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


We were then but a short distance from Fostoria, to which place we drove, arriving there at noon with seventy-five cents and the chicken, which we sold for twenty-five cents. When we received the cash for it, a rather seedy-looking individual stepped up and asked us if we couldn’t give him money enough to buy his dinner, as he had had nothing to eat for several days. We figured that as we had a dollar we could afford to give the fellow twenty-five cents, and have the same amount left for dinner for each of us, including the old horse. When we handed the tramp his quarter, I remarked:

“We will divide equally with you, which is the best we can do.”

He thanked us, and passed out of the store, when a very sorry-looking individual with a deacon-fied appearance who stood by said:

“Young man, I think you make a mistake by giving such characters money. How do you know what he will do with it? He may spend it for liquor, and may hoard it up; there is no telling what he will do with it. I believe in charity, but I believe prayers are better than money for such people.”

“Well, if you believe in prayers you believe in God?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then, sir, you must admit that God keeps the books; and if the tramp is an impostor this little transaction will be recorded against him, and in our favor especially if His system of book-keeping is double entry.”

The old gentleman laughed and said he didn’t know but I was right, and that he would give the matter a little extra thought. We then left the store and immediately satisfied ourselves that the old gentleman was right, in this particular instance, for we saw the tramp across the street going into a saloon and followed him, reaching there just in time to hear him order a glass of beer. I stepped up to him and said: “Are you hungry?”

“No, sir, I am not; but I am thirsty.”

“Well, sir, you’ve got to eat anyhow; we gave you twenty-five cents a few moments ago to eat with, and, dang you, you have got to eat, and eat twenty-five cents’ worth, too, or be kicked out of town. Which do you prefer?”

He thought he’d rather eat.

I took him by the neck and marched him forthwith to a restaurant, and demanded of him that he order twenty-five cents’ worth and eat every mouthful of it, and assured him of our intention of returning a few minutes later to see that he followed our instructions.

In about twenty minutes we passed by the restaurant and saw him sitting at a table facing the door eating with as much energy and vigor as a harvest hand. We turned back, and dropping in, explained the facts to the restaurant-keeper, who informed us that he had ordered twenty-five cents’ worth. He soon finished the meal and came to the cashier to settle. I asked if he had eaten everything brought him. He said not everything, but all he wanted.

“Then, sir,” said I, “you march back there and finish eating everything, to the very last morsel.”

He obeyed, but with an effort, as was plainly seen, for eating seemed to be out of his line. But we felt satisfied. At any rate we didn’t feel that we had been absolutely swindled out of our money; so, after giving the fellow a good sound lecturing, we let him go.

Doctor Frank and I kept together several weeks, and, although we worked like troopers, were unable to lay up any money.

Finally he received a letter from an acquaintance in Northern Michigan, wanting him to come there and engage in business with him. Stocked with a valise full of polish, he bade me good-bye and started.

I continued on as usual until one night I stopped with a farmer who had sold his farm and advertised an auction sale of his live stock and farming utensils to take place the following day. I was anxious to remain and hear his auctioneer, (who, he said, was a good one,) and concluded to do so.

About ten o’clock the next forenoon a large crowd had gathered, and a few moments later the auctioneer, in company with three other men, arrived on the scene, all so intoxicated as to be scarcely able to sit in their wagons.

The farmer was very indignant, and came to me and asked if I had an idea I could sell off his property. I had spoken of my experience in that line the night before, and now told him I thought I could do as well as a drunken man, any how. In answer to his question of salary I told him I never worked on salary, but sold on commission. He said the other fellow had agreed to make the sale for ten dollars, and asked what commission I would want. I told him I had always received from ten to twenty per cent. on merchandise, but as he had horses and cattle which would run into money fast, and was going to sell on a year’s time, I would charge him five per cent., to be paid in cash when the sale was over. He agreed, and I laid off my coat and went to work.

I saw at once from his actions that he was satisfied, and after the sale had progressed a while he said:

“Young man, you were a God-send to me this day sure,” and added: “The Lord will provide.”

“Yes, either that or the devil takes care of his own,” I answered.

“How so?”

“Well, while the Lord has taken care of you in furnishing you an auctioneer, I have been favored considerably myself, for Heaven knows I needed the job, and, as I feel I am one of the devil’s kind, I guess I’ll have to give him the preference.”

He said: “We’ll decide that matter after the sale.”

Every thing went on smoothly, and, as the sale was large it took till late in the evening before the last article was sold. The next morning we footed up the sales, and, to the farmer’s utter astonishment, it amounted to over eleven hundred dollars. After reflecting a while he said:

“Why, hang it all, we figured in the first place that we had about a thousand dollars’ worth, but I never thought of that yesterday morning when I offered you five per cent. Why, great guns, young man, are you going to charge me fifty-five dollars?”

“Of course I am, and I think I’ve earned it.”

“What! Earned fifty-five dollars in one day? Gracious Peter! I can hire good men on my farm for seventeen dollars per month.”

“Yes, but I didn’t see any of them around yesterday who were handy enough to do your auctioneering.”

He became quite excited, and declared he wouldn’t pay me more than fifteen dollars. I argued with him till about ten o’clock, when several men had come to take away their purchases and settle for them. After I had resorted to all sorts of methods and arguments to make him pay me, I said:

“Well, sir, I am going to spoil all the sales made to these men.”

He anxiously inquired how I intended to do it.

“Well, I don’t suppose it has occurred to you that I am not a licensed auctioneer, and under the laws of the State you have no right to deliver or give a bill of sale for goods sold by an auctioneer not licensed.”

His eyes fairly popped out of his head, and turning to his wife with much excitement, said:

“Mary, give him fifty-five dollars, and let him go.”

After receiving the money, I said:

“I suppose you would be silly enough to believe me if I should tell you you ought to have a license to eat when you are hungry.”

As his boy had hitched up my old horse, I took my departure at once; and driving to the nearest town, sent the money to a wholesale notion house and ordered a stock of auction goods, which was promptly sent.

I began business, working my way back north with a view to striking into Michigan in time for the County Fairs.

During the whole time I had been skirmishing around with my old horse, after closing out my stock at Bodkins, I had clung to the old trunk and my street lamps.

The second day after receiving my goods, while driving along, wondering what would happen next, I noticed a farmer coming from his house to the barn, and after looking down the road at me a moment, climbed up on the board fence and sat there apparently waiting my coming. As I drove up, he yelled:

“Halloo, stranger whatcher got to swap?”

“I’ll swap anything I’ve got. What have you to trade?”

“Well, sir, I’ve got as handsome a little brown mare as you ever saw. She is too small to work on a farm, and as you’ve got a big bony cuss there that would make a good plow hoss, I’ll give you a big trade.”

“Bring ’er out; let’s see ’er.”

“Here, boy, lead that little brown mare out and let the gentleman see her.”

As the boy led her from the stable she came out with her ears laying back and her short tail switching; and I said to myself, “here will be a job breaking a kicker and balker.”

“How will you trade?” I asked, not leaving my seat in the wagon, but simply looking through and over the fence at her.

Without leaving his seat on the fence, the man said:

“I’ll trade for five dollars to boot.”

“I’ll trade even.”

“No, sir,” he said, “I’m expecting threshers to-morrow, and have got to have some money to buy meat and groceries with.”

“Well, then, I’ll give you two dollars and fifty cents, and no more.”

“All right; it’s a trade. The boy will change them for you.”

The lad then led the mare around, and after unhitching the old horse, changed the harness, and after hitching the mare to the wagon I handed him the amount agreed upon, and started on.

I expected to have a little “circus” with her, but to my surprise and delight she started off on a full trot. The sensation was certainly invigorating, as it was the first time I had ridden faster than a walk in all summer.

The idea of our making the trade without either of us leaving our seats, or asking a single question, rather amused me, and seemed like trading “sight unseen.”

I felt that two dollars and-a-half was all I had to risk, anyhow, and if he could afford to be reckless just because he was out of meat, I could afford to take equal chances with him.

This, I think, so far as real value was concerned, was the best horse trade I ever made; the animal was not only sound and kind, but an extra good roadster and a good-looking beast.

The next day when I drove into Plymouth, Ohio, to my surprise I met Doctor Frank. He had concluded to stop there and sell polish for a few days before going to Michigan, and in the meantime write up there and learn more about his friend’s offer.

I shall never forget his looks as he came walking up to the wagon just as I was lighting my lamps to open a sale. He had been attracted by the lights and the gathering crowd, and when he saw the new horse and discovered me with a stock of goods, he could hardly believe his own eyes.

I took time to explain how I had made a raise, and about the horse-trade.

He was as much pleased as I was, and started out with me again the next day. We kept our course towards Michigan, and while in Ohio visited several towns in which we had previously sold polish, and where we now made auction sales. In a few days he again left me. I staid in Ohio several weeks, then went into Michigan, meeting with good success and making money quite fast.