Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

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earn their living by the precarious methods peculiar to manual labor,
and if those who have abstained from office for years, by request of
many citizens, are to be denied the endorsement of the administration,
they will lose courage to go on and do right in the future. My friend
desires to state vicariously, in the strongest terms, that both he and
his wife feel the same way about it, and they will not promise to keep
it quiet any longer. They feel like crippling the administration in
every way they can if the present policy is to be pursued.

He says he dislikes to begin thus early to threaten a President who has
barely taken off his overshoes and drawn his mileage, but he thinks it
may prevent a recurrence of these unfortunate mistakes. He claims that
you have totally misunderstood the principles of the mugwumps all the
way through. You seem to regard the reform movement as one introduced
for the purpose of universal benefit. This was not the case. While fully
endorsing and supporting reform, he says that they did not go into it
merely to kill time or simply for fun. He also says that when he became
a reformer and supported you, he did not think there were so many
prominent Democrats who would have claims upon you. He can only now
deplore the great national poverty of offices and the boundless wealth
of raw material in the Democratic party from which to supply even that
meager demand.

He wishes me to add, also, that you must have over-estimated the zeal of
his party for civil service reform. He says that they did not yearn for
civil service reform so much as many people seem to think.

I must now draw this letter to a close. We are all well with the
exception of colds in the head, but nothing that need give you any
uneasiness. Our large seal-brown hen last week, stimulated by a rising
egg market, over-exerted herself, and on Saturday evening, as the
twilight gathered, she yielded to a complication of pip and softening
of the brain and expired in my arms. She certainly led a most exemplary
life and the forked tongue of slander could find naught to utter against

Hoping that you are enjoying the same great blessing and that you
will write as often as possible without waiting for me, I remain, Very
respectfully yours,

_Bill Nye_.

(Dictated Letter.)


While visiting Naples last fall, I took a great interest in the
wonderful museum there, of objects that have been exhumed from the
ruins of Pompeii. It is a remarkable collection, including, among
other things, the cumbersome machinery of a large woolen factory,
the receipts, contracts, statements of sales, etc., etc., of bankers,
brokers, and usurers. I was told that the exhumist also ran into an
Etruscan bucket-shop in one part of the city, but, owing to the long dry
spell, the buckets had fallen to pieces.

The object which engrossed my attention the most, however, was what
seems to have been a circular issued prior to the great volcanic vomit
of 79 A. D., and no doubt prior even to the Christian era. As the date
is torn off, however, we are left to conjecture the time at which it
was issued. I was permitted to make a copy of it, and with the aid of my
hired man I have translated it with great care.

[Illustration: 0079]

Office of


Dealers in

Flour, Bran, Shorts, Middlings, Screenings, Etruscan Hen Feed, and Other
Choice Bric-a-Brac.

Highest Cash Price Paid for Neapolitan Winter Wheat and Roman Corn. Why
Haul Your Wheat Through the Sand to Herculaneum, When We Pay the Same
Price Here?

Office and Mill, Via VIII, Near the Stabian Gate, Only Thirteen Blocks
from the P. O., Pompeii.

Dear Sir: This circular has been called out by another one issued last
month by Messrs. Toecorneous & Cnilblainicus, alleged millers and
wheat buyers of Herculaneum, in which they claim to pay a quarter to
a half-cent more per bushel than we do for wheat, and charge us
with docking the farmers around Pompeii a pound per bushel more than
necessary for cockle, wild buckwheat, and pigeon-grass seed. They make
the broad statement that we have made all our money in that way, and
claim that Mr. Lucretius, of our mill, has erected a fine house, which
the farmers allude to as the "wild buckwheat villa."

[Illustration: 0080]

We do not, as a general rule, pay any attention to this kind of stuff;
but when two snide Romans, who went to Herculaneum without a dollar and
drank stale beer out of an old Etruscan tomato-can the first year they
were there, assail our integrity, we feel justified in making a prompt
and final reply. We desire to state to the Roman farmers that we do not
test their wheat with the crooked brass tester that has made more money
for Messrs. Toe-corneous & Chilblainicus than their old mill has. We do
not do that kind of business. Neither do we buy a man's wheat at a cash
price and then work off four or five hundred pounds of XXXX Imperial
hog feed on him in part payment. When we buy a man's wheat we pay him
in money. We do not seek to fill him up with sour Carthagenian cracked
wheat and orders on the store.

We would also call attention to the improvements that we have just made
in our mill. Last week we put a handle in the upper burr, and we have
also engaged one of the best head millers in Pompeii to turn the crank
day-times. Our old head miller will oversee the business at night, so
that the mill will be in full blast night and day, except when the head
miller has gone to his meals or stopped to spit on his hands.

The mill of our vile contemporaries at Herculaneum is an old one that
was used around Naples one hundred years ago to smash rock for the
Neapolitan road, and is entirely out of repair. It was also used in
a brick-yard here near Pompeii; then an old junk man sold it to a
tenderfoot from Jerusalem as an ice-cream freezer. He found that it
would not work, and so used it to grind up potato bugs for blisters. Now
it is grinding ostensible flour at Herculaneum.

We desire to state to the farmers about Pompeii and Herculaneum that we
aim to please. We desire to make a grade of flour this summer that will
not have to be run through the coffee mill before it can be used. We
will also pay you the highest price for good wheat, and give you good
weight. Our capacity is now greatly enlarged, both as to storage and
grinding. We now turn out a sack of flour, complete and ready for use,
every little while. We have an extra handle for the mill, so that in
case of accident to the one now in use, we need not shut down but a few

[Illustration: 0083]

We call attention to our XXXX Git-there brand of flour. It is the
best flour in the market for making angels' food and other celestial
groceries. We fully warrant it, and will agree that for every sack
containing whole kernels of corn, corncobs, or other foreign substances,
not thoroughly pulverized, we will refund the money already paid, and
show the person through our mill.

We would also like to call the attention of farmers and housewives
around Pompeii to our celebrated Dough Squatter. It is purely automatic
in its operation, requiring only two men to work it. With this machine
two men will knead all the bread they can eat and do it easily, feeling
thoroughly refreshed at night. They also avoid that dark maroon taste in
the mouth so common in Pompeii on arising in the morning.

To those who do not feel able to buy one of these machines, we would say
that we have made arrangements for the approaching season, so that
those who wish may bring their dough to our mammoth squatter and get
it treated at our place at the nominal price of two bits per squat.
Strangers calling for their squat or unsquat dough will have to be

Do not forget the place, Via VIII, near Stabian gate. Lucretius &

Dealers in choice family flour, cut feed and oatmeal with or without
clinkers in it. Try our lumpless bran for indigestion.


Speaking about cowboys, Sam Stewart, known from Montana to Old Mexico
as Broncho Sam, was the chief. He was not a white man, an Indian, a
greaser or a negro, but he had the nose of an Indian warrior, the curly
hair of an African, and the courtesy and equestrian grace of a Spaniard.
A wide reputation as a "broncho breaker" gave him his name. To master
an untamed broncho and teach him to lead, to drive and to be safely
ridden was Sam's mission during the warm weather when he was not riding
the range. His special delight was to break the war-like heart of the
vicious wild pony of the plains and make him the servant of man.

I've seen him mount a hostile "bucker," and, clinching his italic legs
around the body of his adversary, ride him till the blood would burst
from Sam's nostrils and spatter horse and rider like rain. Most everyone
knows what the bucking of the barbarous Western horse means. The wild
horse probably learned it from the antelope, for the latter does it the
same way, i. e., he jumps straight up into the air, at the same instant
curving his back and coming down stiff-legged, with all four of his feet
in a bunch. The concussion is considerable.

[Illustration: 0085]

I tried it once myself. I partially rode a roan broncho one spring
day, which will always be green in my memory. The day, I mean, not the

It occupied my entire attention to safely ride the cunning little beast,
and when he began to ride me I put in a minority report against it.

I have passed through an earthquake and an Indian outbreak, but I would
rather ride an earthquake without saddle or bridle than to bestride
a successful broncho eruption. I remember that I wore a large pair
of Mexican spurs, but I forgot them until the saddle turned. Then I
remembered them. Sitting down, on them in an impulsive way brought them
to my mind. Then the broncho steed sat down on me, and that gave the
spurs an opportunity to make a more lasting impression on my mind.

To those who observed the charger with the double "cinch" across his
back and the saddle in front of him, like a big leather corset,
sitting at the same time on my person, there must have been a tinge of
amusement; but to me it was not so frolicsome.

There may be joy in a wild gallop across the boundless plains in the
crisp morning, on the back of a fleet broncho; but when you return with
your ribs sticking through your vest, and find that your nimble steed
has returned to town two hours ahead of you, there is a tinge of sadness
about it all.

Broncho Sam, however, made a specialty of doing all the riding himself.
He wouldn't enter into any compromise and allow the horse to ride him.

In a reckless moment he offered to bet ten dollars that he could mount
and ride a wild Texas steer. The money was put up. That settled it. Sam
never took water. This was true in a double sense. Well, he climbed the
cross-bar of the corral-gate, and asked the other boys to turn out their
best steer, Marquis of Queensbury rules.

As the steer passed out, Sam slid down and wrapped those parenthetical
legs of his around that high-headed, broad-horned brute, and he rode him
till the fleet-footed animal fell down on the buffalo grass, ran his
hot red tongue out across the blue horizon, shook his tail convulsively,
swelled up sadly and died.

It took Sam four days to walk back.

A ten-dollar bill looks as large to me as the star-spangled banner
sometimes; but that is an avenue of wealth that had not occurred to me.

I'd rather ride a buzz-saw at two dollars a day and found.


The following paper was read by me in a clear, resonant tone of voice,
before the Academy of Science and Pugilism at Erin Prairie, last month,
and as I have been so continually and so earnestly importuned to print
it that life was no longer desirable, I submit it to you for that
purpose, hoping that you will print my name in large caps, with
astonishers, at the head of the article, and also in good display type
at the close:


No one could possibly, in a brief paper, do the subject of evolution
full justice. It is a matter of great importance to our lost and undone
race. It lies near to every human heart, and exercises a wonderful
influence over our impulses and our ultimate success or failure. When
we pause to consider the opaque and fathomless ignorance of the
great masses of our fellow men on the subject of evolution, it is not
surprising that crime is rather on the increase, and that thousands of
our race are annually filling drunkard's graves, with no other visible
means of support, while multitudes of enlightened human beings are at
the same time obtaining a livelihood by meeting with felons' dooms.

These I would ask in all seriousness and in a tone of voice that would
melt the stoniest heart: "Why in creation do you do it?" The time is
rapidly approaching when there will be two or three felons for each
doom. I am sure that within the next fifty years, and perhaps sooner
even than that, instead of handing out these dooms to Tom, Dick and
Harry, as formerly, every applicant for a felon's doom will have to pass
through a competitive examination, as he should do.

It will be the same with those who desire to fill drunkards' graves.
The time is almost here when all positions of profit and trust will
be carefully and judiciously handed out, and those who do not fit
themselves for those positions will be left in the lurch, wherever that
may be.

It is with this fact glaring me in the face that I have consented to
appear before you today and lay bare the whole hypothesis, history rise
and fall, modifications, anatomy, physiology and geology of evolution.
It is for this that I have pored over such works as Huxley, Herbert
Spencer, Moses in the bulrushes, Anaxagoras, Lucretius and Hoyle. It is
for the purpose of advancing the cause of common humanity and to jerk
the rising generation out of barbarism into the dazzling effulgence of
clashing intellects and fermenting brains that I have sought the works
of Pythagoras, Democritus and Epluribus. Whenever I could find any book
that bore upon the subject of evolution, and could borrow it, I have
done so while others slept.

That is a matter which rarely enters into the minds of those who go
easily and carelessly through life. Even the general superintendent of
the Academy of Science and Pugilism here in Erin Prairie, the hotbed of
a free and untrammeled, robust democracy, does not stop to think of the
midnight and other kinds of oil that I have consumed in order to fill
myself full of information and to soak my porous mind with thought. Even
the O'Reilly College of this place, with its strong mental faculty, has
not informed itself fully relative to the great effort necessary before
a lecturer may speak clearly, accurately and exhaustingly of evolution.

And yet, here in this place, where education is rampant, and the idea is
patted on the back, as I may say; here in Erin Prairie, where progress
and some other sentiments are written on everything; here where I am
addressing you to-night for $2 and feed for my horse, I met a little
child with a bright and cheerful smile, who did not know that evolution
consisted in a progress from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous.

So you see that you never know where ignorance lurks. The hydra-headed
upas tree and bete noir of self-acting progress is such ignorance as
that, lurking in the very shadow of magnificent educational institutions
and hard words of great cast. Nothing can be more disagreeable to the
scientist than a bete noir. Nothing gives him greater satisfaction than
to chase it up a tree or mash it between two shingles.

For this reason, as I said, it gives me great pleasure to address you
on the subject of evolution, and to go into details in speaking of it.
I could go on for hours as I have been doing, delighting you with the
intricacies and peculiarities of evolution, but I must desist. It would
please me to do so, and you would no doubt remain patiently and listen,
but your business might suffer while you were away, and so I will close,
but I hope that anyone now within the sound of my voice, and in whose
breast a sudden hunger for more light on this great subject may have
sprung up, will feel perfectly free to call on me and ask me about it
or immerse himself in the numerous tomes that I have collected from
friends, and which relate to this matter.

In closing I wish to say that I have made no statements in this
paper relative to evolution which I am not prepared to prove; and, if
anything, I have been over-conservative. For that reason I say now, that
the person who doubts a single fact as I have given it to-night, bearing
upon the great subject of evolution, will have to do so over my dumb

And a man who will do that is no gentleman. I presume that many of
these statements will be snapped up and sharply criticised by other
theologians and many of our foremost thinkers, but they will do well to
pause before they draw me into a controversy, for I have other facts
in relation to evolution, and some personal reminiscences and family
history, which I am prepared to introduce, if necessary, together with
ideas that I have thought up myself. So I say to those who may hope to
attract notice and obtain notoriety by drawing me into a controversy,
beware. It will be to your interest to beware!


I presume that I could write an entire library of personal
reminiscences relative to the eminent people with whom I have been
thrown during a busy life, but I hate to do it, because I always
regarded such things as sacred from the vulgar eye, and I felt bound to
respect the confidence of a prominent man just as much as I would that
of one who was less before the people. I remember very well my first
meeting with General W. T. Sherman. I would not mention it here if it
were not for the fact that the people seem to be yearning for personal
reminiscences of great men, and that is perfectly right, too.

It was since the war that I met General Sherman, and it was on the
line of the Union Pacific Railway, at one of those justly celebrated
eating-houses, which I understand are now abandoned. The colored waiter
had cut off a strip of the omelette with a pair of shears, the scorched
oatmeal had been passed around, the little rubber door mats fried in
butter and called pancakes had been dealt around the table, and the
cashier at the end of the hall had just gone through the clothes of a
party from Vermont, who claimed a rebate on the ground that the waiter
had refused to bring him anything but his bill. There was no sound in
the dining-room except the weak request of the coffee for more air and
stimulants, or perhaps the cry of pain when the butter, while practicing
with the dumb-bells, would hit a child on the head; then all would be
still again.

[Illustration: 0097]

General Sherman sat at one end of the table, throwing a life-preserver
to a fly in the milk pitcher.

We had never met before, though for years we had been plodding along
life's rugged way - he in the war department, I in the postoffice
department. Unknown to each other, we had been holding up opposite
corners of the great national fabric, if you will allow me that

I remember, as well as though it were but yesterday, how the
conversation began. General Sherman looked sternly at me and said:

"I wish you would overpower that butter and send it up this way."

"All right," said I, "if you will please pass those molasses."

That was all that was said, but I shall never forget it, and probably
he never will. The conversation was brief, but yet how full of food for
thought! How true, how earnest, how natural! Nothing stilted or false
about it. It was the natural expression of two minds that were too great
to be verbose or to monkey with social, conversational flapdoodle.

I remember, once, a great while ago, I was asked by a friend to go with
him in the evening to the house of an acquaintance, where they were
going to have a kind of musicale, at which there was to be some noted
pianist, who had kindly consented to play a few strains. I did not get
the name of the professional, but I went, and when the first piece
was announced I saw that the light was very uncertain, so I kindly
volunteered to get a lamp from another room. I held that big lamp,
weighing about twenty-nine pounds, for half an hour, while the pianist
would tinky tinky up on the right hand, or bang, boomy to bang down on
the bass, while he snorted and slugged that old concert grand piano and
almost knocked its teeth down its throat, or gently dawdled with the
keys like a pale moonbeam shimmering through the bleached rafters of
a deceased horse, until at last there was a wild jangle, such as the
accomplished musician gives to an instrument to show the audience that
he has disabled the piano, and will take a slight intermission while it
is sent to the junk shop.

With a sigh of relief I carefully put down the twenty-nine pound lamp,
and my friend told me that I had been standing there like liberty
enlightening the world, and holding that heavy lamp for Blind Tom.


I had never seen him before, and I slipped out of the room before he had
a chance to see me.


I am glad to notice that in the East there is a growing disfavor in
the public mind for selecting a practicing physician for the office of
coroner. This matter should have attracted attention years ago. Now it
gratifies me to notice a finer feeling on the part of the people, and
an awakening of those sensibilities which go to make life more highly
prized and far more enjoyable.

I had the misfortune at one time to be under the medical charge of a
coroner who had graduated from a Chicago morgue and practiced medicine
along with his inquest business with the most fiendish delight. I do
not know which he enjoyed best, holding the inquest or practicing on his
patient and getting the victim ready for the quest.

One day he wrote out a prescription and left it for me to have filled. I
was surprised to find that he had made a mistake and left a rough draft
of the verdict in my own case and a list of jurors which he had made in
memorandum, so as to be ready for the worst. I was alarmed, for I did
not know that I was in so dangerous a condition. He had the advantage
of me, for he knew just what he was giving me, and how long human life
could be sustained under his treatment. I did not.

That is why I say that the profession of medicine should not be allowed
to conflict with the solemn duties of the coroner. They are constantly
clashing and infringing upon each other's territory. This coroner had
a kind of tread-softly-bow-the-head way of getting around the room that
made my flesh creep. He had a way, too, when I was asleep, of glancing
hurriedly through the pockets of my pantaloons as they hung over a
chair, probably to see what evidence he could find that might aid the
jury in arriving at a verdict. Once I woke up and found him examining a
draft that he had found in my pocket. I asked him what he was doing with
my funds, and he said that he thought he detected a draft in the room
and he had just found out where it came from.

After that I hoped that death would come to my relief as speedily as
possible. I felt that death would be a happy release from the cold touch
of the amateur coroner and pro tern physician. I could look forward with
pleasure, and even joy, to the moment when my physician would come
for the last time in his professional capacity and go to work on
me officially. Then the county would be obliged to pay him, and the
undertaker could take charge of the fragments left by the inquest.

The duties of the physician are with the living, those of the coroner
with the dead. No effort, therefore, should be made to unite them. It is
in violation of all the finer feelings of humanity. When the physician
decides that his tendencies point mostly toward immortality and the
names of his patients are nearly all found on the moss-covered stones of
the cemetery, he may abandon the profession with safety and take hold
of politics. Then, should his tastes lead him to the inquest, let
him gravitate toward the office of coroner; but the two should not be

No man ought to follow his fellow down the mysterious river that
defines the boundary between the known and the unknown, and charge him
professionally till his soul has fled, and then charge a per diem to the
county for prying into his internal economy and holding an inquest over

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Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 3 of 14)