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arranged along one side, with the seats for the people along the other side. The performers' ring was in the middle, between the two. I was a good hand with the beasts, because I knew how to handle them. With the hay animals, such as deer, elk, zebu-cows and so forth, I was right at home, having been raised on a farm. Elephants were regarded in those days as dangersome; but my farmer training with horses
; and horned critters made me now a good man for handling risky beasts of all kinds. Then, when it came to the big cats, such as tigers and other bloodthirsty varmints, I knew how to get butchers' meat for them of the right kind and in the right way. Because I'd been, so to speak, in the butcher's line also. Upon landing in town, if it was the day for feeding them — we used to feed the cats only every other day, so as to keep them healthy; because in their native state they don't eat much oftener than that — I would look up some butcher and get him to give me a basket of bones and scraps for the cats. I would pay him by getting the clown to make mention of the butcher's name in some flattering manner, during the performance that afternoon. Sometimes a butcher would give me all the scrap meat I needed, on condition that he wasn't to be hit by any of the jokes -- this would be after I'd hinted to him that the clown was going to get off some good jokes at those merchants in the town who didn't support the show. I knew how to handle
men, as well as animals. And being smart and handy at all sorts of work, I was promoted higher and higher; finally I was offered a part ownership in the show. Like as not I would have taken it. But just then something happened: I got religion.
The churches were not very numerous in those days. So when a preacher wanted to get up a revival in a part of his circuit away from his meetinghouse, he would use a grove, if it was summer time, or a schoolhouse, in the winter. It was good business policy for us circus people, on a Sunday, to be seen in church along with the godly; because it kind of gave respectability to our business - it helped out the “Great Moral Exhibition," on our showbills. Never shall I forget that day, or that meeting, when I first got converted. First along during the meeting I was cold as an icicle — just a looker-on. But pretty soon the religious melodies began to get hold of me. Those were hymns with an edge to them, in those days. Seems as if hymns we sing nowadays aren't anywheres near so searching powerful as those we used to hear:
“Tremble, my soul, and kiss the sun;
I tell you, tunes like that don't let you forget them. They keep ringing in your head, no matter how many years have passed since. In those days they didn't mince matters:
“Far in the deep, where darkness dwells,
“Eternal plagues and heavy chains,
I got religion then and there. When the preacher called out, “Hasten, sinner, to be wise," I hastened. I didn't stop to ask what my old companions would think of it. (I never did care what people thought of me, anyhow.) All I thought of was to get to the mourners' bench. And so it wasn't long before I was up there, in front of the whole congregation. I told them I had a fervent desire to flee from the wrath to come.
It made considerable of a stir, this conversion of mine. For circus man to come over onto the Lord's side, was a triumph for the army of Gideon. The brethren gathered around me with great joy. The preacher pressed me to tell the congregation how I felt. I rose and spoke. Words always did come sort of easy with me - that is, the plain,
every-day words. Besides, when a young fellow has practised speaking from a barrel-head in front of a village tavern, dressed in outlandish fashion, and telling the people the way to the circus grounds, he isn't going to be scared at a congregation of people inside a church. So on the present occasion I had wondrous liberty. In fact I gave
in mony with such acceptance that the minister came to me after the service and told me I ought to become a preacher. This was a side of the matter I hadn't looked at. In my testimony I had told the people that “from this time forth I was going to serve the Lord.” But as to taking up preaching, that was a different matter. There isn't much chance in preaching to get rich. So, after turning it over in my mind, I told him that I didn't feel any call. And I went back to the drover's business.
I was glad that I had become converted. Because the circus business didn't promise to bring me in any such money as I felt I could make buying cattle, now that I'd saved up capital enough to start in.
COW began the real work of my life.
life. For until this time I had been earning money
hit or miss, as the chance offered. I was getting nowhere. But, starting now into the drover's business in good earnest, I found my main bent.
About this time a wave of prosperity was setting in throughout the country. The nation had recovered from the effects of the war. The banks were resuming specie payments. Trade revived. New York City was calling for butcher's meat. During the war she had had a long fast, so to speak. Now she began to eat. Her population was growing like sixty. City Hall Park had formerly been way up town.
Now it was getting to be in the centre, with houses all around. To keep this big and growing city in butcher's meat was a work in itself. That was where we drovers got a living. Putnam County and the region round about is so hilly that it is fit for raising stock better than for anything else. A steer or a sheep can thrive on hillsides where a plough would tip over.
Besides, it is on the same side of the Hudson River as New York, and only a few miles above it. Thus the Harlem Valley,