The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee, continued ______________
A little event took place at this school which I will relate because it had influence upon my after life and may be of service to others. Not long after the school commenced my sister was taken with the ague and fever, and was permitted to return home at play time and I was left to go home in the evening by myself. It was then all in the woods and only a narrow path, with a small branch or a spring in sight of my father’s house (where I now live). Just before I reached the branch I cast my eyes into the bushes on the side of the path and saw something rolled up in a heap covered with white and black stripes. I turned out to pick it up. It rose up suddenly with its tail over its back and reared up on its hind legs to make battle and in a moment the most horrible smell assailed my olfactories and I soon took to my heels and the “Polecat” after me a short distance. I was dreadfully alarmed and never ceased running until I got home and told the alarming story to my father who only laughed at me, and said that I was a pretty soldier to be scared by a skunk which if I had made battle at it would have ran from me. I was not satisfied that this would really have been the case, as it appeared very warlike bristling up at me most furiously.
The second day afterwards my sister’s ague again came on and I began to think of some way by which I could get home with her. The cracks of the school were all open; we had a dirt floor on which was alternate strips of sunshine and shade. The day was very warm and (I) took a seat where I could put my feet in the shade and soon began to show symptoms of cold and shivering, and asked that I might accom- pany my sister home. The thoughts of having to go home by myself and perhaps encounter the “polecat” again were most distressing. But my counterfeit ague did not seem to effect Mr. Pogue as I suppose it was badly done, and having a fresh ruddy face the symp- toms would not all show. Mr. Pogue told me that he thought he could cure my ague in a very short time, as he was very anxious for me to learn my book and beat all the bigger scholars. It being near play time, he took me with him to Salt River and we both strip[p]ed off our clothes and went in to swim, as he assured me it would effect a cure. I splashed about in shallow water and he washed and scrubbed me well, for near half an hour, and after dressing he took me to the race paths (which had been made by the larger boys from the river out to the foot of the hill),
and putting me in one path, he took the other and directed me to do my best. Away I went at full speed and he permitted me to beat him, and then praised me very much saying that “I run like a buck” now says he do you feel much better? O yes Sir, I believe I am well. This being all done in the kindest spirit, not intimidating even a suspicion, that I was playing opossum in the whole matter, yet young as I was I thought I discovered from his eyes that he knew all about me, as I have no doubt he did. This at once determined me never to attempt deception again and always to speak the Truth, if I spoke at all, and I have experienced immense advantages from this course in my after life. Thus even at four and five years of age I had imbibed two important maxims or lessons, which shows that children if they think at all, begin much earlier than their Parents suppose, yet it is true that there are thousands who do not trouble them- selves with reflection. However, to conclude my sto- ry, on that evening and ever after when I had to go home by myself I always thought of the Polecat with an aching heart and passed the place at full speed, and never attempted to make any more excuses or pretexts which were not true in order to obtain leave to go home. This simple narrative I hope will make other little boys think right.
In the fall of this year my Eldest sister to whom I was much attached was married to Nathan Nield, it was an unfortunate match. He became intemperate, treated her cruelly and brought her to her grave in ten years afterwards, after she had four children – one daughter, and three sons – I was much distressed when my sister left the family as next to Mother she was my best friend.
In the year 1790, my father had a school house built on his own land on the point of a ridge near where there is a stone quarry, about one hundred feet from a spring and branch south of his house, not ¼ of a mile from my present residence, which shortened my road to school, being directly on my old path. At this place I went to school six months to an old English gentleman who was a good English scholar, but used his rod pretty freely. I do not recol- lect however of ever feeling it as I was very attentive and made rapid progress in learning to read and write. I commenced in the Testament and shortly
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