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


I stopped at Bronson, where my wife and boy were visiting her people and in a couple of days we all started for Elmore, where we arrived bag and baggage without a cent.

My wife said she couldn’t see why I should want her to accompany me when I was meeting with such poor success. I explained that it would possibly come very handy to have her Saratoga trunk along occasionally to help satisfy the landlords of our responsibility.

“O, I see you want to sort of pawn us, occasionally for hotel bills, don’t you?”

“Well, yes,” I answered, “it might be convenient to do so should we get cornered.”

She said she didn’t think she cared to be detained for hotel bills.

“Well, you wouldn’t see a fellow starve would you?”

“No,” she replied, “but if ever we are pawned I want you to try and redeem us as soon as possible.”

We took quarters at one of the best hotels, and the next day after our arrival a young man came there selling ornamental stove-pipe hole covers made of plaster of paris.

I made his acquaintance at once and learned that he was from Battle Creek, Mich., where his father resided and owned a good property.

I asked his reason for engaging in that business. He said his father suggested it so that he would gain experience.

“Oh, I see, you are looking for experience.”

“Yes, that’s what I want.”

“Well sir,” I said, “you are in a poor business to get experience. You ought to get into the business I am in if you want experience.”

“What is your business?” he asked. I then introduced my model and explained its merits.

He said he would like Calhoun County, Mich., and asked the price. I looked the map over and set the price at one hundred and fifty dollars. He said he would like it, but hadn’t money enough.

I asked how much he had.

After counting what he had he said eight dollars was all he could spare.

“Well, I will take the eight dollars and your note for one hundred and forty-two dollars, payable three months after date.”

He agreed, and I made out the papers, receiving the cash and note.

This amount of money, though small, came just in the nick of time, because of the Saratoga-trunk scheme not proving a success. In less than one hour after I had made the deal, the landlord asked me to pay in advance. I immediately flew into a rage and demanded him to make out my bill for what we had had and receipt it in full, which he did, and I paid it with a flourish and with the air of a millionaire!

There was another hotel just across the street, and when our landlord happened to step out in front of his house and I noticed the landlord of the opposite house also standing outside of his door I at once took advantage of the situation and began to abuse my landlord at a terrible rate for his impertinence and cussed meanness and gave him to distinctly understand that he would lose boarders by the means.

I then called on the other landlord and explained how his competitor had shown his narrow ideas of running a hotel and how quickly he secured his pay after demanding it and then asked if he could give us accommodations. He said he could, and we moved at once.

The new proprietor proved to be our kind of a landlord. The next day Frank, who had stopped off at Toledo, came on and joined us.

We left my family there and went over to Fremont, where by accident we met Mr. Keefer and my mother.

They asked how we were progressing.

I explained everything and “just how it all happened.”

My mother said she thought we had done splendidly. Mr. Keefer said: “It did beat the dl.”

I then called him one side and began negotiations for a hundred-dollar loan.

He explained that he was absolutely hard up, but would be glad to help me if he could.

I then reminded him that his signature at the bank would be all that was needed.

“Well,” said he, “I believe you will come out all right some day, and I guess I’ll sign with you if you think you can meet it.”

We stepped into the bank and procured the money.

The next day Frank and I went over to Findlay where we met a man selling a patent washing machine. We there succeeded in effecting a trade in our patent, and also found a customer for a large sale on the washing machine, for which the agent paid us liberally.

The two trades netted us thirteen hundred dollars in cash and a fine horse, harness and carriage.

We then drove over to Elmore, where I had left my wife and boy. After leaving her money enough to convince her that she would not be pawned that week we started the next day eastward, stopping at Fremont for supper about six o’clock.

We had traded the State of Illinois in our patent to a gentleman in the lightning-rod business, and that night while walking up street we noticed a large crowd of men standing on the corner talking.

We stepped across the street to see what the excitement was.

On looking over the shoulders of the men we saw our customer, the lightning-rod man, standing there holding his pitchfork in one hand and valise in the other. We were about to crowd in when we heard him say:

“Well, if I can find them I shall have them arrested and replevin the horse.”

Frank and I then held a short consultation. Our first idea was to go to him and ascertain what he meant by saying he would arrest us. We felt certain we had violated no law, or at least had no intention of doing so. But after reconsidering the matter we concluded that he was simply a “squealer,” and as we had made a square, fair trade with him we decided to let him find us instead of our looking for him.

Our experience of a few days before with the writ of replevin had been a very good lesson. We didn’t consider it worth while to deliberately turn our stock over to “squealers,” when they were taking so much pains to hunt us up, and especially when we stopped to realize that in dealing with a lightning-rod man it was simply a case of “diamond cut diamond.” We therefore started East that evening, arriving at Cleveland a few days later.

On reading the late daily papers which we always made a practice of doing, we found several long articles about two men visiting Findlay with a patent right and how they had taken a handsome horse and carriage and several thousand dollars in cash for which they gave worthless deeds.

We also read a full description of ourselves and the horse and buggy and that a liberal reward would be paid for our capture and return to Findlay.

We were at a loss to understand the meaning of all this, and called on one of the best lawyers in Cleveland and paid him ten dollars to examine our Power of Attorney.

He pronounced it perfect, and said we had complied with the law in having it recorded, in our method of deeding, and in every other respect; and said that the patentee was powerless to annul the Power of Attorney, except by giving me thirty days’ notice.

We then concluded to give them a good chase, before giving up the horse and carriage; for though they had spent considerable money in trying to capture us, we realized that the horse and buggy were all we had to look out for, so far as concerned any loss.

We stopped at a first-class hotel, and enjoyed life hugely.

While there, we met an acquaintance who had been speculating in wheat, and had made a lot of money in a very short time.

He assured us that if we would let him invest a portion of our cash the same as he was intending to invest his own, we would leave Cleveland with a barrel of money. Of course we hadn’t thought of scooping it in by the barrel, and the idea rather caught us.

Neither Frank nor myself had the slightest conception of the method of speculating in that way. And to this day, I am still as ignorant as then regarding it, and have no desire to learn it.

Well, we let our friend invest five hundred dollars, and in less than three days he called on us for three hundred more, saying he must have it to tide us over. Two days later he announced to us the crushing fact that all was lost! His cash as well as ours.

He then began urging us to try it once more. Anxious to get back what we had lost, we needed but little persuasion; and in less than one week found ourselves about cleaned out. We had speculated all we cared to; and after settling up with the landlord, started west again with the horse and buggy, to continue our patent-right business.

Wherever we stopped, we imagined every time we saw a person approaching us, that it was an officer with papers for our arrest, or a writ of replevin for the horse and carriage. We cared more for the writ than we did for the arrest, as we had by this time posted ourselves as to the trouble and annoyance it would cause us to allow them to get possession of the rig. Besides, it had already become a question whether we would out-general them or they us.

We realized that their reasons, whatever they were, for demanding our arrest, were groundless. So our only desire was to sell the whole outfit at a good figure.

It would have paid us better in every way to have turned it over to the men we had traded with, and to have come to an understanding with them; but we were too anxious to win, in the race we had begun.

We had a great scare and narrow escape, at a small inland town where we stopped just at dusk, intending to remain over night.

While sitting in front of the hotel, about nine o’clock that evening, several gentlemen scrutinized us very sharply as they passed by. Among them happened to be an old friend whom we had known at Clyde. He asked what we had been doing that the authorities had a right to arrest us, adding that two men were at that very moment looking up an officer for that purpose.

We gave immediate orders for our horse to be hitched up, and hastily informed our friend of the facts. He said there must be some reason for the Findlay authorities wanting us, as they had offered a reward of a hundred dollars for us, and twenty-five for the horse and buggy.

We started west at a rapid gait.

It was a beautiful moonlight night, and we had not traveled far till we saw coming after us two men on horseback, riding rapidly. We drove but a few rods farther when we came to a steep hill, at the bottom of which was a cross-road extending in both directions through the woods, and a large bridge crossing a river just west of the road-crossing. We drove down the embankment and under the bridge into the river, and there awaited the coming of the two men. They stopped on the bridge, and there held a consultation We heard one of them say:

“I wonder which way the devils went, anyhow?”

“Well,” the other remarked, “they are traveling west, and it’s quite likely they have crossed the bridge.”

Just as they were about to start again our horse pawed in the water, and at once attracted their attention.

One of them stopped, and said; “Wait a minute. I heard a noise under the bridge.”

At this they both stopped, and, as we supposed, were about to make an investigation, when I dropped the reins, and raising my hands to my mouth, made a noise like the bellowing of a “critter.” One of them said:

“Oh, come on. It’s nothing but a old cow!”

They then started across the bridge, greatly to our relief and satisfaction.

After a few moments’ delay we returned to the cross-roads, and started south, traveling but a short distance when we again turned west.

We now began to realize that they were making it quite lively for us, and decided to sell the whole rig at any price.

We drove to within about a mile of Norwalk, when I alighted and walked into the town for the purpose of finding a buyer.

Frank drove to a small inland town eight miles south of Norwalk, where I agreed to meet him the next day.

The following morning I met a middle-aged gentleman on the streets, and asked him if there were any horse-buyers in town. He asked what kind of horses I had for sale. I told him I only had one, and gave a description of the animal.

He said he was buying horses, and would drive out with me and see if we could deal.

He hitched up a pair of horses, and taking another gentleman with us, started south. Upon arriving at our destination, we found Frank quartered at a nice country hotel.

The two men looked our whole outfit over, scrutinizing it very closely, and showed no signs of wanting to buy, and did not even ask our price.

I then said:

“Gentlemen, we will sell you this whole rig cheap, if you wish it.”

Finally, after I had repeated several times that I would sell it dirt-cheap, the old gentleman ventured to ask what I considered cheap?

“Well, sir,” said I, “you can have the whole outfit for twelve hundred dollars.”

“Great Heavens!” he exclaimed. “Do you call that cheap?”

“Well,” I answered, “you needn’t buy unless you want to.”

They then drove off, when I said:

“Frank, those men have had a full description of us and our rig, and we’d better skip.”

Frank said he had a trade about worked up with the landlord’s father, who lived three miles from there. He wanted to trade a fine horse for our carriage, and thought it best to take our chances of staying to close it up.

After dinner the landlord accompanied us to his father’s farm. We had to travel one mile west and two north. On our way there, and about a half mile from town, we had a conversation with a young farmer acquaintance of the landlord, who said if we didn’t make a deal as we expected, he would give us a trade of some kind on our way back. On reaching the farm we found a handsome four-year-old colt unbroken, but as we could see, a valuable animal.

We traded our carriage for it and a cheap saddle and bridle. When we came to look the carriage over we found an iron brace broken, and the bargain was, that we were to take it back to town and pay for getting it repaired, and then leave it in care of the landlord.

We started back, the landlord and myself walking and leading the colt, while Frank drove our horse and buggy.

When we reached the young farmer’s place above-mentioned, he came out to the gate; and after we were several rods past the house, called to the landlord, who went back.

I noticed that the farmer talked in a very loud tone till the landlord got close to him, when he then spoke very low.

Just then Frank came driving up, when I said:

“There’s something in the wind. I’ll bet that farmer has talked with some one since we went up there, who has told him about the patent-right deal.”

I then explained the actions of the farmer. Frank said it did look a little suspicious, but thought it might possibly be a mistake. As a matter of caution Frank drove on to the hotel, where he unhitched the horse, and prepared to start on horseback as soon as we arrived with the colt, which I was to ride.

As soon as the landlord returned to where I was, he showed considerable anxiety and nervousness, which convinced me more than ever that I was correct in my surmises.

He talked but little, on our way to the hotel. When we arrived there his wife came out and had a private talk with him, I then said:

“Well, landlord, we will allow you one dollar for the carriage repairs and you can have it done yourself.”

At that I reached out for the halter-strap, to take possession of the colt.

“Well, see here,” said he, excitedly, “there is something wrong. Two men have been here looking for you.”

“Where are they?” I asked.

“Well,” said he, “they have no doubt gone one mile too far west, in trying to get to my father’s farm, and have missed us.”

I stepped to the middle of the road, and looking west, saw in the distance a team with two men coming. I called for Frank to hitch up again, at once, fully realizing the uselessness of trying to take the colt and leave the buggy, and that there was no time to argue or explain matters to the satisfaction of the landlord.

When I had paid our hotel bill, and gotten the valise containing our shirts (which we clung to with a bull-dog tenacity, owing to our late shirtless experience) I hurried to the barn, where I found Frank had the horse between the shafts, and we hitched him up in a space of time that would have done credit to an expert Fire-engine Company.

Only one side of the shafts was supported by the harness, and we did not stop to fasten the hold-back straps, nor to put the lines through the terret, nor tie the hitching strap. But the instant the traces were fastened and the lines were in the buggy, we jumped in, and none too soon, either, for just as we turned our horse in the road the two men came driving around the corner. We started south, with our horse on a dead run and under the whip, followed by them with their horses under full speed, and also under the whip.

The race was indeed exciting, on a Macadamized road as smooth and hard as a floor. I drove, using the whip freely, while Frank stood up in the carriage, facing the men, swinging his hat and yelling like a wild Indian. They kept up the chase for about four miles, we making a turn at every cross-road, first west then south, and kept it up till we saw they were slacking their gait, when we also gave our horse a rest.

We then proceeded west, driving till very late that night, and arriving at the house of a farmer acquaintance of mine, five miles from Clyde, about midnight. I called him up and explained matters. He said we should put the horse in the barn, and stay with him two or three days, till we saw how things were.

We told him that his neighbors would very soon learn that he had a horse and carriage there, and would necessarily have to have an explanation as to the ownership.

We then suggested putting the whole rig, horse and all, into the cellar, which we did; and then remained there three days, eating spring chickens and new potatoes. We paid our friend’s wife three dollars per day for keeping us and our horse, besides fifty cents apiece for young chickens which were about one-third grown. This was twenty-five cents more than she could have gotten for them had she kept them till they were full grown. Yet she worried a great deal about killing off her young chickens. Every time she cooked one for us she would declare that she didn’t believe it paid, and she wouldn’t kill any more till they grew to full size.

We undertook to argue her out of the idea, by showing how many bushels of corn each chicken would eat before fall, and the low price it would bring at that time.

She said: “It didn’t make any difference. Common sense taught her that a chicken wasn’t worth as much when it was one-third grown as when full grown, and she didn’t care to sell us any more.”