Clarence Budington Kelland – The transmigration of a sheep

This is a change from the usual content from the pulp magazines – a story from one of the slick magazines – Country Gentleman. This magazine was a sister publication of the Saturday Evening Post, aimed at farmers.
Country Gentleman magazine, January 1931 cover courtesy

This particular story is one of a series about Scipio Mather, written by Clarence Budington Kelland. The author is not particularly well known today, and if at all remembered, it is as the author of the story behind the Frank Capra movie “Mr. Deeds goes to Washington”, and also apparently the originator of this quote about fathers “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

 I was put on to the track of these stories by Walker Martin, who mentioned it in passing as a series that he sought out to read – similar to the Alexander Botts stories by William Hazlett Upson that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Well, I like the Botts stories a lot, and i recently found out that the public library near me has a complete run of the magazine from 1920ish to 1954. I went and dusted off the volumes (literally blew about 20 years of dust off the top) and read one story, probably the first in the series.

The story is a rags to riches tale told with considerable humor, with a good slice of Yankee ingenuity added. The dialogue between Scipio Mather and the heroine is of the sparkling, charming variety that can be found in good screwball comedies. In the course of this story, Scipio goes from being a wandering man owning a sheep to being a part owner of the local bank, never selling or buying anything, instead bartering his way up the economic and social ladder.
You can read the story here. The complete story’s there, but due to my limited success in copying the bound pages, i was unable to keep the illustrations by James C. McKell. The story is from the January 1931 issue of the Country Gentleman.
If you like the story, leave a note in the comments and i’ll consider adding more of them.


  1. I've read several of the Scipio stories in COUNTRY GENTLEMAN and they all start of with Scipio trading something of no value at all for something worth money. By the end of the story, after several trades, he always ends up with a lot of stuff. He never sells anything for money but is always willing to trade.

    I think this plot occurred to the author during the beginning of the depression years when money was often scarce and hard to come by in the small town and farm areas. People really did trade for goods and services.

    The Scipio series lasted for around 25 years right up to death of COUNTRY GENTLEMAN in the mid-fifties. At one time for many decades, the magazine was in just about every farmhouse. Plenty of photos and articles about farming but also full of fiction similar to the SATURDAY EVENING POST.

    One of my favorite Scipio scenes was when he found a large number of dime novels and traded them to a judge who loved to collect them. Boy, can I identify with that!

  2. I think this plot occurred to the author during the beginning of the depression years when money was often scarce and hard to come by in the small town and farm areas. People really did trade for goods and services.

    I thought that this was appealing to the audience of the Country Gentleman as a country man getting the better of the educated professional class. We may both be right…

  3. Thanks for mentioning the Alexander Botts stories of William Hazlett Upson. As a kid in the '50s, starting at about age 9, I would read these stories whenever they were in the Saturday Evening Post, which my parents subscribed to at the time. I really liked the quick back-and-forth between Botts and his boss at the Earthworm Tractor Company. Telegrams, usually, I believe? Maybe letters too? It's been many years…

    I would really like to read all these stories in order, but it might prove difficult to find them.

  4. It was either the Saturday Evening Post or The Country Gentleman that came into the mailbox of my grandparents homestead in southeastern Montana. My grandmother was quite blind, due to trichoma (sp) but she still worked very hard. If I was there visiting, back in the 1940s and perhaps early 50s, she would ask me to read the stories out loud to her as she worked — which I loved to do. My California brother was reminiscing on Face Book yesterday about Scipio Mather. Still remembered. My brother is 80 and I am 82.

  5. I grew up with skipio and look forward to every episode. The funny thing is that it never occurred to me that he was black. He was just a friendly and sharp Trader who was smart enough to solve other people's problems. I wish that the stories were gathered in book form. I am 84 now and books are still my best friends.

  6. I have a hard cover book of Alexander Bott stories I also had a paper back years ago but it is gone. I read them in the Post also. I also love the Scipio stories and have read them in Country Gentlemen and Farm Jornal. I still have those.

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