I am no coward, never was, but I was scared that night for fair. About midnight I must have dozed off to sleep when something seemed to be pushing at my feet. I was wide awake now, and shook Mike, but he only turned over and seemed to sleep all the sounder. I could hear the grunting and pushing outside all the time. My head was under and my feet covered with the hay, when something took hold of my foot and began to chew. My hair stood on end, and I gave a yell that would have awakened “The Seven Sleepers.” It woke Mike, and the last I heard of him that night he was laughing as though he would split his sides, and all he could shout was, “Pigs, pigs!” as I went flying toward home. I got there as soon as my feet would carry me. I found the house up and mother and sister crying, while father was trying to make them stop. When I shook the door it opened and I was home again, and I was mighty glad.
The reason for the crying was that when it got late and the folks began to look for me, one of the boys said that the last time he saw me I was swimming with Mike ——. When I did not come home they thought surely I was drowned, but I was born for a different fate. Sometimes in my years of roaming afterwards I wished I had been drowned as they thought. They were so glad to see me again that there was no whipping, and I went to school next morning promising to be a better boy.
I was fast becoming initiated in the ways of the Devil. There was nothing that I would not do. I remember one time when mother thought I was going to school but found out I was “on the hook.” She decided to punish me, and that night after I had gone to sleep she came into my room and took all my clothes except my shirt. I certainly was in a fix. I had to catch for my team and I would not miss that game of ball for anything in the world; I simply had to go. In looking around the room I found a skirt belonging to my sister that I thought would answer my purpose. I had my shirt on and I put the skirt on over my head. Then I ripped the skirt up the center and tied it around each leg with a piece of cord—anything for that game!—and there I was with a pair of trousers manufactured out of a girl’s skirt. But I had to catch that game of ball that day at any cost. Getting to the ground was easy. I opened the window and let myself down as far as I could and then dropped. I arrived all right, a little shaken up, but what is that to a boy who has a ball game in his head!
I got to the game all right and some of the boys fixed me up. I don’t remember which side won that game, but when it was finished I went home and met mother, and the interview was not a pleasant one, though she did not give me a whipping.
I used to read novels, any number of them, in those days—all about Indians, pirates, and all those blood-and-thunder tales—lies. You can not get any good out of them, and they do corrupt your mind. I would advise the young people who read these lines, and older folks also, if this is your style of reading, to stop right where you are. Get some good books—there are plenty of them—and don’t fill your mind with stuff that only unfits you for the real life of the years to come.