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


One day as I was passing the house of a neighboring farmer he came out and hailed me.

“How’s business?” he asked.

“O, first-class,” I answered.

“Don’t you want to trade your horse and watch for a very fine gold watch?” he asked, confidentially.

“Why, I don’t know.”

“Well,” he remarked, “I have owned such a watch for three years, and have no use for one of so much value. A cheaper one will do me just as well, and I am ready to give you a good trade.”

I entered the house with him, and he said: “Wife, bring me that gold watch from the other room.”

“All right,” she said, and brought the watch and handed it to me, saying as she did so, “I have been in constant fear for three years of having that watch stolen from us, and I hope my husband will trade it off, and relieve me of so much anxiety.”

I took it, examined it and discovered a small rusty spot in the inside of one of the cases. I called their attention to it and said, “I don’t really like the looks of that spot.”

“Well, sir,” said he, “if you don’t like the looks of that rusty spot, just leave it right where it is. But if you like it well enough to give me your horse and watch and chain for it, all right. If not, there will be no harm done.”

His independence caught me, I traded at once.

I walked back home with much pride, and showed my new watch to the folks.

My mother looked at it suspiciously and said, in rather a sneering tone, “Why, it looks like a cheap brass watch, and I believe it is.”

“O, I think that watch is all right,” said Mr. Keefer, in an assuring manner, “and I believe he has made a good trade. We’ll hitch up the team and go down to Geo. Ramsey (the jeweler) and see what he has to say about it.”

So we started off and handed the watch to Mr. Ramsey. He looked it over carefully and said:

“Well, Perry, it is so badly out of repair that it would not pay you to have it fixed.”

“What would be the expense?”

“About five dollars.”

“After being put in good order what would it be worth?” I confidently asked again.

“Well, Mr. Close, the auctioneer down street, has been selling them for three dollars and a half apiece.”

I put the watch in my pocket, and thanking him, left the store, and explained to Mr. Keefer “just how it all happened.”

He said he thought “it was enough to fool any one.”

I then borrowed fifteen dollars of him, to “sort of bridge me over,” until I could get on my feet again.

I kept quiet about my trade. In fact, I had nothing to say. I simply told two or three of my acquaintances who I thought might help me out.

A few days after this a gentleman from Kentucky made his appearance on the streets with a patent rat trap.

One of the men to whom I had shown the watch, happened to be talking to him as I passed by, and remarked:

“That red-headed fellow owns a watch which he traded a horse and nice watch for a few days ago, and I believe you can trade him territory in your patent for it.”

“I’ll give you ten dollars if you will help me put it through,” said the rat trap man.

“All right, I’ll help you,” said my friend.

It was not long before I was found and induced to look at the rat trap.

I was immensely pleased with it, and felt certain I could sell a rat trap to every farmer in the country, if I had the right to do so.

“What is the price of Sandusky County?”

“One hundred dollars.”

“Well, I guess the price is reasonable enough,” I said, “but I haven’t got the money.”

“What have you got to ’swap’?”

“I don’t think I have anything,” I answered.

“Haven’t you got a horse, town lot or watch? I am in need of a good watch and I would give some one an extra good trade for one.”

I replied: “I have a watch, but I don’t care to trade it off.”

“Let me see it,” said he. After looking it over, he said:

“It suits me first-rate. How will you trade?”

“I’ll trade for one hundred dollars and Sandusky County.”

“No,” he said, “I’ll give you fifty dollars in cash, and the County.”

“I won’t take that,” I said, “but I’ll tell you what I will do. I’ll take seventy-five dollars.”

“I’ll split the difference with you.”

“All right, make out the papers.”

He did so, and handed me over sixty-two dollars and fifty cents and the patent, (which I still own), for my watch.

An hour afterwards I met the Kentuckian who excitedly informed me that the watch was not gold. I frankly admitted that I knew it was not, and that I didn’t remember of ever saying it was. He had paid my friend five dollars of the ten he had promised, and his reason for not paying the balance was because he had been obliged to pay cash difference to make the trade.

He looked crest-fallen and discouraged and took the first train out of town, “a sadder and a wiser man.”

With my sixty odd dollars and a sample pair of pruning shears, I left for Michigan, to take orders, and if possible, to sell some portion or all of my six counties. In that invention I owned Branch, Hillsdale and Leneway Counties in Michigan, and Steuben, La Grange and St. Joseph in Indiana.

I arrived at Bronson, Michigan, from which point I started out taking orders. My success was immense, but I was somewhat handicapped for the reason that none of the farmers wanted the shears delivered to them before the coming spring.

At last I found a customer for the Michigan counties, and traded them for a handsome bay horse which I bought a saddle for, and rode through to Ohio. On arriving home I explained my success in taking orders.

My mother said I was a goose for not staying there and working up a nice business, instead of fooling away the territory for a horse.

Mr. Keefer said he would rather have the horse than all the territory in the United States.

I traded the horse to one of our neighbors for a flock of sheep and sold them for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. I then started for La Grange, Indiana, to dispose of my other three counties. I took several orders on the following Saturday, as many farmers were in town that day.

The next Monday I received word from one of the wealthiest men of the town that he would buy some territory in my patent if satisfactory terms could be made. I called upon him and we were not long in striking a bargain.

He agreed to give his note payable in one year for three hundred dollars, for my three counties.

We made out the papers, and as he was about to sign the note he demanded that I write on the face of it the following: “This note was given for a patent right.” I refused at first, but when informed it was according to law I complied.

When I called upon a money loaner he laughed and said he wouldn’t give me one dollar for such a note, as he wouldn’t care to buy a lawsuit. He said when the note came due it would be easier for the maker of it to prove the worthlessness of the patent than it would for him to prove it was valuable.

I saw the point, and realized that I had been duped.

I made preparations to leave for home on the morning train. During the night I conceived an idea which I thought if properly manipulated would bring me out victorious.

The next morning I called on my customer at his office, and in the presence of his clerks said:

“Mr. , I have been thinking over my affairs, and find I will be very much in need of money six months from now, and if you will draw up a new note, making it come due at that time, I will throw off twenty-five dollars, and give you back this note.”

He agreed, and after I drew up the note for two hundred and seventy-five dollars I handed it to him to sign, and then stepped back out of reasonable reach of him, when he looked up and said:

“Well, here, you want to add that clause.”

“That’s all right,” said I, “go on and sign it. It can be added just as well afterwards.”

He did so and I picked it up, folded it and put it into my pocket, as I passed the old note to him.

“But you must add that clause,” he remarked.

“O, no,” said I, “I guess I must not. This last note was not given for a patent right. It was given for the old note, the same as if you had discounted it.”

Then he saw the point, and I had the pleasure of receiving two hundred and sixty-five dollars cash from him for his paper. With this I started for home, highly elated with my success.