A cussed streak

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

Very early, his parents farmed him out to neighbors for his board and perhaps a little salary. He contributed the bulk of his income to the support of the family up to near the time of his own marriage. John later worked out too, but I gather he was more apt to be a problem than a provider.

Dad’s first job, was working for his Aunt Hannah and Theodore Jessup somewhere between six and ten years of age. He had very unpleasant recollections of the period — how hard he worked and the excessively religious atmosphere of the Quaker household. There or later he learned to swear conversationally or violently and chew tobacco.

Many of Dad’s reminiscences had to do with tights — school yard fights — more or less friendly wrestling matches and more or less drunken brawls at neighborhood gatherings of schoolhouse dances. Dad professed to be very good at that sort of thing and I think he probably was. He was short but compact and very strong. He had of nervous energy and led a very rigorous and active life. His muscles never got soft from lying around with a book.

One of his earliest difficulties was when his parents moved into an all Irish community. His first day in school, a bunch of the boys ganged up on the new kid — they got him in a coal house and started roughing him up. Scared stiff and desperate, Dad grabbed a hunk of coal and hit one of the boys in the face. The chunk of coal had a V — shaped sharp edge which cut through the skin of the boy’s forehead and caused it to droop over one eye. I don’t think he attended that school very long but from then on he was left alone! He remembered the little girls talking about what an awful boy he was,

Another boy that he fought with later got hit on the little finger while striking a blow — the finger was permanently dislocated. There were other squabbles involving alcohol and/or girls. As Dad told the stories most of his fighting was defensive in nature and few men or boys did much more fighting if they got thoroughly knocked down once.

There are two events I will describe. Dad was present and ill and suffering an acute headache at a 4th of July celebration. A boy from another town was talking up what a great “rasseler” he was and some of the boys who knew Dad insisted that Dad wrestle with him. Between the boy’s insistence and the other fellow’s boasting, Dad finally agreed though he stated flatly that he was in no mood to be bothered. They went out in the hardpacked road — the boy came charging at him. Dad caught him by one arm and crotch and threw him over his head face down in the hardroad. That ended that.

At some other public gathering, he had an altercation with “Taddy” (Theodore) Hoover, Herbert’s brother, Dad had seen him around a few times but did not really know him. Nevertheless, some other boys, to stir up trouble, had succeeded in convincing Taddy that Dad had said scandalous things about him in the neighboring town of Zeering. Dad tried to convince him to the contrary but he insisted on fighting. It never developed into a real fight as some older people interfered. Taddy later became dean of Stanford University. It was not until years later when [Herbert] ran from president that Dad knew that Herbert belonged to the Iowa Hoover tribe with whom he had more or less grown up. He never saw [Herbert] so far as he knew. The two Hoover boys were orphans who grew up more of less separated in other people’s homes.


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