Father William O'Reilly left Rochester to go with his brother to Hartford, and a Father Carroll officiated at St. Patrick's. I must have been taken to mass sometimes then, for my mother used to say that I would be very much impressed by him, and used to say that I would be big Father Carroll yet. My memory does not recall any such remarks.
I must have been about four years old when I got my first pair of boots. In those days, and long afterwards, the men and boys wore top boots, and as knee pants were not in fashion, it was the custom; especially in snowy weather, to wear the legs of the trousers folded inside the boot legs. It was a convenient and saving custom, but there was a little vanity in it also. For the boys there was often a little patch of red leather at the top of the boot, and for the very fine boots of the men there was often trained sheep skin dyed in some attractive color. My little boots were rather coarse, but they had red tops and I thought I was somewhat of a man when I put them on.
There was some snow on the ground and I went out into it to show off my new possessions. My brother made fun of me (which I did not like) and said that I did not know how to wear boots, as I dragged my heels in the snow. Of course, there were marks in the snow where the advancing step gradually went down to solid footing, and they pretended that this was proof against me, so I began to step high to show them that I did know how to walk right. This was a kind of goose-step, so they laughed the more and said that I walked like a chicken. Probably I did, but it did not please me to be told so, and it took some of the vanity out of me. I do not remember longing for red top boots over [ever] again.
I do not remember much about the games we played other than Russy [Pussy]-wants-a-corner, or who were the children who came to play with us. We were numerous enough among ourselves to dispense with the company of the neighboring children, but no doubt we had it; nor do I remember the punishment we got from our mother. I must have had my share, for I was no better than the others, and my mother did not believe in sparing the rod. I do remember the many times she taught me to pray at her knee before she sent me to bed. The Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Apostles’ Creed were those prayers, to which she added later the Hail Holy Queen and the Ten Commandments.
An event of 1852 is clear in my memory yet. It was the sight of the funeral car of Henry Clay passing on the New York Central Railroad. The train passed near our house and I mind the black streamers hanging along the side of the cars. Henry Clay died in Washington, and the body was taken to New York, then to Buffalo, and thence to Kentucky for burial. As he was a famous man, as much of the country as possible wished to show honor to his memory, and the roundabout funeral was the result.
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