A Flyer In Dirt by Bill Nye
Story type: Literature
I have just returned from a visit to my property at Minneapolis, and can not refrain from referring to its marvelous growth. The distance between it and the business center of the city has also grown a good deal since I last saw it. This is the property which I purchased some three years ago of a real good man. His name is Pansley–Flinton Pansley. He has done business in most all the towns of the Northwest. Perhaps a further word or two about this pious gentleman will not be amiss. Entering a place quietly and even meekly, with a letter to the local pastor, he would begin reaching out his little social tendrils by sighing over the lost and undone condition of mankind. After regretting the state in which he had found God’s vineyard, he would rent a store and sell goods at a sacrifice, but when the sacrifice was being offered up, a close observer would discover that Mr. Pansley was not in it.
In this way he would build up quite a trade, only sparing a little time each day in which to retire to his closet and sob over the altogether godless condition in which he had found man. He would then make an assignment.
Pardon me for again referring to the matter, but I do so utterly without malice, and in connection with the unparalleled growth of my property here. So if the gentle and rather attractive reader will excuse a bad pen, and some plain stationery, as my own crested writing-paper is in my trunk, which is now in the possession of a well-known hotel man whose name is suppressed on account of his family, I shall refer again briefly to the property and the circumstances surrounding its purchase. I had intended to put a good fence around it ere this, but with these peculiar circumstances surrounding it, I feel that it is safe from intrusion.
The property was sold to my wife by Mr. Pansley at a sacrifice, but when the burnt offering had ascended, and the atmosphere had cleared, and the ashes on the altar had been blown aside, the suspender buttons of Mr. Pansley were not there. He had taken his bright red mark-down figures, and a letter to his future pastor, and gone to another town. He is now selling groceries. From town lots to groceries is, to a versatile man, a very small stride. He is in business in St. Paul, and that has given Minneapolis quite a little spurt of prosperity.
We exchanged a cottage for city lots unimproved, as I said in a former article, and got Mr. Pansley to do it for us. My wife gave him her carriage for acting in that capacity. She was sorry she could not do more for him, because he was a man who had found his fellow-men in such an undone condition everywhere, and had been trying ever since to do them up.
The property lies about half-way between the West Hotel and the open Polar Sea, and is in a good neighborhood, looking south; at least it was the other day when I left it. It lies all over the northwest, resembling in that respect the man we bought it of.
Mr. Pansley took the carriage, also the wrench with which I was wont to take off the nuts thereof when I greased it on Sabbath mornings. We still go to church, but we walk. Occasionally Mr. Pansley whirls by us, and his dust and debris fall upon my freshly ironed and neat linen coat as he passes by us with a sigh.
He said once that he did not care for money if he only could let in the glad sunlight of the gospel upon the heathen.
“Why,” I exclaimed, “why do you wish to let in the glad sunlight of the gospel upon the heathen?”
“Alas!” he said, brushing away a tear with the corner of a gray shawl which he wore, and wiping his bright, piercing nose on the top rail of my fence, “so that they would not go to hell, Mr. Nye!”
“And do you think that the heathen who knows nothing of God will go to hell, or has been going to hell for, say, ten thousand years, without having seen a daily paper or a Testament?”
“I do. Millions of ignorant people in yet undiscovered lands are going to hell daily without the knowledge of God.” With that he turned away, and concealed his emotion in his shawl, while his whole frame shook.
“But, even if he should escape by reason of his ignorance, we can not escape the responsibility of shedding the light of the gospel upon his opaque soul,” said he.
So I gave him $2 to assist the poor heathen to a place where he may share the welcome of a cordial and eternal damnation along with the more educated and refined classes. Whether the heathen will ever appreciate it or not, I can not tell at this moment. Lately I have had a little ray of fear that he might not, and with that fear, like a beam of sunshine, comes the blessed hope that possibly something may have happened to the $2, and that mayhap it did not get there.
I went up to see the property with which my wife had been endowed by the generous foresight of Mr. Pansley, the heathen’s friend. I had seen the place before, but not in the autumn.
Oh, no, I had not saw it in the hectic of the dying year! I had not saw it when the squirrel, the comic lecturer, and the Italian go forth to gather their winter hoard of chestnuts. I had not saw it as the god of day paints the royal mantle of the year’s croaking monarch and the crow sinks softly onto the swelling bosom of the dead horse. I had only saw it in the wild, wet spring. I had only saw it when the frost and the bullfrog were heaving out of the ground.
I strolled out there. I rode on the railroad for a couple of hours first, I think. Then I got off at a tank, where I got a nice, cool, refreshing drink of as good, pure water as I ever flung a lip over. Then rolling my trousers up a yard or two, I struck off into the scrub pine, carrying with me a large board on which I had painted in clear, beautiful characters:
The owner finding it necessary to go to Europe for eight or nine years, in order to brush up on the languages of the continent and return a few royal visits there, will sell all this suburban property. Terms reasonable. No restrictions except that street-cars shall not run past these lots at a higher rate of speed than sixty miles per hour without permission of the owner.
I think that the property looks better in the autumn even than it does in spring. The autumn leaves are falling. Also the price on this piece of property. It would be a good time to buy it now. Also a good time to sell. I shall add nothing because it has been associated with me. That will cut no figure, for it has not been associated with me so very long, or so very intimately.
The place, with advertising and the free use of capital, could be made a beautiful rural resort, or it could be fenced off tastefully into a cheap commodious place in which to store bears for market.
But it has grown. It is wider, it seems to me, and there is less to obstruct the view. As soon as commutation or dining trains are put on between Minneapolis and Sitka, a good many pupils will live on my property and go to school at Sitka.
Trade is quiet in that quarter at present, however, and traffic is practically at a standstill. A good many people have written to me asking about my subdivision and how various branches of industry would thrive there. Having in an unguarded moment used the stamps, I hasten to say that they would be premature in going there now, unless in pursuit of rabbits, which are extremely prevalent.
Trade is very dull, and a first or even a second national bank in my subdivision of the United States would find itself practically out of a job. A good newspaper, if properly conducted, could have some fun and get a good many advertisements by swopping kind words at regular catalogue prices for goods. But a theater would not pay. I write this for the use of a man who has just written to know if a good opera-house with folding seats would pay a fair investment on capital. No, it would not. I will be fair and honest. Smarting as I do yet under the cruel injustice done me by the meek and gentle groceryman, who, while he wept upon my corrugated bosom with one hand, softly removed my pelt with the other and sprinkled Chili sauce all over me, I will not betray my own friends. Even with my still bleeding carcass quivering under the Halford sauce of Mr. Pansley, the “skin” and hypocrite, the friend of the far-distant savage and the foe of those who are his unfortunate neighbors, I will not betray even a stranger. Though I have used his postage-stamp I shall not be false to him. An opera-house this fall would be premature. Most everybody’s dates are booked, anyhow. We could not get Francis Wilson or Nat C. Goodwin or Lillian Russell or Henry Irving or Mr. Jefferson, for they are all too busy turning people away, and I would hate to open with James Owen O’Connor or any other mechanical appliance.
No. Wait another year at least. At present an opera-house in my subdivision of the solar system would be as useless as a Dull Thud in the state of New York.
One drawback to the immediate prosperity of the place is that commutation rates are yet in their infancy. Eighty-seven and one-half cents per ride on trains which run only on Tuesdays and Fridays is not sufficient compensation for the long and lonely walk and the paucity of some suitable cottages when one gets there.
So I will sell the dear old place, with all its associations and the good-will of a thriving young frog conservatory, at the buyer’s price. As I say, there has been since I was last there a steady growth, which is mostly noticeable on the mortgage that I secured along with the property. It was on there when I bought it, and as it could not be removed without injury to the realty, according to an old and established law of Justinian or Coke or Littleton, Mr. Pansley ruled that it was part of the property and passed with its conveyance. It is looking well, with a nice growth of interest around the edges and its foreclosure clause fully an inch and a half long.
I shall be willing, in case I do not find a cash buyer, to exchange the property for almost anything I can eat, except Paris green. Nor should I hesitate to swap the whole thing, to a man whom I felt that I could respect, for a good bird dog. I am also willing to trade the lots for a milk route or a cold storage. It would be a good site for some gentleman in New York to build a country cottage.
I should also swap the estate to a man who really means business for a second-hand cellar. Call on or address the undersigned early, and please do not push or rudely jostle those in the line ahead of you.
Cast-off clothing, express prepaid, and free from all contagious diseases, accepted at its full value. Anything left by mistake in the pockets will be taken good care of, and, possibly, returned in the spring.
Gunnysack Oleson, who lives eight miles north of the county line, will show you over the grounds. Please do not hitch horses to the trees. I will not be responsible for horses injured while tied to my trees.
A new railroad track is thinking of getting a right of way next year, which may be nearer by two miles than the one that I have to take, provided they will let me off at the right place.
I promise to do all that I can conscientiously for the road, to aid any one who may buy the property, and I will call the attention of all railroads to the advisability of a road in that direction. All that I can honorably do, I will do. My honor is as dear to me as my gas bill every year I live.
N. B.–The dead horse on lot 9, block 21, Nye’s Addition to the Solar System, is not mine. Mine died before I got there.