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The Pigeon Express Man by Jonathan F. Kelley


In nearly all yarns or plays in which Yankees figure, they are supposed to be “a leetle teu darn'd ceute” for almost any body else, creating a heap of fun, and coming out clean ahead; but that even Connecticut Yankees—the cutest and all firedest tight critters on the face of the yearth, when money or trade's in the question—are “done” now and then, upon the most scientific principles, we are going to prove.

It is generally known, in the newspaper world, that two or three Eastern men, a few years ago, started a paper in Philadelphia, upon the penny principle, and have since been rewarded as they deserved. They were, and are, men of great enterprise and liberality, as far as their business is concerned, and thereby they got ahead of all competition, and made their pile. The proprietors were always “fly” for any new dodge, by which they could keep the lead of things, and monopolize the news market. The Telegraph had not “turned up” in the day of which we write—the mails, and, now and then, express horse lines, were the media through which Great Excitements! Alarming Events!! Great Fires and Awful Calamities!! were come at. One morning, as one of these gentlemen was sitting in his office, a long, lank genius, with a visage as hatchet-faced and keen as any Connecticut Yankee's on record, came in, and inquired of one of the clerks for the proprietors of that institution. Being pointed out, the thin man made a lean towards him. After getting close up, and twisting and screwing around his head to see that nobody was listening or looking, the lean man sat down very gingerly upon the extreme verge of a chair, and leaning forward until his razor-made nose almost touched that of the publisher, in a low, nasal, anxious tone, says he,

“Air yeou one of the publishers of this paper?”

“I am, sir.”

“Oh, yeou, sir!” said the visitor, again looking suspiciously around and about him.

“Did you ever hear tell of the Pigeon Express?” he continued.

“The Pigeon Express?” echoed the publisher.

“Ya-a-s. Carrier pigeons—letters to their l-e-g-s and newspapers under their wings—trained to fly any where you warnt 'em.”

“Carrier Pigeons,” mused the publisher—“Carrier—pigeons trained to carry billets—bulletins and—”

“Go frum fifty to a hundred miles an hour!” chimed in the stranger.

“True, so they say, very true,” continued the publisher, musingly.

“Elegant things for gettin' or sendin' noos head of every body else.”

“Precisely: that's a fact, that's a fact,” the other responded, rising from his chair and pacing the floor, as though rather and decidedly taken by the novelty and feasibility of the operation.

“You'd have 'em all, Mister, dead as mutton, by a Pigeon Express.”

“I like the idea; good, first rate!”

“Can't be beat, noheow!” said the stranger.

“But what would it cost?”

“Two hundred dollars, and a small wagon, to begin on.”

“A small wagon?”

“Ya-a-s. Yeou see, Mister, the birds haff to be trained to fly from one pint to another!”

“Yes; well?”

“Wa-a-ll, yeou see the birds are put in a box, on the top of the bildin', for a spell, teu git the hang of things, and so on!”

“Yes, very well; go on.”

“Then the birds are put in a cage, the trainer takes 'em into his wagon—ten miles at first—throws 'em up, and the birds go to the bildin'. Next day fifteen miles, and so forth; yeou see?”

“Perfectly; I understand; now, where can these birds be had?”

Putting his thin lips close to the publisher's opening ears, in a low, long way, says the stranger—

I've got 'em! R-a-l-e Persian birds—be-e-utis!”

“You understand training them?” says the anxious publisher.

Like a book,” the stranger responded.

“Where are the birds?” the publisher inquired.

“I've got 'em down to the tavern, where I'm stoppin'.”

“Bring them up; let me see them; let me see them!”

“Certainly, Mister, of course,” responded the Pigeon express man, leaving the presence of the tickled-to-death publisher, who paced his office as full of effervescence as a jimmyjohn of spruce beer in dog days.

About this time pigeons were being trained, and in a few cases, now and then, really did carry messages for lottery ticket venders in Jersey City, to Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore; but these exploits rarely paid first cost, and did not amount to much, although some noise was made about the wonderful performance of certain Carrier Pigeons. But the paper was to have a new impulse—astonish all creation and the rest of mankind, by Pigeon Express. The publisher's partner was in New York, fishing for novelties, and he determined to astonish him, on his return home, by the bird business! A coop was fixed on the top of the “bildin',” as the great inventor of the express had suggested. The wagon was bought, and, with two hundred dollars in for funds, passed over to the pigeon express man, who, in the course of a few days, takes the birds into his wagon, to take them out some few miles, throw them up, and the publisher and a confidential friend were to be on top of the “bildin',” looking out for them.

They kept looking!—they saw something werry like a whale, but a good deal like a first-rate bad “Sell!” The lapse of a few days was quite sufficient to convince the publisher that he had been taken in and done for—regularly picked up and done for,—upon the most approved and scientific principles. Rather than let the cat out of the bag, he made up his mind to pocket the shave and keep shady, not even “letting on to his partner,” who in the course of the following week returned from Gotham, evidently feeling as fine as silk, about something or other.

“Well, what's new in New York—got hold of any thing rich?” was the first interrogatory.

“Hi-i-i-sh! close the door!” was the reply, indicating something very important on the tapis.

“So; my dear fellow, I've got a concern, now, that will put the sixpennies to sleep as sound as rocks!”

“No. What have you started in Gotham?”

“Exactly. If you don't own up the corn, that the idea is grand—immense—I'll knock under.”

“Good! I'm glad—particularly glad you've found something new and startling,” responded the other. “Well, what is it?”

“Great!—wonderful!—Carrier Pigeons!

“What! Pigeons?”


“You don't pretend to say that—”

“Yes, sir, all arranged—luckiest fellows alive, we are—”

“Well, but—”

“Oh, don't be uneasy—I fixed it.”

“Well, I'm hanged if this isn't rich!” muttered his partner, sticking his digits into his trowserloons—biting his lips and stamping around.

“Rich! elegant! In two weeks we'll be flying our birds and—”

“Flying! Why, do you—”

“Ha! ha! I knew I'd astonish you; Tom insisted on my keeping perfectly mum, until things were in regular working order; he then set the boys to work—we have large cages on top of the building—”

“Come up on top of this building,” said the partner, solemnly. “There, do you see that bundle of laths and stuff?”

“Why—why, you don't pretend to say that—”

“I do exactly; a scamp came along here a week ago—talked nothing but Carrier Pigeons—Pigeon Expresses—I thought I'd surprise you, and—”

“Well, well—go on.”

“And by thunder I was green enough to give the fellow $200—a horse and wagon—”

“Done! done!” roared the other, without waiting for further particulars—“$200 and a horse and wagon—just what Tom and I gave the scamp! ha! ha! ha!”

“Haw! haw! haw!” and the publishers roared under the force of the joke.

Whatever became of the pigeon express man is not distinctly known; but he is supposed to have given up the bird business, and gone into the manufacture of woolly horses and cod-liver oil.


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