Windy McPherson's Son
Through the summer and early fall Sam continued his wanderings. The days on which
something happened or on which something outside himself interested or attracted him
were special days, giving him food for hours of thought, but for the most part he walked
on and on for weeks, sunk in a kind of healing lethargy of physical fatigue. Always he
tried to get at people who came into his way and to discover something of their way of
life and the end toward which they worked, and many an open-mouthed, staring man and
woman he left behind him on the road and on the sidewalks of the villages. He had one
principle of action; whenever an idea came into his mind he did not hesitate, but began
trying at once the practicability of living by following the idea, and although the practice
brought him to no end and only seemed to multiply the difficulties of the problem he was
striving to work out, it brought him many strange experiences.
At one time he was for several days a bartender in a saloon in a town in eastern Ohio. The
saloon was in a small wooden building facing a railroad track and Sam had gone in there
with a labourer met on the sidewalk. It was a stormy night in September at the end of his
first year of wandering and while he stood by a roaring coal stove, after buying drinks for
the labourer and cigars for himself, several men came in and stood by the bar drinking
together. As they drank they became more and more friendly, slapping each other on the
back, singing songs and boasting. One of them got out upon the floor and danced a jig.
The proprietor, a round-faced man with one dead eye, who had himself been drinking
freely, put a bottle upon the bar and coming up to Sam, began complaining that he had no
bartender and had to work long hours.
"Drink what you want, boys, and then I'll tell you what you owe," he said to the men
standing along the bar.
Watching the men who drank and played like school boys about the room, and looking at
the bottle sitting on the bar, the contents of which had for the moment taken the sombre
dulness out of the lives of the workmen, Sam said to himself, "I will take up this trade. It
may appeal to me. At least I shall be selling forgetfulness and not be wasting my life with
this tramping on the road and thinking."
The saloon in which he worked was a profitable one and although in an obscure place had
made its proprietor what is called "well fixed." It had a side door opening into an alley
and one went up this alley to the main street of the town. The front door looking upon the
railroad tracks was but little used, perhaps at the noon hour two or three young men from
the freight depot down the tracks would come in by it and stand about drinking beer, but
the trade that came down the alley and in at the side door was prodigious. All day long
men hurried in at this door, took drinks and hurried out again, looking up the alley and
running quickly when they found the way clear. These men all drank whiskey, and when
Sam had worked for a few days in the place he once made the mistake of reaching for the
bottle when he heard the door open.