William Mullen, having transported a cargo of blooded horses from Sprecklesville, Maui, to the Adolph Spreckles' stables in San Francisco, saw that the ship was about to reach dockage. Soon, he and the two Hawaiian cowboy assistants would have important work to do.
Although he was only nineteen, Mullen knew exactly what would be expected of him. It was not the first time he had undertaken this same difficult task. On those other times, he had only been an assistant to Seamus Kelly, head trainer for Claus Spreckles' Maui holdings which included the Spreckles' famous strain of full-blooded race horses.
So now, in 1886, the strapping young man always referred to himself as "William," certainly not "Billy," as Mr. Seamus had called him. He intended to make himself known some day as the world's best horse-trainer.
On the morrow, he would show the expensive horses, Hambletonians, for the carriage trade. Later would come the San Francisco showing for the California Full-Blooded Race Association.
Oh! But wasn't that a fine career for any man to have for a beginning in this new world! And best of all, he had trained them all himself, and well-trained, too. For Seamus had been too far gone in his bottle by then. Credit was coming to Bill, too, for indeed he had earned his laurels; none had been able to top him.
As the ship inched in to drop anchor, Bill recognized the familiar sight of Nob Hill, noting on this second visit the mansions of rococo showiness were even more breath-taking than he had remembered them to be. Perhaps some of his new horse-training contracts would take him to the large horse ranches in the big valley to the south as well.
From dockside, now, he could see still another hill ahead. Steep beyond imagination--Russian Hill. "Bet they have difficulty in getting teams to pull that one." he thought.
When the Ship drew alongside a long finger of a wharf, William pointed out to his fellow travelers there were all kinds of wooden wharves jutting out into the bay. Presently, the ship anchored beside other craft from varying world ports: ferry steamers, warships, Sea Island brigs, Chinese junks, whalers, side-paddle river boats, deep-busted windjammers, Italian crawls rigged in lanteen sails as vividly bright as the flowers that grew on every hill.
My father had often described how he had shipped off from Hull, England, and worked his way across the seas as a galley boy to Baltimore. There, a kind-hearted Irish woman hid him in her home until the ship continued its journey without him.
Now, standing on the ship's deck, the youthful horse trainer watched inconceivable people flow out of the strange craft, to enter blatant doors of obtrusive tumbledown shanties. What a different picture of the City it was to view from the wharf all the riotous merry-making going on!
As William scanned the scene, he looked for the Spreckles' agent to whom the horses had been shipped, but saw instead, turbaned Lascars, thick-set Russian sailors, almond-eyed Chinese men with their pigtails wound around partly-shaved heads, Italian fishermen in Tam-O-Shanters, Greeks in vivid shirts and sashes, and, praise God, Irishmen.
He also perceived low, wooden buildings, row upon row of disreputable shanties, and beyond, the gallant houses of brick and stone, homes with bay windows that opened for all the world to see!
Of a sudden, a man approached the two Hawaiian cowboys. It was easy enough to recognize cowboys dressed in blue trousers, red shirts and straw hats, as they were. But sizing up the third, blue-eyed youth, he hesitated before saying, "I'm, looking for Bill Mullen."
"Could you be Mr. Adolph Spreckles?" Bill asked brightly!
"The horses are for him," the agent said.
"Yes, I'm Bill Mullen."
The shippers' agent appraised him, then explained, "But I was expecting a cowboy."
Remembering how strange his Texas cowboy gear had looked when he had arrived in Maui six years before, William promised himself this time there would be no chaps, no spurs, no holster. Instead he would wear a tailored suit as did most American islanders when they went to meet representatives on the mainland. So the head trainer of the Spreckles ranch, Seamus Kelly, had had one to the Chinese tailors in Kahalui (which was near Sprecklesville) make it before William himself had ever dreamed what his destiny might be on the mainland. Yes, it had been part of his former boss's plan to make an American out of his favorite assistant, instead of an Irishman displaced among natives in the Sandwich Islands.
The stranger offered his card. It read, "George Martin, agent for Adolph Spreckles."
Adolph? Bill had met his brother, John, but not Adolph. John had charge of the sugar plantation in Sprecklesville. Bill had seen the father, Claus, too. People were always pointing out Claus Spreckles. Claus was the foremost representative of industry in all of Hawaii. He always got what he wanted.
"I want it because I want it," Bill once heard him shout at his son John. Certainly John knew that was reason enough. Everyone knew that.
"Ever been to New York?" asked Martin.
Bill answered, "Yes," while the Paniolos (cowboys) said "No."
No longer was Bill thinking of the raucous waterfront. Instead, he began appraising the high hill with its turreted mansions of Bonanza Kings. He thought of the Wells Fargo treasurer's home with stables that were like the palaces of the English lords in Ireland.
He thought, too, it had been quite a day! Aye, quite a day indeed! He was feeling happier on the mainland now than he had dreamed he could ever be in a lifetime. Tomorrow he would attend the auction and the California horsemen would know what sort of a trainer William Mullen was, by their own standards - the top standards in the world! Make no mistake, in California were the grandest horsemen on the face of the earth. Sometimes they would value the Spreckles' horse flesh so highly they would pay twenty-five thousand dollars for one horse!
Indeed, his would be good enough to command that high price because they would be the most docile, the more courageous, the most enduring, the best-educated horses in the world.
Next morning, William arrived at the Spreckles' stables along with the foreman.
"As fine a lot of horses as I ever say," the head stableman greeted him and offered a friendly hand, saying, "You the trainer?"
"Yes, sir," Bill answered with a smile.
"Must know your business!" he continued, "Adolph Spreckles is no slouch with horses, I tell you. Done a lot for 'em in this town. You bet he had, and there's plenty he's aiming to do still with harness racing growing in popularity."
As he spoke, a flashy road-cart swerved into the yard, a light vehicle, it was on extra long elliptic springs, making it an unusually well-balanced cart, with large wheels and no hood. Very definitely it was geared for a sporting man.
Bill looked up and surmised it had to be Mr. Adolph Spreckles.
"A true horseman learns a lot about human nature," Bill reminded himself. This member of the Spreckles family evidenced keenness of mind, but not without the marked shrewdness of Claus, who was the head of the powerful West Coast industrialists.
"When a horse is broad between his eyes and narrow from his eyes to his jowl," my father often told me, "it's a smart horse. With man, it's the same thing…what a lot of things you can learn about people if you take note of their physical features as well as what they do. What was there to determine a man's hidden vigor, like the thin, pointed ear of a horse? Or the large, round full eyes? A lot of things are revealed, too."
Spreckles' eyes flashed friendliness aimed for the young man who must have accompanied his full-blooded horses which he would no doubt train for the City's carriage trade.
No longer a cowboy now, Bill dressed as any qualified "professor" of horsemanship. He would teach San Francisco's rich and powerful how to handle their horses with reverence for their value to society. So he wore woolen trousers, neatly tucked inside shiny boots, and topped by a white shirt--a dress shirt, not the usual colored shirt and open vest of the cowboy--no handkerchief around the neck, no chaps, either. Yes, he appeared every inch the gentleman, a diamond in the rough, maybe, but a diamond nevertheless. When he spoke, it was in a commanding voice of strength even though he spoke with an arresting brogue.
"Are the horses in good shape for the sale?" Spreckles inquired.
"Yes, sir. Indeed, all are in good condition, sound, good eyes, good wing. We have a pair of perfectly-matched blacks and a pair of dapple greys. Both teams should bring a good price. You'll make no mistake in calling the blemishes," he assured proudly.
It was the custom to sell horses at halter as is, without any recommendation, and with the purchaser taking all the risks of them being lame, vicious, balky, or a kicker; but when blemishes were called and the horse sold, if any other defects later appeared, the sale could be canceled. That evidently was why Spreckles wanted to know how to offer them at auction.
He looked at the young trainer, and did not question why his father entrusted a youth with such precious cargo. "How are they for speed, Mullen?" he asked.
"If you look at them, Mr. Spreckles, you can tell they will make good racers. Take that black; he measures the same from between the ears and withers as from his withers to the coupling of his hips. His withers are higher than his hips, as you can see, and he has a short, broad back and long legs and is close-jointed. You can tell at a glance the horse will have speed."
"Our buyers are critical," Spreckles replied, yet with small doubt.
"You will find these horses will meet the demands of the most critical buyers," William went on. "See how that black shines: hair as fine as silk. And they have good clean-cut heads, firm bones, well-defined tendons, good feet. They have power; your climate here should develop good nerve force."
"Is that so?" Spreckles seemed surprised…"San Franciscans are importing Eastern horses."
"The California horse should be the best in the world," Bill ended the conversation and joined his assistants to finish the grooming before the auction was called.
At this moment, James Ben Ali Haggin swung into the yard and Bill could see his handsome Stanhope Phaeton was certainly more stylish than a buggy. The solid silver harness fittings gleamed like sterling silver. Of all the alluring characters of San Francisco's fabulous eighties, Haggin was the most talked of personality. He drove two perfectly-matched bays. He was exactly what one would expect of the treasurer of the profitable Wells Fargo Company. Flawlessly dressed, with flashing black eyes and a carefully-trimmed beard, he was indeed handsome.
Bill had been told by the Spreckles agent that Ben Ali Haggin was the owner of the fine stables on the hill, stables that stood out like a feudal castle in Northern England. What's more, he knew horse flesh. It was said of him he would go anywhere for a sought-after dam or sire, but Bill did not have to be told about that. He had learned first-hand when he had shown the Spreckles' line as an assistant to the man who had taught him most of what he knew about horses.
"Are you planning to keep this young Mullen in your employ?" Haggin asked Spreckles, and nodding good-bye, Bill could not help hearing the sugar king's reply: "Well all he has agreed to is to take a trainload of horses for the spring show in Madison Square Garden."
Before long, Haggin's partner, Lloyd Tevis, joined the lively group of buyers. Mr. Tevis was known as "King Midas" in California. Little by little, Bill learned how this son of a Kentucky lawyer had tried to get rich by digging in El Dorado, how he had dug for nine months with no success before turning to making himself rich by his sagacity. You could see this written all over his strong, resolute face.
He had started with practically no money, outside of what he received as salary in the recorder's office. Yet, because he had the determination to work twelve hours a day, he became California's tower of finance and his financial power had not even been shaken by the depression just ended.
While the three capitalists studied the horses to be auctioned, Bill studied the men who controlled an enviable portion of San Francisco's wealth. These were certainly some of the men he felt would be hiring him to train their best-blood animals. Ah, such glorious days and months and years, too, lay ahead for him!
Next day when the San Francisco sale was over, Lloyd Tevis also approached Bill with: "Do you have any plans for the future, young man?"
"Yes, I have, sir," he acknowledged. "After I have disposed of the Eastern horse sales, to which I have already committed myself, I plan to return to San Francisco and train horses by contract for as many different outfits as I can. Both in and out of this city. I charge five dollars per hour, sir."
"This is my card," Mr. Tevis answered, explaining, "Mr. Haggin and I have a ranch in Sacramento. It's called Rancho Del Paso. It's on the River of the Americans. We also own the Stockdale Ranch in Bakersfield, Kern County. We could use you."
"Thank you," Bill said, carefully putting the card in his pocket.
"I must have some cards printed when I return," he promised himself.
I still have one of my father's cards in my box of mementos, along with the scrapbook my mother gave me. Printed in Spencerian script, it read simply: "Professor William Mullen" in one line, and underneath, "San Francisco." I guess he thought that would be all the address he would ever need.
To Chapter Two
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