Brain, Brawn, Will: The Turmoils and Adventures of Jeff Ross
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In 1878, at age 29, Jeff Ross ran away from his law practice and home in small-town Savannah, Tennessee. He knocked about on fishing boats in the northeastern U.S. for a time, ran a side-show in a circus, hawked a 'magic solder' for mending pots and pans. In 1880, he went to Europe, where he bicycled, hitchhiked, and walked, selling his 'magic solder' and learning the languages. In 1881, he sailed 'before the mast' from Marseilles to Rio de Janeiro, where he immediately went on an exploring expedition into the wilds of Brazil. He then worked a dozen years with the infant railroad industry in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Though trained as a lawyer, he became an on-the-job Civil Engineer and actually designed and built railroads and bridges. But his gift was as a construction foreman: he could ram-rod workers in French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and even English, and he repeatedly finished jobs ahead of schedule and under budget. In 1893, he got involved with the Brazilian Revolution--as a spy for both sides: he sold to one side the secrets he had discovered from the other. After the Revolution collapsed, he returned to Savannah, Tennessee, where he became a gentleman farmer, at which he was never very successful (he lost the farm to debt): a writer, at which he was acerbic (he never found his audience): and a parent, at which he was peremptory ('He was easy to make mad,' said his son). Near the end of his stay in South America, he wrote his mother: ' . . . a certain amount of turmoil and adventure are essential to my happiness.' This book is an account of the turmoil and adventures of his remarkable life, told mainly through his letters and his own writings.