by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
The past fifty years have done much for the newspaper and periodical readers of the United States. That period has been fruitful of great advancement and a great reduction in price, but these are not all. Fifty years and less have classified information so that science and sense are conveniently found, and humor and nonsense have their proper sphere. All branches are pretty full of lively and thoroughly competent writers, who take hold of their own special work even as the thorough, quick-eyed mechanic takes hold of his line of labor and acquits himself in a creditable manner. The various lines of journalism may appear to be crowded, but they are not. There may be too much vagabond journalism, but the road that is traveled by the legitimate laborer is not crowded. The clean, Caucasian journalist, as he climbs the hill, is not crowded very much. He can make out to elbow his way toward the front, if he tries very hard. There may be too much James Crow science, and too much editorial vandalism and gush, and too much of the journalism for revenue only. There may be too much ringworm humor also, but there is still a demand for the scientific work of the true student. There is still a good market for honest editorial opinion, reliable news and fearless and funny paragraph work and character sketches, as the song and dance men would say.
All this, however, points in one direction. It all has one hoarse voice, and in the tones of the culverin, whatever that is, it says that to the young man who is starting out with the intention of filling the tomb of a millionaire, “Learn to do something well.”
Lots of people rather disliked the famous British hangman, and thought he hadn’t made a great record for himself, but he performed a duty that had to be done by someone, and no one ever complained much about Marwood’s work. He warranted every job and told everyone that if they were dissatisfied he would refund their money at the door. No man ever came back to Marwood and said, “Sir, you broke my neck in an unworkmanlike manner.”
It is better to be a successful hangman than to be the banished, abused and heart-broken, cast-off husband of a great actress. Learn to take hold of some business and jerk it bald-headed. Learn to dress yourself first. This will give you self-assurance, so that you can go away from home and not be dependent on your mother. Teach yourself to be accurate and careful in all things. It is better to turn the handle of a sausage grinder and make a style of sausage that is free from hydrophobia, than to be the extremely hence cashier of a stranded bank, fighting horseflies in the solemn hush of a Canadian forest.
People have wrong ideas of the respective merits of different avocations. It is better to be the successful driver of a dray than to be the unsuccessful inventor of a still-born motor. I would rather discover how to successfully wean a calf from the parent stem without being boosted over a nine rail fence, than to discover a new star that had never been used, and the next evening find that it had made an assignment.
Boys, oh, boys! How I wish I could take each of you by the ear and lead you away by yourselves, and show you how many ruins strew the road to success, and how life is like a mining boom. We only hear of those who strike it rich. The hopeful, industrious prospector who failed to find the contact and finally filled a nameless grave, is soon forgotten when he is gone, but a million tongues tell to forty million listening ears of the man who struck it rich and went to Europe.
Therefore make haste to advance slowly and surely. I am aware that your ears ache with the abundance wherewith ye are advised, but if ye seek not to brace up while yet it is called to-day, and file away information for future reference and cease to look upon the fifteen-ball pool game when it moveth itself aright, at such time as ye think not ye shall be in pecuniary circumstances and there shall be none to indorse for you–nay, not one.
Early Day Justice.
[Footnote 2: From the Chicago Rambler.]
Those were troublesome times, indeed. All wool justice in the courts was impossible. The vigilance committee, or Salvation Army as it called itself, didn’t make much fuss about it, but we all knew that the best citizens belonged to it and were in good standing.
It was in those days when young Stewart was short-handed for a sheep herder, and had to take up with a sullen, hairy vagrant, called by the other boys “Esau.” Esau hadn’t been on the ranch a week before he made trouble with the proprietor and got the red-hot blessing from Stewart he deserved.
Then Esau got madder and sulked away down the valley among the little sage brush hummocks and white alkali waste land to nurse his wrath. When Stewart drove into the corral at night, from town, Esau raised up from behind an old sheep dip tank, and without a word except what may have growled around in his black heart, he raised a leveled Spencer and shot his young employer dead.
That was the tragedy of the week only. Others had occurred before and others would probably occur again. It was getting too prevalent for comfort. So, as soon as a quick cayuse and a boy could get down into town, the news spread and the authorities began in the routine manner to set the old legal mill to running. Someone had to go down to “The Tivoli" and find the prosecuting attorney, then a messenger had to go to “The Alhambra” for the justice of the peace. The prosecuting attorney was “full” and the judge had just drawn one card to complete a straight flush, and had succeeded.
In the meantime the Salvation Army was fully half way to Clugston’s ranch. They had started out, as they said, “to see that Esau didn’t get away." They were going out there to see that Esau was brought into town.
What happened after they got there I only know from hearsay, for I was not a member of the Salvation Army at that time. But I got it from one of those present, that they found Esau down in the sage brush on the bottoms that lie between the abrupt corner of Sheep Mountain and the Little Laramie River. They captured him, but he died soon after, as it was told me, from the effects of opium taken with suicidal intent. I remember seeing Esau the next morning and I thought there were signs of ropium, as there was a purple streak around the neck of deceased, together with other external phenomena not peculiar to opium.
But the great difficulty with the Salvation Army was that it didn’t want to bring Esau into town. A long, cold night ride with a person in Esau’s condition was disagreeable. Twenty miles of lonely road with a deceased murderer in the bottom of the wagon is depressing. Those of my readers who have tried it will agree with me that it is not calculated to promote hilarity. So the Salvation Army stopped at Whatley’s ranch to get warm, hoping that someone would steal the remains and elope with them. They stayed some time and managed to “give away” the fact that there was a reward of $5,000 out for Esau, dead or alive. The Salvation Army even went so far as to betray a great deal of hilarity over the easy way it had nailed the reward, or would as soon as said remains were delivered up and identified.
Mr. Whatley thought that the Salvation Army was having a kind of walkaway, so he slipped out at the back door of the ranch, put Esau into his own wagon and drove away to town. Remember, this is the way it was told to me.
Mr. Whatley hadn’t gone more than half a mile when he heard the wild and disappointed yells of the Salvation Army. He put the buckskin on the backs of his horses without mercy, driven on by the enraged shouts and yells of his infuriated pursuers. He reached town about midnight, and his pursuers disappeared. But what was he to do with Esau?
He drove around all over town, trying to find the official who signed for the deceased. Mr. Whatley went from house to house like a vegetable man, seeking sadly for the party who would give him a $5,000 check for Esau. Nothing could be more depressing than to wake up one man after another out of a sound sleep and invite him to come out to the buggy and identify the remains. One man went out and looked at him. He said he didn’t know how others felt about it, but he allowed that anybody who would pay $5,000 for such a remains as Esau’s could not have very good taste.
Gradually it crept through Mr. Whatley’s wool that the Salvation Army had been working him, so he left Esau at the engine house and went home. On his ranch he nailed up a large board on which had been painted in antique characters with a paddle and tar the following stanzas:
Vigilance Committees, Salvation Armies, Morgues, or young physicians who may have deceased people on their hands, are requested to refrain from conferring them on to the undersigned.
People who contemplate shuffling off their own or other people’s mortal coils, will please not do so on these grounds.
The Salvation Army of the Rocky Mountains is especially hereby warned to keep off the grass!