From now on John, a lad of eleven, is beginning more and more to want
to do things, to experiment, to find out about the myriad forms of
life near at hand, and to learn what is going on beyond the hills
that enclose his little world Still, with all his life of activity
and enforced usefulness' he remains a dreamer and a saunterer, and,
though reaching out in imagination to the cities and towns where the
circus goes, he finds endless content in the woods and streams and
hillsides on his father's farm. He finds his own thoughts and
speculations a never-failing source of interest. The world within is
a powerful rival to the world without, and the world of the minute
engages him, as well as the world of larger things. A schoolmate of
his who sometimes comes back to spend her summers at Roxbury, says
she remembers him as a little boy sitting by himself, for long
periods, in the school-yard, engrossed in watching the ants in their colonies.
His life during that early period seems to have been a happy
combination of dreaming and doing.
Ambrotypes were old-fashioned pictures made on glass. John's mother
had some on the centre table in the "other room." You had
to hold them just right or they looked like plain glass. The word
itself means "an immortal impression."
This is what he has to tell of his own way of making ambrotypes:
I seem to have had the faculty when very young of stamping things on
my mind. I remember once when Uncle John and Aunt Abby had been to
visit us, as they were driving away I said to myself, "There
they go! Look at them! You may never see them again." And it was
the last time. It is engraved there as in adamant.
I remember when a boy of twelve, perhaps, stamping Mother on my mind
in the same way: she used to come upstairs and tuck Abigail and Jane
and Evaline in bed, then come across to us boys and tuck us in.
One night I remember lying there and, on hearing her go to the girls'
room, I said to myself, "Now look at your mother she's going to
come out with the candle and stand in the door there -- look at her!
and remember her when you get old!" I can see her to-day
standing there as plainly as I saw her then.
There have been other conscious efforts to stamp things on my mind so
that they have never faded -- I see them as distinctly as I saw them
when a boy.
THE BIG ROCK IN THE PASTURE
There is a big rock in a hillside pasture over at the east end of the
Burroughs farm, near the part of it which for about a hundred years
has been called "the Rundle place" (now Woodchuck Lodge),
on which as a boy John often sat and dreamed. It is a huge drift
boulder of red sandstone dropped there by a glacier tens of thousands
of years ago, or "before Adam was a kitten," as the
grown-up boy sometimes says.
The everlasting rock, its sheltering iron-wood tree, a perennial
spring a few yards away, the wooded hill above, and the great
panorama of valley and mountains spread out to view, combined to make
a haunt dearly loved by the boy. It is dearer still to the man who
climbs there now, who fondly calls it "my boyhood rock,"
and who a's the afternoon wanes loves to sit there and watch the
shadow of Old Clump thrown on the broad mountain slope across the
"Here I climbed at sundown when a boy to rest from work and
play, and to listen to the vesper sparrow sing, and here I hope to
rest when my work and play are overwhen the sun goes down-here by my
He used to go there in the spring and listen to the call of the
highhole or flicker as it came up from the beechwoods, and in summer
to hear the bobolinks as they soared and sang over the high mountain
meadows. Sometimes he roamed the meadows in search of their nests,
sometimes he found one, though it is the hardest nest in the world to
find, so completely is it a part of the meadow bottom in colour and
in material. If he did find one, he went there day after day to watch
the eggs, and then the young.
Sometimes he loafed for long hours on the rock, speculating with
half-closed eyes, as to what the world was made of. Observing the
tiny, irregular, drifting forms that floated before his eyeballs, he
concluded that those are the stuff of which the world is made. And
with all his philosophizing in later years, he says he has not
arrived at a much more satisfactory explanation.
In June he often wandered far afield, returning home at dinner time
with a lining of wild strawberries in his hat. When he ate those
berries in a bowl of bread and milk he was as happy as a king-or as
kings were in the days when kings were in fashion. In his trips
through the woods he sometimes found a few of the scarce
wood-berriess -- mall pointed, dark-red and shiny.
In August from his rocky throne on the hillside he watched the
high-sailing hawks, delighting in their majestic movements. Often he
saw one being attacked by a kingbird which would harry it spitefully
until the hawk, wheeling, would mount and mount, and the kingbird,
losing its reckoning, would abandon the pursuit.
From the same high vantage-ground, before he was old enough to take a
hand himself, he looked leisurely down upon the haymakers in the hill meadows.
Some mornings from the big rock he watched the great lake of fog that
often settled in the valley. After a while it would begin to stir
restlessly in its bed, like a spirit surprised by the rising sun. It
ran to and fro, it climbed the hills, it reached helpless arms toward
the sky, then cowered again in its bed; but finally some unseen power
would lift it and spirit it away, and all the valley would be flooded
with sunlight, with only a soft fleecy cloud or two left sailing over
the mountain tops.
On sunny June mornings, John would stop near the foot of the pasture
where the foundation stones of an old house lay in tumbled piles, and
gather from some clustered bushes a large, fragrant, deep-pink rose
which he would wear all day in the brim of his torn straw hat.
A favourite resting-place for the lad in his journeys to and from the
cow pasture was the Giant Stairs. They were two huge boulders which
Time has cut away so as to leave mammoth steps of stone. They still
afford a tarrying place by the roadside for the contemplative man.
As Old Cuff usually did the biggest part of the cow driving, John got
in the way of trusting a good deal to him while he investigated the
flying grasshoppers that in late summer gathered on those rocky
stairs during the night. Stealing up there he would catch them before
they got warmed up in the morning. Curious creatures! Why do the
females hover in the air, poised on wing, with shuffling sound? John
did not have the patience of a Fabre, or he would have found out, but
he never tired of watching them as they worked their curved abdomens
into the ground and deposited their eggs there.
A WELL-BUILT DAM
John wanted a swimming-hole, and as there was none nearer than
Stratton Falls, which was too far off, he decided to make one in the
pond in the valley below the house. None of his brothers cared about
it, so wouldn't lend a hand, but he set at it alone and worked,
mostly Sundays, rain or shine, till he had a wall as high as his
head, water-tight, built of stone and sod. It was no easy job. He had
to carry the chunks of sod a long way in his arms, and the stones,
many of which were as big as he could lug. With the farm dogs at his
heels, he worked there for weeks, carrying, in all, a good many wagon
loads of sod and stone. He was often a sorry sight on coming home
from work, for he had to stand in water up to his waist while
building the dam.
But it paid, though he usually had to have his fun alone, since his
brothers seemed always to have an antipathy for water. Sometimes the
Scudder boys from a distant farm came over and went in with him.
Sometimes in the sweltering days of midsummer, when haying, he jumped
in with his clothes on. It is seventy-two years or more since he
built that dam, but much of the old wall is still standing, though
the pond in the pasture is long since gone dry. "I builded
better than I knew," he said one day as we tarried there at the
site of the old swimming-hole.
AN UNWILLING VOYAGER
One summer John's ambition for a big kite soared higher than ever
before, and he made one three feet long, with a tail of rags, and a
half mile or more of string.
Such an airship, he decided, must have a passenger. So catching a
meadow-mouse and placing it on the back of the kite, he tied it by
one of its legs and launched it into the blue.
What a hop-off for the timid creature who hardly dares show itself
above ground five minutes at a time for fear a hawk will pounce upon
it! And now-to be suddenly sent up into the very region where those
cruel creatures soar! It was surely a case of going to meet danger
more than half way.
What a mouse's eye-view it must have had of its sinuous runways in
He kept tight hold of the long string while the mouse soared aloft,
and then, carefully superintending the landing of the monoplane,
released the Lilliputian aviator, whose eyes were shining, and tiny
heart beating, more wildly than ever.
DARTS AND CROSS-GUNS
Besides kites, the boys fashioned things they called
"darts," which they threw with the hand at a mark. These
were made from pieces of broom handle, about six inches long, with a
sharp wire in one end, and a bunch of henquills in the other.
They got the wire out of old tin pans or other discarded utensils,
and drove it in the handle a good ways, grinding it very sharp on the
grindstone. These could be thrown with force and directness for fifty
feet or more.
They also made what they called a kite (though it bore no resemblance
to the regulation kite), which they whittled out from a shingle. It
was really an arrow, and they shot It from a bow and string at random
in the air.
A much more complicated weapon was a crude crossgun which John made
when a small boy -- a rather dangerous thing for a lad to handle. He
had never seen or heard of one till he made this. It had a lock which
he figured out himself. The barrel was made of pine, and the lock of
ash, and he whittled out arrows for it. On dropping an arrow into the
barrel and releasing the trigger, the arrow would fly far afield. It
was fun to drive the arrows deeply into the trunks of trees. He
sometimes shot chipmunks with them, bowling over the little creatures
as they paused to reconnoitre on the top of a stone wall. It is hard
to realize that he could ever have shot this little friend of later
years, but the truth must be toldhe did it with his little cross-gun.
But boys grow wiser and kinder as they grow older, and learn what
good chums the chipmunks are if one makes friends with them instead
of shooting them.
At that time John made war on them with even a more formidable
weapon: A part of his duties when ten or twelve years old (and he did
not shirk the duty) was to hunt these little marauders of the
cornfield. His father would load the old flintlock musket for him
(before he was big enough to do it for himself) with small gravel
stones or hard peas, and send him forth to shoot the chipmunks round
the corn. Earlier in the season, in March, when the woodpeckers began
to drum, John knew it was time for the chipmunk to poke his nose
above ground, and for a time would not molest him. He delighted in
watching the clean, pert little fellow as he stood on the top of a
stone wall, eyeing him, with hands beseechingly spread on breast. Let
John move ever so little, Stripe-Coat would dart in the wall, or into
his hole with a flirt that seemed to the lad as though he slammed the
door behind him. The Clever Beasties seemed never more than one jump
from home, yet with the old flintlock the boy often severely wounded
the little creatures, at a range of six or seven yards, as they
peeped at him over the walls.
One day when he was sitting in the bar-way of the horse-lot up by the
"sap-bush," watching for chipmunks, a troop of weasels
tried to cross there. Of course he fired at them, just to thwart
them. He disabled one, but another from the troop, seizing the
wounded one, carried it over, and the pack disappeared in the wall.
Even a bloodthirsty animal like the weasel, then, has some fellow
feeling; as there is honour among thieves, so is there esprit de
corps among weasels, and yet this is not always the case: A farmer
John knew told him of once coming upon two weasels contesting so
earnestly over a mouse that he was able to grab them each by the back
of the neck and cage them. The next day, and for two days thereafter,
when he offered them food they refused it; but some days later, on
going to the cage, he was amazed to find the food still there, and
only one weasel, while the bones of the other, picked clean, were
lying on the bottom of the cage!
DOWN IN THE BARK-PEELING
The old bark-peeling was a large devastated place in the valley, in
the hemlocks, where the woodmen, after felling the great trees, left
them to rot, hauling the bark to the tanneries. It was a wasteful
practice which would not be allowed in our day with Boy Scouts to
spot such senseless waste.
John came upon all sorts of interesting things down there while
following the cow paths and the over-grown woodroads, climbing over
decayed logs, wading knee-deep through the ferns, and making his way
through briers and hazels.
Early in the season he would hear there the rapid copious strain of
the purple finch, and wait about till he could catch a glimpse of the
shy songster -- a brownish bird which, he says, looks as though it
had been dipped in diluted pokeberry juice and needed two or three
more dippings. In a secluded swampy corner in midsummer he found the
purple fringed orchids. The raspberries and blackberries were thick
down there, and in berry season there was little loitering; but there
were sometimes other things than berries in the bushes: In reaching
out his hand for berries, John sometimes put it into a bird's nest.
Trout lurked in the brook, squirrels scampered along the fences,
foxes left their footprints here and there, and 'coons came down to
feed and splash in the stream; turning the stones over with their
noses, they rooted like a pig, in search of food beneath the stones.
One midsummer day as John loitered in the bark-peelling he was
startled by a whirr, and spied a brood of partridges (ruffed grouse)
scattering in every direction. Hiding behind the ferns he listened
while the wild hen called together her brood. That soft, persuasive
cooing of the hen, then the faint, timid Yeap of the young! Now the
cooing grows louder, now it is a clucking call, and the chicks move
cautiously in her direction. But as the lad steals from his
hiding-place all sounds cease -- the wild bird and her brood elude
even the wary boy!
But the male partridge as it drummed on a mossy log did not always
elude him. Many a time when skulking under the hemlocks he caught the
drummer in the act. Standing erect on a decayed log, expanding its
ruff, and spreading its tail, the bird would give two introductory
blows, pause, then resume, striking faster and faster, till the sound
became a continuous whirr, lasting a half minute or more. The bird's
wings barely touch the log-the drumming sound is produced by the
force of the blows upon the air.
THE GRAVEYARD AND THE HAUNTED BARN
Even when in his early teens, an unwelcome companion named Fear used
to hover about John at nightfall. By day he would go over to Uncle
Henry's, marching up the hill and around the little old graveyard as
boldly as a soldier, but on his return at dusk Fear would suddenly
approach, nudge him, and remind him of the frightful tales Granther
Kelly used to tell. One story of Granther's which made his blood run
cold had a way of coming to mind just as he rounded the bend of the
road by the lonely graves: Once, in Granther's youth, when he was
going by a cemetery one pitch-dark night, all alone, with no sound to
be heard but the hoot of an owl in the nearby woods, he suddenly saw
a light rising above a low headstone. It moved swiftly. It came his
way, rolling and tumbling as it came, and all of a sudden whirled by
him in the road. It was a big ball of fire-" monstrous big, as
big as a wash-tub! -- some Evil Spirit that could not rest in its
grave! " This gruesome recital, told as only Granther could tell
it, and emphasized with his "Zounds!" and
"Zuckers!" seemed to John to have happened in that very
locality. How he tiptoed around the bend of the road lest a gang of
ghosts dog his heels! but when he got down the road a ways how he did
cut and run!
Darkness always held such shapeless, nameless terrors for him! To go
alone along the edge of the beechwoods at nightfall was a frightful
experience, though he preferred roaming the woods alone by day, or
with only Cuff, the yellow, bob-tailed mastiff, or Spot, the hound,
for companion. And how he dreaded cleaning the stables in the big
barn on the hill, even in the day-time, because of that great black
He envied the happy, fearless eave-swallows, diving in and out of the
barn, chattering and squeaking as they built beneath the eaves. They
could dart out and off in a jiffy if they saw anything unpleasant in
there. Poor lad!
Peering timidly into that black abyss, fearful of what might be
lurking there, he would send Cuff in first to scare Pem out, before
he tackled the job. Once in there, he worked as Hercules worked at a
similar task, breathing freely only when again under the open sky
with the phantoms behind him, and the light of day enveloping him
THE RIDE TO CATSKILL
Put yourself back, if you can, to those days of John's boyhood, say
in 1848, when there were few railroads in the country, and none
nearer his home than fifty miles, no cheap post, no free press, no
telephones, the telegraph just beginning to be known, no phonographs,
no wireless, no trolleys, no bicycles, no automobiles, no aeroplanes,
no dirigibles, no electrical contrivances, no Movies!!! no
battleships, not even any ocean liners-just sailing vessels. In fact,
there were none of the thousand and one other things that boys are
interested in nowadays. Realizing the difference, perhaps you can
imagine how much a long ride in his father's farm wagon, through a
strange country to a town that seemed very big to him, would mean to
him at eleven years of age-how real an adventure it was.
Perhaps you think his boyhood must have been a tame affair, but it
was not. Life itself was one big Adventure to him; for that matter,
it is so still. He has never reached that dull time when he complains
that "there's nothing going on." The universe is going on;
there are a number of things, little and big, to claim his attention.
As boy and man he has always felt a lively interest in the Big Show.
That journey to Catskill was at the time the biggest thing that had
happened to him. It was a ride of fifty miles-the annual fall trip
which his father made to take a load of butter to the Catskill market.
He dreamed of that journey for weeks ahead. His elder brothers had
made the trip one by one, on previous years, and wonderful were the
tales they told of what they had seen. Now it was his turn. He was to
see the sights of the town of Catskill, the Hudson river, and a steamboatf
Such a state of excitement as he was in as the momentous day drew
near! Would his mother have his clothes ready? Would the weather be
too cold? Would the world come to an end before the hour of starting?
In fact, he was, as his brothers said, in a dreadful pucker those
last few days.
The day before starting he went up in the woods above his boyhood
rock where he so often idled and dreamed, but this time there was no
dreaming or dawdling. He had the old musket in his hand which his
father had loaded for him, and he had a definite errand: he was after
game to add to the provisions they were to carry on the journey.
Sitting on his haunches on the edge of the woods he watched and
waited, but had not waited long when he spied a partridge on a log,
her mottled plumage blending with the bark and weeds. "Quit,
quit, quit," she called. Resting his gun on a little bush about
two feet high, John was about to shoot when a twig broke, letting the
gun down in the leaves.
Don't hurry, little boy -- I'll wait," the bird seemed to say.
So getting his gun up again he shot. The bird fell off the log and
fluttered in the leaves just as a hen flops about when her head's cut off.
His first partridge!
Surprised at such good fortune, he took the partridge by the leg,
shouldered the musket, and started for home, almost walking on air.
In going past the beechwoods, hearing a great commotion among the
crows in the woods beyond, and guessing that there was something
unusual over there, he ran to see what it was. At his approach the
crows scattered. While he stood looking about for the cause of the
cawing, out of a stump close by came a great horned owl! The owl
looked at John, and John looked at the owl which turned and softly
flew to a tree where it sat and solemnly bent its blinking eyes upon
Bang! went the gun! Down fell the owl!
Triumphantly the young Nimrod marched home with his brace of birds,
but they only cooked one of them.
On these trips to Catskill the thrifty farmers took along their
victuals for the four days instead of squandering their money at the
inns, though they did have to expend a shilling for lodging, and
another shilling each for breakfast .
How the lad worked the night before starting to help load the heavy
firkins on the wagon!
They took a ton or more of butter-twenty firkins -- to Catskill every
trip, and usually made two trips in the fall, in the spring selling
their butter at Roxbury. The price they got for butter in those days
was sixteen to eighteen cents a pound for fall butter, and twenty
cents, as a rule, for spring butter.
The next morning before daylight the big box of food was stowed away
in the wagon, and oats for the horses. John put on the old family
overcoat which all the boys, in turn, had worn on this trip -- a coat
with a tremendous collar, made by the neighbourhood tailoress, from
the wool of their own Merino and South-Down sheep.
When all was in readiness, and his mother had reminded his father for
the last time of the purchases he was to make, they set out. There
was one purchase which, as we shall see, the boy was not likely to
let his father forget.
The wagon rattled over the frozen ground, and John, a happy, eager,
wide-awake boy, perched on the high spring-seat, took in the wonders
along the way.
They stayed at the tavern at Cairo over night in going, and at
Steele's tavern, near Ashland, on the return trip. Other farmers were
at Cairo, too. In the morning John overheard his father bragging to
them what a smart boy he was for his age. Soon after his father told
him to go to the barn and drive out the team. Anxious to justify the
praise he had heard of himself, he got nervous, bungled in driving
out, and struck the hub of the wheel against the door-jamb, to his
own and his father's mortification; so it was a crestfallen lad that
surrendered the lines to his father as they drove off. But as they
crossed the Catskill mountain and looked down into the great valley
of the Hudson, John forgot his troubles, carried away with the glory
and the wonder of that view!
Catskill was by far the biggest town he had ever seen. The noble
river itself was a revelation to him-to this boy who had been till
now shut in by the mountains! His imagination went cruising away to
the sea with the white sails, and the wheeling gulls that he beheld
for the first time. And yes, "By cracky! there's a steamboat!
and a train of cars, far away, across the river!" Life holds few
richer moments than this!
Awed by the strangeness of all that he saw, John stuck pretty close
to his father. But while standing on the street waiting for his
father to come out of a store, he was hailed by a drover passing with
"Hey, Bub! turn them cows up that street, will ye?
Now John was used to cows, so did it in a jiffy, glad of something
familiar in this strange scene. The drover gave him four copper
pennies for the job.
The altercation which his father had with Old Dowie, the butter
buyer, left a lasting impression on the boy's mind: As they were
unloading the butter, Dowie questioned the weight of a certain
firkin. (The weight of butter and firkin was marked on each firkin,
after which the firkin's weight was deducted.) A hot dispute arose
between Farmer Burroughs and Old Dowie over the suspected firkin, and
the farmer, angered at his honesty being questioned, shouted:
"We'll strip it off and weigh the butter!" And he did.
There stood the naked butter on the scales. John, looking anxiously
on, was greatly relieved when the scales showed that the butter
weighed what his father had claimed. Old Dowie grunted, and Farmer
Burroughs looked triumphant as they put the exonerated butter back in
After that there was the marketing to do -- a barrel of flour to get,
salt, tea, and other purchases, to carry back in the otherwise empty
wagon box. (They had no coffee in those days; the tea used was green tea.)
Driving down to Catskill Point, they bought several hundred herring
to be salted down at home. They also took back gypsum to use on the
fields. And there was clothing to purchase, calico and delaine for
Mother and the girls, boots for the older boys, and a new cap for
John, It was a wool cap trimmed with a band of musk-rat fur. With
what pride he wore it on the return trip!
It was dark on reaching home after the four eventful days. When they
reached the crest of the big hill and saw the lights in the windows,
the old place looked very good to John, experiencing his first home-coming.
The loud rattle of the wagon brought his mother and the girls and
boys to the door. Shouts of welcome greeted the cold and hungry
travellers. Hiram lighted the candle in the old tin lantern and
brought it out to the barn. While he and Curtis helped to unharness
and look after the horses, Eden and the girls carried in the purchases.
John sought his mother's side and showed her his furtrimmed cap. Soon
all were seated at the supper-table discussing the trip and the food
with lively dispatch.
THE BATTLE OF BEARSVILLE CREEK
In his twelfth year when John went with a drover to take his cattle
to Moresville (now Grand Gorge), ten miles from home, he had a real
adventure on the return trip:
After having been paid off, he strolled about the little village
eating his lunch of crackers and raisins, and taking in the novel sights.
Nearing the bridge over the creek and seeing some village boys
congregated there, he lingered to scrape acquaintance. Presently a
large group of children, little and big, collected on the bridge.
They stared at the strange boy. Who is he? Where does he come from?
What is he here for? their looks seemed to say. He felt vaguely
uncomfortable. There seemed an unfriendly feeling in the air.
Soon the larger boys edged nearer and challenged the newcomer to jump
with them. This was better; he felt easier already. Jumping, he
cleared their farthest mark. Emboldened by his success, he gave them
a sample of his stone-throwing. They threw stones, too, but he
excelled them all. This didn't set well, and John grew unmistakably
aware that the entire crowd was against him.
The little girls and boys began, half-playfully, halfspitefully,
throwing pebbles and lumps of earth at him. Soon they ran up and
switched his legs. Then they struck him tentatively with sticks. Then
the larger boys took a hand; finally the whole pack was arrayed
Keeping them at bay awhile with a stick, as he saw the feeling rising
higher and higher, he suddenly broke through their ranks and made for
home, the hostile pack at his heels, wildly throwing their sticks and stones.
Gradually the girls and the smaller boys dropped out of the race,
then some of the larger ones till, at the end of about fifty rods,
only two boys about John's size were hotly pursuing him, wrath and
determination in their faces.
On he ran as though ghosts and hobgoblins were at his heels. At
length, he outdistanced his pursuers, and they turned back,
permitting him, badly wounded, to continue his homeward journey in
peace-not a very famous victory, perhaps, for our hero, but surely
discretion was the better part of valor here.
A GLORIOUS FOURTH
The Fourth of July when John was fourteen years old was a memorable
one for him. He was granted three days off with Rube Scudder, a boy
about his age. He and Rube debated the question for days as to where
and how they should spend the time, finally deciding on a long hike
to Lexington, where Olly, John's married sister, lived.
John and Rube were fast friends. They had swimming matches sometimes,
and often roamed the woods together. Rube was always good company; he
could dance the "juba" as well as the men in the shows could.
John had a brand-new straw hat for the
occasion, and wore his new suit of Kentucky "Jane."
Of course the boys usually went barefoot in the summer. To save shoe
leather? Yes, but also because they liked it. Oh, that feel of the
earth to his bare feet as he ran up and down the red road for the
first time in the spring! but for this momentous outing he wore his
cowhide boots made by the cobbler in the village.
Rube stayed with John the night before. Starting out at sun-up, after
a hurried breakfast, the boys went down by Hardscrabble Creek,
crossed the flats and on up through Montgomery Hollow, through Wild
Cat Pass, down into Johnson's Hollow, and on to Lexington,
twenty-five miles away.
It took them all day to go. The rye bread and butter and maple-sugar
cookies which they carried in their pockets disappeared long before
they had gone half way, but they picked berries, ate spearmint,
regaled themselves with Adam's ale at many a delicious spring, and
were as happy as boys on a holiday usually are, and perhap bit
happier. They never had had three days off They were rich, too --
each boy had a sixpence in pocket with which to celebrate the Fourth!
In the mountain meadows bobolinks were singing their gayest, summer
being for them a perpetual Fourth of July. One of Rube's stunts was
to mimic the bobolinks. Pausing amid their berry-gathering, the boys
rested in the sunny meadows, while Rube called out:
Pe-teu, pe-teu, pe-timble, pe-timble, pe-timble! spiddleywitt,
spiddley-witt, spiddley-witt, witt, witt, witt, phee, phee, phee!
The next day the boys were up bright and early to see the wonders of
the town of Lexington, and hear the spread-eagle orator hold forth.
They stood in openmouthed wonder at his sweeping gestures and the
steady outpouring of his big words, especially delighted when he
talked dramatically about hanging some one as high as Haman; they
wondered how high that was, and where it was that Haman was hung, and
what they hung him for. John wondered if that was the hanging over
the Delhi that his father and Aunt Mary once went to see, when Aunt
Mary fainted away at the wrong time-just as the man was swinging off
1 He had heard the story many times, but was uncertain whether or not
the man's name was Haman.
They saw a real cannon fired at a mark on the side-hill half a mile
away -- a brass six-pounder, and searching out the spot, tried in
vain to dig the balls out of the ground into which they were lodged.
On the third day they reluctantly faced homeward.
A young fellow in a buggy overtook the pedestrians, giving them a
lift as far as Prattsville where, stopping at a tavern, he announced
that that was as far as he went, and that now it was their turn to
treat. Treat! their sixpences were spent two days ago! Confessing
that they had nothing to treat with, Rube and John slunk away in
humiliation, and trudged on home, their spirits a little dampened by
the encounter. But in the meadows, with the sun shining and the
bobolinks rollicking, and with all they had to talk over, they soon
forgot that passing cloud, so it was a glorious Fourth just the same!