Looking Back


Across the Country in a Chalmers Touring Car

Sam MooreReading old farm and automobile publications can turn up some strange tales – like this one that appeared in the July 1918 issue of Auto and Tractor Shop magazine.

In 1916, a man named Abraham Toube lived in Portland, Maine, and had eight children, a sick wife, a well-worn 1909 Chalmers touring car and $300 in cash. In order to improve his wife’s health, Toube was determined to pack up the family in the old Chalmers and move to the West Coast.

Before leaving Maine, Toube had converted the touring car’s body into a large truck-like box that served as “sleeping compartment, dining room, play room, reception hall and general living quarters,” for the family, which included eight kids ranging in age from a 15-year-old son to a 5-month-old daughter. We are told that “except where impossible on account of the weather, the father and eldest son slept on the ground on cots, while the interior of the machine, which was generally enclosed at night by the side curtains, was used by Mrs. Toube and the younger children for sleeping.” All the boxes, cans, and bundles required for their necessary supplies and their household effects were tied onto the car’s running boards and anywhere else feasible.

The Toube’s long journey began around Christmas of 1916, as the first accounts of it appeared in the spring of 1917, and although the three different newspaper stories I turned up varied as to the family’s final destination, they agreed on most of the story.

The family took time to see the country on their way west as we are told they traveled some 6,000 miles and journeyed by way of Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Omaha, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc. They camped along the road or, when in town, on a likely looking vacant lot, while Mr. Toube and his oldest boy worked at various odd jobs to eke out the $300. The old Chalmers was adorned with signs declaring the Toube’s mission: “Maine to California” and the tourists were “the object of interest in every state and town they visited.”

Chalmers touring car
The 1909 Chalmers touring car and the Toube family. Photos from the July 1918 issue of Auto and Tractor Shop magazine.

In those World War I days, the newspaper reporters made sure to point out that Mr. Toube was a native of Russia, and that his missus had been born in Germany. The couple’s ethnic origins would seem to have no bearing on their story, unless to subtly point out that no “real American” would have been crazy enough to do what they did.

This was shortly after Czar Nicholas had abdicated the Romanov throne during the Russian Revolution, so naturally a reporter had to ask Mr. Toube for his thoughts on that event. According to the account, Toube replied, “I don’t care what they do with the Czar. I am an American today, at least at heart. And I, with my five boys when old enough, will rally around Old Glory any time we are needed.”

Two of the newspaper stories pointed out that the Chalmers was run the whole way on “ordinary coal oil or distillate,” which was cheaper than gasoline, and Mr. Toube claimed to get nearly the same mileage on distillate as when burning the more expensive fuel.

As would be expected, all sorts of weather was encountered during the journey, including at one point hail stones “large enough to smash the thick glass of the headlight,” according to one account, while another quoted Mr. Toube as saying that the weather “included rainstorms, snow-storms, blizzards, sleet, mud, etc., but notwithstanding all these we were making it fine until the big mishap occurred.”

The “big mishap” was just east of Needles, California, on the National Old Trails Route when the Toube party lost track of the poorly marked trail and took the Parker Cutoff. While attempting to return to the National Trail, Toube got the Chalmers stuck while fording a creek, and in trying to get out he lost all three forward transmission gears!

Well, reverse still worked so Toube managed to back out of the stream and probably sat there for a few minutes muttering a few choice Russian oaths. But, the pilgrims were too close to their goal to give up, so a better fording spot was found and the Chalmers was backed across the creek and then the 10 or so miles into Needles. Here he found that transmission repairs were far beyond his limited means, so “get back into the car, kids, by the beard of the Czar; we’ll back our way into LA!”

And, that’s just what they did, all 315 miles in reverse gear!

Chalmers touring car

At this point the Toube saga becomes somewhat muddied. One account seems to indicate that the wanderers settled in Los Angeles. Another tells us they pulled into San Francisco, “and after reconnoitering for the best-looking vacant lot, settled down for the night. While here in San Francisco the father and the oldest boy accepted employment of a general character.”

Then, in their June 10, 1917, issue, The Sunday Oregonian of Portland, Oregon tells us, “A 1909 Chalmers automobile which has been in continual use since it was purchased years ago in Portland, Maine, is now in Portland, Oregon, ready to be converted into a farm tractor that it may do its bit in cultivating Oregon fields, thereby boosting the world’s food supply.”

So apparently the peripatetic Toube clan ended up in Oregon and became involved with farming. The old Chalmers car had quite a history, and it would be so interesting to know how the Toube children and their descendants fared. I wonder too, if Abraham Toube ever got the krick out of his neck from looking back all those 315 miles.

– Sam Moore

The Crash at Crush

Two trains colliding
A poor photo showing the two engines just as the cow catchers crumpled. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sam MooreIt’s difficult to believe that American railroads deliberately set up “Cornfield Meets,” or head-on collisions, between two of their trains but they did!  It’s very doubtful that anyone today, except perhaps a few Texans, are familiar with just such an event, known as the “Crush Crash,” or are aware that for one day, September 15, 1896, between 40,000 and 50,000 people gathered in the fictitious town of Crush, Texas, making it, for that day only, the second-most populous town in the state.

During the late 1800s the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T, nicknamed the Katy) railroad operated a line between Dallas and Waco. During a modernization program in 1895, a batch of 30-ton locomotives of the 4-4-0 American configuration was replaced with modern 60-tonners. William George Crush was the general passenger agent for the Katy and saw an opportunity to both advertise the line, and to eliminate surplus locos.

Crush proposed to his bosses, who actually approved the idea, to stage a head-on collision between two of the old locomotives and to invite the public to watch, free of charge! The road even proposed to cut fares on the excursion trains it would run to haul folks to the event.

Crush chose a spot along the Dallas-Waco main line and had a 4-mile segment of track built that ran from one hill down through a valley and ended on another hill, ensuring that the expected 20,000 spectators would have a good view of the crash. Wells were drilled, telegraph lines and offices built, a huge circus tent erected, and grandstands for the spectators built. There was also a railroad depot put up with a signboard that read, “Crush, Texas.” There were concession stands to provide side-shows, food, drinks and games of chance, and there were platforms for the inevitable dignitaries and speech-makers.

Two of the old Baldwin locomotives were chosen. Frank Barnes, a retired Katy engineer who had been fireman on one of the engines recalled in a 1950 Katy Employees’ Magazine, “I’ll tell you, those were two flashy engines. Old 999 was painted green with red trim and was headed south, No. 1001 was red, trimmed in green and was headed north.” Advertising fliers flooded the state, and most newspapers reported regularly on proceedings, while during the months leading up to the big day, which was set for September 15, 1896, to advertise the event the two “flashy engines” travelled all over the state and were seen by thousands of people.

More than 40,000 folks showed up it took 33 over-crowded excursion trains to get them all there and they spent the day listening to orators, picnicking, visiting the concession booths, and waiting for the 4:00 p.m. start time.

Crush had ruled that spectators must stay 200 yards back from the track for safety, but the rule was hard to enforce as every one of those 40,000 people was determined to get as close as he or she could to be sure to not to miss anything. The officials finally got most of the crowd behind the line and at 5:00 p.m. Mr. Crush rode out astride a white horse [flesh and blood, not iron] raised his big white hat and “after a pause whipped it sharply down.” At this signal the two engines, behind each of which was a consist of six box cars, covered with advertising posters and all chained together as the link and pin couplers would likely break apart on impact, were off! Of course the crowd surged forward, cheering and ignoring the safety lines, and the engine whistles, which had been tied down, began to scream as the two lumbering giants picked up speed toward each other.

Texas historical marker
A Texas State historical marker near the site of event.

Frank Barnes described the actions of the two train crews  “We cut the reverse lever back to the second notch, stayed with the engine for 16 exhausts that’s four turns of the drivers  and jumped. Those were good engines. They really got up speed. From a standing start they made the mile in just two minutes. I figure they were going 50 miles an hour when they crashed.”

The Dallas Morning News later reported: “As the two trains roared toward each other, the smoke was pouring from their funnels in a great black streak. The rumble of the two trains, faint and far off at first, but growing nearer and more distinct each second, was like the gathering force of a cyclone. Nearer and nearer they came, the whistles blowing repeatedly.”

After “a thunderous, grinding crash” when the colorful engines met, “there was just a swift instance of silence, and then as if controlled by a single impulse both boilers exploded and the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and steel varying in size from a postage stamp to half of a driving wheel.” Some spectators were killed and several others seriously injured as everyone fled in panic.

MKT wreck-trains arrived to pick up the big pieces most of the smaller chunks had been grabbed up by the crowd as souvenirs the injured were tended to, trains carried away the excited homeward-bound spectators, and the tents and concessions disappeared. The town of Crush, Texas, quickly disappeared.

The MKT railroad paid the damage claims, and in anticipation of bad publicity from the stunt, even though Crush had been given the go-ahead from his bosses and had been reassured by company engineers that the boilers wouldn’t explode, he was fired on the spot. There was publicity, lots and lots of it, so apparently in the belief that all publicity, even bad, is good, Crush was quickly rehired and worked for the Katy until retirement many years later.

Nowadays surplus engines are disposed of in a much tamer way through the use of cutting torches.

– Sam Moore

New Opportunity for Blacksmiths a Century Ago

Sam MooreIn 1920, the horse and mule population in the United States peaked at about 25 million animals, but fell rapidly after that. Also in 1920 there were more than 9 million motor vehicles, up from just 8,000 20 years earlier. At the same time more and more folks were retiring their buggies and horses in favor of a motor car, resulting in the number of these mechanical wonders more than doubling in the next five years.

At the time of World War I there were an unknown number of blacksmiths in the country – every country hamlet had at least one – and these worthies realized a big chunk of their business from shoeing horses and repairing wagons and buggies. A large number of blacksmiths were content to continue the way they always had, but some far-seeing smiths realized that “times, they were ‘a changin’.” The American Blacksmith magazine ran the following poem in the August 1918 issue to try to point out to the old-time smiths that there was money to be made from the “horseless carriages” then seen more and more on the roads.

The Opportunity Grabber

Old Timon T. Tinker, a blacksmith I neighbored, for thirty-eight years at the anvil had labored.
He knew all the ins and the outs of the trade and a comfortable living and money had made.
He knew all the wagons and horses around and could tell who was coming up the road by the sound.
His wagons and carts were built of best stock; they stood up to wear like an ocean swept rock.
He knew all there was to know of his craft, from the fittings, to Dobbin, or repairs for a shaft.

But Timon T. Tinker was set in his ways and figgered old methods would do in these days.
When asked if he’d fix up a spark plug or tire, he’d rip, roar and snort and rise up in his ire,
to condemn the guy proper with nerve so colossal as to ask him to touch a mere auto the fossil!
He damned all the motor pulled wagons on earth, and at autos and tractors he poked fun and mirth
said gasoline buggies and tractors and such “are traps of the devil and ain’t worth very much.
There ain’t no machine in heaven or hell that’ll take up the place that the horse fills so well!”

So Timon T. Tinker kept pounding out junk, and his business went down till his credit was punk.
His former contentment skipped out of the coop, his knees got all shaky and shoulders to stoop.
His once fat wallet is thin as a slat and folks seldom come now with work or to chat.
Folks don’t want to trade with a back numbered skate, but seek out the chaps who are right up to date.

Now young Cyrus Getdough, a motor-bike had twas not very good nor yet very bad.
He tinkered and tampered from morning to night, a tryin’ to get that old bike to run right.
Then one day while tinkering, a thought hit Cy’s thinker—twas surely ambitious for just a mere tinker.
He said as he turned up a nut on a spoke “As a clever mechanic I may be a joke,
but brains are the thing if you put them to use. In fact it’s a shame to let good brains run loose.
I’m wiser than most of the chaps in this town; I’ll open a shop and pull some kale down.”

And so our hero, young Cy, took out a lease on Gordon’s old livery down the road just a piece.
He cleaned up the place with whitewash and paint and made that old barn look like what it ain’t.
The signs big and yellow he put on the place were glaringly lettered and spoke face to face.
And all who saw them could read at a glance that Cy was an expert on motoring plants.
That motors and autos and tractors and such were to most folks a mystery, but to Cy not so much.

The equipment Cy had you could count on your thumb, and what there was of it was all rather bum.
His mechanical knowledge you know was so lean that oiling a bicycle would trouble his bean.
But bluffing was just where young Cy was t’home, and believe me he bluffed from his toes to his dome.
His auto repair shop the first one in town just prospered and prospered and grew in renown,
‘til sections and acres were added and built, for work just crowded his shop to the hilt.
Today Cy is rich as Croesus B.C., a sterling example of a successful O.G. (Opportunity Grabber).

– Sam Moore

Automobile being pushed to a repair shop
Cartoon from the August 1916 issue of American Blacksmith magazine.

Old Christmas Celebrations in England

Christmas tree
The family gathered around the Christmas Tree and receiving their gifts. Illustrations from William Sandys’ 1852 book.

“At Christmas be mery, and thanke god of all;
And feast thy pore neighbours, the great with the small.”

Sam MooreI recently found an old book called Christmastide, by William Sandys and published in London in 1852, which tells the story of ancient Christmas celebrations in England. Of course, the stories are mostly of the festivities of the royal household and those of the landed gentry – poor folks had to celebrate as best they could with very little or nothing. The following is an example of the manner of keeping Christmas by an English gentleman, as told in Armin’s 1601 book, Nest of Ninnies. “At a Christmas time, when good logs furnish the hall fire, when brawne [head cheese] is in season, and indeed all reveling is regarded, this gallant knight kept open house for all commers, where beefe, beere, and bread was plentiful. Amongst all the pleasures provided, a noyse of minstrells and a Lincolnshire bagpipe was prepared; the minstrells for the great chamber, the bagpipe for the hall; the minstrells to serve up the knight’s meate, and the bagpipe for the common dauncing.”

While the Christmas-block or yule log is not much in evidence these days, it once was an important part of Christmas. “Heap on more wood – the wind is chill; But let it whistle as it will, We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.”

A large log was dragged in and placed, with rejoicing and merriment, in the fireplace of the great hall or kitchen. A small portion of the log was to be carefully preserved to light the one of the following year; and on the last day of its being in use, usually Candlemas Day [2 February], a chunk of this year’s log was ignited to satisfy the old custom of “Kindle the Christmas brand and then till sunne-set let it burne; Which quench, then lay it up agen, Till Christmas next returne.”

After lighting the log, each family member then sat down on it in turn, sang a Yule song, and drank to a merry Christmas and happy New Year: after which they had, as part of their feast, currant-filled Yule upon which cakes which were impressed the figure of the infant Jesus. The wassail bowl, or the tankard of spiced ale, formed a prominent part of the entertainment as well.

Groaning board
Gathered around the “groaning board” as be-wigged servants pour the wine.

We would recognize some of the Yuletide decorations of the day. An almanac from 1695 tells us: “With holly and ivy so green and so gay, We deck up our houses as fresh as the day; With bays and rosemary and laurel compleat, And every one now is a king in conceite.” Other evergreens were used as well, including myrtle and the “mystic mistletoe,” but most of these were taken down after Twelfth Day [Epiphaney].

Today we see gaily lit Christmas trees everywhere but this decoration made its first appearance in England sometime in the 1830s. Mr. Sandys tells us, “In recent times the Christmas tree has been introduced from the continent, and is productive of much amusement to old and young, and much taste can be displayed and expense also incurred in preparing its glittering and attractive fruit. It is delightful to watch the animated expectation and enjoyment of the children as the treasures are displayed and distributed; the parents equally participating in the pleasure, and enjoying the sports of their childhood over again.”

Then, as now, feasting was a huge part of the Christmas celebrations, and strong drink was much in evidence as well – one ditty ran: “Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high, Fill all the glasses then, for why, Should every creature drink but I? Why, man of morals, tell me why?”

Yule log and mistletoe
Enjoying the yule log and the “mystic mistletoe,” as well as food and drink and “dauncing.” The party is getting a little rowdy by now.

Gervase Markham in his 1651 English Housewife, describes an ideal holiday dinner of this time. He wrote that the first course should consist of “sixteen full dishes; that is, dishes of meat that are of substance, and not empty, or for show – as thus, for example; first, a shield of brawn [head cheese], with mustard; secondly, a boyl’d capon; thirdly, a boyl’d piece of beef; fourthly, a chine [back bone] of beef, rosted; fifthly, a neat’s [cow’s] tongue, rosted; sixthly, a pig, rosted; seventhly, chewets [mince-meat] baked; eighthly, a goose, rosted; ninthly, a swan, rosted; tenthly, a turkey, rosted; the eleventh, a haunch of venison, rosted; the twelfth, a pasty of venison; the thirteenth, a kid, with a pudding in the belly; the fourteenth, an olive-pye; the fifteenth, a couple of capons; the sixteenth, a custard. Now, to these full dishes may be added, sallets [spinach cooked with vinegar], fricases [soups], quelque choses [?], and devised paste [a fruit dish], as many dishes more, which make the full service no less than two and thirty dishes; which is as much as can conveniently stand on one table. And after this manner you may proportion both your second and third courses, holding fulness on one half of the dishes, and show in the other; which will be both frugal in the splendour, contentment to the guest, and much pleasure and delight to the beholder.” This mountain of food was washed down with copious amounts of ale, porter, wine and cider, making one wonder why all English lords and ladies didn’t weigh 25 stone [350 pounds].

Gifts were given by an inferior to his superior, who gave something in return, usually money, and gifts were exchanged between equals. Tenants often gave capons to their landlords at this season, and some leases even required a capon at Christmas as part of the rent. Other gifts were given in a more generous spirit as this poem points out: “These giftes the husband gives his wife, And father eke [give] the childe, And maister on his men bestowes The like, with favour milde.”

So lavish celebrations of the Lord’s birth have been around for many millennia, and we see echoes of those long ago days in some our traditions today.

Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year to you all.

– Sam Moore

Threshing, Then and Now

Sam MooreIn 1907, a man named Edgar L. Vincent [no address given] reminisced about his younger years on the farm in a letter to The American Thresherman magazine.

“The first threshing machine I ever saw was a flail. After the frost came in the fall the neighbors would come in and ‘exchange work’ with each other, going from one farm to the other until the scanty harvest was all pounded out. It was a great time for us youngsters when the thud, thud, thud of the flails sounded over the hills and far away. We boys helped clean the grain and we turned the mill till our strength ran down so that we could scarcely make one more turn on the crank.

Next came the open-cylinder machine. I well remember the first time one of these machines set up in our barn. The barn was new, and as we had recently burned the logs of the old house to make way for the new frame house that was to be our home, we had moved to the barn and were living in the stable. No cattle had ever yet been in the stable and it was as neat and clean as any house could be and we liked the smell of the fresh-sawn lumber.

Well, that job of threshing was a great one, and no mistake! We had hung bed quilts along the sides of the barn floor to keep wheat kernels from scattering all over and into the stable. And when the bundles of grain hit that cylinder how the grain did fly everywhere! Up to the roof, all about the floor, into the eyes of the hands, peppering us all like hail stones in a storm. Queer that no one had yet thought to provide a cover over that cylinder! But the thresher was evolving and, as bright ideas came into men’s minds, they were adopted after no small struggle.


Two men threshing with flails.

Even then, cleaning the grain was still done with a fanning mill – the idea of combining a thresher with a separator was off in the future. After the threshing was done and the machine out of the barn, we had to sweep and shovel the grain into a heap and run it through the fanning mill. It was a big thing, though, to have the grain pounded off the bundles by something easier than the flail.

But that old fanning mill – what fun it was to us boys! On days when father was away from home we used to take the wind doors off and proceed to ‘thresh’ hay and straw by holding it directly against the fan blades while someone turned the crank for dear life. We always shut the big barn door so no one would know what we were up to, but one sorry day grandmother appeared on the scene after quietly opening the door. She stood for a moment looking at what we were doing to the old mill and then, raising her voice, she cried in her quaint down-east voice, ’What on airth be you a-doin’!


Claas Lexion combine at work. [Both illustrations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The cold chills ran down our backs as we hustled to show the old dear that we could easily restore the mill to its former good condition, and we never knew if she told father about our escapade. He never said anything, so she probably didn’t mention it, she loved us too well for that, I am sure.

But now it makes one almost dizzy to think of the changes in the beautiful machines that come to do our threshing! Perfect – not a thing lacking, so far as human ingenuity can provide, to enable them to do the best possible work and to do it in almost the twinkling of the eye! Run by engines that drive the cylinder and all other parts like lightning, they sweep across the country like tornadoes, taking the great stacks of grain and devouring them like mighty monsters with appetites that cannot be stayed and leaving in their wake only the sacks of clean, beautiful grain.”

Mr. Vincent ends his letter by wondering if “there can possibly be as much improvement in the next few years as there has been in the past.” Think of how astonished he would be to see one of today’s huge combines with a 40-foot header sweeping across a quarter section of wheat! He talked of threshers “devouring” grain stacks; now it’s more like gulping the crops – and think what a shock it would be if a modern farmer could gaze upon crop harvesting 100 years in the future.

– Sam Moore

Mother's Slipper

Sam MooreWe hear a lot these days about the sad state of discipline among our youngsters, and, on the other hand, of calls to the police if someone happens to witness a parent administering to a recalcitrant child any more than a mild talking to. Along these lines I thought this editorial by Bascome B. Clarke, founder and long-time editor of The American Thresherman, was interesting. It appeared in the August 1907 issue of the paper under Clarke’s byline, “Uncle Silas.”

I remember how mother used to take us on her knee when we had allowed our wrath to be kindled against some little playmate, and how she would smooth back our hair and gently calm the rising storm, and then tell us that dog story:

‘Let dogs delight to bark and bite, for God hath made them so.
Let bears and lions growl and fight, for tis their nature, too.
But little children should never let their angry passions rise,
Your little hands were never meant to tear each other’s eyes.’

That was the way mother used to do when we were little, but alas! Too many of mother’s precepts and examples are forgotten when mother has gone to heaven. We go back to where we left off that morning when our bristles were up, and we bark and bite and snap and snarl at our fellowman. We feel that we are men in the middle of the road and eleven feet high; that we are the Cardiff giants of creation and are entitled to the best seat in the big show. We trample upon the rights of others, crushing the weak, cursing the strong. Whoever doesn’t agree with us is wrong, and he deserves to be kicked through his suspenders for it. We declare ourselves the raging lions, entitled to do all the growling, and a mighty roar proceeds from our wind stackers [The wind stacker was the large fan and long pipe at the rear of a threshing machine that blew the threshed straw into a straw stack; they did make a mighty roar.] whenever anybody else has an opinion that did not emanate from our dome of thought.

There are other lasting impressions that mother used to make besides the dog story. Sometimes when she had been tormented by our continued snapping and snarling, and when we smashed each other in the face with those tiny hands of ours, mother felt called upon to tell us about the old woman who lived in the shoe, and use her slipper as a pointer. [There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.] Sometimes she didn’t find out about it until after we had gone to bed and were dreaming of better things. But when we felt mother’s arms around us and gently drawing us across her knee and with her slipper performing her duty, however distressing to her it might be, we recalled another little stanza: ‘Who took me from my warm, warm cot, and spanked me good till I was hot? My mother!’

Some of the most lasting impressions of our lives were made with mother’s slipper. They felt like a sprinkling of tobacco sauce then, but they made lasting impressions on us in after life, and made us more considerate of the rights of others, and somehow did much to eradicate the dog theory from our systems. Oh, the crying need for more mothers’ slippers in the world! This greedy, selfish nature that will not down, but gets up on its hind legs and barks and bites and growls and fights, requires clubs and guns to cure in manhood. God bless our mothers for every love lick made with slipper or shingle too. Both were good for us then; they are with us in memory still.

Here it is, more than a century later and Mr. Clarke’s words still apply.

– Sam Moore

Mother disciplining child
What is a home without a mother? [Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The Calf Path

A while back I ran across this little poem by Samuel Foss. Foss, who was born in 1858 and died in 1911, was an American librarian and poet whose works included The House by the Side of the Road and The Coming American.

The Calf Path

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should.
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then, two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise, bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed – do not laugh –
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wabbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road
Where many a poor horse, with his load,
Toiled on beneath the burning sun
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis,
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead;
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day –
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach,
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track.
And out and in and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

You see, it is so hard to get out of the rut.

– Sam Moore

Painting of cows
A painting by Charles Franklin Pierce, titled “The Cow Path.”







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