To many, certain events which I shall relate in this history may seem incredible; some of the escapes may seem improbable; but again let me assure you that there shall not be one word of exaggeration. The incidents took place just as I shall state them. I have passed through not only all that you will find recorded in these pages, but ten thousand times more. As I lift the dark veil and look back through the black, unlighted past, I shudder and hold my breath as scene after scene, each more appalling than the one just before it, rises like the phantom line of Banquo’s issue, defining itself with pitiless distinctness upon my seared eyeballs, until the last and most awful of all stands tall and black by my side, and whispers, hisses, shrieks Madness in my ears. I bow my head and find a moment’s relief from the anguish of soul in the hot scalding tears which stream down my fevered cheeks. O God of sure mercy, save other young men from the dark and desolate tortures which gnaw at my heart, and press down upon my weary soul! They are all, all, all the work of alcohol. Oh, how true it is—how true few can understand until their lives are a burden of distress and agony to them—that the cup which inebriates stingeth like an adder. When you see it, turn from it as from a viper. Say to yourself as you turn to fly, “It stingeth like an adder!”
Birth, parentage, and early education—Early childhood—Early events—Memory of them vivid—Bitter desolation—An active but uneasy life—Breaking colts for amusement—Amount of sleep—Temperament has much to do in the matter of drink—The author to blame for his misspent life—Inheritances—The excellences of my father and mother—The road to ruin not wilfully trodden—The people’s indifference to a great danger—My associates—What became of them—The customs of twenty years ago—What might have been.
As to my birth, parentage and education, I am the last but one of a family of nine children, seven of whom were boys, and all of whom, excepting one brother, are now living. Both brothers and sisters are, without an exception, sober, industrious and honest. I was born in Rush county, Indiana, on the 9th day of September, 1847.