[Recalling an evening at Ford’s Theatre when AL seemed bored, sitting with his eyes closed:] Suddenly I left his heavy hand on my shoulder, and in place of the worn and wearied man who looked so haggard as if soul and body might part then and there, I saw the President sitting upright, his eyes full of fun, and with the well-remembered sweet smile he said, “Colonel, did I ever tell you the story of Grant at the circus?” “No, Mr. president, I am sorry to say you never did.” Well, when Grant was about ten years old, a circus came to Point Pleasant, Ohio, where the family resided, and the small boy asked his father for a quarter to see the circus. The old screw would not give it to him, so Ulysses crawled in under the canvas as I used to do, for I never saw a quarter when I was a little chap. The ringmaster announced that any one who would ride a mule that was brought in, once around the ring without being thrown would be presented with a silver dollar. A number tried for the dollar, but all were thrown over the mule’s head. Finally the ring-master ordered the mule taken out of the ring when in walked Master Grant, saying, “I will try that mule.” The boy mounted, holding on longer than any of the others till at length the mule succeeded in throwing the boy into his father’s tan bark, for’ said Lincoln, “the old man was a tanner.” Springing to his feet and throwing off his cap and coat Ulysses shouted with a determined air, “I would like to try that mule again.” This time he resorted to strategy. He faced to the rear, took hold of the beast’s tail instead of his head, which rather demoralized the mule, the boy went around the ring and won the dollar. Just so, added the President, “Grant will hold on to Bob Lee.”
Emanuel Hertz, Anecdotes by & about Abraham Lincoln, p. 135-136.