- Bookwood Historical Collection, Star Lake
Luck in Boy's Bank
How a Consumptive Found Cash in a Giant Firecracker
It Brought Him $694
Dynamite Builds up a Fortune and a Pair of Lungs
The Bank of a Mischievous Youngster and the Name of the Donor Figue as Important Instruments
STAR LAKE, Wis, July 27. –“I wish Johnny Baker could see me now. I feel strong enough to frolic and shoot off giant firecrackers to his heart's content.
The speaker who had just finished a story with the above remark, was John Francis Laflin, and he was addressing a crowd of gentlemen who came here from Chicago and Milwaukee to fish and recuperate under the influence of the balmy air of the tall pines so numerous in this part of Wisconsin. The party was grouped about a generous camp fire that crackled and blazed and smoked away mosquitos. A full moon lighted up the whole country about, and the beautiful lake which formed such a picturesque background for the camp scene, fairly sparkled in the night’s light.
It would be a pessimist indeed who could not be inspired by such surroundings, and it was probably due to the thrilling influences of the combination of night's brightest charms more than anything else that brought Mr. Laflin to a reminiscent mood, and caused him to recite to the camp-fire group the story of his Fourth of July mishap. Mr. Laflin bore all the earmarks of that dread disease consumption, and from the moment of his arrival at the local hotel he enjoyed the sympathy and respect of the guests and those of the townspeople with whom he came in contact. He had but to express a wish, and it would be granted. Fishermen who returned from a prosperous day with the rod and reel promptly offered the best of their catch for Mr. Laflin's cooking, Ladies who enjoyed an afternoon picking blue berries vied with each other in getting the choicest berries to the invalid first. It was not strange, therefore, that silence reigned and everybody gathered about the speaker when he began his story.
“I was crossing Madison street," began the speaker, at the corner of Ogden avenue, 1 Fourth of July morning, to see my doctor. who has an office in Illinois hall. I remember, distinctly my hands were buried in my pockets and my mind absorbed in the contents of a pocket-book which did not contain the price of a package of cigarettes. Suddenly I was aroused by the shrill voice of a youngster, who shouted: "Look out. Mister." I did look out, and then looked into a flock of stars and oblivion. As the boy's warning cry reached my ears my foot was raised for the next step, and at that instant a giant firecracker exploded under me, the shattered paper and smoke going up my pantaloon leg and the concussion throwing me off my balance. Before I could recover I went down, my head striking the curbstone with a bang, and I was out without the assistance of a referee.
“Kind hands picked me up and carried me to I neighboring drug store, where restoratives were applied. The boy who discharged the cracker, I'm told, ran at once for a doctor, and happened to light on my own physician, and he soon brought me to consciousness. The boy in the meantime stood steadfastly by me until he heard the doctor say: "Poor Laflin! I'm sorry for him. He is without a dollar in the world and a very sick man. Then the boy disappeared. When be returned he carried his cap in his I. land, and it was partly filled with pennies, nickels, and dimes. He waited a favorable opportunity, and then, slipping silently on tip-toe to my side, said: "Here, Mister, is some money from my bank that I keep my savings in for Christmas. Take it; it might help you.”
"That settled it. Such money could not lose at any kind of a game, I thought, and I accepted the boy's bank coin, and with the same mind determined to play it against the races at Harlem. Doctor protested against my going to the races. The day was damp and threatening. Rain had fallen all night ... dampness. But I had fully resolved to play that money, and no advice or persuasion could deter me from visiting Harlem. When I reached the track two races had been decided and betting was in progress for the third, which was a two-mile event. After paying admission to the track and car fare I had $3 left, and that sum I placed on Banquo against $6. The horse won easy enough, but the boy nearly lost the race through over confidence. My capital was now $9. and I bet the whole on Canova, getting 5 to 1 for it. Again I cashed, and my possessions amounted $54. For the next event I was uncertain of my choice. Three horses were about equal choices in the betting, John Baker being the outsider, at 10 to 1. That name, John Baker, bothered me. I walked up and down the lawn trying to think where I had heard it before, and then of a sudden it dawned on me that was the boy’s name who gave me his Christmas money.
"That was tip enough for me, and I struggled through the crowd to Oscar Bachman’s book, handed up my $54, and asked him if he wanted it on John Baker.
“‘Do I want it?’ said Bachman. “Why this is like getting it from the treasury office.’ and he called the bet, 'John Baker $540 to $54,’ and handed me the ticket.
"I thought they would never get the flag after that, but they did, and my noble friend John Baker made his opponents look like crabs, coming home actually alone, and amid a silence that was sickening. I did not have a shout in me, and as few wagered on his chances, there was nobody to greet him with acclaim.
I had enough strength left to stagger into Bachman’s book and remove the $694 due me. I never gave the next and last race of the day a thought. I had enough for one day. How I ever reached the doctor’s office I’ll never be able to tell. All I can remember is that before the shades of evening set I stumbled, half fell, into his office. And clutching the back of a chair, mumbled:
“‘Fix me up for Star Lake, Doc, I’ve got the dough to stay there a year, if you wish.| I told you that boy’s money couldn’t lose.
"Well, here I am, boys, and you know the rest. Johnny Baker's Christmas bank now holds $100. I wish he could see me now. I feel strong enough to frolic and shoot off giant firecrackers with him to his heart’s content."
A deep sigh escaped a listener: a spark flew from a half-burned log, and the next instant the flame flickered and died out, and the party was left in the light of the moon. The story was well told, but it brought its emotions, and John Franais Laflin retired to his room and bed. J. W. LANGFORD.