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From Cornfield Philosophy, by C. D. Strode, Illustrated, Chicago: The Blakely Printing Co., 1902; pp. 1-46.

Gold monogram with Cornfield Philosophy written inside a wreath on a marine blue background.

Part I.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man wearing a hat, standing at a high desk, writing in a large book or ledge, with a line of men behind him.Here we are at the end of the year. I would be glad of that if it were not that we are also at the beginning of a year. Sophocles said that “every gentleman is glad when a year is done.” That’s the way I feel about it, so I suppose I am a gentleman. If a year is ended and a man has done his best, he ought to be glad. It is one less mile on the journey. When a man is on a journey he feels exultant and joyful at each milestone he approaches, but when he passes it he cannot but be depressed by the fact that it will be some time ere he passes another. The only thing which keeps him going is the knowledge that, in a general way, he is approaching the end of his journey.

How many men are there who have reached the age of forty who would, were they given free choice, live their lives over again from the beginning? Very few. Why, then, may not a gentleman be glad when a year is done? Why should a gentleman dread to grow old?


This is the time for making resolutions and a great number of people would feel that a bright spot had been rubbed out of their lives if the privilege of making resolutions on New Year’s was denied them. New Year’s is a fountain at which they renew their virtue. It is a starting point to which they return each year, thus being prevented from wandering away with the goats entirely.

They are like the man whom I once knew who got religion every winter and lost it every spring when he went to plowing among the stumps. He kept this up for ten years, and then, the stumps having all rotted out of his farm, his religion staid with him the year around. He would have a slight relapse occasionally, but with the burning of the last stump the evil may be said to have taken flight; and the man became a very devout man and an ornament to society. As years went by his habits of Godliness grew and strengthened so that he remained steadfast under the severest provocation.

I remember one instance in particular. I was fishing in the creek one hot day in July, and on the other side the deacon (he had become a deacon) was “laying by” a patch of corn with a bar plow. Everybody else in the neighborhood was through plowing corn and the deacon knew it. He could see them driving along the road, and he believed they were making fun of him. The day was desperately hot, the corn nearly as high as his head, and the deacon had sweat until his shirt and even his pantaloons were wet. Altogether he was feeling nervous and “fretted,” and his nervousness communicated itself to the mare he was driving. She streaked it through the field at a 2:40 gait, thereby making the deacon warmer and more “fretted” then ever, but he didn’t say a word out of the way. I sat in the shade unseen and marveled 9 at the deacon’s self-possession. At last, in coming out at the end, a blade of corn hit the deacon in the eye and he plowed up two hills and then jerked the plow over and dropped it on his toe.

“Dad bing it!” he yelled at the mare, “Ho!”

This rattled the mare, and she tramped down two hills of corn and got a tug unhitched. The deacon took out his handkerchief and mopped his dripping face. Then he stooped to hitch the tug, when the mare lifted one hind foot and kicked him where he sits down so that he fell among the weeds in the fence corner. He arose and took the mare by the bits and said earnestly:

“Dad-burn the dod-dinged, infernal, ring-tailed luck to the very deuce! Dog gone and double durn the blamnation corn field to thunder, anyhow!”

But he didn’t swear.

How many of my readers ever plowed among stumps? That’s what tries a man’s nerve and his religion. Anyone can be a Christian on the prairie, where there is nothing to do but watch the soil curling from the moldboard of the riding plow from one end of the field to the other; but when the plow strikes a green root and the handle thumps you in the ribs, and then the root breaks and flies back and hits you on the shin, what are you going to do about it? Just grin and bear it and pull the plow back and start again? That’s the thing to do, but did you every try it? And is it as wicked for a man to swear under such circumstances as under others?

This is no joke. It is a serious matter, and we will be up to our necks before you know it. Do circumstances alter cases? When the final round-up comes will the Lord make allowances? When the recording angel charges that the sinner in the dock was a very profane man, will it be taken into consideration that all his life 10 he plowed among the stumps? When the angel says: “The prisoner at the bar was a thief,” will he be allowed to plead in extenuation that his children were hungry and in no other way could he feed them? Surely, surely.

Some people plow among stumps all their lives. Every day the plow handles hit them in the ribs and the broken roots crack them on the shins. Now, will those people be judged by the same standard as that applied to those who plow in clear fields?

Some men swear too much. Some drink too much. Some smoke too much tobacco. Some spend too much time in idleness. All those things, however, are little things, and as a rule, don’t do much harm except to the man practicing them. If a man wants to stand in the street and kick himself, or black his own eyes or bloody his own nose, the people, so long as the law reckons him a sane man, will not pay much attention, save, maybe, to laugh at him. So if a man will deliberately fill his hide with whisky until he falls in the gutter, or use tobacco until he has palpitation of the heart, it doesn’t do much good to talk to him. If he is fool enough to do those things, knowing better, he is such a fool that your talking won’t do him much good.

As I see it, the besetting sin of humanity is self-complacency. This I believe is especially true of the readers of such a book as this, for they are most all clean, substantial, intelligent people, the very class most apt to pull its robe of correct living about its shoulders and turn up its nose at everybody else. It isn’t necessary to urge this class of people to take better care of itself. Bless its selfish heart! It will take care of itself. It is the custom of the press and the pulpit to pat these people on the back and assure them that they are entitled to all 11 the good things of this life and a front seat in Heaven; but that is a mistake.

I can imagine one of your self-complacent people marching up to the bar of justice on the day of Judgment; with his arms folded and a confident smile on his face, he will say, “Oh, Lord, while upon the earth I lived a very upright life. I didn’t swear nor steal, nor go fishing on Sunday. I was a model citizen.”

Then will be said: “That is not enough. In being a model man and leading an upright life you only obeyed the impulses implanted in you. To have done anything else would have been to outrage your sensibilities. You lived an upright life because you couldn’t help it. Moreover, your endowments and circumstances which surround you made your life on earth a life of ease and pleasure. You slept in a downy bed, while many slept in the fields and hedges and the ‘barrel houses’ of the cities, or walked the streets to keep from freezing. You were enabled to live on the fat of the land, while others of My children suffered hunger. Of course you lived an upright life. What else could you do?” And then, with the eye of the Almighty looking into his soul, what is he going to say?

When his case is disposed of, and the Lord only knows what’ll be done with him, a poor, crime-stained wretch steps up to the bar with his head bowed and despair in his heart. He says:

“I have lived an evil life, O Master. I struggled against it, but ever the evil in me got the upper hand. I can only ask for mercy.”

Then the great Intercessor will say: “This man, O Father, had a hard time. He was born with low instincts and with little moral sense. His surroundings were unfavorable, and those who should have helped him failed 12 in their duty. He was kicked and cuffed and hounded like a wolf. I ask that he be forgiven and that his sins be charged to the self-righteous, who should have helped him.”

Man comes out of the darkness, whence he knows not; travels a little space across the earth, why he knows not; then goes away into the darkness again, where he knows not. Whence he comes, why he is here and where he goes are things which are mysteries to him. He is an insect infesting an atom of creation, for some reason given a mind to understand some things and a heart to feel. Given a mind which can dimly realize the tremendous forces at work about him and so realizing to wonder why he was ever given a mind at all; given a heart to feel the suffering of fellow insects about him and having withheld from him the power to alleviate that suffering. Why was the mind and the heart given to him at all? Why not have made him like the ox or the tree?

What I’m trying to do is to get you in shape for New Year’s resolutions, and the first thing necessary to New Year’s resolutions is that you get into a proper frame of mind. I don’t care what kind of New Year’s resolutions you make about yourself. You’ll look out for yourself all right. What I want you to do is to make a New Year’s resolution that in the coming year you will live a little closer to your fellow men than you have in the past year. We are a helpless and miserable lot enough without tramping on one another.

In the first place you want to understand that you are not a whit better than anybody else. Because you are a clean man and a prosperous man and you don’t want to go around swelling your chest out and patting yourself on the back. Just thank the Almighty that you are not a pauper and a thief. It is His mercy you are not. And 13 here you’ve been going around all these years believing it was because you were smart and honest and a whole lot of nice things. It’s no such thing, my man.

Suppose you had been born into the world with but little more brains than a monkey? What would you have done about it? Could you have changed the shape of your head and put brains where no brains were before? And in that event would you be the prosperous and prominent man you are?

Not much you wouldn’t. You’d be shoving lumber at — well, you know what you are paying your lumbar shovers. And your wife and children would be wearing ragged clothes and skirmishing about the streets hunting bits of coal and scraps of board to cook your meager supper.

Or, if you had been born with all the instincts and passions of a beast and no moral strength to control them, would you be a pillar in the church and an ornament to the best society to-day? No, sir. You’d be looking through the bars from the wrong side, as thousands of men are doing to-day who are no more to blame for their conditions than you deserve credit for yours.

It’s only God’s mercy that you are not a beggar or a thief. And you want to disabuse your mind of the belief that because you were born with most of your brains in front of and above your ears, with a strong moral sense and no strong appetites, and are slipping through life in a well-oiled groove, eating the fat, drinking the cream and sitting in the soft places, that when you die you are going to Heaven and whang a golden harp through all eternity simply because you have not violated your nature by becoming a criminal. I want to say to you, my man, that if you are such a one and are using the brains and talents God gave you, and with the possession of which 14 you had nothing to do, merely for purposes of selfish gratification, that you’ll never whang any golden harps in the life to come. No, sir, you’ll go to hell, if there is such a place, for you’re the biggest criminal in God’s universe. A beautiful doctrine that is, that because a man is born badly and grows up in infamous surroundings, he being not responsible either for the birth or the bringing up, that after battling all his life against his impulses, after leading the life of a dog all his days, that he shall go to hell and suffer eternal torment because he could not resist his nature and became a criminal. That’s a fine doctrine, that is!

Now, see here, dear reader, I’m not mad at you. I am acting for your own good, as Uncle John used to say when he whipped me. I am only trying to impress upon you that during our brief and involuntary journey through the world, such insignificant little creatures as you and I have no call to become stuck upon ourselves. And we mustn’t believe that God Almighty is sitting up nights planning rewards for us for being good. There will be some surprises on the day of Judgment if I am not mistaken.

So in making your New Year’s resolutions bear in mind that for all that is given you an accounting will probably be asked. If the Almighty has been good to you you must “pass it along.” And be careful that all your New Year’s resolutions do not simply mean a determination to be better to yourself next year than ever before.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man in an overcoat and hat talking to another man without a hat on.I suppose I’d better tell you.

It is a weakness of mine that I can’t bear to see a person, man, woman or child, working at a disadvantage when a word from me will set them right.

Ofttimes my efforts are not appreciated. Only the other morning I saw a man get off a street car as it was starting up, and as he got off the wrong way he was thrown violently to the pavement. As he arose and limped away a lot of unfeeling people laughed at him. I felt sorry for the man and stopped to explain to him how to jump off a moving street car, and if you will believe me, he turned and cursed me.

I do not mind such things, however. I am sustained by the conviction that I am doing my duty.

I can look back upon my early life and see where a word of advice from someone who knew as much as I know now would have saved me from making mistakes; but the advice was withheld, and I blundered on.


That isn’t right. I believe that a man who knows as much as I do has a moral obligation to discharge. Whenever I see a man who needs my advice I am going to give it. If he wants to get mad and rear around about it that is his business.

The subject, “How to Acquire Riches,” is an important and engrossing one. It comes near the heart of every man. Every man is trying to answer it. Even newspaper men are interested in it in a way, but this and all other matters appeal to journalists in a different way than they do to ordinary people.

The journalist does not make a study of politics merely to decide how he shall cast his own vote. He does not take an interest in the advance of science because he expects to ride in a horseless carriage or heat and light his house with electricity. No. His interests are deeper, wider and more unselfish than that.

I have a friend who is an editor of an electrical journal, and is a recognized authority on electrical matters, who lights his house with a kerosene lamp. He writes glowing articles each week about the possibilities in the development of electrical transit, and walks to and from his office because he hasn’t money to pay street-car fare. And I know an editor of a leading lumber paper who will split hairs with you over the merits of different hardwoods for interior finish, who lives in a flat finished in white pine painted a sort of muckle-dun brown.

So I answer the question — “How may riches be acquired?” not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of the thousands of readers who look to me for inspiration and guidance.

My uncle who raised me (bless the man for doing a good job of it!) made a life study of it, and although he 17 did not succeed to his satisfaction he developed some good points.

It is scarcely necessary to state that I was a source of delight to my uncle. He had great faith in education and used to send me to a country school three months every winter. I will never forget his surprise when he found I could measure a stack of hay and tell him how much it weighed. He sold a stack on my measurement once, and when he hauled it off he weighed it to see how it held out. It brought him $2.38 more than it would have had he sold it by weight, and thereby greatly increased my uncle’s respect for education.

He built a cistern of such dimensions as I figured out would hold fifty barrels. After the work was well under way he became convinced that that a fifty-barrel cistern was not nearly large enough. He was greatly worried until the cistern was finished, and he found it would hold about twice as much as he expected and was just what he wanted. This pleased him greatly and he said that schooling was a great thing.

Seeing me take books and rules and secure such satisfactory results my uncle bought a book of a book agent, entitled “Wealth — How to Acquire It,” and told me to figure it out for him. He said if it turned out like the cistern it would be all right. He wanted me to figure out how to make $50,000, and if it ran a few thousand over he wouldn’t care.

The first chapter was on “Early Rising.” It said that a man who wished to acquire wealth must get up early.

This was a bitter blow to my uncle. He said that since his coon dog had died and he had traded his shotgun for a heifer calf, about the only pleasure he had in life consisted of lying abed of mornings. Nevertheless, my uncle was determined, and for three months he got up 18 every morning before sun up. He would, being a man of consideration, get up quietly and go outside and sit on a bench and whittle. After trying it for three months he said he couldn’t notice any difference, so he gave it up and said the dinged book was a swindle.

He never gave up trying to solve the problem, however. He saw an advertisement once which read:

“How to become rich! Send 25 cents for reply.”

He sent the money and received the reply:

“Fish for suckers — as we are doing.”

But enough about my uncle. The results he achieved were merely negative. While he learned that a good many things would not produce riches, he did not find what would, and he died a disappointed man. He was a gentle, genial soul, however, who cherished no malice, and his disappointment did not embitter him. Before he died he forgave all his enemies except the man who wrote the chapter on “Early Rising.”

Before I tell you how to become rich, you must promise me that once you know you will not become miserly and avaricious, but that you will act with sense and moderation. The piling up of vast fortunes is a mistake. They bring more worry than contentment. I want you to promise that you will be content with a moderate fortune and that you will leave something for others.

Too much greediness defeats its own ends. Mythology tells of a man named Midas, who was so greedy for wealth that the gods conferred on him the gift that whatever he touched should turn to gold.

Mr. Midas was delighted. He touched his house and it turned to gold. He touched his furniture and it turned to gold. In a transport of joy he picked his baby from the floor and it turned to gold. They brought him food and the moment he touched it it turned to gold. It was 19 the same when he tried to drink, and the poor man died a miserable death. You need to be careful.

I read of another man who, in going through a forest found a block of gold so large that he couldn’t carry it. Being too greedy to leave it lest someone else should find it, he remained beside it until he died of starvation. I hope you have more strength of character than this, and if you have not I advise you to keep out of the woods altogether.

I could go on multiplying instances of this kind indefinitely, but while it would fill space, it is not necessary.

Another thing I want is that you shall promise that when you get your money you will make good use of it. If I thought that the information I am going to give you would be misused or abused — if I thought that you would use the money I am going to tell you how to make merely for your own selfish pleasure, that you would allow it to sap the foundations of your manhood, I would not give it.

Do you know that I am very serious about this? It is my observation that but few men can stand prosperity. It takes trials and adversity to develop a noble character, and if I tell you how to acquire riches it may be the ruination of you and I will be responsible.

I have hardly time to go into the matter just now, anyhow, and as I have some doubts as to whether it is best to go ahead or not, I believe I will hold the matter over for a while.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man, standing, playing a flute with a man playing a bass drum seated behind him.According to the last census nearly 40 per cent of the total population of the United States is in cities of 4,000 population and over. This, to my way of thinking, is not as it should be, but it is not surprising. The whole tendency of modern civilization is to attract the young men to the cities, and where the young men go the young women go also. Of the great inventions which have added so much to the comfort and pleasures of the world, none has done much for the country man. Electric light, steam heat, skirt dances and cake walks are not for him.

Then the hours are too long. When the farm hand learns that in the city eight hours is considered a day’s work it makes his tongue hang out. Life in the country is better for a man in every way, mentally, morally, physically and financially, but it lacks attractiveness. There is too much sameness to it. I worked on a farm with three other hands for eighteen months once. I had a flute and another hand had a base drum and our only entertainment after working fifteen hours a day consisted of flute music with base drum accompaniment. It was 21 fairly pleasing, but not by any means exciting. I could only play three tunes and had to dodge the high notes in those. The gentleman with the base drum had more versatility and could play almost any tune, but a base drum solo lacks what the critics call “convincingosity.”

If the young men are to be kept on the farm there must be more variety introduced into their lives. A great deal has been said and written about keeping the young man on the farm, but so far as I know no organized effort has been made in that direction. When I get a little time I intend to organize a “Society for Bringing Brightness Into the Lives of Farm Hands.”

I know that in this work I will have the hearty cooperation of everyone who has been a farm hand or who is familiar with his habitat. It would not be a difficult work either. Almost anything will help him along. He is not critical and his life can easily be made brighter and happier.

I have great faith in music as a brightener. I would have a law passed compelling each farmer to equip his farm with a certain number of musical instruments. The following list I submit, after careful deliberation based on a thorough knowledge of the surroundings and aspirations of the farm hand:

One base drum, one tuba horn, one pair of cymbals, one fife, one mouth organ. It is not necessary to enumerate a jewsharp, for nearly every farm hand has one. With such an equipment many a dreary hour could be made enjoyable.

Another thing which is a source of vexation to the average farm hand is the difficulty he experiences in taking a bath. Farming, in summer at least, is dusty work, and it is absolutely essential that a man take a bath once in a while. Few farms have any facilities. It used to 22 be our practice to wait until everybody had gone to bed and then go out and bathe in the horse trough. Besides its other disadvantages, this system was only available in warm weather. We had no system for cold weather, and just let her rip till spring. This is a matter which may easily remedied by compelling the farmers to equip a bathroom somewhere. In equipping such a room it will be necessary to provide ample drainage facilities, as the soil which the average farm hand will remove in bathing would choke up an ordinary sewer.

The thing which I think more than any other drives the young man to give up farm life is the lake of congenial female society. The hired girl is usually all right in her way, but she lacks style and versatility. The Midway Plaisance of the World’s Fair, with its “Beauty Show,” its dancers and rope walkers, did much to make the farm hands of the West dissatisfied with their lot. After the Midway the hired girl seemed commonplace and unromantic. One of the first things which the “Society for Bringing Brightness Into the Lives of Farm Hands” would undertake would be the training of the hired girl. She would be taught a number of bright and graceful stunts. The training would, of course, need be arranged with reference to the individual capacity of the girl. Not all could be trained to walk the tight rope, or even to perform on the high trapeze, but any of them could be taught to do a skirt dance or a cake walk. Provided with suitable costumes, she would add greatly to the desirability of farm life and would be a powerful influence to keep the young man from wandering away to the cities in search of the beautiful and the true.

It would not be necessary to incur any expense in fitting up a gymnasium. In providing for the pleasure of city young men the gymnasium is the first and most expensive 23 requirement in order to furnish a means of physical exercise. But the farm hand doesn’t need exercise. Not by any means. A striking machine and a lung tester would be all right if a few cigars be provided as prizes, but as a rule no outlay will need be made to provide means of physical exercise.

These are some simple and wholesome pleasures which can only be made available occasionally. Nothing gives a farm hand keener pleasure than to have a nigger stick his head through a piece of canvas and allow him to throw a baseball at it. It would be too much to ask a farmer to keep a nigger for this purpose, but the territory could be divided into districts, with a nigger to each, so that he could get around to each farm once every week or so. The same arrangement could be made with a bright and entertaining young man with a pea and thimble outfit.

There is no use talking, the young man can be kept on the farm if an intelligent effort be made. His life is too monotonous. He is full of virile manhood and has all the impulses and desires of his city brother. As a rest he goes off to town on a Saturday afternoon seeking dissipation, and has so much fun he longs to live in town all the time. Now, why could not peanuts and red pop be kept on the farm? They are not expensive. The way it is the town becomes associated in the young man’s mind with such things and he comes to believe that life in town is one continuous round of peanuts and pop. By bringing such things within his daily reach they lose their attractive glamor. Let us move in this matter. Let us be up and doing.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man, standing in an overcoat and hat, putting on his gloves with rain pouring on him.When a cold wave comes the farmer goes out early to do his chores. “It’s going to be a freezer to-night, Sary,” he says to his wife, “and I must make everything comfortable;” and he puts on his heaviest coat, pulls his cap over his ears, pulls on his home-knit mittens and sallies forth. The stock is given an extra portion of food, and clean straw is shaken down until it comes nearly to their knees. The chickens are given a mess of warm stuff and everything is shut up snug and tight. Then the driest and best of oak and hickory wood is piled behind the stoves, and a final trip is made around to be certain that all is right and that nothing can suffer. By this time it is growing dark. The dull, gray clouds drift across the sky and the wind sweeps down from the north, growing colder every minute. The farmer turns his back to it and looks around; and then he faces it with his mittened hand over his eyes and looks again. Everything is all right, and he goes in to supper.


After supper the family gathers into the sitting room before the blazing fire. The eldest daughter goes down into the cellar where there is stuff enough stored to feed a regiment, and brings up a dish of rosy apples; the boys draw on their hoard and crack nuts upon the hearth; the older children gather around the shaded lamp and prepare their lessons; the wife sits by the fire and knits, talking first to one group and then another, sympathizing with and directing all; and the farmer drowses over last week’s paper. He has read the paper two or three times before, and it fails to interest him. The hat of the room, coming after his supper and exercise in the keen air, sets him to nodding over his paper.

“I’m so sleepy, Sary,” he says at last, “I believe I’ll go to bed.”

“Why, John, it’s only 8 o’clock.”

“I can’t help it,” he says. “I’m going.”

He gets up and winds the clock, stops to eat some nuts with the boys, some of the children consult him about a lesson, and his drowsiness wears off and he sits down and talks to his wife. The conversation flags after a while and the farmer leans back and thinks. His mind wanders out to the barn. There he seems to hear the cattle rattling their stanchions as they lie down in the straw, the horses nosing around in the mangers for the last of their hay, and the hogs grunting contentedly in their cozy pens. He thinks of the potato bins and apple bins in the cellar, full to overflowing, and of the hams and shoulders and bacons hanging in the smoke house. Then his eyes wander over to his children. Such rosy, sturdy, healthy children they are, each one of them with clothing enough for two children. Then there is Sary, what a good wife she has been to him.

The wind sweeps around the corner and rattles the 26 window shutters. A bitter night it is, but thank the Lord! every living thing dependent upon him is warm and comfortable; and he runs his eye around the cozy room again. They rest upon a picture of his little girl that’s dead and a mist forms on his horn-bowed spectacles, and he sits so still the children tell their mother: “Pa’s asleep.”


He comes out of his office at about 5 o’clock and notices that the air is pretty keen as he waits for the car, but he only waits a minute and the car is so crowded that by the time he has fought his way inside and wrested a strap from someone smaller than himself he is all in a glow. Then, in hanging onto that strap and keeping people from getting him down under their feet, he fails to note that frost is forming on the window panes. From the car to his door the wind is to his back, so that when his wife asks him if it is getting colder out, he only says:

“Yes, a little.”

“The evening paper says there is a terrible cold wave coming.”

“That’s a sure sign it isn’t coming, Martha. Don’t you know that nothing a newspaper predicts ever comes to pass?”

“Yes, but the paper says the weather man says it.”

“That’s worse yet. Don’t you now that what the weather man predicts not only doesn’t come to pass, but almost invariably the exact opposite does. The weather man has been predicting a cold wave for over a month and it’s been getting warmer every day.”

“Yes, but I believe a cold wave is coming. My corn — ”


“Now, Martha, I give up. If you are going to bring corn and bunions into the discussion I give up. If you are going to set your corn up against your husband — if you believe your corn knows more than I do, why, there is no use to continue the discussion. We will all bow down to your corn and admit that a cold wave is coming.”

“I don’t care — ”

“Well, Martha, if you don’t care, I don’t. Let ’er come. I can stand more cold than a brass monkey. I’ve always been noted for my endurance. I can go out in the cold oftener, stay out longer and come in warmer than any two men I ever saw. Why is this? Because I’ve a good constitution for one thing, and I was brought up right. I used to go upstairs alone, the coldest nights that ever blew, and go to bed in a garret where the roof was so bad that I’ve often waked up of a morning and found a snowdrift on the bed clothes. That’s what made a man of me, and I declare, Martha, that if you go ahead coddling our children they way you do, I don’t know what will become of them.”

“I can’t send them upstairs without sending them into Mrs. Schneider’s flat.”

“Of course you know what I mean, Martha, and you mustn’t try to be funny. What I want to say is, that with all due respect to your corn, there isn’t going to be any cold wave. You can’t fool me on the weather. You must remember I was raised on a farm and knew all about the weather before you ever had a corn. It’ll be a trifle colder in the morning, may be, but nothing serious.”

In the night all the water pipes froze, and when in the morning the man built a fire in the range the water front exploded and wrecked the kitchen and nearly set the house on fire. He had to go out and carry breakfast 28 for the family from the bakery. Then he had to order a new stove and look up a plumber. The plumber said that so many people were in the same fix that he didn’t believe his job could be reached before the last of the week. By this time it was nearly 10 o’clock, and although he was nearly frozen to death the man boarded a street car to do down town.

It was colder in the car than it was outside, for at every corner the conductor opened the door to call the name of the street and let a lot of cold blow in and then shut the door and wouldn’t let it out. There was no fire in the car, because the people who own the street cars of Chicago have to spend so much money keeping the city council bought up that they have no money to buy coal with. There was no one else in the car, for everyone who had to go down town had gone, and those who didn’t have to go were staying at home.

So the man sat in his corner and grew colder and colder. A coal truck had broken down on the track in one place and it took half an hour to clear it away, but the man scarcely noticed the flight of time; when he became so cold that it seemed he could not stand it, he seemed to grow warmer. He had no feeling in his hands or feet and he became drowsy. He would take a nap, he thought.

When the car at last reached its destination the conductor stuck his head in at the door:

“Get off here,” he said.

The man didn’t move. He was frozen; and they pried his remains from the seat and carried them over to the morgue and placed them on a slab beside other victims of the cold storage street cars, to await identification.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man, sitting on a double seat in a train, reaching into his pocket.I went forward to the smoking car, after getting supper at Crestline, Ohio, and took the first vacant seat. Then I felt in my pocket for a cigar and found I had none. That was a great shock to me, as I was, and still am, absolutely certain that I put a good nickel cigar in my vest pocket at Columbus, and to this day I can’t remember what I did with it. I don’t mind giving a thing away, but I hate to lose it, and I’ve worried myself nearly to death about that cigar. Even in the night I lie awake and think and think, but the mystery remains. To save my life I can’t remember what became of it. If it had been given to me, or if it had been a stogie, or two-fer, I wouldn’t mind it so much; but it was a good five-cent cigar, and to save my life — but there! I’ll not worry about it any longer.

Anyhow I was up against it and to make matters worse a jolly, portly looking traveling man across the way took a well-filled cigar case from his pocket, and selected a good one and returned the case to his pocket.


Here, thought I, is my chance. Those are probably good cigars, but how shall I go about it and get one of them? Being a total stranger, my native modesty made it distasteful to me to boldly ask him to give me a cigar. Fortune favored me, however. The jolly looking man went through all his pockets and couldn’t find a match. He looked up and down the car, but if there was a newsboy on board he was not in sight. I slid over the outside corner of my seat and looked as benevolent as possible.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, reaching across and tapping me on the arm, “but have you a match?”

I turned to him with a benignant smile.

“Yes,” said I, “I have a whole pocket full of them.”

The man looked expectant, but as I made no move to give him a match, he said:

“Would you — ah — mind giving me one to light my cigar?”

“Ordinarily, my friend,” said I, “your request would have been granted before it was asked, but the situation in which you and I find ourselves strikes me as being peculiar. Here am I with plenty of matches, but no cigars. There you are with plenty of cigars but no matches. Between us we have the material for all the smoking both of us want, but through the perversity of fate, which gives you all the cigars and me all the matches, neither of us can smoke. It is as though I had a stove and you had coal. If I denied you the use of my stove and you denied me the use of your coal we might both freeze to death; but by combining — ”

That was as far as I got, for the jolly man heaved a deep sigh and passed over his cigars.

And blame me if I had a match then, but had to borrow some of the man in front of me.


He was asleep and I disliked to disturb him, but I had to have matches and he looked as if he had them. He sat up suddenly.

“Matches, is it?” he said. “Sure! I have matches to burn.” And he gave me a handful.

He was evidently a mechanic in his every-day clothes; not the overalls, but the every-day clothes a mechanic wears under his overalls. It was also evident that he had been drinking to excess. He had on his overcoat, and a winter cap pulled down over his ears, and pretty nearly over his eyes, made it impossible to tell what manner of man he was.

As he straightened up to get the matches out of his pocket the train swung around a curve and he nearly fell out of his seat. A couple of young fellows sat in front of him and one of them made some humorous remark about him.

He straightened around in his seat and pushed his cap back.

“Now, boys,” said he, “don’t be witty; or what I mane is, don’t try to be witty. It’s flyin’ in the face of providence, for God never meant you to be witty.”

One of the young men leaned over the seat and winking at me, said:

“Do you believe there is a God, Paddy?”

“I’m an Irishman and a Catholic, and I belave there is a God.”

“How many gods do you believe there are?” said the humorist.

“That,” said the man in front of me, seriously, “I do not know how to answer, the way you ask it. And if its tryin’ to jest you are, about God, you’ll get no jest out of me.”

“I’m not jesting,” said the young man.


“Then I’ll try to tell you what I mane. I don’t know whether God lives in heaven all alone by himself, or whether he has a lot of deputy gods with him. I see reason to believe that the universe is governed by fixed laws, same as the United States is governed, and there must reasonably be one Supreme God at the head of it all, just as every government must have a head. Now, whether God does all the work of ruling the universe, or whether he had it divided into sections, as we divide our territory into states, and has deputy gods to govern them, as we have governors, I don’t know; and no man knows or ever will know.”

The Irishman was talking in the smooth, sustained voice of the man who knows how to talk, and the seats within hearing distance had filled up. He was, because of liquor, a trifle uncertain with his hands, but his tongue and mind were working all right. He would talk a good while without betraying his nationality, but every now and then a word would slip out with the broadest Hibernian accent. The young men in front of him had dropped their attempt to guy him and were listening respectfully, as were all within hearing of his voice, for it was evident that a man of more than ordinary intellectual attainments and more than ordinary conversational ability had the floor; and the fact that he belonged to the class in life that he did gave added interest. The attention he was attracting didn’t embarrass him at all. He put his back toward the window, so as to face his audience.

“I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head; “I don’t know. We run into that ‘I don’t know’ everywhere. We can’t go half a dozen steps in any direction without runnin’ our head agin it. And that’s God. Take as common a thing as that cigar you’re smoking,” he said to the young man who had started to guy him. “I can ask you four 33 questions about it, and you’ll have to say ‘I don’t know’ to the last one.”

The young man made no answer, and the Irishman went on.

“Now for question No. 1: What’s it made of?”

“Tobacco,” said the young man.

“Is it? Well, I dunno. You have been led to believe so, no doubt, but it smells like tarred rope. No matter though, we’ll say it’s tobacco. Now for question No. 2: Who made the tobacco?”

“Nobody made it,” said the young man. “It grew out of the earth.”

“Now for question No. 3: Who made the earth?”


“Now for question No. 4: “Who made God?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s what I thought. You don’t know. No more do I; no more does any man. You don’t know much, young man, and I don’t know much, and none of us don’t know much.”

Here the Irishman, a smallish man he was, leaned his beard against the window and began to doze again. The man who always wants to know all about it was there, sitting on the arm of the Irishman’s seat.

“What business are you in?” he asked.

The Irishman sat up again, and pushed his cap back so he could see.

“Business, is it?” he said. “Business? Well I’m a hod carrier, so are you and so we all are. Every man is carrying his little hod of bricks.”

He stopped for a little while and reflected.

“No boys,” he said, “for sure I’m an electrician, and that’s the noblest business a man can foll’y. Sure ’tis out of the domain of matter altogether. Matter is that 34 which you can perceive by the sinses, which you can see or feel, but who ever saw or felt electricity? You may see the effects of it, just as you may see or feel the power of God, but electricity is the greatest mystery I iver came across.

“Take the two poles of a magnet, like this,” holding up two of his dirty fingers, “and there is something draws them together. What is it? I dunno. A lot of weeny childer, with their hands clasped, maybe. I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

“What do you think of the labor question?” asked the man who wants to know.

“Now, boys, give me something aisy. I have thought of the labor question a great dale, bein’ a laborin’ man myself, and it’s a hard question.”

“When men were savages,” he said, “the strong man, physically, was king. He took his war club and made slaves of all within reach or cracked their heads for them. All that’s changed now. I’m a little whiffet of a man, but no man, if he is as big as a giant, dares to hit me or abuse me or dictate to me. Civilization protects the weak man, physically, from the strong man, physically, and that’s right. But, boys, I tell you one thing civilization doesn’t do. It doesn’t protect the weak man, mentally, from the strong man mentally. The man with a strong mind rides in his carriage and his family wastes the sustenance of the world in riotous livin’, maybe. The weak man, mentally, grubs and digs all his life and his family suffers from cold and hunger. The strong prey on the weak, just as they always have. Whether it will ever be changed, I dunno. We’re up against God agin.”

“What do you think of the single tax?” asked the man in the faded clothes.

“The single tax, is it? Now, may the devil fly away with the single tax. There’s nothin’ to it. Suppose I 35 come to this country from Ireland and suppose I bring my wife and a couple of childer. We land in New York, say, and go along the strate, me lookin’ for work, and I come up to a man and ask him what I can find to be doin’. And while I’m talkin’ the wife and childer standby. They don’t know what I’m talkin’ to the man about, maybe, but they know daddy will take care of them. Then I get a job of work, maybe, at a dollar a day, and we save and pinch. Directly we get out in the country, maybe, and get a bit of land. And we all work there and put our hearts into it and directly we have a snug little place of our own; and I’m a proud and happy man that I can spit on my own floor. And here comes a man with a lot of talk about equal rights to the soil and wants that land, every foot of which puts a crick in m back and added a wrinkle to the old woman’s face. Shall he have it? Not while Paddy Conlan has the strength to pull a trigger. And there’s too many men like that. The single tax won’t work and it oughtn’t to work.”

The train was slowing up for a station.

“Well, boys,” said the Irishman, “I get off here. Got a sister livin’ here,” and he picked up his valise.

“But you are not really an electrician?” said the man who wants to know.

“Sure I am. I’ve just been down to Newport News to help put the electricity into the battleship Kentucky. That’s the worst battle ship I iver saw, and that means it’s the best, and I’ve seen them all. Good-bye, boys.”

After he had gone out we looked at one another blankly for a while.

“I don’t care what he says,” said the young man who had started to guy him, “that fellow is no mechanic. He’s a lawyer or a college professor in disguise.”

“No, he’s not,” said the jolly looking traveling man. “He’s just what he says he is. You run across fellows 36 like that sometimes. He’s got a screw loose somewhere, though. Shouldn’t wonder if he’s an inventor. He was a little full, but he don’t look like a chronic boozer.”

“He is wrong about the single tax, though,” said the man in the faded clothes, and when he started to tell why, the crowd quietly dispersed.

As for myself, I had finished my cigar and as the jolly looking traveling man showed no inclination to loosen up any further, I went back to my valise.




Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a boy sitiing in a tufted chair, with shorts on and a shirt with a large bow at his neck.It is not that I wish to discourage you nor tear you from the ways of virtue in which you were reared and in which you are now living; but when I think of how little true goodness is appreciated in this world I feel at times like going out and rearing around like everything. People don’t approve of goodness. I remember when I was a little boy how hard I tried to be good and win the praise of all. I was respectful to those older than I and obeyed my teachers and those in authority. When bad boys would whisper to me in school I would not answer, and if they persisted I would tell the teacher on them. The teacher was kind to me, but I do not believe she cared for me 37 as she should, considering that I always did all I could to help and please her. Many a time when the older scholars were bad and disobedient she wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been for me. She would let me walk home with her sometimes, and when she didn’t want me she would let me out a few minutes before the other boys to give me that much start. And I needed it.

Even at that early age it was borne in on me that it didn’t hardly pay to be so all-fired good. The boys used to clod me home every night.

And when I got older, at the age when a male human being would rather have the girls make goo-goo eyes at him than to occupy a front seat in heaven, I found my goodness a handicap. I stood in with the mothers all right. The said their girls were safe with me — that there wasn’t any harm in me — but the fool girls preferred young men who had many bad habits, and it was the girls I yearned for.

That reminds me of the story of Aristides.

Aristides was an ancient Greek whose goodness and uprightness were so notorious that he was called “Aristides the Just.” Finally he got into trouble with Themistocles, who was not nearly so saintly, and the little republic of Athens became too small to hold both of them. It was decided that the people should take a vote which should be banished.

While the balloting was going on Aristides mingled with the voters. He saw a voter making out his ballot in favor of banishing Aristides and asked him:

“Do you know this man Aristides?”

“No,” said the voter.

“Then why do you vote to banish him?”

“Because,” said the voter, “I am so tired of hearing him called ‘Aristides the Just.’ ”


The vote to banish Aristides was nearly unanimous.

I do not know whether it is envy or ignorance or what, but the good man is rarely popular, and I get so lonesome and disgusted at times that I have a notion to take a chew of tobacco or do something desperate.

You can see from the above that I am more or less depressed. It is only that my soul gets sick within me at times with doubt as to whether or not I am pursuing the proper course.

I have always held to my heart the belief that all I needed to do was to go along quietly and unassumingly, doing all the good I could, and that some day people would awake to a realization of what a good man I am and elect me to some office or other. But I am getting along toward forty, very well along, indeed, and I am still undiscovered. What if I am making a mistake? What if I should go on and on and never be appreciated? It would make me mighty mad, I tell you.

Everybody seeks success in his own way. Some hustle and push and shove themselves in. If there is a meeting anywhere they will manage to be conspicuous. If they can’t get to make a speech they will get a job of introducing the speakers, or will carry a flag or do something to keep in the public eye. I’ve even known them to show off at a funeral. It always makes me mad to see such a man. I believe in waiting modestly until you are asked to do such things.

But if you wait and wait and nobody asks you, what are you going to do about it? I bet I have prepared a hundred speeches in my time expecting to be called on, and then been disappointed. But I’m getting tired of it and have about made up my mind to just shove right in.

Other men let on to be quiet and unassuming, same as I am, but are hypocrites and nothing more. It looks 39 as though people would see through them, but they do not. I knew a man once, a neighbor of mine, who let on to be mighty industrious. He had a little field down on the road that he just saved to plow in on the Fourth of July, or circus day, or some time like that. Just as sure as such a day came he would be out in that field by daylight plowing and singing, to let people know he was at work. Ordinarily he was as lazy as sin, and I never had an idea but that the people understood his miserable subterfuge until they took him up and elected him constable right over my head. After I had let it be known, too, in a quiet way, that, while I was not an office seeker, I would feel it my duty to serve my fellow citizens in any office, constable preferred.

What can I believe after such an experience as that? I was sore about it all summer, and several times I had a notion to come out boldly and say that I wanted an office and didn’t care who knew it.

I know, though, even as I write this, that I will end by going on in my quiet way, feeling certain the lightning will strike me some time.

I always feel this way in the fall. When I sit here, with the shadows of a long, cold winter closing around me, with potatoes $1.50 a bushel and coal $7.00 a ton, I ask myself: “Am I to live through this winter? and if so, how?”



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a boy standing withh his hands in his pockets.  His pants have suspenders and and the legs are tucked into his boots.In a little town out in Indiana I saw a boy standing on the platform who looked like Posey. So much like him, that I had a strong impulse to raise the window and call: “Hello, Posey!” He had the same ruddy, good-humored face, the same stocky, sturdy build, the same porcelain-colored eyes. He wore a cap like Posey used to wear, and wore his pantaloons tucked into his boot-tops. The living image of Posey, but, of course, I remembered it couldn’t be Posey. That was the way Posey looked when I saw him last, and that was twenty years ago, when I was just a chunk of a schoolboy.

Posey was a boy who had been raised in the backwoods of Indiana and who took a notion to complete the education he had begun in the country school by a course at a high school in a small Indiana city. I don’t know that Posey was from Posey county, but it was from that county he derived his name. At first the boys called him “Hooppole Township,” but that was too long, and it couldn’t be abbreviated to “Hooppole,” for the name 41 didn’t fit broad-shouldered, deep-chested Posey at all. Then they called him “Posey County” and finally “Posey,” and the name stuck.

These various names were at first applied in derision, as indicating Posey’s greenness and jakeyness, but the name “Posey” became, in time, a title of esteem and deep respect. It was Posey this, and Posey that; Posey captain of the ball club, and Posey president of the literary society. It was Posey, the favorite of everyone at the school, from the principal to the pretty girls. He turned that derisive name into a crown of glory, and at this day I don’t know what his real name was. All I remember is “Posey.” I believe the teachers used a name something like Alfred or Albert, when they wished to be dignified or when we had company, but the name was so seldom used that it made no impression on my memory.

Dear old Posey! I wonder what became of him. It seemed to my young fancy that he was a hero. Judged in the light of twenty years’ added experience, I suppose he was just a strong, healthy, courageous lad, with a keen sense of right and wrong and a disposition to take up the fight of anyone who was getting the worst of it. And how the boy would fight! It didn’t matter how big the other fellow was. If Posey thought the case warranted his interference, off came his old coat in a jiffy.

I well remember the first day he attended the high school. He came in the gate with his old cap stuck on the back of his head, his hands in his pockets and his pantaloons stuck in his boot-tops. He had patches on his knees, wore a hickory shirt, and altogether was the opposite of a dude. He was as clean as a pin, however, and his face was rosy with health and broad with good humor.


Seeing the stranger coming up the walk, a crowd of boys gathered at the steps and blocked his passage. Posey stopped and grinned.

“Hullo, Hayseed,” said someone, with boyish rudeness, “what do you want here?”

“Nothing much,” said Posey, quite easily, “only I am going to school.”

“Gentlemen,” said the spokesman, “allow me to introduce to you your fellow student, Mr. Hayseed from Hooppole township, Posey county.”

This was greeted with derisive laughter, but Posey only grinned. Thus encouraged, the spokesman continued:

“Now, see here, Hooppole Township, we don’t object very seriously to your coming to school, but you must take your pants out of your boots.”

“That’s right!” yelled the crowd. Posey still stood with his hands in his pockets, grinning good humoredly.

“Are you going to do it?”

“No,” said Posey, taking his hands out of his pockets.

“Then I’ll have to make you.”

“You ain’t big enough.”

Biff! and Posey got it in the ear. Biff! again, and the other boy had it on the nose, and at it they went.

The other boy was about Posey’s size and game to the backbone, and it was a hard fight, a desperate hard fight, and Posey made his advent into the schoolroom with a black eye, a swollen nose and a bruised ear; but the other boy was so badly damaged that he considered himself unfit for school and went home.

It took two weeks of hard fighting for Posey to earn the right to wear his pants in his boots, but he earned it and wore them so until the end of the term. He got the worst of it sometimes, but he never was whipped. 43 If he was he didn’t know it, and that’s the same thing as not being whipped.

Of course, it was only a question of a short time until such a boy was king of the school, and there was never a king more beloved by his subjects. I never knew him to attempt anything mean or unjust, nor to hesitate the fraction of a second to fight anyone who did.

Posey had one accomplishment that I never knew anybody else to possess. He knew how to wear a patch. All the trousers that I ever saw him wear at school had patches on the knees, and the secret of his success in wearing them in such a manner that they really seemed an ornament, I attribute to the fact that he forgot all about them. There was no bravado nor defiance; none of the “I’m just as good as you, anyhow,” spirit. Posey just forgot all about the patches, and so did everybody else.

It used to be the practice to have essays and declamations on Friday afternoons, and I remember Posey’s first attempt. After the regular program had been finished the teacher called for volunteers, and Posey responded. He walked down the aisle as bold as a lion and mounted the platform, hickory shirt, patched knees, trousers in boots, and all. His boldness actually took everybody’s breath, but Posey was as composed as you please, and I can attribute his bearing to nothing else except that he didn’t realize that there was anything the matter with him. He declaimed “Horatius at the Bridge” with all the energy of a Kansas cyclone, and won a round of applause and a word of commendation from the principal.

Posey only attended the high school one term. What became of him, I don’t know, but I’ll bet that wherever he is people are not walking on his neck nor on the necks of others if he can help it. May his tribe increase.



Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a man, sitting on a seat, with one leg bent and his foot resting on the edge of the seat.  He is in a suit and waering a hat, and his eyes are closed.The band is playing “Only One Girl,” and a friend of my youth is leading. The whole crowd joins in the chorus, with Murphy singing a beautiful, high, clear tenor. I never heard such a voice as that before, and probably never will again. And there is music and light and laugher.

Then I am making a speech and an earnest-faced man with a pair of spectacles on says:

“Gentlemen, please don’t throw anything at the speaker. He will be through in a minute.”

*               *                *

Everything swims before me in a pink mist, and a harsh, disagreeable voice says:

“I call you. What you got?” And I run over my hand and find to my consternation I have nothing but a bob-tailed flush.


“Come on here! I know where I’m going,” and I’m out in a dark street with a lot of people, whose faces are familiar, but whose names I cannot remember, and we are hunting for some place which we cannot find. And we walk and walk until my feet are so tired, oh! so tired!

“I’m not going to wander around here any longer,” says somebody (I’d give a dollar if I could remember his name). “I’m going back to my hotel if I can find it. You couldn’t find anything.”

“Just a minute,” says a voice persuasively. “Just around this next corner.”

We go around the next corner and two or three more corners until my feet become so tired I take off my shoes and carry them under my arm.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” says someone. “I can go no further,” and he leans against a livery stable and goes to sleep.

Whitman offers me a piece of turnip. A cock crows somewhere, another answers him and a milk wagon goes clattering by.

*               *                *

“It’s no use talking,” says a hoarse voice, “we’ll have to drench him.”

I start to go to sleep again, but somebody punches me in the ribs. I sit up in bed and find a couple of coarse-looking men gazing at me.

“What do you want, gentlemen?” I ask.

“I believe,” says one man to the other, without paying any attention to my remark, “that a pint of castor oil is the proper thing.”

“That or soft soap,” says the other man.

“Gentlemen,” I say, “I ask again, who are you?”

“What doe he say?” says one man.

“He wants to know who we are,” says the other.


“Well, says one man, “we are a couple of horse doctors that your friends sent to prescribe for you.”

“What’s the matter with me?” I ask.

“We haven’t made up our minds yet,” says the other man, “whether it is the botts or wind colic!”

He punches me in the side again and it hurts so that I lie back in bed and close my eyes.

“Here, wake up!” says somebody.

I open my eyes and a man in a blue coat and cap is standing beside me.

“Are you the horse doctor?” I ask.

“No,” he says, “I’m the conductor and want your ticket.”

*               *                *

You see I had gone to sleep on the train from Memphis to Chicago, and had been dreaming of the Memphis meeting. Those who have attended association meetings and banquets will understand.

Pen and ink sketch by Percy E. Anderson, of a small round table, with a bottle of bourbon, shoes, a vase, two glases and a book on it.

Gold monogram with Cornfield Philosophy written inside a wreath on a marine blue background.

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