Striking out for a low place in the bank, within a few minutes he reached the shore with his burden. Then amid the acclamations of those who had witnessed his heroism, and the blessings of the overjoyed mother, Washington placed the unconscious, but still living, child in her arms.
A cow! Now, of all things in the world; of what use was a cow to an ambitious boy who wanted to go to college? Yet a cow, and nothing more, was the capital, the entire stock in trade, of an aspiring farmer boy who felt within him a call to another kind of life than that his father led.
This youth, who was yet in his teens, next to his father and mother, loved a book better than anything else in the world, and his great ambition was to go to college, to become a “scholar.” Whether he followed the plow, or tossed hay under a burning July sun, or chopped wood, while his blood tingled from the combined effects of exercise and the keen December wind, his thoughts were ever fixed on the problem, “How can I go to college?”
His parents were poor, and, while they could give him a comfortable support as long as he worked on the farm with them, they could not afford to send him to college. But if they could not give him any material aid, they gave him all their sympathy, which kept the fire of his resolution burning at white heat.
There is some subtle communication between the mind and the spiritual forces of achievement which renders it impossible for one to think for any great length of time on a tangled problem, without a method for its untanglement being suggested. So, one evening, while driving the cows home to be milked, the thought flashed across the brain of the would-be student: “If I can’t have anything else for capital, why can’t I have a cow? I could do something with it, I am sure, and to college I must go, come what will.” Courage is more than half the battle. Decision and Energy are its captains, and, when these three are united, victory is sure. The problem of going to college was already more than half solved.
Our youthful farmer did not let his thought grow cold. Hurrying at once to his father, he said, “If you will give me a cow, I shall feel free, with your permission, to go forth and see what I can do for myself in the world.” The father, agreeing to the proposition, which seemed to him a practical one, replied heartily, “My son, you shall have the best milch cow I own.”
Followed by the prayers and blessings of his parents, the youth started from home, driving his cow before him, his destination being a certain academy between seventy-five and one hundred miles distant.
Very soon he experienced the truth of the old adage that “Heaven helps those who help themselves.” At the end of his first day’s journey, when he sought a night’s lodging for himself and accommodation for his cow in return for her milk, he met with unexpected kindness. The good people to whom he applied not only refused to take anything from him, but gave him bread to eat with his milk, and his cow a comfortable barn to lie in, with all the hay she could eat.