A Journey Westward by Edgar Wilson Bill Nye
I once visited my old haunts in Colorado and Wyoming after about
seven years of absence. I also went to Utah, where spring had come in
the rich valley of the Jordan and the glossy blackbird, with wing of
flame, scooted gaily from bough to bough, deftly declaring his
affections right and left, and acquiring more wives than he could
support, then clearing his record by claiming to have had a revelation
which made it all right.
One could not shut his eyes to the fact that there was great real
estate activity in the West that spring. It took the place of mining
and stock, I judge, and everywhere you heard and saw men with their
heads together plotting against the poor rich man. In Salt Lake I saw
the sign, Drugs and Real Estate.
I presume it meant medicine and a small residence lot in the
In early days in Denver, Henry C. Brown, then in the full flush and
vigor of manhood, opened negotiations with the agent of the Atchison
stage line for a ticket back to Atchison, as he was heart-broken and
homesick. He owned a quarter-section of land, with a heavy growth of
prairie dogs on it, and he had almost persuaded the agent to swap him a
ticket for this sage brush conservatory, when the ticket seller backed
gently out of the trade. Mr. Brown then sat him down on the sidewalk
and cried bitterly.
I just tell this to show how easily some men weep. Atchison is at
present so dead that a good cowboy, with an able mule, could tie his
rope to its tail, and, putting his spurs to the mule, jerk loose the
entire pelt at any time, while Brown's addition to Denver is worth
anywhere from one and a half to two millions of dollars. When Mr. Brown
weeps now it is because his food is too rich and gives him the gout. He
sold prairie dogs enough to fence the land in so that it could not blow
into Cherry Creek vale, and then he set to work earnestly to wait for
the property to advance. Finding that he could not sell the property at
any price, he, with great foresight, concluded to retain it. Some men,
with no special ability in other directions, have the greatest genius
for doing such things, while others, with superior talent in other
ways, do not make money in this way.
A report once got around that I had made a misguess on some
property. This is partly true, only it was my wife who speculated. She
had never speculated much before, though she had tried other open air
amusements. So she swapped a cottage and lots in Hudson, Wisconsin, for
city lots in Minneapolis, employing a man named Flinton Pansley to work
up the trade, look into the title, and do the square thing for her. He
was a real good man, with heavenly aspirations and a true sorrow in his
heart for the prevalence of sin. Still this sorrow did not break in on
his business. Well, the business was done by correspondence and Mr.
Pansley only charged a reasonable amount, she giving him her new
carriage to remunerate him for his brain fag. What the other man paid
him for disposing of the lots I do not know. I was away at the time,
and having no insect powder with which to take his life I regretfully
spared him to his Bible class.
[Illustration: Frogs build their nests there in the spring and
rear their young, but people never go there (Page 45)]
I did send a man over the lots, however, when I returned. They were
not really in the city of Minneapolis, that is, they were not near
enough to worry anybody by the tumult of the town. In fact, they were
in another county. You may think I am untruthful about this, but the
lots are there, if you have any curiosity to see them. They are not
where they were represented to be, however, and the machine shops and
gas works and court-house are quite a long distance away.
You could cut some hay on these lots, but not enough to pay the
interest on the mortgage. Frogs build their nests there in the spring
and rear their young, but people never go there. Two years ago Senator
Washburn killed a bear on one of these lots, but that is all they have
ever produced, except a slight coldness on our part toward Mr. Pansley.
He says he likes the carriage real well, and anything he can do for us
in the future in dickering for city property will be done with an
alacrity that would almost make one's head swim. I must add that I have
permission to use this information, as the victim seems to think there
is something kind of amusing about it. Some people think a thing funny
which others can hardly get any amusement out of. What I wonder at is
that Pansley did not ask for the team when he got the carriage.
Possibly he did not like the team.
I just learned recently that he and the Benders used to be very
thick in an early day, but after awhile the Benders said they guessed
they would have to be excused. Even the Benders had to draw the line
Later I bought property in Salt Lake. Not a heavy venture, you
understand. Just the box-office receipts for one evening. I saw it
stated in the papers at $10,000. Anyway, I will let that go. That is
near enough. When I see anything in the papers I ask no more questions.
I do not think it is right. Patti and I have both made it a rule to put
in at least one evening as an investment where we happen to be. We are
almost sure to do well out of it, and we also get better notices in the
Patti is not looking so well as she did when my father took me to
see her in the prime of her life. Though getting quite plain, it costs
as much to see her as ever it did. Her voice has a metallic, or rather
bi-metallic, ring to it nowadays, and she misses it by not working in
more topical songs and bright Italian gags.
I asked her about an old singer who used to be with her. She said:
He was remova to ze ocean, where he keepa ze lighthouse. He learn to
himself how to manage ze lighthouse one seasong; then he try by himself
Now, if she would do some of those things on the stage it would pay
her first rate.
When I was in Wyoming on that trip I met many old friends, all of
whom shook me warmly by the hand as soon as they saw me. I visited the
Capitol, and both houses adjourned for an hour out of respect to my
memory. I will never again say anything mean of a member of the
legislature. A speech of welcome was made by the gentleman from Crook
county, Mr. Kellogg, the Demosthenes of the coming state. He made
statements about me that day which in the paper read almost as good and
truthful as an epitaph.
Going over the hill, at Crow Creek, whose perfumed waters kiss the
livery stables and abattoirs at Camp Carlin, three slender Sarah
Bernhardt coyotes came towards the train, looking wistfully at me as if
to say: Why, partner, how you have fleshed up! Answering them from
the platform of the car, I said: Go East, young men, and flesh up with
the country. Honestly and seriously, I do think that if the coyote
would change off and try the soft-shell crab diet for a while, he would
pick right up.
When I got to Laramie City the welcome was so warm that it almost
wiped out the memory of my shabby reception in New York harbor last
summer, on my return from Europe, when even my band went back on me and
got drunk at Coney Island on the very money I had given them to use in
welcoming me home again.
Winter had been a little severe along the cattle ranges, and
deceased cattle might be seen extending their swollen carcasses into
the bright, crisp air as the train whirled one along at the rate of
seven to eight miles per hour. The skinning of a frozen steer is a
diverting and unusual proceeding. Col. Buffalo Bill, who served under
Washington and killed buffalo and baby elephants at Valley Forge,
according to an Italian paper, should put this feature into his show.
Maybe he will when he reads this. The cow gentleman first selects a
quick yet steady-going mule; then he looks for a dead steer. He does
not have to look very far. He now fastens one end of the deceased to
some permanent object. This is harder to find than the steer, however.
He then attaches his rope to the hide of the remains, having cut it
with his knife first. He next starts the mule off, and a mile or so
away he discovers that the hide is entirely free from the cold and
Sometimes a cowboy tries to skin a steer before the animal is
entirely dead, and when the former gets back to the place from which he
was kicked, he finds that he has a brand new set of whiskers with which
to surprise his friends.
The Pacific roads have greatly improved in recent years, and though
they do not dazzle one with their speed, they are much more comfortable
to pass a few weeks on than they were when the eating-houses, or many
of them, were in the hands of people who could not cook very well, but
who made a great deal of money. Now you can eat in a good buffet-car,
or a first-class dining-car, at your leisure, or you can stop off and
get a good meal, or you can carry a few hens and eat hard-boiled eggs
all over your neighbors.
I do not think people on the cars ought to keep hens. It disturbs
the other passengers and is anything but agreeable to the hens. Close
confinement is never good for a hen that is advanced in years, and the
cigar smoke from the rear of the car hurts her voice, I think.