Edgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill Nye.

Bill Nye's Red Book online

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Now, my desire is that through the medium of the press you will state
that this great trouble which has come upon us, by reason of which
the ungodly have spoken lightly of us, was not the result of a general
tendency to dissent from the statements made by our pastor, and
therefore an exhibition of our disapproval of his doctrines, but that
the janitor had started a light fire in the furnace, and that had
revived a large nest of common, streaked, hot-nosed wasps in the warm
air pipe, and when they came up through the register and united in the
services, there was more or less of an ovation.

Sometimes Christianity gets sluggish and comatose, but not under the
above circumstances. A man may slumber on softly with his bosom gently
rising and falling, and his breath coming and going through one corner
of his mouth like the death rattle of a bath-tub, while the pastor opens
out a new box of theological thunders and fills the air full of the
sullen roar of sulphurous waves, licking the shores of eternity and
swallowing up the great multitudes of the eternally lost; but when one
little wasp, with a red-hot revelation, goes gently up the leg of that
same man's pantaloons, leaving large, hot tracks whenever he stopped and
sat down to think it over, you will see a sudden awakening and a revival
that will attract attention.

I wish that you would take this letter, Mr. Nye, and write something,
from it in your own way, for publication, showing how we happened to
have more zeal than usual in the church last Sabbath, and that it was
not directly the result of the sermon which was preached on that day.

Yours, with great respect,



I have not written much for publication lately, because I did not feel
well, I was fatigued. I took a ride on the cars last week and it shook
me up a good deal.

The train was crowded somewhat, and so I sat in a seat with a woman who
got aboard at Minkin's Siding. I noticed as we pulled out of Minkin's
Siding, that this woman raised the window so that she could bid adieu
to a man in a dyed moustache. I do not know whether he was her dolce
far niente, or her grandson by her second husband. I know that if he had
been a relative of mine, however, I would have cheerfully concealed the

She waved a little 2x6 handkerchief out of the window, said "good-bye,"
allowed a fresh zephyr from Cape Sabine to come in and play a xylophone
interlude on my spinal column,' and then burst into a paroxysm of damp,
hot tears.

I had to go into another car for a moment, and when I returned a
pugilist from Chicago had my seat. When I travel I am uniformly
courteous, especially to pugilists. A pugilist who has started out as an
obscure boy with no money, no friends, and no one to practice on, except
his wife or his mother, with no capital aside from his bare hands; a man
who has had to fight his way through life, as it were, and yet who has
come out of obscurity and attracted the attention of the authorities,
and won the good will of those with whom he came in contact, will always
find me cordial and pacific. So I allowed this self-made man with the
broad, high, intellectual shoulder blades, to sit in my seat with
his feet on my new and expensive traveling bag, while I sat with the
tear-bedewed memento from Minkin's Siding.

[Illustration: 0164]

She sobbed several more times, then hove a sigh that rattled the windows
in the car, and sat up. I asked her if I might sit by her side for a few
miles and share her great sorrow. She looked at me askance. I did not
resent it. She allowed me to take the seat, and I looked at a paper for
a few moments so that she could look me over through the corners of her

I also scrutinized her lineaments some.

She was dressed up considerably, and, when a woman dresses up to ride in
a railway train, she advertises the fact that her intellect is beginning
to totter on its throne. People who have more than one suit of clothes
should not pick out the fine raiment for traveling purposes. This person
was not handsomely dressed, but she had the kind of clothes that look
as though they had tried to present the appearance of affluence and had
failed to do so.

This leads me to say, in all seriousness, that there is nothing so sad
as the sight of a man or woman who would scorn to tell a wrong story,
but who will persist in wearing bogus clothes and bogus jewelry that
wouldn't fool anybody.

My seat-mate wore a cloak that had started out to bamboozle the American
people with the idea that it was worth $100, but it wouldn't mislead
anyone who might be nearer than half a mile. I also discovered that
it had an air about it that would indicate that she wore it while she
cooked the pancakes and fried the doughnuts. It hardly seems possible
that she would do this, but the garment, I say, had that air about it.

She seemed to want to converse after awhile, and she began on the
subject of literature. Picking up a volume that had been left in her
seat by the train boy, entitled: "Shadowed to Skowhegan and Back; or,
The Child Fiend; price $2," we drifted on pleasantly into the broad
domain of letters.

Incidentally I asked her what authors she read mostly.

"O, I don't remember the authors so much as I do the books," said she.
"I am a great reader. If I should tell you how much I have read, you
wouldn't believe it."

I said I certainly would. I had frequently been called upon to believe
things that would make the ordinary rooster quail.

If she discovered the true inwardness of this Anglo-American
"Jewdesprit," she refrained from saying anything about it.

"I read a good deal," she continued, "and it keeps me all strung up. I
weep, O so easily." Just then she lightly laid her hand on my arm, and I
could see that the tears were rising to her eyes. I felt like asking her
if she had ever tried running herself through a clothes wringer every
morning. I did feel that someone ought to chirk her up, so I asked her
if she remembered the advice of the editor who received a letter from a
young lady troubled the same way. She stated that she couldn't explain
it, but every little while, without any apparent cause, she would shed
tears, and the editor asked her why she didn't lock up the shed.

We conversed for a long time about literature, but every little while
she would get me into deep water by quoting some author or work that I
had never read. I never realized what a hopeless ignoramus I was till I
heard about the scores of books that had made her shed the scalding,
and yet that I had never, never read. When she looked at me with that
faraway expression in her eyes, and with her hand resting lightly on
my arm in such a way as to give the gorgeous two karat Rhinestone from
Pittsburg full play, and told me how such works as "The New Made Grave;
or, The Twin Murderers" had cost her many and many a copious tear, I
told her I was glad of it. If it be a blessed boon for the student of
such books to weep at home and work up their honest perspiration into
scalding tears, far be it from me to grudge that poor boon.

I hope that all who may read these lines, and who may feel that the
pores of their skin are getting torpid and sluggish, owing to an
inherited antipathy toward physical exertion, and who feel that they
would rather work up their perspiration into woe and shed it in the
shape of common red-eyed weep, will keep themselves to this poor boon.
People have different ways of enjoying themselves, and I hope no one
will hesitate about accepting this or any other poor boon that I do not
happen to be using at the time.


I have just been through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, on a tour of
inspection. I rode for over ten days in these States in a sleeping-car,
examining crops, so that I could write an intelligent report.

Grain in Northern Wisconsin suffered severely in the latter part of the
season from rust, chintz bug, Hessian fly and trichina. In the St. Croix
valley wheat will not average a half crop. I do not know why farmers
should insist upon leaving their grain out nights in July, when they
know from the experience of former years that it will surely rust.

In Southern Wisconsin too much rain has almost destroyed many crops, and
cattle have been unable to get enough to eat, unless they were fed, for
several weeks. This is a sad outlook for the farmer at this season.

In the Northern part of the State many fields of grain were not worth
cutting, while others barely yielded the seed, and even that of a very
inferior quality.

The ruta-baga is looking unusually well this fall, but we cannot subsist
entirely upon the ruta-baga. It is juicy and rich if eaten in large
quantities, but it is too bulky to be popular with the aristocracy.

Cabbages in most places are looking well, though in some quarters I
notice an epidemic of worms. To successfully raise the cabbage, it will
be necessary at all times to be well supplied with vermifuge that can be
readily administered at any hour of the day or night.

The crook-neck squash in the Northwest is a great success this season.
And what can be more beautiful, as it calmly lies in its bower of green
vines in the crisp and golden haze of autumn, than the cute little
crook-neck squash, with yellow, warty skin, all cuddled up together in
the cool morning, like the discarded wife of an old Mormon elder - his
first attempt in the matrimonial line, so to speak, ere he had gained
wisdom by experience.

The full-dress, low-neck-and-short-sleeve summer squash will be worn as
usual this fall, with trimmings of salt and pepper in front and revers
of butter down the back.

N. B. - It will not be used much as an outside wrap, but will be worn
mostly inside.

Hop-poles in some parts of Wisconsin are entirely killed. I suppose that
continued dry weather in the early summer did it.

Hop-lice, however, are looking well. Many of our best hop-breeders
thought that when the hop-pole began to wither and die, the hop-louse
could not survive the intense dry heat; but hop-lice have never looked
better in this State than they do this fall.

I can remember very well when Wisconsin had to send to Ohio for
hop-lice. Now she could almost supply Ohio and still have enough to fill
her own coffers.

I do not know that hop-lice are kept in coffers, and I may be wrong in
speaking thus freely of these two subjects, never having seen either
a hop-louse or a coffer, but I feel that the public must certainly and
naturally expect me to say something on these subjects. Fruit in the
Northwest this season is not a great success. Aside from the cranberry
and choke-cherry, the fruit yield in the Northern district is light. The
early dwarf crab, with or without worms, as desired - but mostly with - is
unusually poor this fall. They make good cider. This cider when put into
a brandy flask that has not been drained too dry, and allowed to stand
until Christmas, puts a great deal of expression into a country dance. I
have tried it once myself, so that I could write it up for your valuable

People who were present at that dance, and who saw me frolic around
there like a thing of life, say that it was well worth the price of
admission. Stone fence always flies right to the weakest spot. So it
goes right to my head and makes me eccentric.

[Illustration: 0171]

The violin virtuoso who "fiddled," "called off" and acted as justice of
the peace that evening, said that I threw aside all reserve and entered
with great zest into the dance, and seemed to enjoy it much better than
those who danced in the same set with me. Since that, the very sight of
a common crab apple makes my head reel. I learned afterward that this
cider had frozen, so that the alleged cider which we drank that night
was the clear, old-fashioned brandy, which, of course, would not freeze.

We should strive, however, to lead such lives that we will never be
ashamed to look a cider barrel square in the bung.


People who write for a livelihood get some queer propositions from those
who have crude ideas about the operation of the literary machine. There
is a prevailing idea among those who have never dabbled in literature
very much, that the divine afflatus works a good deal like a corn
sheller. This is erroneous.

To put a bushel of words into the hopper and have them come out a poem
or a sermon, is a more complicated process than it would seem to the
casual observer.

I can hardly be called literary, though I admit that my tastes lie in
that direction, and yet I have had some singular experiences in that
line. For instance, last year I received flattering overtures from three
young men who wanted me to write speeches for them to deliver on the
Fourth of July. They could do it themselves, but hadn't the time. If
I would write the speeches they would be willing to revise them. They
seemed to think it would be a good idea to write the speeches a little
longer than necessary and then the poorer parts of the effort could be
cut out. Various prices were set on these efforts, from a dollar to
"the kindest regards." People who have squeezed through one of our
adult winters in this latitude, subsisting on kind regards, will please
communicate with the writer, stating how they like it.

One gentleman, who was in the confectionery business, wanted a lot of
"humorous notices wrote for to put into conversation candy." It was a
big temptation to write something that would be in every lady's mouth,
but I refrained. Writing gum drop epitaphs may properly belong to the
domain of literature, but I doubt it. Surely I do not want to be haughty
and above my business, but it seems to me that this is irrelevant.

Another man wanted me to write a "piece for his boy to speak," and if I
would do so, I could come to his house some Saturday night and stay over
Sunday. He said that the boy was "a perfect little case to carry on
and folks didn't know whether he would develop into a condemb fool or a
youmerist." So he wanted a piece of one of them tomfoolery kind for the
little cuss to speak the last day of school.

A coal dealer who had risen to affluence by selling coal to the poor
by apothecaries' weight, wrote to ask me for a design to be used as a
family crest and a motto to emblazon on his arms. I told him I had run
out of crests, but that "weight for the wagon, we'll all take a ride,"
would be a good motto; or he might use the following: "The fuel and his
money are soon parted." He might emblazon this on his arms, or tattoo it
on any other part of his system where he thought it would be becoming to
his complexion. I never heard from him again, and I do not know whether
he was offended or not.

[Illustration: 0176]

Two young men in Massachusetts wrote me a letter in which they said they
"had a good thing on mother." They wanted it written up in a facetious
vein. They said that their father had been on the coast for a few weeks
before, engaged in the eeling industry. Being a good man, but partially
full, he had mingled himself in the flowing tide and got drowned.
Finally, after several days' search, the neighbors came in sadly and
told the old lady that they had found all that was mortal of James, and
there were two eels in the remains. They asked for further instructions
as to deceased. The old lady swabbed out her weeping eyes, braced
herself against the sink and told the men to "bring in the eels and set
him again."

The boys thought that if this could be properly written up, "it would
be a mighty good joke on mother." I was greatly shocked when I received
this letter. It seemed to me heartless for young men to speak lightly of
their widowed mother's great woe. I wrote them how I felt about it, and
rebuked them severely for treating their mother's grief so lightly. Also
for trying to impose upon me with an old chestnut.


My Dear Henry - Your pensive favor of the 20th inst., asking for more
means with which to persecute your studies, and also a young man from
Ohio, is at hand and carefully noted.

I would not be ashamed to have you show the foregoing sentence to
your teacher, if it could be worked, in a quiet way, so as not to look
egotistic on my part. I think myself that it is pretty fair for a man
that never had any advantages.

But, Henry, why will you insist on fighting the young man from Ohio? It
is not only rude and wrong, but you invariably get licked. There's where
the enormity of the thing comes in.

It was this young man from Ohio, named Williams, that you hazed last
year, or at least that's what I gether from a letter sent me by your
warden. He maintains that you started in to mix Mr. Williams up with the
campus in some way, and that in some way Mr. Williams resented it and
got his fangs tangled up in the bridge of your nose.

You never wrote this to me or your mother, but I know how busy you are
with your studies, and I hope you won't ever neglect your books just to
write us.

Your warden, or whoever he is, said that Mr. Williams also hung a
hand-painted marine view over your eye and put an extra eyelid on one of
your ears.

I wish that, if you get time, you would write us about it, because, if
there's anything I can do for you in the arnica line, I would be pleased
to do so.

The president also says that in the scuffle you and Mr. Williams swapped
belts as follows, to-wit: That Williams snatched off the belt of your
little Norfolk jacket, and then gave you one in the eye.

From this I gether that the old prez, as you faseshusly call him, is an
youmorist. He is not a very good penman, however; though, so far, his
words have all been spelled correct.

I would hate to see you permanently injured, Henry, but I hope that
when you try to tramp on the toes of a good boy simply because you are a
seanyour and he is a fresh, as you frequently state, that he will arise
and rip your little pleated jacket up the back and make your spinal
colyum look like a corderoy bridge in the spring tra la. (This is from a
Japan show I was to last week.)

Why should a seanyour in a colledge tromp onto the young chaps that
come in there to learn? Have you forgot how I fatted up the old cow and
beefed her so that you could go and monkey with youclid and aigebray?
Have you forgot how the other boys pulled you through a mill pond and
made you tobogin down hill in a salt barrel with brads in it? Do you
remember how your mother went down there to nuss you for two weeks and I
stayed to home, and done my own work and the housework too and cooked my
own vittles for the whole two weeks?

And now, Henry, you call yourself a seanyour, and therefore, because you
are simply older in crime, you want to muss up Mr. Williams's features
so that his mother will have to come over and nuss him. I am glad
that your little pleated coat is ripped up the back. Henry, under the
circumstances, and I am also glad that you are wearing the belt - over
your off eye. If there's anything I can do to add to the hilarity of the
occasion, please let me know and I will tend to it.

The lop-horned heifer is a parent once more, and I am trying in my poor,
weak way to learn her wayward offspring how to drink out of a patent
pail without pushing your old father over into the hay-mow. He is a cute
little quadruped, with a wild desire to have fun at my expense. He loves
to swaller a part of my coat-tail Sunday morning, when I am dressed up,
and then return it to me in a moist condition. He seems to know that
when I address the Sabbath school the children will see the joke and
enjoy it.

Your mother is about the same, trying in her meek way to adjust herself
to a new set of teeth that are a size too large for her. She has one
large bunion in the roof of her mouth already, but is still resolved to
hold out faithful, and hopes these few lines will find you enjoying the
same great blessing.

You will find enclosed a dark-blue money order for four eighty-five. It
is money that I had set aside to pay my taxes, but there is no novelty
about paying taxes. I've done that before, so it don't thrill me as it
used to.

Give my congratulations to Mr. Williams. He has got the elements of
greatness to a wonderful degree. If I happened to be participating in
that college of yours, I would gently but firmly decline to be tromped

So good-bye for this time.



Over at Kasota Junction, the other day, I found a living curiosity. He
was a man of about medium height, perhaps 45 years of age, of a quiet
disposition, and not noticeable or peculiar in his general manner.
He runs the railroad eating house at that point, and the one odd
characteristic which he has, makes him well known all through three or
four States. I could not illustrate his eccentricity any better than by
relating a circumstance that occurred to me at the Junction last week.
I had just eaten breakfast there and paid for it. I stepped up to the
cigar case and asked this man if he had "a rattling good cigar."

Without knowing it I had struck the very point upon which this man seems
to be a crank, if you will allow me that expression, though it doesn't
fit very well in this place. He looked at me in a sad and subdued manner
and said, "No sir; I haven't a rattling good cigar in the house. I have
some cigars there that I bought for Havana fillers, but they are mostly
filled with pieces of Colorado Maduro overalls. There's a box over
yonder that I bought for good, straight ten-cent cigars, but they are
only a chaos of hay and Flora, Fino and Damfino, all socked into a
Wisconsin wrapper. Over in the other end of the case is a brand of
cigars that were to knock the tar out of all other kinds of weeds,
according to the urbane rustler who sold them to me, and then drew on me
before I could light one of them. Well, instead of being a fine Colorado
Claro with a high-priced wrapper, they are common Mexicano stinkaros in
a Mother Hubbard wrapper. The commercial tourist who sold me those
cigars and then drew on me at sight was a good deal better on the draw
than his cigars are. If you will notice, you will see that each cigar
has a spinal column to it, and this outer debris is wrapped around it.
One man bought a cigar out of that box last week. I told him, though,
just as I am telling you, that they were no good, and if he bought one
he would regret it. But he took one and went out on the veranda to smoke
it. Then he stepped on a melon rind and fell with great force on his
side; when we picked him up he gasped once or twice and expired. We
opened his vest hurriedly and found that, in falling, this bouquet de
Gluefactoro cigar, with the spinal column, had been driven through his
breast bone and had penetrated his heart. The wrapper of the cigar never
so much as cracked."

[Illustration: 0185]

"But doesn't it impair your trade to run on in this wild, reckless way
about your cigars."

"It may at first, but not after awhile. I always tell people what my
cigars are made of, and then they can't blame me; so, after awhile they
get to believe what I say about them. I often wonder that no cigar
man ever tried this way before. I do just the same way about my lunch
counter. If a man steps up and wants a fresh ham sandwich I give it to
him if I've got it, and if I haven't it I tell him so. If you turn my
sandwiches over, you will find the date of its publication on every one.
If they are not fresh, and I have no fresh ones, I tell the customer
that they are not so blamed fresh as the young man with the gauze
moustache, but that I can remember very well when they were fresh, and
if his artificial teeth fit him pretty well he can try one!

"It's just the same with boiled eggs. I have a rubber dating stamp, and
as soon as the eggs are turned over to me by the hen for inspection, I
date them. Then they are boiled and another date in red is stamped on
them. If one of my clerks should date an egg ahead, I would fire him too

"On this account, people who know me will skip a meal at Missouri
Junction, in order to come here and eat things that are not clouded with
mystery. I do not keep any poor stuff when I can help it, but if I do,
don't conceal the horrible fact.

"Of course a new cook will sometimes smuggle a late date onto a
mediaeval egg and sell it, but he has to change his name and flee.

"I suppose that if every eating house should date everything, and be
square with the public, it would be an old story and wouldn't pay; but
as it is, no one trying to compete with me, I do well out of it, and

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Online LibraryEdgar Wilson Nye AKA Bill NyeBill Nye's Red Book → online text (page 6 of 14)