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Valueless Things

—Boys' Day


They May Not Remain So if We Give Them Proper Attention—A Thought for Boys' Day.

THE LESSON—That our seemingly useless, or even harmful, traits may prove to be our most valuable talents.

This little fragment of industrial history should impress a lesson upon all young people, though it is especially adapted to Boys' Day.

The Talk.

"During the period extending from the time that people first settled in America up to the time of the civil war those who chose to live in some portions of the area which are now the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia selected their land with great care. In some parts of the land they found a disagreeable kind of oil in the ground which oozed from the rocks below. When a man bought a piece of ground he was very careful to find out for sure that there was none of this oil about the place, and if he did find any of it, it is probable that he made this fact known: [Draw the signboard and the letters, Fig. 98, complete.] To him the ground was worthless.

Figure 98: A sign reading 'For sale at any price'.

"It may be that some of the people knew that this oil was the same kind that the ancient Jews used in the preparation of their cement for building purposes, and that it was the same that the more ancient Egyptians used in the preservation of the mummified bodies of their dead; but, as the Americans did not need oil for such purposes, they considered the oil a nuisance. At one time, while a man was drilling for water, he struck such a strong artesian well of oil that it gushed out all over the ground; then it ran down to a river and caught fire as it spread out over the swiftly flowing water. The flames spread down the river and it looked for all the world as if the river was burning up!

"They called this oil petroleum—rock-oil.

"One day, in 1859, after there had been a good deal of talk as to whether or not this oil was good for anything, Col. E. L. Drake hired some men to drill a well at Titusville, Pennsylvania. The drillers at first refused to work for a man who was so foolish as to spend his money in this way, but, finally, they set at work on the job under the belief that they were really drilling for salt! But the oil began to flow, and some men soon learned how to make kerosene out of it. This took the place of tallow candles, and from that moment the world has been much brighter. The men kept right on with their experiments, until now we have not only kerosene, but gasoline, benzine, rhigoline, naphtha, mineral sperm oil, lubricating oils, paraffins wax, carbon oil and a variety of medicinal products—all made from this once-useless petroleum. These discoveries have brought also the gasoline and oil stoves, gasoline and gas engines and the automobile. Prom the industry has grown the Standard Oil company, one of the richest and most powerful commercial enterprises in the world. So now, in these eastern states, it is vastly different from what it used to be when a man discovered oil on his land. If he finds oil now, and if be puts up a sign at all, it is apt to read like this: [Revise Fig. 98 to Complete Fig. 99.]

Figure 99: The sign now reading 'Not for sale at any price', with an oilfield in the background.

"From this little fact of industrial history I want to draw a lesson, especially for the boys, today. Perhaps we cannot own any stock in the Standard Oil company, but we have something just as good, and better. Perhaps we have found in ourselves what we think is a useless talent—useless unless we refine it and cultivate it. One day some people living on a certain street in New York raised a big row because a small, ragged street boy drew pictures all over their sidewalks with chalk. To them, he was nothing but a nuisance. However, a prominent man came walking by one day. He looked at the chalk drawings and knew at once that the boy had real artistic talent. He became interested, gave the boy an education and now he is one of America's celebrated painters.

"Study yourselves, boys. Do you love music? If you do, and if you have the talent to become a musician, don't throw away your talent by using your ability for any low purpose. Make music, like Haydn, who praised God through every note!

"Do you like to draw? If you are to be an artist, do not use your talent for low purposes. Let your work be of a kind to reflect credit upon you—work which will make other people better for having seen it and for having been influenced by it.

"Do you like to speak? Do you plan to study medicine, or law, or to be a teacher? Whatever your plans may be, based on what you believe your best talent to be, do not let your talent go to waste like this oil did for so many years. Treasure it up, refine it, and in whatever direction God may lead you, you may be sure that you will have ample opportunity to let your talent bring greater brightness into the world. And then you, too, would not part with your possession for any price!"

Next: The Story Of A Hat

Previous: Young Men Ahoy

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