DON’T SWAP HORSE IN MID-STREAM
[Responding to a suggestion that he replace a general:] “Gentlemen, your request and proposition remind me of two gentlemen in Kentucky.”
“The flat lands there bordering on the rivers are subject to inundations, so the fordable creek becomes in an instant a broad lake, deep and rapidly running. These two riders were talking the common topic–in that famous Blue Grass where fillies and fill-es, as the voyaguer from Canada said in his broken English, are unsurpassable for grace and beauty. Each fell to expatriating upon the good qualities of his steed, and this dialogue was so animated and engrossing they approached a ford without being conscious of outer matters. There was heavy rain in the highlands and an ominous sound in the dampening air. They entered the water still arguing. Then, at midway, while they came to the agreement to exchange the horses, with no ‘boot,’ since each conceded the value of the animals, the river rose. In a twinkling the two horses were floundering, and the riders, taken for once off their balance, lost stirrup and seat, and the four creatures, separated, were struggling for a footing in the boiling stream. Away streaked the horses, buried in the foam, three or four miles down, while the men scrambled out upon the new edge.”
“Gentlemen,” concluded the President, drawing his moral with his provoking imperturbability, “those men looked at each other, as they dripped, and said with the one voice: Ain’t this a lesson? Don’t swap horses crossing a stream!”
Emanuel Hertz, Anecdotes by & about Abraham Lincoln, p. 133.