A Flyer in Dirt by Edgar Wilson Bill Nye
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 PansleyFlinton
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
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.
[Illustration: Then rolling my trousers up a yard or two, I
struck off into the scrub pine, carrying with me a large board
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,
The owner finding it necessary to go to Europe for eight or
years, in order to brush up on the languages of the continent
return a few royal visits there, will sell all this suburban
property. Terms reasonable. No restrictions except that
shall not run past these lots at a higher rate of speed than
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
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
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
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.