Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 4
This was my big day. The horses were hitched up, Dad had on his good suit, I had on mine. I should have been filled with happiness; yet for one, long sickening moment I never felt worse in all my life. From the depths of me I didn't want to go to high school. Mother kissed me goodbye, my big brothers wished me luck, the little folks just stood there wondering at the goings on; and I, like a big baby, fought back the tears. But Dad was ready to go. I hesitated. It was Mother who helped me break away. With a firm but tender shove she pushed me toward the buggy. "You better hurry, son, you haven't much more than time to get there."
So with ten dollars in my pocket and the clothes on my back, I set out that early fall morning for Davenport, six miles away. My throat was tight and my eyes burned as Dad and I drove out of the farm yard.
Once in town, I went to the old high school building, took the entrance examinations, and in the afternoon heard those magic words: "We can accept you as a student."
So far so good. Purchase of books and supplies left only enough of my ten dollars to jingle faintly in my pocket; yet even that sound was reassuring as I started out to find a job. All of Miss Kennedy's encouragement, all of my dreaming, all of my parents' unselfishness in giving me this freedom would amount to nothing if I didn't find work.
As green as any country boy ever was, I had no idea of how to go about hunting a job; so I did the thing that seemed most logical to me at the moment. I stopped at a house and asked if they wanted a high school boy to work for them. They didn't. I went to the next house. They didn't either. I went to the next house and the next, up one street and down the other, asking at each door the same question and getting at each door the same answer, "No."
It got to be past six o'clock. I thought of the warm farm kitchen at home; I wondered what my home folk were having for supper. But that thought tormented me and made me realize how hungry I was. With dragging feet I made my way to the next place which happened to be a hotel. The Ackley House, and by some kind of luck the first man I spoke to was the proprietor, Mr. Cross. He gave me work.
My first job was that of porter, and for this work I was given my room and board. Things went along nicely until the latter part of October when it began to get cold. My clothes had done well enough in moderate weather, but the chill of late autumn seemed to go right through me; more often than not I ran to and from school to avoid getting cold. It was after a couple of weeks of this weather that Mr. Cross, one night after school, asked me to go down town with him. I thought nothing of it, for I often accompanied him and carried his packages; but when we stopped at a clothing store and he said, "Guess we'll get you something warmer to wear," I couldn't believe my ears.
We went in and he bought me a whole new outfit--underwear, suit, shirt, socks, and even a tie! Almost my first store clothes, and a whole outfit all at one time!
Mr. Cross didn't let his kindness end there. In a few months he made me a night clerk. I didn't have so much heavy work to do, and I had a chance to do much more studying since I could often work at my lessons while I was on duty. I was at the desk until midnight each night and then slept where a bell would waken me if someone came in later.
In the summer following that school year, I worked in the fields again. The next school year, I was house man for a wealthy Davenport family. But my junior year found me back as night clerk for Mr. Cross, and I continued in his employ until my graduation.