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Poor White

CHAPTER XII
After the success of his corn cutting machine and the apparatus for unloading
coal cars that brought him a hundred thousand dollars in cash, Hugh could not
remain the isolated figure he had been all through the first several years of his
life in the Ohio community. From all sides men reached out their hands to him:
and more than one woman thought she would like to be his wife. All men lead
their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they themselves have built, and
most: men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls. Now and then a man,
cut off from his fellows by the peculiarities of his nature, becomes absorbed in
doing something that is impersonal, useful, and beautiful. Word of his activities is
carried over the walls. His name is shouted and is carried by the wind into the
tiny inclosure in which other men live and in which they are for the most part
absorbed in doing some petty task for the furtherance of their own comfort. Men
and women stop their complaining about the unfairness and inequality of life and
wonder about the man whose name they have heard.
From Bidwell, Ohio, to farms all over the Middle West, Hugh McVey's name had
been carried. His machine for cutting corn was called the McVey Corn-Cutter.
The name was printed in white letters against a background of red on the side of
the machine. Farmer boys in the States of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas,
Nebraska, and all the great corn-growing States saw it and in idle moments
wondered what kind of man had invented the machine they operated. A
Cleveland newspaper man came to Bidwell and went to Pickleville to see Hugh.
He wrote a story telling of Hugh's early poverty and his efforts to become an
inventor. When the reporter talked to Hugh he found the inventor so
embarrassed and uncommunicative that he gave up trying to get a story. Then
he went to Steve Hunter who talked to him for an hour. The story made Hugh a
strikingly romantic figure. His people, the story said, came out of the mountains
of Tennessee, but they were not poor whites. It was suggested that they were of
the best English stock. There was a tale of Hugh's having in his boyhood
contrived some kind of an engine that carried water from a valley to a mountain
community; another of his having seen a clock in a store in a Missouri town and
of his having later made a clock of wood for his parents; and a tale of his having
gone into the forest with his father's gun, shot a wild hog and carried it down the
mountain side on his shoulder in order to get money to buy school books. After
the tale was printed the advertising manager of the corn-cutter factory got Hugh
to go with him one day to Tom Butterworth's farm. Many bushels of corn were
brought out of the corn cribs and a great mountain of corn was built on the
ground at the edge of a field. Back of the mountain of corn was a corn field just
coming into tassel. Hugh was told to climb up on the mountain and sit there.
Then his picture was taken. It was sent to newspapers all over the West with
copies of the biography cut from the Cleveland paper. Later both the picture and
the biography were used in the catalogue that described the McVey Corn-Cutter.
The cutting of corn and putting it in shocks against the time of the husking is
heavy work. In recent times it has come about that much of the corn grown on
 
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