More Paternal Correspondence by Bill Nye
Story type: Essay
My dear son.–I tried to write to you last week, but didn’t get around to it, owing to circumstances. I went away on a little business tower for a few days on the cars, and then when I got home the sociable broke loose in our once happy home.
While on my commercial tower down the Omehaw railroad buying a new well-diggin’ machine of which I had heard a good deal pro and con, I had the pleasure of riding on one of them sleeping-cars that we read so much about.
I am going on 50 years old, and that’s the first time I ever slumbered at the rate of forty-five miles per hour, including stops.
I got acquainted with the porter, and he blacked my boots in the night unbeknownst to me, while I was engaged in slumber. He must have thought that I was your father, and that we rolled in luxury at home all the time, and that it was a common thing for us to have our boots blacked by menials. When I left the car this porter brushed my clothes till the hot flashes ran up my spinal column, and I told him that he had treated me square, and I rung his hand when he held it out toards me, and I told him that at any time he wanted a good, cool drink of buttermilk, to just holler through our telephone. We had the sociable at our house last week, and when I got home your mother set me right to work borryin’ chairs and dishes. She had solicited some cakes and other things. I don’t know whether you are on the skedjule by which these sociables are run or not. The idea is a novel one to me.
The sisters in our set, onct in so often, turn their houses wrong side out for the purpose of raising four dollars to apply on the church debt. When I was a boy we worshiped with less frills than they do now. Now it seems that the debt is a part of the worship.
Well, we had a good time and used up 150 cookies in a short time. Part of these cookies was devoured and the balance was trod into our all-wool carpet. Several of the young people got to playing Copenhagen in the setting-room and stepped on the old cat in such a way as to disfigure him for life. They also had a disturbance in the front room and knocked off some of the plastering.
So your mother is feeling slim and I am not very chipper myself. I hope that you are working hard at your books so that you will be an ornament to society. Society is needing some ornaments very much. I sincerely hope that you will not begin to monkey with rum. I should hate to have you with a felon’s doom or fill a drunkard’s grave. If anybody has got to fill a drunkard’s grave, let him do it himself. What has the drunkard ever done for you, that you should fill his grave for him?
I expect you to do right, as near as possible. You will not do exactly right all the time, but try to strike a good average. I do not expect you to let your studies encroach, too much on your polo, but try to unite the two so that you will not break down under the strain. I should feel sad and mortified to have you come home a physical wreck. I think one physical wreck in a family is enough, and I am rapidly getting where I can do the entire physical wreck business for our neighborhood.
I see by your picture that you have got one of them pleated coats with a belt around it, and short pants. They make you look as you did when I used to spank you in years gone by, and I feel the same old desire to do it now that I did then. Old and feeble as I am, it seems to me as though I could spank a boy that wears knickerbocker pants buttoned onto a Garabaldy waist and a pleated jacket. If it wasn’t for them cute little camel’s hair whiskers of yours I would not believe that you had grown to be a large, expensive boy, grown up with thoughts. Some of the thoughts you express in your letters are far beyond your years. Do you think them yourself, or is there some boy in the school that thinks all the thoughts for the rest?
Some of your letters are so deep that your mother and I can hardly grapple with them. One of them, especially, was so full of foreign stuff that you had got out of a bill of fare, that we will have to wait till you come home before we can take it in. I can talk a little Chippewa, but that is all the foreign language I am familiar with. When I was young we had to get our foreign languages the best we could, so I studied Chippewa without a master. A Chippewa chief took me into his camp and kept me there for some time while I acquired his language. He became so much attached to me that I had great difficulty in coming away. I wish you would write in the United States dialect as much as possible, and not try to paralize your parents with imported expressions that come too high for poor people.
Remember that you are the only boy we’ve got, and we are only going through the motions of living here for your sake. For us the day is wearing out, and it is now way long into the shank of the evening. All we ask of you is to improve on the old people. You can see where I fooled myself, and you can do better. Read and write, and sifer, and polo, and get nolledge, and try not to be ashamed of your uncultivated parents.
When you get that checkered little sawed-off coat on, and that pair of knee panties, and that poker-dot necktie, and the sassy little boys holler “rats” when you pass by, and your heart is bowed down, remember that, no matter how foolish you may look, your parents will never sour on you.