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Thomas Jefferson Brown   By: (1878-1927)

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By James Oliver Curwood

Copyright, The Frank A. Munsey Co


There are not many who will remember him as Thomas Jefferson Brown. For ten years he had been mildly ashamed of himself, and out of respect for people who were dead, and for a dozen or so who were living, he had the good taste to drop his last name. The fact that it was only Brown didn't matter.

"Tack Thomas Jefferson to Brown," he said, "and you've got a name that sticks!"

It had an aristocratic sound; and Thomas Jefferson, with the Brown cut off, was still aristocratic, when you came to count the red corpuscles in him. In some sort of way he was related to two dead Presidents, three dead army officers, a living college professor, and a few common people. He was legitimately born to the purple, but fate had sent him off on a curious ricochet in a game all of its own, and changed him from Thomas Jefferson Brown into just plain Thomas Jefferson without the Brown.

He was one of those specimens who, when you meet them, somehow make you feel there are a few lost kings of the earth, as well as lost lambs. He was what we called a "first sighter" that is, you liked him the instant you looked at him. You knew without further acquaintance that he was a man whom you could trust with your money, your friendship anything you had. He was big, with a wholesome brown face, blond hair, and gray eyes that seemed always to be laughing and twinkling, even when he was hungry. He carried about with him a load of cheerfulness so big that it was constantly spilling over on other people.

There was a time when Thomas Jefferson Brown had little white cards with his name on them. That was when he went to college, and his lungs weren't so good. It was then that some big doctor told him that if he wanted to live to have grandchildren, the best thing for him to do was to "tramp it" for a time live out of doors, sleep out of doors, do nothing but breathe fresh air and walk. That doctor was Fate, playing his game behind a pair of spectacles and a bumpy forehead. He saved Thomas Jefferson Brown, all right; but he turned him into plain Thomas Jefferson.

For Thomas Jefferson Brown never got over taking his medicine. He kept on tramping. He got big and broad and happy. Somewhere, perhaps in a barn, he caught a microbe that made him dislike ordinary work. He would set to and help a farmer saw wood all day, just for company and grub; but you couldn't hire him to go into an office, or settle down to anything steady, for twenty five dollars a day. He had a scientific name for the thing that was in him the wanderlust bug, I think he called it; and he said it was better than the Chinese lady bugs that the government imports to save California fruit.

The nearest Thomas Jefferson ever came to going back to Thomas Jefferson Brown was when he took a job at braking on the Southern Pacific. That held him for three, days less than two weeks.

"The wanderlust bug wouldn't stand for it," he explained.

Right after that he struck a farmer's house where the farmer was sick, almost dying, with three little kids and a frail little woman trying to keep things up. He worked like ten men for more than a month on that farm, and when he went away he wouldn't take a cent. That's the sort of ne'er do well Thomas Jefferson was.

He wouldn't beg. He'd go three days without grub, and laugh all the time. It was mostly in the country and in small villages that he made his living. He could play seven different kinds of instruments without any instruments at all. Did it all with his mouth. And the kids they went wild over him. In return for his entertainment, Thomas Jefferson wasn't ashamed to take whatever came to him in the way of odd nickels and dimes.

Once the manager of a vaudeville house heard him on a street corner, and offered him a job at fifty a week if he'd sign a contract for a dozen weeks.

"Good Lord," said Thomas Jefferson, "I wouldn't know what to do with six hundred dollars!"

The next week he was cooking in a lumber camp for his board... Continue reading book >>

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