Autobiography of A. T. Still
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.
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:
A Business Allegory
My First Life a Business Failure
The Parson's Advice
Investing in a Saw-mill
Asleep Under the Tree
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
"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
"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
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.
[graphic 432: "AN OLD RAM OF GREAT
POWER HIT ME A JOLT ON THE SIDE OF THE HEAD."]
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
[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
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.
[graphic 438: "STAND ASIDE, LADY, AND
I'LL ATTEND TO THOSE NOTES."]
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
"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."