by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
I fixed myself and went out trout fishing on the only original Kinnickinnick river last week. It was a kind of Rip Van Winkle picnic and farewell moonlight excursion home. I believe that Rip Van Winkle, however, confined himself to hunting mostly with an old musket that was on the retired list when Rip took his sleepy drink on the Catskills. If he could have gone with me fishing last week over the old trail, digging angle-worms at the same old place where I left the spade sticking in the grim soil twenty years ago–if we could have waded down the Kinnickinnick together with high rubber boots on, and got nibbles and bites at the same places, and found the same old farmers with nearly a quarter of a century added to their lives and glistening in their hair, we would have had fun no doubt on that day, and a headache on the day following. This affords me an opportunity to say that trout may be caught successfully without a corkscrew. I have tried it. I’ve about decided that the main reason why so many large lies are told about the number of trout caught all over the country, is that at the moment the sportsman pulls his game out of the water, he labors under some kind of an optical illusion, by reason of which he sees about nine trout where he ought to see only one.
I wish I had as many dollars as I have soaked deceased angle-worms in that same beautiful Kinnickinnick. There was a little stream made into it that we called Tidd’s creek. It is still there. This stream runs across Tidd’s farm, and Tidd twenty years ago wouldn’t allow anybody to fish in the creek. I can still remember how his large hand used to feel, as he caught me by the nape of the neck and threw me over the fence with my amateur fishing tackle and a willow “stringer” with eleven dried, stiff trout on it. Last week I thought I would try Tidd’s creek again. It was always a good place to fish, and I felt the same old excitement, with just enough vague forebodings in it to make it pleasant. Still, I had grown a foot or so since I used to fish there, and perhaps I could return the compliment by throwing the old gentleman over his own fence, and then hiss in his ear “R-r-r-r-e-v-e-n-g-e!!!”
I had got pretty well across the “lower forty” and had about decided that Tidd had been gathered to his fathers, when I saw him coming with his head up like a steer in the corn. Tidd is a blacksmith by trade, and he has an arm with hair on it that looks like Jumbo’s hind leg. I felt the same old desire to climb the fence and be alone. I didn’t know exactly how to work it. Then I remembered how people had remarked that I had changed very much in twenty years, and that for a homely boy I had grown to be a remarkably picturesque-looking man. I trusted to Tidd’s failing eyesight and said:
“How are you?”
He said, “How are you?” That did not answer my question, but I didn’t mind a little thing like that.
Then he said: “I sposed that every pesky fool in this country knew I don’t allow fishing on my land.”
“That may be,” says I, “but I ain’t fishing on your land. I always fish in a damp place if I can. Moreover, how do I know this is your land? Carrying the argument still further, and admitting that every peesky fool knows that you didn’t allow fishing here, I am not going to be called a pesky fool with impunity, unless you do it over my dead body.” He stopped about ten rods away and I became more fearless. “I don’t know who you are,” said I, as I took off my coat and vest and piled them up on my fish basket, eager for the fray. “You claim to own this farm, but it is my opinion that you are the hired man, puffed up with a little authority. You can’t order me off this ground till you show me a duly certified abstract of title and then identify yourself. What protection does a gentleman have if he is to be kicked and cuffed about by Tom, Dick and Harry, claiming they own the whole State. Get out! Avaunt! If you don’t avaunt pretty quick I’ll scrap you and sell you to a medical college.”
He stood in dumb amazement a moment, then he said he would go and get his deed and his shotgun. I said shotguns suited me exactly, and I told him to bring two of them loaded with giant powder and barbed wire. I would not live alway. I asked not to stay. When he got behind the corn-crib I climbed the fence and fled with my ill-gotten gains.
The blacksmith in his prime may lick the small boy, but twenty years changes their relative positions. Possibly Tidd could tear up the ground with me now, but in ten more years, if I improve as fast as he fails, I shall fish in that same old stream again.
Letter From New York.
Dear friend.–Being Sunday, I take an hour to write you a letter in regard to this place. I came here yesterday without attracting undue attention from people who lived here. If they was surprised, they concealed it from me.
I’ve camped out on the Chug years ago, and went to sleep with no live thing near me except my own pony, and woke up with the early song of the coyote, and have been on the lonesome plain for days where it seemed to me that a hostile would be mighty welcome if he would only say something to me, but I was never so lonesome as I was here in this big town last night, although it is the most thick settled place I was ever at.
I was so kind of low and depressed that I strolled in to the bar at last, allowing that I could pound on the counter and call up the boys and get acquainted a little with somebody, just as I would at Col. Luke Murrin’s, at Cheyenne; but when I waved to the other parties, and told them to rally round the foaming beaker, they apologized, and allowed they had just been to dinner.
Just been to dinner, and there it was pretty blamed near dark! Then I asked ’em to take a cigar, but they mostly cackillated they had no occasion.
I was mad, but what could I do? They was too many for me, and I couldn’t coerce the white livered aristocratic mob, for quicker’n scat they could have hollored into a little cupboard they had there in the corner, and in less’n two minits they’d of had the whole police department and the hook and ladder company down there after me with a torch-light procession.
So I swallowed my wrath and a tame drink of cultivated whiskey with Apollo Belvidere on the side, and went out into the auditorium of the hotel.
Here I was very unhappy, being, as the editor of the Green River Gazette would say, “the cynosure of all eyes.”
I would rather not be a cynosure, even at a good salary; so I thought I would ask the proprietor to build a fire in my room. I went up to the recorder’s office, where the big hotel autograft album is, and asked to see the proprietor.
A good-looking young man came forward and asked me what he could do for me. I said if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I wisht he would build a little fire in my room, and I would pay him for it; or, if he would show me where the woodpile was, I would build the fire myself–I wasn’t doing anything special at that time.
He then whistled through his teeth and crooked his finger in a shrill tone of voice to a young party who was working for him, and told him to “build a fire in four-ought-two.”
I then sat down in the auditorium and read out of a railroad tract, which undertook to show that a party that undertook to ride over a rival road, must do so because life was a burden to him, and facility, and comfort, and safety, and such things no object whatever. But still I was very lonely, and felt as if I was far, far away from home.
I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable if I’d been a young man I saw twenty-five years ago on the old overland trail. He had gone out to study the Indian character, and to win said Indian to the fold. When I next saw him he was twenty miles farther on. He had been thrown in contact with said Indian in the meantime. I judged he had been making a collection of Indian arrows. He was extremely no more. He looked some like Saint Sebastian, and some like a toothpick-holder.
I was never successfully lost on the plains, and so I started out after supper to find my room. I found a good many other rooms, and tried to get into them, but I did not find four-ought-two till a late hour; then I subsidized the night patrol on the third floor to assist me.
This is a nice place to stop, but it is a little too rich for my blood, I guess Not so much as regards price, but I can see that I am beginning to excite curiosity among the boarders. People are coming here to board just because I am here, and it is disagreeable. I do not court notoriety. I have always lived in a plain way, and I would give a dollar if people would look the other way while I eat my pie.
To E. Wm. Nye, Esq.
P.S.–This is not a dictated letter. I left my stenograffer and revolver at Pumpkin Buttes.