Story type: Essay
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.”
“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 quick.
“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, I 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 people come here out of curiosity a good deal.
“The reason I try to do right and win the public esteem is that the general public never did me any harm and the majority of people who travel are a kind that I may meet in a future state. I should hate to have a thousand traveling men holding nuggets of rancid ham sandwiches under my nose through all eternity, and know that I had lied about it. It’s an honest fact, if I knew I’d got to stand up and apologize for my hand-made, all-around, seamless pies, and quarantine cigars, Heaven would be no object.”