Submitted by: Kay Cunningham


Vacations and Vicissitudes


Clean out the daily cobwebs
That doubts weave in your mind. Clean out the little hatreds
With heartstrings oft entwined; Then cultivate, with loving care,
The sweetest tho'ts you'd have bloom there.

-From "Practical Poems," by J. W. T.

            During the summer of 1886 I was paving the way to a higher education by peddling books, exercising my potent personal charm on belligerent bulldogs and bringing reluctant smiles to the frowning faces of ofttimes unliterary farmers.     

I was a boy of fifteen at that time, and as I have said, I already had been awarded a second grade certificate to teach. I had not yet secured a school, so I took an agency for books and traveled over the territory now occupied by Camp Hood, over the Cowhouse River Valley and down to Killeen and Nolan Creek. I canvassed from house to house, my main stock in trade being a book on "Labor and Capital," and another book entitled "The Land of the Midnight Sun."     

It was a good way for a boy to learn how to approach people and talk to them, and it taught me to study human nature and to weigh and understand different personalities.     

One time an old farmer tried to set his bulldog on me - said he didn't want any agents coming around his house. I talked to the dog, called him fond names and petted him, and he refused 'to bite or chase me; so the old man had to grin and go back into the house. One can never fool a dog or a child. If a person is kind-hearted, either will know it.     

At that time I was so bashful and so backward about meeting people that I felt like backing out each time I left home on Monday morning to start on my week's work. But when I came in again on Saturday night I would grit my teeth and determine that I would keep on meeting people and trying to hold my own with strangers. I knew I'd never amount to a thing in the world without self-confidence.     

That two months of meeting new people and learning to adapt myself to them, gave me more in the development of my personality than any other year of my life. I also became acquainted with a minister by the name of French. He had come from New York and he had a beautiful daughter and a fine piano. The family was the center of attraction in that community because of the novelty of the piano and the charm of the girl.

Through my brother Jim, I secured a book from Mr. French, and later we got another book written by Professor O. S. Fowler, the great phrenologist.

The study of phrenology was very popular at that time. I read everything I could find on the subject and studied people closely. Such observation was really an important thing; it was psychology in a practical form. I grew to understand human nature better, learned how men's actions were motivated, and realized the power of ambition.     

My ambition to become a doctor constantly increased, and I read everything available to me along that line. I was nearly sixteen-almost a man.    

My favorite pastime was playing the fiddle. Leigh Gillespie, my nearest boy friend and neighbor, loved music, too. His family lived about three or four hundred yards from us, and his mother was a musician also. She bought an organ about that time and I remembered hearing its beautiful tones sounding out through the morning air after it was first unloaded. We could hear it plainly from our house, and, thrilled with excitement, we all went to see the new organ and to hear it played.     

My friend Leigh had such a talent for music that he could hear his mother playa piece two or three times and then could sit down at the instrument and play it better than she could. He had a natural aptitude for all kinds of musical devices. I remember seeing six different instruments in his home at one time. In fact, Leigh did not claim to be a student; he talked of nothing but music.    

I took my fiddle over to the Gillespie's place and practiced with him, and we also discussed medicine and literature. I suppose we had an influence on each other, for later on he studied medicine, too, and moved to Oklahoma. Of course I never stopped playing the fiddle; it has given me much wholesome enjoyment through the years. I understand that Leigh made a success in his profession, but I had not seen him for a long time when I heard of his death in 1945.     

Reverting to my boyhood, during summer vacations I used to help break up the ground where the wheat had grown. I drove three mules to an old sulky plow. One day I found a book that had been thrown away by some people from the North - a text-book on English and American literature. I memorized much of it and declaimed it to the mules, thus improving my speaking voice, which was rather tricky at that period. I had read somewhere that Henry Clay read his speeches to the barnyard animals before he tried them on people. The mules would cock up their ears as I read from John Wycliffe:

"Come gather rosebuds while you may, Old Time is swiftly flying,
And those that bloom so sweet today, Tomorrow may be dying."

To which I added, inspirationally:

'Tis but the song, the sad refrain, Of flowers that sweetly bloom;
The emblems true of joy or pain From the cradle to the tomb.

            The ears of the mules seemed to droop with the last sad lines. Josh Billings once said, "I never saw a mule standing still that didn't look like he thought he was thinking." Maybe these mules were, for when I tried Shakespeare on them, reciting from Hamlet and trying to make my voice very deep and profound, their ears definitely went down.     

When those mules got distemper, I treated them. I noticed that when I would smoke them with tar and make them stand up with their heads down, their lungs were relieved and they would get well. If they lay down, with their heads up, they did badly. So I would stir them up, make them stand, and smoke them with tar.     

This experience made so great an impression on me that I have used the knowledge thus gained, and in 1918, when the terrible "flu" epidemic was raging, I brought it into use. People were dying by the hundreds everywhere, and the doctors were overrun with work. I never was so crowded in my life. I think I treated about 200 cases of flu and pneumonia, combined, many of whom I did not see. I gave directions over the phone as to their care, and sent medicine to them.     

In the first place, the patient had to be kept warm; and in the second place, he must not be given depressing remedies to run the temperature down. Nature uses fever as a means of burning up the poison in the system. I kept my patients in bed, warm (or hot), with a thermolite twice daily. Camphorated oil, with a little oil of mustard, was rubbed into their chests, and out of the 200 cases I lost only two patients. One of those had arthritis, involving several joints, and was very weak when I first saw her; the other was five months pregnant, and had been ill for several days.  It was then that I learned that the patient should not lie flat on his back, but on one side, with the foot of the bed elevated about six inches, thus draining the lungs. I was reminded of the mules that I would not allow to lie down while I smoked them with tar.     

Just a little horse sense - or mule sense - utilized in the practice of medicine, and I am sure better results often would be secured. After all, common sense is the most important thing in treating the majority of cases. All through this book, I expect to give practical home remedies to be used while waiting for the doctor to arrive - remedies that I have employed, even before I began to practice medicine, and that I have always recommended.     

For instance, about this period of my life I had a bad case of acne. Naturally, I was self-conscious and well aware that it greatly marred my would-be manly beauty. In a desire to cure the skin trouble that was causing me so much embarrassment, I read all I could find on the subject, bought a highly recommended facial soap, and scrubbed my face with it thoroughly, once a day, as directed. I found that diet was an important consideration - that pork or sweets always made my skin worse. That is not true in all cases of acne, but it was in mine, so I regulated my diet and my daily habits, and found that when I did, my face always got better. Even now, if I eat too much pork or sweets of the sugar type (not honey or syrup) it results in a new crop of pimples.     

As I related in the preceding chapter, one of my duties about the home was to milk the cows morning and night and to take care of the bees and the trees. We did not use the scientific methods then that are being taught to boys and girls of the 4-H clubs over the country.     

I have always been interested in the wonderful discoveries of Luther Burbank, who, when he began his scientific work, was an average country boy about ten years old, in a New England state where the climate was very cold. One of his first experiments was with corn. He would take it down into the basement of his home and leave it until it had sprouted, and at the right time he would plant it out and thus get roasting ears about a week ahead of the other boys in the community. Of course he could sell them at a much higher price, but it wasn't the selling that interested him most.     

Burbank continued his experiments with plants and finally decided to go far away from the little town of Lancaster, Massachusetts, to a climate that would be more conducive to the growth of vegetation. So he left his home and his people and went to California, securing a job in a nursery at a very small salary. He found a wonderful climate around Santa Rosa, beneficial not only to plants but to himself. A good lady gave him a quart of milk a day, which with other nourishing foods built him up so that he no longer feared an incipient tuberculosis. He worked industriously in the study of plant life, and the remarkable things he accomplished are a matter of record and of world-wide knowledge. His books had a profound influence on me. Like Burbank, I felt that I had a lifework, and I put my mind and soul into it, as I wrote:

I'm a dreamer with a mission,
Just to help folks dare and do; Body, soul and mind physician,
Thus to help your dreams come true.
-From "Practical Poems for Daily Use."

* * *


"We shape ourselves the joy or fear
Of which the coming life is made;
We fill the future's atmosphere
With sunshine or with shade.

"The tissues of the life to be
We weave with colors all our own,
And in the field of Destiny
We reap as we have sown."


            As I have told you, at the debate in which Tom Morgan, and myself were paired against a school teacher and a preacher, we won the decision. Tom went all over the country making speeches and met hundreds of people. Consequently, he secured a good school -- one of the best rural schools in that section. It was located at Mount Zion, near Turnersville, Texas, popularized by the late Dr. J. B. Cranfill was a poet, a doctor, a writer, and a fiddler, like myself.     

Tom told me that he could help me get a school at Enterprise, in the valley about three miles below Mt. Zion, between Gatesville and Jonesboro. I went with him and secured the school, through the aid of one of his uncles, who on the board of trustees. I began teaching there on October 10th. Tom and I boarded for the first six weeks with Tom Hamilton, a trustee of the Mt. Zion school. We ed the cows as a part of our contract, so that the wife i have plenty of time to give us good meals. I had thirty- six pupils that year, and received the enormous salary (at time) of forty-five dollars a month. Ten dollars of this paid to my host, Mr. Balch, for board and room. He had boy and girl, both very bright and interesting.     

On the 15th of January, 1888, I rode to Gatesville to draw salary. As I started home there came up the most terrible blizzard -- one that was remembered far and wide throughout the years as having been the most destructive experienced in this section. It came as a rolling mist from the north, with such fury that it almost froze my horse, though I forced him to a gallop all the way home. I was almost frozen myself when I got there, and could hardly dismount. I was helped into the house and rubbed vigorously, while warm blankets were applied to my faithful horse. The next Saturday I went back to Gatesville and counted sixteen cows lying by the road, frozen to death.     

The Enterprise school, of course, developed me considerably. After school was over I would stay in the schoolhouse read aloud important and interesting pieces from the readers. In away, I was speech-making, for I cultivated my voice and my memory at the same time.     

I had some German students who were dependable and learned their lessons well. I helped them all I could, and " in turn, taught me a lot of words in German, so that I took it up when I went to college two years later. Their name was Guggoz.

Just feed your soul on kindly deeds
Performed for others in distress;
For that is what this old world needs
Its lonely, hungry souls to bless.
For if you thus your heart employ,
You'll give and get a lot of joy. Just try it!

-From my "Practical Poems."

            Tom Morgan was what Pat Neff sometimes called a narrow-minded Baptist, and he said I was a shallow-minded Methodist. But Tom and I got along very well. Tom believed strongly in the old motto, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," and in enforcing discipline he did not hesitate to administer corporal punishment, sometimes severely. However, he made a very loyal friend.     

At the end of school he invited me, and also his father, to make speeches that might have an influence in securing the school for him again the coming season. When we arrived, the trustees were there for the closing exercises, and so were a good many of my former pupils from the neighboring school at Enterprise. The children came running to meet me again. The trustees observed this.    

The speech which I made ended with the little poem "Raphael" by Whittier. It seems that any lengthy expression of mine, be it a speech or a written narration, invariably runs into poetry at the end-sometimes at both ends - or even in the middle.    

After the exercises were over, one of the trutees asked me to make application for the Mt. Zion school for the coming year. I told him I would do no such thing, that Tom had been a friend of mine all these years, that he had helped me to get the school at Enterprise, and that I would be loyal to him. The trustee said, "We're not going to give it to him, anyhow; he whips too much." They had heard that I did not whip any of the children at all during the period of my teaching at Enterprise. I told him to tell Tom I would not make application, so Tom was told, but he said he'd rather that I would have the school than anyone else. So when the trustees asked me to accept it, I consented.     

I boarded with Uncle Shafe Weaver, who had a large family, mostly boys, going out into the world. It was not necessary for me to administer many severe punishments, though the pupils were used to it and seemed to expect it. I had found there were better ways of leading them in the right direction. It was surprising how cooperative they became, and how important they felt, when I pointed out to them that it was their school, not merely mine, and that they must help me make it the best in the country. I used this method of cooperation through all my school-teaching days, and still use it in handling my patients.

If you give loving kindness
In all the deeds you do,
'Twill make you many friendships
That will come back to you.

-From my "Pastime Poems."

            Miss Genella Cannon, daughter of Dr. Cannon of Jonesboro, was my assistant teacher. We had eighty-six students. W. B. Hamilton was one of our boys. He was six years old at that time and his sister Lillie was seven. He frequently sat on my lap and asked me questions. Since then he has become a very prominent man in the State of Texas. It was Mr. Hamilton who built the Hamilton Building, a ten-story structure at Wichita Falls, Texas. Wichita Falls, it might be said here, is a city of enterprise and adventure, which has made many millionaires through its oil industries. It is a town that is always in the headlines, if for no other reason than that it can boast of having the coldest, or the hottest, weather, according to the season of the year.     

Many men from Wichita Falls have gone out into the world and made their mark; for instance, Joe Perkins and Joe Bridwell. These two outstanding men have done great things for humanity in the way of charity. They have used, and are using, their money to make the world a better, brighter and happier place in which to live - and they get more fun in giving their money away than any other two persons I ever have known.     

Which reminds me of a little motto originally written and published in one of my books of verse, "Pastime Poems of a Busy Doctor."

Who never learns the joy of giving,
But lives alone for pelf,
Has missed the greatest joy of living,
In giving others of himself.

* * *

The smallest flower that blooms and dies
Fulfills its own predestined course;
The glittering stars that deck the skies
Are guided by the self-same force;
Each changing scene is wrought by laws,
Yet all obey that great First Cause.

            As a boy, however I was not a visionary; I took myself very seriously. I remember well what an important question it was to decide where I should go to school - what college I should select. I recall, too, how Tom Morgan's friends influenced me.     

Billy Ware, a stepson of Tom's uncle, who had been attending Old Centenary College, at Lampasas, Texas, had just married Genella Cannon, my former assistant teacher. Naturally, my thoughts were directed to that school. It was inexpensive, they said, and the boys were allowed to work their way through, if necessary. I had to be very economical, as I had not saved a great deal of money out of my recent salary of fifty dollars a month.    

It was in September, 1889, that I boarded the train at Killeen and went to Lampasas, arriving there on a Sunday afternoon to begin my course at the opening of the fall term of Centenary College. The young man who met me was W. E. Spivey, who now lives in Brownsville, a very friendly sort of fellow, and apparently a fine scholar. I imagined he could speak Latin and Greek better than I could speak English.     

Spivey introduced me around, and the next morning when! we went into our classes I was surprised to find that I was ahead of Will in all my studies. That gave me more confidence to try to excel. We were all just country boys with ambitions and dreams, and I stood as good chance as any of the rest of them to forge ahead and go places.     

I took German, Spanish and Latin as my languages. In those days we had to have two modern foreign languages and one dead one in order to get our B.S. degree.     

After we had been in Old Centenary about a month, I took part in a debate on the subject: "Resolved, that Napoleon was a better general than Washington." I had read everything available on Napoleon, though I never did like him on account of his wanton destruction of human life and his disregard of the nations that he conquered. It was his avowed purpose to unify Europe and put all countries under one rule. He had a most brilliant mind, I learned as I studied his life and the accounts of his great victories, and I contrasted him with Washington, who was so much superior to him as a man. History revealed, however -- or so it seemed to me - that Napoleon was a more able general than Washington, and I won the decision on our debate that night in October, 1889.     

About that time, near the end of the first month in school, the young ladies gave us a soiree, entertaining the young men at the girls' dormitory. I had some trouble knowing what to do with my hands and feet, and how to talk to the girls entertainingly, but I was very glad when they put me on their program, which was a charade. Charades were' very popular in those days. Perhaps some of you may remember how much they were enjoyed.     

A month later, the boys gave a return entertainment for the girls. I was on the program, representing Romeo. Bert Hoover, a very good-looking young fellow, dressed up in a home-made Mother Hubbard, stood coyly on a table while I knelt on the floor and made love to him as Juliet.     

One of my roommates was Dan Nelson, who later became a doctor. He practiced several years at Richland Springs, rendering fine service to that community and section. The other was Homer Perryman. There were three students in each room, and in some of the larger rooms there were four.     

In those days I had very regular habits, arising at five o'clock in the morning and going to bed at ten at night. In the evenings I took long walks, which served the double purpose of cultivating my memory and exercising my body. I would read a page from a book and repeat it while I walked. Since I always recited it aloud, I was also training myself in voice and expression. The constant reviewing, every evening, of the work done during the day, together with a general review at the end of each week, was a method of fixing facts in my mind so that they could be recalled at will.     

About that time, I read a book on memory, by Dr. O. S. Fowler, whom I have mentioned. He told about a man who was so forgetful that he often was unable to remember what he had started to his house for, or what he was to do when he reached his place of business after leaving home. This man was a tailor, but he conceived the idea of reading two lines at a time from whatever selection he chose, then closing the book and repeating those lines over and over, adding another line or two from time to time. By constantly reviewing and putting his mind, heart and soul into this undertaking, he finally acquired the power of concentration and developed a marvelous memory.     

Edison, Burbank, Henry Ford, and other great men noted in economic, scientific and inventive lines, have done that very thing - put their whole minds and hearts into one certain subject. I decided this was the only way to succeed, so I followed their examples and made outstanding progress - not because I was the most brilliant student, but because I was systematic and persistent in my methods.     

The next fall I was given a regular assistant's place, and taught several classes half of each day, reciting in my own classes the other half, and studying my lessons at night. Professor McIlhany, who had founded Centenary, became its president again, Dr. Reynolds having passed away. I was then given full charge of a department and became very enthusiastic about the future.    

I went back the second year with Professor Kilgore, in Professor Hall's place, and was elected assistant teacher, giving instruction, attending classes, and studying my senior class work. This year my roommates were W. H. (Bill) Matthews - a very fine-looking fellow who later became a preacher and filled many places in Texas conferences; Jim Pool, and Bob Matthews. Bill Matthews was the founder of the Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, which will go down the years serving humanity. It is a very large hospital now, and has been taken over by Dr. Charles Harris, who freed it of debt. It is now called the Harris Memorial Hospital, in memory of Dr. Harris' father. Charles has done a great thing for the Methodist church and in honor of his departed father. Long may he live!    

Looking back, I consider with joy the work I did in Old Centenary College in Lampasas during the fall of 1890 and the for the remainder of the term. I completed a four-year course in two years, and graduated April 28, 1891. There were three students in our graduating class: W. H. Matthews, mentioned before as my roommate; Miss Lillie Bean,
a young lady from one of the leading Texas families, and myself. It was a rather small class but we realized our importance and felt that we made up in quality what we lacked in quantity. My graduating speech was "Our Future."     

I went back to Old Centenary that fall as a teacher. The Rev. Marshall Mcllhany was president; Dr. Reynolds had died. Prof. F. S. E. Amos had resigned and gone to Oklahoma, and Rev. James Kilgore, who had married during the preceding year, had started preaching. I was made dean of the Boys' Home, which housed many young boys, as well as older ones. I had a great deal of responsibility during this time, for I was young myself - just past twenty. Some of the students were older than I.     

Prof. E. I. Hall, who taught mathematics in Centenary, is still living in Arkansas. He is the brother of Rev. A. W. Hall, a prominent Methodist preacher in Texas.     

In the fall of 1892 I again returned to Old Centenary as a teacher, but a depression was prevailing by then, so I resigned on the first of November and returned to my home in Coryell County. Soon after that I accepted a school at Olive, near Leon Junction, where I taught for four months, finishing the term that had been begun by Captain Smith, an excellent teacher, who had died.     

I boarded with the Friend family, which was the beginning of a friendship that lasted through the years. When the school closed in the spring, my mind turned again to the medical profession, my ultimate objective. It occurred to me that I might go to Norman, Oklahoma, where French Amos had gone to teach in the University.    

Will Friend and his sisters, Misses Minnie and Ethel Friend, are now living in Rockport, Texas, where Will has been city secretary for more than eight years. Miss Ethel has been postmaster of Rockport since 1937. Miss Minnie wrote to me that all three of them would be delighted to have their names in this book, as, so far, they had never been able to get past the fly-leaf in any book.
A few days ago I 'phoned


Big, happy Will is jolly still
The many years he has been ill;
Sweet Minnie, too, with eyes so blue
Speaks wit and wisdom, kind and true.
Then Ethel fair with long blond hair
And voice of melody to share.