As A Candidate by Edgar Wilson Bill Nye
The heat and venom of each political campaign bring back to my mind
with wonderful clearness the bitter and acrimonious war, and the savage
factional fight, which characterized my own legislative candidacy in
what was called the Prairie Dog District of Wyoming, about ten years
ago. This district was known far and wide as the battleground of the
territory, and generally when the sun went down on the eve of election
day the ground had that disheveled and torn-up appearance peculiar to
the grave of Brigham Young the next day after his aggregated widow has
held her regular annual sob recital and scalding-tear festival.
I hesitated about accepting the nomination because I knew that
Vituperation would get up on its hind feet and annoy me greatly, and I
had reason to believe that no pains would be spared on the part of the
management of the opposition to make my existence a perfect bore. This
turned out to be the case, and although I was nominated in a way that
seemed to indicate perfect harmony, it was not a week before the
opposition organ, to which I had frequently loaned print paper when it
could not get its own C. O. D. paper out of the express office, said as
follows in a startled and double-leaded tone of voice:
The candidate for assembly in this district, whose
name seems to be Nye, turns out to be the same man who left
Penobscot county, Maine, in the dark of the moon four years
Mr. Nye's disappearance was so mysterious that prominent
Penobscoters, especially the sheriff, offered a large reward
his person. It was afterwards learned that he was kidnapped
and taken across the Canadian line by a high-spirited
and high-stepping horse valued at $1,300. Mr. Nye's candidacy
the high office to which he aspires has brought him into such
prominence that at the mass meeting held last evening in Jimmy
Avery's barber-shop, he was recognized at once by a Maine man
making a telling speech in favor of putting in a stone culvert
the draw above Mandel's ranch. The man from Maine, who is
our thriving little town with a view to locating here and
establishing an agency for his world-renowned rock-alum
says that Mr. Nye, in the hurry and rush incident to his
for Canada, overlooked his wife and seven little ones. He also
that the candidate's boasted liberality here is different from
kind he was using while in Maine, and quotes the following
incident: Two years before he went away from Penobscot county,
of our present candidate's children was playing on the
track of the Bangor &Moosehead Lake Railroad, when suddenly
was a wild shriek of the iron-horse, a timid, scared cry of
child, and the rushing train was upon it. Spectators turned
in horror. The air was heavy, and the sun seemed to stop its
shining. Slowly the long freight train, loaded with its rich
freight of huckleberries, came to a halt. A glad cry went up
the assembly as the broad-shouldered engineer came out of the
grass with the crowing child in his arms. Then cheer on cheer
the air, and in the midst of it all, Mr. Nye appeared. He was
of the circumstance, and, as he wrung the hand of the
tears stood in his eyes. Then, reaching in his pocket, he drew
forth a card, and writing his autograph on it, he gave it to
astounded engineer, telling him to use it wisely and not
away. 'But are you not robbing yourself?' exclaimed the
and delighted engineer. 'No, oh no,' said the munificent
have others left.' And this is the man who asks our suffrages!
you vote for him or for Alick Meyerdinger, the purest
man that ever rapped with his honest knuckles on top of a bar
asked the boys to put a name to it.
I was pained to read this, for I had not at that time toyed much
with politics, but I went up stairs and practiced an hour or two on a
hollow laugh that I thought would hide the pain which seemed to tug at
my heart-strings. For the rest of the day I strolled about town bearing
a lurid campaign smile that looked about as joyous as the light-hearted
gambols of a tin horse.
I visited my groceryman, a man whom I felt that I could trust, and
who had honored me in the same way. He said that I ought to be indorsed
by my fellow-citizens. What! All of them? I exclaimed, with a choking
sensation, for I had once tried to be indorsed by one of my
fellow-citizens and was not entirely successful. No, said he, but
you ought to be ratified and indorsed by those who know you best and
love you most.
Well, said I, will you attend to that?
Yes, of course I will. You must not give up hope. Where do you buy
I told him the name of my butcher.
And do you owe him about the same that you do me?
I said I didn't think there could be $5 one way or the other.
Well, give me a memorandum of what you can call to mind that you
owe around town. I will see all these parties and we will get them
together and work up a strong and hearty home indorsement for you,
which will enable you to settle with all of us at par in the event of
I gave him a list.
That evening a load of lumber was deposited on my lawn, and a man
came in to borrow a few pounds of fence nails. I asked him what he
wanted to do, for I thought he was going to nail a campaign lie or
something. He said he was the man who was sent up to build a kind of
trussle in front of my house. What for? I asked, with eyes like a
startled fawn. Why, for the speakers to stand on, he said. It is a
kind of a combination racket. Something between a home indorsement and
a mass-meeting of creditors. You are to be surprised and gratified
to-morrow evening, as near as I can make out.
He then built a wobbly scaffold, one end of which was nailed to the
bay window of the house.
The next evening my heart swelled when I heard a campaign band
coming up the street, trying to see how little it could play and still
draw its salary. The band was followed by men with torches, and
speakers in carriages. A messenger was sent into the house to tell me
that I was about to be waited upon by my old friends and neighbors, who
desired to deliver to me their hearty indorsement, and a large
willow-covered two-gallon godspeed as a mark of esteem.
[Illustration: Mr. Nye, on behalf of this vast assemblage
(tremulo), I thank God that you are POOR!!! (Page 115)]
The spokesman, as soon as I had stepped out on my veranda, mounted
the improvised platform previously erected, and after a short and
debilitated solo and chorus by the band, said as follows, as near as I
can now recall his words:
SIR: We have read with pain the open and venomous attacks of the
foul and putrid press of our town, and come here to-night to vindicate
by our presence your utter innocence as a man, as a
fellow-citizen, as a neighbor, as a father, mother,
brother or sister.
No one could look down into your open face, and deep, earnest
lungs, and then doubt you as a man, as a fellow-citizen,
as a neighbor, as a father, mother, brother or sister. You
came to us a poor man, and staked your all on the growth of this town.
We like you because you are still poor. You can not be too poor to suit
us. It shows that you are not corrupt.
Mr. Nye, on behalf of this vast assemblage (tremulo), I thank God
that you are POOR!!!
He then drew from his pocket a little memorandum, and, holding it up
to a torch, so that he could see it better, said that Mr. Limberquid
would emit a few desultory remarks.
Mr. Limberquid, to whom I was at that time indebted for past favors
in the meat line, or, as you may say, the tenderloin, through no fault
of mine, then arose and said, in words and figures as follows, to wit:
SIR: I desire to say that we who know Mr. Nye best are here to say
that he certainly has one of the most charming wives in this territory.
What do we care for the vilifications of the pressa press, hired,
venial, corrupt, reeking in filth and oozy with the slime of its own
impaired circulation, snapping at the heels of its superiors, and
steeped in the reeking poison and pollution of its own shopworn and
We do not care a cuss! (Applause.) What do we care that homely men
grudge our candidate his symmetry of form and graceful upholstered
carriage? What do we care that calumny crawls out of its hole,
calumniates him a couple of times and then goes back? We are here
to-night to show by our presence that we like Mrs. Nye very much. She
is a good cook, and she would certainly do honor to this district as a
social leader, in case she should go to Cheyenne as the wife of our
assemblyman. I propose three cheers for her, fellow-citizens.
(Applause, cheers and throbs of base-drum.)
Mr. Sherrod then said:
FELLER-CITIZENS: We glory in the fact that WhatshisnameNye here,
is pore. We like him for the poverty he has made. Our idee in runnin'
of him fer the legislater, as I take it, is to not only run him along
in this here kind of hand-to-mouth poverty, but to kind of give him a
chance to accumulate poverty, and have some saved up fer a rainy day.
I kin call to mind how he looked when he come to this territory a
pore boy, and took off his coat and went right to work dealin' faro
nights, and earning his bread by the sweat of a sweat-board daytimes,
for Tom Dillon, acrost from the express office. And I say he is not a
clost man. He gives his money where folks don't git on to it. He don't
git out the band when he goes to do a kind act, but kind of sneaks
around to people who are in need, and offers to match 'em fer the
He's a feller of generous impulses, gentlemen, or at least I so
regard him, and I say here to-night, that if his other vitals was as
big and warm as his heart, he would live to deckorate the graves of
nations yet unborn.
Several people wept here, and wiped their eyes on their alabaster
hands. I then sent my maid around through the audience with a bucketful
of Salt Lake cider, and a dishpan full of doughnuts, to restore good
feeling. But I can not soon forget how proud I was when I felt the hot
tears and doughnut crumbs of my fellow-citizens raining down my back.
The band then played, See the Conquering Hero Comes, and yielding
to the pressing demands of the populi, I made a few irrelevant, but
low, passionate remarks, as follows:
FELLOW-CITIZENS AND MEMBERS OF THE BANDWe are not here, as I
understand it, solely to tickle our palates with the twisted doughnuts
of our pampered and sin-cursed civilization, but to unite and give our
pledges once more to the support of the best men. In this teacup of
foaming and impervious cider from the Valley of the Jordan I drink to
the success of the best men. Fellow-citizens and members of the band,
we owe our fealty to the old party. Let us cling to the old party as
long as there is any juice in it and vote for its candidates. Let us
give our suffrages to men of advanced thought who are loyal to their
party but poor. Gentlemen, I am what would be called a poor but brainy
man. When I am not otherwise engaged you will always find me engaged in
thought. I love the excitement of following an idea and chasing it up a
tree. It is a great pleasure for me to pursue the red-hot trail of a
thought or the intellectual spoor of an idea. But I do not allow this
habit to interfere with politics. Politics and thought are radically
different. Why should man think himself weak on these political matters
when there are men who have made it their business and life study to do
the thinking for the masses?
This is my platform. I believe that a candidate should be poor;
that he should be a thinker on other matters, but leave political
matters and nominations to professional political ganglia and molders
of primaries who have given their lives and the inner coating of their
stomachs to the advancement of political methods by which the old,
cumbersome and dangerous custom of defending our institutions with
drawn swords may be superseded by the modern and more attractive method
of doing so with overdrawn salaries.
Fellow-citizens and members of the band, in closing let me say that
you have seen me placed in the trying position of postmaster for the
past year. For that length of time I have stood between you and the
government at Washington. I have assisted in upholding the strong arm
of the government, and yet I have not allowed it to crush you. No man
here to-night can say that I have ever, by word or deed, revealed
outside the office the contents of a postal card addressed to a member
of my own party or held back or obstructed the progress of new and
startling seeds sent by our representative from the Agricultural
Department. I am in favor of a full and free interchange of interstate
red-eyed and pale beans, and I favor the early advancement and earnest
recognition of the merits of the highly offensive partisan. I thank
you, neighbors and band (husky and pianissimo), for this gratifying
little demonstration. Words seem empty and unavailing at this time.
Will you not accept the hospitality of my home? Neighbors, you are
welcome to these halls. Come in and look at the family album.
The meeting then became informal, and the chairman asked me as he
came down from his perch how I would be fixed by the first of the
month. I told him that I could not say, but hoped that money matters
would show less apathy by that time.
I have already taken up too much space, however, in this simple
recital, and I have only room to say that I was not elected, and that
of the seventy-five who came up to indorse me and then go home
exhilarated by my cheering doughnuts, forty voted for the other man,
thereby electing him by a plurality of everybody. Home indorsement,
hard-boiled eggs and hot tears of reconciliation can never fool me
again. They are as empty as the bass drum by which they are invariably
accompanied. A few years ago a majority of the voters of a
newly-fledged city in Wisconsin signed a petition asking a gentleman
named Bradshaw to run for the office of mayor. He said he did not want
it, but if a majority had signified in writing that they needed him
every hour, he would allow his name to be used. They then turned in and
defeated him by a handsome majority, thus showing that the average
patriotism of the present day has a string to it.
Who was the first to make the claim
That I would surely win the game,
But now that Dennis is my name?
Who stated that my chance was best,
And came and wept upon my breast,
Only to knock me galley West?
Who told me of the joy he felt,
While he upon my merits dwelt?
Who then turned in and took my pelt?