My Boyhood
John Burroughs

Part 1 out of 3

Tonya Allen, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team







In the beginning, at least, Father wrote these sketches of his boyhood
and early farm life as a matter of self-defense: I had made a determined
attempt to write them and when I did this I was treading on what was to
him more or less sacred ground, for as he once said in a letter to me,
"You will be homesick; I know just how I felt when I left home forty-
three years ago. And I have been more or less homesick ever since. The
love of the old hills and of Father and Mother is deep in the very
foundations of my being." He had an intense love of his birthplace and
cherished every memory of his boyhood and of his family and of the old
farm high up on the side of Old Clump--"the mountain out of whose loins
I sprang"--so that when I tried to write of him he felt it was time he
took the matter in hand. The following pages are the result.



MY BOYHOOD By John Burroughs

MY FATHER By Julian Burroughs


Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more 'gainst Time or Fate,
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways,
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw
The brook that springs in yonder heights;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delights.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave comes to the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.




You ask me to give you some account of my life--how it was with me, and
now in my seventy-sixth year I find myself in the mood to do so. You
know enough about me to know that it will not be an exciting narrative
or of any great historical value. It is mainly the life of a country man
and a rather obscure man of letters, lived in eventful times indeed, but
largely lived apart from the men and events that have given character to
the last three quarters of a century. Like tens of thousands of others,
I have been a spectator of, rather than a participator in, the
activities--political, commercial, sociological, scientific--of the
times in which I have lived. My life, like your own, has been along the
by-paths rather than along the great public highways. I have known but
few great men and have played no part in any great public events--not
even in the Civil War which I lived through and in which my duty plainly
called me to take part. I am a man who recoils from noise and strife,
even from fair competition, and who likes to see his days "linked each
to each" by some quiet, congenial occupation.

The first seventeen years of my life were spent on the farm where I was
born (1837-1854); the next ten years I was a teacher in rural district
schools (1854-1864); then I was for ten years a government clerk in
Washington (1864-1873); then in the summer of 1873, while a national
bank examiner and bank receiver, I purchased the small fruit farm on the
Hudson where you were brought up and where I have since lived,
cultivating the land for marketable fruit and the fields and woods for
nature literature, as you well know. I have gotten out of my footpaths a
few times and traversed some of the great highways of travel--have been
twice to Europe, going only as far as Paris (1871 and 1882)--the first
time sent to London by the Government with three other men to convey
$50,000,000 of bonds to be refunded; the second time going with my
family on my own account. I was a member of the Harriman expedition to
Alaska in the summer of 1899, going as far as Plover Bay on the extreme
N. E. part of Siberia. I was the companion of President Roosevelt on a
trip to Yellowstone Park in the spring of 1903. In the winter and spring
of 1909 I went to California with two women friends and extended the
journey to the Hawaiian Islands, returning home in June. In 1911 I again
crossed the continent to California. I have camped and tramped in Maine
and in Canada, and have spent part of a winter in Bermuda and in
Jamaica. This is an outline of my travels. I have known but few great
men. I met Carlyle in the company of Moncure Conway in London in
November, 1871. I met Emerson three times--in 1863 at West Point; in
1871 in Baltimore and Washington, where I heard him lecture; and at the
Holmes birthday breakfast in Boston in 1879. I knew Walt Whitman
intimately from 1863 until his death in 1892. I have met Lowell and
Whittier, but not Longfellow or Bryant; I have seen Lincoln, Grant,
Sherman, Early, Sumner, Garfield, Cleveland, and other notable men of
those days. I heard Tyndall deliver his course of lectures on Light in
Washington in 1870 or '71, but missed seeing Huxley during his visit
here. I dined with the Rossettis in London in 1871, but was not
impressed by them nor they by me. I met Matthew Arnold in New York and
heard his lecture on Emerson. My books are, in a way, a record of my
life--that part of it that came to flower and fruit in my mind. You
could reconstruct my days pretty well from those volumes. A writer who
gleans his literary harvest in the fields and woods reaps mainly where
he has sown himself. He is a husbandman whose crop springs from the seed
of his own heart.

My life has been a fortunate one; I was born under a lucky star. It
seems as if both wind and tide had favoured me. I have suffered no great
losses, or defeats, or illness, or accidents, and have undergone no
great struggles or privations; I have had no grouch, I have not wanted
the earth. I am pessimistic by night, but by day I am a confirmed
optimist, and it is the days that have stamped my life. I have found
this planet a good corner of the universe to live in and I am not in a
hurry to exchange it for any other. I hope the joy of living may be as
keen with you, my dear boy, as it has been with me and that you may have
life on as easy terms as I have. With this foreword I will begin the
record in more detail.

I have spoken of my good luck. It began in my being born on a farm, of
parents in the prime of their days, and in humble circumstances. I deem
it good luck, too, that my birth fell in April, a month in which so many
other things find it good to begin life. Father probably tapped the
sugar bush about this time or a little earlier; the bluebird and the
robin and song sparrow may have arrived that very day. New calves were
bleating in the barn and young lambs under the shed. There were earth-
stained snow drifts on the hillside, and along the stone walls and
through the forests that covered the mountains the coat of snow showed
unbroken. The fields were generally bare and the frost was leaving the
ground. The stress of winter was over and the warmth of spring began to
be felt in the air. I had come into a household of five children, two
girls and three boys, the oldest ten years and the youngest two. One had
died in infancy, making me the seventh child. Mother was twenty-nine and
father thirty-five, a medium-sized, freckled, red-haired man, showing
very plainly the Celtic or Welsh strain in his blood, as did mother, who
was a Kelly and of Irish extraction on the paternal side. I had come
into a family of neither wealth nor poverty as those things were looked
upon in those days, but a family dedicated to hard work winter and
summer in paying for and improving a large farm, in a country of wide
open valleys and long, broad-backed hills and gentle flowing mountain
lines; very old geologically, but only one generation from the stump in
the history of the settlement. Indeed, the stumps lingered in many of
the fields late into my boyhood, and one of my tasks in the dry mid-
spring weather was to burn these stumps--an occupation I always enjoyed
because the adventure of it made play of the work. The climate was
severe in winter, the mercury often dropping to 30 deg. below, though we
then had no thermometer to measure it, and the summers, at an altitude
of two thousand feet, cool and salubrious. The soil was fairly good,
though encumbered with the laminated rock and stones of the Catskill
formation, which the old ice sheet had broken and shouldered and
transported about. About every five or six acres had loose stones and
rock enough to put a rock-bottomed wall around it and still leave enough
in and on the soil to worry the ploughman and the mower. All the farms
in that section reposing in the valleys and bending up and over the
broad-backed hills are checker-boards of stone walls, and the right-
angled fields, in their many colours of green and brown and yellow and
red, give a striking map-like appearance to the landscape. Good crops of
grain, such as rye, oats, buckwheat, and yellow corn, are grown, but
grass is the most natural product. It is a grazing country and the dairy
cow thrives there, and her products are the chief source of the incomes
of the farms.

I had come into a home where all the elements were sweet; the water and
the air as good as there is in the world, and where the conditions of
life were of a temper to discipline both mind and body. The settlers of
my part of the Catskills were largely from Connecticut and Long Island,
coming in after or near the close of the Revolution, and with a good
mixture of Scotch emigrants.

My great-grandfather, Ephraim Burroughs, came, with his family of eight
or ten children, from near Danbury, Conn., and settled in the town of
Stamford shortly after the Revolution. He died there in 1818. My
grandfather, Eden, came into the town of Roxbury, then a part of Ulster

I had come into a land flowing with milk, if not with honey. The maple
syrup may very well take the place of the honey. The sugar maple was the
dominant tree in the woods and the maple sugar the principal sweetening
used in the family. Maple, beech, and birch wood kept us warm in winter,
and pine and hemlock timber made from trees that grew in the deeper
valleys formed the roofs and the walls of the houses. The breath of kine
early mingled with my own breath. From my earliest memory the cow was
the chief factor on the farm and her products the main source of the
family income; around her revolved the haying and the harvesting. It was
for her that we toiled from early July until late August, gathering the
hay into the barns or into the stacks, mowing and raking it by hand.
That was the day of the scythe and the good mower, of the cradle and the
good cradler, of the pitchfork and the good pitcher. With the modern
agricultural machinery the same crops are gathered now with less than
half the outlay of human energy, but the type of farmer seems to have
deteriorated in about the same proportion. The third generation of
farmers in my native town are much like the third steeping of tea, or
the third crop of corn where no fertilizers have been used. The large,
picturesque, and original characters who improved the farms and paid for
them are about all gone, and their descendants have deserted the farms
or are distinctly of an inferior type. The farms keep more stock and
yield better crops, owing to the amount of imported grain consumed upon
them, but the families have dwindled or gone out entirely, and the
social and the neighbourhood spirit is not the same. No more huskings or
quiltings, or apple cuts, or raisings or "bees" of any sort. The
telephone and the rural free delivery have come and the automobile and
the daily newspaper. The roads are better, communication quicker, and
the houses and barns more showy, but the men and the women, and
especially the children, are not there. The towns and the cities are now
colouring and dominating the country which they have depleted of its
men, and the rural districts are becoming a faded replica of town life.

The farm work to which I was early called upon to lend a hand, as I have
said, revolved around the dairy cow. Her paths were in the fields and
woods, her sonorous voice was upon the hills, her fragrant breath was
upon every breeze. She was the centre of our industries. To keep her in
good condition, well pastured in summer and well housed and fed in
winter, and the whole dairy up to its highest point of efficiency--to
this end the farmer directed his efforts. It was an exacting occupation.
In summer the day began with the milking and ended with the milking; and
in winter it began with the foddering and ended with the foddering, and
the major part of the work between and during both seasons had for its
object, directly or indirectly, the well-being of the herd. Getting the
cows and turning away the cows in summer was usually the work of the
younger boys; turning them out of the stable and putting them back in
winter was usually the work of the older. The foddering them from the
stack in the field in winter also fell to the lot of the older members
of the family.

In milking we all took a hand when we had reached the age of about ten
years, Mother and my sisters usually doing their share. At first we
milked the cows in the road in front of the house, setting the pails of
milk on the stone work; later we milked them in a yard in the orchard
behind the house, and of late years the milking is done in the stable.
Mother said that when they first came upon the farm, as she sat milking
a cow in the road one evening, she saw a large black animal come out of
the woods out where the clover meadow now is, and cross the road and
disappear in the woods on the other side. Bears sometimes carried off
the farmers' hogs in those days, boldly invading the pens to do so. My
father kept about thirty cows of the Durham breed; now the dairy herds
are made up of Jerseys or Holsteins. Then the product that went to
market was butter, now it is milk. Then the butter was made on the farm
by the farmer's wife or the hired girl, now it is made in the creameries
by men. My mother made most of the butter for nearly forty years,
packing thousands of tubs and firkins of it in that time. The milk was
set in tin pans on a rack in the milk house for the cream to rise, and
as soon as the milk clabbered it was skimmed.

About three o'clock in the afternoon during the warm weather Mother
would begin skimming the milk, carrying it pan by pan to the big cream
pan, where with a quick movement of a case knife the cream was separated
from the sides of the pan, the pan tilted on the edge of the cream pan
and the heavy mantle of cream, in folds or flakes, slid off into the
receptacle and the thick milk emptied into pails to be carried to the
swill barrel for the hogs. I used to help Mother at times by handing her
the pans of milk from the rack and emptying the pails. Then came the
washing of the pans at the trough, at which I also often aided her by
standing the pans up to dry and sun on the big bench. Rows of drying tin
pans were always a noticeable feature about farmhouses in those days,
also the churning machine attached to the milk house and the sound of
the wheel, propelled by the "old churner"--either a big dog or a wether
sheep. Every summer morning by eight o'clock the old sheep or the old
dog was brought and tied to his task upon the big wheel. Sheep were
usually more unwilling churners than were the dogs. They rarely acquired
any sense of duty or obedience as a dog did. This endless walking and
getting nowhere very soon called forth vigorous protests. The churner
would pull back, brace himself, choke, and stop the machine: one churner
threw himself off and was choked to death before he was discovered. I
remember when the old hetchel from the day of flax dressing, fastened to
a board, did duty behind the old churner, spurring him up with its score
or more of sharp teeth when he settled back to stop the machine. "Run
and start the old sheep," was a command we heard less often after that.
He could not long hold out against the pressure of that phalanx of sharp
points upon his broad rear end.

The churn dog was less obdurate and perverse, but he would sometimes
hide away as the hour of churning approached and we would have to hustle
around to find him. But we had one dog that seemed to take pleasure in
the task and would go quickly to the wheel when told to and finish his
task without being tied. In the absence of both dog and sheep, I have a
few times taken their place on the wheel. In winter and early spring
there was less cream to churn and we did it by hand, two of us lifting
the dasher together. Heavy work for even big boys, and when the stuff
was reluctant and the butter would not come sometimes until the end of
an hour, the task tried our mettle. Sometimes it would not gather well
after it had come, then some deft handling of the dasher was necessary.

I never tired of seeing Mother lift the great masses of golden butter
from the churn with her ladle and pile them up in the big butter bowl,
with the drops of buttermilk standing upon them as if they were sweating
from the ordeal they had been put through. Then the working and the
washing of it to free it from the milk and the final packing into tub or
firkin, its fresh odour in the air--what a picture it was! How much of
the virtue of the farm went each year into those firkins! Literally the
cream of the land. Ah, the alchemy of Life, that in the bee can
transform one product of those wild rough fields into honey, and in the
cow can transform another product into milk!

The spring butter was packed into fifty-pound tubs to be shipped to
market as fast as made. The packing into one-hundred-pound firkins to be
held over till November did not begin till the cows were turned out to
pasture in May. To have made forty tubs by that time and sold them for
eighteen or twenty cents a pound was considered very satisfactory. Then
to make forty or fifty firkins during the summer and fall and to get as
good a price for it made the farmer's heart glad. When Father first came
on the farm, in 1827, butter brought only twelve or fourteen cents per
pound, but the price steadily crept up till in my time it sold from
seventeen to eighteen and a half. The firkin butter was usually sold to
a local butter buyer named Dowie. He usually appeared in early fall,
always on horseback, having notified Father in advance. At the breakfast
table Father would say, "Dowie is coming to try the butter to-day."

"I hope he will not try that firkin I packed that hot week in July,"
Mother would say. But very likely that was the one among others he would
ask for. His long, half-round steel butter probe or tryer was thrust
down the centre of the firkin to the bottom, given a turn or two, and
withdrawn, its tapering cavity filled with a sample of every inch of
butter in the firkin. Dowie would pass it rapidly to and fro under his
nose, maybe sometimes tasting it, then push the tryer back into the
hole, then withdrawing it, leaving its core of butter where it found it.
If the butter suited him, and it rarely failed to do so, he would make
his offer and ride away to the next dairy.

The butter had always to be delivered at a date agreed upon, on the
Hudson River at Catskill. This usually took place in November. It was
the event of the fall: two loads of butter, of twenty or more firkins
each, to be transported fifty miles in a lumber wagon, each round trip
taking about four days. The firkins had to be headed up and gotten
ready. This job in my time usually fell to Hiram. He would begin the day
before Father was to start and have a load headed and placed in the
wagon on time, with straw between the firkins so they would not rub. How
many times I have heard those loads start off over the frozen ground in
the morning before it was light! Sometimes a neighbour's wagon would go
slowly jolting by just after or just before Father had started, but on
the same errand. Father usually took a bag of oats for his horses and a
box of food for himself so as to avoid all needless expenses. The first
night would usually find him in Steel's tavern in Greene County, half
way to Catskill. The next afternoon would find him at his journey's end
and by night unloaded at the steamboat wharf, his groceries and other
purchases made, and ready for an early start homeward in the morning. On
the fourth night we would be on the lookout for his return. Mother would
be sitting, sewing by the light of her tallow dip, with one ear bent
toward the road. She usually caught the sound of his wagon first. "There
comes your father," she would say, and Hiram or Wilson would quickly get
and light the old tin lantern and stand ready on the stonework to
receive him and help put out the team. By the time he was in the house
his supper would be on the table--a cold pork stew, I remember, used to
delight him on such occasions, and a cup of green tea. After supper his
pipe, and the story of his trip told, with a list of family purchases,
and then to bed. In a few days the second trip would be made. As his
boys grew old enough he gave each of them in turn a trip with him to
Catskill. It was a great event in the life of each of us. When it came
my turn I was probably eleven or twelve years old and the coming event
loomed big on my horizon. I was actually to see my first steamboat, the
Hudson River, and maybe the steam cars. For several days in advance I
hunted the woods for game to stock the provision box so as to keep down
the expense. I killed my first partridge and probably a wild pigeon or
two and gray squirrels. Perched high on that springboard beside Father,
my feet hardly touching the tops of the firkins, at the rate of about
two miles an hour over rough roads in chilly November weather, I made my
first considerable journey into the world. I crossed the Catskill
Mountains and got that surprising panoramic view of the land beyond from
the top. At Cairo, where it seems we passed the second night, I
disgraced myself in the morning, when Father, after praising me to some
bystanders, told me to get up in the wagon and drive the load out in the
road. In my earnest effort to do so I ran foul of one side of the big
door, and came near smashing things. Father was humiliated and I was
dreadfully mortified.

With the wonders of Catskill I was duly impressed, but one of my most
vivid remembrances is a passage at arms (verbal) at the steamboat
between Father and old Dowie. The latter had questioned the correctness
of the weight of the empty firkin which was to be deducted as tare from
the total weight. Hot words followed. Father said, "Strip it, strip it."
Dowie said, "I will," and in a moment there stood on the scales the
naked firkin of butter, sweating drops of salt water. Which won, I do
not know. I remember only that peace soon reigned and Dowie continued to
buy our butter.

One other incident of that trip still sticks in my mind. I was walking
along a street just at dusk, when I saw a drove of cattle coming. The
drover, seeing me, called out, "Here, boy, turn those cows up that
street!" This was in my line, I was at home with cows, and I turned the
drove up in fine style. As the man came along he said, "Well done," and
placed six big copper cents in my hand. Never was my palm more
unexpectedly and more agreeably tickled. The feel of it is with me yet!

At an earlier date than that of the accident in the old stone school
house, my head, and my body, too, got some severe bruises. One summer
day when I could not have been more than three years old, my sister Jane
and I were playing in the big attic chamber and amusing ourselves by
lying across the vinegar keg and pushing it about the room with our
feet. We came to the top of the steep stairway that ended against the
chamber door, a foot or more above the kitchen floor, and I suppose we
thought it would be fun to take the stairway on the keg. At the brink of
that stairway my memory becomes a blank and when I find myself again I
am lying on the bed in the "back-bedroom" and the smell of camphor is
rank in the room. How it fared with Jane I do not recall; the injury was
probably not serious with either of us, but it is easy to imagine how
poor Mother must have been startled when she heard that racket on the
stairs and the chamber door suddenly burst open, spilling two of her
children, mixed up with the vinegar keg, out on the kitchen floor. Jane
was more than two years my senior, and should have known better.

Vivid incidents make a lasting impression. I recall what might have been
a very serious accident had not my usual good luck attended me, when I
was a few years older. One autumn day I was with my older brothers in
the corn lot, where they had gone with the lumber wagon to gather
pumpkins. When they had got their load and were ready to start I planted
myself on the load above the hind axle and let my legs hang down between
the spokes of the big wheel. Luckily one of my brothers saw my perilous
position just as the team was about to move and rescued me in time.
Doubtless my legs would have been broken and maybe very badly crushed in
a moment more. But such good fortune seems to have followed me always.
One winter's morning, as I stooped to put on one of my boots beside the
kitchen stove at the house of a schoolmate with whom I had passed the
night, my face came in close contact with the spout of the boiling tea
kettle. The scalding steam barely missed my eye and blistered my brow a
finger's breadth above it. With one eye gone, I fancy life would have
looked quite different. Another time I was walking along one of the
market streets of New York, when a heavy bale of hay, through the
carelessness of some workman, dropped from thirty or forty feet above me
and struck the pavement at my feet. I heard angry words over the mishap,
spoken by someone above me, but I only said to myself, "Lucky again!" I
recall a bit of luck of a different kind when I was a treasury clerk in
Washington. I had started for the seashore for a week's vacation with a
small roll of new greenbacks in my pocket. Shortly after the train had
left the station I left my seat and walked through two or three of the
forward cars looking for a friend who had agreed to join me. Not finding
him, I retraced my steps, and as I was passing along through the car
next my own I chanced to see a roll of new bills on the floor near the
end of a seat. Instinctively feeling for my own roll of bills and
finding it missing, I picked up the money and saw at a glance that it
was mine. The passengers near by eyed me in surprise, and I suspect
began to feel in their own pockets, but I did not stop to explain and
went to my seat startled but happy. I had missed my friend but I might
have missed something of more value to me just at that time.

A kind of untoward fate seems inherent in the characters of some persons
and makes them the victims of all the ill luck on the road. Such a fate
has not been mine. I have met all the good luck on the road. Some kindly
influence has sent my best friends my way, or sent me their way. The
best thing about me is that I have found a perennial interest in the
common universal things which all may have on equal terms, and hence
have found plenty to occupy and absorb me wherever I have been. If the
earth and the sky are enough for one, why should one sigh for other

The old farm must have had at least ten miles of stone walls upon it,
many of them built new by Father from stones picked up in the fields,
and many of them relaid by him, or rather by his boys and hired men.
Father was not skilful at any sort of craft work. He was a good
ploughman, a good mower and cradler, excellent with a team of oxen
drawing rocks, and good at most general farm work, but not an adept at
constructing anything. Hiram was the mechanical genius of the family. He
was a good wall-layer, and skilful with edged tools. It fell to his lot
to make the sleds, the stone-boats, the hay-rigging, the ax helves, the
flails, to mend the cradles and rakes, to build the haystacks, and once,
I remember, he rebuilt the churning machine. He was slow but he hewed
exactly to the line. Before and during my time on the farm Father used
to count on building forty or fifty rods of stone wall each year,
usually in the spring and early summer. These were the only lines of
poetry and prose Father wrote. They are still very legible on the face
of the landscape and cannot be easily erased from it. Gathered out of
the confusion of nature, built up of fragments of the old Devonian rock
and shale, laid with due regard to the wear and tear of time, well-
bottomed and well-capped, establishing boundaries and defining
possessions, etc., these lines of stone wall afford a good lesson in
many things besides wall building. They are good literature and good
philosophy. They smack of the soil, they have local colour, they are a
bit of chaos brought into order. When you deal with nature only the
square deal is worth while. How she searches for the vulnerable points
in your structure, the weak places in your foundation, the defective
material in your building!

The farmer's stone wall, when well built, stands about as long as he
does. It begins to reel and look decrepit when he begins to do so. But
it can be relaid and he cannot. One day I passed by the roadside to
speak with an old man who was rebuilding a wall. "I laid this wall fifty
years ago," he said. "When it is laid up again I shall not have the
job." He had stood up longer than had his wall.

A stone wall is the friend of all the wild creatures. It is a safe line
of communication with all parts of the landscape. What do the chipmunks,
red squirrels, and weasels do in a country without stone fences? The
woodchucks and the coons and foxes also use them.

It was my duty as a farm boy to help pick up the stone and pry up the
rocks. I could put the bait under the lever, even if my weight on top of
it did not count for much. The slow, patient, hulky oxen, how they would
kink their tails, hump their backs, and throw their weight into the bows
when they felt a heavy rock behind them and Father lifted up his voice
and laid on the "gad"! It was a good subject for a picture which, I
think, no artist has ever painted. How many rocks we turned out of their
beds, where they had slept since the great ice sheet tucked them up
there, maybe a hundred thousand years ago--how wounded and torn the
meadow or pasture looked, bleeding as it were, in a score of places,
when the job was finished! But the further surgery of the plough and
harrow, followed by the healing touch of the seasons, soon made all
whole again.

The work on the farm in those days varied little from year to year. In
winter the care of the cattle, the cutting of the wood, and the
thrashing of the oats and rye filled the time. From the age of ten or
twelve till we were grown up, we went to school only in winter, doing
the chores morning and evening, and engaging in general work every other
Saturday, which was a holiday. Often my older brothers would have to
leave school by three o'clock to get home to put up the cows in my
father's absence. Those school days, how they come back to me!--the long
walk across lots, through the snow-choked fields and woods, our narrow
path so often obliterated by a fresh fall of snow; the cutting winds,
the bitter cold, the snow squeaking beneath our frozen cowhide boots,
our trousers' legs often tied down with tow strings to keep the snow
from pushing them up above our boot tops; the wide-open white landscape
with its faint black lines of stone wall when we had passed the woods
and began to dip down into West Settlement valley; the Smith boys and
Bouton boys and Dart boys, afar off, threading the fields on their way
to school, their forms etched on the white hillsides, one of the bigger
boys, Ria Bouton, who had many chores to do, morning after morning
running the whole distance so as not to be late; the red school house in
the distance by the roadside with the dark spot in its centre made by
the open door of the entry way; the creek in the valley, often choked
with anchor ice, which our path crossed and into which I one morning
slumped, reaching the school house with my clothes freezing upon me and
the water gurgling in my boots; the boys and girls there, Jay Gould
among them, two thirds of them now dead and the living scattered from
the Hudson to the Pacific; the teachers now all dead; the studies, the
games, the wrestlings, the baseball--all these things and more pass
before me as I recall those long-gone days. Two years ago I hunted up
one of those schoolmates in California whom I had not seen for over
sixty years. She was my senior by seven or eight years, and I had a
boy's remembrance of her fresh sweet face, her kindly eyes and gentle
manners. I was greeted by a woman of eighty-two, with dimmed sight and
dulled hearing, but instantly I recognized some vestiges of the charm
and sweetness of my elder schoolmate of so long ago. No cloud was on her
mind or memory and for an hour we again lived among the old people and

What a roomful of pupils, many of them young men and women, there was
during those winters, thirty-five or forty each day! In late years there
are never more than five or six. The fountains of population are drying
up more rapidly than are our streams. Of that generous roomful of young
people, many became farmers, a few became business men, three or four
became professional men, and only one, so far as I know, took to
letters; and he, judged by his environment and antecedents, the last one
you would have picked out for such a career. You might have seen in Jay
Gould's Jewish look, bright scholarship, and pride of manners some
promise of an unusual career; but in the boy of his own age whom he was
so fond of wrestling with and of having go home with him at night, but
whose visits he would never return, what was there indicative of the
future? Surely not much that I can now discover. Jay Gould, who became a
sort of Napoleon of finance, early showed a talent for big business and
power to deal with men. He had many characteristic traits which came out
even in his walk. One day in New York, after more than twenty years
since I had known him as a boy, I was walking up Fifth Avenue, when I
saw a man on the other side of the street, more than a block away,
coming toward me, whose gait arrested my attention as something I had
known long before. Who could it be? I thought, and began to ransack my
memory for a clew. I had seen that gait before. As the man came opposite
me I saw he was Jay Gould. That walk in some subtle way differed from
the walk of any other man I had known. It is a curious psychological
fact that the two men outside my own family of whom I have oftenest
dreamed in my sleep are Emerson and Jay Gould; one to whom I owe so
much, the other to whom I owe nothing; one whose name I revere, the
other whose name I associate, as does the world, with the dark way of
speculative finance. The new expounders of the philosophy of dreams
would probably tell me that I had a secret admiration for Jay Gould. If
I have, it slumbers deeply in my sub-conscious self and awakens only
when my conscious self sleeps.

But I set out to talk of the work on the farm. The threshing was mostly
done in winter with the hickory flail, one shock of fifteen sheaves
making a flooring. On the dry cold days the grain shelled easily. After
a flooring had been thrashed over at least three times, the straw was
bound up again in sheaves, the floor completely raked over and the grain
banked up against the side of the bay. When the pile became so large it
was in the way, it was cleaned up, that is, run through the fanning
mill, one of us shovelling in the grain, another turning the mill, and a
third measuring the grain and putting it into bags, or into the bins of
the granary. One winter when I was a small boy Jonathan Scudder threshed
for us in the barn on the hill. He was in love with my sister Olly Ann
and wanted to make a good impression on the "old folks." Every night at
supper Father would say to him, "Well, Jonathan, how many shock today?"
and they grew more and more, until one day he reached the limit of
fourteen and he was highly complimented on his day's work. It made an
impression on Father, but it did not soften the heart of Olly Ann. The
sound of the flail and the fanning mill is heard in the farmers' barns
no more. The power threshing machine that travels from farm to farm now
does the job in a single day--a few hours of pandemonium, with now and
then a hand or an arm crushed in place of the days of leisurely swinging
of the hickory flail.

The first considerable work in spring was sugar-making, always a happy
time for me. Usually the last half of March, when rills from the melting
snow began to come through the fields, the veins of the sugar maples
began to thrill with the spring warmth. There was a general awakening
about the farm at this time: the cackling of the hens, the bleating of
young lambs and calves, and the wistful lowing of the cows. Earlier in
the month the "sap spiles" had been overhauled, resharpened, and new
ones made, usually from bass wood. In my time the sap gouge was used
instead of the auger and the manner of tapping was crude and wasteful. A
slanting gash three or four inches long and a half inch or more deep was
cut, and an inch below the lower end of this the gouge was driven in to
make the place for the spile, a piece of wood two inches wide, shaped to
the gouge, and a foot or more in length. It gave the tree a double and
unnecessary wound. The bigger the gash the more the sap, seemed to be
the theory, as if the tree was a barrel filled with liquid, whereas a
small wound made by a half-inch bit does the work just as well and is
far less injurious to the tree.

When there came a bright morning, wind northwest and warm enough to
begin to thaw by eight o'clock, the sugar-making utensils--pans,
kettles, spiles, hogsheads--were loaded upon the sled and taken to the
woods, and by ten o'clock the trees began to feel the cruel ax and gouge
once more. It usually fell to my part to carry the pans and spiles for
one of the tappers, Hiram or Father, and to arrange the pans on a level
foundation of sticks or stones, in position. Father often used to haggle
the tree a good deal in tapping. "By Fagus," he would say, "how awkward
I am!" The rapid tinkle of those first drops of sap in the tin pan, how
well I remember it! Probably the note of the first song sparrow or first
bluebird, or the spring call of the nuthatch, sounded in unison. Usually
only patches of snow lingered here and there in the woods and the earth-
stained remnants of old drifts on the sides of the hills and along the
stone walls. Those lucid warm March days in the naked maple woods under
the blue sky, with the first drops of sap ringing in the pans, had a
charm that does not fade from my mind. After the trees were all tapped,
two hundred and fifty of them, the big kettles were again set up in the
old stone-arch, and the hogsheads in which to store the sap placed in
position. By four o'clock many of the pans--milk pans from the dairy--
would be full, and the gathering with neck yoke and pails began. When I
was fourteen or fifteen I took a hand in this part of the work. It used
to tax my strength to carry the two twelve-quart pails full through the
rough places and up the steep banks in the woods and then lift them up
and alternately empty them into the hogsheads without displacing the
neck yoke. But I could do it. Now all this work is done by the aid of a
team and a pipe fastened on a sled. Before I was old enough to gather
sap it fell to me to go to the barns and put in hay for the cows and
help stable them. The next morning the boiling of the sap would begin,
with Hiram in charge. The big deep iron kettles were slow evaporators
compared with the broad shallow sheet-iron pans now in use. Profundity
cannot keep up with shallowness in sugar-making, the more superficial
your evaporator, within limits, the more rapid your progress. It took
the farmers nearly a hundred years to find this out, or at least to act
upon it.

At the end of a couple of days of hard boiling Hiram would "syrup off,"
having reduced two hundred pails of sap to five or six of syrup. The
syruping-off often occurred after dark. When the liquid dropped from a
dipper which was dipped into it and, held up in the cool air, formed
into stiff thin masses, it had reached the stage of syrup. How we minded
our steps over the rough path, in the semi-darkness of the old tin
lantern, in carrying those precious pails of syrup to the house, where
the final process of "sugaring off" was to be completed by Mother and

The sap runs came at intervals of several days. Two or three days would
usually end one run. A change in the weather to below freezing would
stop the flow, and a change to much warmer would check it.

The fountains of sap are let loose by frosty sunshine. Frost in the
ground, or on it in the shape of snow and the air full of sunshine are
the most favourable conditions. A certain chill and crispness, something
crystalline, in the air are necessary. A touch of enervating warmth from
the south or a frigidity from the north and the trees feel it through
their thick bark coats very quickly. Between the temperatures of thirty-
five to fifty degrees they get in their best work. After we have had one
run ending in rain and warmth, a fresh fall of snow--"sap snow", the
farmers call such--will give us another run. Three or four good runs
make a long and successful season. My boyhood days in the spring sugar
bush were my most enjoyable on the farm. How I came to know each one of
those two hundred and fifty trees--what a distinct sense of
individuality seemed to adhere to most of them, as much so as to each
cow in a dairy! I knew at which trees I would be pretty sure to find a
full pan and at which ones a less amount. One huge tree always gave a
cream-pan full--a double measure--while the others were filling an
ordinary pan. This was known as "the old cream-pan tree." Its place has
long been vacant; about half the others are still standing, but with the
decrepitude of age appearing in their tops, a new generation of maples
has taken the place of the vanished veterans.

While tending the kettles there beside the old arch in the bright, warm
March or April days, with my brother, or while he had gone to dinner,
looking down the long valley and off over the curving backs of the
distant mountain ranges, what dreams I used to have, what vague
longings, and, I may say, what happy anticipations! I am sure I gathered
more than sap and sugar in those youthful days amid the maples. When I
visit the old home now I have to walk up to the sugar bush and stand
around the old "boiling place," trying to transport myself back into the
magic atmosphere of that boyhood time. The man has his dreams, too, but
to his eyes the world is not steeped in romance as it is to the eyes of

One springtime in the sugar season my cousin, Gib Kelly, a boy of my own
age, visited me, staying two or three days. (He died last fall.) When he
went away I was minding the kettles in the woods, and as I saw him
crossing the bare fields in the March sunshine, his steps bent toward
the distant mountains, I still remember what a sense of loss came over
me, his comradeship had so brightened my enjoyment of the beautiful
days. He seemed to take my whole world with him, and on that and the
following day I went about my duties in the sap bush in a wistful and
pensive mood I had never before felt. I early showed the capacity for
comradeship. A boy friend could throw the witchery of romance over
everything. Oh, the enchanted days with my youthful mates! And I have
not entirely outgrown that early susceptibility. There are persons in
the world whose comradeship can still transmute the baser metal of
commonplace scenes and experiences into the purest gold of romance for
me. It is probably my feminine idiosyncrasies that explain all this.
Another unforgettable passion of comradeship in my youth I experienced
toward the son of a cousin, a boy four or five years old, or about half
my own age. One spring his mother and he were visiting at our house
eight or ten days. The child was very winsome and we soon became
inseparable companions. He was like a visitor from another sphere. I
frequently carried him on my back, and my heart opened to him more and
more each day. One day we started to come down a rather steep pair of
stairs from the hog-pen chamber; I had stepped down a few steps and
reached out to take little Harry in my arms, as he stood on the floor at
the head of the stairs, and carry him down, when in his joy he gave a
spring and toppled me over with him in my arms, and we brought up at the
bottom with our heads against some solid timbers. It was a severe shake-
up but hurt my heart more than it did my head because the boy was badly
bruised. The event comes back to me as if it were but yesterday. For
weeks after his departure I longed for him day and night and the
experience still shines like a star in my boyhood life. I never saw him
again until two years ago when, knowing he lived there, a practising
physician, I hunted him up in San Francisco. I found him a sedate gray-
haired man, with no hint, of course, of the child I had known and loved
more than sixty years before. It has been my experience on several
occasions to hunt up friends of my youth after the lapse of more than
half a century. Last spring I had a letter from a pupil of mine in the
first school I ever taught, in 1854 or '55. I had not seen or heard from
him in all those years when he recalled himself to my mind. The name I
had not forgotten, Roswell Beach, but the face I had. Only two weeks
ago, being near his town, it occurred to me to look him up. I did so and
was shocked to find him on his deathbed. Too weak to raise his head from
his pillow he yet threw his arms around me and spoke my name many times
with marked affection. He died a few days later. I was to him what some
of my old teachers were to me--stars that never set below my horizon.

My boyish liking for girls was quite different from my liking for boys--
there was little or no sense of comradeship in it. When I was eight or
nine years old there was one girl in the school toward whom I felt very
partial, and I thought she reciprocated till one day I suddenly saw how
little she cared for me. The teacher had forbidden us to put our feet
upon the seats in front of us. In a spirit of rebellion, I suppose, when
the teacher was not looking, I put my brown, soil-stained bare feet upon
the forbidden seat. Polly quickly spoke up and said, "Teacher, Johnny
Burris put his feet on the seat"--what a blow it was to me for her to
tell on me! Like a cruel frost those words nipped the tender buds of my
affection and they never sprouted again. Years after, her younger
brother married my younger sister, and maybe that unkind cut of our
school days kept me from marrying Polly. I had other puppy loves but
they all died a natural death.

But let me get back to the farm work.

The gathering of the things in the sugar bush, when the flow of sap had
stopped, usually fell to Eden and me. We would carry the pans and spiles
together in big piles, where the oxen and sled could reach them. Then
when they were taken to the house it was my mother's and sister's task
to get them ready for the milk.

The drawing out of the manure and the spring ploughing was the next
thing in order on the farm. I took a hand in the former but not in the
latter. The spreading of the manure that had been drawn out and placed
in heaps in the fields during the winter often fell to me. I remember
that I did not bend my back to the work very willingly, especially when
the cattle had been bedded with long rye straw, but there were
compensations. I could lean on my fork handle and gaze at the spring
landscape, I could see the budding trees and listen to the songs of the
early birds and maybe catch the note of the first swallow in the air
overhead. The farm boy always has the whole of nature at his elbow and
he is usually aware of it.

When, armed with my long-handled "knocker," I used to be sent forth in
the April meadows to beat up and scatter the fall droppings of the cows
--the Juno's cushions as Irving named them--I was in much more congenial
employment. Had I known the game of golf in those days I should probably
have looked upon this as a fair substitute. To stand the big cushions up
on edge and with a real golfer's swing hit them with my mallet and see
the pieces fly was more like play than work. Oh, then it was April and I
felt the rising tide of spring in my blood, and a bit of free activity
like this under the blue sky suited my humour. A boy likes almost any
work that affords him an escape from routine and humdrum and has an
element of play in it. Turning the grindstone or the fanning mill or
carrying together sheaves or picking up potatoes or carrying in wood
were duties that were a drag upon my spirits.

The spring ploughing and the sowing of the grain and harrowing fell
mainly to Father and my older brothers. The spring work was considered
done when the oats were sowed and the corn and potatoes planted: the
first in early May, the latter in late May. The. buckwheat was not sown
until late June. One farmer would ask another, "How many oats are you
going to sow, or have you sown?" not how many acres. "Oh, fifteen or
twenty bushels," would be the answer.

The working of the roads came in June after the crops were in. All
hands, summoned by the "path master," would meet at a given date, at the
end of the district down by the old stone school house--men and boys
with oxen, horses, scrapers, hoes, crowbars--and begin repairing the
highway. It was not strenuous work, but a kind of holiday that we all
enjoyed more or less. The road got fixed after a fashion, here and
there--a bridge mended, a ditch cleaned out, the loose stones removed, a
hole filled up, or a short section "turnpiked"--but the days were eight-
hour days and they did not sit heavy upon us. The state does it much
better now with road machinery and a few men. Once or twice a year
Father used to send me with a hoe to throw the loose stones out of the

A pleasanter duty during those years was shooting chipmunks around the
corn. These little rodents were so plentiful in my youth that they used
to pull up the sprouting corn around the margin of the field near the
stone walls. Armed with the old flint-lock musket, sometimes loaded with
a handful of hard peas, I used to haunt the edges of the cornfield,
watching for the little striped-backed culprits. How remorselessly I
used to kill them! In those days there were a dozen where there is
barely one now. The woods literally swarmed with them, and when
beechnuts and acorns were scarce they were compelled to poach upon the
farmer's crops. It was to reduce them and other pests that shooting
matches were held. Two men would choose sides as in the spelling
matches, seven or eight or more were on a side, and the side that
brought in the most trophies at the end of the week won and the losing
side had to pay for the supper at the village hotel for the whole crowd.
A chipmunk's tail counted one, a red squirrel's three, a gray squirrel's
still more. Hawks' heads and owls' heads counted as high as ten, I
think. Crows' heads also counted pretty high. One man who had little
time to hunt engaged me to help him, offering me so much per dozen
units. I remember that I found up in the sap bush a brood of young
screech owls just out of the nest and I killed them all. That man is
still owing me for those owls. What a lot of motley heads and tails were
brought in at the end of the week! I never saw them but wish I had.
Repeated shooting matches of this kind, in different parts of the state,
so reduced the small wild life, especially the chipmunks, that it has
not yet recovered, and probably never will. In those days the farmer's
hand was against nearly every wild thing. We used to shoot and trap
crows and hen hawks and small hawks as though they were our mortal
enemies. Farmers were wont to stand up poles in their meadows and set
steel traps on the top of them to catch the hen hawks that came for the
meadow mice which were damaging their meadows. The hen hawk is so named
because he rarely or never catches a hen or a chicken. He is a mouser.
We used to bait the hungry crows in spring with "deacon" legs and shoot
them without mercy, and all because they now and then pulled a little
corn, forgetting or not knowing of the grubs and worms they pulled and
the grasshoppers they ate. But all this is changed and now our sable
friends and the high-soaring hawks are seldom molested. The fool with a
rifle is very apt to shoot an eagle if the chance comes to him, but he
has to be very sly about it.

The buttercups and the daisies would be blooming when we were working
the road, and the timothy grass about ready to do so--pointing to the
near approach of the great event of the season, the one major task
toward which so many other things pointed--"haying;" the gathering of
our hundred or more tons of meadow hay. This was always a hard-fought
campaign. Our weapons were gotten ready in due time, new scythes and new
snaths, new rakes and new forks, the hay riggings repaired or built
anew, etc. Shortly after the Fourth of July the first assault upon the
legions of timothy would be made in the lodged grass below the barn. Our
scythes would turn up great swaths that nearly covered the ground and
that put our strength to a severe test. When noon came we would go to
the house with shaking knees.

The first day of haying meant nearly a whole day with the scythe, and
was the most trying of all. After that a half day mowing, when the
weather was good, meant work in curing and hauling each afternoon. From
the first day in early July till the end of August we lived for the
hayfield. No respite except on rainy days and Sundays, and no change
except from one meadow to another. No eight-hour days then, rather
twelve and fourteen, including the milking. No horse rakes, no mowing
machines or hay tedders or loading or pitching devices then. The scythe,
the hand rake, the pitchfork in the calloused hands of men and boys did
the work, occasionally the women even taking a turn with the rake or in
mowing away. I remember the first wire-toothed horse rake with its two
handles, which when the day was hot and the grass heavy nearly killed
both man and horse. The holder would throw his weight upon it to make it
grip and hold the hay, and then, in a spasm of energy, lift it up and
make it drop the hay. From this rude instrument, through various types
of wooden and revolving rakes, the modern wheeled rake, with which the
raker rides at his ease, has been evolved. At this season the cows were
brought to the yard by or before five, breakfast was at six, lunch in
the field at ten, dinner at twelve, and supper at five, with milking and
hay drawing and heaping up till sundown. Those mid-forenoon lunches of
Mother's good rye bread and butter, with crullers or gingerbread, and in
August a fresh green cucumber and a sweating jug of water fresh from the
spring--sweating, not as we did, because it was hot, but because it was
cold, partaken under an ash or a maple tree--how sweet and fragrant the
memory of it all is to me!

Till I reached my 'teens it was my task to spread hay and to rake after;
later I took my turn with the mowers and pitchers. I never loaded, hence
I never pitched over the big beam. How Father watched the weather! The
rain that makes the grass ruins the hay. If the morning did not promise
a good hay day our scythes would be ground but hung back in their
places. When a thunderstorm was gathering in the west and much hay was
ready for hauling, how it quickened our steps and our strokes! It was
the sound of the guns of the approaching foe. In one hour we would do,
or try to do, the work of two. How the wagon would rattle over the road,
how the men would mop their faces and how I, while hurrying, would
secretly exult that now I would have an hour to finish my crossbow or to
work on my pond in the pasture lot!

Those late summer afternoons after the shower--what man who has spent
his youth on the farm does not recall them! The high-piled thunder heads
of the retreating storm above the eastern mountains, the moist fresh
smell of the hay and the fields, the red puddles in the road, the robins
singing from the tree tops, the washed and cooler air and the welcomed
feeling of relaxation which they brought. It was a good time now to weed
the garden, to grind the scythes, and do other odd jobs. When the
haying was finished, usually late in August, in my time, there was
usually a let-up for a few days.

I was the seventh child in a family of ten children: Hiram, Olly Ann,
Wilson, Curtis, Edmond, and Jane came before me; Eden, Abigail, and
Eveline came after me. All were as unlike me in those mental qualities
by which I am known to the world as you can well conceive, but all were
like me in their more fundamental family traits. We all had the same
infirmities of character: we were all tenderfeet--lacking in grit, will
power, self-assertion, and the ability to deal with men. We were easily
crowded to the wall, easily cheated, always ready to take a back seat,
timid, complying, undecided, obstinate but not combative, selfish but
not self-asserting, always the easy victims of pushing, coarse-grained,
designing men. As with Father, the word came easy but the blow was slow
to follow. Only a year or two ago a lightning-rod man made my brother
Curtis and his son John have his rods put upon their barn against their
wills. They did not want his rods but could not say "No" with enough
force. He simply held them up and made them take his rods, willy nilly.
Curtis had maps, books, washing machines, etc., forced upon him in the
same way. I am able to resist the tree men, book agents, etc., and the
lightning-rod man, for a wonder, found me a decided non-conductor; but I
can see how my weaker brothers failed. I have settled a lawsuit rather
than fight it out when I knew law and justice were on my side. My wife
has often said that I never knew when I was imposed upon. I may know it
and yet feel that resenting it would cause me more pain than the affront
did. Strife and contention kill me, yet come easy to me, and did to all
my family. My sense of personal dignity, personal honour, is not a plant
of such tender growth that it cannot stand rough winds and nipping
frosts. That is a flattering way of saying that we are a very non-
chivalrous tribe and would rather run away than fight any time. During
the anti-rent war in Delaware County in 1844, Father, who was a "down
renter," once fled to a neighbour's house when he saw the posse coming
and took refuge under the bed, leaving his feet sticking out. Father
never denied it and never seemed a bit humiliated when twitted about it.
Grandfather Kelly seems to have used up all our fighting blood in
campaigning with Washington, though I more than half suspect that our
noncombativeness comes from the paternal side of the family. As a school
boy I never had a fight, nor have I ever dealt or received a hostile
blow since. And I never saw but one of my brothers fight at school, and
he fought the meanest boy in school and punished him well. I can see him
now, sitting on the prostrate form of the boy, with his hands clinched
in the boy's hair and jamming his face down into the crusty snow till
the blood streamed down his face. The nearest I ever came to a fight at
school was when, one noontime, we were playing baseball and a boy of my
own age and size got angry at me and dared me to lay my hand on him. I
did it quickly, but his bite did not follow his bark. I was never
whipped at school or at home that I can remember, though I no doubt
often deserved it. There was a good deal of loud scolding in our family
but very few blows.

Father and Mother had a pretty hard struggle to pay for the farm and to
clothe and feed and school us all. We lived off the products of the farm
to an extent that people do not think of doing nowadays. Not only was
our food largely home grown but our clothes also were home grown and
home spun. In my early youth our house linen and our summer shirts and
trousers were made from flax that grew on the farm. Those pioneer
shirts, how vividly I remember them! They dated from the stump, and bits
of the stump in the shape of "shives" were inwoven in their texture and
made the wearer of them an unwilling penitent for weeks, or until use
and the washboard had subdued them. Peas in your shoes are no worse than
"shives" on your shirt. But those tow shirts stood by you. If you lost
your hold in climbing a tree and caught on a limb your shirt or your
linen trousers would hold you. The stuff from which they were made had a
history behind it--pulled up by the roots, rooted on the ground, broken
with a crackle, flogged with a swingle, and drawn through a hetchel, and
out of all this ordeal came the flax. How clearly I remember Father
working with it in the bright, sharp March days, breaking it, then
swingling it with a long wooden sword-like tool over the end of an
upright board fixed at the base in a heavy block. This was to separate
the brittle fragments of the bark from the fibres of the flax. Then in
large handfuls he drew it through the hetchel--an instrument with a
score or more long sharp iron teeth, set in a board, row behind row.
This combed out the tow and other worthless material. It was a mighty
good discipline for the flax; it straightened out its fibres and made it
as clear and straight as a girl's tresses. Out of the tow we twisted bag
strings, flail strings, and other strings. With the worthless portions
we made huge bonfires. The flax, Mother would mass upon her distaff and
spin into threads. The last I saw of the old crackle, fifty or more
years ago, it served as a hen roost under the shed, and the savage old
hetchel was doing duty behind the old churner when he sulked and pulled
back so as to stop the churning machine. It was hetcheling wool then
instead of flax. The flax was spun on a quill which ran by the foot and
the quills or spools holding the thread were used in a shuttle when the
cloth was woven. The old loom stood in the hog-pen chamber, and there
Mother wove her linen, her rag carpets, and her woollen goods. I have
"quilled" for her many a time--that is, run the yarn off the reel into
spools for use in the shuttle.

Father had a flock of sheep which yielded wool enough for our stockings,
mittens, comforts, and underwear, and woollen sheets and comforts for
the beds. I have some of those home-made woollen sheets and bed covers
now at Slabsides.

Before the sheep were sheared in June they were driven two miles to the
creek to be washed. Washing-sheep-day was an event on the farm. It was
no small task to get the sheep off the mountain, drive them to the deep
pool behind old Jonas More's grist mill, pen them up there, and drag
them one by one into the water and make good clean Baptists of them! But
sheep are no fighters, they struggle for a moment and then passively
submit to the baptism. My older brothers usually did the washing and I
the herding. When the shearing was done, a few days later the poor
creatures were put through another ordeal, to which after a brief
struggle they quickly resigned themselves. Father did the shearing,
while I at times held the animal's legs. Father was not an adept hand
with the shears and the poor beast usually had to part with many a bit
of her hide along with her fleece. It used to make me wince as much as
it did the sheep to see the crests of those little wrinkles in her skin
clipped off.

I used to wonder how the sheep knew one another and how the lambs knew
their mothers when shorn of their fleeces. But they did. The wool was
soon sent to the fulling mill and made into rolls, though I have seen it
carded and made into rolls at home by hand. How many bundles of rolls
tied up into sheets I have seen come home! Then in the long summer
afternoons I would hear the hum of the big spinning wheel in the chamber
and hear the tread of the girl as she ran it, walking to and fro and
drawing out and winding up the yarn. The white rolls, ten inches or more
long and the thickness of one's finger, would lie in a pile on the beam
of the wheel and one by one would be attached to the spindle and drawn
out into yarn of the right size. Each new roll was welded on to the end
of the one that went before it so that the yarn did not show the
juncture. But now for more than sixty years the music of the spinning
wheel has not been heard in the land.

Mother used to pick her geese in the barn where Father used to shear the
sheep; and to help gather in the flock was a part of my duty also. The
geese would submit to the plucking about as readily as the sheep to the
shearing, but they presented a much more ragged and sorry appearance
after they had been fleeced than did the sheep. It used to amuse me to
see them put their heads together and talk it over and laugh and
congratulate each other over the victory they had just won!--they had
got out of the hands of the enemy with only the loss of a few feathers
which they would not want in the warm weather! The goose is the one
inhabitant that cackles as loudly and as cheerfully over a defeat as
over a victory. They are so complacent and optimistic that it is a
comfort to me to see them about. The very silliness of the goose is a
lesson in wisdom. The pride of a plucked gander makes one take courage.
I think it quite probable that we learned our habit of hissing our
dissent from the goose, and maybe our other habit of trying sometimes to
drown an opponent with noise has a like origin. The goose is silly and
shallow-pated; yet what dignity and impressiveness in her migrating wild
clans driving in ordered ranks across the spring or autumnal skies,
linking the Chesapeake Bay and the Canadian Lakes in one flight! The
great forces are loosened and winter is behind them in one case, and the
tides of spring bear them on in the other. When I hear the trumpet of
the wild geese in the sky I know that dramatic events in the seasonal
changes are taking place.

I was the only one of the ten children who, as Father said, "took to
larnin'," though in seventy-five years of poring over books and
periodicals I have not become "learned." But I easily distanced the
other children in school. The others barely learned to read and write
and cipher a little, Curtis and Wilson barely that, Hiram got into
Greenleaf's Grammar and learned to parse, but never to write or speak
correctly, and he ciphered nearly through Dayball's Arithmetic. I went
through Dayball and then Thompkins and Perkins and got well on into
algebra in the district school. My teacher, however, when I was about
thirteen or fourteen, did not seem much impressed by my aptitude, for I
recall that he told other scholars, boys and girls of about my own age,
to get them each a grammar, but did not tell me. I felt a little
slighted but made up my mind I would have a grammar also. Father
refusing to buy it for me, I made small cakes of maple sugar in the
spring and, peddling them in the village, got money enough to buy the
grammar and other books. The teacher was a little taken aback when I
produced my book as the others did theirs, but he put me in the class
and I kept along with the rest of them, but without any idea that the
study had any practical bearing on our daily speaking and writing. That
teacher was a superior man, a graduate of the state normal school at
Albany, but I failed to impress him with my scholarly aptitudes, which
certainly were not remarkable. But long afterward, when he had read some
of my earlier magazine articles, he wrote to me, asking if I were indeed
his early farm boy pupil. His interest and commendation gave me rare
pleasure. I had at last justified that awkward intrusion into his
grammar class. Much later in life, after he had migrated to Kansas,
while on a visit East he called upon me when I chanced to be in my
native town. This gave me a still deeper pleasure. He died in Kansas
many years ago and is buried there. I have journeyed through the state
many times and always remember that it holds the ashes of my old
teacher. It is a satisfaction for me to write his name, James Oliver, in
this record.

I was in many respects an odd one in my father's family. I was like a
graft from some other tree. And this is always a disadvantage to a man--
not to be the logical outcome of what went before him, not to be backed
up by his family and inheritance--to be of the nature of a sport. It
seems as if I had more intellectual capital than I was entitled to and
robbed some of the rest of the family, while I had a full measure of the
family weaknesses. I can remember how abashed I used to be as a child
when strangers or relatives, visiting us for the first time, after
looking the rest of the children over, would ask, pointing to me, "That
is not your boy--whose is he?" I have no idea that I looked different
from the others, because I can see the family stamp upon my face very
plainly until this day. My face resembles Hiram's more than any of the
others, and I have a deeper attachment for him than for any of the rest
of my brothers. Hiram was a dreamer, too, and he had his own idealism
which expressed itself in love of bees, of which he kept many hives at
one time, and of fancy stock, sheep, pigs, poultry, and a desire to see
other lands. His bees and fancy stock never paid him, but he always
expected they would the next year. But they yielded him honey and wool
of a certain intangible, satisfying kind. To be the owner of a Cotswold
ram or ewe for which he had paid one hundred dollars or more gave him
rare satisfaction. One season, in his innocence, he took some of his
fancy sheep to the state fair at Syracuse, not knowing that an unknown
outsider stood no chance at all on such an occasion.

Hiram always had to have some sort of a plaything. Though no hunter and
an indifferent marksman, he had during his life several fancy rifles.
Once when he came to Washington to visit me, he brought his rifle with
him, carrying the naked weapon in his hand or upon his shoulder. The act
was merely the whim of a boy who likes to take his playthings with him.
Hiram certainly had not come to "shoot up" the town. In the early '60's
he had a fifty-dollar rifle made by a famous rifle maker in Utica. There
was some hitch or misunderstanding about it and Hiram made the trip to
Utica on foot. I was at home that summer and I recall seeing him start
off one June day, wearing a black coat, bent on his fifty-mile walk to
see about his pet rifle. Of course nothing came of it. The rifle maker
had Hiram's money, and he put him off with fair words; then something
happened and the gun never came to Hiram's hand.

Another plaything of his was a kettle drum with which he amused himself
in the summer twilight for many seasons. Then he got a bass drum which
Curtis learned to play, and a very warlike sound often went up from the
peaceful old homestead. When I was married and came driving home one
October twilight with my wife, the martial music began as soon as we
hove in sight of the house. Early in the Civil War, Hiram seriously
talked of enlisting as a drummer, but Father and Mother dissuaded him. I
can see what a wretched homesick boy he would have been before one week
had passed. For many years he was haunted with a desire to go West, and
made himself really believe that the next month or the month after he
would go. He kept his valise packed under his bed for more than a year,
to be ready when the impulse grew strong enough. One fall it became
strong enough to start him and carried him as far as White Pigeon,
Michigan, where it left him stranded. After visiting a cousin who lived
there he came back, and henceforth his Western fever assumed only a low,
chronic type.

I tell you all these things about Hiram because I am a chip out of the
same block and see myself in him. His vain regrets, his ineffectual
resolutions, his day-dreams, and his playthings--do I not know them
all?--only nature in some way dealt a little more liberally with me and
made many of my dreams come true. The dear brother!--he stood next to
Father and Mother to me. How many times he broke the path for me through
the winter snows on the long way to school! How faithful he was to write
to me and to visit me wherever I was, after I left home! How he longed
to follow my example and break away from the old place but could never
quite screw his courage up to the sticking point! He never read one of
my books but he rejoiced in all the good fortune that was mine. Once
when I was away at school and fell short of money, Hiram sent me a small
sum when Father could not or would not send. In later life he got it
paid back manyfold--and what a satisfaction it was to me thus to repay

Hiram was always a child, he never grew up, which is true of all of us,
more or less, and true of Father also. I was an odd one, but I shared
all the family infirmities. In fact, I have always been an odd one amid
most of my human relations in life. Place me in a miscellaneous
gathering of men and I separate from them, or they from me, like oil
from water. I do not mix readily with my fellows. I am not conscious of
drawing into my shell, as the saying is, but I am conscious of a certain
strain put upon me by those about me. I suppose my shell or my skin is
too thin. Burbank experimented with walnuts trying to produce one with a
thin shell, till he finally produced one with so thin a shell that the
birds ate it up. Well, the birds eat me up for the same reason, if I
don't look out. I am social but not gregarious. I do not thrive in
clubs, I do not smoke, or tell stories, or drink, or dispute, or keep
late hours. I am usually as solitary as a bird of prey, though I trust
not for the same reason. I love so much to float on the current of my
own thoughts. I mix better with farmers, workers, and country people
generally than with professional or business men. Birds of a feather do
flock together, and if we do not feel at ease in our company we may be
sure we are in the wrong flock. Once while crossing the continent at
some station in Minnesota a gray-bearded farmer-like man got on the
train and presently began to look eagerly about the Pullman as if to see
what kind of company he was in. After a while his eye settled on me at
the other end of the car. In a few minutes he came over to me and sat
down beside me and began to tell me his story. He had come from Germany
as a young man and had lived fifty years on a farm in Minnesota and now
he was going back to visit the country of his birth. He had prospered
and had left his sons in charge of his farm. What an air he had of a boy
out of school! The adventure was warming his blood; he was going home
and he wanted someone to whom he could tell the good news. I was
probably the only real countryman in the car and he picked me out at
once, some quality of rural things hovered about us both and drew us
together. I felt that he had paid me an involuntary compliment. How
unsophisticated and communicative he was! So much so that I took it upon
myself to caution him against the men he was liable to fall in with in
New York. I should like to know if he reached the fatherland safely and
returned to his Minnesota farm.

When I was a boy six or seven years old a quack phrenologist stopped at
our house and Father kept him over night. In the morning he fingered the
bumps of all of us to pay for his lodging and breakfast. When he came to
my head I remember he grew enthusiastic. "This boy will be a rich man,"
he said. "His head beats 'em all." And he enlarged on the great wealth I
was to accumulate. I forget the rest; but that my bumps were nuggets of
gold under the quack's fingers, this I have not forgotten. The prophecy
never came true, though more money did come my way than to any of the
rest of the family. Three of my brothers, at least, were not successful
from a business point of view, and while I myself have failed in every
business venture I ever undertook--beginning with that first speculative
stroke sometime in the 'forties when, one March morning, I purchased the
prospective sap of Curtis's two maple trees for four cents; yet a
certain success from a bread-and-butter point of view has been mine.
Father took less stock in me than in the other boys--mainly, I suppose,
on account of my early proclivity for books; hence it was a deep
satisfaction to me, when his other sons had failed him and loaded the
old farm with debt, that I could come back and be able to take the
burden of the debts upon myself and save the farm from going into
strange hands. But it was my good fortune, a kind of constitutional good
luck and not any business talent that enabled me to do so. Remembering
the prediction of the old quack phrenologist, I used to have my dreams
when a boy, especially on one occasion, I remember, when I was tending
the sap kettles in the sugar bush on a bright April day, of gaining
great wealth and coming home in imposing style and astonishing the
natives with my display. How different the reality from the boy's dream!
I came back indeed with a couple of thousand dollars in my pocket (on my
bank book), sorrowing and oppressed, more like a pilgrim doing penance
than like a conqueror returning from his victories. But we kept the old
farm, and as you know, it still plays an important part in my life
though I passed the title to my brother many years ago. It is my only
home, other homes that I have had were mere camping places for a day and
night. But the wealth which my bumps indicated turned out to be of a
very shadowy and uncommercial kind, yet of a kind that thieves cannot
steal or panics disturb.

I remember the first day I went to school, probably near my fifth year.
It was at the old stone school house, about one and a half miles from
home. I recall vividly the suit Mother made for the occasion out of some
striped cotton goods with a pair of little flaps or hound's ears upon my
shoulders that tossed about as I ran. I accompanied Olly Ann, my oldest
sister. At each one of the four houses we passed on the way I asked,
"Who lives there?" I have no recollection of what happened at school
those first days, but I remember struggling with the alphabet soon
thereafter; the letters were arranged in a column, the vowels first, a,
e, i, o, u, and then the consonants. The teacher would call us to her
chair three or four times a day, and opening the Cobb's spelling-book,
point to the letters one by one and ask me to name them, drilling them
into me in that way. I remember that one of the boys, older than I, Hen
Meeker, on one occasion stuck on "e." "I'll bet little Johnny Burris can
tell what that letter is. Come up here, Johnny." Up I went and promptly
answered, to the humiliation of Hen, "e." "I told you so," said the
school marm. How long it took me to learn the alphabet in this arbitrary
manner I do not know. But I remember tackling the a, b, abs, and slowly
mastering those short columns. I remember also getting down under the
desk and tickling the bare ankles of the big girls that sat in the seat
in front of me.

The summer days were long and little boys must sit on the hard seats and
be quiet and go out only at the regular recess. The seat I sat on was a
slab turned flat side up and supported on four legs cut from a sapling.
My feet did not touch the floor and I suppose I got very tired. One
afternoon the oblivion of sleep came over me and when I came to
consciousness again I was in a neighbour's house on a couch and the
"smell of camphor pervaded the room." I had fallen off the seat backward
and hit my head on the protruding stones of the unplastered wall behind
me and cut a hole in it, and I suppose for the moment effectively
scattered my childish wits. But Mrs. Reed was a motherly body and
consoled me with flowers and sweets and bathed my wounds with camphor
and I suppose little Johnny was soon himself again. I have often
wondered if a small bony protuberance on the back of my head dated from
that collision with the old stone school house.

Another early remembrance connected with the old stone school house is
that of seeing Hiram, during the summer noons, catch fish in a pail back
of old Jonas More's grist mill and put them in the pot holes in the red
sandstone rocks, to be kept there till we went home at night. Then he
took them in his dinner pail and put them in his pond down in the
pasture lot. I suspect that it was this way that chubs were introduced
into the West Settlement trout stream. The fish used to swim around and
around in the pot holes seeking a way to escape. I would put my finger
into the water but jerk it back quickly as the fish came around. I was
afraid of them. But before that I was once scared into a panic by a
high-soaring hen hawk. I have probably pointed out to you where, one
summer day, as I was going along the road out on what we called the big
hill, I looked skyward and saw a big hen hawk describing his large
circles about me. A sudden fear fell upon me, and I took refuge behind
the stone wall. Still earlier in my career I had my first panic farther
along on this same road. I suppose I had started off on my first journey
to explore the world when, getting well down the Deacon road beside the
woods, I looked back and, seeing how far I was from home, was seized
with a sudden consternation and turned and ran back as fast as I could
go. I have seen a young robin do the same thing when it had wandered out
a yard or so on the branch away from its nest.

I mastered only my a-b-c's at the old stone school house. A year or two
later we were sent off in the West Settlement district and I went to
school at a little unpainted school house with a creek on one side of it
and toeing squarely on the highway on the other. This also was about one
and a half miles from home, an easy, adventurous journey in the summer
with the many allurements of fields, stream, and wood, but in winter
often a battle with snow and cold. In winter we went across lots, my
elder brothers breaking a path through the fields and woods. How the
tracks in the snow--squirrels, hares, skunks, foxes--used to excite my
curiosity! And the line of ledges off on the left in the woods where
brother Wilson used to set traps for skunks and coons--how they haunted
my imagination as I caught dim glimpses of them, trudging along in our
narrow path! One mild winter morning, after I had grown to be a boy of
twelve or thirteen, my younger brother and I had an adventure with a
hare. He sat in his form in the deep snow between the roots of a maple
tree that stood beside the path. We were almost upon him before we
discovered him. As he did not move I withdrew a few yards to a stone
wall and armed myself with a boulder the size of my fist. Returning, I
let drive, sure of my game, but I missed by a foot, and the hare bounded
away over the wall and out into the open and off for the hemlocks a
quarter of a mile away. A rabbit in his form only ten feet away does not
so easily become a rabbit in the hand. This desire of the farm boy to
slay every wild creature he saw was universal in my time. I trust things
have changed in this respect since then.

At the little old school house I had many teachers, Bill Bouton, Bill
Allaben, Taylor Grant, Jason Powell, Rossetti Cole, Rebecca Scudder, and
others. I got well into Dayball's Arithmetic, Olney's Geography, and
read Hall's History of the United States--through the latter getting
quite familiar with the Indian wars and the French war and the
Revolution. Some books in the district library also attracted me. I
think I was the only one of the family that took books from the library.
I recall especially "Murphy, the Indian Killer" and the "Life of
Washington." The latter took hold of me; I remember one summer Sunday,
as I was playing through the house with my older brothers, of stopping
to read a certain passage of it aloud, and that it moved me so that I
did not know whether I was in the body or out. Many times I read that
passage and every time I was submerged, as it were, by a wave of
emotion. I mention so trifling a matter only to show how responsive I
was to literature at an early age. I should perhaps offset this
statement by certain other facts which are by no means so flattering.
There was a period in my latter boyhood when comic song-books, mostly of
the Negro minstrely sort, satisfied my craving for poetic literature. I
used to learn the songs by heart and invent and extemporize tunes for
them. To this day I can repeat some of those rank Negro songs.

My taste for books began early, but my taste for good literature was of
a much later and of slow growth. My interest in theological and
scientific questions antedated my love of literature. During the last
half of my 'teens I was greatly interested in phrenology and possessed a
copy of Spurzheim's "Phrenology," and of Comb's "Constitution of Man." I
also subscribed to Fowler's _Phrenological Journal_ and for years
accepted the phrenologists' own estimate of the value of their science.
And I still see some general truths in it. The size and shape of the
brain certainly give clues to the mind within, but its subdivision into
many bumps, or numerous small areas, like a garden plot, from each one
of which a different crop is produced, is absurd. Certain bodily
functions are localized in the brain, but not our mental and emotional
traits--veneration, self-esteem, sublimity--these are attributes of the
mind as a unit.

As I write these lines I am trying to see wherein I differed from my
brothers and from other boys of my acquaintance. I certainly had a
livelier interest in things and events about me. When Mr. McLaurie
proposed to start an academy in the village and came there to feel the
pulse of the people and to speak upon the subject I believe I was the
only boy in his audience. I was probably ten or twelve years of age. At
one point in his address the speaker had occasion to use me to
illustrate his point: "About the size of that boy there," he said,
pointing to me, and my face flushed with embarrassment. The academy was
started and I hoped in a few years to attend it. But the time when
Father could see his way to send me there never came. One season when I
was fifteen or sixteen, I set my heart on going to school at
Harpersfield. A boy whom I knew in the village attended it and I wanted
to accompany him. Father talked encouragingly and held it out as a
possible reward if I helped hurry the farm work along. This I did, and
for the first time taking to field with the team and plough and "summer
fallowing" one of the oat-stubble lots. I followed the plough those
September days with dreams of Harpersfield Academy hovering about me,
but the reality never came. Father concluded, after I had finished my
job of ploughing, that he could not afford it. Butter was low and he had
too many other ways for using his money. I think it quite possible that
my dreams gave me the best there was in Harpersfield anyway--a worthy
aspiration is never lost. All these things differentiate me from my

My interest in theological questions showed itself about the same time.
An itinerant lecturer with a smooth, ready tongue came to the village
charged with novel ideas about the immortality of the soul, accepting
the literal truth of the text "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." I
attended the meetings and took notes of the speaker's glib talk. I
distinctly remember that it was from his mouth that I first heard the
word "encyclopaedia." When he cited the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" in
confirmation of some statement, I had no doubt of its truth, and I
resolved sometime to get my hands on that book. I still have those notes
and references that I took sixty years ago.

At a much earlier stage of my mental development I had a passion for
drawing, but, quite unguided, it resulted only in a waste of paper. I
wanted to walk before I could creep, to paint before I could draw, and
getting a box of cheap water colours, I indulged my crude artistic
instincts. My most ambitious piece was a picture of General Winfield
Scott standing beside his horse and some piece of artillery, which I
copied from a print. It was of course an awful daub, but in connection
with it I heard for the first time a new word,--the word "taste" used in
its aesthetic sense. One of the neighbour women was calling at the
house, and seeing my picture said to Mother, "What taste that boy has."
That application of the word made an impression on me that I have never

About this time I heard another new word. We were working on the road,
and I with my hoe was working beside an old Quaker farmer, David Corbin,
who used to be a school teacher. A large flat stone was turned over, and
beneath it in some orderly arrangement were some smaller stones. "Here
are some antiquities," said Mr. Corbin, and my vocabulary received
another addition. A new word or a new thing was very apt to make its
mark upon my mind. I have told elsewhere what a revelation to me was my
first glimpse of one of the warblers, the black-throated blue-back,
indicating as it did a world of bird life of which I had never dreamed,
the bird life in the inner heart of the woods. My brothers and other
boys were with me but they did not see the new bird. The first time I
saw the veery, or Wilson's thrush, also stands out in my memory. It
alighted in the road before us on the edge of the woods. "A brown
thrasher," said Bill Chase. It was not the thrasher but it was a new
bird to me and the picture of it is in my mind as if made only
yesterday. Natural History was a subject unknown to me in my boyhood,
and such a thing as nature study in the schools was of course unheard
of. Our natural history we got unconsciously in the sport at noon time,
or on our way to and from school or in our Sunday excursions to the
streams and woods. We learned much about the ways of foxes and
woodchucks and coons and skunks and squirrels by hunting them. The
partridge, too, and the crows, hawks, and owls, and the song birds of
the field and orchard, all enter into the farm boy's life. I early
became familiar with the songs and habits of all the common birds, and
with field mice and the frogs, toads, lizards, and snakes. Also with the
wild bees and wasps. One season I made a collection of bumblebee honey,
studying the habits of five or six different kinds and rifling their
nests. I kept my store of bumble-bee honey in the attic where I had a
small box full of the comb and a large phial filled with the honey. How
well I came to know the different dispositions of the various kinds--the
small red-vested that made its nest in a hole in the ground; the small
black-vested, the large black-vested, the yellow-necked, the black-
banded, etc., that made their nests in old mice nests in the meadow or
in the barn and other places. I used to watch and woo the little piping
frogs in the spring marshes when I had driven the cows to pasture at
night, till they would sit in my open hand and pipe. I used to creep on
my hands and knees through the woods to see the partridge in the act of
drumming. I used to watch the mud wasps building their nests in the old
attic and noted their complaining cry while in the act of pressing on
the mud. I noted the same complaining cry from the bees when working on
the flower of the purple-flowering raspberry, what we called "Scotch
caps." I tried to trap foxes and soon learned how far the fox's cunning
surpassed mine. My first lesson in animal psychology I got from old Nat
Higby as he came riding by on horseback one winter day, his huge feet
almost meeting under the horse, just as a hound was running a fox across
our upper mountain lot. "My boy," he said, "that fox may be running as
fast as he can, but if you stood behind that big rock beside his course,
and as he came along should jump out and shout 'hello,' he would run
faster." That was the winter when in fond imagination I saw a stream of
silver dollars coming my way from the red foxes I was planning to
deprive of their pelts when they needed them most. I have told elsewhere
of my trapping experiences and how completely I failed.

I was born at Roxbury, N. Y., April 3, 1837. At least two other American
authors of note were born on the third of April--Washington Irving and
Edward Everett Hale. The latter once wrote me a birthday letter in which
he said, among other things, "I have been looking back over my diaries
to see what I was doing the day you were being born. I find I was
undergoing an examination in logic at Harvard College." The only other
American author born in 1837 is William Dean Howells, who was born in
Ohio in March of that year.

I was the son of a farmer, who was the son of a farmer, who was again
the son of a farmer. There are no professional or commercial men in my
line for several generations, my blood has the flavour of the soil in
it; it is rural to the last drop. I can find no city dwellers in the
line of my descent in this country. The Burroughs tribe, as far back as
I can find any account of them, were mainly countrymen and tillers of
the soil. The Rev. George Burroughs, who was hung as a witch at Salem,
Mass., in 1694, may have been of the family, though I can find no proof
of it. I wanted to believe that he was and in 1898 I made a visit to
Salem and to Gallows Hill to see the spot where he, the last victim of
the witchcraft craze, ended his life. There is no doubt that the
renegade preacher, Stephen Burroughs, who stole a lot of his father's
sermons and set up as a preacher and forger on his own account about
1720, was a third or fourth cousin of my father's.

Farmers with a decidedly religious bent contributed the main elements of
my personality. I was a countryman dyed in the wool, yea, more than
that, born and bred in the bone, and my character is fundamentally
reverent and religious. The religion of my fathers underwent in me a
kind of metamorphosis and became something which would indeed have
appeared like rank atheism to them, but which was nevertheless full of
the very essence of true religion--love, reverence, wonder,
unworldliness, and devotion to ideal truth--but in no way identified
with Church or creed.

I used to feel that my religious temperament was as clearly traceable to
the hard Calvinism of my fathers, as the stratified sandstone is
traceable to the old granite rock, but that it had undergone a sea
change as had the sandstone, or in my case a science change through the
activity of the mind and of the age in which I lived. It was rationalism
touched with mysticism and warm with poetic emotion.

My paternal grandfather and great-grandfather came from near Bridgeport
in Connecticut about the end of the Revolution and settled in Stamford,
Delaware County, New York. Captain Stephen Burroughs of Bridgeport, a
mathematician and a man of note in his time, was Father's great uncle.
Father used to say that his uncle Stephen could build a ship and sail it
around the world. The family name is still common in and about
Bridgeport. The first John Burroughs of whom I can find any record came
to this country from the West Indies and settled in Stratford, Conn.,
about 1690. He had ten children, and ten children to a family was the
rule down to my own father. One October while on a cruise with a small
motor boat on Long Island Sound, stress of weather compelled us to seek
shelter in Black Rock harbour, which is a part of Bridgeport. In the
morning we went ashore, and as we were walking up a street seeking the
trolley line to take us into the city, we saw a large brick building
with the legend on it--"The Burroughs Home." I felt like going in and
claiming its hospitality--after our rough experience on the Sound its
look and its name were especially inviting. Some descendant of Captain
Stephen Burroughs was probably its founder.

My great-grandfather, Ephraim, I believe, died in 1818, and was buried
in the town of Stamford in a field that is now cultivated. My
grandfather, Eden Burroughs, died in Roxbury in 1842, aged 72, and my
father, Chauncey A. Burroughs, in 1884 at the age of 81.

My maternal grandfather, Edmund Kelly, was Irish, though born in this
country about 1765. It is from his Irish strain that I get many of my
Celtic characteristics--my decidedly feminine temperament. I always felt
that I was more a Kelly than a Burroughs. Grandfather Kelly was a small
man, with a big head and marked Irish features. He entered the
Continental army when a mere lad in some menial capacity, but before the
end he carried a musket in the ranks. He was with Washington at Valley
Forge and had many stories to tell of their hardships. He was upward of
seventy-five years old when I first remember him--a little man in a blue
coat with brass buttons. He and Granny used to come to our house once or
twice a year for a week or two at a time. Their permanent home was with
Uncle Martin Kelly in Red Kill, eight miles away. I remember him as a
great angler. How many times in the May or June mornings, as soon as he
had had his breakfast, have I seen him digging worms and getting ready
to go a-fishing up Montgomery Hollow or over in Meeker's Hollow, or over
in West Settlement! You could always be sure he would bring home a nice
string of trout. Occasionally I was permitted to go with him. How nimbly
he would walk, even when he was over eighty, and how skilfully he would
take the trout! I was an angler myself before I was ten, but Grandfather
would take trout from places in the stream where I would not think it
worth while to cast my hook. But I never fished when I went with him, I
carried the fish and watched him. The pull home, often two or three
miles, tried my young legs, but Grandfather would show very little
fatigue, and I know he did not have the ravenous hunger I always had
when I went fishing, so much so that I used to think there was in this
respect something peculiar about going fishing. One hour along the trout
streams would develop more hunger in me than half a day hoeing corn or
working on the road--a peculiarly fierce, all-absorbing desire for
food, so that a piece of rye bread and butter was the most delicious
thing in the world. I remember that one June day my cousin and I, when
we were about seven or eight years old, set out for Meeker's Hollow for
trout. It was a pull of over two miles and over a pretty hard hill. Our
courage held out until we reached the creek, but we were too hungry to
fish; we turned homeward and fed upon the wild strawberries in the
pastures and meadows we passed through and they kept us alive until we
reached home. Oh, that youthful hunger beside the trout stream, was
there ever anything else like it in the world!

Grandfather Kelly was a fisherman nearly up to the year of his death at
the age of eighty-eight. He had few of the world's goods and he did not
want them. His only vice was plug tobacco, his only recreation was
angling, and his only reading the Bible. How long and attentively would
he pore over the Book!--but I never heard him comment upon it or express
any religious opinion or conviction. He believed in witches and
hobgoblins: he had seen them and experienced them and used to tell us
stories that almost made us afraid of our own shadows. My own youthful
horror of darkness, and of dark rooms and recesses and cellars even in
the daytime, was due no doubt largely to Grandfather's blood-curdling
tales. Yet I may be wrong about this, for I remember a fearful
experience I had when I was a child of three or four years. I see myself
with some of the other children cowering in a corner of the old kitchen
at night with my eyes fixed on the black space of the open door of the
bedroom occupied by my father and mother. They were out for the evening
and we were waiting for their return. The agony of that waiting I shall
never forget. Whether or not the other children shared my fear I do not
remember; probably they did, and maybe communicated their fear to me. I
could not take my eyes off the entrance to that black cavern, though of
what I may have fancied it held that would hurt me I have no idea. It
was only the child's inherited fear of the dark, the unknown, the
mysterious. Grandfather's stories, no doubt, strengthened that fear. It
clung to me all through my boyhood and until my fifteenth or sixteenth
year and was peculiarly acute about my twelfth and thirteenth years. The
road through the woods at twilight, the barn, the wagon house, the
cellar set my imagination on tiptoe. If I had to pass the burying ground
up on the hill by the roadside in the dark, I did so very gingerly. I
was too scared to run for fear the ghosts of all the dead buried there
would be at my heels.

Probably I get my love for the contemplative life and for nature more
through my mother than through my father; Mother had the self-
consciousness of the Celt, Father not at all, though he had the Celtic
temperament: red hair and freckles! The red-haired, freckled, harsh-
voiced little man made a great deal of noise about the farm--shouting at
the stock, sending the dog after the cows or after the pigs in the
garden, or calling his orders to us in the field or shouting back his
directions for the work after he had started for the Beaver Dam village.
But his bark was always more to be feared than his bite. He would
threaten loudly but punish mildly or not at all. But he improved the
fields, he cleared the woods, he battled with the rocks and the stones,
he paid his debts and he kept his faith. He was not a man of sentiment,
though he was a man of feeling. He was easily moved to tears and had
strong religious convictions and emotions. These emotions often found
vent in his reading his hymn book aloud in a curious undulating sing-
song tone. He knew nothing of what we call love of nature and he owed
little or nothing to books after his schoolboy days. He usually took two
weekly publications--an Albany or a New York newspaper and a religious
paper called _The Signs of the Times_, the organ of the Old School
Baptist Church, of which he was a member. He never asked me about my own
books and I doubt that he ever looked into one of them. How far the
current of my thoughts and interests ran from the current of his
thoughts and interests! Literature he had never heard of, science and
philosophy were an unknown world to him. Religion (hard
predestinarianism), politics (democratic), and farming took up all his
thoughts and time. He had no desire to travel, he was not a hunter or
fisherman, and the shows and vanities of the world disturbed him not.
When I grew to crave schooling and books he was disturbed lest I become
a Methodist minister--his special aversion. Religion on such easy and
wholesale terms as that of his Methodist neighbours made his nostrils
dilate with contempt. But literature was an enemy he had never heard of.
A writer of books had no place in his category of human occupations; and
as for a poet, he would probably have ranked him with the dancing
master. Yet late in life, when he saw my picture in a magazine, he is
said to have shed tears. Poor Father, his heart was tender, but
concerning so much that fills and moves the world, his mind was dark. He
was a good farmer, a helpful neighbour, a devoted parent and husband,
and he did well the work in the world which fell to his lot to do. The
narrowness and bigotry of his class and church and time were his, but
probity of character, ready good will, and a fervent religious nature
were his also. His heart was much softer than his creed. He might scoff
at his neighbour's religion or politics, but he was ever ready to lend
him a hand.

The earliest memory I can recall of him dates back to a spring day in my
early childhood. The "hired girl" had thrown my straw hat off the
stonework into the road. In my grief and helplessness to punish her as I
thought she merited, I looked up to the side hill above the house and
saw Father striding across the ploughed ground with a bag strung across
his breast from which he was sowing grain. His measured strides, the
white bag, and his regular swinging arm made a picture on the background
of the red soil, all heightened no doubt by my excited state of mind,
that stamped itself indelibly upon my memory. He strode across those
hills with that bag suspended around his neck, sowing grain, for many

Another spring picture of him much later in life, when I was a man grown
and home on a visit, comes to mind. I see him following a team of horses
hitched to a harrow across a ploughed field, dragging in the oats. To
and fro he goes all afternoon, the dust streaming behind him and the
ground smoothing as his work progressed I suppose I had a feeling that I
should have taken his place. He always got his crops in in season and
gathered in season. His farm was his kingdom and he wanted no other. I
can see him going about it, calling the dog, "hollering" at the cattle
or the sheep or at the men at work in the fields, making a great deal of
unnecessary noise, but always with an eye to his crops and to the best
interests of the farm. He was a home body, had no desire to travel,
little curiosity about other lands, except, maybe, Bible lands, and felt
an honest contempt for city ways and city people. He was as unaffected
as a child and would ask a man his politics or a woman her age as soon
as ask them the time of day. He had little delicacy of feeling on the
conventional side but great tenderness of emotion on the purely human
side. His candour was at times appalling, and he often brought a look of
shame into Mother's face. He had received a fairly good schooling for
those times and had been a school teacher himself in the winter months.
Mother was one of his pupils when he taught in Red Kill. I passed the
little school house recently and wondered if there was a counterpart of
Amy Kelly among the few girls I saw standing about the door, or if there
was a red-haired, freckled, country greenhorn at the teacher's desk
inside. Father was but once in New York, sometime in the '20's, and
never saw the capitol of his country or his state. And I am sure he
never sat on a jury or had a lawsuit in my time. He took an interest in
politics and was always a Democrat, and during the Civil War, I fear, a
"copperhead." His religion saw no evil in slavery. I remember seeing him
in some political procession during the Harrison Campaign of 1840. He
was with a gang of men standing up in a wagon from the midst of which
rose a pole with a coon skin or a stuffed coon upon it. I suppose what I
saw was part of a Harrison political procession.

Father "experienced religion" in his early manhood and became a member
of the Old School Baptist Church. To become members of that church it
was not enough that you wanted to lead a better life and serve God
faithfully; you must have had a certain religious experience, have gone
through a crisis as Paul did, been convicted of sin in some striking
manner, and have descended into the depths of humiliation and despair,
and then, when all seemed lost, have heard the voice of forgiveness and
acceptance and felt indeed that you were now a child of God. This
crucial experience the candidate for church membership was called on to
relate before the elders of the church, and if the story rang true, he
or she was in due time enrolled in the company of the elect few. No
doubt about its being a real experience with most of those people--a
storm-and-stress period that lasted for weeks or months before the joy
of peace and forgiveness came to their souls. I have heard some of those
experiences and have read the record of many more in _The Signs of the
Times_, which Father took for more than fifty years. The conversion
was radical and lasting, these men led changed lives ever after. With
them once a child of God, always a child of God, reformation never
miscarried. It was an iron-clad faith and it stood the wear and tear of
life well. Father was not ostentatiously religious. Far from it. I have
known him to draw in hay on Sunday when a shower threatened, and once I
saw him carry a gun when the pigeons were about; but he came back
gameless with a guilty look when he saw me, and I think he never wavered
in his Old School Baptist faith. There were no religious observances in
the family and no religious instruction. Father read his hymn book and
his Bible and at times his _Signs_, but never compelled us to read
them. His church did not believe in Sunday-schools or in any sort of
religious training. Their preachers never prepared their sermons but
spoke the words that the Spirit put into their mouths. As they were
mostly unlettered men the Spirit had many sins of rhetoric and logic to
answer for. Their discourses did more credit to their hearts than to
their heads. I recall some of their preachers, or Elders, as they were
called, very distinctly--Elder Jim Mead, Elder Morrison, Elder Hewett,
Elder Fuller, Elder Hubble--all farmers and unlearned in the lore of
this world, but earnest men and some of them strong, picturesque
characters. Elder Jim Mead usually went barefooted during the summer,
and Mother once told me that he often preached barefooted in the school
house. Elder Hewett was their strong man during my youth--a narrow and
darkened mind tried by the wisdom of the schools, but a man of native
force of character and often in his preaching attaining to a strain of
true and lofty eloquence. His discourses, if their jumble of Scriptural
texts may be called such, were never a call to sinners to repent and be
saved--God would attend to that Himself--but a vehement justification
from the Scriptures of the Old School Baptist creed, or the doctrine of
election and justification by faith, not by works. The Methodists or
Arminians, as he called them, were a thorn in his side and he never
tired of hurling his Pauline texts at their cheap and easy terms of
salvation. Could he have been convinced that he must share Heaven with
the Arminians, I believe he would have preferred to take his chance in
the other place. Religious intolerance is an ugly thing, but its days in
this world are numbered, and the day of the Old School Baptist Society
seems numbered. Their church, which was often crowded in my youth, is
almost deserted now. This generation is too light and frivolous for such
a heroic creed: the sons of the old members are not men enough to stand
up under the moral weight of Calvinism and predestination. Absurd as the
doctrine seems to us, it went with or begot something in those men and
women of an earlier time--a moral fibre and depth of character--to which
the later generations are strangers. Of course those men were nearer the
stump than we are and had more of the pioneer virtues and hardiness than
we have, and struggles and victory or defeat were more a part of their
lives than they are of ours, a hard creed with heroic terms of salvation
fitted their moods better than it fits ours.

My youthful faith in a jealous and vengeful God, which in some way had
been instilled into my mind, was rudely shaken one summer day during a
thunderstorm. The idea had somehow got into my head that if in any way
we mocked the powers up above or became disrespectful toward them,
vengeance would follow, quick and sure. At a loud peal overhead the boy
I was playing with deliberately stuck up his scornful lips at the clouds
and in other ways expressed his defiance. I fairly cringed in my tracks;
I expected to see my companion smitten with a thunderbolt at my side.
That I recall the incident so vividly shows what a deep impression it
made upon me. But I have long ceased to think that the Ruler of the
storms sees or cares whether we make faces at the clouds or not--do your
work well and make all the wry faces you please.

My native mountain, out of whose loins I sprang, is called the Old
Clump. It sits there with bare head but mantled sides, looking southward
and holding the home farm of three hundred and fifty acres in its lap.
The farm with its checkered fields lies there like a huge apron,
reaching up over the smooth sloping thighs on the west and on the east
and coming well up on the breast, forming the big rough mountain fields
where the sheep and young cattle graze. Those mountain pastures rarely
knew the plough, but the broad side-hill fields, four of them, that
cover the inside of the western thigh, have been alternately ploughed
and grazed since my boyhood and before. They yield good crops of rye,
oats, buckwheat, and potatoes, and fair summer grazing. In winter huge
snow banks lie there just below the summit of the hill, blotting out the
stone fences beneath eight or ten feet of snow. I have known these banks
to linger there until the middle of May. I remember carrying a jug of
water one hot May day to my brother Curtis who was ploughing the upper
and steepest side hill, and whose plough had nearly reached the edge of
the huge snow bank. Sometimes the woodchucks feel the call of spring in
their dens in the ground beneath them and dig their way out through the
coarse, granulated snow, leaving muddy tracks where they go. I have
"carried together" both oats and rye in all these fields. One September,
during the first year of the Civil War, 1862, we were working in the
oats there and Hiram was talking hourly of enlisting in the army as a
drummer boy. When the cattle are grazing there, one may often see them
from the road over the eastern leg of Old Clump which is lower,
silhouetted against the evening sky. The bleating of the sheep in the
still summer twilight on the bosom of Old Clump is also a sweet memory.
So is the evening song of the vesper sparrow, which one may hear all
summer long floating out from these sweet pastoral solitudes. From one
of these side-hill fields, Father and his hired man, Rube Dart, were
once drawing oats on a sled when the load capsized while Rube had his
fork in it on the upper side trying to hold it down, and the fork with
Rube clinging to it described a complete circle in the air, Rube landing
on his feet below, none the worse for his adventure.

Grandfather's farm, which he and Grandmother carved out of the
wilderness in the last years of 1700 and where Father was born in 1802,
lies just over the hill on the western knee of Old Clump, and is in the
watershed of West Settlement, a much broader and deeper valley of nearly
a dozen farms, and to which my home valley is a tributary. The sugar
bush lies near the groin of the old mountain, the "beech woods" over the
eastern knee, and the Rundle Place, where now is Woodchuck Lodge, is on
his skirts that look eastward. Hence, most of the home farm stands apart
in a valley by itself. As you approach on the train from the south you
may see Old Clump rising up in the north eight or ten miles away,
presenting the appearance of a well-defined cone, with the upper portion
of the farm showing, and hiding behind it the mountain system of which
it is the southern end.

Old Clump figured a good deal in my boyhood life and scarcely less in my
life since. The first deer's horn I ever saw we found there one Sunday
under a jutting rock as we were on our way to the summit. My excursions
to salt and count the sheep often took me there, and my boyhood thirst
for the wild and adventurous took me there still oftener. Old Clump used
to lift me up into the air three thousand feet and introduce me to his
great brotherhood of mountains far and near, and make me acquainted with
the full-chested exhilaration that awaits one on mountain tops. Graham,
Double Top, Slide Mountain, Peek o' Moose, Table Mountain, Wittenburg,
Cornell, and others are visible from the summit. There was as well
something so gentle and sweet and primitive about its natural clearings
and open glades, about the spring that bubbled up from under a tilted
rock just below the summit, about the grassy terraces, its hidden
ledges, its scattered, low-branching, moss-covered maples, the
cloistered character of its clumps of small beeches, its domestic
looking mountain ash, its orchard-like wild black cherries, its garden-
like plots of huckleberries, raspberries, and strawberries, the patches
of fragrant brakes like dense miniature forests through which one wades
as through patches of green midsummer snow, its divine strains of the
hermit thrush floating out of the wooded depths below you--all these
things drew me as a boy and still draw me as an old man.

From where the road crosses the eastern knee of Old Clump to where it
crosses the western knee is over half a mile. Well down in the valley
between them the home buildings are situated, and below them the old and
very productive meadows, only the upper borders of which have ever known
the plough. The little brooklet that drains the valley used to abound in
trout, but in sixty years it has dwindled to such an extent and has been
so nearly obliterated by grazing cattle that there are no trout until
you reach the hemlocks on the threshold of which my fishing excursions
of boyhood used to end. The woods were too dark and mysterious for my
inflamed imagination--inflamed, I suppose, by Grandfather's spook
stories. In this little stream in the pasture I used to build ponds, the
ruins of one of which are still visible. In this pond I learned to swim,
but none of my brothers would venture in with me. I was the only one in
the family who ever mastered the art of swimming and I mastered it by
persistent paddling in this pond on Sundays and summer evenings and
between my farm duties at other times. All my people were "landlubbers"
of the most pronounced type and afraid to get above their knees in the
water or to trust themselves to row-boats or other craft. Here again I
was an odd one.

I used to make kites and crossbows and darts and puzzle people with the
trick of the buncombe blocks. One summer I made a very large kite,
larger than any I had ever seen, and attaching a string fully half a
mile long sent it up with a meadow mouse tethered to the middle of the
frame. I suppose I wanted to give this little creature of the dark and
hidden ways of the meadow--so scared of its life from hawks, foxes, and
cats, that it rarely shows itself out of its secret tunnels in the
meadow bottoms or its retreats under the flat stones in the pastures--a
taste of sky and sunshine and a glimpse of the big world in which it
lived. He came down winking and blinking but he appeared none the worse
for his trip skyward, and I let him go to relate his wonderful adventure
to his fellows.

Once I made a miniature sawmill by the roadside on the overflow of water
from the house spring that used to cause people passing by to stop and
laugh. It had a dam, a flume, an overshot wheel ten inches in diameter,
a carriage for the log (a green cucumber), a gate for the tin saw about
six inches long, and a superstructure less than two feet high. The water
reached the wheel through a piece of old pump log three or four feet
long, capped with the body of an old tin dinner horn. Set at quite an
angle, the water issued from the half-inch opening in the end of the
horn with force enough to make the little wheel hum and send the saw
through the cucumber at a rapid rate--only I had to shove the carriage
along by hand. Brother Hiram helped me with the installation of this
plant. It was my plaything for only one season.

I made a cross-gun that had a barrel (in the end of which you dropped
the arrow) and a lock with a trigger, and that was really a spiteful,
dangerous weapon. About my fifteenth year I had a real gun, a small,
double-barrelled gun made by some ingenious blacksmith, I fancy. But it
had fairly good shooting qualities--several times I brought down wild
pigeons from the tree tops with it. Rabbits, gray squirrels, partridges,
also fell before it. I bought it of a pedlar for three dollars, paying
on the instalment plan, with money made out of maple sugar.

On the wooded west side of Old Clump we used to hunt rabbits--really the
northern hare, brown in summer and white in winter. Their runways made
paths among the mountain-maple bushes just below the summit. On the
eastern side was a more likely place for gray squirrels, coons, and
partridges. Foxes were at home on all sides and Old Clump was a
favourite ground of the fox hunters. One day of early Indian summer, as
we were digging potatoes on the lower side hill, our attention was
attracted by someone calling from the edge of the woods at the upper
side of the sheep lot. My brothers rested on their hoe handles a moment
and I brushed the soil from my hands and straightened up from my bent
attitude of picking up the potatoes. We all listened and looked.
Presently we made out the figure of a man up by the edge of the woods
and soon decided from his excited voice and gestures that he was calling
for help. Finally, we made out that someone was hurt and the oxen and
sled were needed to bring him down. It turned out to be a neighbour,
Gould Bouton, calling, and Elihu Meeker, his uncle, who was hurt. They
were fox hunting and Elihu had fired at the fox from the top of a high
rock near the top of Old Clump and in his excitement had in some way
slipped from the rock and fallen on the stones fifteen or twenty feet
below and sustained serious injury to his side and back. With all
possible speed the oxen and sled were got up there and after long
waiting they returned to the house with Elihu aboard, groaning and
writhing on a heap of straw. The injury had caused him to bleed from his
kidneys. In the meantime Doctor Newkirk had been sent for and I remember
that I feared Elihu would die before he got there. What a relief I felt
when I saw the doctor coming on horseback, in the good old style,
running his horse at the top of his speed! "Now," I said, "Elihu will be
saved." He had already lost a good deal of blood, but the first thing
the doctor did was to take more from him. This was in times when
bleeding was about the first thing a doctor did on all occasions. The
idea seemed to be that you could sap the strength of the disease by that
means without sapping the strength of the man. Well, the old hunter
survived the double blood-letting; he was cured of his injury and cured
of his fox-hunting fever also.

He was a faithful, hard-working man, a carpenter by trade. He built our
"new barn" in 1844 and put a new roof on the old barn. Father got out
the timber for the new barn in old Jonas More's hemlocks and hauled it
to the sawmill. Lanson Davids worked with him. They had their dinner in
the winter woods. One day they had a pork stew and Father said he had
never eaten anything in his life that tasted so good. He and Mother were
then in the flower of their days and Lanson Davids said to him on this
occasion: "Chauncey, you are the biggest hog to eat I ever saw in my
life." "I was hungry," said Father.

We had "raisings" in those days, when a new building was put up. The
timbers were heavy, often hewn from trees in the woods, set up, pinned
together in what were called "bents." In a farmer's barn there were
usually four bents, tied together by the "plates" and cross beams. I
remember well the early summer day when the new barn was raised. I can
see Elihu guiding the corner post of the first bent and when the men
were ready calling out: "All together now," "set her up," "heave 'o
heave, heave 'o heave," till the bent was in position.

One June when he was shingling the old barn he engaged me to pick him
some wild strawberries. When I came in the afternoon with my four-quart
pail nearly full he came down off the roof and gave me a silver quarter,
or two shillings, as then called, and I felt very rich.

It is an open country, like an unrolled map, simple in all its lines,
with little variety in its scenery, devoid of sharp contrasts and sudden
changes and hence lacking in the element of the picturesque which comes
from these things. It is a part of the earth's surface that has never
been subject to convulsion and upheaval. The stratified rock lies
horizontally just as it was laid down in the bottom of the Devonian Seas
millions of years ago. The mountains and the valleys are the result of
vast ages of gentle erosion, and gentleness and repose are stamped upon
every feature of the landscape. The hand of time and the slow but
enormous pressure of the great continental ice sheet have rubbed down
and smoothed off all sharp angles, giving to the mountains their long
sweeping lines, to the hills their broad round backs, and to the valleys
their deep, smooth, trough-like contours. The level strata crop out here
and there, giving to the hills the effect of heavy eyebrows. But
occasionally it is more than that: in the mountains it is often like a
cavernous mouth into which one can retreat several yards, where the
imaginative farm boy loves to prowl and linger like the half savage that
he is and dream of Indians and the wild, adventurous life. There were a
few such cavernous ledges in the woods on my father's farm where one
could retreat from a sudden shower, but less than a mile away there were
two lines of them, one on Pine Hill and one on Chase's Hill, where the
foundations of the earth were laid open, presenting a broken and jagged
rocky front from ten to thirty or forty feet high, gnawed full of little
niches and pockets and cavernous recesses by the never-dulled tooth of
geologic time and affording dens and retreats where Indians and wild
beasts often took refuge. As a boy how I used to haunt these places,


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