A DREAMER IN ACTION.
There is nothing so striking as a dreamer in action.
Once, traveling in the West, I met a mine boss. But I had talked with him for two hours or more before I learned his business.
He was 'cultured, scholarly, well-informed and interested in all the affairs of this mar velously many-sided country of ours.
"How is it," I asked him, "that with your extensive equipment of education and interest in affairs you remain a mine boss ?" Here is his story. As you read it you will see that a slight circumstance made him dream, and that he labored to make his dreams come true.
I was born in Michigan, in the Upper Penin sula. My father died just before I was born. My mother was very poor. We lived with my grandfather. He was a mine laborer and he devoted his slender earnings to the support of my mother and myself.
At ten years of age I went down into the mines to work. Up to that time I had not been a robust boy, never went to school, nor had I any playmates. But I picked up all at once and began to earn a little. From my tenth to my twentieth year I worked with no other thought than to make life easier for my mother. But this was destined to be a deferred hope, for my earnings were small in those ten years.
My grandfather was Welsh, mother was Cornish, and I recollect even now that my speech was a strange mixture of Welsh and English words, and not very many of either, I imagine.
One day a new mine boss came. As I was about to go down into the mine for my night's work he called and directed me to measure a pile of lumber and report it to the office in writing.
In shame for my incapacity I began to cry. The mine boss asked me a few questions.
I told him I could neither read, write nor do sums. He said something which probably I did not understand, but it sounded sympathetic to me.
I crawled down the ladders for my night's work, a sorrowful boy of twenty.
The next day, as I was about to go down again the boss called me and gave me a little package.
"Open it," he said, "when you get down." I could not imagine what it might be, but I lost no time in descending, for I was in a strange turmoil, between the event of the even ing before and the contents of that pack age.
When I opened it I found: A soiled copy-book, A McGuffey's reader, and An arithmetic.
No general ever planned a campaign more carefully than I planned to use my spare min utes in mastering those books. I was on the night shift and I slept all day, but between rounds I had some spare time and I had a mine lamp.
I carried a little box down with me for a table, and sitting on the damp ground, I fixed my light so that I could see the page. My pro cess was simple : First, I copied the lines in the writing book and learned the words. Next I began with the reader and on any bit of paper I could get I copied the lesson.
Then I was able to read the questions in the arithmetic.
That process, simple as it was, took time.
After the first night with my books I never lost a moment, I thought words, pictured words to myself in print and in writing. I did every
simple sum I could think of. The doing of these things was liberating me and I realied it.
No human being ever felt more justly proud than I did, when, having mastered the words and conditions of a sum, I worked it out and found, on turning to the key at the back that my answer was right.
I shed many a tear of joy down in the dark ness of the earth.
And I declare to you, sir, that when I hear a minister read : "Let there be light, and there was light," I know what he is talking about.
But reading the sums and the reading book taught me that I did not actually know words. Think of it! A boy over twenty, and a stranger to the common sounds of English speech.
In our little town there was a hotel, to which the traveling men came. On a Sunday after noon, I would have mother call me about three o'clock (for you remember I had to sleep in the day-time). I put on the best I had, went down to the hotel and listened for an hour or so to those men talk. I used to go back home to change my clothes, with a head full of words. These I wrote on a slip of paper, and watched with ears and eyes for them to come again.
You must remember—he said, with almost savage earnestness—that we were poor. I earned little. We ate little, but we worked. How we did work, mother and all ! But I felt that poor as I was outside, I was slowly getting richer inside. Yes, sir, I was storing up divi dends for the future.
Well, for a good many years it was the same story, but at thirty I had a substantial education; for I gradually earned a little more, bought books, one at a time, and mastered them. My education was not fancy. It was knowledge of my business, of affairs, of how men do things. Nothing interests me more to day than the affairs of men. I have little book learning, but I can think and wonder and dream, and some of my dreams have come true.
I love to study other men's dreams, too. Think of that man McAdoo and his tunnel dream, of Wright and his aeroplane dream, think of irrigation in the West, of the coloniza tion of Africa, of five days to Europe by steamer.
All dreams come true! And, after all, per haps they are only the beginnings of the dreams that will come true in the future.
I gave mother ten years of life without the constant drudgery of labor.
That is something that has been of actual comfort to me, and I used to tell her it all came from my crying when I was twenty, but I guess it came from the mine boss not mis understanding me.
A box, a mine lamp and a book or two, think of the power of them.
Now, sir, I told you I was a mine boss and that is true; but I am also a mine owner, and the work of my boyhood made me so familiar with mines and mine work that I can make money where other men lose it.
My experience has given me a motto: Know your business thoroughly, help the other man, and make your dreams come true, one by one.