I had a good Christian mother, one who loved her boy and thought there was nothing too good for him, and I could always jolly her into getting me anything I wanted. God bless the mothers! How true the saying is, “A boy’s best friend is his mother.” My father I won’t say so much about. He was a rough man who loved his cups, and died, as you might say, a young man through his own waywardness. I did love my mother, and would give anything now to have her here with me as I am writing this story. She has gone to heaven, and I was the means of sending her to an early grave through my wrong-doings. She did not live to see her boy saved. Many’s the time I would promise her to lead a different life, and I meant it too, but after all I could not give up my evil ways.
I remember when I first acquired the taste for drink. My grandfather lived with us, and he liked his mixed ale and would send me for a pint two or three times a day. In those days the beer was weighed so many pounds to the quart. Every time I went for the beer I used to take a swallow before I came back, and sometimes two, and after a while I really began to enjoy it. Do you know, I was laying the foundation right there and then for being what I turned out to be—a drunkard. I remember one time—yes, lots of times—that I was under the influence of the vile stuff when I was not more than ten years of age.
I received a public school education. My school-days were grand good days. I had all the sport that comes to any boy going to school. I would rather play ball than go home to dinner. In those days the game was different from what it is at the present time. I was up in all athletic sports when I was a boy. I could jump three quick jumps and go twenty-eight and a half feet; that was considered great for a schoolboy.
There was one game I really did enjoy; the name of it was “How many miles?” It is played something like this: You choose sides, and it doesn’t matter how many there are on a side. Of course each side would be eager to get the quickest and fastest runner on their side. How I did like that game! We then tossed to see who would be the outs and who would chase the outs, and many’s the mile we boys would run. We would be late for school and would be kept in after three o’clock; that would break my heart, but I would forget all about it the next day and do the same thing again.
Our teacher, J. W. Wakeman—God bless him!—is living yet, and I hope he will live a good many years more. A boy doesn’t always like his teacher, and I was no exception; I did not like him very much. He gave me more whippings than any other boy in the school. All the learning I received was, you might say, pounded into me. He used to say to me, “David, why don’t you be good and study your lessons? There is the making of a man in you, but if you don’t study you will be fit for nothing else than the pick and shovel.” How those words rang in my ears many a time in after years when they came true, when I had to use the pick and shovel! I am not saying anything against that sort of labor; it has its place. We must fill in somewhere, in some groove, but that was not mine.