Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

Bill Nye's Red Book online

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the debris of mortality. I therefore hail this movement with joy
and wish to encourage it in every way. It points toward a degree of
enlightenment which will be in strong contrast with the darker and more
ignorant epochs of time, when the practice of medicine was united
with the profession of the barber, the well-digger, the farrier, the
veterinarian or the coroner.

Why, this physician plenipotentiary and coroner extraordinary that I
have referred to, didn't know when he got a call whether to take his
morphine syringe or his venire for a jury. He very frequently went to
see a patient with a lung tester under one arm and the revised statutes
under the other. People never knew when they saw him going to a
neighbor's house, whether the case had yielded to the coroner's
treatment or not. No one ever knew just when over-taxed nature would
yield to the statutes in such case made and provided.

When the jury was impanelled, however, we always knew that the medical
treatment had been successfully fatal.

Once he charged the county with an inquest he felt sure of, but in the
night the patient got delirious, eluded his nurse, the physician and
coroner, and fled to the foot-hills, where he was taken care of and
finally recovered. The experiences of some of the patients who escaped
from this man read more like fiction than fact. One man revived during
the inquest, knocked the foreman of the jury through the window, kicked
the coroner in the stomach, fed him a bottle of violet ink, and, with a
shriek of laughter, fled. He is now traveling under an assumed name with
a mammoth circus, feeding his bald head to the African lion twice a day
at $9 a week and found.



Rum has always been a curse to the State of Maine. The steady fight
that Maine has made, for a century past, against decent rum, has been
worthy of a better cause.

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow and some more things of that kind? He that
monkeyeth with Maine rum; he that goeth to seek emigrant rum.

In passing through Maine the tourist is struck with the ever-varying
styles of mystery connected with the consumption of rum.

In Denver your friend says: "Will you come with me and shed a tear?" or
"Come and eat a clove with me."

In Salt Lake City a man once said to me: "William, which would you
rather do, take a dose of Gentile damnation down here on the corner, or
go over across the street and pizen yourself with some real old Mormon
Valley tan, made last week from ground feed and prussic acid?" I told
him that I had just been to dinner, and the doctor had forbidden my
drinking any more, and that I had promised several people on their death
beds never to touch liquor, and besides, I had just taken a large drink,
so he would have to excuse me.

But in Maine none of these common styles of invitation prevail. It is
all shrouded in mystery. You give the sign of distress to any member in
good standing, pound three times on the outer gate, give two hard kicks
and one soft one on the inner door, give the password, "Rutherford B.
Hayes," turn to the left, through a dark passage, turn the thumbscrew of
a mysterious gas fixture 90 deg. to the right, holding the goblet of the
encampment under the gas fixture, then reverse the thumbscrew, shut your
eyes, insult you digester, leave twenty-five cents near the gas fixture,
and hunt up the nearest cemetery, so that you will not have to be
carried very far.

If a man really wants to drink himself into a drunkard's grave, he can
certainly save time by going to Maine. Those desiring the most prompt
and vigorous style of jim-jams at cut rates will do well to examine
Maine goods before going elsewhere. Let a man spend a week in Boston,
where the Maine liquor law, I understand, is not in force, and then,
with no warning whatever, be taken into the heart of Maine; let him
land there a stranger and a partial orphan, with no knowledge of the
underground methods of securing a drink, and to him the world seems very
gloomy, very sad, and extremely arid.

At the Bangor depot a woman came up to me and addressed me. She was
rather past middle age, a perfect lady in her manners, but a little

I said: "Madame, I guess you will have to excuse me. You have the
advantage. I can't just speak your name at this moment. It has been now
thirty years since I left Maine, a child two years old. So people have
changed. You've no idea how people have grown out of my knowledge. I
don't see but you look just as young as you did when I went away, but
I'm a poor hand to remember names, so I can't just call you to mind."

She was perfectly ladylike in her manner, but a little bit drunk. It is
singular how drunken people will come hundreds of miles to converse with
me. I have often been alluded to as the "drunkard's friend." Men have
been known to get intoxicated and come a long distance to talk with me
on some subject, and then they would lean up against me and converse by
the hour. A drunken man never seems to get tired of talking with me. As
long as I am willing to hold such a man up and listen to him, he will
stand and tell me about himself with the utmost confidence, and, no
matter who goes by, he does not seem to be ashamed to have people see
him talking with me.

I once had a friend who was very much liked by every one, so he drifted
into politics. For seven years he tried to live on free whiskey and
popular approval, but it wrecked him at last. Finally he formed the
habit of meeting me every day and explaining it to me, and giving me
free exhibitions of a breath that he had acquired at great expense.
After he got so feeble that he could not walk any more, this breath of
his used to pull him out of bed and drag him all over the town. It don't
seem hardly possible, but it is so. I can show you the town yet.

[Illustration: 0107]

He used to take me by the buttonhole when he conversed with me. This is
a diagram of the buttonhole.

If I had a son I would warn him against trying to subsist solely on
popular approval and free whiskey. It may do for a man engaged solely in
sedentary pursuits, but it is not sufficient in cases of great muscular
exhaustion. Free whiskey and popular approval on an empty stomach are
highly injurious.


Many people have traveled all their lives and yet do not know how to
behave themselves when on the road. For the benefit and guidance of
such, these few crisp, plain, horse-sense rules of etiquette have been

In traveling by rail on foot, turn to the right on discovering an
approaching train. If you wish the train to turn out, give two loud
toots and get in between the rails, so that you will not muss up the
right of way. Many a nice, new right of way has been ruined by getting a
pedestrian tourist spattered all over its first mortgage.

On retiring at night on board the train, do not leave your teeth in
the ice-water tank. If everyone should do so, it would occasion great
confusion in case of wreck. It would also cause much annoyance and delay
during the resurrection. Experienced tourists tie a string to their
teeth and retain them during the night.

If you have been reared in extreme poverty, and your mother supported
you until you grew up and married, so that your wife could support you,
you will probably sit in four seats at the same time, with your feet
extended into the aisles so that you can wipe them off on other people,
while you snore with your mouth open clear to your shoulder blades.

If you are prone to drop to sleep and breathe with a low death rattle,
like the exhaust of a bath tub, it would be a good plan to tie up your
head in a feather bed and then insert the whole thing in the linen
closet; or, if you cannot secure that, you might stick it out of the
window and get it knocked off against a tunnel. The stockholders of the
road might get mad about it, but you could do it in such a way that they
wouldn't know whose head it was.

Ladies and gentlemen should guard against traveling by rail while in a
beastly state of intoxication.

In the dining car, while eating, do not comb your moustache with your
fork. By all means do not comb your moustache with the fork of another.
It is better to refrain altogether from combing your moustache with a
fork while traveling, for the motion of the train might jab the fork
into your eye and irritate it.

If your desert is very hot and you do not discover it until you have
burned the rafters out of the roof of your mouth, do not utter a wild
yell of agony and spill your coffee all over a total stranger, but
control yourself, hoping to know more next time.

In the morning is a good time to find out how many people have succeeded
in getting on the passenger train, who ought to be in the stock car.

Generally, you will find one male and one female. The male goes into the
wash room, bathes his worthless carcass from daylight until breakfast
time, walking on the feet of any man who tries to wash his face during
that time. He wipes himself on nine different towels, because when he
gets home he knows he will have to wipe his face on an old door mat.
People who have been reared on hay all their lives, generally want to
fill themselves full of pie and colic when they travel.

The female of this same mammal goes into the ladies' department and
remains there until starvation drives her out. Then the real ladies have
about thirteen seconds apiece in which to dress.

If you never rode in a varnished car before and never expect to again,
you will probably roam up and down the car, meandering over the feet of
the porter while he is making up the berths. This is a good way to let
people see just how little sense you had left after your brain began to

In traveling, do not take along a lot of old clothes that you know you
will never wear.


Benjamin Franklin, formerly of Boston, came very near being an
only child. If seventeen children had not come to bless the home of
Benjamin's parents, they would have been childless. Think of getting
up in the morning and picking out your shoes and stockings from among
seventeen pairs of them. Imagine yourself a child, gentle reader, in a
family where you would be called upon, every morning, to select your own
cud of spruce gum from a collection of seventeen similar cuds stuck on
a window sill. And yet B. Franklin never murmured or repined. He desired
to go to sea, and to avoid this he was apprenticed to his brother James,
who was a printer. It is said that Franklin at once took hold of the
great Archimedean lever, and jerked it early and late in the interests
of freedom. It is claimed that Franklin at this time invented the deadly
weapon known as the printer's towel. He found that a common crash towel
could be saturated with glue, molasses, antimony, concentrated lye, and
roller composition, and that after a few years of time and perspiration
it would harden so that the "Constant Reader" or "Veritas" could be
stabbed with it and die soon.

[Illustration: 0116]

Many believe that Franklin's other scientific experiments were
productive of more lasting benefit to mankind than this, but I do not
agree with them.

This paper was called the "New England Courant." It was edited jointly
by James and Benjamin Franklin, and was started to supply a long-felt
want. Benjamin edited a part of the time and James a part of the time.
The idea of having two editors was not for the purpose of giving volume
to the editorial page, but it was necessary for one to run the paper
while the other was in jail. In those days you couldn't sass the king,
and then, when the king came in the office the next day and stopped his
paper, and took out his ad., you couldn't put it off on "our informant"
and go right along with the paper. You had to go to jail, while your
subscribers wondered why their paper did not come, and the paste soured
in the tin dippers in the sanctum, and the circus passed by on the other

[Illustration: 0118]

How many of us to-day, fellow journalists, would be willing to stay in
jail while the lawn festival and the kangaroo came and went?

Who, of all our company, would go to a prison cell for the cause of
freedom while a doublecolumn ad. of sixteen aggregated circuses, and
eleven congresses of ferocious beasts, fierce and fragrant from their
native lair, went by us?

At the age of 17, Ben got disgusted with his brother, and went to
Philadelphia and New York, where he got a chance to "sub" for a few
weeks, and then got a regular "sit." Franklin was a good printer, and
finally got to be a foreman. He made an excellent foreman, sitting
by the hour in the composing room and spitting on the stone, while he
cussed the makeup and press work of the other papers. Then he would
go into the editorial rooms and scare the editors to death with a wild
shriek for more copy. He knew just how to conduct himself as a foreman,
so that strangers would think he owned the paper.

In 1730, at the age of 24, Franklin married and established the
"Pennsylvania Gazette." He was then regarded as a great man, and most
everyone took his paper. Franklin grew to be a great journalist, and
spelled hard words with great fluency. He never tried to be a humorist
in any of his newspaper work, and everybody respected him.

Along about 1746 he began to study the construction and habits of
lightning, and inserted a local in his paper, in which he said he
would be obliged to any of his readers who might notice any new or odd
specimens of lightning, if they would send them into the Gazette office
by express for examination. Every time there was a thunder storm,
Franklin would tell the foreman to edit the paper, and, armed with a
string and an old fruit jar, he would go out on the hills and get enough
lightning for a mess.

In 1753 Franklin was made postmaster-general of the colonies. He made
a good postmaster-general, and people say there were less mistakes in
distributing their mail than there has ever been since. If a man mailed
a letter in those days, old Ben Franklin saw that it went where it was

Franklin frequently went over to England in those days, partly on
business, and partly to shock the king. He used to delight in going to
the castle with his breeches tucked in his boots, figuratively speaking,
and attract a good deal of attention. It looked odd to the English, of
course, to see him come into the royal presence, and, leaving his wet
umbrella up against the throne, ask the king: "How's trade?" Franklin
never put on any frills, but he was not afraid of a crowned head. He
used to say, frequently, that to him a king was no more than a seven

[Illustration: 0121]

He did his best to prevent the Revolutionary war, but he couldn't do
it. Patrick Henry had said that the war was inevitable, and given
it permission to come, and it came. He also went to Paris and got
acquainted with a few crowned heads there. They thought a good deal of
him in Paris, and offered him a corner lot if he would build there and
start a paper. They also promised him the county printing, but he said
no, he would have to go back to America, or his wife might get uneasy
about him.

Franklin wrote "Poor Richard's Almanac" in 1732-57, and it was
republished in England. Benjamin Franklin had but one son, and his name
was William. William was an illegitimate son, and, though he lived to be
quite an old man, he never got over it entirely, but continued to be but
an illegitimate son all his life. Everybody urged him to do differently,
but he steadily refused to do so.


Life insurance is a great thing. I would not be without it. My health
is greatly improved since I got my new policy. Formerly I used to have
a seal-brown taste in my mouth when I arose in the morning, but that
has entirely disappeared. I am more hopeful and happy, and my hair
is getting thicker on top. I would not try to keep house without life
insurance. Last September I was caught in one of the most destructive
cyclones that ever visited a republican form of government. A great deal
of property was destroyed and many lives were lost, but I was spared.
People who had no insurance were mowed down on every hand, but aside
from a broken leg I was entirely unharm.

I look upon life insurance as a great comfort, not only to the
beneficiary, but to the insured, who very rarely lives to realize
anything pecuniarily from his venture. Twice I have almost raised my
wife to affluence and cast a gloom over the community in which I lived,
but something happened to the physician for a few days so that he could
not attend me, and I recovered. For nearly two years I was under the
doctor's care. He had his finger on my pulse or in my pocket all the
time. He was a young western physician, who attended me on Tuesdays and
Fridays. The rest of the week he devoted his medical skill to horses
that were mentally broken down. He said he attended me largely for my
society. I felt flattered to know that he enjoyed my society after
he had been thrown among horses all the week that had much greater
advantages than I.

[Illustration: 0124]

My wife at first objected seriously to an insurance on my life, and said
she would never, never touch a dollar of the money if I were to die, but
after I had been sick nearly two years, and my disposition had suffered
a good deal, she said that I need not delay the obsequies on that
account.. But the life insurance slipped through my fingers somehow, and
I recovered.

In these' days of dynamite and roller rinks, and the gory meat-ax of a
new administration, we ought to make some provision for the future.


I have always had a horror of opiates of all kinds. They are so
seductive and so still in their operations. They steal through the blood
like a wolf on the trail, and they seize upon the heart at last with
their white fangs till it is still forever.

Up the Laramie there is a cluster of ranches at the base of the
Medicine Bow, near the north end of Sheep Mountain, and in sight of
the glittering, eternal frost of the snowy range. These ranches are the
homes of the young men from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and
now there are several "younger sons" of Old England, with herds of
horses, steers and sheep, worth millions of dollars. These young men
are not of the kind of whom the metropolitan ass writes as saying
"youbetcher-life," and calling everybody "pardner." They are many of
them college graduates, who can brand a wild Maverick or furnish the
easy gestures for a Strauss waltz.

They wear human clothes, talk in the United States language, and have a
bank account. This spring they may be wearing chaparajos and swinging a
quirt through the thin air, and in July they may be at Long Branch, or
coloring a meerschaum pipe among the Alps.

Well, a young man whom we will call Curtis lived at one of these ranches
years ago, and, though a quiet, mind-your-own-business fellow, who had
absolutely no enemies among his companions, he had the misfortune
to incur the wrath of a tramp sheep-herder, who waylaid Curtis one
afternoon and shot him dead as he sat in his buggy. Curtis wasn't armed.
He didn't dream of trouble till he drove home from town, and, as he
passed through the gates of a corral, saw the hairy face of the herder,
and at the same moment the flash of a Winchester rifle. That was all.

A rancher came into town and telegraphed to Curtis father, and then a
half dozen citizens went out to help capture the herder, who had fled to
the sage brush of the foot-hills.

They didn't get back till toward daybreak, but they brought the herder
with them. I saw him in the gray of the morning, lying in a coarse gray
blanket, on the floor of the engine house. He was dead.

I asked, as a reporter, how he came to his death, and they told me -
opium! I said, did I understand you to say "ropium?" They said no, it
was opium. The murderer had taken poison when he found that escape was

I was present at the inquest, so that I could report the case. There was
very little testimony, but all the evidence seemed to point to the
fact that life was extinct, and a verdict of death by his own hand was

It was the first opium work I had ever seen, and it aroused my
curiosity. Death by opium, it seems, leaves a dark purple ring around
the neck. I did not know this before. People who die by opium also tie
their hands together before they die. This is one of the eccentricities
of opium poisoning that I have never seen laid down in the books.
I bequeath it to medical science. Whenever I run up against a new
scientific discovery, I just hand it right over to the public without

Ever since the above incident, I have been very apprehensive about
people who seem to be likely to form the opium habit. It is one of the
most deadly of narcotics, especially in a new country. High up in
the pure mountain atmosphere, this man could not secure air enough
to prolong life, and he expired. In a land where clear, crisp air and
delightful scenery are abundant, he turned his back upon them both and
passed away. Is it not sad to contemplate?


My dear Son. - I tried to write to you last week, but didn't get around
to it, owing to circumstances. I went away on a little business tower
for a few days on the cars, and then when I got home the sociables broke
loose in our onct happy home.

While on my commercial tower down the Omehaw railroad buying a new
well-diggin' machine of which I had heard a good deal pro and con, I had
the pleasure of riding on one of them sleeping-cars that we read so much

I am going on 50 years old, and that's the first time I ever slumbered
at the rate of forty-five miles per hour, including stops.

I got acquainted with the porter, and he blacked my boots in the night
unbeknownst to me, while I was engaged in slumber. He must have thought
I was your father, and that we rolled in luxury at home all the time,
and that it was a common thing for us to have our boots blacked by
menials. When I left the car this porter brushed my clothes till the hot
flashes ran up my spinal column, and I told him that he had treated me
square, and I rung his hand when he held it out toards me, and I told
him that any time he wanted a good, cool drink of buttermilk, to just
holler through our telephone. We had the sociable at our house last
week, and when I got home your mother set me right to work borryin'
chairs and dishes. She had solicited some cakes and other things. I
don't know whether you are on the skedjule by which these sociables are
run or not. The idea is a novel one to me.

The sisters in our set, onct in so often, turn their houses wrong side
out for the purpose of raising four dollars to apply on the church debt.
When I was a boy we worshiped with less frills than they do now. Now it
seems that the debt is a part of the worship.

Well, we had a good time and used up 150 cookies in a short time. Part
of these cookies was devoured and the balance was trod into our all-wool
carpet. Several of the young people got to playing Copenhagen in the
setting-room and stepped on the old cat in such a way as to disfigure
him for life.

[Illustration: 0132]

They also had a disturbance in the front room and knocked off some of
the plastering. So your mother is feeling slim and I am not very chipper

I hope that you are working hard at your books so that you will be an
ornament to society. Society is needing some ornaments very much. I
sincerely hope that you will not begin to monkey with rum. I should
hate to have you meet with a felon's doom or fill a drunkard's grave. If
anybody has got to fill a drunkard's grave, let him do it himself. What
has the drunkard ever done for you, that you should fill his grave for

I expect you to do right, as near as possible. You will not do exactly
right all the time, but try to strike a good average. I do not expect
you to let your studies encroach too much on your polo, but try to unite
the two so that you will not break down under the strain. I should feel
sad and mortified to have you come home a physical wreck. I think one
physical wreck in a family is enough, and I am rapidly getting where I
can do the entire physical wreck business for our neighborhood.

I see by your picture that you have got one of them pleated coats with
a belt around it, and short pants. They make you look as you did when I
used to spank you in years gone by, and I feel the same old desire to do

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Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 4 of 14)