Monday, December 16, 2013

Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi - by American George H. Devol

(US Edition)  (UK Edition)
There are few things as endlessly fascinating as life on the Mississippi.  I have read many books of life on the river and Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi by American George H. Devol looks like a good one! (US Edition)  (UK Edition)

The 1887 memoir is about a gambler who ran away at an early age:

The next boat I shipped on was the Walnut Hills, at $7 per month. You could hear her "scape" (whistle) for a distance of twenty miles on a clear day or night. I would get up early in the morning and make some "five-cent pieces" (there were no nickels in those days) by blacking boots.

Funny to think of a time before there was a five cent coin . . .

I sent and got another keno set, and opened a bar room, and was making money like dirt, when one day a man walked in with a bucket of water, and commenced pouring it on one of my billiard tables that I got in Chicago, and which cost me $500. I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing? He told me to go to h—l. I let fly, caught him on the neck, and down he went, and he lay there for some time. Finally they took him to where he and his wife were stopping, and that night he died. Then I commenced to think about getting out of that hot box. I got together what money I could, and carried a canoe to the river, and started for Dubuque. There were no telegraph lines at that time. I had been there but a few days before the news came to me that the doctors had held a post mortem examination, and decided the man had had delirium tremens, and could only have lived a short time. They sawed open his skull, and found his brain a jelly in the center. So I went back and found his wife, gave her one of the houses which I had built and $700 in money.

Chapter titles have words like "blowing up" and "sinking" and "gun."  You know you are in for a good read.  The book covers the period before and after the Civil War.

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