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


I hardly complied with my mother’s five o’clock order. When I did arise I sought Mr. Keefer, to whom I told the story of my misfortunes. He listened attentively and said he could easily see that it was bad luck, and he believed I would yet be successful. I explained to him that if he would lend me fifteen dollars, I could engage in buying sheep pelts, which could neither drown, suffocate nor break.

He complied with my request, and I started out that morning with only my own horse hitched to a light wagon.

Rollin, having finished his visit, left for home the same day.

I bought several pelts during the day, and sold them to a dealer before returning home, making a profit of three dollars.

This was the first success I had met with during my three weeks’ experience, and was certainly very encouraging. I continued in the business until cold weather, when I had cleared one hundred dollars.

I then began looking about for a chance to invest what I had made, as the weather was too cold to continue traveling in the country.

I was not long in finding an opportunity to invest with an old school mate in a restaurant.

It took about sixty days to learn that the business would not support two persons. As he was unable to buy me out, I made him an offer of my horse for his share, I to assume all liabilities of the firm, which amounted to about one hundred dollars.

He accepted my proposition. I sold the remainder of my flock of sheep, and paid the debts. I kept on with the business, meeting with splendid success in selling cigars and confectionery and feeding any number of my acquaintances, for which I received promises to pay, and which up to the present writing have never been collected.

When spring came, my liabilities were two hundred and fifty dollars, and no stock in trade. My available assets were a lot of marred and broken furniture which I peddled out in pieces, receiving in cash about one hundred dollars which I applied on my debts.

I called on Mr. Keefer with a full explanation of “just how it all happened,” and he said he could see how it occurred, and without hesitation endorsed a note with me to raise the balance of my indebtedness.

Now I began looking for something else to engage in.

It was the wrong time of year for buying sheep pelts. My funds exhausted and in debt besides, I felt anxious to strike something very soon.

My mother still insisted that I should learn a trade or get steady employment somewhere. I told her there was nothing in it. She claimed there was a living in it, which I admitted, but declared if I kept “hustling” I would accomplish that much anyhow.

She gave me to distinctly understand that Mr. Keefer would sign no more notes nor loan me a dollar in money thereafter. Mr. Keefer held a note of fifty dollars against a man, not yet due, which he handed to me that same morning, saying if I could use it I could have it.

A young in our village had just patented an invention for closing gates and doors. He offered me the right for the State of Illinois for this note, which I readily accepted.

In a few days I traded my right in this patent for six counties in Michigan and Indiana in a patent pruning shears, an old buck sheep, a knitting machine, an old dulcimer, a shot-gun and a watch.

I traded all of the truck except the watch, for an old gray mare. Then commenced a business of trading horses and watches.

In this I was quite successful during the summer and fall. I had paid my board and clothed myself comfortably, and was the owner of a horse which I had refused a large sum for, besides an elegant watch which I valued highly.

My mother said it was a regular starved-to-death business.

Mr. Keefer said he knew I would make it win.