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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 5. The Jug of Whisky and Temperance Meeting


I HAVE already said that, as money was getting short, father sold Asa Blare half of his oxen. They thought they could winter the oxen on marsh hay. They found some they thought very good on the creek bottom, about a mile and a quarter from where we lived. They said they would go right at work and cut it before some one else found it. As there was some water on the ground, and they would have to mow in the wet, they thought they would send and get a jug of whisky.

In the morning we had an early breakfast, and they ground up their scythes, then started, I with the jug, they with their scythes. We went together as far as our new road. Father told me after I got the whisky, to come back round the old trail to a certain place and call, when they heard me they would come and get the jug.

I went to Dearborn, got my jug filled, paid two shillings a gallon, or there-abouts, and started back. When I had gone as far as the turn of the road, where Dr. Snow now lives, out of sight, I thought to myself I'd take a drink. I had heard that whisky made one feel good and strong and as my jug was heavy, took what I called "a good horn"; I thought, however, it did not taste very pleasant. After that I went on as fast as I could, a little over a mile, till I got beyond where the road was cut out and into the trail, when I made up my mind I was stouter and my jug really seemed lighter. There I stopped again and took what I called ''a good lifter." It burnt a little but I went on again till I came to the creek, then I called father who answered.

I felt so wonderfully good that I thought I'd take one more drink before he came in sight. So I took what I called "a good swig." When father came he said they had found plenty of good grass and he wished me to go and see it. I told him I didn't feel very well (I was afraid he would discover what I had been doing, I began to feel queer) but I followed along.

The grass was as high as my head in places and very heavy. It was what we call "blue-joint," mixed with a large coarse grass that grew three square at the butt. I got to the scythes where they had been mowing, told father I could mow that grass, took his scythe, cut a few clips and bent the blade very badly. (He often told afterwards, how much stronger I was than he, said he could mow the stoutest grass and not bend his scythe, but I had almost spoiled it.) I lay down the scythe, everything seemed to be bobbing up. I told father I was sick, he said I had better go home and I started gladly and as quickly as possible. The ground didn't seem to me to be entirely still, it wanted to raise up. I struck what I called a "bee-line" for home. When I got there I told mother I was sick, threw myself on her bed and kept as quiet as possible. When father came he inquired how I was; I heard what he said. Mother told him I was very sick but had got a little more quiet than I had been. He said they had better not disturb me so I occupied their bed all night, the first time I had ever had it all alone one night. The next morning I felt rather crest-fallen but congratulated myself in that they did not know what the trouble was, and they never knew (nor any of the rest of the family until I state it now). But I knew at the time what the trouble was, and the result was I had enough of whisky for many years, and took a decided stand for temperance.

Some years after that, there was a temperance meeting at a log school-house two miles and a half west of us. I was there and the house was full. After the opening speech, which pleased me very much, others were invited to speak. Thinking I must have a hand in I found myself on the floor. When I got there and commenced speaking, if it had been reasonable, I would have said I was somebody else, I would have been glad to have crawled out of some very small knot-hole, but I found it was I and that there was no escaping, so I proceeded.

Of course I did not relate my own experience, nor tell them that I had been sick. I gave them a little of the experience of others that I had heard. I had an old temperance song book from which I borrowed some extracts and appropriated them as my own. I swung my arms a little and with my finger pointed out the points. I stepped around a little and tried to stamp to make them believe that what I said was true. As I advanced and became more interested I spoke loud, to let them know it was I, and that I was in earnest. I admonished them all to let whisky alone. Told some of its pernicious effects; how much money it cost, how many lives it had taken, how mans' tears it had caused to flow and how many homes it had made desolate.

When I came away I was pleased with myself, and thought I had made quite a sensation. A few days afterward I met my friend, William Beal, and asked him how the neighbors liked the temperance meeting. Of course, I was anxious to know what they said about my speech. He told me the old lady said I was fluent and tonguey," that I was like a sort of a lawyer, she named, who lived at Dearbornville. I knew this man well, and hadn't a very good opinion of him. But what she said was not so much of a breaker as what the old gentleman said, for I considered him in many respects a very intelligent man. He came here from Westchester County, near Peekskill. He owned the farm and lived on it (I have seen where he lived) which was given to John Paulding for the capture of Major Andre. His occupation there was farming and droving. He drove cattle to New York city in an early day, when that great metropolis was but a small city. I have often heard him tell about stopping at Bullshead. He said that was the drovers' headquarters. I know he was worth ten thousand dollars there, at one time; how much more I cannot say, but somehow his thousands dwindled to hundreds and he came here to seek a second fortune. Of course I thought a man of his experience was capable of forming a pretty correct opinion of me. He said, "Who is he? His father brought him here, and dropped him in the woods; he's been to mill once and to meeting twice. What does he know?"

When I heard this it amused me very much, although the decision seemed to be against me. I made no more inquiries about temperance meeting, in fact, I didn't care to hear any more about it.

Writing my first temperance effort has blown all the wind out of my sails, and if I were not relating actual occurrences I should certainly be run ashore. As it is, sleep may invigorate and bring back my memory. When relating facts it is not necessary to call on any muse, or fast, or roam into a shady bower, where so many have found their thoughts. When relating facts, fancy is not required to soar untrodden heights where thought has seldom reached; but too freely come back all the weary days, the toils, fears and vexations of my early life in Michigan, if not frightened away by the memory of the decision of the old lady and gentleman, on my temperance speech.

Perhaps I should say, in honor of that old gentleman, Mr. Joseph Pardee, now deceased, that he was well advanced in years when he came to Michigan, in the fall of 1833, stuck his stakes and built the first log house on the Ecorse, west of the French settlement, at its mouth, on Detroit River. He was a man of a strong mind and an iron will. He cleared up his land, made it a beautiful farm, rescued it from the wilderness, acquired, in fact, a good fortune. When he died, at the good old age of eighty-one years, he left his family in excellent circumstances. He died in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine.


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