Anecdotes for Boys Part 6

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John Adams, the second President of the United States, used to relate the following anecdote:

"When I was a boy, I had to study the Latin grammar; but it was dull, and I hated it. My father was anxious to send me to college, and therefore I studied the grammar, till I could bear it no longer; and going to my father, I told him I did not like study, and asked for some other employment. It was opposing his wishes, and he was quick in his answer. 'Well, John, if Latin grammar does not suit you, you may try ditching; perhaps that will; my meadow yonder needs a ditch, and you may put by Latin and try that.'

"This seemed a delightful change, and to the meadow I went. But I soon found ditching harder than Latin, and the first forenoon was the longest I ever experienced. That day I ate the bread of Labor, and glad was I when night came on. That night I made some comparison between Latin grammar and ditching, but said not a word about it. I dug next forenoon, and wanted to return to Latin at dinner; but it was humiliating, and I could not do it. At night, toil conquered pride; and though it was one of the severest trials I ever had in my life, I told my father that, if he chose, I would go back to Latin grammar. He was glad of it; and if I have since gained any distinction it has been owing to the two days labor in that abominable ditch."

Boys may learn several important lessons from this story. It shows how little they oftentimes appreciate their privileges. Those who are kept at study frequently think it a hardship needlessly imposed on them. But they must do something; and if set to ditching, would they like that any better? The opportunity of pursuing a liberal course of study is what few enjoy; and they are ungrateful who drag themselves to it as to an intolerable task. You may also learn from this anecdote, how much better your parents are qualified to judge of these things than yourselves. If John Adams had continued his ditching instead of his Latin, his name would not probably have been known to us. But, in following the path marked out by his judicious parent, he rose to the highest honors which the country affords.




_Hunting Squirrels_.

John Alsop was about fifteen years old, when his father, who had just moved into a new settlement, was clearing land. One day the father and a neighbor were engaged in building a _log fence_; which was made of the trunks of the trees that were cleared off the lands. First, they laid the fence one log high, with the ends of each length pa.s.sing a little way by each other. Notches were cut in the ends, and a block was laid crosswise, where the ends lapped, and then another tier was laid on the cross pieces, till the fence was high enough. To roll up the top logs, they would lay long poles, called _skids_, one end on the top of the logs, and the other on the ground, and roll up the logs on these. But, as the logs were very heavy, they were obliged to stop several times to rest, or to get a new hold; and it was John's business, when they stopped, to put a block the under side of the log, above the skids, to keep it from rolling back. Having given a hard lift, and tugging with all his might, the father called out, "There, Johnny, put under your block quick." John started nimbly, and s.n.a.t.c.hed up his block, when suddenly the loud chirp of a squirrel struck his ear. Instantly, down went his block, and away he ran after the squirrel, leaving his father and the other man to hold the log till he came back.

This anecdote gives you John's character. He was too fickle to follow any one object or pursuit long enough to accomplish any thing. Thirty years after this, a gentleman who had known him in his youthful days, inquired about him of one of his neighbors, who related this anecdote, and added, "_he has been running after squirrels ever since_." He never was steady and persevering in pursuit of any thing. When he was a young man, he could never make up his mind decidedly what employment to follow. He would try one, and get tired of it, and take another; but followed no business long enough to get well acquainted with it. When he had a family, and found it necessary to make exertion, he was busy early and late, but to little purpose. He moved from one place to another; and "a rolling stone gathers no moss." He very often changed his employment, and by that means lost all the advantage of past experience. Now, he was a farmer, then a trader, then a post-rider, then a deputy sheriff, then a mechanic, without having learned his trade. By the time he had got fairly started in a new business, he would hear or think of something else, and before any body thought of it, he would change his business. In this way he wasted his money, and kept his family poor, and neglected his children's education. He was always _hunting the squirrel_.

Now, boys, don't hunt the squirrel. Whatever you begin, stick to it till it is finished--done, and well done. If you always follow this rule faithfully, you cannot fail of being somebody and doing something. But, if you go through life hunting the squirrel, when you die, n.o.body can tell what you have done, and the world will be neither wiser nor better for your having lived in it.


There is a certain kind of Independence of Character, which is indispensable to success in any undertaking. I do not mean a proud, self-confident spirit, which despises advice, and makes one self-willed and headstrong. This is _obstinacy_. But true independence is that sort of self-confidence and resolution which leads one to go forward in what he has to do, with decision and energy, without leaning upon others.

Without this, a man will gain to himself that unenviable distinction described by the homely but expressive term _shiftless_. The following description, from Mrs. S. C. Hall's "_Sketches of Irish Character_,"*

furnishes an admirable ill.u.s.tration of the results of a want of independence of character:--

* See Frontispiece.

"Shane Thurlough, 'as dacent a boy,' and Shane's wife, as 'clane-skinned a girl,' as any in the world. There is Shane, an active, handsome looking fellow, leaning over the half-door of his cottage, kicking a hole in the wall with his brogue, and picking up all the large gravel within his reach, to pelt the ducks with. Let us speak to him. 'Good morning Shane.' 'Och! the bright bames of heaven on ye every day! and kindly welcome, my lady; and won't ye step in and rest--its powerful hot, and a beautiful summer, sure,--the Lord be praised!' 'Thank you, Shane. I thought you were going to cut the hay-field to-day; if a heavy shower comes, it will be spoiled; it has been fit for the scythe these two days.' 'Sure, it's all owing to that thief o' the world, Tom Parrel, my lady. Didn't he promise me the loan of his scythe; and by the same token I was to pay him for it; and _depinding_ on that, I didn't buy one, which I have been threatening to do for the last two years.' 'But why don't you go to Carrick and purchase one?' 'To Carrick. Och, 'tis a good step to Carrick, and my toes are on the ground, (saving your presence,) for I _depinded_ on Tim Jarvis to tell Andy Cappler, the brogue-maker, to do my shoes; and, bad luck to him, the spalpeen, he forgot it.' 'Where's your pretty wife, Shane?' 'She's in all the wo o'

the world, ma'am, dear. And she puts the blame of it on me, though I'm not in the fault this time, any how. The child's taken the small pox, and she _depinded_ on me to tell the doctor to cut it for the cow-pox, and I _depinded_ on Kitty Cackle, the limmer, to tell the doctor's own man, and thought she would not forget it, becase the boy's her bachelor; but out o' sight out o' mind--the never a word she tould him about it, and the babby's got it nataral, and the woman's in heart trouble, (to say nothing o' myself;) and its the first and all.'

"'I am very sorry, indeed, for you have got a much better wife than most men!' 'That's a true word, my lady, only she's fidgety-like sometimes, and says I don't hit the nail on the head quick enough; and she takes a dale more trouble than she need about mony a thing.'

"'I do not think I ever saw Ellen's wheel without flax before, Shane?'

'Bad 'cess to the wheel!--I got it this morning about that too. I _depinded_ on John Williams to bring the flax from O'Flaharty's this day week, and he forgot it; and she says I ought to have brought it myself, and I close to the spot. But where's the good? says I; sure, he'll bring it next time.'

"'I suppose, Shane, you will soon move into the new cottage at Churn Hill? I pa.s.sed it to-day, and it looked so cheerful; and when you get there, you must take Ellen's advice, and _depind_ solely on yourself.'

'Och! ma'am dear, don't mention it; sure it's that makes me so down in the mouth this very minit. Sure I saw that born blackguard, Jack Waddy, and he comes in here, quite innocent-like--'Shane, you've an eye to squire's new lodge,' says he. 'Maybe I have,' says I. 'I'm yer man,'

says he. 'How so,' says I. 'Sure I'm as good as married to my lady's maid,' said he; 'and I'll spake to the squire for you my own self.' 'The blessing be about you,' says I, quite grateful--and we took a strong cup on the strength of it--and _depinding_ on him, I thought all safe; and what d'ye think, my lady? Why, himself stalks into the place--talked the squire over, to be sure--and without so much as "by your lave," sates himself and his new wife on the lase in the house; and I may go whistle.' 'It was a great pity, Shane, that you did not go yourself to Mr. Churn.' 'That's a true word for you, ma'am dear; but it's hard if a poor man can't have a frind to _depind_ on.'"

If you want any thing well done, you must see to it yourself. If you want it half done, leave it to servants. If you want it neglected, impose it upon your friend, to save yourself the trouble.


The true secret of happiness lies in a _contented mind_. If we would be happy, we must be satisfied with our lot as it is. There is no condition in which there is not something unpleasant. If we seek for perfection, we may roam the wide world over, and never find it; but, if we learn to bear patiently what we cannot help, almost any situation in life will be tolerable. Every one, however, is disposed to think his troubles the worst of all. The following story shows that no situation is exempt from trouble.

_The old black sheep_.

A gentleman in England was pa.s.sing by where a large flock of sheep were feeding; and seeing the shepherd sitting by the road-side, preparing to eat his dinner, he stopped his horse, and began to converse with him.

"Well, shepherd," he said, "you look cheerful and contented, and I dare say, have very few cares to vex you. I, who am a man of large property, cannot but look at such men as you with a kind of envy." "Why, sir,"

replied the shepherd, "'tis true, I have not trouble like yours; and I could do well enough, was it not for that _black_ ewe that you see yonder among my flock. I have often begged my master to kill or sell her; but he won't, though she is the plague of my life; for no sooner do I sit down at my book or take up my wallet to get my dinner, but away she sets off over the down, and the rest follow her; so that I have many a weary step after them. There! you see she's off, and they are all after her!" "Ah, my friend," said the gentleman, "I see every man has a black ewe in his flock, to plague him, as well as I."

_Hunting after contentment_.

A man had a number of houses, and would move from one to another, because he could be contented but a little while in a place. A person asked him why he moved so often, and he said he was _hunting after contentment_. But _content_ is never found by _seeking_.





Knowledge is acquired not only by _reading_, but by _thinking_ of what we read.

A minister in Ireland met a boy going to school, and asked him what book it was which he had under his arm. "It is a _will_, sir," said the boy.

"What will?" inquired the minister. "The last will and testament that Jesus Christ left to me, and to all who desire to obtain a t.i.tle in the property therein bequeathed." "What did Christ leave you in that will?"

"A kingdom, sir." "Where does that kingdom lie?" "It is the kingdom of heaven, sir." "And do you expect to reign as a king there?" "Yes, sir; as joint-heir with Christ." "And will not every person get there as well as you?" "No, sir; none can get there but those who found their t.i.tle to that kingdom upon the ground of the will." This boy was not only a _reader_ but a _thinker_. The minister told him to take care of a book of such value, and to mind the provisions of the will.

_A Little Reasoner_.

A little boy asked his mother how many G.o.ds there were. A younger brother answered, "Why, one to be sure." "But how do you know that?"

inquired the other. "Because," answered the younger, "G.o.d fills every place so that there is no room for any other."

_A Wise Answer_.

A boy six years old was offered an orange, if he would tell where G.o.d was. "Tell me," said the boy, "where he _is not_, and I will give you two."

_A Bad Bargain_.

A Sabbath School teacher was talking to his cla.s.s about that pa.s.sage in Proverbs, which says, "Buy the truth and sell it not." "He who buys the truth," said he, "makes a good bargain. Can any of you recollect any instance of a _bad bargain_, mentioned in Scripture?" "I do," replied one of his scholars:--"Esau made a bad bargain, when he sold his birth-right for a mess of pottage." Another said, "Judas made a bad bargain, when he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver." A third observed, "Our Lord tells us that he makes a bad bargain, who, to gain the whole world, loses his own soul." Alas! how many such bad bargains are made every day!

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Anecdotes for Boys Part 6 summary

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