His learning led him to teach school a few months in the year to the children of the white settlers. Indeed, Houston was so much taken with the pursuit of scholarship that he made up his mind to learn Greek and Latin. Naturally, this seemed mere foolishness to his mother, his six strapping brothers, and his three stalwart sisters, who cared little for study. So sharp was the difference between Sam and the rest of the family that he gave up his yearning after the classics and went to the other extreme by leaving home and plunging into the heart of the forest beyond sight of any white man or woman or any thought of Hellas and ancient Rome.
Here in the dimly lighted glades he was most happy. The Indians admired him for his woodcraft and for the skill with which he chased the wild game amid the forests. From his copy of the “Iliad” he would read to them the thoughts of the world’s greatest poet.
It is told that nearly forty years after, when Houston had long led a different life and had made his home in Washington, a deputation of more than forty untamed Indians from Texas arrived there under the charge of several army officers. They chanced to meet Sam Houston.
One and all ran to him, clasped him in their brawny arms, hugged him like bears to their naked breasts, and called him “father.” Beneath the copper skin and thick paint the blood rushed, and their faces changed, and the lips of many a warrior trembled, although the Indian may not weep.
In the gigantic form of Houston, on whose ample brow the beneficent love of a father was struggling with the sternness of the patriarch and warrior, we saw civilization awing the savage at his feet. We needed no interpreter to tell us that this impressive supremacy was gained in the forest.
His family had been at first alarmed by his stay among the Indians; but when after a time he returned for a new outfit they saw that he was entirely safe and left him to wander among the red men. Later he came forth and resumed the pursuits of civilization. He took up his studies; he learned the rudiments of law and entered upon its active practice. When barely thirty-six he had won every office that was open to him, ending with his election to the Governorship of Tennessee in 1827.
Then came a strange episode which changed the whole course of his life. Until then the love of woman had never stirred his veins. His physical activities in the forests, his unique intimacy with Indian life, had kept him away from the social intercourse of towns and cities. In Nashville Houston came to know for the first time the fascination of feminine society. As a lawyer, a politician, and the holder of important offices he could not keep aloof from that gentler and more winning influence which had hitherto been unknown to him.