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fellow, right in the presence of the whole family — quite an audience in our home. Our whippings, however, were always mercifully private; except that brother Willett and myself, commonly committing our sins by two and two, answered for them in pairs. But these devotional floggings did have their designed and desired effect on our daily behavior. One would go pretty steadily for a few days on the strength of such a holy grilling.
The section in which our farm lay was then a region of 'oak openings,' about equally divided between woods, scrub brush, and prairie land—a little too rolling for the best farming, but reasonably fertile. Our section faced toward the south on the beautiful rolling prairies of northern Illinois; and to the east and north undulated away in scrub-covered hills, which we called 'barrens,' down to the heavy hardwood timber that spread eastward from the valley of the Pecatonica River — a muddy, twisting, sluggish stream. Much of this region, being not yet under plough, offered good pasturage in the grazing season to the settlers' small herds of cattle.
After the morning milking, the farmers turned their herds into the fenced highway, gave them a run in the desired direction by the aid of dogs or boys, and left them to find their way to the 'commons,' as we called these unfenced lands. There the cattle kept together fairly well in the lead of the bell cow, as they grazed and roamed throughout the day, sometimes joining with one or more of the neighbor herds. In the evening, children from each household were sent to find and fetch them home.
These children usually fell in with each other and hunted in groups, searching this way or that, as the habitual movement of the herds at the time might determine. We would thus trail
the cattle through groves and brushland, looking for fresh marks in the cowpaths, stopping to listen for the bells, and determining by their tone which was Crosby's, which La Due's, which Nelson's, which Beedy's, and which Ballinger's. Sometimes the herd would shift their feeding-grounds for the day by the space of a mile or more. Sometimes the cows, well fed, and not being such heavy milkers as to feel an urge toward the milking-yard, would be found in the high brush, standing stockstill, with mute bells. On occasions like these the children would often wander till nightfall, coming home tired and sleepy, to tired, sleepy men-folk, forced to sit up late and add the work of milking to an already overworked day.
Among these little cow-hunters were girls of nine or ten years and boys of four or five. Rarely did children above the age of twelve go after the cows, if there were younger ones to send. A child old enough to wear shoes in summer was considered rather mature to send for the cows.
These herds commonly consisted of not more than a dozen cattle, young and old; and, fortunately for us, each herd separated easily from the flock on the way home, as they passed the cowyards where they belonged. But should an animal stray, and fail to come up with the herd at night, it was a serious matter. Not seldom it happened that it was never seen again. It was therefore one of our greatest cares to know that the herd we brought home was intact.
Our schoolhouse stood at the junction of two roads, in an acre plot set off from the corner of a cultivated field. Here, a highway running east and west was joined by one running south. A half-mile south on this road father had built, in the spring of 1865, a temporary cow-pen to serve as a milking-yard. Here our cattle were penned at night, and from here driven, after the morning milking, to the schoolhouse corner and sent running east. The country to the west was more difficult ground for cowhunting, and so long as pasture was good to the east, we were careful to keep our cows from 'going west.'
It was about three o'clock of a July afternoon, I being then aged 'five, going on six,' that, sitting at my desk in the schoolhouse, I saw through the open door, a red-roan steer come trotling down the east road and into the schoolhouse yard. It was our big threeyear-old. My hand shot up.
'Teacher,' I said, 'it's our steer. He's strayed. Can me and Orill be excused to drive him home?'
At her prompt assent, we seized our straw hats and tin lunch-pails, and ran out. I rushed to block the west road, while Orill ran to the east. It was comparatively easy to head the animal into the lane going south, for he seemed himself to have chosen to travel that way.
Now, impounding in a roadside pen on the prairie a three-year-old steer of the type prevailing in Wisconsin in the year 1865, gone astray from his herd and nervous with nostalgia, was a problem serious enough for a cowboy much beyond five years of age; though at the time I was not aware of the fact. My plan of campaign was based on the presumption that, reaching the yard, the steer would go directly into it. Then I would rush up behind him and put up the bars, and there he would be caught and safely held till we should bring the rest of the herd from the commons in the evening. In the event that the steer ran past the bars, I would duck under the fence, run through the field on the east of the road, and head him off, while Orill, with lifted club and
voice, would bar his retreat to the north. Seeing himself thus outwitted, and fairly trapped, the steer would lower his horns and tail and enter the yard.
Now, though I must at this time have been a fairly well-seasoned cowboy, with a year or more of cow-punching to my credit, this was the first major operation in cowboy strategy of which I had had immediate command. I knew enough of the functioning of a steer's brain to know that the chances of yarding the brute were at least not all in my favor. By this time the steer was trotting down the south road, and we had much ado to keep up with his swift gait.
Hot, excited, and blown, we reached the cow-pen, the bars of which were invitingly down. But the steer did not see the yard at all. He ran beyond it, then slowed his speed a little. I ducked into the cornfield to the east of the road, and, by hard running, overhauled and headed him back. Back he ran, again past the bars, but Orill's club and cries turned him.
Now thoroughly flustered by his predicament, the steer headed at me on the run, while I, dancing, yelling, and swinging my dinner-pail, halted him again. But instead of charging back upon Orill, he wheeled to the west and, rising, vaulted the old rail-fence, and coming down with a crash, bounded off into a forty-acre field of green and waving wheat.
As he came down on the broken fence, I, bursting with hot and baffled rage, shouted, 'God damn you!'
All I remember further as to that steer is how he looked as he triumphantly headed westward, trailing down the slope through the waving wheat, spoiling valuable grain.
I was dazed, terrified at what I had done. I had said the very wickedest possible swear-word. I had taken the name of God in vain. I had never before used such words, or even entertained them for use. No one of our family had in their lives done so wicked a thing. And to add woe to wickedness, I had said this in the presence of Orill Huntley, son of godless parents. I remember putting my head down on a rail of the fence and crying, and Orill's coming up to comfort me.
'It ain't bad to say it just once,' he said. 'It's when you say it all the time that's wicked.'
But I refused to be comforted by such sophistry. Father's theology contained no such modifying clause. It could not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. I believed myself to be the chief of sinners, all unaware that this untaught lad was telling me a great life-truth.
When, finally, I had dried my eyes, I solemnly charged Orill never to tell on me, and he as solemnly promised. Thus temporarily calmed, I went about the day's business with a leaden lump beneath the bosom of my little hickory shirt. I remember no more of the week's occurrences except that I kept my secret well.
But Sunday brought torment. I rode in the farm wagon with the family to the Sunday service, as a condemned criminal rides on his coffin to the gallows. I had pictured to myself the scene that would occur in Sunday School. We would repeat the Third Commandment in concert: 'Thou shalt not take the name, thou shalt not take the name, of the Lord thy God in vain, of the Lord thy God in vain'—and at the close father would turn to me and say, 'Did you ever take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?' and I had fully determined within myself to answer up with what promptness and firmness I could muster, 'No, sir.'
What else could one do? Could one say, to his own confusion, before the assembled congregation,'Yes, sir, I swore Vol. Iu—no. *
at the steer when he jumped over the fence'? Such a thing was unthinkable. There was but one way of escape from the dilemma, and that was boldly to lie my way out. Nor would this have been the first time I had found aliea very present help in trouble.
Before the exercises began, as I was sitting in fear and trembling, down the east road came a wagon with the whole Huntley family in it. They were coming to Sunday School. Orill would be with them, of course, and when father would put his awful question, 'Did you ever take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?' and I answered, 'No, sir,' Orill would rise and in a loud voice would say, 'Yes, you did! You swore at the steer when he jumped over the fence!'
For about the space of one mortal, interminable minute,'the fear of death encompassed me and the pains of hell gat hold upon me.' I had never before, nor have I since, experienced such refinement of terror as I suffered then. Punishment of that quality after death would be sufficient penalty for any mortal sin in the category.
But the wagon passed. It was not the Huntleys' wagon at all. The Huntleys had never attended our Sunday School. Father did not ask us to repeat any of the commandments that day; nor, of course, was the awful question asked. It did not occur to me then that there was not the remotest possibility that father would ask such a question. I went home relieved and reprieved, but not pardoned. I carried my dark secret safely but heavily for what seem to me to have been long years, during which period I entertained for a time the fear that I had committed the ' unpardonable sin.'
It never occurred to me then that my determination to add bold and willful lying to profanity was the only really wicked act of the whole sad affair. But had I known it well, I doubt not that I should have been willing to assume the risk of lying in order to escape the punishment that would probably have been meted out to me, had my fault been discovered. What that punishment might have been I had reason later to guess, from the ill luck that befell brother Willet some two years after.
One evening, when Willet, coming from school, was being badgered beyond endurance by some bullying neighbor boy, he turned on his tormentor and told him to 'go to hell.' The report of this dreadful lapse flew on swift wings to our parents' ears. Then the -wheels of industry on our farm stopped stock-still. There was a star-chamber session in the West Room — father and mother in prayer with the little culprit, asking God for mercy and pardon for him; and following this, sentence passed on him by father, without mercy or pardon. One of the items of the sentence was that Willet must read nothing for two weeks but the Bible and the Methodist hymn-book. But the peak of the punishment was reserved for the class-meeting on the following Sunday.
At these class-meetings the lay members were waited on in turn by the class leader and asked to 'testify.' Each rose in his seat and gave his religious experience for the week last past, and usually added his hopes and good resolves for the week to come — all spoken in a more or less formal and solemn way, as if a punishment were being endured in the process. The leader advised, commended, rebuked, or encouraged, as the case might require, then passed on to the next victim.
When father came to his little shamed and penitent boy, he prefaced his call for a testimony by the general information to the house that Willet had been
a very wicked boy that week, but he hoped he had asked the Lord to forgive him.
Willet did not respond to the call to testify, but hid his burning face in his arms on the school-desk and kept silence. Willet was nine years old. Mother made no interference. I wonder she did not. But from what I learned later of her tender heart, she must have suffered anguish for her sinful little son during this inquisitional torture; and knowing her, later, so well, I wonder that some good angel had not sent blaspheming me to her on that illstarred summer day, to weep my sin out in her gentle arms instead of on a fence-rail.
The terrible conscientiousness of a parent, which could stir up such storm and stress of soul in a child's young life, may seem beyond any justification. But looking back now over a half-century of the world as it is, I am convinced that freedom from the habit of irreverence may be cheaply bought, even at that. Indeed, I came to that conclusion before I was a grown youth.
Ten years or so after my adventure in profanity, I was sent on an early morning errand to the house of a neighboring farmer. A group of rough young men were in the kitchen, waiting for breakfast. It was the very hour when father, in our home, was praying in the midst of his children. One of the men had on his knee a prattling child, evidently struggling with his first coherent speech. There was loud laughter and great merriment among the men. A girl of about fourteen years called to her mother in the next room, —
'Maw, O maw! come hear baby! Oh, ain't he cunnin'?'
The baby was practising the same high explosive I had used when the steer jumped over the fence.
ITS TWO LITTLE HORNS
BY FRANCES THERESA RUSSELL
If a dilemma would be content to wear only one horn, innocent adventurers into the field of debate and argument would be less dangerously beset by the beast of embarrassing alternatives. Then, for instance, when a college professor catches sight of a fellow traveler, wantonly strayed from the royal road of reason and distressingly impaled on the right horn of a logical dilemma, — labeled 'What Do Students Know?' — he will not feel called upon to precipitate himself, as a gratuitous exercise in agility, on the left horn, inscribed 'What Do Teachers Know?' There is, to be sure, a safe agnostic front between these two perilous projections, called 'What Does Anybody Know?' But that is a place of unprofitable repose and affords no scope for mental gymnastics.
Such opportunity was offered, however, by the gyrations of Professor Boas, for the play of the intellectual muscles of a certain group of spectators, that I am recording this latter reaction for the entertainment of yet other beholders who may be interested.
This morning I carried the May Atlantic into my classroom and read to my aspiring essay-writers this accepted article, as a sample of how to do it. Quite on their own initiative, the young neophytes discovered that in many respects it was rather an object-lesson on how not to do it. So promptly was the bone of contention pounced upon, so thick and fast came the responses, from Sophomore and Senior, from lads and lassies, that my position demanded all
the tact of the Speaker of the House. Perhaps the total effect can best be conveyed in the form of a colloquy by the members of the class, with the author of 'What Do Teachers Know?' as the object of the inquiries. The general impression was somewhat as follows: —
Question. The writer says, "The ancients were interested in interpreting facts, not in accumulating them." How could they interpret what they had not accumulated and therefore did not have?'
Question. 'If "intelligence is insensitive to mere facts, and reacts only to ideas," where does it get the ideas to react from? What is an idea but a deduction from two or more facts?'
Question. 'If "artichokes and chameleons and Yale and the date of the battle of I^exington have very little place in the production of understanding and intelligence and critical power," what has?'
Answer. 'A benevolent and humanistic skepticism, and a willingness to weigh and balance, to expound and elucidate, are all that is needed.'
Question. 'But what is there to be skeptical about but facts? What is there to put in the balance and weigh? What to expound and elucidate about?
Question (from a demure maid in the back row). 'Doesn't Professor Boas seem to have a good many facts at his command, and use them pretty freely in this very anathema against them?'