Back in San Francisco, William settled in a "South of the Slot" boarding house as that particular section of Market Street was called. It included all sorts of rugged communities that lived unto themselves. The mechanical geniuses who worked in the shops lived up on Scotch Hill, or what is now the Potrero; the Dutchmen who worked in the mills stayed at Dutchman's Flat. The Tar Flatters who lived toughly in that section hugging the waterfront worked in the Gas Works. They all lived, fought and played within their own vigorous communities, never caring if they ever got to that section north of the Market Street Cable Car Slot or to Telegraph Hill or Russian Hill, most certainly not to that Hill of the Nabobs or "Snobs" as some maliciously called it.
On Saturday afternoon, there was so much entertainment among the men of the neighborhood that no one ever thought of leaving it even to go to the "teeater" as Bill called the theater. The neighborhood youth danced on a Saturday night, and rode out to the Cliff House on the plank road or to the race track on a Sunday; or the Casebolt's balloon car to the Woodward Gardens on Valencia and Mission near 14th Street when a girl could be had to share in the fun of this amusement part. Admission in those days was a dime, but getting a girl wasn't so easy, for there were two men to every woman.
San Francisco seemed to be a city of extremes. There were two kinds of women: those of society and those of the Barbary Coast; just as there were only two kinds of people: the blue bloods who owned the city and the red bloods who worked the city, manned the ships, drove the teams, the streetcars, and laid the bricks. There were his neighbors, the butchers of the yards and the cowboys who drove the cattle in from nearby ranches, and who always settled South of the Slot, too.
On a Saturday afternoon, entertainment for Bill's neighborhood consisted mostly of fighting, and good roaring fun it was; he couldn't think of anything better. In fact, one of the fight promoters on Irish Hill was doing his best to win the young trainer over from the horse ring to the prize-fight ring.
It wasn't that Bill didn't love a good fight. It was just that he loved to gentle wild horses more, but one could always count on him running up all ninety-eight steps to the top of Irish Hill in nothing flat when a fight was called with Mike Farrell's boys or Jim Gately's boys or Paddy Kearns' boys who lived, drank and held sway there. How they used to fight to get one another's customers, for the Hill was full of boarding houses and hotels! The boys from one boarding house would mark off a ring with a rope and challenge the boys from another hotel and fight all Saturday afternoon and sometimes into the night just because fighting was in their blood.
When the fights were over they would all go over to Mike Boyle's saloon and knock off a few tall "steams" for a nickel and then forget what caused the fight.
Come Monday morning, Bill would set off for a weekly round of training the horses of the financial wizards who lived in the Victorian mansions. He especially enjoyed working for those two partners of the Wells Fargo Company, because they owned the two biggest ranches of full-blooded horses in the world, as well as the Stockdale Ranch near Bakersfield. Bill was anxious to get a chance to work in the Big Valley.
Christmas was crowding the burdened branches of the Eve oaks. Another month and the roses would be blooming their brightest. It was December and there was a restlessness in Bill's soul that made his body stir out one rainy morning.
He dressed carefully; a horse trainer was an important person in this town. His hair was freshly washed; he had acquired this habit in the Islands, and he would keep it throughout his life. The glossy, almost-black waves gave his face the bright look that his oxford-grey walking suit demanded. He wore no cowboy boots now, for his training appointments, but packed leather puttees in a brown valise to protect his carefully-tailored trousers for later wear when he was training his horses. He put in a large silk handkerchief; with this he would keep his stiff white collar clean. Finally, he packed a mohair coat to replace his business suit when handling the horses. The wide brim of his black Stetson hat was brushed and the top carefully indented once. The familiar cowboy hat with the usual four creases was, indeed, a mark of the ruffian. Bill was in fact a gentleman. He could well have been mistaken for a Montgomery Street financier. Indeed, it was with reason he was proud; many of his blooded horses were track winners. His high-school stallions and mares commanded the highest prices in The City, ten thousand dollars for a span. Even up to thirty thousand for an exceptional team.
Mornings, he would work with a Standard bred horse until about ten o'clock, teaching it, usually, to single-foot. Always desiring to keep a light mouth on his horses, he would teach each one with a strap on the nose rather than a bit.
Sitting well on the animal's back, he held the horse's head high, while bringing the horse into a trot. After two or three steps, he would let the head down, pet and praise him for a job well done.
Then he would encourage the horse to walk for some distance before repeating the process. After a few tries, he would again praise and pet him.
The lessons, too, would be lengthened each day until the time came when he could hitch the horse and let him single-foot for many laps--perhaps as much as a half mile.
Little by little, he would change the front shoes, putting on heavier ones so that the horse had to reach out more. By then the hind ones would have been worn down some, to balance the nine-ounce shoe in front. He planned to have the horse in an easy, rapid single-foot with the slightest touch of the curb rein, or into a trot with the snaffle rein. He discovered this was a splendid method to teach the horse to single-foot as well at trot, under the saddle or harness, in one operation.
"Sure an' men wouldn't have so much trouble with their horses," he said to himself, "if they would only remember horses are as easy to confuse as people."
Give him a horse with an ounce of life in him and he could make a good single-footer, trotter, or pacer out of him.
By the time the business of the city was well in hand, he would stop for a mid-morning breakfast of steak, potatoes, and eggs poached in the steak drippings. Then with spirits higher, he was ready to jump onto the tandem seat of his gig. He liked the swank of this cart because it looked unsafe. He always enjoyed living on the edge of danger! It was good to feel slightly above the city. He liked the way the dark green enamel on the cart blazed with seven coats of varnish, the russet leather upholstery too, and the gold trim of the wheels. It was gaudy all right, but a gallant wagon to be sure!
"Oh…ho…Professor," Pete Arno cried out from his wagon that was also his workshop. "Any rags, any sacks, any bottles today? Morning Professor! How are you, Professor?"
Now, as William turned to zigzag up the steep hill, past the crenellated castles of the plutocrats, he might wave to a familiar Chinese vegetable vendor who added the right mystic touch of the Orient to the jumbled picture of the occident, what with his blue cotton coat and trousers, and his woven bamboo hat that could serve both for an umbrella or sun protection. It always reminded Bill of the Maui he had left--these little men swinging down the avenue in padded slippers and balancing a flexible pole on their shoulders, and with fruit and vegetable baskets held at either end. Bill learned to speak both Chinese and Japanese in the Sandwich Islands, enough of both to carry on a conversation when he wanted to pull rein and talk with one or the other. Most often the vendor would open up his overflowing baskets to give his friend, the big horseman, a handful of fresh fruit.
By then it would be time for Mr. Haggin to be back from his ranch in Sacramento. Indeed, William had better be putting himself in a hustle! He was well aware there were two things that absorbed the life of his millionaire employer: his Wells Fargo business and his horses…and William realized his horses must never be neglected.
Reaching the top of the hill, William said to himself, "What a fine view of the city. If I was wanting to rule it, I should be after living on top of it, too."
Sometimes he felt the power of even sitting on the tandem seat!
Across the street was the Senator's house, and close by, a white Roman mansion with a lovely garden surrounding it. Looking north was that crazy house that had been brought around the Horn in pieces. He laughed when he thought what a time they must have had putting the cut-up sections together again, trying to organize a proper New England house on a San Francisco hill! There it stood, looking rakishly funny trying to be dignified, but really a comical structure with the second story not quite lined up with the first, and a blank wall where the front door should have been!
"Well, quite a few people never were themselves after a trip around the Horn," he said to himself, remembering the trip he had once made.
Next, he turned into Haggin's driveway, jumped down from his seat and unharnessed his horse before rubbing him down with a turkish towel, and gave the animal his mid-day meal.
While he was working, James Ben Ali Haggin entered the stables, and he smiled cordially. His dark eyes seemed friendly enough in the way they flashed. Although he was not an effervescent man, he was one who loved a fine horse with a passion, and who knew a thing or two about blooded animals as well as international finance.
What a sight the financier was, dressed in a Prince Albert morning coat and silk hat. He drove a coach and four iron greys and had a spotted dog sitting beside him. In his beautifully-appointed carriage house were landau and barouche carriages, dog carts, victorias, and Beverly wagons as well. They were all kept sparkling like Tiffany diamonds. Certainly it was a sight to make an Irishman smile!
Haggin's famous horses were as grandly housed as the bonanza kings themselves. The harnesses hanging from pegs on the tack room walls were ornamented with solid Comstock silver. The liveries of his attendants were made by Wetzel in New York.
Bill took it all in with a glance and it made him feel a little sad. He didn't know why. Maybe it was just the rain, the never-ceasing rain that fell day in and day out in the City. Or did his feet itch to be on the move again? He had remained in the City longer than he had planned.
He thought of the Valley--the great Valley that had been carpeted with sunshine and wildflowers. Was that freer life on the ranches calling him? That life in the ranch house which never required a key to enter, much less the key of gold all these City homes demanded.
"There's a dampness in the air," Haggin said. "But it was sunny and bright at Del Paso this morning. Wouldn't you like to return to Sacramento with me?"
Rancho Del Paso, which he and Lloyd Tevis owned, was the largest stock farm in the world devoted to blooded horses. It was on the banks of the River of the Americans, fifty-five thousand acres all told, and every acre raising some of the world's most famous race horses.
"Yes, this weather has been getting me down some," Bill agreed.
"Bill!" He hesitated, but only for a moment, for he was quick to seize an opportunity where horses or business was concerned. "I'm putting Ben Ali in the Kentucky Derby this year and I'm going to enter the American Derby in Chicago later, in June." He said this with pride. The race horse had been named for his son.
"That's great, Mr. Haggin, I don't think there's a horse that could beat him."
"And I'd like to send you east for the horse sales this spring. I'd like you to take steady work with me at Del Paso from now on and spend some time training my horses, so as to be ready to conduct the pullman when the time comes."
"I don't know, Mr. Haggin," William was hesitant, "I don't want to tie myself down. I want to be free to move."
"But this would be moving!"
"I don't know what I want."
"Do you want more money?"
"No. What would I do with it anyway? I'd have all this…," he surveyed Haggin's luxurious stables, "to worry about."
"You told me when I first hired you," Haggin recollected, "that your ambition was to be the best horse trainer in the world. I know you have fulfilled your ambition. You handle the finest horses there are. What more do you want?"
"I was thinking, if I got back to the Valley, I might be able to read once again, like I used to. I got myself a whole set of Shakespeare when I was a kid in Texas; I enjoyed reading them. When I was in Maui, I had time for reading there. On Irish Hill, there's little time left for much of anything but fighting."
"That's surprising coming from you," Haggin said. "I've seen this town grow from the urchin it was. I came here in 1850 when it was born. I dug for gold; didn't have much luck, so I turned to law. But I must say that in the rush for wealth, there hasn't been interest shown in culture. It's sort of surprising that a horse trainer--horse professor--would yearn for books when most folks are just content to get rich."
"Well, if I can have my own quarters," Bill answered slowly, "not have to bunk with anyone, and have clean sheets on my bed at night, I'll go."
Haggin smiled--a little smile--but a little smile was a lot for him. "It's a bargain. Do you want anything else?"
"No, just clean sheets on my bed and a room of my own, all to myself."
To Chapter Four
Return to Table of Contents