Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon

He knew that the river lay somewhere to the west and not more than a mile distant, and he set out to find it. His way led him across the athletic field and over the stone wall that bounded it and so into a meadow that descended gradually to a winding fringe of woods a quarter of a mile away. Whether the woods hid the river he didnt know. It didnt seem likely, however, for he had a notion that the stream was quite a considerable one: in fact, it must be if the railroad was building a large and expensive bridge across it some two miles further inland!

Before he reached the woods he had thrice been ankle-deep in water, but it was only marsh water and the trees, he found, hid only a narrow and shallow brook. By this time the sun was really out, although not very brightly, and the woods and the stream, with its mossy stones and bordering ferns, looked very pretty. He wondered if there were any trout there, and pursued it for some little distance looking for likely holes. When he had satisfied himself that no respectable trout would deign to live in such a brook he made his way across it by jumping from stone to stone, only once missing, and went on through an alder growth on the other side. When he emerged he was at the foot of a second meadow interspersed with outcropping ledges and clumps of white birches and maples and wild cherry trees. Afar at the left, near where the road presumably wound, was a farm with a white dwelling and a red barn and many comical haycocks that looked golden in the sunlight. Ahead of him a stone wall crossed the summit of the field, pricked out at intervals with spindling cedars whose somber foliage stood darkly against the clearing sky. The September sun, freeing itself from the clouds, shone warmly in Willards face as he went on up the rise. When he reached the wall he saw the river below him, a broad, curving ribbon of blue. But it was a good half-mile away yet, and he sat himself on the wall to rest before going on.

The sun felt pleasant to him and, after he had sat there a few minutes, he began to lose interest in a nearer acquaintance with the river. Instead of going on in that direction, he decided, he would turn to the left and try to reach the road. Doubtless Bob and Martin and the others would be returning before very long. Turning his gaze southward, he became aware of the fact that he was not alone. Some two hundred yards away a figure was approaching, a figure which appeared at first glance to be that of a man wearing a dark green sweater and advancing up the slope at a strangely deliberate pace. A second look, however, showed that the person was a boy of perhaps eighteen years and that as he walked he held the end of a forked stick in each hand and was oblivious to all else. He was a tall and rather heavy youth with extremely long legs that moved with machine-like precision and regularity over the grass. His slightly bent head prevented a clear sight of his face, but Willard thought he recognized the boy as one he had glimpsed once or twice about school.

Why he should be pacing along here a mile from home, however, a Y-shaped branch in his hand, was a mystery, and Willard watched curiously as he came nearer and nearer.


The boy in the green sweater, if left to his own devices, would have passed Willard some fifteen feet away, but curiosity got the better of the latter and when the other was opposite to him he spoke.

Hello, he said.

The fellow stopped, turned his head and viewed the boy on the stone wall, quite without surprise, for a long moment. Then he shifted his gaze to the forked stick that he still held extended before him and shook his head slowly.

I suppose I havent got the power, he remarked thoughtfully.

What power? asked Willard.

Why, the power, or whatever you like to call it, to make this thing work. Have you ever tried it?

I dont know what youre doing, answered Willard, getting down from the wall. Whats the branch for?

Havent you ever seen a water-finder? Willard shook his head, puzzled. Well, you take a piece of witch-hazel or willow some say alder or ash will do and hold it like this by the top branches and walk over the ground. When you come to a place where theres water below, the lower end there will tilt downwards. Ive seen it done twice.

Oh, Ive heard of that, but I never saw it tried, answered Willard interestedly. I supposed it was just nonsense. Did you ever see it succeed?

The other nodded soberly. Both times. Old Man Hildreth, back home, did it twice one time for my father, and when we dug where he told us to we came to water. One time it was a regular spring that we found and the other time it was more like a well. I mean we had to dig pretty far down before we came to the water. Old Man Hildreth used witch-hazel, and thats what Ive got here. I had to hunt nearly an hour before I found any.

Lets see. Willard took the Y-shaped piece and looked at it curiously. There was, however, nothing about its appearance to indicate the power attributed to it by the boy in the green sweater. Willard shrugged. I guess youve got to go where you know theres water, he said. It doesnt look to me as if thered be much water on top of this hill.

You mostly find springs on hillsides, replied the other mildly, and thats why Ive been looking around here. Maybe Im too high up now, though.

Willard seized the branches as he had seen the other hold them and experimentally walked a few steps forward. Nothing happened. For that matter, he hadnt expected anything would happen.

You must hold them tight, advised the other, so youll feel the influence.

Willard gripped harder and circled about the green sweater. Once, possibly because his muscles were so tense, he thought he felt a tremor, but, when he turned and went back over the spot, the phenomenon was not repeated. Look here, he asked, what do you want to find water for, anyway? Theres a whole river just full of it down there.

I wanted to see if I could do it, answered the other.

Oh! Willard looked at the witch-hazel wand in his hands and down the gently sloping meadow. Lets go down there and try it, he suggested finally.

Very well. Side by side, Willard still holding the water-finder, the two went down the hill. Willards countenance, although he didnt know it, wore an expression of concentration and expectancy. At the foot of the hill his companion seated himself on a rock and Willard began a systematic exploration of the surrounding territory. When ten minutes or so had passed it dawned on him that he was extremely warm and that, while there was bound to be water underground, since the river was not far distant and very little lower, the forked stick had absolutely failed to register even a tremor of interest! He joined the youth in the green sweater and handed the stick to him in disgust.

Thats no good, he said. Why, I could find water two feet from here if I had a shovel! Thats just bunk!

I suppose you and I havent the right powers of divination, replied the other composedly. Ill try again some day with a piece of willow.

Willard said Humph! as he seated himself on the rock, and a minutes silence ensued. Then: Ive seen you at school, havent I? Willard asked.

I presume so. My name is McNatt, and Im in Upton. What is your class?

Junior, replied Willard. This is my first year. I suppose you are in the senior class.

McNatt nodded. Ive been here four years. This is my fifth. I was sick my sophomore year and had to go home twice. Once I was away two months and another time I was gone five weeks. That put me behind and I had to take the year over. I guess I could have made it up, but the doctor wouldnt allow it. I dont mind at all, though. I like it here. The only thing is that the fellows I came along with have gone and I dont know many now. But then I never was much for making acquaintances.

Willard viewed him curiously. McNatt was perhaps nearly nineteen, he thought. His head was large and his features prominent: a very beak-like nose extended well over a wide mouth, his rather pale eyes, which might have been either green or blue for all Willard could determine, were deepset under heavy brows and his chin jutted out almost aggressively. But in spite of his features McNatt did not impress Willard as being a forceful youth, nor did his expression, voice or manners suggest it. He had a pleasant, deep voice and spoke slowly, almost hesitantly, and, while he didnt smile frequently, his countenance bespoke good humor. He had very dark-brown hair, and there was a good deal of it, and it was perceptibly wavy under the rim of his straw hat. The straw hat, like the rest of his attire, had seen better days. In fact, McNatts trousers, of blue serge that had changed to plum-color on the knees, would not have greatly interested an old clothes man! The garment that clothed the upper part of his body was equally disreputable, a dark-green coat-sweater with many darns and one pocket that was trying hard to get away. The shoes alone appeared to be of recent origin, but as they were caked with mud along the soles the fact would have escaped casual observation.

What made you think of this stunt? asked Willard, nodding at the witch-hazel stick.

McNatts countenance expressed faint surprise. Why, Ive always been very interested in scientific matters, he replied gravely.

Oh, said Willard, do you call that science?

Im not sure, answered the other slowly. The diving-rod, as it is sometimes called, has been in use a great many years both for the discovery of water and metals. Taking science in its broader sense of truth ascertained and systematized, almost anything not capable of classification as an art may well be termed a science. While the affinity existing between the diving-rod and water or metals underground may be viewed as a phenomenon, yet when we make use of that affinity to produce systematic results we enter the realm of science.

Willard blinked. I I suppose so, he agreed vaguely. Can you find gold that way, too?

It has been done, I think, said McNatt. I havent been able to find much data on that subject, though.

Willard looked more respectfully at the witch-hazel switch. I guess it wouldnt be much use looking for gold around here, though, he said. How would you know whether you had found gold or water if the thing dipped?

McNatt considered in silence a moment. Then he shook his head. I cant say, he replied. Perhaps you couldnt tell. Though, as gold is generally located away from water you would hardly expect that the diving-rod was indicating anything but gold.

Isnt gold sometimes found in the beds of rivers and streams? asked Willard. Seems to me your diving-rod would get sort of mixed, wouldnt it? And how about silver? Can you find silver that way, too?

McNatt looked almost distressed. As a matter of fact, he said, I havent devoted any study to the use of the diving-rod in the location of metals. Your questions open up an interesting field, though, and some time Ill go into the subject thoroughly. And still, as I havent yet demonstrated the ah power of the instrument in the finding of water, possibly it would be idle to extend the experiments. Theres one possible explanation of failure that just occurs to me. Old Man Hildreth said he used a hazel stick. He didnt say whether it was the hazel of the nut tribe

I think it must have been, said Willard emphatically.

Or the witch-hazel. The ordinary hazel is a member of the oak family, but does the witch-hazel belong to the same family? There are certain similarities between the two, and yet they may not be botanically related. McNatt presented a puzzled countenance to Willard. What would be your opinion?

Search me, said Willard cheerfully. I thought a hazel was a hazel.

Im afraid not. That may account for my lack of success. You see, I jumped to the conclusion that the witch-hazel was the proper one, probably because the word witch suggested ah divination. So I may have been wrong. McNatts face cleared and he looked quite cheerful again. Ill have to try again. Only He paused and pursed his lips dubiously. Do you happen to know if the hazel grows about here?

Havent the slightest idea, said Willard.

Nor I. Ill have to look that up when I get back. Its strange that the encyclopedias give so little information on the subject of the diving-rod. I wonder McNatt fell silent, and after a minute Willard arose.

Well, I guess Ill be getting back, he announced. It was, he concluded, too late to meet Martin and the others now.

Back? repeated McNatt, coming out of his trance. Yes, thats so. It must be He searched under the edge of his sweater for something evidently not there. Have you a watch? I seem to have forgotten mine.

Twenty to five, said Willard.

Then wed better start. McNatt gazed thoughtfully, almost sorrowfully at his witch-hazel stick and laid it gently on the rock. I may try that again some time, but I rather think I was mistaken; I rather think it should have been the corylus americana.

Something nutty sounds more likely, said Willard gravely. To his surprise, the other chuckled.

That hadnt occurred to me, he replied. You see, some of the fellows call me McNutt. By the way, whats your name?

Willard told him and McNatt nodded. Harmon: the names familiar. I remember now. There is a fellow of that name who plays football. Quite a remarkable full-back, I think.

Gordon Harmon? Did you know him?

I read about him. He played on one of the high school teams in New York City, I believe. Is he a relation of yours?


Really? McNatt turned and viewed Willard with real interest. Well! Think of that! I dare say youre sort of proud of him.

I suppose so, replied Willard doubtfully. I dont think I ever thought whether I am or not, he added, laughing.

You should be if what they say of him is true, said McNatt earnestly. I followed his work last season with much interest. A natural-born full-back, Id call him. By the way, do you play, too?

A little. Im out for the team.

Full-back? But no, youd be too light. End, maybe?

Half, said Willard. Ive played there some.

Hm. McNatt looked him over critically. Yes, you might do well there. You look fast. Ten pounds more wouldnt hurt you, though.

You talk like a football chap yourself, said Willard. Do you play?

McNatt shook his head. I used to, but I got ah out of sympathy with it. You see, Harmon, football is capable of being reduced to an exact science, but played in the haphazard manner that they play it here it lacks interest. I havent played recently.

Well, I dont see how you can reduce it to any exact science, Willard objected. Of course, if you knew beforehand what the other fellow was going to do

You miss my meaning, interrupted the older boy. See here, Harmon. You start with a playing space so many yards in length and so many yards in width. You oppose a team of eleven players with a team of a like number. You may do a certain number of things legitimately. Each situation developed in the course of a football game calls for a certain move. But thats what coaches and quarter-backs dont realize. They think that a situation is unprecedented and, instead of making the move that is called for, they confusedly try something they shouldnt, a play never intended for the situation.

But how the dickens are you going to know what play the situation does call for? demanded Willard. The situations make themselves, and theyre all different!

Not at all. There are only a certain number of situations that can eventuate and they are quite capable of tabulation. For the purpose of argument, suppose we set the number at three hundred. Very well, there are consequently three hundred correct moves. Suppose it is As ball on Bs twenty-yard-line on third down with five to go, B has demonstrated that gains between her tackles are practically impossible. A is weak at kicking field-goals, but has proved capable of gaining on runs outside Bs right tackle. B has a good defense against forward-passes and has defeated As attempts to gain that way. Now, then, what is As correct play?

Why, a skin-tackle play, of course, at the weak end, replied Willard. At least, theoretically. But suppose the back who carries the ball slips or turns in too soon or

No science, no matter how exact, is proof against the fallibility of those engaged in its demonstration, said McNatt gravely. The point I am trying to prove is that here is a situation that is neither unprecedented nor novel and that, capable of being recognized, has its proper solution which may be scientifically applied.

Maybe, said Willard, but, gee, how many situations would there be to recognize? About a thousand, Id say!

Many less, I think. Ive never attempted to tabulate them, but it would not be a difficult task. Science has performed far more difficult feats.

I dare say, but but look here, McNatt, if each team played football like that, I mean if each team had the right answer to every situation that might happen, why, gee, neither one would win!

Youre wrong, Harmon. Youre forgetting the element of human fallibility. Put two chess players at the board, give them each a similar knowledge of the game, and what happens? Do they play to a tie? Very seldom. One wins and the other loses. So it would be in football with each team applying science. One team would excel because she applied it more exactly, perhaps more instantly.

Willard shook his head. It sounds crazy to me, he said. And I dont think Id want to play if everything was cut-and-dried like that. Hang it, McNatt, its accident and chance that makes the game interesting.

I dont agree with you. I think those things retard the development of it, Harmon. As it is now, individual skill rules. Why, look here. Suppose armies fought that way. Suppose a field general said to his subordinates: I dont know how to meet this situation. You fellows see what you can do. Maybe we can push back his left wing or maybe we can punch a hole in his center, do something, but dont bother me!

Willard laughed. Thats not a fair comparison, though, McNatt, he answered. At least, in football, the coach or the quarter-back has a plan and carries it out, even if it isnt the right one!

A wrong plan is no better than no plan. Haphazard football is just as silly as haphazard war would be, Harmon. Fellows who teach football talk about the science of it, but they dont study it. Their science begins and ends with finding out the other fellows weak spot and attacking it.

Sounds like pretty good science to me, said Willard.

It is good as far as it goes, but its only the beginning. Well, heres my way. Im glad to have met you, Harmon. Id be glad to continue the subject sometime if you care to visit me. Im in Number 49. Ive got some things that might interest you, too; rather a good collection of minerals gathered around here, for one thing: nearly two hundred specimens.

Thanks, Ill look you up some time, said Willard, but I guess Ive had enough of that argument. Its too deep for me, McNatt! So long.

Willard turned toward Haylow and, when he had gone a little way, looked back. McNatt had stopped near Lawrence Hall and was staring up into the sky. All Willard could see there was a streaky white cloud. He shook his head as he went on again. McNutt is right, I guess, he muttered.


Instead of going on to Haylow, Willard entered Lykes and knocked at the door of Number 2. As he had suspected, Martin was there. So were Bob and Joe and Don Harris, Joes roommate. Don was only seventeen, although his size made him look older, and, like Joe, was a senior. His full name was Donald, but no one ever called him that. He played first base on the school nine and played it well.

Willard had to hear about the expedition to the new railway bridge and how Stacey and Bob had walked out to the end of the highest girder and then had had to sit down before they dared turn around!

Thats all right, Don expostulated in reply to the laughter. That girder was only a foot wide when I started out on it and by the time I was at the end it had shrunk to about half an inch! And when I looked down the river was so far away I could just see it! Gosh, I thought for a minute Id have to stay there until theyd finished the bridge so I could keep on across it!

I wanted to come back on my hands and knees, confessed Bob, and Id have done it if Id been alone! No more circus stunts for little Robert!

What were you doing all the afternoon? asked Martin presently of Willard, and Willard told of his meeting with McNatt. The incident of the diving-rod amused them all hugely.

Thats McNutt all over, laughed Joe. A couple of years ago someone found him over on that hill beyond Badgers farm digging a hole. He said he was looking for fossil remains. Said the hill looked to him like a glacial glacial whatyoucallit

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