The Bigger Fool,
the Better Luck
by Jonathan F.
The American Ole Bull, young Howard, one of the most scientific
crucifiers of the violin we ever heard, gave us a call t'other
day, and not only discoursed heavenly music upon his instrument, but
gave us the nub of a few jokes worth dishing up in our peculiar
style. Howard spent last winter in a tour over the State of Maine
and Canada. During this cool excursion, he got way up among the
wood-choppers and log-men of the Aroostook and Penobscot
country. These wood-chopping and log-rolling gentry, according to all
accounts, must be a jolly, free-and-easy, hard-toiling and hardy race.
The folks up about there live in very primitive style; their camps
and houses are very useful, but not much addicted to the ornamental.
Howard had a very long, tedious and perilous tramp, on foot,
during a part of his peregrinations, and coming at last upon the
settlement of the log-men, he laid up several days, to recuperate. In
the largest log building of the several in the neighborhood, Howard
lodged; the weather was intensely coldhouse crowded, and wood and
game plenty. After a hard day's toil, in snow and water, these log-men
felt very much inclined, to sleep. A huge fire was usually left upon
the hearth, after the tea things were put away, Howard gave them a
choon or two, and then the woodmen lumbered up a rude set of
stepsinto a capacious loft overhead, and there, amid the old quilts,
robes, skins and straw, enjoyed their sound and refreshing sleepwith
a slight drawback.
Among these men of the woods, was a hard old nut, called and known
among them asOld Tantabolus! He was a wiry and hardy old
rooster; though his frosty poll spoke of the many, many years he had
been around, his body was yet firm and his perceptions yet clear. The
old man was a grand spinner of yarns; he had been all around creation,
and various other places not set down in the maps. He had been a
soldier and sailor: been blown up and shot down: had had all the
various ills flesh was heir to: suffered from shipwreck and
indigestion: witnessed the frowns and smiles of fortuneespecially the
frowns; in short, according to old man Tantabolus's own account of
himself, he had seen more ups and downs, and made more narrow and
wonderful escapes, than Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver both
togetherwith Baron Trenck into the bargain!
For the first season, the old man and his narrations, being fresh
and novel, he was quite a lion among the woodmen, but now that
the novelty had worn off, and they'd got used to his long yarns, they
voted him an old bore! The old fellow smoked a tremendous pipe, with
tobacco strong enough to give a Spaniard the yaller fever. He would
eat his supper, light his pipesit down by the fire, and spin yarns,
as long as a listener remained, and longer. In short, Old Tantabolus
would spin them all to bed, and then make their heads spin, with
the clouds of baccy smoke with which he'd fill the ranche.
Going to bed, at length, on a bunk in a corner, the old chap would
wheeze and snore for an hour or two, and then turning out again,
between daybreak and midnight, Old Tantabolus would pile on a cord or
two of fresh woodraise a roaring firemake the ranche hot
enough to roast an ox, then treat all hands to another stifling
with his old calumet, and nigger-head tobacco! Then would
A-booh! oo-oo! by one of the lodgers, overhead.
Boo-oo-ooh! Old Tantabolus's got thatbooh-oo-oo-oo,pipe of his'n again,boo-oo-oo! chimed another.
A-a-a-chee! oo-oo-augh-h-h-ch-chee! Cuss thata-
cheepipe. Tantabolus, you old hoss-marine, put out thata-
chee!darn'd old pipe! bawled another.
A'nand? was the old fellow's usual reply.
A-boo-ooh-ooh! hoarse and loud as a boatswain's call, in a
gale of wind, would be issued from the throat of an old logger, as
the fumigacious odor interfered with his respiratory arrangements, and
then would follow a miscellaneous
A-chee-o! Ah-chee! boo-ooh-oo-ooh! tapering
off with divers curses and threats, upon Old Tantabolus and his
villanous habits of arousing the whole community in the dead watches
and middle of the night, with heat and smoke, no flesh and blood but
his own could apparently endure.
At length, a private caucus was held, and a diabolical plan
set, to put a summary end to the grievous nuisances engendered by Old
Tantaboluslet's blow him up!
And this they agreed to do in this wise. Before retiring to
rest, as we say in civilized parlance, the lodging community
were in the habit of laying in a surplus of firewood, alongside of the
capacious fire-place, in ordershould a very common occurrence
occur,i. e., a fall of snow six to ten feet deep, and kiver
things all up, the insiders might have wherewith to make themselves
comfortable, until they could work out and provide more. But Old
Tantabolus was in the wasteful practice of turning out and burning up
all this extra fuel; so the caucus agreed to bore an inch and a quarter
hole into a solid stickpack it with powderlay it among the wood,
and when Old Tantabolus riz to fire up, he'd be blowed out of
the building, and disappearin a blue blaze! Well, poor old
man, Tantabolus, quite unconscious of the dire explosion awaiting him,
told his yarns, next evening, with greater gusto than usual, and
one after another of his listeners finally dropped off to roost,
in the loft above, leaving the old man to go it alonefinish his pipe,
stagnate the air and go to his bunk, which, as was his wont to dohe
did. Stillness reigned supreme; though Old Tantabolus took his usual
snooze in very apparent confidence, many of his no less weary
companions abovewatched for the approaching tableaux! And they
were gratified, to their heart's content, for the tableaux came!
Now, look out, boys! says one, Old Tanty's about to wake
up! and then some dozen of the upper story lodgers, who had kept their
peepers open to enjoy the fun, began to spread around and pull away the
loose straw in order to get a view of the scene below. Sure enough, the
old rooster gave a long yawnAw-w-w-w-um! flirted off his
kiverlids and got up, making a slow move towards the fire-place,
reaching which, he gave an extra Aw-w-w-um! knocked the ashes
out of his pipefilled it up with nigger-head, dipped it in the
embers, gave it a few whiffs, and then said:
Booh! cold mornin'; boys'll freeze, if I don't start up a good
fire. Then he went to work to cultivate a blaze, with a few chips and
light sticks of dry wood.
Ah, by George, old feller, says one, you'll catch a bite, before
you know it!
Yes, I'm blamed if you ain't a goner, Old Tantabolus! says
another, in a pig's whisper.
There! there he's got the fire upnow look out!
He's got the stick
Goin' to clap it on!
Now it's on!
Look out for fun, by George, look out!
He'll blow the house up!
Godfrey! s'pose he does?
What an infernal wind there is this morning! says the old
fellow, hearing the buzz and indistinct whispering overhead;
guess it's snowin' like sin; I'll jist start up this fire and
go out and see. But, he had scarcely reached and opened the door,
whenbang-g-g! went the log, with the roar of a twelve
pounder; hurling the fire, not only all over the lower floor, but
through the upper loose flooringsetting the straw beds in a
blazefilling the house with smoke, ashes and fire! There was a
general and indiscriminate rush of the practical jokers in the
loft, to make an escape from the now burning building; but the
step-ladder was knocked down, and it was at the peril of their lives,
that all hands jumped and crawled out of the ranche! The only
one who escaped the real danger was Old Tantabolus, the intended
victim, whose remark was, after the flurry was overBoys, arter this,
be careful how you lay your powder round!