A FEW of the neighbors held a meeting to arrange for a Fourth of July picnic that was to be held in the grove near the big spring that breaks through the rocky banks of the Wakarusa one and a half miles below the stone bridge, and they had quite a dispute over whether they would invite John Martin or Joseph G. Waters to make the speech. An old mossback Democrat insisted that they have Martin. He said that Martin was a real Jeffersonian Democrat, and knew more about what the Fourth of July was made for than anybody else. A couple of younger men in the crowd insisted on having Joe Waters. They said that Joe was a Republican sure enough, but not Republican enough to hurt, and that he made a stem-windin' good speech. After considerable wrangle it was decided to invite Joe, and he consented to make the talk.
On the morning of the Fourth, along all the trails and roads people traveled, finding their way to the grove; and just about noon Captain Waters arrived with a livery team and buggy, with a Negro boy driving; and he drove smashing and stomping in a reckless manner all around among the trees, almost running over some of the dinner baskets that were set about on the ground. The Captain took charge from the time he arrived. Everything that was done, he had to tell how to do it. One old woman had built a little fire between a couple of rocks to make some coffee, and he went up to her and told her that it was just as fair to drink coffee on the Fourth of July as on Christmas, and that he knew more about making coffee than the man who invented it. And in spite of her protests he made the coffee, and, of course, was welcome to help drink it.
After dinner, they backed a wagon up to an open place on the ground where some seats had been arranged, and Joe jumped in, and then reached for and pulled at the old man Kosier, who climbed up and called the crowd to order, made a few remarks on his own account, and then introduced and started off the Captain.
Joe stretched up his arms and called loudly for everyone to draw near. He said that he proposed to ask some questions and find out some things before he decided whether he would make a speech to such a crowd. "First," he said, "I want to know why you call that man Big Aaron Coberly, and that one Little Aaron ;" and as he spoke he pointed to Aaron, Senior, who weighed one hundred and forty pounds, and then to Aaron, Junior, who weighed two hundred and forty. An old lady's voice, cracked, but earnest, piped up:
"Big Aaron used to be the biggest he was grown up when little Aaron was a baby."
"Fair enough," said Joe; and everybody laughed.
"Another thing," said Joe, "I want to know whether you people are up on figures or whether you are a bunch of joshers. I heard Dick Disney ask Coker what he would take for his lower eighty, and Coker said he would take sixteen hundred dollars for it. Dick said he'd be damned if he'd give it he would give twenty dollars per acre and no more.
"Coker told him to go to hell; and just then Wash Berry, Bill Cartmill and a half a dozen others crowded around and told them they ought to compromise. This talk was pulled off within ten feet of me," said Joe in a loud voice, "and I want to know if you think you can play horse with me, or is it possible you're all crazy in your arithmetic?"
A youngster yelled, "It's you 'at's crazy," and ran off through the woods.
After several further inquiries of this character the Captain said he was satisfied, and would go on with his talk.
It was a great day for Joe, and the people too; and there are some of them now who remember different portions of his speech, and especially one part that was more or less prophetic of the destiny of our country and of the fact that our soldiers might have to serve across the seas. This part was as follows:
"If I see the flag in unending line flung high up the city's wall, shining and shimmering all day long, it is my flag, bless God! If far out on the bleak desert, parched, barren and desolate, I see it fluff and flutter about the white adobe walls of the fort, it is my flag. If far at sea beneath the unclouded sky, the sun shivering the endless billows, it rises out of the eternal depths in its rippling folds, my blood may chill, my eyes may fill, my heart may still, for it is my flag that crests the ocean. If in a strange and alien land, alone, solitary and homesick, the pomp of royalty on every hand, suddenly there should burst in view, way up the shaded avenue, the glory, red and white and blue, oh, for the Kaiser and his crown, on me and mine to then look down, I'd lift my head and proudly say, 'That is my flag you see today, and isn't it a dandy, eh?' And I would tell his ermine queen, of all the heavens and earth between, it is the grandest thing that flies, o'er land or sea, beneath the skies! And as the years may go, as falls the snow, as flowers may blow, come weal or woe, that banner is my flag, I know."
At the close of the day, the chairman of the committee was heard to remark:
"Well, considering' as how Joe wouldn't take any pay, and insisted on paying for the livery horses himself, and then bought out the stand of all the candy and cigars and give it all away among the crowd I guess we got our money's worth."