Excerpt from History

It was after midnight, we had finished putting the paper to bed and were on our way home.  Except for the street lamps that burned along main street, the night was black and ominous, seeming to surround each lamp with an impenetrable curtain.  We parted at the corner, and I stepped off the curb to cross the street.

Suddenly, a figure of an old man loomed up on the opposite curb, as if he had walked out of the wall of the building behind him.  As I came closer, I recognized H.P. Hammer.

It was a little unusual, I thought, to encounter the old gentleman on the street at such an hour, but he was one of the community's most prominent citizens so I did not mention it.  I said, "Hello, Mr. Hammer.  How are things going?"

He looked at me quite somberly.  I had the feeling that he had, for some reason, been walking about in the night and doing some heavy thinking.  "It is not going so good, young feller," he said, "and I cannot see the end of it."

He had been the millionaire in our town.  "Credit unlimited," said Dunn & Bradstreet.  But the depression had cut him down.  He had owned several banks in the area, and he had tried to save them from collapse, selling stocks and bonds, mortgaging real estate, cashing in wherever he could, putting the money into those banks.  But the depression had gone on and on, and the banks failed anyway.

Most folks had lost what they had.  But they had very little to lose, compared with the losses this man had suffered.  He could have cut and run.  There was no law that required him to put every cent into the banks, in an effort to save them, and so sustain the depositors, desperate and frightened as they were.

"I made my money here, and I'll lose it here," he said suddenly, as if he were talking to someone in the darkness.  He stepped off the curb, and moved across the street.  His shoulders heaved, and he walked very slowly.  I watched until he disappeared in the darkness.  Then I went on home, feeling very good about something, but not yet sure what it was.

It had something to do with guts, with stubborn courage that didn't advertise itself.  Plain, unvarnished guts.

Oswald Tufte

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 128

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