Home  »  Prose Works  »  165. Walter Dumont and His Medal

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

165. Walter Dumont and His Medal

AS I saunter’d along the high road yesterday, I stopp’d to watch a man near by, ploughing a rough stony field with a yoke of oxen. Usually there is much geeing and hawing, excitement, and continual noise and expletives, about a job of this kind. But I noticed how different, how easy and wordless, yet firm and sufficient, the work of this young ploughman. His name was Walter Dumont, a farmer, and son of a farmer, working for their living. Three years ago, when the steamer “Sunnyside” was wreck’d of a bitter icy night on the west bank here, Walter went out in his boat—was the first man on hand with assistance—made a way through the ice to shore, connected a line, perform’d work of first-class readiness, daring, danger, and saved numerous lives. Some weeks after, one evening when he was up at Esopus, among the usual loafing crowd at the country store and post-office, there arrived the gift of an unexpected official gold medal for the quiet hero. The impromptu presentation was made to him on the spot, but he blush’d, hesitated as he took it, and had nothing to say.