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Upon such a wooden shovel Abraham was able to work his sums by the flickering firelight. If he had no pencil, he could use charcoal, and probably did so. When it was covered with figures he would take a drawing-knife, shave it off clean, and begin again. Under these various disadvantages, and by the help of such troublesome expedients, Abraham Lincoln worked his way to so much of an education as placed him far ahead of his schoolmates, and quickly abreast of the acquirements of his various teachers. The field from which he could glean knowledge was very limited, though he diligently borrowed every book in the neighborhood. The list is a short one-"Robinson Crusoe," Æsop's "Fables," Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," Weems's "Life of Washington," and a "History of the United States." When he had exhausted other books, he even resolutely attacked the Revised Statutes of Indiana, which Dave Turnham, the constable, had in daily use and permitted him to come to his house and read.

It needs to be borne in mind that all this effort at self-education extended from first to last over a period of twelve or thirteen years, during which he was also performing hard manual labor, and proves a degree of steady, unflinching perseverance in a line of conduct that brings into strong relief a high aim and the consciousness of abundant intellectual power. He was not permitted to forget that he was on an uphill path, a stern struggle with adversity. The leisure hours which he was able to devote to his reading, his penmanship, and his arithmetic were by no means overabundant. Writing of his father's removal from Kentucky to Indiana, he says:

"He settled in an unbroken forest, and the clearing away of surplus wood was the great task ahead. Abra

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ham, though very young, was large of his age, and had an ax put into his hands at once; and from that till within his twenty-third year he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument-less, of course, in plowing and harvesting seasons."

John Hanks mentions the character of his work a little more in detail. "He and I worked barefoot, grubbed it, plowed, mowed, and cradled together; plowed corn, gathered it, and shucked corn." The sum of it all is that from his boyhood until after he was of age, most of his time was spent in the hard and varied muscular labor of the farm and the forest, sometimes on his father's place, sometimes as a hired hand for other pioneers. In this very useful but commonplace occupation he had, however, one advantage. He was not only very early in his life a tall, strong country boy, but as he grew up he soon became a tall, strong, sinewy man. He early attained the unusual height of six feet four inches, with arms of proportionate length. This gave him a degree of power and facility as an ax-man which few had or were able to acquire. He was therefore usually able to lead his fellows in efforts of both muscle and mind. He performed the tasks of his daily labor and mastered the lessons of his scanty schooling with an ease and rapidity they were unable to attain.

Twice during his life in Indiana this ordinary routine was somewhat varied. When he was sixteen, while working for a man who lived at the mouth of Anderson's Creek, it was part of his duty to manage a ferry-boat which transported passengers across the Ohio River. It was doubtless this which three years later brought him a new experience, that he himself related in these words:

"When he was nineteen, still residing in Indiana, he

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made his first trip upon a flatboat to New Orleans. He was a hired hand merely, and he and a son of the owner, without other assistance, made the trip. The nature of part of the 'cargo load,' as it was called, made it necessary for them to linger and trade along the sugar-coast, and one night they were attacked by seven negroes with intent to kill and rob them. They were hurt some in the mêlée, but succeeded in driving the negroes from the boat, and then 'cut cable,' 'weighed anchor,' and left."

This commercial enterprise was set on foot by Mr. Gentry, the founder of Gentryville. The affair shows us that Abraham had gained an enviable standing in the village as a man of honesty, skill, and judgment— one who could be depended on to meet such emergencies as might arise in selling their bacon and other produce to the cotton-planters along the shores of the lower Mississippi.

By this time Abraham's education was well advanced. His handwriting, his arithmetic, and his general intelligence were so good that he had occasionally been employed to help in the Gentryville store, and Gentry thus knew by personal test that he was entirely capable of assisting his son Allen in the trading expedition to New Orleans. For Abraham, on the other hand, it was an event which must have opened up wide vistas of future hope and ambition. Allen Gentry probably was nominal supercargo and steersman, but we may easily surmise that Lincoln, as the "bow oar," carried his full half of general responsibility. For this service the elder Gentry paid him eight dollars a month and his passage home on a steamboat. It was the future President's first eager look into the wide, wide world.

Abraham's devotion to his books and his sums



stands forth in more striking light from the fact that his habits differed from those of most frontier boys in one important particular. Almost every youth of the backwoods early became a habitual hunter and superior marksman. The Indiana woods were yet swarming with game, and the larder of every cabin depended largely upon this great storehouse of wild meat. The Pigeon Creek settlement was especially fortunate on this point. There was in the neighborhood of the Lincoln home what was known in the West as a deer-lick —that is, there existed a feeble salt-spring, which impregnated the soil in its vicinity or created little pools of brackish water-and various kinds of animals, particularly deer, resorted there to satisfy their natural craving for salt by drinking from these or licking the moist earth. Hunters took advantage of this habit, and one of their common customs was to watch in the dusk or at night, and secure their approaching prey by an easy shot. Skill with the rifle and success in the chase were points of friendly emulation. In many localities the boy or youth who shot a squirrel in any part of the animal except its head became the butt of the jests of his companions and elders. Yet, under such conditions and opportunities Abraham was neither a hunter nor a marksman. He tells us:

"A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log cabin, and Abraham, with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack

1 Franklin points out how much this resource of the early Americans contributed to their spirit of independence by saying:

"I can retire cheerfully with my little family into the boundless woods of America, which are sure

to afford freedom and subsistence to any man who can bait a hook or pull a trigger.

(See "The Century Magazine," "Franklin as a Diplomatist," October, 1899, p. 888.)

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and killed one of them. He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game."

The hours which other boys spent in roaming the woods or lying in ambush at the deer-lick, he preferred to devote to his effort at mental improvement. It can hardly be claimed that he did this from calculating ambition. It was a native intellectual thirst, the significance of which he did not himself yet understand. Such exceptional characteristics manifested themselves only in a few matters. In most particulars he grew up as the ordinary backwoods boy develops into the youth and man. As he was subjected to their usual labors, so also he was limited to their usual pastimes and enjoyments.

The varied amusements common to our day were not within their reach. The period of the circus, the political speech, and the itinerant show had not yet come. Schools, as we have seen, and probably meetings or church services, were irregular, to be had only at long intervals. Primitive athletic games and commonplace talk, enlivened by frontier jests and stories, formed the sum of social intercourse when half a dozen or a score of settlers of various ages came together at a house-raising or corn-husking, or when mere chance brought them at the same time to the post-office or the country store. On these occasions, however, Abraham was, according to his age, always able to contribute his full share or more. Most of his natural aptitudes equipped him especially to play his part well. He had quick intelligence, ready sympathy, a cheerful temperament, a kindling humor, a generous and helpful spirit. He was both a ready talker and appreciative listener. By virtue of his tall stature and unusual strength of sinew and muscle, he was from the beginning a leader in all athletic games; by reason of his

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