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The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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By Charles Dudley Warner

Say what you will about the general usefulness of boys, it is my

impression that a farm without a boy would very soon come to

grief. What the boy does is the life of the farm. He is the

factotum, always in demand, always expected to do the thousand

indispensable things that nobody else will do. Upon him fall all

the odds and ends, the most difficult things.

After everybody else is through, he has to finish up. His work is

like a woman's,--perpetually waiting on others. Everybody knows

how much easier it is to eat a good dinner than it is to wash the

dishes afterward. Consider what a boy on a farm is required to

do; things that must be done, or life would actually stop.

It is understood, in the first place, that he is to do all the

errands, to go to the store, to the post office, and to carry all

sorts of messages. If he had as many legs as a centiped, they

would tire before night. His two short limbs seem to him entirely

inadequate to the task. He would like to have as many legs as a

wheel has spokes, and rotate about in the same way.

This he sometimes tries to do; and the people who have seen him

"turning cart wheels" along the side of the road, have supposed

that he was amusing himself and idling his time; he was only

trying to invent a new mode of locomotion, so that he could

economize his legs, and do his errands with greater dispatch.

He practices standing on his head, in order to accustom himself

to any position. Leapfrog is one of his methods of getting over

the ground quickly. He would willingly go an errand any distance

if he could leapfrog it with a few other boys.

He has a natural genius for combining pleasure with business.

This is the reason why, when he is sent to the spring for a

pitcher of water, he is absent so long; for he stops to poke the

frog that sits on the stone, or, if there is a penstock, to put

his hand over the spout, and squirt the water a little while.

He is the one who spreads the grass when the men have cut it; he

mows it away in the barn; he rides the horse, to cultivate the

corn, up and down the hot, weary rows; he picks up the potatoes

when they are dug; he drives the cows night and morning; he

brings wood and water, and splits kindling; he gets up the horse,

and puts out the horse; whether he is in the house or out of it,

there is always something for him to do.

Just before the school in winter he shovels paths; in summer he

turns the grindstone. He knows where there are lots of

wintergreens and sweet flags, but, instead of going for them, he

is to stay indoors and pare apples, and stone raisins, and pound

something in a mortar. And yet, with his mind full of schemes of

what he would like to do, and his hands full of occupations, he

is an idle boy, who has nothing to busy himself with but school

and chores!

He would gladly do all the work if somebody else would do the

chores, he thinks; and yet I doubt if any boy ever amounted to

anything in the world; or was of much use as a man, who did not

enjoy the advantages of a liberal education in the way of

chores. --From "Being a Boy."


Factotum, a person employed to do all kinds of work.

Indispensable, absolutely necessary.

Perpetually, continually.

Centiped, an insect with a great number of feet.

Economize, to save.

Dispatch, diligence, haste.

Penstock, a wooden tube for conducting water.

Chores, the light work of the household either within or without doors.


Call you tell of anything else that a boy on a farm must do?

What advantages has a country boy over a city boy?

What advantages has the city boy?



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