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About all that little Joe ever did was brush the flies off the horses' big rumps while his old man did the shoeing. Little Joe never actually worked at his father's trade. But he grew up to have his old man's squat, thick-knit build. And in the politician's trade, which Joe Martin took up, he worked somewhat in the manner of a blacksmith—a nail here, a nail there, working most of the time close to the ground.

It was as good a method as any. The voters in his district started sending...

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