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Penitent Thief



"The third year our subject (James E. M. O'Hair) lived in the mountains he met with a loss which led him into an interesting and almost fatal adventure. A young man came to him for work and he hired the applicant for the season. The second day after doing so, while he was away in the mountains looking after his hogs, the hired man stole the only suit of clothes he had, ten coon skins, seven dollars in money and his canoe and put off down the river. On returning home at night he learned from his wife what had happened and immediately determined to catch the thief. He borrowed a canoe of his nearest neighbor and started down the river for that purpose. Several miles below, a large rock lay in the middle of the river with a swift current flowing on each side of it. On this rock his canoe lodged in such a manner that he could not get it off. He got out of his boat and managed to get a solid footing but having carefully viewed the situation he gave up all hope of ever getting away alive and commenced to pray. After praying for sometime, he concluded the forced prayer could not avail much. So he quit praying and plunging into the icy water, swam ashore. He went to the nearest house and dried his clothing. At daylight he set out, this time on foot down the riverbank in search of his man. Four or five miles below he found his canoe tied to the bank bottom up and knew from that circumstance and from the swift current in the river that the thief had also been capsized and lost all the stolen goods. He went to the nearest house and found the man drying his clothes. He took the refugee in charge and started back on foot. Thinking the matter over, be concluded to give his captive the choice of a whipping or a trip to the penitentiary. The man chose the whipping. He accordingly tied him to a tree, cut a good switch and began on him. He whipped awhile, then talked, telling the culprit that the whipping was for his good. He repeated the castigation till they were both worn out. Then he turned the malefactor loose and gave him some good advice. As the hat of the unfortunate evildoer had been lost in the river he gave him his own and went home bareheaded. Twenty years later he met this man in an adjoining state, with an interesting family around him, well to do and respected by all his neighbors. The whipping was not referred to by either party; but it is not at all improbable that the timely whipping with its accompanying


advice made a man of the unlucky thief.