A Man’s Best Friend

My father-in-law shared this with me, and I thought it was worth repeating.

Dog, a man’s best friend

Charley Burden was a small-time farmer of Big Creek in Johnson County, Missouri.  He had a hound dog, most farmers did.  Charley called him Drum.  On a neighboring farm lived Lon Hornsby, Charley’s brother-in-law.  Hornsby began missing chickens from his barnyard and blamed his loss on old Drum.  He threatened to do something about it if he missed any more.

In the early evening of October 28, 1869, old Drum dragged himself home with a fatal charge of buckshot in his flanks.  To Charley Burden it was like losing a member of the family.

Lon Hornsby angrily denied he was responsible.  Burden sued not knowing that his case would become famous.  He hired George G. Vest, who later was to become a U.S. Senator.  He is now best remembered for his dog speech.

It was the night of September 23, 1870, when, after a bare summation of the points, Vest in a quiet and confident voice began:

Gentlemen of the Jury:  The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy.  The son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful.  Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith.  The money that a man has he may lose.  It flies away from him, perhaps, when he needs it most.  A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of illconsidered action.  The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud on our heads.  The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. 

A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness.  He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side.  He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world.  He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince; he is constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.  If fortune drives the master forth in an outcast world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege that that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies.  And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in his embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there, by the grave side will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open to alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even to death.

Vest spoke to the jury less than three minutes.  But even that was longer than it took the jury to bring in a verdict in favor of old Drum.

Taken from Veterinary Scope, Vol. XII, No. 1, 1967

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.