My Adventures in the West
by Joseph Wegley 1867 - 1946
I was born on a farm in Mercer County, Ohio. When nine years old, we moved to Lockington, Ohio in the Miami Valley, one of the most beautiful and fertile valleys I have ever seen. I lived on a farm there four miles north of Piqua on a little inland town named Lockington, located on the Miami Canal which ran from Toledo to Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, this canal had both freight and passenger boat service, and the boats were pulled by mules. This transportation was slow but sure.
From this little town Lockington, we moved out into the country ten miles on a farm which, of course, didn’t quite suit my fancy.
My mother was English, Scotch, and Irish. My father was a conservative Pennsylvania German, and he saw to it that we boys did plenty of work; I thought too much.
For some unknown reason, I made up my mind when just a little boy that I would some day be a western cowboy. This idea never faded from my mind, so this farm life didn’t quite suit me.
When I was about twenty, my father and I had a disagreement about cultivating corn. Of course, being a boy, naturally, I thought I knew more than my father, so I left home, still having this western idea in my mind. This was in June.
My first job was on a farm. For six weeks I stood in a barnyard pitching cow manure, but I stayed until the job was finished. From there I got a job in a nursery pulling fruit trees. The foreman I thought, and think yet, was a slave driver; but I stayed through the job. Then I got a job in a planning mill in Sidney, Ohio, which I liked fairly well, but the boss didn’t raise my wages as fast as I thought he should so I quit this job, and went to work in a wheel factory in Sidney. I worked turning wagon hubs until the factory burned down.
It being fall, I went to a brother’s place on the St. Mary’s Reservoir which was an artificial lake near St. Mary’s, ten miles long and five miles wide, and was a fishing and hunting resort. The life there was fishing, hunting, dancing, drinking, fighting, and all that goes with such a vocation. The associations there were not the best, in fact, they were rough, but being young and looking for thrills, I liked it, but cultivated the habit of drinking a little too much, although I was able to see it myself.
When spring came, I left there and got a job driving a boat on the Miami Canal. My associates there were bullies as bad, or possibly worse, than the fishermen, but I had sworn off drinking. That meant I had to quit.
After a while, after seeing the inside life of a boatman, I quit and went to work in a water power saw mill in Lockington, Ohio. I also went into partnership with a man there in a butcher shop. Well, business was bad in the shop. Lots of meat spoiled; so when one beef was gone, I usually had to put some of my wages in to buy another beef. However, I managed to save a little money.
The next spring, I made up my mind to go west looking for the job of my ambition. My folks, of course, didn’t like the idea and said the wild cowboys would kill me and if they didn’t the Indians would. I said that those cowboys started sometime, and that I could, and as for the Indians, I was willing to take a chance. A boy friend of mine was going along, but when the time arrived, he got cold feet; but I said, “I’m going!” and so I started.