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THE OTHER JIM

The "other Jim" was the son of my father's half brother John. He was about twenty years older than I and, at first, I was puzzled as to how he came to be also a cousin of my step-mother, until I got it straightened out that their mothers were sisters. Uncle John, who died before I was born, established a bank in South Whitley, Ind. and my earliest recollection of Jim finds him running this little country bank. Another (full) brother of my father, Jesse (after whom I narrowly escaped being named) established a bank in North Manchester, which, at the time I began to take notice, was operated by his son Thompson, assisted by another son, Ruskin (these boys were also cousins of my step mother as well as mine, for the same reason as Jim.) The two banks, in neighboring villages, were operated in harmony, although I know of no financial connection between them. The were both National Banks.

By 1893, Uncle John was dead but Uncle Jesse was still alive but, owing to advanced age, gave only perfunctory attention to the bank. That spring, wheat began to drop and soon sank to levels that seemed utterly absurd - at least Jim and Thompson thought so. They decided to get rich in a hurry and went heavily (for them) into the wheat market in Toledo. Their judgment was faulty - at least, wheat did the impossible and went still lower - and, in order to protect (?) their commitments, they were forced, temporarily (?) to use some of their depositors' money as margin. By the early summer, the depositors began gradually to draw out their deposits. - you may yourselves recall a similar situation in the fall and winter of 1932-33 - and actual cash began to get pretty scarce in the little banks, especially as the wheat commitments continued to cry for more and more margins. The first intimation that anything was wrong came when Jim and Thompson began to scurry around borrowing money, in relatively small amounts, from the relatives - H.H. Arnold of Huntington (another brother of my father), H.C. Arnold of Bluffton, and George Sweetser of Marion all contributed (George's wife Mollie, being Jim Thompson's cousin).

Along about August, the lid blew off. Thompson was gathered in by the civil authorities, Ruskin was ignored as not involved and Jim disappeared between sunset and sunrise. He got away early enough to drop in on Uncle Henry and Charles in Huntington, where he received the customary stock advice; "You had better go down to Chattanooga and see Uncle Jim." Jim went first to Pittsburgh (just why does not appear) and by that round about way reached Chattanooga. "Uncle Jim's" advice was essentially pragmatic; he squeezed a little money out of the bottom of the family sock (funds were terribly scarce everywhere in the summer of 1893) and told Jim he had better go to Mexico and lie low, making no attempt to communicate with Indiana relatives direct. His further advice was to settle down there, learn Spanish and prepare to live there the rest of his life.

Jim took the money and the advice and made good use of both. He got a job in a printing office, studied Spanish diligently and soon was able to set himself up as an auditor. In a surprisingly small number of years, he pops up as General Auditor of the Mexican Central Railroad Co. When the railroads of Mexico were consolidated into one governmentally controlled system, Jim expected that, as a "gringo", he would lose his job. Somewhat to his surprise, he came through as General Auditor of the entire system, all of which confirms my oft repeated statement that Jim was nobody's fool.

Along about the turn of the century, Jim met an American school teacher in Mexico and fell in love with her. This presented a problem and of course he took it up with Uncle Jim - everybody did that - and received another tabloid of advice, to the effect that, before he married the woman, he should tell her the truth about himself and that, if he couldn't trust her enough to do that, he certainly didn't want to marry her. Jim followed this advice also.

Along about 1908 or 1909, Father made a trip to California, by way of Mexico, and saw Jim and his wife. While he was there, having observed things pretty closely, he passed out another bit of counsel, "Jim, when old Ponfirio Diaz dies, hell is going to pop in this country and you had better lay your plans to get out of here in a hurry when it happens." Jim listened respectfully but skeptically and the upshot was that, when the hell popped somewhat in advance of Senor Ponfirio's death, Jim had to get out of Mexico even faster than he come in some fifteen years before. He landed in Cuba, saving his wife, one short, and little more. Of course, he turned to Uncle Jim, explaining that they had chased him before he could even grab what money he had in the bank, which had since been seized by the authorities, and could Uncle Jim let him have $5,000. Now Father felt pretty sorry for Jim but not quite five thousand dollars worth, so he wrote to H.C.Arnold (about as well fixed as Father but equipped with a colder heart and tighter purse), telling him that, while he was satisfied that Jim would try to pay the money back, he couldn't afford to lend the whole amount but would furnish half, if H.C. would supply the other half. To Father's amazement, H.C. sent a check for $2,500 by return mail and Jim got his five thousand. It was a good investment; Jim showed up in a matter months as Auditor of the Cuba Railroad Co., paid back the loan with interest and continued to prosper. To repeat, Jim - whatever his shortcomings - was nobody's fool.

He lived in Cuba until he grew old enough to retire. The last I heard from him, he was living in Miami Beach, Florida. I think the old indictment was quashed several years ago.

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