

"The main travelled road in the west (as everywhere) is hot and dusty in
summer and desolate and drear with mud in fall and spring, and in winter
the winds sweep the snows across it, but it does sometimes cross a rich
meadow where the songs of the larks and blackbirds and bobolinks are
tangled. Follow it far enough, it may lead past a bend in the river
where the water laughs eternally over its shallows. Mainly it is long
and weariful and has a dull little town at one end, and a home of toil
at the other. Like the main travelled road of life it is traversed by
many classes of people, but the poor and the weary predominate."

This, my first book, was put together during a time of deep personal
sorrow. My little sister died suddenly, leaving my father and mother
alone on the bleak plain, seventeen hundred miles from both their sons.
Hopelessly crippled, my mother now mourned the loss of her "baby" and
the soldier's keen eyes grew dim, for he loved this little daughter
above anything else in the world. The flag of his sunset march was
drooping on its staff. Nothing but poverty and a lonely old age seemed
before him, and yet, in his letters to me, he gave out only the briefest
hints of his despair.

All this will explain, if the reader is interested to know, why the
dedication of my little book was bitter with revolt: "To my father and
mother, whose half-century of pilgrimage on the main travelled road of
life has brought them only pain and weariness, these stories are
dedicated by a son to whom every day brings a deepening sense of his
parents' silent heroism." It will explain also why the comfortable, the
conservative, those who farmed the farmer, resented my thin gray volume
and its message of acrid accusation.

It was published in 1891 and the outcry against it was instant and
astonishing--to me. I had a foolish notion that the literary folk of the
west would take a local pride in the color of my work, and to find
myself execrated by nearly every critic as "a bird willing to foul his
own nest" was an amazement. Editorials and criticisms poured into the
office, all written to prove that my pictures of the middle border were
utterly false.

Statistics were employed to show that pianos and Brussels carpets
adorned almost every Iowa farmhouse. Tilling the prairie soil was
declared to be "the noblest vocation in the world, not in the least like
the pictures this eastern author has drawn of it."

True, corn was only eleven cents per bushel at that time, and the number
of alien farm-renters was increasing. True, all the bright boys and
girls were leaving the farm, following the example of my critics, but
these I was told were all signs of prosperity and not of decay. The
American farmer was getting rich, and moving to town, only the renters
and the hired man were uneasy and clamorous.

My answer to all this criticism was a blunt statement of facts. "Butter
is not always golden nor biscuits invariably light and flaky in my farm
scenes, because they're not so in real life," I explained. "I grew up on
a farm and I am determined once for all to put the essential ugliness of
its life into print. I will not lie, even to be a patriot. A proper
proportion of the sweat, flies, heat, dirt and drudgery of it all shall
go in. I am a competent witness and I intend to tell the whole truth."

But I didn't! Even my youthful zeal faltered in the midst of a
revelation of the lives led by the women on the farms of the middle
border. Before the tragic futility of their suffering, my pen refused to
shed its ink. Over the hidden chamber of their maternal agonies I drew
the veil.

The old soldier had nothing to say but mother wrote to me, "It scares me
to read some of your stories--they are so true. You might have said
more," she added, "but I'm glad you didn't. Farmers' wives have enough
to bear as it is."

"My stories were not written for farmers' wives," I replied. "They were
written to convict the selfish monopolistic liars of the towns."

"I hope the liars read 'em," was her laconic retort.

Nevertheless, in spite of all the outcry against my book, words of
encouragement came in from a few men and women who had lived out the
precise experiences which I had put into print. "You have delineated my
life," one man said. "Every detail of your description is true. The
sound of the prairie chickens, the hum of the threshing machine, the
work of seeding, corn husking, everything is familiar to me and new in

A woman wrote, "You are entirely right about the loneliness, the
stagnation, the hardship. We are sick of lies. Give the world the

Another critic writing from the heart of a great university said, "I
value your stories highly as literature, but I suspect that in the
social war which is coming you and I will be at each other's throats."

This controversy naturally carried me farther and farther from the
traditional, the respectable. As a rebel in art I was prone to arouse
hate. Every letter I wrote was a challenge, and one of my conservative
friends frankly urged the folly of my course. "It is a mistake for you
to be associated with cranks like Henry George and writers like
Whitman," he said. "It is a mistake to be published by the _Arena_. Your
book should have been brought out by one of the old established firms.
If you will fling away your radical notions and consent to amuse the
governing classes, you will succeed."

Fling away my convictions! It were as easy to do that as to cast out my
bones. I was not wearing my indignation as a cloak. My rebellious
tendencies came from something deep down. They formed an element in my
blood. My patriotism resented the failure of our government. Therefore
such advice had very little influence upon me. The criticism that really
touched and influenced me was that which said, "Don't preach,--exemplify.
Don't let your stories degenerate into tracts." Howells said, "Be fine,
be fine--but not too fine!" and Gilder warned me not to leave Beauty out
of the picture.

In the light of this friendly council I perceived my danger, and set
about to avoid the fault of mixing my fiction with my polemics.

The editor of the _Arena_ remained my most loyal supporter. He filled
the editorial section of his magazine with praise of my fiction and
loudly proclaimed my non-conformist character. No editor ever worked
harder to give his author a national reputation and the book sold, not
as books sell now, but moderately, steadily, and being more widely read
than sold, went far. This proved of course, that my readers were poor
and could not afford to pay a dollar for a book, at least they didn't,
and I got very little royalty from the sale. If I had any illusions
about that they were soon dispelled. On the paper bound book I got five
cents, on the cloth bound, ten. The sale was mainly in the fifty-cent

It was not for me to criticise the methods by which my publisher was
trying to make me known, and I do not at this moment regret Flower's
insistence upon the reforming side of me,--but for the reason that he
was essentially ethical rather than esthetic, some part of the literary
significance of my work escaped him. It was from the praise of Howells,
Matthews and Stedman, that I received my enlightenment. I began to
perceive that in order to make my work carry its message, I must be
careful to keep a certain balance between Significance and Beauty. The
artist began to check the preacher.

Howells gave the book large space in "The Study" in _Harper's_ and what
he said of it profoundly instructed me. Edward Everett Hale, Mary E.
Wilkins, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Charles Dudley Warner, Edmund
Clarence Stedman, and many others were most generous of applause. In
truth I was welcomed into the circle of American realists with an
instant and generous greeting which astonished, at the same time that it
delighted me.

I marvel at this appreciation as I look back upon it, and surely in
view of its reception, no one can blame me for considering my drab
little volume a much more important contribution to American fiction
than it really was.

It was my first book, and so, perhaps, the reader will excuse me for
being a good deal uplifted by the noise it made. Then too, it is only
fair to call attention to the fact that aside from Edward Eggleston's
_Hoosier Schoolmaster_, _Howe's Story of a Country Town_, and _Zury_, by
Joseph Kirkland, I had the middle west almost entirely to myself. Not
one of the group of western writers who have since won far greater fame,
and twenty times more dollars than I, had at that time published a
single volume. William Allen White, Albert Bigelow Payne, Stewart Edward
White, Jack London, Emerson Hough, George Ade, Meredith Nicholson, Booth
Tarkington, and Rex Beach were all to come. "Octave Thanet" was writing
her stories of Arkansas life for _Scribners_ but had published only one

Among all my letters of encouragement of this time, not one, except
perhaps that from Mr. Howells, meant more to me than a word which came
from Walt Whitman, who hailed me as one of the literary pioneers of the
west for whom he had been waiting. His judgment, so impersonal, so
grandly phrased, gave me the feeling of having been "praised by

In short, I was assured that my face was set in the right direction and
that the future was mine, for I was not yet thirty-one years of age, and
thirty-one is a most excellent period of life!

And yet, by a singular fatality, at this moment came another sorrow, the
death of Alice, my boyhood's adoration. I had known for years that she
was not for me, but I loved to think of her as out there walking the
lanes among the roses and the wheat as of old. My regard for her was no
longer that of the lover desiring and hoping, and though I acknowledged
defeat I had been too broadly engaged in my ambitious literary plans to
permit her deflection to permanently cloud my life. She had been a
radiant and charming figure in my prairie world, and when I read the
letter telling of her passing, my mind was irradiated with the picture
she had made when last she said good-bye to me. Her gentle friendship
had been very helpful through all my years of struggle and now in the
day of my security, her place was empty.


The Spirit of Revolt

During all this time while I had been living so busily and happily in
Boston, writing stories, discussing Ibsen and arguing the cause of
Impressionism, a portentous and widespread change of sentiment was
taking place among the farmers of the Middle Border. The discouragement
which I had discovered in old friends and neighbors in Dakota was
finding collective expression. A vast and non-sectional union of the
corn-growers, wheat-raisers, and cotton-growers had been effected and
the old time politicians were uneasy.

As ten cent corn and ten per cent interest were troubling Kansas so
six-cent cotton was inflaming Georgia--and both were frankly sympathetic
with Montana and Colorado whose miners were suffering from a drop in the
price of silver. To express the meaning of this revolt a flying squadron
of radical orators had been commissioned and were in the field. Mary
Ellen Lease with Cassandra voice, and Jerry Simpson with shrewd humor
were voicing the demands of the plainsman, while "Coin" Harvey as
champion of the Free Silver theory had stirred the Mountaineer almost to
a frenzy. It was an era of fervent meetings and fulminating resolutions.
The Grange had been social, or at most commercially co-operative in its
activities, but The Farmers' Alliance came as a revolt.

The People's Party which was the natural outcome of this unrest involved
my father. He wrote me that he had joined "the Populists," and was one
of their County officers. I was not surprised at this action on his
part, for I had known how high in honor he held General Weaver who was
the chief advocate of a third party.

Naturally Flower sympathized with this movement, and kept the pages of
his magazine filled with impassioned defenses of it. One day, early in
'91, as I was calling upon him in his office, he suddenly said,
"Garland, why can't you write a serial story for us? One that shall deal
with this revolt of the farmers? It's perfectly legitimate material for
a novel, as picturesque in its way as _The Rise of the Vendée_--Can't
you make use of it?"

To this I replied, with some excitement--"Why yes, I think I can. I have
in my desk at this moment, several chapters of an unfinished story which
uses the early phases of the Grange movement as a background. If it
pleases you I can easily bring it down to date. It might be necessary
for me to go into the field, and make some fresh studies, but I believe
I can treat the two movements in the same story. Anyhow I should like to

"Bring the manuscript in at once," replied Flower. "It may be just what
we are looking for. If it is we will print it as a serial this summer,
and bring it out in book form next winter."

In high excitement I hurried home to dig up and re-read the fragment
which I called at this time _Bradley Talcott_. It contained about thirty
thousand words and its hero was a hired man on an Iowa farm. Of course I
saw possibilities in this manuscript--I was in the mood to do that--and
sent it in.

Flower read it and reported almost by return mail.

"We'll take it," he said. "And as soon as you can get away, I think that
you'd better go out to Kansas and Nebraska and make the studies
necessary to complete the story. We'll pay all your expenses and pay
you for the serial besides."

The price agreed upon would seem very small in these days of millionaire
authors, but to me the terms of Flower's commission were nobly generous.
They set me free. They gave me wings!--For the first time in my life I
was able to travel in comfort. I could not only eat in the dining car,
and sleep in the sleeping car, but I could go to a hotel at the end of
my journey with a delightful sense of freedom from worry about the
bills. Do you wonder that when I left Boston a week or two later, I did
so with elation--with a sense of conquest?

Eager to explore--eager to know every state of the Union and especially
eager to study the far plains and the Rocky Mountains, I started
westward and kept going until I reached Colorado. My stay in the
mountain country was short, but my glimpses of Ouray and Telluride
started me on a long series of stories of "the high trails."

On the way out as well as on the way back, I took part in meetings of
rebellious farmers in bare-walled Kansas school-houses, and watched
protesting processions of weather-worn Nebraska Populists as they filed
through the shadeless cities of their sun-baked plain. I attended
barbecues on drab and dusty fair grounds, meeting many of the best known
leaders in the field.

Everywhere I came in contact with the discontented. I saw only those
whose lives seemed about to end in failure, and my grim notions of farm
life were in no wise softened by these experiences.

How far away all this seems in these days of three-dollar wheat and
twenty-six cent cotton--these days of automobiles, tractor plows, and

As I kept no diary in those days, I am a little uncertain about dates
and places--and no wonder, for I was doing something every moment (I
travelled almost incessantly for nearly two years) but one event of that
summer does stand clearly out--that of a meeting with my father at Omaha
in July.

It seems that some sort of convention was being held there and that my
father was a delegate from Brown County, Dakota. At any rate I
distinctly recall meeting him at the train and taking him to my hotel
and introducing him to General Weaver. As a representative of the
_Arena_ I had come to know many of the most prominent men in the
movement, and my father was deeply impressed with their recognition of
me. For the first time in his life, he deferred to me. He not only let
me take charge of him, he let me pay the bills.

He said nothing to me of his pride in my position, but my good friends
Robert and Elia Peattie told me that to them he expressed the keenest
satisfaction. "I never thought Hamlin would make a success of writing,"
he said, "although he was always given to books. I couldn't believe that
he would ever earn a living that way, but it seems that he is doing it."
My commission from Flower and the fact that the _Arena_ was willing to
pay my way about the country, were to him indubitable signs of
prosperity. They could not be misinterpreted by his neighbors.

Elia Peattie sat beside him at a meeting when I spoke, and she heard him
say to an old soldier on the right, "I never knew just what that boy of
mine was fitted for, but I guess he has struck his gait at last."

It may seem illogical to the reader, but this deference on the part of
the old soldier did not amuse me. On the contrary it hurt me. A little
pang went through me every time he yielded his leadership. I hated to
see him display the slightest evidence of age, of weakness. I would
rather have had him storm than sigh. Part of his irresolution, his
timidity, was due, as I could see, to the unwonted noise, and to the
crowds of excited men, but more of it came from the vague alarm of
self-distrust which are signs of advancing years.

For two days we went about together, attending all the sessions and
meeting many of the delegates, but we found time to discuss the problems
which confronted us both. "I am farming nearly a thousand acres this
year," he said, "and I'm getting the work systematized so that I can
raise wheat at sixty cents a bushel--if I can only get fifteen bushels
to the acre. But there's no money in the country. We seem to be at the
bottom of our resources. I never expected to see this country in such a
state. I can't get money enough to pay my taxes. Look at my clothes! I
haven't had a new suit in three years. Your mother is in the same fix. I
wanted to bring her down, but she had no clothes to wear--and then,
besides, it's hard for her to travel. The heat takes hold of her

This statement of the Border's poverty and drought was the more moving
to me for the reason that the old pioneer had always been so patriotic,
so confident, so sanguine of his country's future. He had come a long
way from the buoyant faith of '66, and the change in him was typical of
the change in the West--in America--and it produced in me a sense of
dismay, of rebellious bitterness. Why should our great new land fall
into this slough of discouragement?

My sympathy with the Alliance took on a personal tinge. My pride in my
own "success" sank away. How pitiful it all seemed in the midst of the
almost universal disappointment and suffering of the West! In the face
of my mother's need my resources were pitifully inadequate.

"I can't go up to see mother this time," I explained to my father, "but
I am coming out again this fall to speak in the campaign and I shall
surely run up and visit her then."

"I'll arrange for you to speak in Aberdeen," he said. "I'm on the County

All the way back to Boston, and during the weeks of my work on my novel,
I pondered the significance of the spiritual change which had swept over
the whole nation--but above all others the problem of my father's
desperate attempt to retrieve his fortunes engaged my sympathy. "Unless
he gets a crop this year," I reported to my brother--"he is going to
need help. It fills me with horror to think of those old people spending
another winter out there on the plain."

My brother who was again engaged by Herne to play one of the leading
parts in _Shore Acres_ was beginning to see light ahead. His pay was not
large but he was saving a little of it and was willing to use his
savings to help me out in my plan of rescue. It was to be a rescue
although we were careful never to put it in that form in our letters to
the old pioneer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Up to this month I had retained my position in the Boston School of
Oratory, but I now notified Brown that I should teach no more in his
school or any other school.

His big shoulders began to shake and a chuckle preceded his irritating
joke--"Going back to shingling?" he demanded.

"No," I replied, "I'm not going to shingle any more--except for exercise
after I get my homestead in the west--but I think--I'm not sure--I
_think_ I can make a living with my pen."

He became serious at this and said, "I'm sorry to have you go--but you
are entirely right. You have found your work and I give you my blessing
on it. But you must always count yourself one of my teachers and come
and speak for us whenever you can." This I promised to do and so we

Early in September I went west and having put myself in the hands of the
State Central Committee of Iowa, entered the field, campaigning in the
interests of the People's Party. For six weeks I travelled, speaking
nearly every day--getting back to the farms of the west and harvesting a
rich fund of experiences.

It was delightful autumn weather, and in central Iowa the crops were
fairly abundant. On every hand fields of corn covered the gentle hills
like wide rugs of lavender velvet, and the odor of melons and ripening
leaves filled the air. Nature's songs of cheer and abundance (uttered by
innumerable insects) set forth the monstrous injustice of man's law by
way of contrast. Why should children cry for food in our cities whilst
fruits rotted on the vines and wheat had no value to the harvester?

With other eager young reformers, I rode across the odorous prairie
swells, journeying from one meeting place to another, feeling as my
companions did that something grandly beneficial was about to be enacted
into law. In this spirit I spoke at Populist picnics, standing beneath
great oaks, surrounded by men and women, work-worn like my own father
and mother, shadowed by the same cloud of dismay. I smothered in small
halls situated over saloons and livery stables, travelling by
freight-train at night in order to ride in triumph as "Orator of the
Day" at some county fair, until at last I lost all sense of being the
writer and recluse.

As I went north my indignation burned brighter, for the discontent of
the people had been sharpened by the drought which had again cut short
the crop. At Millbank, Cyrus, one of my old Dry Run neighbors, met me.
He was now a grave, stooping middle-aged man also in the midst of
disillusionment. "Going west" had been a mistake for him as for my
father--"But here we are," he said, "and I see nothing for it but to
stick to the job."

Mother and father came to Aberdeen to hear me speak, and as I looked
down on them from the platform of the opera house, I detected on their
faces an expression which was not so much attention, as preoccupation.
They were not listening to my words, they were thinking of my
relationship to them, of the mystery involved in my being there on the
platform surrounded by the men of the county whom they most respected.
They could not take my theories seriously, but they did value and to the
full, the honor which their neighbors paid me--their son! Their presence
so affected me that I made, I fear, but an indifferent address.

We did not have much time to talk over family affairs but it was good to
see them even for a few moments and to know that mother was slowly
regaining the use of her limbs.

Another engagement made it necessary for me to take the night train for
St. Paul and so they both went down to the station with me, and as the
time came to part I went out to the little covered buggy (which was all
the carriage my father owned) to start them off on their lonely
twelve-mile trip back to the farm. "I don't know how it is all coming
about, mother, but sometime, somewhere you and I are going to live
together,--not here, back in Osage, or perhaps in Boston. It won't be
long now."

She smiled, but her voice was tremulous. "Don't worry about me. I'm all
right again--at least I am better. I shall be happy if only you are

This meeting did me good. My mother's smile lessened my bitterness, and
her joy in me, her faith in me, sent me away in renewed determination to
rescue her from the destitution and loneliness of this arid land.

My return to Boston in November discovered a startling change in my
relationship to it. The shining city in which I had lived for seven
years, and which had become so familiar to me (and so necessary to my
progress), had begun to dwindle, to recede. The warm, broad, unkempt and
tumultuous west, with its clamorous movement, its freedom from
tradition, its vitality of political thought, re-asserted its power over
me. New England again became remote. It was evident that I had not
really taken root in Massachusetts after all. I perceived that Boston
was merely the capital of New England while New York was fast coming to
be the all-conquering capital of The Nation.

My realization of this shift of values was sharpened by the announcement
that Howells had definitely decided to move to the Metropolis, and that
Herne had broken up his little home in Ashmont and was to make his
future home on Convent Avenue in Harlem. The process of stripping Boston
to build up Manhattan had begun.

My brother who was still one of Herne's company of players in _Shore
Acres_, had no home to break up, but he said, "I'm going to get some
sort of headquarters in New York. If you'll come on we'll hire a little
apartment up town and 'bach' it. I'm sick of theatrical boarding

With suddenly acquired conviction that New York was about to become the
Literary Center of America, I replied, "Very well. Get your flat. I'd
like to spend a winter in the old town anyway."

My brother took a small furnished apartment on 105th Street, and
together we camped above the tumult. It was only twelve-and-a-half feet
wide and about forty-eight long, and its furnishings were ugly, frayed
and meager, but its sitting room opened upon the sun, and there, of a
morning, I continued to write in growing content. At about noon the
actor commonly cooked a steak or a chop and boiled a pot of coffee, and
after the dishes were washed, we both merrily descended upon Broadway by
means of a Ninth Avenue elevated train. Sometimes we dined down town in
reckless luxury at one of the French restaurants, "where the tip was but
a nickel and the dinner thirty cents," but usually even our evening meal
was eaten at home.

Herne was playing an unlimited engagement at the Broadway theater and I
spent a good deal of time behind the scenes with him. His house on
Convent Avenue was a handsome mansion and on a Sunday, I often dined
there, and when we all got going the walls resounded with argument. Jim
was a great wag and a delightful story teller, but he was in deadly
earnest as a reformer, and always ready to speak on The Single Tax. He
took his art very seriously also, and was one of the best stage
directors of his day. Some of his dramatic methods were so far in
advance of his time that they puzzled or disgusted many of his patrons,
but without doubt he profoundly influenced the art of the American
stage. Men like William Gillette and Clyde Fitch quite frankly
acknowledged their indebtedness to him.

Jim and Katharine both had an exaggerated notion of my importance in the
world of art and letters, and listened to me with a respect, a
fellowship and an appreciation which increased my sense of
responsibility and inspired me to greater effort as a novelist. Together
we hammered out questions of art and economics, and planned new plays.
Those were inspiring hours to us all and we still refer to them as "the
good old Convent Avenue days!"

New York City itself was incredibly simpler and quieter than it is now,
but to me it was a veritable hell because of the appalling inequality
which lay between the palaces of the landlords and the tenements of the
proletariat. The monstrous injustice of permitting a few men to own the
land on which millions toiled for the barest living tore at my heart
strings then, as it does now, and the worst of it rested in the fact
that the landless seemed willing to be robbed for the pleasure of those
who could not even dissipate the wealth which rolled in upon them in
waves of unearned rent.

And yet, much as I felt this injustice and much as the city affected me,
I could not put it into fiction. "It is not my material," I said. "My
dominion is the West."

Though at ease, I had no feeling of being at home in this tumult. I was
only stopping in it in order to be near the Hernes, my brother, and
Howells. The Georges, whom I had come to know very well, interested me
greatly and often of an evening I went over to the East Side, to the
unpretentious brick house in which The Prophet and his delightful family
lived. Of course this home was doctrinaire, but then I liked that
flavor, and so did the Hernes, although Katharine's keen sense of humor
sometimes made us all seem rather like thorough-going cranks--which we

In the midst of our growing security and expanding acquaintanceship, my
brother and I often returned to the problem of our aging parents.

My brother was all for bringing them east but to this I replied, "No,
that is out of the question. The old pioneer would never be happy in a

"We could buy a farm over in Jersey."

"What would he do there? He would be among strangers and in strange
conditions.--No, the only solution is to get him to go back either to
Iowa or to Wisconsin. He will find even that very hard to do for it
will seem like failure but he must do it. For mother's sake I'd rather
see him go back to the LaCrosse valley. It would be a pleasure to visit
them there."

"That is the thing to do," my brother agreed. "I'll never get out to
Dakota again."

The more I thought about this the lovelier it seemed. The hills, the
farmhouses, the roads, the meadows all had delightful associations in my
mind, as I knew they must have in my mother's mind and the idea of a
regained homestead in the place of my birth began to engage my thought
whenever I had leisure to ponder my problem and especially whenever I
received a letter from my mother.

There was a certain poetic justice in the return of my father and mother
to the land from which they had been lured a quarter of a century
before, and I was willing to make any sacrifice to bring it about. I
take no credit for this, it was a purely selfish plan, for so long as
they were alone out there on the plain my own life must continue to be
troubled and uneasy.


The End of the Sunset Trail

In February while attending a conference of reformers in St. Louis I
received a letter from my mother which greatly disturbed me. "I wish I
could see you," she wrote. "I am not very well this winter, I can't go
out very often and I get very lonesome for my boys. If only you did not
live so far away!"

There was something in this letter which made all that I was doing in
the convention of no account, and on the following evening I took the
train for Columbia, the little village in which my parents were spending
the winter, filled with remorseful forebodings. My pain and
self-accusation would not let me rest. Something clutched my heart every
time I thought of my crippled mother prisoned in a Dakota shanty and no
express train was swift enough to satisfy my desire to reach her. The
letter had been forwarded to me and I was afraid that she might be
actually ill.

That ride next day from Sioux City to Aberdeen was one of the gloomiest
I had ever experienced. Not only was my conscience uneasy, it seemed
that I was being hurled into a region of arctic storms. A terrific
blizzard possessed the plain, and the engine appeared to fight its way
like a brave animal. All day it labored forward while the coaches behind
it swayed in the ever-increasing power of the tempest, their wheels
emitting squeals of pain as they ground through the drifts, and I
sitting in my overcoat with collar turned high above my ears, my hands
thrust deep in my pockets, sullenly counted the hours of my discomfort.
The windows, furred deep with frost, let in but a pallid half-light,
thus adding a mental dusk to the actual menace of the storm.

After each station the brakemen re-entered as if blown in by the blast,
and a vapor, white as a shower of flour, filled the door-way, behind
them. Occasionally as I cleared a space for a peephole through the rimy
panes, I caught momentary glimpses of a level, treeless earth, desolate
as the polar ocean swept by ferocious elemental warfare.

No life was to be seen save here and there a suffering steer or colt,
humped under the lee of a straw-stack. The streets of the small wooden
towns were deserted. No citizen was abroad, only the faint smoke of
chimneys testified to the presence of life beneath the roof-trees.

Occasionally a local passenger came in, puffing and whistling with loud
explosions of excited comment over the storm which he seemed to treat as
an agreeable diversion, but the conductor, who followed, threshing his
hands and nursing his ears, swore in emphatic dislike of the country and
climate, but even this controversy offered no relief to the through
passengers who sat in frozen stoical silence. There was very little
humor in a Dakota blizzard for them--or for me.

At six o'clock that night I reached the desolate end of my journey. My
father met me at the station and led the way to the low square bleak
cottage which he had rented for the winter. Mother, still unable to lift
her feet from the floor, opened the door to us, and reaching her, as I
did, through that terrifying tempest, made her seem as lonely as a
castaway on some gelid Greenland coast.

Father was in unwonted depression. His crop had again failed to mature.
With nearly a thousand acres of wheat, he had harvested barely enough
for the next year's seed. He was not entirely at the end of his faith,
however; on the contrary, he was filled with desire of the farther west.
"The irrigated country is the next field for development. I'm going to
sell out here and try irrigation in Montana. I want to get where I can
regulate the water for my crops."

"You'll do nothing of the kind," I retorted. "You'll go no further west.
I have a better plan than that."

The wind roared on, all that night and all the next day, and during this
time we did little but feed the stove and argue our widely separated
plans. I told them of Franklin's success on the stage with Herne, and I
described my own busy, though unremunerative life as a writer, and as I
talked the world from which I came shone with increasing splendor.

Little by little the story of the country's decay came out. The village
of Ordway had been moved away, nothing remained but the grain elevator.
Many of our old neighbors had gone "to the irrigation country" and more
were planning to go as soon as they could sell their farms. Columbia was
also in desolate decline. Its hotel stood empty, its windows broken, its
doors sagging.

Nothing could have been more depressing, more hopeless, and my throat
burned with bitter rage every time my mother shuffled across the floor,
and when she shyly sat beside me and took my hand in hers as if to hold
me fast, my voice almost failed me. I began to plead "Father, let's get
a home together, somewhere. Suppose we compromise on old Neshonoc where
you were married and where I was born. Let's buy a house and lot there
and put the deed in mother's name so that it can never be alienated, and
make it the Garland Homestead. Come! Mother's brothers are there, your
sister is there, all your old pioneer comrades are there. It's in a
rich and sheltered valley and is filled with associations of your
youth.--Haven't you had enough of pioneering? Why not go back and be
sheltered by the hills and trees for the rest of your lives? If you'll
join us in this plan, Frank and I will spend our summers with you and
perhaps we can all eat our Thanksgiving dinners together in the good old
New England custom and be happy."

Mother yielded at once to the earnestness of my appeal. "I'm ready to go
back," she said. "There's only one thing to keep me here, and that is
Jessie's grave," (Poor little girl! It did seem a bleak place in which
to leave her lying alone) but the old soldier was still too proud, too
much the pioneer, to bring himself at once to a surrender of his hopes.
He shook his head and said, "I can't do it, Hamlin. I've got to fight it
out right here or farther west."

To this I darkly responded, "If you go farther west you go alone.
Mother's pioneering is done. She is coming with me, back to comfort,
back to a real home beside her brothers."

As I grew calmer, we talked of the past, of the early days in Iowa, of
the dimmer, yet still more beautiful valleys of Wisconsin, till mother
sighed, and said, "I'd like to see the folks and the old coulee once
more, but I never shall."

"Yes, you shall," I asserted.

We spoke of David whose feet were still marching to the guidons of the
sunset, of Burton far away on an Island in Puget Sound, and together we
decided that placid old William, sitting among his bees in Gill's
Coulee, was after all the wiser man. Of what avail this constant quest
of gold, beneath the far horizon's rim?

"Father," I bluntly said, "you've been chasing a will-o'-the-wisp. For
fifty years you've been moving westward, and always you have gone from
certainty to uncertainty, from a comfortable home to a shanty. For
thirty years you've carried mother on a ceaseless journey--to what end?
Here you are,--snowbound on a treeless plain with mother old and
crippled. It's a hard thing to say but the time has come for a 'bout
face. _You must take the back trail._ It will hurt, but it must be

"I can't do it!" he exclaimed. "I've never 'backed water' in my life,
and I won't do it now. I'm not beaten yet. We've had three bad years in
succession--we'll surely have a crop next year. I won't surrender so
long as I can run a team."

"Then, let me tell you something else," I resumed. "I will never visit
you on this accursed plain again. You can live here if you want to, but
I'm going to take mother out of it. She shall not grow old and die in
such surroundings as these. I won't have it--it isn't right."

At last the stern old Captain gave in, at least to the point of saying,
"Well, we'll see. I'll come down next summer, and we'll visit William
and look the ground over.--But I won't consider going back to stay till
I've had a crop. I won't go back to the old valley dead-broke. I can't
stand being called a failure. If I have a crop and can sell out I'll
talk with you."

"Very well. I'm going to stop off at Salem on my way East and tell the
folks that you are about to sell out and come back to the old valley."

       *       *       *       *       *

This victory over my pioneer father gave me such relief from my gnawing
conscience that my whole sky lightened. The thought of establishing a
family hearth at the point where my life began, had a fine appeal. All
my schooling had been to migrate, to keep moving. "If your crop fails,
go west and try a new soil. If disagreeable neighbors surround you,
sell out and move,--always toward the open country. To remain quietly in
your native place is a sign of weakness, of irresolution. Happiness
dwells afar. Wealth and fame are to be found by journeying toward the
sunset star!" Such had been the spirit, the message of all the songs and
stories of my youth.

Now suddenly I perceived the futility of our quest. I felt the value, I
acknowledged the peace of the old, the settled. The valley of my birth
even in the midst of winter had a quiet beauty. The bluffs were draped
with purple and silver. Steel-blue shadows filled the hollows of the
sunlit snow. The farmhouses all put forth a comfortable, settled, homey
look. The farmers themselves, shaggy, fur-clad and well-fed, came into
town driving fat horses whose bells uttered a song of plenty. On the
plain we had feared the wind with a mortal terror, here the hills as
well as the sheltering elms (which defended almost every roof) stood
against the blast like friendly warders.

The village life, though rude and slow-moving, was hearty and cheerful.
As I went about the streets with my uncle William--gray-haired old
pioneers whose names were startlingly familiar, called out, "Hello,
Bill"--adding some homely jest precisely as they had been doing for
forty years. As young men they had threshed or cradled or husked corn
with my father, whom they still called by his first name. "So you are
Dick's boy? How is Dick getting along?"

"He has a big farm," I replied, "nearly a thousand acres, but he's going
to sell out next year and come back here."

They were all frankly pleased. "Is that so! Made his pile, I s'pose?"

"Enough to live on, I guess," I answered evasively.

"I'm glad to hear of it. I always liked Dick. We were in the woods
together. I hated to see him leave the valley. How's Belle?"

This question always brought the shadow back to my face. "Not very
well,--but we hope she'll be better when she gets back here among her
own folks."

"Well, we'll all be glad to see them both," was the hearty reply.

In this hope, with this plan in mind, I took my way back to New York,
well pleased with my plan.

After nearly a third of a century of migration, the Garlands were about
to double on their trail, and their decision was deeply significant. It
meant that a certain phase of American pioneering had ended, that "the
woods and prairie lands" having all been taken up, nothing remained but
the semi-arid valleys of the Rocky Mountains. "Irrigation" was a new
word and a vague word in the ears of my father's generation, and had
little of the charm which lay in the "flowery savannahs" of the
Mississippi valley. In the years between 1865 and 1892 the nation had
swiftly passed through the buoyant era of free land settlement, and now
the day of reckoning had come.


We Go to California

The idea of a homestead now became an obsession with me. As a
proletariat I knew the power of the landlord and the value of land. My
love of the wilderness was increasing year by year, but all desire to
plow the wild land was gone. My desire for a home did not involve a
lonely cabin in a far-off valley, on the contrary I wanted roads and
bridges and neighbors. My hope now was to possess a minute isle of
safety in the midst of the streaming currents of western life--a little
solid ground in my native valley on which the surviving members of my
family could catch and cling.

All about me as I travelled, I now perceived the mournful side of
American "enterprise." Sons were deserting their work-worn fathers,
daughters were forgetting their tired mothers. Families were everywhere
breaking up. Ambitious young men and unsuccessful old men were in
restless motion, spreading, swarming, dragging their reluctant women and
their helpless and wondering children into unfamiliar hardships--At
times I visioned the Middle Border as a colony of ants--which was an
injustice to the ants, for ants have a reason for their apparently
futile and aimless striving.

My brother and I discussed my notion in detail as we sat in our
six-by-nine dining room, high in our Harlem flat. "The house must be in
a village. It must be New England in type and stand beneath tall elm
trees," I said. "It must be broad-based and low--you know the kind, we
saw dozens of them on our tramp-trip down the Connecticut Valley and
we'll have a big garden and a tennis court. We'll need a barn, too, for
father will want to keep a driving team. Mother shall have a girl to do
the housework so that we can visit her often,"--and so on and on!

Things were not coming our way very fast but they were coming, and it
really looked as though my dream might become a reality. My brother was
drawing a small but regular salary as a member of Herne's company, my
stories were selling moderately well and as neither of us was given to
drink or cards, whatever we earned we saved. To some minds our lives
seemed stupidly regular, but we were happy in our quiet way.

It was in my brother's little flat on One Hundred and Fifth Street that
Stephen Crane renewed a friendship which had begun a couple of years
before, while I was lecturing in Avon, New Jersey. He was a slim, pale,
hungry looking boy at this time and had just written _The Red Badge of
Courage_, in fact he brought the first half of it in his pocket on his
second visit, and I loaned him fifteen dollars to redeem the other half
from the keep of a cruel typist.

He came again and again to see me, always with a new roll of manuscript
in his ulster. Now it was _The Men in the Storm_, now a bunch of _The
Black Riders_, curious poems, which he afterwards dedicated to me, and
while my brother browned a steak, Steve and I usually sat in council
over his dark future.

"You will laugh over these lean years," I said to him, but he found
small comfort in that prospect.

To him I was a man established, and I took an absurd pleasure in playing
the part of Successful Author. It was all very comical--for my study was
the ratty little parlor of a furnished flat for which we paid thirty
dollars per month. Still to the man at the bottom of a pit the fellow
on top, in the sunlight, is a king, and to Crane my brother and I were
at least dukes.

An expression used by Suderman in his preface to _Dame Care_ had made a
great impression on my mind and in discussing my future with the Hernes
I quoted these lines and said, "I am resolved that _my_ mother shall not
'rise from the feast of life empty.' Think of it! She has never seen a
real play in a real theater in all her life. She has never seen a
painting or heard a piece of fine music. She knows nothing of the
splendors of our civilization except what comes to her in the
newspapers, while here am I in the midst of every intellectual delight.
I take no credit for my desire to comfort her--it's just my way of
having fun. It's a purely selfish enterprise on my part."

Katharine who was familiar with the theory of Egoistic Altruism would
not let my statement go uncontradicted. She tried to make a virtue of my
devotion to my parents.

"No," I insisted,--"if batting around town gave me more real pleasure I
would do it. It don't, in fact I shall never be quite happy till I have
shown mother _Shore Acres_ and given her an opportunity to hear a
symphony concert."

Meanwhile, having no business adviser, I was doing honorable things in a
foolish way. With no knowledge of how to publish my work I was bringing
out a problem novel here, a realistic novelette there and a book of
short stories in a third place, all to the effect of confusing my public
and disgusting the book-seller. But then, no one in those days had any
very clear notion of how to launch a young writer, and so (as I had
entered the literary field by way of a side-gate) I was doing as well as
could have been expected of me. My idea, it appears, was to get as many
books into the same market at the same time as possible. As a matter of
fact none of them paid me any royalty, my subsistence came from the
sale of such short stories as I was able to lodge with _The Century_,
and _Harper's_, _The Youth's Companion_ and _The Arena_.

The "Bacheller Syndicate" took a kindly interest in me, and I came to
like the big, blonde, dreaming youth from The North Country who was the
nominal head of the firm. Irving Bacheller, even at that time struck me
as more of a poet than a business man, though I was always glad to get
his check, for it brought the Garland Homestead just that much nearer.
On the whole it was a prosperous and busy winter for both my brother and

Chicago was in the early stages of building a World's Fair, and as
spring came on I spent a couple of weeks in the city putting _Prairie
Folks_ into shape for the printer. Kirkland introduced me to the Chicago
Literary Club, and my publisher, Frances Schulte, took me to the Press
Club and I began to understand and like the city.

As May deepened I went on up to Wisconsin, full of my plan for a
homestead, and the green and luscious slopes of the old valley gave me a
new delight, a kind of proprietary delight. I began to think of it as
home. It seemed not only a natural deed but a dutiful deed, this return
to the land of my birth, it was the beginning of a more settled order of

My aunt, Susan Bailey, who was living alone in the old house in Onalaska
made me welcome, and showed grateful interest when I spoke to her of my
ambition. "I'll be glad to help you pay for such a place," she said,
"provided you will set aside a room in it for me. I am lonely now. Your
father is all I have and I'd like to spend my old age with him. But
don't buy a farm. Buy a house and lot here or in LaCrosse."

"Mother wants to be in West Salem," I replied. "All our talk has been of
West Salem, and if you can content yourself to live with us there, I
shall be very glad of your co-operation. Father is still skittish. He
will not come back till he can sell to advantage. However, the season
has started well and I am hoping that he will at least come down with
mother and talk the matter over with us."

To my delight, almost to my surprise, mother came, alone. "Father will
follow in a few days," she said--"if he can find someone to look after
his stock and tools while he is gone."

She was able to walk a little now and together we went about the
village, and visited relatives and neighbors in the country. We ate
"company dinners" of fried chicken and shortcake, and sat out on the
grass beneath the shelter of noble trees during the heat of the day.
There was something profoundly restful and satisfying in this
atmosphere. No one seemed in a hurry and no one seemed to fear either
the wind or the sun.

The talk was largely of the past, of the fine free life of the "early
days" and my mother's eyes often filled with happy tears as she met
friends who remembered her as a girl. There was no doubt in her mind.
"I'd like to live here," she said. "It's more like home than any other
place. But I don't see how your father could stand it on a little piece
of land. He likes his big fields."

One night as we were sitting on William's porch, talking of war times
and of Hugh and Jane and Walter, a sweet and solemn mood came over us.
It seemed as if the spirits of the pioneers, the McClintocks and Dudleys
had been called back and were all about us. It seemed to me (as to my
mother) as if Luke or Leonard might at any moment emerge from the
odorous June dusk and speak to us. We spoke of David, and my mother's
love for him vibrated in her voice as she said, "I don't suppose I'll
ever see him again. He's too poor and too proud to come back here, and
I'm too old and lame and poor to visit him."

This produced in me a sudden and most audacious change of plan. "I'm not
so certain about that," I retorted. "Frank's company is going to play in
California this winter, and I am arranging a lecture tour--I've just
decided that you and father shall go along."

The boldness of my plan startled her. "Oh, we can't do a crazy thing
like that," she declared.

"It's not so crazy. Father has been talking for years of a visit to his
brother in Santa Barbara. Aunt Susan tells me she wants to spend one
more winter in California, and so I see no reason in the world why you
and father should not go. I'll pay for your tickets and Addison will be
glad to house you. We're going!" I asserted firmly. "We'll put off
buying our homestead till next year and make this the grandest trip of
your life."

Aunt Maria here put in a word, "You do just what Hamlin tells you to do.
If he wants to spend his money giving you a good time, you let him."

Mother smiled wistfully but incredulously. To her it all seemed as
remote, as improbable as a trip to Egypt, but I continued to talk of it
as settled and so did William and Maria.

I wrote at once to my father outlining my trip and pleading strongly for
his consent and co-operation. "All your life long you and mother have
toiled with hardly a day off. Your travelling has been mainly in a
covered wagon. You have seen nothing of cities for thirty years. Addison
wants you to spend the winter with him, and mother wants to see David
once more--why not go? Begin to plan right now and as soon as your crops
are harvested, meet me at Omaha or Kansas City and we'll all go along

He replied with unexpected half-promise. "The crops look pretty well.
Unless something very destructive turns up I shall have a few dollars to
spend. I'd like to make that trip. I'd like to see Addison once more."

I replied, "The more I think about it, the more wonderful it all seems.
It will enable you to see the mountains, and the great plains. You can
visit Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can see the ocean. Frank is to
play for a month in Frisco, and we can all meet at Uncle David's for

The remainder of the summer was taken up with the preparations for this
gorgeous excursion. Mother went back to help father through the harvest,
whilst I returned to Boston and completed arrangements for my lecture
tour which was to carry me as far north as Puget Sound.

At last in November, when the grain was all safely marketed, the old
people met me in Kansas City, and from there as if in a dream, started
westward with me in such holiday spirits as mother's health permitted.
Father was like a boy. Having cut loose from the farm--at least for the
winter, he declared his intention to have a good time, "as good as the
law allows," he added with a smile.

Of course they both expected to suffer on the journey, that's what
travel had always meant to them, but I surprised them. I not only took
separate lower berths in the sleeping car, I insisted on regular meals
at the eating houses along the way, and they were amazed to find travel
almost comfortable. The cost of all this disturbed my mother a good deal
till I explained to her that my own expenses were paid by the lecture
committees and that she need not worry about the price of her fare.
Perhaps I even boasted about a recent sale of a story! If I did I hope
it will be forgiven me for I was determined that this should be the
greatest event in her life.

My father's interest in all that came to view was as keen as my own.
During all his years of manhood he had longed to cross the plains and to
see Pike's Peak, and now while his approach was not as he had dreamed
it, he was actually on his way into Colorado. "By the great Horn
Spoons," he exclaimed as we neared the foot hills, "I'd like to have
been here before the railroad."

Here spoke the born explorer. His eyes sparkled, his face flushed. The
farther we got into the houseless cattle range, the better he liked it.
"The best times I've ever had in my life," he remarked as we were
looking away across the plain at the faint shapes of the Spanish Peaks,
"was when I was cruising the prairie in a covered wagon."

Then he told me once again of his long trip into Minnesota before the
war, and of the cavalry lieutenant who rounded the settlers up and sent
them back to St. Paul to escape the Sioux who were on the warpath. "I
never saw such a country for game as Northern Minnesota was in those
days. It swarmed with water-fowl and chicken and deer. If the soldiers
hadn't driven me out I would have had a farm up there. I was just
starting to break a garden when the troops came."

It was all glorious to me as to them. The Spanish life of Las Vegas
where we rested for a day, the Indians of Laguna, the lava beds and
painted buttes of the desert, the beautiful slopes of the San Francisco
Mountains, the herds of cattle, the careering cowboys, the mines and
miners--all came in for study and comment. We resented the nights which
shut us out from so much that was interesting. Then came the hot sand of
the Colorado valley, the swift climb to the bleak heights of the coast
range--and, at last, the swift descent to the orange groves and singing
birds of Riverside. A dozen times father cried out, "This alone is worth
the cost of the trip."

Mother was weary, how weary I did not know till we reached our room in
the hotel. She did not complain but her face was more dejected than I
had ever seen it, and I was greatly disturbed by it. Our grand excursion
had come too late for her.

A good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast restored her to something
like her smiling self and when we took the train for Santa Barbara she
betrayed more excitement than at any time on our trip. "Do we really
_see_ the ocean?" she asked.

"Yes," I explained, "we run close along the shore. You'll see waves and
ships and sharks--may be a whale or two."

Father was even more excited. He spent most of his time on the platform
or hanging from the window. "Well, I never really expected to see the
Pacific," he said as we were nearing the end of our journey. "Now I'm
determined to see Frisco and the Golden Gate."

"Of course--that is a part of our itinerary. You can see Frisco when you
come up to visit David."

My uncle Addison who was living in a plain but roomy house, was
genuinely glad to see us, and his wife made us welcome in the spirit of
the Middle Border for she was one of the early settlers of Green County,
Wisconsin. In an hour we were at home.

Our host was, as I remembered him, a tall thin man of quiet dignity and
notable power of expression. His words were well chosen and his manner
urbane. "I want you people to settle right down here with me for the
winter," he said. "In fact I shall try to persuade Richard to buy a
place here."

This brought out my own plan for a home in West Salem and he agreed
with me that the old people should never again spend a winter in Dakota.

There was no question in my mind about the hospitality of this home and
so with a very comfortable, a delightful sense of peace, of
satisfaction, of security, I set out on my way to San Francisco,
Portland and Olympia, eager to see California--all of it. Its mountains,
its cities and above all its poets had long called to me. It meant the
_Argonauts_ and _The Songs of the Sierras_ to me, and one of my main
objects of destination was Joaquin Miller's home in Oakland Heights.

No one else, so far as I knew, was transmitting this Coast life into
literature. Edwin Markham was an Oakland school teacher, Frank Norris, a
college student, and Jack London a boy in short trousers. Miller
dominated the coast landscape. The mountains, the streams, the pines
were his. A dozen times as I passed some splendid peak I quoted his
lines. "Sierras! Eternal tents of snow that flash o'er battlements of

Nevertheless, in all my journeying, throughout all my other interests, I
kept in mind our design for a reunion at my uncle David's home in San
José, and I wrote him to tell him when to expect us. Franklin, who was
playing in San Francisco, arranged to meet me, and father and mother
were to come up from Santa Barbara.

It all fell out quite miraculously as we had planned it. On the 24th of
December we all met at my uncle's door.

This reunion, so American in its unexpectedness, deserves closer
analysis. My brother had come from New York City. Father and mother were
from central Dakota. My own home was still in Boston. David and his
family had reached this little tenement by way of a long trail through
Iowa, Dakota, Montana, Oregon and Northern California. We who had all
started, from the same little Wisconsin Valley were here drawn together,
as if by the magic of a conjuror's wand, in a city strange to us all.
Can any other country on earth surpass the United States in the ruthless
broadcast dispersion of its families? Could any other land furnish a
more incredible momentary re-assembling of scattered units?

The reader of this tale will remember that David was my boyish hero, and
as I had not seen him for fifteen years, I had looked forward, with
disquieting question concerning our meeting. Alas! My fears were
justified. There was more of pain than pleasure in the visit, for us
all. Although my brother and I did our best to make it joyous, the
conditions of the reunion were sorrowful, for David, who like my father,
had been following the lure of the sunset all his life, was in deep

From his fruitful farm in Iowa he had sought the free soil of Dakota.
From Dakota he had been lured to Montana. In the forests of Montana he
had been robbed by his partner, reduced in a single day to the rank of a
day laborer, and so in the attempt to retrieve his fortunes, had again
moved westward--ever westward, and here now at last in San José, at the
end of his means and almost at the end of his courage, he was working at
whatever he could find to do.

Nevertheless, he was still the borderer, still the man of the open.
Something in his face and voice, something in his glance set him apart
from the ordinary workman. He still carried with him something of the
hunter, something which came from the broad spaces of the Middle Border,
and though his bushy hair and beard were streaked with white, and his
eyes sad and dim, I could still discern in him some part of the physical
strength and beauty which had made his young manhood so glorious to
me--and deeper yet, I perceived in him the dreamer, the Celtic minstrel,
the poet.

His limbs, mighty as of old, were heavy, and his towering frame was
beginning to stoop. His brave heart was beating slow. Fortune had been
harshly inimical to him and his outlook on life was bitter. With all his
tremendous physical power he had not been able to regain his former
footing among men.

In talking of his misfortunes, I asked him why he had not returned to
Wisconsin after his loss in Montana, and he replied, as my father had
done. "How could I do that? How could I sneak back with empty pockets?"

Inevitably, almost at once, father spoke of the violin. "Have you got it
yet?" he asked.

"Yes," David replied. "But I seldom play on it now. In fact, I don't
think there are any strings on it."

I could tell from the tone of his voice that he had no will to play, but
he dug the almost forgotten instrument out of a closet, strung it and
tuned it, and that evening after dinner, when my father called out in
familiar imperious fashion, "Come, come! now for a tune," David was
prepared, reluctantly, to comply.

"My hands are so stiff and clumsy now," he said by way of apology to me.

It was a sad pleasure to me, as to him, this revival of youthful
memories, and I would have spared him if I could, but my father insisted
upon having all of the jocund dances and sweet old songs. Although a man
of deep feeling in many ways, he could not understand the tragedy of my
uncle's failing skill.

But mother did! Her ear was too acute not to detect the difference in
tone between his playing at this time and the power of expression he had
once possessed, and in her shadowy corner she suffered sympathetically
when beneath his work-worn fingers the strings cried out discordantly.
The wrist, once so strong and sure, the hands so supple and swift were
now hooks of horn and bronze. The magic touch of youth had vanished,
and yet as he went on, some little part of his wizardry came back.

At father's request he played once more _Maggie, Air Ye Sleepin'_, and
while the strings wailed beneath his bow I shivered as of old, stirred
by the winds of the past "roaring o'er Moorland craggy." Deep in my
brain the sob of the song sank, filling my inner vision with flitting
shadows of vanished faces, brows untouched of care, and sweet kind eyes
lit by the firelight of a secure abundant hearth. I was lying once more
before the fire in David's little cabin in the deep Wisconsin valley and
Grandfather McClintock, a dreaming giant, was drumming on his chair, his
face flame-lit, his hair a halo of snow and gold.

Tune after tune the old Borderman played, in answer to my father's
insistent demands, until at last the pain of it all became unendurable
and he ended abruptly. "I can't play any more.--I'll never play again,"
he added harshly as he laid the violin away in its box like a child in
its coffin.

We sat in silence, for we all realized that never again would we hear
those wistful, meaningful melodies. Wordless, with aching throats,
resentful of the present, my mother and my aunt dreamed of the bright
and beautiful Neshonoc days when they were young and David was young and
all the west was a land of hope.

My father now joined in urging David to go back to the middle border.
"I'll put you on my farm," he said. "Or if you want to go back to
Neshonoc, we'll help you do that. We are thinking of going back there

David sadly shook his grizzled head. "No, I can't do that," he repeated.
"I haven't money enough to pay my carfare, and besides, Becky and the
children would never consent to it."

I understood. His proud heart rebelled at the thought of the pitying or
contemptuous eyes of his stay-at home neighbors. He who had gone forth
so triumphantly thirty years before could not endure the notion of going
back on borrowed money. Better to die among strangers like a soldier.

Father, stern old pioneer though he was, could not think of leaving his
wife's brother here, working like a Chinaman. "Dave has acted the fool,"
he privately said to me, "but we will help him. If you can spare a
little, we'll lend him enough to buy one of these fruit farms he's
talking about."

To this I agreed. Together we loaned him enough to make the first
payment on a small farm. He was deeply grateful for this and hope again
sprang up in his heart. "You won't regret it," he said brokenly. "This
will put me on my feet, and by and by perhaps we'll meet in the old
valley."--But we never did. I never saw him again.

I shall always insist that a true musician, a superb violinist was lost
to the world in David McClintock--but as he was born on the border and
always remained on the border, how could he find himself? His hungry
heart, his need of change, his search for the pot of gold beyond the
sunset, had carried him from one adventure to another and always farther
and farther from the things he most deeply craved. He might have been a
great singer, for he had a beautiful voice and a keen appreciation of
the finer elements of song.

It was hard for me to adjust myself to his sorrowful decline into old
age. I thought of him as he appeared to me when riding his threshing
machine up the coulee road. I recalled the long rifle with which he used
to carry off the prizes at the turkey shoots, and especially I
remembered him as he looked while playing the violin on that far off
Thanksgiving night in Lewis Valley.

I left California with the feeling that his life was almost ended, and
my heart was heavy with indignant pity for I must now remember him only
as a broken and discouraged man. The David of my idolatry, the laughing
giant of my boyhood world, could be found now, only in the mist which
hung above the hills and valleys of Neshonoc.


The Homestead in the Valley

To my father the Golden Gate of San Francisco was grandly romantic. It
was associated in his mind with Bret Harte and the Goldseekers of Forty
Nine, as well as with Fremont and the Mexican War, hence one of his
expressed desires for many years had been to stand on the hills above
the bay and look out on the ocean. "I know Boston," he said, "and I want
to know Frisco."

My mother's interest in the city was more personal. She was eager to see
her son Franklin play his part in a real play on a real stage. For that
reward she was willing to undertake considerable extra fatigue and so to
please her, to satisfy my father and to gratify myself, I accompanied
them to San Francisco and for several days with a delightful sense of
accomplishment, my brother and I led them about the town. We visited the
Seal Rocks and climbed Nob Hill, explored Chinatown and walked through
the Old Spanish Quarter, and as each of these pleasures was tasted my
father said, "Well now, that's done!" precisely as if he were getting
through a list of tedious duties.

There was no hint of obligation, however, in the hours which they spent
in seeing my brother's performance as one of the "Three Twins" in
_Incog_. The piece was in truth very funny and Franklin hardly to be
distinguished from his "Star," a fact which astonished and delighted my
mother. She didn't know he could look so unlike himself. She laughed
herself quite breathless over the absurd situations of the farce but
father was not so easily satisfied. "This foolery is all well enough,"
said he, "but I'd rather see you and your friend Herne in _Shore

At last the day came when they both expressed a desire to return to
Santa Barbara. "We've had about all we can stand this trip," they
confessed, whereupon, leaving Franklin at his job, we started down the
valley on our way to Addison Garland's home which had come to have
something of the quality of home to us all.

We were tired but triumphant. One by one the things we had promised
ourselves to see we had seen. The Plains, the Mountains, the Desert, the
Orange Groves, the Ocean, all had been added to the list of our
achievements. We had visited David and watched Franklin play in his
"troupe," and now with a sense of fullness, of victory, we were on our
way back to a safe harbor among the fruits and flowers of Southern

This was the pleasantest thought of all to me and in private I said to
my uncle, "I hope you can keep these people till spring. They must not
go back to Dakota now."

"Give yourself no concern about that!" replied Addison. "I have a
program laid out which will keep them busy until May. We're going out to
Catalina and up into the Ojai valley and down to Los Angeles. We are to
play for the rest of the winter like a couple of boys."

With mind entirely at ease I left them on the rose-embowered porch of my
uncle's home, and started east by way of Denver and Chicago, eager to
resume work on a book which I had promised for the autumn.

Chicago was now full in the spot-light of the National Stage. In spite
of the business depression which still engulfed the west, the promoters
of the Columbian Exposition were going steadily forward with their
plans, and when I arrived in the city about the middle of January, the
bustle of preparation was at a very high point.

The newly-acquired studios were swarming with eager and aspiring young
artists, and I believed, (as many others believed) that the city was
entering upon an era of swift and shining development. All the near-by
states were stirred and heartened by this esthetic awakening of a
metropolis which up to this time had given but little thought to the
value of art in the life of a community. From being a huge, muddy windy
market-place, it seemed about to take its place among the literary
capitals of the world.

Colonies of painters, sculptors, decorators and other art experts now
colored its life in gratifying degree. Beauty was a work to advertise
with, and writers like Harriet Monroe, Henry B. Fuller, George Ade,
Peter Finley Dunne, and Eugene Field were at work celebrating, each in
his kind, the changes in the thought and aspect of the town. Ambitious
publishing houses were springing up and "dummies" of new magazines were
being thumbed by reckless young editors. The talk was all of Art, and
the Exposition. It did, indeed seem as if culture were about to hum.

Naturally this flare of esthetic enthusiasm lit the tow of my
imagination. I predicted a publishing center and a literary market-place
second only to New York, a publishing center which by reason of its
geographical position would be more progressive than Boston, and more
American than Manhattan. "Here flames the spirit of youth. Here throbs
the heart of America," I declared in _Crumbling Idols_, an essay which I
was at this time writing for the _Forum_.

In the heat of this conviction, I decided to give up my residence in
Boston and establish headquarters in Chicago. I belonged here. My
writing was of the Middle Border, and must continue to be so. Its
spirit was mine. All of my immediate relations were dwellers in the
west, and as I had also definitely set myself the task of depicting
certain phases of mountain life, it was inevitable that I should
ultimately bring my workshop to Chicago which was my natural pivot, the
hinge on which my varied activities would revolve. And, finally, to live
here would enable me to keep in closer personal touch with my father and
mother in the Wisconsin homestead which I had fully determined to

Following this decision, I returned to Boston, and at once announced my
plan to Howells, Flower and other of my good friends who had meant so
much to me in the past. Each was kind enough to express regret and all
agreed that my scheme was logical. "It should bring you happiness and
success," they added.

Alas! The longer I stayed, the deeper I settled into my groove and the
more difficult my removal became. It was not easy to surrender the busy
and cheerful life I had been leading for nearly ten years. It was hard
to say good-bye to the artists and writers and musicians with whom I had
so long been associated. To leave the Common, the parks, the Library and
the lovely walks and drives of Roxbury, was sorrowful business--but I
did it! I packed my books ready for shipment and returned to Chicago in
May just as the Exposition was about to open its doors.

Like everyone else who saw it at this time I was amazed at the grandeur
of "The White City," and impatiently anxious to have all my friends and
relations share in my enjoyment of it. My father was back on the farm in
Dakota and I wrote to him at once urging him to come down. "Frank will
be here in June and we will take charge of you. Sell the cook stove if
necessary and come. You _must_ see this fair. On the way back I will go
as far as West Salem and we'll buy that homestead I've been talking

My brother whose season closed about the twenty-fifth of May, joined me
in urging them not to miss the fair and a few days later we were both
delighted and a little surprised to get a letter from mother telling us
when to expect them. "I can't walk very well," she explained, "but I'm
coming. I am so hungry to see my boys that I don't mind the long

Having secured rooms for them at a small hotel near the west gate of the
exposition grounds, we were at the station to receive them as they came
from the train surrounded by other tired and dusty pilgrims of the
plains. Father was in high spirits and mother was looking very well
considering the tiresome ride of nearly seven hundred miles. "Give us a
chance to wash up and we'll be ready for anything," she said with brave

We took her at her word. With merciless enthusiasm we hurried them to
their hotel and as soon as they had bathed and eaten a hasty lunch, we
started out with intent to astonish and delight them. Here was another
table at "the feast of life" from which we did not intend they should
rise unsatisfied. "This shall be the richest experience of their lives,"
we said.

With a wheeled chair to save mother from the fatigue of walking we
started down the line and so rapidly did we pass from one stupendous
vista to another that we saw in a few hours many of the inside exhibits
and all of the finest exteriors--not to mention a glimpse of the
polyglot amazements of the Midway.

In pursuance of our plan to watch the lights come on, we ate our supper
in one of the big restaurants on the grounds and at eight o'clock
entered the Court of Honor. It chanced to be a moonlit night, and as
lamps were lit and the waters of the lagoon began to reflect the
gleaming walls of the great palaces with their sculptured ornaments,
and boats of quaint shape filled with singers came and went beneath the
arching bridges, the wonder and the beauty of it all moved these
dwellers of the level lands to tears of joy which was almost as poignant
as pain. In addition to its grandeur the scene had for them the
transitory quality of an autumn sunset, a splendor which they would
never see again.

Stunned by the majesty of the vision, my mother sat in her chair,
visioning it all yet comprehending little of its meaning. Her life had
been spent among homely small things, and these gorgeous scenes dazzled
her, overwhelmed her, letting in upon her in one mighty flood a thousand
stupefying suggestions of the art and history and poetry of the world.
She was old and she was ill, and her brain ached with the weight of its
new conceptions. Her face grew troubled and wistful, and her eyes as big
and dark as those of a child.

At last utterly overcome she leaned her head against my arm, closed her
eyes and said, "Take me home. I can't stand any more of it."

Sadly I took her away, back to her room, realizing that we had been too
eager. We had oppressed her with the exotic, the magnificent. She was
too old and too feeble to enjoy as we had hoped she would enjoy, the
color and music and thronging streets of The Magic City.

At the end of the third day father said, "Well, I've had enough." He
too, began to long for the repose of the country, the solace of familiar
scenes. In truth they were both surfeited with the alien, sick of the
picturesque. Their ears suffered from the clamor of strange sounds as
their eyes ached with the clash of unaccustomed color. My insistent
haste, my desire to make up in a few hours for all their past
deprivations seemed at the moment to have been a mistake.

Seeing this, knowing that all the splendors of the Orient could not
compensate them for another sleepless night, I decided to cut their
visit short and hurry them back to quietude. Early on the fourth morning
we started for the LaCrosse Valley by way of Madison--they with a sense
of relief, I with a feeling of disappointment. "The feast was too rich,
too highly spiced for their simple tastes," I now admitted.

However, a certain amount of comfort came to me as I observed that the
farther they got from the Fair the keener their enjoyment of it
became!--With bodies at ease and minds untroubled, they now relived in
pleasant retrospect all the excitement and bustle of the crowds, all the
bewildering sights and sounds of the Midway. Scenes which had worried as
well as amazed them were now recalled with growing enthusiasm, as our
train, filled with other returning sightseers of like condition, rushed
steadily northward into the green abundance of the land they knew so
well, and when at six o'clock of a lovely afternoon, they stepped down
upon the platform of the weather-beaten little station at West Salem,
both were restored to their serene and buoyant selves. The leafy
village, so green, so muddy, so lush with grass, seemed the perfection
of restful security. The chuckle of robins on the lawns, the songs of
cat-birds in the plum trees and the whistle of larks in the pasture
appealed to them as parts of a familiar sweet and homely hymn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just in the edge of the village, on a four-acre plot of rich level
ground, stood an old two-story frame cottage on which I had fixed my
interest. It was not beautiful, not in the least like the ideal New
England homestead my brother and I had so long discussed, but it was
sheltered on the south by three enormous maples and its gate fronted
upon a double row of New England elms whose branches almost arched the
wide street. Its gardens, rich in grape vines, asparagus beds, plums,
raspberries and other fruiting shrubs, appealed with especial power to
my mother who had lived so long on the sun-baked plains that the sight
of green things growing was very precious in her eyes. Clumps of lilacs,
syringa and snow-ball, and beds of old-fashioned flowers gave further
evidence of the love and care which the former owners of the place had
lavished upon it.

As for myself, the desire to see my aging parents safely sheltered
beneath the benignant branches of those sturdy trees would have made me
content even with a log cabin. In imagination I perceived this angular
cottage growing into something fine and sweet and--our own!

There was charm also in the fact that its western windows looked out
upon the wooded hills over which I had wandered as a boy, and whose
sky-line had printed itself deep into the lowest stratum of my
subconscious memory; and so it happened that on the following night, as
we stood before the gate looking out upon that sunset wall of purple
bluffs from beneath the double row of elms stretching like a peristyle
to the west, my decision came.

"This is my choice," I declared. "Right here we take root. This shall be
the Garland Homestead." I turned to my father. "When can you move?"

"Not till after my grain is threshed and marketed," he replied.

"Very well, let's call it the first of November, and we'll all meet here
for our Thanksgiving dinner."

Thanksgiving with us, as with most New Englanders, had always been a
date-mark, something to count upon and to count from, and no sooner were
we in possession of a deed, than my mother and I began to plan for a
dinner which should be at once a reunion of the Garlands and
McClintocks, a homecoming and a housewarming. With this understanding I
let them go back for a final harvest in Dakota.

The purchase of this small lot and commonplace house may seem very
unimportant to the reader but to me and to my father it was in very
truth epoch-marking. To me it was the ending of one life and the
beginning of another. To him it was decisive and not altogether joyous.
To accept this as his home meant a surrender of his faith in the Golden
West, a tacit admission that all his explorations of the open lands with
whatsoever they had meant of opportunity, had ended in a sense of
failure on a barren soil. It was not easy for him to enter into the
spirit of our Thanksgiving plans although he had given his consent to
them. He was still the tiller of broad acres, the speculator hoping for
a boom.

Early in October, as soon as I could displace the renter of the house, I
started in rebuilding and redecorating it as if for the entrance of a
bride. I widened the dining room, refitted the kitchen and ordered new
rugs, curtains and furniture from Chicago. I engaged a cook and maid,
and bought a horse so that on November first, the date of my mother's
arrival, I was able to meet her at the station and drive her in a
carriage of her own to an almost completely outfitted home.

It was by no means what I intended it to be, but it seemed luxurious to
her. Tears dimmed her eyes as she stepped across the threshold, but when
I said, "Mother, hereafter my headquarters are to be in Chicago, and my
home here with you," she put her arms around my neck and wept. Her
wanderings were over, her heart at peace.

My father arrived a couple of weeks later, and with his coming, mother
sent out the invitations for our dinner. So far as we could, we
intended to bring together the scattered units of our family group.

At last the great day came! My brother was unable to be present and
there were other empty chairs, but the McClintocks were well
represented. William, white-haired, gigantic, looking almost exactly
like Grandad at the same age, came early, bringing his wife, his two
sons, and his daughter-in-law. Frank and Lorette drove over from Lewis
Valley, with both of their sons and a daughter-in-law. Samantha and Dan
could not come, but Deborah and Susan were present and completed the
family roll. Several of my father's old friends promised to come in
after dinner.

The table, reflecting the abundance of the valley in those peaceful
times, was stretched to its full length and as we gathered about it
William congratulated my father on getting back where cranberries and
turkeys and fat squashes grew.

My mother smiled at this jest, but my father, still loyal to Dakota, was
quick to defend it. "I like it out there," he insisted. "I like wheat
raising on a big scale. I don't know how I'm going to come down from
operating a six-horse header to scraping with a hoe in a garden patch."

Mother, wearing her black silk dress and lace collar, sat at one end of
the table, while I, to relieve my father of the task of carving the
twenty-pound turkey, sat opposite her. For the first time in my life I
took position as head of the family and the significance of this fact
did not escape the company. The pen had proved itself to be mightier
than the plow. Going east had proved more profitable than going west!

It was a noble dinner! As I regard it from the standpoint of today, with
potatoes six dollars per bushel and turkeys forty cents per pound, it
all seems part of a kindlier world, a vanished world--as it is! There
were squashes and turnips and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie and mince
pie, (made under mother's supervision) and coffee with real cream,--all
the things which are so precious now, and the talk was in praise of the
delicious food and the Exposition which was just closing, and reports of
the crops which were abundant and safely garnered. The wars of the world
were all behind us and the nation on its way back to prosperity--and we
were unafraid.

The gay talk lasted well through the meal, but as mother's pies came on,
Aunt Maria regretfully remarked, "It's a pity Frank can't help eat this

"I wish Dave and Mantie were here," put in Deborah.

"And Rachel," added mother.

This brought the note of sadness which is inevitable in such a
gathering, and the shadow deepened as we gathered about the fire a
little later. The dead claimed their places.

Since leaving the valley thirty years before our group had suffered many
losses. All my grandparents were gone. My sisters Harriet and Jessie and
my uncle Richard had fallen on the march. David and Rebecca were
stranded in the foot hills of the Cascade mountains. Rachel, a widow,
was in Georgia. The pioneers of '48 were old and their bright world a

My father called on mother for some of the old songs. "You and Deb sing
_Nellie Wildwood_," he urged, and to me it was a call to all the absent
ones, an invitation to gather about us in order that the gaps in our
hearth-fire's broken circle might be filled.

Sweet and clear though in diminished volume, my mother's voice rose on
the tender refrain:

    Never more to part, Nellie Wildwood
    Never more to long for the spring.

and I thought of Hattie and Jessie and tried to believe that they too
were sharing in the comfort and contentment of our fire.

George, who resembled his uncle David, and had much of his skill with
the fiddle bow, had brought his violin with him, but when father asked
Frank to play _Maggie, air ye sleepin'_, he shook his head, saying,
"That's Dave's tune," and his loyalty touched us all.

Quick tears sprang to mother's eyes. She knew all too well that never
again would she hear her best-beloved brother touch the strings or join
his voice to hers.

It was a moment of sorrow for us all but only for a moment, for Deborah
struck up one of the lively "darky pieces" which my father loved so
well, and with its jubilant patter young and old returned to smiling.

    It must be now in the Kingdom a-comin'
    In the year of Jubilo!

we shouted, and so translated the words of the song into an expression
of our own rejoicing present.

Song after song followed, war chants which renewed my father's military
youth, ballads which deepened the shadows in my mother's eyes, and then
at last, at my request, she sang _The Rolling Stone_, and with a smile
at father, we all joined the chorus.

    We'll stay on the farm and we'll suffer no loss
    For the stone that keeps rolling will gather no moss.

My father was not entirely convinced, but I, surrounded by these farmer
folk, hearing from their lips these quaint melodies, responded like some
tensely-strung instrument, whose chords are being played upon by
searching winds. I acknowledged myself at home and for all time. Beneath
my feet lay the rugged country rock of my nativity. It pleased me to
discover my mental characteristics striking so deep into this typically
American soil.

One by one our guests rose and went away, jocularly saying to my father,
"Well, Dick, you've done the right thing at last. It's a comfort to have
you so handy. We'll come to dinner often." To me they said, "We'll
expect to see more of you, now that the old folks are here."

"This is my home," I repeated.

When we were alone I turned to mother in the spirit of the builder.
"Give me another year and I'll make this a homestead worth talking
about. My head is full of plans for its improvement."

"It's good enough for me as it is," she protested.

"No, it isn't," I retorted quickly. "Nothing that I can do is good
enough for you, but I intend to make you entirely happy if I can."

Here I make an end of this story, here at the close of an epoch of
western settlement, here with my father and mother sitting beside me in
the light of a tender Thanksgiving, in our new old home and facing a
peaceful future. I was thirty-three years of age, and in a certain very
real sense this plot of ground, this protecting roof may be taken as the
symbols of my hard-earned first success as well as the defiant gages of
other necessary battles which I must fight and win.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I was leaving next day for Chicago, I said, "Mother, what shall I
bring you from the city?"

With a shy smile she answered, "There is only one thing more you can
bring me,--one thing more that I want."

"What is that?"

"A daughter. I need a daughter--and some grandchildren."

    | Transcriber's Note:                           |
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    | Some inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in |
    | the original document have been preserved.    |
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    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page  21  McEldowney changed to McIldowney    |
    | Page  61  Winneshiek changed to Winnesheik    |
    | Page  80  Winneshiek changed to Winnesheik    |
    | Page  80  Winnesheik changed to Winnesheik    |
    | Page 164  arroya changed to arroyo            |
    | Page 202  luminious changed to luminous       |
    | Page 250  Canon changed to Canyon             |
    | Page 259  missing word "he" inserted          |
    | Page 270  buffetted changed to buffeted       |
    | Page 294  maneuvres changed to manoeuvres     |
    | Page 309  these changed to those              |
    | Page 316  turretted changed to turreted       |
    | Page 328  Douglas changed to Douglass         |
    | Page 334  gratitud changed to gratitude       |
    | Page 362  "of" added between "all us"         |
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    | Page 376  Harpers changed to Harper's         |
    | Page 378  Proverty changed to Poverty         |
    | Page 383  gratuitious changed to gratuitous   |
    | Page 391  Kurd's changed to Hurd's            |
    | Page 393  discusssions changed to discussions |
    | Page 410  Harpers changed to Harper's         |
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    | Page 418  Harpers changed to Harper's         |
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    | Page 448  that changed to than                |

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