“Young Jimsie Judson’s Horseshoe Episode by Old Hurrygraph,” from the Watauga Democrat, March 29, 1917. (According to Editor and Publisher, Jan. 19, 1918, James A. Robinson, also known as “Old Hurrygraph,” had been named editor of the Durham Sun and assumed editorial charge with a single word—“Howdy.”)
Jimsie Judson grew, as all boys have a way of doing. He reached the supreme height of his ambition to be a “printer’s devil,” and he was one. He soon became familiar with the ink and the rollers in the office of the Piedmont Virginian at Orange, Va. You could see from his hands and his face when he emerged from the office that he was in love with the “art preservative” and knew how to apply the ink but not altogether in the right place. A printer’s “devil” is the youngest apprentice in a printing office and is the editor-in-chief of the ink-rollers and the errand bureau.
Jimsie, having been initiated into the art of making papers, in those days on a hand press and by muscular power, he began to sharpen his wits and pick up things. The future dawned upon his young mind as a great aurora borealis, with a Washington hand press in the center, and there was a young mind scanning the horizon and absorbing thoughts and events.
In Jimsie’s search for knowledge he somewhere read that as far back as in the year 1813, in Monmouth Street, London, there were no less than 13 horseshoes nailed over the doors. He wondered and investigated until he found that it was an old superstition, carrying with it protection against witches. Like all other people on the subject, he had learned from the “old folks” that it was lucky to pick up a horseshoe in the “big road” and nail it over the door. Lord Nelson had one nailed to the mast of the ship Victory. The legend of the horse shoe is interesting. Jimsie seized it as a wonderful discovery. It is to the effect that the devil one day asked St. Dunstan—St. Dunstan was the patron saint of goldsmiths, being a noted worker in gold—who was also noted for his skill in shoeing horses, to shoe his “single hoof.” Dunstan knowing his customer, tied him tightly to the wall; proceeded with the job, but purposely put the devil to so much pain that he roared for mercy. Dunstan at last consented to release his captive on condition that he never enter a place where he saw a horseshoe displayed.
Jimsie, on a holiday fishing tramp, found in the public highway the treasure the legend had caused his young mind to covet. They might call him a printer’s “devil,” but the Virginian office would now bear the insignia that was a warning to his Satanic majesty. So Jimsie mounted his horseshoe over the entrance and breathed of wonders accomplished.
But alas, for theories and luck, and of horseshoes over the door! At an untimely moment, as Jimsie was going out one day, that particular horse shoe left its fastening and dropped. It struck Jimsie a slanting lick on the head, not only with surprise, but with great force, and raised a knot as large as a guinea egg. That broke the charm with Jimsie’s belief in the luck of the horseshoe, and whenever he sees one, his hand involuntarily goes up and scratches the side of his cranium. His philosophy from that hour to this is—if you do not put your horseshoe on your horse’s hoof, put it outside the door on the floor. There was no peach tree blossoms in the ending of his youthful vision.
Jimsie is a big boy now. He has owned a daily paper of his own, which he ran successfully for 24 years in the chosen town of North Carolina, after following the fortunes of the printing office from the time he was a “printer’s devil” in 1869. The scenes of his childhood, the blossoming peach tree, the old lumber house, all of which have passed away, are the dearest pictures that hang on memory’s hall, and parental lessons then taught have been guideposts along the journey of life. Boys, fatherly correctiveness may seem hard to your young, untutored minds, but many a good boy has been spoilt by sparing the rod. You will see through it all if you live long enough, and then the memory will cast a beautiful glow and halo over its correctness.