My Boyhood - 3
We applied to the first
boat that landed. Polk got the job as deck sweeper -
they drove me ashore. Thus were my ambitions as a
river man crushed. Polk had the shirt, the knife and
the belt; the bell rang, the boat steamed out, and I
stood on the shore and watched the boat float away.
Poor Polk afterward went to war and lost his life.
I learned years afterward that my father was
acquainted with the stewards on the boats and had
told them never to take me. The extent of my boating
was limited to when a steamboat coming up the river
would coal, taking in tow a barge, from which the
coal would be transferred to the boat while on its
way up the river, so as not to lose time. The empty
barges were then floated back, and in that way I got
About this time I began to think of making money and
would go out and pick wild blackberries and bring
them into town, where they sold for ten cents a
gallon. At the end of the berry season I became a
sheep butcher, going out among the farmers for miles
around to buy sheep after shearing time. Costing
about a dollar apiece, we would kill them, market
them by the quarter at twenty-five cents a quarter,
leaving us the sheep pelt as a profit. I was fairly
successful at this until I went into the adjoining
county and bought eighty head of a Henry Charlton.
Driving them home, I met my father riding horseback
on his way to look at some cattle. He asked me what
price I had paid for the sheep. I told him one
dollar a head. He said: "It will be the last, my
son, that you will buy, for you will lose your
money." This was true, for they were just skin and
bone. I will here say that on these trips I bought
eggs for five cents a dozen. Since that time I have
seen them sell for sixty-five cents.
My father was a strong Republican, so I was one
likewise. My only reason at that time was that the
campaign of Fremont and Buchanan was opening up,
which furnished plenty of excitement for me to take
part in; so off I went to the woods to cut a flag
pole from which to fly a streamer with the names of
Fremont and Dayton.
The meetings and barbecues of both parties were held
quite often and I always managed to attend, not to
hear the speakers but to see the fights, which never
failed to take place. I remember when a man living
at Brooksburg up the river six miles from Madison,
came down the day before election and was asked,
"How are things at Brooksburg?" He replied, "There
will be a great time there tomorrow, for when I left
they were gathering rocks to fight with."
There were parades. One I remember very well. A
forty-ox team was driven to one wagon in which
ladies rode representing each state in the Union.
There was a great deal of excitement and unrest
along the border at this time. Things, however,
became quiet until after the election of Lincoln.
(Today as I write I find this is Lincoln's birthday,
February 12th, 1912.) When the feeling of unrest
became evident again, groups of young men formed
into home guards, as the temper was strong for
"war", which came sooner than was expected. I was
anxious to be among them, but was refused because of
my youth. But I found pleasure and excitement in
going to the steamboat landing to see them off. On
one occasion I went aboard and as far as Louisville
without a cent of money.