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History: Don't judge a book by its cover

How Prof. L. Akin judged a book by its worn, dusty cover - and learned "more than one great lesson"

By Jim

In early March 1915, the Adair County News informed readers that
"Prof. Lafe Akin will lecture on music at the [Columbia] Baptist church Wednesday evening after prayer meeting. The object is to organize a class in vocal music, and Prof. Akin wants the people to know his qualifications to teach the principals of music and voice training...."
The next week, the News reprinted a letter, penned by Prof. Akin, that originally had appeared in the Musical Visitor, a monthly magazine published in Cincinnati. In this missive, Prof. Akin gave the details of how two years earlier he had been good-naturedly schooled by Rev. I.M. "Pilgrim" Grimsley. At the time, Rev. Grimsley, a resident of Adair County for a decade or so, had a well-established reputation as an outstanding vocal music teacher.

The News prefaced Mr. Akin's letter with this comment:
"We take from the Musical Visitor the following honest confession of Mr. L. Akin, of this county, which is also a compliment to Rev. I.M. Grimsley, of this county:"
Then came Prof. Akin's mea culpa missive, a letter which explained this cryptic entry in the Sparksville newsletter in May 1913:
"Rev. I.M. Grimsley began his third annual term in vocal at Antioc. It is a success. Some in this neighborhood thought they were well up on music and called it a short course, but they have confessed that they knew nothing about it."

Wrote Prof. Akin:
Editor Visitor:- As I have never written to the Visitor I believe I'll try one, and if it escapes the junc pile I'll be surprised.

I've been a blacksmith, a carpenter, a merchant, a farmer, an officer, and now I've got up to a music teacher of the primary grade.

If you will pardon me for using myself as a subject to write about, I will relate a joke on myself about the way I found that I knew nothing about music. I like to tell this joke because I learned more than one great lesson from it. The greatest of these lessons was never to judge a stranger by his outward appearance.

One Saturday afternoon as I walked into a nearby country store, my eyes met those of a stranger some 18 or 20 years my senior whom I afterwards learned to be the Rev. I.M. Grimsley, a noted music teacher, who was on his way home from Tennessee, where he had been teaching. I often had heard of him.

He was weary and his clothes had gotten somewhat soiled by the long trip he was making on foot. After viewing him as a worthless tramp, I did not speak at first, because he and one of my neighbors were engaged in a conversation concerning the prospect of a music school at our school house. I sat down upon a nail keg and waited for a chance to speak and said: "Music is just a short course and any body can learn it in short while."

There of course, he took me for a "Smart Eleck," and, if he did he didn't miss it far, either. He looked at me for a while with a look of sympathy and slowly said, "Friend I beg to differ with you."

Well, this sounded to me like he thought I didn't know what I was talking about, so I arose with some animation and entered into an argument with him, which he met with some readiness, and I soon saw that I had met my superior in the knowledge of music. But I did not acknowledge that to him, but I quit the argument and stood back.

He made up the school above referenced to above and I was a pupil in full, and upon the first night of the school I was there to bring up all of the fine points that were left out.

But I soon found that the Rev. Grimsley was the teacher of that school, and not me. After the lesson I walked around, and for manner's sake I invited him to go home with me, and as it was raining, and as I lived close to the school house he accepted the invitation.

I was beginning to give over but didn't want to let it be known just yet. So we started for my dwelling, and had gone some distance and had not spoken a word, finally he broke in by saying, "Well, Bro. Akin, did you get anything from the lesson to-night?," just as though there was nothing else for one to learn.

"I did," was my answer.

"What was it?," he said.

There I had to fess up. I said, "I learned tonight that I don't know a blooming thing about music and but little about any thing else."

Then he ran against me and knocked me out of the road and with a hearty laugh said, "I have you now where I want to get a fellow to teach him music, you can't teach a fellow a thing when he thinks he already knows it."

We kept Bro. Grimsley three ten-day terms and since then I have taken a normal course under his instructions.

I regard Bro. Grimsley as a high class music teacher, a perfect gentleman and one of my best friends. I will say to all young people, when you meet a stranger treat him like a gentleman until he proves himself to be otherwise.

Yours with best wishes for the year,
L. Akin.
To Mr. Akin's letter, the News appended this note:
"Good for you, brother Akin. You are not like the common run of 'smarties' - they don't know how much they have to know, to know how much they don't know."

A note for the grammar gurus: All spellings - Antioc, junc, and principals, for examples - in the above transcriptions are as found in the original 1915 newspaper. Please direct complaints about such to: Editor, Adair County News, South Corner Public Sq., Columbia, Ky.

This story was posted on 2015-06-28 09:25:23
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