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where.' 'Well, say, come and sleep with me, I've got a good tent, all by myself, and a comfortable bed; the tent is in a quiet place, too.' 1 was a little surprised, I knew he was a gambler and he knew I was a preacher. I knew he had no thought of making money from me.. At any rate, whatever his thought was, I was perfectly safe on that score. He couldn't enrich himself through me. I gave him an indecisive answer, thanking him for his offer. Again before night he repeated the invitation, and the outcome was that when night came on, I went with him to his tent and slept with him.
     "It was pitched on a grassy plot about forty feet to the rear of a large saloon tent. In that saloon, with nothing but canvas intervening, I could hear the conversation and the revelry whenever I was awake through the night. We had a comfortable bed in one corner and he also had an extensive collection of various devices which he used in his vocation as a gambler. He became quite confidential, showed me the contrivances, and explained, sparingly, how the various tricks were worked. When we were talking about the 'ball and shell' trick, I asked the question, 'Where is the ball when you get people to bet it is under the shell?' 'In my pocket,' he answered. After I had listened to his descriptions for some time, I took up my Bible, and asked him if he would listen to a chapter from the Book. 'Oh, yes, I'll listen, you can read if you want to; I ain't got nothin' agin the Bible.' So I know that he heard one chapter from the Gospel of the divine Lord, whether he ever heard one again or not. When the evening was growing late, perhaps ten or ten thirty he rose and said to me: 'Now, you can turn in whenever you want to. There's the bed 'n' it's all right. I'm goin' out to see if I can make somethin'.' And he vanished into the night. And I lay down to sleep, and the strangeness of the situation came


upon me. I in the tent of frontier desperado and gambler, and he gone out to 'make somethin'!'
     "I heard the chink of glasses, the click of 'chips,' the boisterous talk and laughter in the saloon tent, and wondered just where my friend and bunkmate was, and just what were his transactions. But presently I fell asleep, and did not waken when he came to bed. Some time during the night I was awakened by the sound of voices. My gambler friend was by my side in the bed. Some other man was in the tent and was pleading with my bedfellow in husky, excited half-whispers. The intruder was the first to speak: 'Say, pard, let me take yer pop, jest for a few minutes.' The voice at my side answered: 'No, I can't let yer have it.' 'O say, pard, I don't want it but jest a little while: let me take it, won't yer?' 'No.' More decidedly, 'I won't let it go.' 'O come now, I've got t' have a pop. I'll bring it back to you in jest a few minutes. I'll do anything fer ye on earth if ye'll jest let me have yer pop a few minutes.' But my gambler companion steadily refused to lend his 'pop' (revolver). The other kept up his excited pleading for some time, using every persuasion, but to no avail.
     "During the progress of the conflab I felt something under the blankets touch me, and I knew that in his determination not to let this stranger, whoever he might be, get possession of his gun, he had shoved it back into the bed between us. Finally the intruder became convinced that his request was not going to be granted and went away. As he disappeared into the night, the gambler said: 'You bet, I ain't goin' to give up my gun, for anybody; ye don't ketch me without my gun.' A pause. Then: 'I wonder if he thought I'd let him take my gun? Not much. I've got too many enemies in this country. There's one feller, if we ever meet agen it's jest who can shoot first,


that's all. 'N' he's look'n f' me, too.' A pause. 'That's why I wanted you to stay with me. That feller may come into this town. That was interesting. I suppose he thought that if there were two men in his tent, and his enemy should put in an appearance, there would be some chance that he would not be hit! We talked in this refreshing way for some time. I asked: 'Did you see .that fellow before he spoke to you?' 'you bet, I heard him before he got to the tent, and I had my gun right on (pointed at) his

heart.' Then as we lay down to sleep again, I did some thinking. What a life this man was leading! To be every moment on guard for his life, night and day. That man had approached our tent over the soft grass with well-nigh noiseless footfall in the dead of night. He might easily enough have surprised me, for I did not hear him till his voice awoke me. But this gambler was living under such a tension of watchfulness and dread that he had been aroused and was fully prepared for self-defense before that


stranger had reached the tent. 'Truly,' I said, 'the way of the transgressor is hard.' No further interruptions disturbed our slumbers, but I presume that for many a day I shall not forget the night when I enjoyed the hospitality of a border gambler."

     In this and the preceding chapter we get various glimpses of pioneer work, of the characteristics of different men who have had no small part in the development of Congregational Nebraska. We are wont to think of pioneer work as something which occurred long ago. But here we find it very recent. Some of it is even now, and the work goes on. There is some romance as well as hardship in home missionary work.
     The following story of grasshopper relief was prepared by Rev. J. F. Storm who knew the facts, and is related to show how Congregationalists worked in the interests of the people in need. There was much suffering, hardship, and destitution on the part of many. There was no little heroism on the part of missionaries and pastors who in the midst of great deprivation stayed by their posts and helped bring relief to the destitute.


     "While Polk county was suffering from the grasshopper devastation of '74, Rev. Simon Barrows was county superintendent of public instruction in connection with his pastorate at Osceola. On his rounds of duty he made note of the most pressing needs of the settlers--so many pairs of shoes, so many undergarments, trousers, socks, stockings, cotton and woolen cloth, etc., etc. This condition he set forth in detail in a letter to a ministerial friend in Boston with the comment, 'This represents one-quarter of Polk county; if you can multiply this by four you will know our need.'


     "The friend took the letter to Hon. Alpheus S. Hardy, one of Boston's best business men. Hardy read it through and said, 'That is business; now we know what to do.' He had a large number of copies of the letter struck off, and set on fire the pulpits of the city the following Sunday morning. People saw the need and gave heartily and liberally. Boot and shoe firms gave whole boxes of new goods, dry goods merchants gave by the bolt, money poured in freely to purchase with, so that within a few days a whole carload was ready to hurry west. The freight was prepaid through to Columbus, Nebraska, the whole cargo being shipped direct to Rev. Simon Barrows. Some little time after he had received word from Boston of the shipment being on the road and all freight prepaid, he received word from Omaha to send on money to pay freight from there to Columbus. He at once telegraphed to Mr. Hardy and Mr. Hardy telegraphed to Omaha to 'forward the car immediately.' When the car arrived at Columbus teams were sent for the goods, but not enough teams to take the whole at once. The agent would not open the car unless they would sign a release of the whole carload. This the men feared, to do, lest they would never more catch sight of that car or its contents, so they went home without the goods. The following day teams enough were sent to empty the car, but they had to agree to deliver their loads to the county relief committee. Why the agent should insist on such a move, the reader may guess. Arriving at the county seat the boxes and bundles were deposited in the court house, and a messenger sent to Father Barrows to see how the wind blew. He talked of the arrival of the goods, and casually suggested that the committee might open the boxes. 'No,' said Father Barrows, 'they would not do that,' 'But,' said he, 'suppose they should?' 'They would not open but one, for I would put them where they could not open any more.'


'Well, what can they do?' 'Do! There is but one thing for them to do--load up the goods and send them to me.' 'They have no right to them at all,' 'It was an individual shipment to myself.'
     "The result was that the committee were called together, and they got Father Barrow's to help them get up a suitable resolution that the goods belonged to him, and that they had no right to them, and to him they should, would, and did go.
     "Then came the task of distribution. For this careful preparation had been made. A large book made of common brown wrapping paper was used for entries. The needs of each family had been itemized and listed therein. When the boxes and bundles were opened, packages were made to correspond with the entry against each name. These were labeled and stored away in the attic, where a floor of new boards had been laid for this emergency. As the recipients came, everything was ready, the packages were delivered, and receipts signed right in the book.
     "When all had been served this book was taken to three of the county officials, including the county judge, and they were asked to look the book through and give such certificate as they thought best. They did as requested and gave a certificate to this effect: 'We are satisfied that the goods have been disposed of according to the wish and purpose of the donors.' This certificate Father Barrows sent to Mr. Hardy. The reply came back at once, 'We are perfectly satisfied; you need give yourself no further trouble.'
     "If all grasshopper relief had been as carefully and conscientiously handled much suffering would have been avoided, there would have been a more equal distribution, and the bright days that followed would not have left a cloud upon some otherwise fair names."

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller