Read CHAPTER II of Twenty Years of Hus'ling , free online book, by J. P. Johnston, on


I then began attending school at Clyde, Ohio, boarding at home and walking the distance three miles during the early fall and late spring, and boarding in town at my uncle’s expense during the cold weather.

At the age of sixteen I felt that my school education was sufficient to carry me through life and my thoughts were at once turned to business.

My mother frequently counseled with me and suggested the learning of a trade, or book-keeping, or that I take a position as clerk in some mercantile establishment, all of which I stubbornly rebelled against.

She then insisted that I should settle my mind on some one thing, which I was unable to do.

My greatest desire was to become a dealer in live stock, which necessitated large capital and years of practical experience for assured success.

This desire no doubt had grown upon me through having been frequently employed by an old friend of the family, Lucius Smith, who was in that business.

He was one of the most profane men in the country, as well as one of the most honorable, and so very deaf as to be obliged to have some one constantly with him to do the hearing for him.

He became so accustomed to conversing with me as to enable him to understand almost every thing I said by the motion of my lips. For these services he paid me one dollar per day and expenses. I used to amuse myself a great deal at his expense and misfortune. He owned and drove an old black mare with the “string-halt” and so high-spirited that the least urging would set her going like a whirlwind.

Whenever we came to a rough piece of road I would sit back in my seat and cluck and urge her on in an undertone, when she would lay her ears back and dash ahead at lightning speed.

Mr. Smith unable to hear me or to understand the reason for this, would hang on to the reins as she dashed ahead, and say: “See ’er go! See ’er go! The old fool, see ’er go! Did you ever see such a crazy old fool as she is? See ’er go! See ’er go! Every time she comes to a rough piece of road she lights out as if the dl was after her. See ’er go! The crazy old fool. See ’er go!”

It was alone laughable to see the old mare travel at a high rate of speed on account of lifting her hind feet so very high in consequence of her “string-halt” affliction.

As soon as the rough road was passed over I would quit urging her, and she would quiet down to her usual gait.

Then Lute, with a look of disgust, would declare that he would trade the crazy old fool off the very first chance he had “if he had to take a goat even up for her.”

One day we drove up to a farmer who was working in the garden, and Lute inquired at the top of his voice if he had any sheep to sell.

The man said he did not, and never had owned a sheep in his life. I waited until Mr. Smith looked at me for the man’s answer when I said:

“Yes, he has some for sale.”

Then a conversation about as follows ensued:

Smith -- “Are they wethers or ewes?”

Farmer -- “I told you I had none for sale.”

Interpreter -- In undertone, “Wethers.”

Smith -- “Are they fat?”

Farmer -- “Fat nothing. I tell you I have no sheep.”

Interpreter -- “Very fleshy.”

Smith -- “About how much will they weigh?”

Farmer -- “Oh, go on about your business.”

Interpreter -- “Six hundred pounds each.”

Smith -- “Great Heavens! Do you claim to own a flock of sheep that average that weight?”

Interpreter -- “He says that’s what he claims.”

Smith -- “Where are they? I would like to see just one sheep of that weight.”

Farmer -- Disgusted and fighting mad “O, you are too gosh darn smart for this country.”

Interpreter -- “He says you had better not call him a liar.”

Smith -- “Who in thunder called you a liar?”

Farmer -- “Well, you had better not call me a liar, either.”

Interpreter -- “He says you can’t beat him out of any sheep.”

Smith -- “Who wants to beat you out of your sheep, you chump? I can pay for all I buy.”

Farmer looking silly -- “Well that’s all right. When did you get out of the asylum?”

Interpreter -- “He says he wouldn’t think so judging from your horse and buggy.”

Smith -- “Well, I’ll bet five hundred dollars you haven’t a horse on your cussed old farm that can trot with her.”

Farmer -- “Who said anything about a horse, you lunatic?”

Interpreter -- “He says if you have so much money you’d better pay your debts.”

Smith -- “You uncultivated denizen of this God-forsaken country, I want you to distinctly understand I do pay my debts and I dare say that is more than you do.”

Farmer -- “Well, you are absolutely the crankiest old fool I ever saw.”

Interpreter -- “He says you don’t bear that reputation.”

Smith -- “The dickens I don’t. I don’t owe you nor any other man a cent that I can’t pay in five seconds.”

Farmer to his wife -- “Great Heavens! What do you suppose ails that ’ere man?”

Interpreter -- “He says he knows you, and you can’t swindle him.”

Smith (driving off) -- “I think you are a crazy old liar anyhow, and I’ll bet you never owned a sheep in your life.”

The reader will be able to form a better idea of the ridiculousness of this controversy as it sounded to me, by simply reading the conversation between Smith and the farmer, omitting what I had to say.

The need of capital would of course have prevented me from going into the live stock business, and the very thought of my being compelled to work for and under some one else in learning a trade or business, was enough to destroy all pleasure or satisfaction in doing business. This caused my mother much anxiety, as it was a question what course I would pursue.