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Morning On The Avenue
by [?]


I have always been an early riser. The popular legend that “Early to bed and early to rise,” invariably and rhythmically resulted in healthfulness, opulence, and wisdom, I beg here to solemnly protest against. As an “unhealthy” man, as an “unwealthy” man, and doubtless by virtue of this protest an “unwise” man, I am, I think, a glaring example of the untruth of the proposition.

For instance, it is my misfortune, as an early riser, to live upon a certain fashionable avenue, where the practice of early rising is confined exclusively to domestics. Consequently, when I issue forth on this broad, beautiful thoroughfare at six A. M., I cannot help thinking that I am, to a certain extent, desecrating its traditional customs.

I have more than once detected the milkman winking at the maid with a diabolical suggestion that I was returning from a carouse, and Roundsman 9999 has once or twice followed me a block or two with the evident impression that I was a burglar returning from a successful evening out. Nevertheless, these various indiscretions have brought me into contact with a kind of character and phenomena whose existence I might otherwise have doubted.

First, let me speak of a large class of working-people whose presence is, I think, unknown to many of those gentlemen who are in the habit of legislating or writing about them. A majority of these early risers in the neighborhood of which I may call my “beat” carry with them unmistakable evidences of the American type. I have seen so little of that foreign element that is popularly supposed to be the real working class of the great metropolis, that I have often been inclined to doubt statistics. The ground that my morning rambles cover extends from Twenty-third Street to Washington Park, and laterally from Sixth Avenue to Broadway. The early rising artisans that I meet here, crossing three avenues,–the milkmen, the truck-drivers, the workman, even the occasional tramp,–wherever they may come from or go to, or what their real habitat may be,–are invariably Americans. I give it as an honest record, whatever its significance or insignificance may be, that during the last year, between the hours of six and eight A. M., in and about the locality I have mentioned, I have met with but two unmistakable foreigners, an Irishman and a German. Perhaps it may be necessary to add to this statement that the people I have met at those early hours I have never seen at any other time in the same locality.

As to their quality, the artisans were always cleanly dressed, intelligent, and respectful. I remember, however, one morning, when the ice storm of the preceding night had made the sidewalks glistening, smiling and impassable, to have journeyed down the middle of Twelfth Street with a mechanic so sooty as to absolutely leave a legible track in the snowy pathway. He was the fireman attending the engine in a noted manufactory, and in our brief conversation he told me many facts regarding his profession which I fear interested me more than the after-dinner speeches of some distinguished gentlemen I had heard the preceding night. I remember that he spoke of his engine as “she,” and related certain circumstances regarding her inconsistency, her aberrations, her pettishnesses, that seemed to justify the feminine gender. I have a grateful recollection of him as being one who introduced me to a restaurant where chicory, thinly disguised as coffee, was served with bread at five cents a cup, and that he honorably insisted on being the host, and paid his ten cents for our mutual entertainment with the grace of a Barmecide. I remember, in a more genial season,–I think early summer,–to have found upon the benches of Washington Park a gentleman who informed me that his profession was that of a “pigeon catcher”; that he contracted with certain parties in this city to furnish these birds for what he called their “pigeon-shoots”; and that in fulfilling this contract he often was obliged to go as far west as Minnesota. The details he gave–his methods of entrapping the birds, his study of their habits, his evident belief that the city pigeon, however well provided for by parties who fondly believed the bird to be their own, was really ferae naturae, and consequently “game” for the pigeon-catcher–were all so interesting that I listened to him with undisguised delight. When he had finished, however, he said, “And now, sir, being a poor man, with a large family, and work bein’ rather slack this year, if ye could oblige me with the loan of a dollar and your address, until remittances what I’m expecting come in from Chicago, you’ll be doin’ me a great service,” etc., etc. He got the dollar, of course (his information was worth twice the money), but I imagine he lost my address. Yet it is only fair to say that some days after, relating his experience to a prominent sporting man, he corroborated all its details, and satisfied me that my pigeon-catching friend, although unfortunate, was not an impostor.