Friday, October 2, 2009

Clary's Grove boy gets last laugh

Tales of Lincoln's New Salem years have always been among my favorite Lincoln lore, discounted, of course, by the knowledge that much of what we hear about that era is tainted through memories twisted by time and gilded with an aura of grandiosity. As Billy Herndon conducted his oral history project with New Salem residents, Lincoln became larger than life - and so did many of the tales and the characters.

Ya gotta like those Clary's Grove boys though - the ornery critters who came out of the woods like mountain lions ready to kick and scratch and wrestle their way to a place of authority in the little village. Yet, according to legend, it was the railsplitter Lincoln who outwrestled them and earned their lifelong respect, which they demonstrated by electing him captain in the Black Hawk War.

Trick or treasure
One of my longtime favorite columnists is Dave Bakke of The State Journal-Register. He ran a column earlier this week about some folks who were digging for gold right in the heart of Springfield, Ill. The short of it is that this lady bought an old chair at an auction and found a note about buried treasure on 5th Street in Springfield. She actually started excavating the lot to look for it! For the long of it, read Bakke's version.

The story gets better, though. Bakke heard from a former State Journal-Register employee who remembered a practical joker at the State Journal-Register. Former classified ad manager John “Jay” Slaven just happened to use the pen Chauncey Wolcott to sign his practical jokes. Who was the author of the treasure note? You guessed it - none other than good old Chauncey.
Unfortunately, Slaven passed away in 1976, so the treasure hunter can't ask him if this was but another of his fun-filled pranks. She's going "crazy" trying to decide if she should keep on digging.

As a Lincoln buff, I tend to see stories in relation to Lincoln's legacy and legends. And I'm thinking Clary's Grove boy Jack Armstrong (pictured above) would have been pretty proud of old Jay Slaven for this bit of orneriness. You see, Slaven performed for years in the play "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" His role - Jack Armstrong! Don't you suppose Jack, Jay and Abe are up there snickering at this one?

No comments: