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George W. Borst

Submitted by Betsy Wright on Oct. 28, 2019

I. Junior Rhetoric Compositions 1899

This material was written in 1899 by George William Borst, then a resident of Elma, Iowa, at the age of 17. “Will” received a second class teacher’s certificate. The teacher to whom he sent the essays made some comments in the margins concerning the reason for the grade he gave. The teacher’s comments are underlined and in brackets in the middle or at the end of the essay.

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Friday Mch. 17, 99 Daily, No. 2
March Sunshine
Two days ago the wind blew a gale, a cold, damp gale from the east, and we went about with our coats tightly buttoned, wondering how long the winter’s chill was to remain. But we hoped for milder days, for already March, with its bluster, was half spent. Today we realize our desires. Through the open window comes a cool breeze, only making itself felt at intervals, like the breath of some expiring snow giant. Just cool enough to remind us that winter is but past just balmy enough to tell us that spring is at hand. [not a complete sen.] The quiet air bears to our ear notes of music softened by the distance, while near at hand sounds the steady drip of water as it falls from the melting snow on the roof. Over all the scene spreads the pleasant afternoon sunshine. Everything seems to await in eager suspense the first signs of the singing bird and budding twig, the heralds of spring, and the bluster of March is forgotten as the joyous spirit of awakening nature steals over us. [Adequate C]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Sat., Mch. 18, 99 No. 3 (Daily)
A Hunting Incident.
One spring day several years ago, when I happened to be at a neighbor’s house, the two boys of the family and myself decided to go on a short duck hunt. A team was hitched to the light wagon and the three of us climbed in and drove to a stream a mile west of our homes. As we had but one gun it was decided that I should take it and follow up the stream in quest of ducks, while the other two boys drove along a road on higher ground. No ducks seemed to be on the water but before we had proceeded far a flock came flying down from the north. They were flying high but the boys called to me to try a shot at them so I dropped one knee to get a steadier aim, waited until the flock was almost directly overhead, then fired. No ducks fell, but the hunter did. I found myself laid back upon the damp grass and earth with no gentle force. The gun was of the double barreled pattern and I had accidentally fired both barrels at once. [Well written B.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Tues., Mch. 21, 99 Daily, No. 4
A Parrot Story
Of the many humorous stories told of parrots and their sayings, one of the most amusing is as follows: A certain main who was employed as a ticket-seller at a large theatre owned a parrot and kept the bird with him in the ticket office. Often, when the boards had advertised a special attraction for the evening, large crowds would throng through the doors and jostle each other at the window in their eagerness to secure tickets. But the seller quieted them somewhat by saying imperatively, “One at a time, gentlemen.” One day by accident the parrot’s cage door was left open and the bird hopped out, flew through an open window, and disappeared in a neighboring forest. His master gave chase, but for some time could find no trace of Polly. After an hour’s search his notice was attracted by an unusual commotion in the vicinity of a large oak tree, and upon going nearer he found his pet. There sat Polly, on a dead limb, but in a sorry plight, for half his feathers had been pulled out by a flock of ferocious crows that was fluttering about him, while the poor bird was vainly trying to doge them and crying, every moment or two, “One at a time, gentlemen. One at a time.” [Good! B]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 22, 99 Daily, No. 5
A Visit to a Prairie Dog Town
One Sunday afternoon in January, accompanied by the farmer in whose sod house I had been staying for a few days, I set off across the prairie of Indian Territory to visit a prairie dog town at a short distance. [no paragraph] After walking a mile or two we crossed a timber-border & creek and proceeded up a stream along the father bank. As we came to the opening between two low hills we beheld an alluvial plain stretching away and covered with low, scattered mounds. Here and there on the level field were small objects of which several of the nearer rose excitedly to an upright position, a few mov8ing nearer to their burrows. They were the far-famed prairie dogs of the west. These dogs were so wild that we could not get near enough to examine them closely for when we approached the little fellows would dive into the low mounds with a sharp little cry like that of a dog. They looked very much like the illustrations of prairie dogs in the geographics -- similar to a gopher or ground squirrel, but short and thick, of a brown color on the back and lighter on the breast. These were so wild that it would have been difficult to shoot one, but a day or two later we saw others that were tamer and more easily examined. So we satisfied ourselves with watching the prairie dogs a little while and examining their burrows, then left them to enjoy the Sabbath undisturbed. [Suitable C+]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 23, 99 Daily, No. 6
One Mission of the City Y.M.C.A.
Never did I realize so fully how much the Y.M.C.A. reading room may mean to a young man who is alone in a strange city as I did just before Christmas when compelled to wait four hours between trains in a small city. After lugging a heavy valise for a half mile between depots I went to a restaurant and procured a lunch. So far as I knew, I had not an acquaintance in the city. The wind blew from the south with the cutting chilliness of a winter south wind, making the weather quite unpleasant out of doors, so I looked the town over a little, then returned to the depot expecting to settle down in a corner and read several advance lessons in Economics. I found the depot almost deserted, which would not have been so bad had not the fire also been on the point of desertion. My only visitors for a couple of hours were a tramp or two and a few loafers. The time passed in attempts to study and vigorously excise [sic] to keep warm, but it was far from pleasant or even a comfortable afternoon. How attractive a warm, cheery reading room with its magazines and papers would have been that afternoon and how welcomed to a young man in my position would have seemed the pleasant greeting of a Y.M.C.A. secretary. [True -, C B C+] (The first C and B are crossed out)

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 24, 99 Daily, No. 7
The Duet
The two girls seated themselves at the piano, and after a moment spent in securing comfortable positions struck a few full, singing chords. These were followed by plaintive touch of doubt and fearfulness. Then I pictured to myself a mother bird with strong and loving tones urging her nestling to launch out upon its untried wings and follow her. And the reply of the little bird, full of eagerness but shrinking from the attempt. The answer came in heavy chords of parental assurance and half-command, followed by a more joyous part, strong and free, as the mother made a few rapid flights to tempt her offspring. The music lulled as she returned to the nest, but soon it burst forth again with more and more force and an air of coming triumph which was held until suddenly a glorious theme of victory spring into the closing measures of the number and I saw the fledgeling with the mother bird as they skimmed away through the sunny air, exalting in their happy triumphant flight. [Excellent A.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 28, 99 Daily, No. 8
My First Glimpse of the X-Ray
One evening Prof. Skinner stopped at my room and pleasantly asked if I did not wish to go over to the laboratory and help him with the X-ray attachment, which he wished to test. I gladly accepted. The large new electrical machine was put in working order and the X-ray bulb attached. In appearance this bulb is quite simple. A wire is fused into each end of the elongated globe, from which most of the air has been drawn. [Grandpa has drawn a diagram at the side.] To the end of one wire is attached a small disk of platinum and to the end of the other is fastened a thin, polished square of the same metal, set at an angle of 45 degrees to the wire. The Roentgen or X-rays are not directly visible to the eye. They are reflected from the dish and focused on the platinum square, from which they are thrown out horizontally. To become visible they must fall upon a specially prepared plate fastened in the bottom of a pyramidal box known as the fluoroscope. The small end is placed over the eyes. When the X-rays strike the bottom there light becomes visible. They have the power to pass quite readily through fleshy parts but go through bones with difficulty, so that ones hand, when held between the bulb and the fluoroscope, is seen in shadowy outlines while the bones cast a heavy shadow. At first we met with difficulty, but later we had the pleasure of seeing the hidden boney structure of our own hands, a wondrous sight. [Clean, B.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 30, 99 Daily, No. 10
A Soliloquy upon Seeing my Markings.
A “C” in red! Two faming “Cs”. But why should these so quickly fell my joy, so sadly chill my hope? Because I wished an “A”? (Naught else. )

My hope, born of conceit and modest praise, built castles tall and climbed their towers, till stern reality their ruin wrought and he, dejected, fell among their walls. But see you not that “A,” with “Excellent” written near? Ah, yes, and that theme was the one I thought most difficult to write. Yet does the “A” console me not for these two “Cs”.

Tis ever thus! We mortals, prattling children, cast aside the good in hand and grasp for joys just out of reach. I prize the “A” received, but think far more of those I failed to get. And when I see my fault think with relief “Tis so with other men.” But this is false philosophy, or, better, lack of all philosophy. A good thing, taken, still remained good and shall be duly valued. Likewise shall not these “Cs” my ardor chill, but rather fire my pen to write more long and skillfully, that these two ugly specimens may be the last to visit me. [This is worthy an A.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Mch. 31, 99 Daily, No. 11
Today, as I left the main building on my way to dinner, I noticed a number of teams tied near the church and a crowd of people standing around its entrance. Then I knew there was a funeral and even as I looked the casket was lifted into the waiting hearse. I felt a pang of sympathetic pain for the mourning ones, soon to look upon the face of their loved relative no more. I, too, had felt the grief that comes on such occasions and makes the whole world look dark and lonely. How good it is at times like these to feel the loving sympathy of friends! Perhaps it is known only from the hearty grasp of the hand, or read alone in the glistening eye, but we know that it is there, though human words re powerless to express its depth. Even those who have been indifferent feel a deep desire to comfort us and their past neglect is forgiven and forgotten. And so it comes about that the loss of a friend shows us more friends and even grim death brings added life and joy. [Sympathetic A.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. April 4, 99 Daily, No. 12
[Loose] What boy who has been reared near the timber does not love to ramble through it after a fresh fall of snow, gun in hand, in quest of rabbits? There is an exhilarating suspense in tramping boldly upon one edge of a brush pile while closely eying the opposite edge for the first sign of the fleeing game. But even close watching does not always secure rabbits. I remember one notable exception. With a small boy as my companion I had hunted an hour or more one afternoon. I had found but few rabbits and bagged none. As I was walking past a large, hollow stump, I glanced down into its ragged opening and saw at its bottom a furry mass which I joyfully recognized as a rabbit. My first impulse was to dispose of him at once but I soon thought better of this. It is unsportsmanlike to give a beast no chance for his life. I decided to stand a short distance from the hollow stump, have the boy scare him out and then, my sense of honor vindicated, to proceed to shoot him. I took my place a few steps away from the stump, the boy struck it with a stick, there was a moment of suspense and bunny sprang out and away. I raised the gun and fired but -- he may be still running for all I know to the contrary. [B+]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. April 5, 99 Daily, No. 13
I sat in my room at the close of a bright spring day, with my lamp turned low, leaving the room almost in darkness, as I like it when in the mood for thought. An hour before I had been discouraged, restless and lonely. Discouraged that my work seemed so difficult; restless with that vague unrest of spring, lonely for the touch of some sympathetic soul. When a boy friend offered to walk with me through the twilight I inwardly rebelled but at length consented. We strolled on and on and the conversation, which lagged at first, grew more spirited as my thoughts were drawn from self and its fancied troubles. Gradually the theme changed till we found ourselves talking of matters in which we met a common struggle. Each felt his heart grow lighter as he learned the other’s thought, and at the parting, lo! a change had come to me and my hope had once more risen and shaken the dust from her wings. And as I sat in my rocker I thought “How precious is friendship and what unknown worlds lie hidden with lives of those about us! We may think that our own field of thought and life is large, and when we learn a friend’s find that his is even greater. But when we come to realize that round each life are clustered interests as wide and numerous, perhaps, as are our own, then we begin to see in each human being an independent world, even a whole system of worlds in which the life, that intangible ego, forms the central sun round which the memories, thoughts and hopes swing like shining planets, and we stand in awe at the greatness of human life.” [A. Excellent Best this wk]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. April 6, 99 Daily, No. 14
The pessimist looks around him and cries in melancholy tones that the world is growing steadily worse and speedily is coming to irretrievable ruin. He says that the church itself is growing more and more corrupt and is as continually loosing [sp] its divinely given power among men.

Without doubt there is a change in appearances, but this is no positive proof that there is an equal change in the reality hidden by these appearances. Because ministers do not today speak with tongues is no certain indication that they lack the power of the Holy Ghost; because men are not seized with convulsions until they yield is no conclusive argument for the absence of true conversion. It is God’s rule to work according to conditions rather than contrary to them. As civilization has advanced, intellectuality deepened and culture increased under the fostering influence of Christianity, men have grown less superficially emotional and more sincerely rational. With this stronger training and history’s records of Christianity, men do not today require the miracles of the days of Christ to be convinced of the truth of its doctrines. Nor are we without men of power. See the magnificent leaders which guide our young peoples organizations and our churches. Shall we say that they are not men led by the spirit of God? Turn to our Christian people, young and old, and observe their gallant response to the call of their leaders. True religion is not dying but is daily employing more practical methods by which to fulfil [sic] the Master’s commands. [Sensible B+]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. April 7, 99 Daily, No. 15
The Church Choir
Fortunate is the pastor who has that rare assistant, a peaceable church choir. And happy is the church whose members are so pleasant in disposition that they can assist in the choir with out turning musical critic of their neighbors and the audience, or sit in the congregation without gossiping about the singers. So commonly is trouble connected to the church choir that it has become proverbial. If the choirister [sic] asks Mrs. Gray to help with her strong alto voice she gives him some excuse and remarks to her friend Mrs. Black “he doesn’t get me to sing while that Miss Jones is in the choir.” And Miss Jones, upon hearing that Mrs. Grey has been invited to sing, says to the neighboring bass “If Mrs. Grey comes in, I go out. I won’t sing beside her rough voice.” One morning the tenors have a solo part and a bass is heard to remark, “If I couldn’t keep better time than Dr. Burke, I’ll quit.” The remark reaches the doctor’s ears and only by the entreaties of the choirister can he be prevented from taking the suggestion and resigning at once. The leading soprano becomes incensed when the director fails to choose an anthem having a soprano solo. The leader himself resents, as an intrusion, the suggestion of the pastor that a certain anthem would be especially appropriate to his morning topic.

The choirister strives to pacify the singers, the Pastor endeavors to reason with the choirister: and happy is the minister who is blessed with peace in the choir corner. [Not as bright as some of your themes. Good material C+]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. 4/11/99 Daily, No. 16
A Jolly Prank
Years ago there lived and worked in Fayette a musical professor who, in addition to his music work, devoted special attention to and [awkward] took particular (this word is not clear) in a few fancy chickens.

One day a crowd of a dozen boys and girls became hungry for a chicken and in the evening went to the west part of town and bought several fowls. Then they remembered the music professors fondness for his pets and then wicked thought[s] came to them to have a little sport at his expense. He was sitting quietly in his home, perhaps enjoying one of those dreams that come (word unclear) to musicians, when the shrill, discordant cry of a chicken rang through the still evening air. He had heard similar sounds before and at once rose and gave chase to the supposed thief. Suddenly, the chicken he was pursuing was choked into silence and he hear the cry of another in a second direction. The professor was mad before, but he now became furious. The harder he ran the more frantic he became, for the stolen fowls seemed to multiply in number, but it was all in vain -- he could catch none of the marauders. Gradually the scene grew still as chickens were silenced and carried away. The professor, in no enviable mood, was compelled to return home and only when he counted his pets did he learn that his flock was still complete. As the students sat about the well laden board, many a laugh passed round as they thought of the desperate chase of the supposedly stolen chickens. [Good story B.]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Wed., Apr 12, 99 Daily, No. 17
I had a letter from an old chum this morning. We have known each other since we were boys of seven and five years. We have played together back at our farm homes, worked together in the neighboring fields, hunted together over the surrounding prairies, studied together in district and high school, planned together for the Epworth League, roomed together at the Academy, visited together during vacations, in short we have filled a large place in each others lives from childhood to manhood. [Good] Each has shared the others sorrows and his joys.

We have seen little of one another of late and his letter expressed the fear that we might drift apart. But how can one forget or become truly estranged from a chum of this true type unless he proves himself terribly false? He has not shown himself perfect -- why should we expect to find faultless human friends? But below his trivial faults I have seen the true heart of a friend, of far greater value than a host of those we call friends but whom we understand not. And in this clear vision of the love and sympathy of a companion, be he fellow play-mate, fellow workman or fellow student, lies the true foundation for the strongest form of friendship, without which this earth with all of its birds and flowers in springtime beauty would chill the heart of man to an aching death. [Sympathetic A]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Thurs., Apr 13, 99 Daily, No. 18
Recollections of a Room-mate
Some persons whom we meet make an unusually lasting impression upon me. Such a person was a former room-mate of mine. How he came to occupy that position I have forgotten but I remember that I often wished him elsewhere. Rough and uncouth in appearance, his manner and speech did not relieve the unfavorable impression, and being in his company was somewhat like walking through a field of grubs and stumps. His primal characteristic was boisterous noise. He would come upstairs with footsteps worthy of a horse, stalk into the room, slam the door, throw his books down and his hat off, then sit down to study and to whistle. The whistling seemed to be quite necessary to the concentration of his thoughts upon his book. Perhaps his mind had become so accustomed to an atmosphere of clamor that it refused to work without its normal surroundings [Good] All of this had a harrowing effect upon his roommate and if remonstrance was made the whistler would cease his noise for a time but with an expression conveying the idea that he thought it his right to whistle and considered it a great favor to be quiet. No doubt measured by the effort it cost on his part it was a great favor.

But despite his natural egotism and selfishness, which as yet he had not even fully recognized, he was a good student, wished to do right and had a large sense of humor. This rendered rooming with him no more unpleasant than living with a noisy, good natured elephant, care only being necessary to close the ears when he trumpeted and to watch his feet to guard against being accidentally trodden upon. [To the point B]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. Friday, Apr 14, 99 Daily, No. 19
Livingston as an Explorer
The name of Dr. Livingston will always hold a high place among the noted missionaries of the nineteenth century, but equal with his name as a missionary will stand his fame as an explorer. It was by means of his explorations and Scientific researches that his greatest work was accomplished, the opening of Africa’s dark interior to the light of civilization. No white man before him had dared to leave all traces of civilized life and, with a few followers, plunged boldly into the heart of the unknown forests, braving the attacks of savage beasts and the treacheries of more savage men. Month after month he pressed northward, then westward, until his eyes once more beheld the blue Atlantic. Not content with what he had found, after a brief rest he again struck into the interior and urged his men forward until the warm waters of the Indian Ocean lay at their feet. During all of his travels he had made valuable scientific observations and extensive collections. He had seen the horrors of the slave trade and he returned to England with the determination to destroy this monstrous evil. Two other expeditions followed, each of several years length. The great lakes of central Africa were discovered and routes of trade before unknown were opened to the world. We may judge of the magnitude of his work from the fact that he traveled 29,000 miles over African soil and water and added to the known area of the earth a million of square miles. Enthusiastic to the last, he was found one morning kneeling beside his bed -- dead, but leaving to the world a continent and to the savage peoples of this continent the dawn of a day when the slave trade should curse them no longer. 295 words [Good A]

G. W. Borst Jr. Rhet. May 27, ‘99 Daily, No.33
Anniversary Day at Fayette, Ia.
Although sickness prevented the arrival of the speaker who had been engaged for the morning prayer meeting and the evening address, the League and the church enjoyed an excellent series of services.

The platform of the church was prettily decorated with flowers. On the wall back of the pulpit was draped a large flag. Below the flag hung the charters of the Junior and Senior chapters and the League badge in red and white; about I were fastened the words “Tenth anniversary.”

Dr. J. W. Bissell president of Upper Iowa University, led the six o’clock prayer meeting, impressing the thought that the glory of talent lies not in their possession but in their use.

At 10:45, the Pastor, Rev. Gammond, gave the League a special sermon. He spoke of some of the great problems rising for solution, and of the League’s responsibility toward them. In the evening, Prof. J. W. Dickman, of the University, delivered a very suggestive address on “The League and the Church School.” He pointed out their large interdependence and urged hearty co-operation. Special music formed a part of the evening’s program. Also, a canvass of the audience for the Herald was made and a number of names secured, which, with the other’s obtained, will increase the present list by nearly fifty per cent. [B Your opening sen. should state clearly the occasion of the meeting.]

Note added by GWB: Miss Weaver: This was originally written as a report for the column of the Epworth Herald, and aims not so much at strong literary merit as at the clearness and brevity requisite to reportorial style. G. W.B.