Oregon: Her history, her great men, her literature/Homer Davenport


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The most widely known the world over of the native sons of Oregon was Homer Davenport, the famous cartoonist, lecturer, and author. He was born in the Waldo Hills, Marion County, on March 8, 1867, living there and in Silverton until reaching his majority. When twenty-five years of age he had developed no talent for any special business career save a disposition to draw pictures of birds and animals on fences and other convenient backgrounds. In 1892, his father sent him to San Francisco where he secured a position on the San Francisco "Chronicle," and later was employed by William Randolph Hearst on the "Examiner." Here Mr. Hearst discovered young Davenport's talent, so when Mr. Hearst, in 1895, entered the New York newspaper field he took Davenport with him as a special cartoonist. In the homer davenport following year, during the presidential campaign, the cartoonist made a reputation for humorous, pungent and effective representations of different phases of that contest that won for him a national fame which grew until his death, May 2. 1912.

Homer Davenport was a born genius, a man of rare imagination, a master story-teller, and a man with a heart as tender as that of a woman. He was as democratic in manner as the commonest day laborer, and when in London calling on William E. Gladstone—finding him in the woods at Hawarden—told him he was "from Silverton, Oregon, a town that had a brass band and a sawmill." The greatest of his cartoons, perhaps, was that representing Admiral Dewey on his flagship during the battle of Manila, entitled "Lest We Forget," published when the public was severely criticising that hero for deeding: to his wife a house in Washington given him by friends. This turned the tide in favor of the Admiral, who assured a close friend that he was on the eve of making his permanent home in London, when Davenport's cartoon awakened the American people to an appreciation of what Dewey had accomplished at Manila.

Mr. Davenport entered the lecture field in 1901, and traveled m all parts of the United States, winning success wherever he went; his "Silverton Stories" amused to the utmost degree the noted men of the nation as well as the common people. His book. "The Country Boy." which presented the experiences of himself during his boyhood days is a wonderful mixture of humor and pathos and won the favor of the public at once. He made a visit to the Arabian Desert a few years before his death and secured several of the famous Arabian horses for his stock farm in East Orange, New Jersey. His book, "My Quest of the Arab Horse,' describes his experiences among the Arabs and his personal interview with a sheik, is one of intense interest and exceptional value.


Although Silverton was situated in a great hunting country and had lots of good shots, I never took much to hunting, perhaps because I was a poor wing-shot, and deer were too pretty to kill; but I had heard of the great flocks of geese and ducks out on the coast of Nestucca, so I went over to have a great hunt, and the first day I was there I actually found a hand of geese big enough so that when I shot into the entire bunch one on the outskirts fell. When this small goose hit the sand, he raised to his feet and ran, me after him, and after quite a run I overtook him and found only one wing broken. I always had wanted to own live wild birds and things, so I saw my chance. I carried him to the cabin carefully and cut up a cigar box lid into splints and set his wing, and I was overjoyed to see an expression in his cute little black eyes that he sort oknew I was trying to cure him instead o' kill him. He got rapidly better and I started for Silverton with him, and there astonished our family by the kindly way this Hutchins goose let me doctor his wing. Father helped me doctor him some, and finally when we took the splints off his wing his affection showed more than ever, and to tell the truth, he and I grew to be the nearest and dearest friends possible, not being of the same species. He used to follow me all over the place, and once when I was sitting down by him in the barnyard he brought me some straws, evidently wanting me to build a nest. He was a great talker and an alarmist; he would come to me after I had been away down town and try his best to tell me what had been going on in the barnyard while I had been away.

In fact, he was my real chum. When I came into the barnyard mornings when the frost was on the ground, he would greet me with all smiles, as much as a goose could smile, then he would step on one of my boots, which was quite an effort, and held his other foot up in his feathers to warm it, and if I started to move he would chatter and cackle that peculiar note of the Hutchins geese, as much as to say, "Hold on, don't move! I'll tell you another story." Meanwhile he would warm his other foot.

When I went for a walk in the back pasture he would walk with me at my side, just as a dog would do. There he spied a slight knoll and he went and stood on it erect, as much as to say, "I'll watch out for hunters while you eat grass in peace and comfort." When I had finished my pretext at eating grass I went and stood on the knoll, and as long as I stood there he fed with perfect confidence that I was watching out for his welfare, but when I walked away he ran to me chattering something good naturedly, perhaps telling me that he had not finished. We really had great times together, but finally spring was approaching and I had noticed how he could fly around the barnyard. Father came to me one day and warned me that if I wanted to keep that goose I had better clip his wings, but he said, "I hope you won't. You say that you love animals; now show it by letting this goose alone, then when his kind come by in a few weeks going north for the breeding season, he will join them and be happier than he is here."

I replied that "of course an outsider might think he would leave, but in reality he would not. The goose and I have talked it over and he don't care for anything better than I am, so he ain't goin' away."

"Well," said father, "When I see you two together I think as much, but when you go down town loitering around with people that aren't half as smart as this goose, it's then that he misses you, and it's on that account that I wish you would leave his wings the way they are now. But because after he is gone you will feel bad and mope around for a few days, I thought I would tell you now that when spring comes he will leave you, notwithstanding the bond of friendship, so if you want him kept here (which I hope you don't) you had better cut the feathers on one wing."

I didn't want to mutilate his feathers so I left them on. A few weeks later coming from one of those important trips down town, they told me at home that my pet had gone. I said, "I guess not." I didn't want to let on that I was alarmed, but when they were not looking I made some big strides for the barnyard, and it was actually as still as death I whistled but no sound, save an echo, came in return.

I noticed the leaves hung silent on our trees, though the neighbors' trees were in action. I went back of the barn and called, but the call was wasted on a few old hens that "didn't belong." I tried to ginger up some life into the landscape by throwing a few old potatoes at things, but the brakes were set in general on everything and I went into the house and found all the family sitting in front of an empty fireplace with long faces. No one spoke and the only noise was the clock, which ticked louder than ever. It was about dark when father arose and said it was for the best, that "here in Silverton there were no opportunities for him, in fact no pond for him to swim in even, and when you were away down town no one that he apparently loved, and if you will think of it a moment, it would have been cruel for you, a lover of animals, to have kept him here all of his life." But there were no answers, just long breaths now and then, until it was time to light the candle. Then the world took on a brighter aspect.

In a few days I recovered with the rest, and the long, beautiful spring came. No rain to speak of, and it was fine. I never saw so many picnics and never went with so many pretty girls, and ball games ran all through the summer, and the jolliest threshing crews you ever heard of. Fall came, and I was hauling wood into the barnyard one day when I heard wild geese; lots of them had been passing over for a week past, on their way south for the winter, but presently, just over the cone of the barn, came some large bird. I thought at first it was a condor; he lit in the barnyard and I was astonished that it was a wild goose. Our rooster hit him, and he rose and circled and again lit twenty feet from me. I yelled for the neighbors who kept guns, and one of them ran over, resting his gun on the fence and shot him, while I held fast to the team. It was great to think of killing game right in your own barnyard. I ran to pick him up, when father, who was in the orchard yelled at me not to touch him. I said, "We have killed a goose in the barnyard, a wild goose." "No," said he "Don't handle him; I want to feel of your head first to see if you have any bump of memory." Father said, "Do you see that band of geese flying in a circle next to the hill? You used to tell me you could understand this little goose's language and could talk some of it. If you remember any of it now, go out there as near as they will let you approach them and tell them they need not wait for their friend; he is never coming back."

By this time I had realized all. I could recognize his every feature, even to the little black, glossy soft eyes, which were now half open. Father asked if I saw what had happened, and said, "I'll tell you, as I believe you are too dumb to comprehend. Your friend that used to be has brought that band of geese five hundred or a thousand miles out of their beaten course that he might bring them here where a lover of birds and things treated him so well. They likely objected, but he persuaded and finally they have obeyed, and he left them there at a safe distance and came to see you, and so perhaps renew his love, and there he lies, and if you never commit another murder I hope this one will punish you to your grave. Some murders can be explained to the dead one's relatives, but you can never explain this one and I want to show you his right wing.

I didn't want to see his wing, but father was determined, and as he lifted the feathers at the middle joint, we saw a scar, a knot in the bone where it had healed.

Everybody is a criminal more or less, and some of the crimes are done by stupid people. Thus I console myself in a way over the death of the Hutchins goose, that perhaps I am a murderer through stupidity and not by premeditation.—'The Country Boy."