Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.


  • A Business Allegory
  • My First Life a Business Failure
  • Seeking Success
  • The Parson's Advice
  • Investing in a Saw-mill
  • Self-reliance
  • A Soliloquy
  • Asleep Under the Tree
  • The Ram
  • Up a Tree
  • Legs as Well as Head Necessary to Success
  • The Labeled Tree
  • Label of Success
  • How to Succeed in Business
  • A Great Financier
  • A Dream and Its Realization
  • The Wife Appeals in Vain
  • That Blessed Ram to the Rescue
  • Knocked from the Top of an Unpaid-for Ten-Thousand-Dollar House
  • The Ram Speaks
    IN this, my first life, it will be seen that I was not successful as a business man.  Everything I tried for many years was a failure.  I lost all my means and time, and all I had to show was that I had made another failure.  I thought I must keep trying.  I came to a place in the road of life, one going to the right, and the other to the left.  I halted with the people, who stood in a very large crowd at the forks of the road, to ask which of them led to success.  In one common yell, all said:

    "Any of us can tell you all about the roads to success."  I asked the host what it would cost me to get an opinion from each one of them.  The answer was, It will cost you nothing at present but your time, as we are willing to give opinions." I was not very well impressed at first, on account of the poorly clad condition most of them were in.  Finally a very well-dressed, gentlemanly looking man stepped forward and said:

    "I am a minister, and advise you to take that road," pointing to the right.  "However, I will ask you about your financial conditions.  Have you any money at your command?" I told him I had a small amount, which was but a few hundred dollars.  And he said, "Come right along with me." I asked no questions, as I had found "a man of God," and away I went - -after the usual amount of squatting and flattery, in which he told me that just such a great and good man as I was would be a great benefit in his community.

    It being Saturday afternoon, he asked me to stay over Sabbath, rest, and go to church with him, as he would fill the pulpit.  Oh, how good I felt!  I felt that I had gotten with a brother.  He told the sexton to give me the very best seat in the church.  My heart heaved and leaped with joy.  The services were opened with music.  I enjoyed the melodies, and almost wished I was
dead and in heaven, and could listen to such music all the time.

    By this time I began to feel my unworthiness by the bushels and as the minister passed by me, I asked him to pray for my successes.  And all he said was, "God bless you, brother!" After singing, he proceeded to the services with prayer, in which he thanked God for our good government, our peace, and power to keep peace with all nations, or fight if they preferred it.  He thanked God for the crops, good health, and schools, and says, "O Lord, we are ashamed and truly sorry that we have to preach the gospel in such a poorly constructed and provided church-house as this.  Thou knowesf it is a shame and a disgrace on the people to even think or call this 'the house of God.' Bless our souls.  Amen!"

    I did not feel the hint, or see the rabbit's foot yet.  He opened the Bible, and like a magic slam it opened to that good old verse, "Blessed is the cheerful giver." He smiled at me just as sweet, and says, "We are very much in need, and must have money."  He told the sexton to pass around the hat, gave him a wink and a nod.  He roared and snorted about the blessings that belong to the "cheerful giver," and smiled at me again.

    I thought, as I was a stranger in the community, I would do ten times better than I had been in the habit of doing at home, and tumbled into the hat a whole silver dollar.  The sexton says, "Humph! we are building a church, and expected better things of you." I began to reason on the grounds of my limited means.  At this time the minister pointed his finger at a trained sister, who hallooed, "Hallelujah," which proved to be the signal for a general move of all the sisters, both old and young, to "pull my leg" for more money; and they got the last cent I had with me, which was ten dollars.

    By this time the "rabbit's foot" was in plain view.  In a low whisper I said, "Sold again."

    I walked out into the big common road of life for another journey.  I traveled on and on, until I came to the forks of this road.  Here I found another very large congregation.  They had in their hands hammers, monkey-wrenches, chisels, files, and various kinds of implements.  I greeted them as an inquiring stranger should.  By one common voice they cried, " Come into the crowd and sit on a log with us." I told them I was an explorer and in search of success, and had been told there was a storehouse some place in this direction, in which it could be purchased.

    A very dignified gentleman says, "This is the place you are hunting for," and asks, "What kind of business do you wish to do?" To which I answered, "Any honorable business in which a laborer can make a living for a small family." A solid-looking, middle-aged man says, "We need a sawmill in this country, and have met and arranged to send off to purchase an engine, saw, and all necessary machinery to cut lumber."  He asked me this question, "Are you a man of capital?" I told him I had a few hundred dollars.  He said, "We lack $400 of having enough to send for them immediately."  Something said, "Keep out of the mills and engines, unless you are a skilled engineer, and can do everything to repair and keep the machine in motion." They insisted that I should invest.  I hesitated, because that was all the money I had on earth.  A talky little fellow said to me it would be wisdom to invest, and as he expected some money within thirty days, as soon as the saw cut the first line he would pay me $800 for my stock in the mill company.  I put my money in at once, and all aboard for the lumber cutting.

    The mill was sent for, arrived, set up, a log rolled on, a line was cut, and many lines were cut.  I looked around for my little man, and felt I would take my money and go home.  I inquired for him, and was told be had been in the calaboose a week for getting drunk, and would be there and in the county jail sixty days to pay a fine assessed against him for violating city ordinances.

    Not discouraged, I told others I would take the same proposition that the little man had made me, as I wanted to go home.

    One of them said: "In about a week I will purchase your claim if my money comes, as I expect it will." I engaged to work for my board until his money came.

    A number of the partners of this mill drank to some extent.  They had set Tuesday night as a kind of a dedicatory jollity.  All got very happy, and went to their respective homes full of beer, and the engineer was so full that he forgot or neglected to close the furnace.  There was quite a gale of wind that night, and blew sparks of fire into some shavings and sawdust, which spread
from place to place, until all the machinery was consumed by fire, with saw and carriages all ruined.

    I felt at this time there was no "rabbit's foot" in the game, and said to myself: "The man of God got my ten dollars, and alcohol, beer, and confidence got the rest." I was afoot and alone, without a penny to feed my wife and babies.

    So ended my first life as a business "fool." I did as the people advised, without exercising any of my own powers of reason, until I became a mental dwarf, which required many years to overcome.

    The greatest struggle of all my life was to have confidence, and realize that God had put into each man the brain and all the business qualities to make him a good living, with plenty for those depending upon his services, provided he would make good use of his gifts.  Attend to one thing at a time, and that one thing all the time.

    These are my experimental allegories.

    In the first part of my life it will be seen by the reader I was young and inexperienced in choosing pursuits in which I could succeed.  I grew up, believing that in "council there was safety." I felt the lack of experience, and wished to learn all I could from older persons.  It was my desire to live an honest and industrious life.  I did not think for many long years that my failures were due to a lack of self-reliance.  But at last I lost all confidence in myself, and took advice not matured to suit my case.  I never thought wise men had to take time to mature a business plan, but supposed they were full, and could unload at any time for my benefit, if I only asked them.

    Then I thought it might help me some if I would dress better.  With that idea front I got a new hat, but no change for the better was apparent.  I shaved; all was the same in results.  I even went so far as to black my boots, but no star of hope appeared to me.  So I did not come out on dress parade any more, and all was dark again.

    No money, no friends on earth, and the minister told me there was great danger of me meeting Peter in a bad humor about the little ten dollars I had so grudgingly given to the church committee, whom I had called "rabbit's feet," when they only got ten after all that prayer, preach, and parade.  I felt the show was slim for me to get into heaven if he was mad about the money.  So I pulled out again for the big road.  Had not traveled far until I got a small bug in one of my eyes, and it scratched and kicked, made and kept it sore so long, that I got to believe one eye would answer if I would use it.  I began to look with it the best I could.  I traveled on and on in the dim road of hope, met many persons at forks of roads, but as I could use but one eye, I thought I could see the "rabbit's foot of deception for sale" at every fork of the road.  As I had no money I could purchase no more, and had to travel many tire-some miles alone.  Tremblingly I sank to rest in the shade of a tree, and soliloquized.

    Do you realize that when man has done the best he can and failed at every turn, and hope has been torn from his horizon as by a cyclone with all its fury, his heart falls as stone from the temple of life, and be turns from the joys of hope, and hates their flattering tongues, and their sweet syllables are to him as bitter as gall?  And he contemplates joy only in the thought of death.  He feels that all the gates of love are shut and forever barred to him and his dear ones.  Love turns to hatred, even of his own life.  He gives up, and looks on to and for death, and builds many temples of mind, and feels that death, annibilation, or anything but life would be a glorious change for him.  He cries when he should laugh, hates when he should love.  He feels that the battle of life is lost, and he and his are captives, and life will be perpetual servitude.

    He is only as a vessel on the surging waves of an enraged sea, drifting to the twisting throat of a Whirlpool that swallows and safely hides all it s victims at the bottom of an unexplored abyss; in whose stomach dies all hope and aspiration for him who would do and die for a just life, and has had all the dead limbs of adversity fall on him and cross his path, each day, hour, and minute of his life, when just in sight of those whose roads are eternally blooming with roses of sweetest perfume-fields and herds growing, and supplying all that the heart of man could ask, and no outer signs of superior gifts, only success.

    That success came to him.  How, unknown.  He and his have all the joys of this life, and me and mine all the sorrow of a bitter world, and never allowed to taste a morsel of joy that seems to come in my sight, and dwells only to heap misery on losses, and keeps my face an open play-ground for the hyenas of my flesh as they eat and laugh at my falls, so close to each other, that all the days of my life can be counted by ones into many thousands.


    As I sit here, drink and redrink from that cup that has never leaked a drop of sorrow that did not fall on me some place so as to enter the river that reached my heart, and shut my welcome to even a few minutes' rest and slumber in the shade of this lonely tree, which may be claimed by some powerful animal, that may find me while asleep under its foliage, and almost kill me. I dare not ask even the angels to watch while I sleep.  But nature has failed me so far that I must sleep, even though it be the sleep of death.

[graphic 433: "THE RAM OF REASON."]

    While in that sleep I dreamed that an old ram of great power hit me a jolt on the side of the head, and sprawled me full length.  I awoke, and looking around, found it was no dream, but a reality, as he was backing out to jolt me again.  But he had put so much electricity in my head and legs that I jumped up the tree like a kangaroo.

    Then I began to realize that a man must use his bead and legs if he wants to succeed in any enterprise.

    I went higher and higher in the tree of safety.  My attention was drawn to many labels that were made of all known materials -- gold, silver, platinum, iron, shells of the sea, skins of animals, horns and teeth of beasts.  One was written in letters of gold and fastened around the trunk of the tree, and the inscription was, "This is the tree of Knowledge, in whose shade all persons have received that instruction that was necessary to each individual's success in life, without which no man bas ever succeeded."

    All labels, except the one that girdled the tree, were provided with a ring to drop over a book, made so for the purpose that they might ho taken off and read by all inquiring explorers. They were arranges in alphabetical order, and their numbers ran into countless thousands.  As I was in great trouble, and my name was Andrew, I read many labels marked A, but none suited my case.  I went on and on until I found the labels of S. The first read, "Success is the reward of personal effort and confidence in self to solve all problems of life.  Self in front.  Self in all battles, and at the head of command.  Secrecy.  Seclusion during conception, development, and birth of all plans of business life."

[graphic 434: "AWOKE AND FOUND IT NO DREAM."]

[graphic 435: "I WENT UNTIL I FOUND THE LABEL S."]

    I thought this label would do for me, as my name was "Still," and I took a copy and have followed it, lo! these many years.  And by it I have succeeded beyond all I could see or wish for, before that day when the ram of Energy drove me up the tree of Knowledge to read the label that was there for me.

    I would advise all men and women to travel to that tree, stop and take a sleep, and leave your burdens of life, for I am sure you will find a label that will tell you what limb of the great tree of knowledge has the fruit of success for you.

    If you desire to be a politician, look through the labels of P, and if you find you have the kinds of sense necessary, copy the label and drive for politics.  If not, go back to F. You may have a very fine head for a fiddler. That tree is free to all, and the ram will soon teach you to climb.

    If you think you should be a doctor, I would advise you to trot to the shade-tree at once, and if you are not sleepy, just feign sleep, and the ram will soon make squirrels' legs of yours, and send you into the top of the tree of labels among the letter D, to read all about doctors, dopes, drinks, drugs, and dead folks.

    If you want a wife, turn to W. See first if she wants you, is willing to work hard for you, take in washing, and let you sit in the shade and have a good time talking about woman's suffrage or suffering, just as your mother has suffered all your lazy life, as her furrowed brow plainly shows.  Let " wife" alone if you haven't the wealth or will to help her wash or weep.

    There are many useful places waiting to be filled.  Because you have but one leg and cannot dance, don't get discouraged and give up.  You often have more good sense in your head than ten dancers and four darkies with their banjos.  Courage and good sense are the horns that scatter hay for the calves to eat.  Courage is the gem that will set off your bosom, and thousands will ask you where you got it and what it cost, and say they wish their sons had more wisdom in their heads and less dance in their heels.

    I found very high in the tree of knowledge among its branches one large and brilliant label, written in all languages (hieroglyphics not excepted), that success does not come to a person from reading labels that are written in golden letters (raised or depressed), the hows to proceed, or the whys that man does not succeed in business enterprises.  But the secret lies, after Having chosen a suitable profession, to load yourself with energy, fire up with the blazes of execution, and never allow your boiler to cool down until you shall have executed that which you set out to accomplish, with the determination to look neither to the right, left, nor rear, but keep your eye forever front.  Oil and fire up the engines of ambition and energy to an increased speed, until you arrive at the station of success, found only at the end of your own individual effort.  This is the great compass and magnetic needle that safely delivers all seekers of success.

    My successes have produced on me the feeling that I am a great financier and a great business man.  I can put my hand on much more money which is my own than I have hoped to be able to do.  I have money by the dollar, hundreds of dollars, even up to a few thousands.  It is my money, and I know it is, for I have paid the last farthing I owe to any man on earth.  This is my money, and I want the world to know that under any construction of laws, business, or justice, it is mine.  I feel that the unfortunate ought to ask my advice first of all men, because I am successful.  I believe I can successfully enter any financial combat and come out triumphant.

    I am looking at myself as an able, cautious business general.  I feel that way because I have the dollars to show, which is certainly nine points in any philosopber's conclusion.  I feel proud of the idea that I can and will be one of the greatest philanthropic men of the past or coming days.

    With this feeling I took another sleep, and while in that slumber I saw many business security bonds and notes for endorsement, for which I held the ready pen to sign.  I awoke the following morning, and before I had tasted my early breakfast coffee the door-bells rang on all sides, the doors were opened, and the house filled with a great number of persons wishing to go into different kinds of speculation, and asked me to assist them in their enterprises by endorsing their bonds and notes.  My wife being a very cautious woman, and from sad experience know ing the danger of going securities, begged and pleaded with me to indorse for no man, for such business had caused her father to die with the word "remorse" on his tongue.  He had been robbed and ruined by just such characters.  She pleaded with me to keep my signature from any paper in which I was not interested.

    As I had been raised to believe that the man was the head of the family and that the wife should ask instead of give advice, I asked her to retire from the room and permit me to transact my own business, as I was a great financier.  She refused to go, and insisted there was great danger of ruin.  She argued that when security was given there was but one paymaster, and that
was the innocent and blind subscriber to such notes and bonds, and if I did sign those papers we were ruined.  I said I knew what I was doing, and that those men whose security I was about to go were good and responsible.  At this time she sank to the floor in despair, and I heard a shrill voice addressing her with:

    "Stand aside, lady, and I will attend to those notes." I looked over my shoulder and saw the face of that blessed ram again, "which had chastened whom he did love." He said: "Throw down that pen.  I will allow no such business.


    Your wife is right, and if she cannot reason with you, I will do some very necessary jolting.  I will jolt every man that presents a note to you to sign, in which you have no money or interest, and jolt you as a reminder of past days."

    This blessed ram of business disappeared for a season, and I saw no more of him until he sent me from the roof of a three-story $20,000 building by his powerful head of business forethought.  When I landed on the hard ground I murmured at the mean treatment of the sheep, and, glancing my eye upward, saw him looking at me from the roof of the house.  He said: "Shut up your growling." I asked: "Can a dumb brute talk?" He answered: "Knowest thou not that an ass did speak Hebrew, and did counsel and advise with the Jews?  I speak English."

    Then I asked why he had knocked me off the house and hurt me so badly, and he said: "It is because you have lied." "If I have lied, I am not aware of it, and would like to know wherein I have."

    He said: "You were telling this friend with you that you owned this house, when you know it is covered all over with mortgages more than it is worth.

[graphic 440: "IT IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE LIED."]

    "These mortgages were made to obtain money with which to buy silk, diamonds, buggies, bicycles, and an innumerable host of other useless purchases.  In truth, you do not own one cent within this house at the present time.  I have punched you off to remind you that you are not the wonderful financier you have supposed yourself to be.  I have given you these punches to remind you that you have not accumulated a saving amount of business caution to protect your financial successes.  Now I want this to be the last occasion that I will have to thump you."