Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

Bill Nye's Red Book online

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time of it. He froze his nose partially off, and the coyotes came and
gnawed his little dimpled toes. He passed a wretched night and was
greatly annoyed by the cold, which at that elevation sends the mercury
toward zero all through the summer nights.

Of course he pulled the zodiac partially over him, and tried to button
his alapaca duster a little closer, but his sleep was troubled by the
sociability of the coyotes and the midnight twitter of the mountain
lion. He ate moss agates rare and spruce gum for breakfast. When he got
to the camp he looked like a forty-day starvationist hunting for a job.

They asked him if he found any float, and he said he didn't find a
blamed drop of water, say nothing about float, and then they all laughed
a merry laugh, and said that if he showed up at daylight the next
morning within the limits of the park, the orders were to burn him at
the stake.

The next morning neither he nor the best bay mule on the Troublesome was
to be seen with naked eye. After that we heard of him in the San Juan

He had lacerated the finer feelings of the miners down there, and had
violated the etiquette of San Juan, so they kicked a flour barrel out
from under him one day when he was looking the other way, and being a
poor tightrope performer, he got tangled up with a piece of inch rope in
such a way that he died of his injuries.


In my opinion every professional man should keep a chest of carpenters'
tools in his barn or shop, and busy himself at odd hours with them in
constructing the varied articles that are always needed about the house.
There is a great deal of pleasure in feeling your own independence of
other trades, and more especially of the carpenter. Every now and then
your wife will want a bracket put up in some corner or other, and with
your new, bright saw and glittering hammer you can put up one upon which
she can hang a cast-iron horse-blanket lambrequin, with inflexible water
lilies sewed in it.

A man will, if he tries, readily learn to do a great many such little
things and his wife will brag on him to other ladies, and they will make
invidious comparisons between their husbands who can't do anything of
that kind whatever, and you who are "so handy."

Firstly, you buy a set of amateur carpenter tools. You do not need to
say that you are an amateur. The dealer will find that out when you ask
him for an easy-running broad-ax or a green-gage plumb line. He will
sell you a set of amateur's tools that will be made of old sheet-iron
with basswood handles, and the saws will double up like a piece of

After you have nailed a board on the fence successfully, you will very
naturally desire to do something much better, more difficult. You will
probably try to erect a parlor table or rustic settee.

I made a very handsome bracket last week, and I was naturally proud of
it. In fastening it together, if I hadn't inadvertently nailed it to the
barn floor, I guess I could have used it very well, but in tearing it
loose from the barn, so that the two could be used separately, I ruined
a bracket that was intended to serve as the base, as it were, of a
lambrequin which cost nine dollars, aside from the time expended on it.

During the month of March I built an ice-chest for this summer. It was
not handsome, but it was roomy, and would be very nice for the season of
1886, I thought. It worked pretty well through March and April, but as
the weather begins to warm up that ice-chest is about the warmest place
around the house. There is actually a glow of heat around that ice-chest
that I don't notice elsewhere. I've shown it to several personal
friends. They seem to think it is not built tightly enough for an
ice-chest. My brother looked at it yesterday, and said that his idea of
an ice-chest was that it ought to be tight enough at least to hold the
larger chunks of ice so that they would not escape through the pores
of the ice-box. He says he never built one, but that it stood to reason
that a refrigerator like that ought to be constructed so that it would
keep the cows out of it. You don't want to have a refrigerator that the
cattle can get through the cracks of and eat up your strawberries on
ice, he says.

A neighbor of mine who once built a hen resort of laths, and now wears a
thick thumbnail that looks like a Brazil nut as a memento of that pullet
corral, says my ice-chest is all right enough, only that it is not
suited to this climate. He thinks that along Behring's Strait, during
the holidays, my ice-chest would work like a charm. And even here, he
thought, if I could keep the fever out of my chest there would be less

I have made several other little articles of virtu this spring, to the
construction of which I have contributed a good deal of time and two
finger nails. I have also sawed into my leg two or three times. The leg,
of course, will get well, but the pantaloons will not. Parties wishing
to meet me in my studio during the morning hour will turn into the alley
between Eighth and Ninth streets, enter the third stable door on the
left, pass around behind my Gothic horse, and give the countersign and
three kicks on the door in an ordinary tone of voice.


I am convinced that there is great economy in keeping hens if we have
sufficient room for them and a thorough knowledge of how to manage the
fowl properly. But to the professional man, who is not familiar with the
habits of the hen, and whose mind does not naturally and instinctively
turn henward I would say: Shun her as you would the deadly upas tree of
Piscataquis County, Me.

Nature has endowed the hen with but a limited amount of brain-force.
Any one will notice that if he will compare the skull of the average
self-made hen with that of Daniel Webster, taking careful measurements
directly over the top from one ear to the other, the well-informed
brain student will at once notice a great falling-off in the region of
reverence and an abnormal bulging out in the location of alimentiveness.

Now take your tape-measure and, beginning at memory, pass carefully over
the occipital bone to the base of the brain in the region of love of
home and offspring and you will see that, while the hen suffers much
in comparison with the statement in the relative size of sublimity,
reflection, spirituality, time, tune, etc., when it comes to love of
home and offspring she shines forth with great splendor.

The hen does not care for the sublime in nature. Neither does she care
for music. Music hath no charms to soften her tough old breast. But she
loves her home and her country. I have sought to promote the interests
of the hen to some extent, but I have not been a marked success in that

I can write a poem in fifteen minutes. I always could dash off a poem
whenever I wanted to, and a very good poem, too, for a dashed poem. I
could write a speech for a friend in congress - a speech that would be
printed in the Congressional Record and go all over the United States
and be read by no one. I could enter the field of letters anywhere and
attract attention, but when it comes to setting a hen I feel that I am
not worthy. I never feel my utter unworthiness as I do in the presence
of a setting hen.

When the adult hen in my presence expresses a desire to set I excuse
myself and go away. That is the supreme moment when a hen desires to be
alone. That is no time for me to introduce my shallow levity. I never do

It is after death that I most fully appreciate the hen. When she has
been cut down early in life and fried I respect her. No one can look
upon the still features of a young hen overtaken by death in life's
young morning, snuffed out as it were, like an old tin lantern in a gale
of wind, without being visibly affected.

But it is not the hen who desires to set for the purpose of getting out
an early edition of spring chickens that I am averse to. It is the aged
hen, who is in her dotage, and whose eggs, also, are in their second
childhood. Upon this hen I shower my anathemas. Overlooked by the
pruning-hook of time, shallow in her remarks, and a wall-flower in
society, she deposits her quota of eggs in the catnip conservatory, far
from the haunts of men, and then in August, when eggs are extremely
low and her collection of no value to any one but the antiquarian, she
proudly calls attention to her summer's work.

This hen does not win the general confidence. Shunned by good society
during life, her death is only regretted by those who are called upon to
assist at her obsequies. Selfish through life, her death is regarded as
a calamity by those alone who are expected to eat her.

And what has such a hen to look back upon in her closing hours? A long
life, perhaps, for longevity is one of the characteristics of this class
of hens; but of what has that life been productive? How many golden
hours has she frittered away hovering over a porcelain doorknob trying
to hatch out a litter of Queen Anne cottages. How many nights has she
passed in solitude on her lonely nest, with a heart filled with
bitterness toward all mankind, hoping on against hope that in the fall
she would come off the nest with a cunning little brick block, perhaps.

Such is the history of the aimless hen. While others were at work she
stood around with her hands in her pockets and criticised the policy of
those who labored, and when the summer waned she came forth with nothing
but regret to wander listlessly about and freeze off some more of her
feet during the winter. For such a hen death can have no terrors.

[Illustration: 0336]


We had about as ornery and triflin' a crop of kids in Calaveras county,
thirty years ago, as you could gather in with a fine-tooth comb and a
brass band in fourteen States. For ways that was kittensome they were
moderately active and abnormally protuberant. That was the prevailing
style of Calaveras kid, when Mr. George W. Mulqueen come there and
wanted to engage the school at the old camp, where I hung up in the days
when the country was new and the murmur of the six-shooter was heard in
the land.

"George W. Mulqueen was a slender young party from the effete East, with
conscientious scruples and a hectic flush. Both of these was agin him
for a promoter of school discipline and square root. He had a heap of
information and big sorrowful eyes.

"So fur as I was concerned, I didn't feel like swearing around George or
using any language that would sound irrelevant in a ladies' boodore; but
as for the kids of the school, they didn't care a blamed cent. They just
hollered and whooped like a passle of Sioux.

"They didn't seem to respect literary attainments or expensive
knowledge. They just simply seemed to respect the genius that come to
that country to win their young love with a long-handled shovel and a
blood-shot tone of voice. That's what seemed to catch the Calaveras kids
in the early days.

[Illustration: 0339]

"George had weak lungs, and they kept to work at him till they drove him
into a mountain fever, and finally into a metallic sarcophagus.

"Along about the holidays the sun went down on George W. Mulqueen's
life, just as the eternal sunlight lit up the dewy eyes. You will pardon
my manner, Nye, but it seemed to me just as if George had climbed up to
the top of Mount Cavalry, or wherever it was, with that whole school on
his back, and had to give up at last.

"It seemed kind of tough to me, and I couldn't help blamin' it onto the
school some, for there was a half a dozen big snoozers that didn't go to
school to learn, but just to raise Ned and turn up Jack.

"Well, they killed him, anyhow, and that settled it.

"The school run kind of wild till Feboowary, and then a husky young
tenderfoot, with a fist like a mule's foot in full bloom, made an
application for the place, and allowed he thought he could maintain
discipline if they'd give him a chance. Well, they ast him when he
wanted to take his place as tutor, and he reckoned he could begin to
tute about Monday follering.

"Sunday afternoon he went up to the school-house to look over the
ground, and to arrange a plan for an active Injin campaign agin the
hostile hoodlums of Calaveras.

"Monday he sailed in about 9 a. m. with his grip-sack, and begun the
discharge of his juties.

"He brought in a bunch of mountain-willers, and, after driving a big
railroad-spike into the door-casing, over the latch, he said the senate
and house would sit with closed doors during the morning session.
Several large, whiteeyed holy terrors gazed at him in a kind of dumb,
inquiring tone of voice, but - - -

"People passing by thought they must be beating carpets in the
school-house. He pointed the gun at his charge with his left and
manipulated the gad with his right duke. One large, overgrown Missourian
tried to crawl out of the winder, but, after he had looked down the
barrel of the shooter a moment, he changed his mind. He seemed to
realize that it would be a violation of the rules of the school, so he
came back and sat down.

"After he wore out the foliage, Bill, he pulled the spike out of that
door, put on his coat and went away. He never was seen there again. He
didn't ask for any salary, but just walked off quietly, and that summer
we accidently heard that he was George W. Mulqueen's brother."


I have just returned from a polite and recherche party here. Washington
is the hotbed of gayety, and general headquarters for the recherche
business. It would be hard to find a bontonger aggregation than the one
I was just at, to use the words of a gentleman who was there, and who
asked me if I wrote "The Heathen Chinee."

He was a very talented man, with a broad sweep of skull and a vague
yearning for something more tangible - to drink. He was in Washington, he
said, in the interests of Mingo county. I forgot to ask him where Mingo
county might be. He took a great interest in me, and talked with me
long after he really had anything to say. He was one of those fluent
conversationalists frequently met with in society. He used one of these
web-perfecting talkers - the kind that can be fed with raw Roman
punch, and that will turn out punctuated talk in links, like varnished
sausages. Being a poor talker myself, and rather more fluent as a
listener, I did not interrupt him.

He said that he was sorry to notice how young girls and their parents
came to Washington as they would to a matrimonial market.

I was sorry also to hear it. It pained me to know that young ladies
should allow themselves to be bamboozled into matrimony. Why was it, I
asked, that matrimony should ever single out the young and fair?

"Ah," said he, "it is indeed rough!"

He then breathed a sigh that shook the foliage of the speckled geranium
near by, and killed an artificial caterpillar that hung on its branches.

"Matrimony is all right," said he, "if properly brought about. It breaks
my heart, though, to notice how Washington is used as a matrimonial
market. It seems to me almost as if these here young ladies were brought
here like slaves and exposed for sale." I had noticed that they were
somewhat exposed, but I did not know that they were for sale. I asked
him if the waists of party dresses had always been so sadly in the
minority, and he said they had.

I do not think a lady ought to give too much thought to her apparel;
neither should she feel too much above her clothes. I say this in the
kindest spirit, because I believe that man should be a friend to
woman. No family circle is complete without a woman. She is like a glad
landscape to the weary eye. Individually and collectively, woman is a
great adjunct of civilization and progress. The electric light is a good
thing, but how pale and feeble it looks by the light of a good woman's
eyes. The telephone is a great invention. It is a good thing to talk at,
and murmur into and deposit profanity in; but to take up a conversation,
and keep it up, and follow a man out through the front door with it, the
telephone has still much to learn from woman.

It is said that our government officials are not sufficiently paid; and
I presume that is the case, so it became necessary to economize in every
way; but, why should wives concentrate all their economy on the waist of
a dress? When chest protectors are so cheap as they now are, I hate to
see people suffer, and there is more real suffering, more privation and
more destitution, pervading the Washington scapula and clavicle this
winter than I ever saw before.

But I do not hope to change this custom, though I spoke to several
ladies about it, and asked them to think it over. I do not think they
will. It seems almost wicked to cut off the best part of a dress and put
it at the other end of the skirt, to be trodden under feet of men, as
I may say. They smiled good hu-moredly at me as I tried to impress my
views upon them, but should I go there again next season and mingle in
the mad whirl of Washington, where these fair women are also mingling
in said mad whirl I presume that I will find them clothed in the same
gaslight waist, with trimmings of real vertebrae down the back.

Still, what does a man know about the proper costume of a woman? He
knows nothing whatever. He is in many ways a little inconsistent. Why
does a man frown on a certain costume for his wife, and admire it on the
first woman he meets? Why does he fight shy of religion and Christianity
and talk very freely about the church, but get mad if his wife is an

Crops around Washington are looking well. Winter wheat, crocuses and
indefinite postponements were never in a more thrifty condition. Quite a
number of people are here who are waiting to be confirmed. Judging
from their habits, they are lingering around here in order to become
confirmed drunkards.

I leave here to-morrow with a large, wet towel in my plug hat. Perhaps
I should have said nothing on this dress reform question while my hat
is fitting me so immediately. It is seldom that I step aside from the
beaten path of rectitude, but last evening, on the way home, it seemed
to me that I didn't do much else but step aside. At these parties no
charge is made for punch. It is perfectly free. I asked a colored man
who was standing near the punch bowl, and who replenished it ever and
anon, what the damage was, and he drew himself up to his full height.

Possibly I did wrong, but I hate to be a burden on anyone. It seemed
hard to me to go to a first-class dance and find the supper and the band
and the rum all paid for. It must cost a good deal of money to run this


During the past season I was considerably interested in agriculture. I
met with some success, but not enough to madden me with joy. It takes
a good deal of success to unscrew my reason and make it totter on its
throne. I've had trouble with my liver, and various other abnormal
conditions of the vital organs, but old reason sits there on his or her
throne, as the case may be, through it all.

Agriculture has a charm about it which I can not adequately describe.
Every product of the farm is furnished by nature with something that
loves it, so that it will never be neglected. The grain crop is loved
by the weevil, the Hessian fly, and the chinch bug; the watermelon, the
squash-and the cucumber are loved by the squash bug; the potato is loved
by the potato bug; the sweet corn is loved by the ant, thou sluggard;
the tomato is loved by the cut worm; the plum is loved by the curculio,
and so forth, and so forth, so that no plant that grows need be a
wall-flower. [Early blooming and extremely dwarf joke for the table.
Plant as soon as there is no danger of frosts, in drills four inches
apart. When ripe, pull it, and eat raw with vinegar. The red ants may be
added to taste.]

Well, I began early to spade up my angleworms and other pets, to see
if they had withstood the severe winter. I found they had. They were
unusually bright and cheerful. The potato bugs were a little sluggish
at first, but as the spring opened and the ground warmed up they
pitched right in, and did first-rate. Every one of my bugs in May looked
splendidly. I was most worried about my cutworms. Away along in April
I had not seen a cut-worm, and I began to fear they had suffered, and
perhaps perished, in the extreme cold of the previous winter.

One morning late in the month, however, I saw a cut-worm come out from
behind a cabbage stump and take off his ear muff. He was a little stiff
in the joints, but he had not lost hope. I saw at once now was the time
to assist him if I had a spark of humanity left. I searched every work I
could find on agriculture to find out what it was that farmers fed their
blamed cut-worms, but all scientists seemed to be silent. I read the
agricultural reports, the dictionary, and the encyclopedia, but they
didn't throw any light on the subject.

I got wild. I feared that I had brought but one cut-worm through the
winter, and I was liable to lose him unless I could find out what to
feed him. I asked some of my neighbors, but they spoke jeeringly and
sarcastically. I know now how it was. All their cut-worms had frozen
down last winter, and they couldn't bear to see me get ahead.

All at once, an idea struck me. I haven't recovered from the concussion
yet. It was this: the worm had wintered under a cabbage stalk; no doubt
he was fond of the beverage. I acted upon this thought and bought him
two dozen red cabbage plants, at fifty cents a dozen. I had hit it the
first pop. He was passionately fond of these plants, and would eat three
in one night. He also had several matinees and sauerkraut lawn festivals
for his friends, and in a week I bought three dozen more cabbage plants.
By this time I had collected a large group of common scrub cutworms,
early Swedish cut-worms, dwarf Hubbard cut-worms, and short-horn
cut-worms, all doing well, but still, I thought, a little hidebound and
bilious. They acted languid and red book listless. As my squash bugs,
currant worms, potato bugs, etc., were all doing well without care, I
devoted myself almost exclusively to my cut-worms. They were all strong
and well, but they seemed melancholy with nothing to eat, day after day,
but cabbages.

I therefore bought five dozen tomato plants that were tender and large.
These I fed to the cut-worms at the rate of eight or ten in one night.
In a week the cut-worms had thrown off that air of ennui and languor
that I had formerly noticed, and were gay and light-hearted. I got them
some more tomato plants, and then some more cabbage for change. On
the whole I was as proud as any young farmer who has made a success of

One morning I noticed that a cabbage plant was left standing unchanged.
The next day it was still there. I was thunderstruck. I dug into the
ground. My cut-worms were gone. I spaded up the whole patch, but there
wasn't one. Just as I had become attached to them, and they had learned
to look forward each day to my coming, when they would almost come up
and eat a tomato-plant out of my hand, some one had robbed me of them. I
was almost wild with despair and grief. Suddenly something tumbled
over my foot. It was mostly stomach, but it had feet on each corner. A
neighbor said it was a warty toad. He had eaten up my summer's work! He
had swallowed my cunning little cut-worms. I tell you, gentle reader,
unless some way is provided, whereby this warty toad scourge can be
wiped out, I for one shall relinquish the joys of agricultural pursuits.
When a common toad, with a sallow complexion and no intellect,' can
swallow up my summer's work, it is time to pause.

[Illustration: 0350]


This autograph business is getting to be a little bit tedious. It is
all one-sided. I want to get even some how, on some one. If I can't come
back at the autograph fiend himself, perhaps I might make some other
fellow creature unhappy. That would take my mind off the woes that are
inflicted by the man who is making a collection of the autographs of
"prominent men," and who sends a printed circular formally demanding
your autograph, as the tax collector would demand your tax.

John Comstock, the President of the First National Bank, of Hudson, the
other day suggested an idea. I gave him an autograph copy of my last
great work, and he said: "Now, I'm a man of business. You gave me your
autograph, I give you mine in return. That's what we call business." He
then signed a brand new $5 national bank note, the cashier did ditto,

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