A START IN THE LAW
(Story was written in 1900)1
Illustrating what trifling incident can influence a man’s whole career, it is told of Judge William Lindsay, who is now United States senator from Kentucky, that when a young man still in his teens, he was plowing in his father’s field, which was near a crossroads store where a dozen or more men usually congregated. Young Lindsay and the mule he was working to the plow did not “gee” well, and finally in trying to turn the mule around at the far side of the field a worse misunderstanding than usual occurred. The mule turned square around and started back over the plow right at Lindsay, who grabbed a piece of fence rail and hit his big-eared servant a terrific jolt above the eye. The mule fell dead.
Lindsay looked at the dead mule and then at the crowd across the field at the store. He saw the men had witnessed his killing of the mule and he started at a full run to the store.
When he reached there, almost out of breath, he exclaimed: “Gentlemen, I killed the mule, but I did it in self-defense.”
“By jingo, Bill, you ought to be a lawyer,” said one of the men, “for anybody who can think of a plea of that sort on the spur of the moment would make a good one.”
That suggestion stuck in young Lindsay’s mind– he did study law, became chief justice of Kentucky and one of the greatest lawyers they ever had. In 1896, when Lindsay, as a senator, deserted his party on the silver issue, one of his old friends who knew of the mule incident, and who was angry at Lindsay for his course, said: “Say, boys, ain’t it a pity that Lindsay killed that mule?”
1The Centreville Press, Bibb County, Alabama May 31, 1900