AN UNUSUAL LAD
Professor Gray turned to the box and began moving the metal switch arms back and forth, thus tuning in more perfectly as indicated by the increased and clearer sound and the absence of interference from other broadcasting stations, noticed at first by a low buzzing. In a moment the music came clear and sweet, the stirring tune of “America.” When the sound of the cornet ceased, there followed this announcement:
“My subject is the early life of Thomas Alva Edison.”
Everyone settled down most contentedly and Gus saw Bill hug himself in anticipatory pleasure; the lame boy had always been a staunch admirer of the great inventor. There was no need of calling anyone’s attention to the necessity for keeping quiet. Out of the big horn, as out of a phonograph, came the deliberate and carefully enunciated words:
“It has been said that ‘the boy is father to the man.’ That may be worthy of general belief; at least evidences of it are to be found in the boyhood of him we delight to speak of as one of the first citizens of our country and probably the greatest scientific discoverer of all time. The boyhood of this remarkable man was almost as remarkable as his manhood; it was full of incidents showing the tendencies that afterward contributed to true greatness in the chosen field of endeavor of a mind bent upon experiment, discovery and invention.
“Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, in the year 1847. The precise date, even to Mr. Edison, seems somewhat doubtful.
“He was a frail little chap, with an older brother and sister. But he was active enough to have several narrow escapes from death. He wouldn’t have been a real boy if he hadn’t fallen into the canal and barely escaped drowning at least once.
“Then while he was a little bit of a fellow, climbing and prowling around a grain elevator beside the canal, he fell into the wheat bin and was nearly smothered to death.
“Once he held a skate strap for another boy to cut off with a big ax and the lad sliced off the end of the fingers holding it!
“Another time the small Edison boy was investigating a bumblebee’s nest in a field close to the fence. He was so interested in watching the bees that he didn’t notice a cross old ram till it had butted in and sent him sprawling. Although he was then ‘between two fires,’ the little lad was quick-witted enough to jump up and climb the fence just in time to escape a second attack from the ugly old beast. From a safe place he watched the bees and the ram with keen concern. But Edison says his mother used up a lot of arnica on his small frame after this double encounter. The little lad early learned to observe that ’It’s a great life if you don’t weaken!’
“Mr. Edison tells this story about himself:
“’Even as a small boy, before we moved away from Milan, I used to try to make experiments. Once I built a fire in a barn. I remember how startled I was to see how fast a fire spreads in such a place. Almost before I knew it the barn was in flames and I barely escaped with my life.