Col. Speaknagle Stoopling! by Col. Stoopnagle

            I was born in a little log cabin (that’s a cabin made from little logs) many years ago.  And if it hadn’t been for my long black beard, my high silk hat, and my extraordinarily long legs, I would never have been taken for Abraham Lincoln.  But as the years passed, I got to look less and less like him, until now I am frequently referred to as “The Man Who Looks Least Like Lincoln.”  The fact that I started life as an infant and eventually turned out to be a radio comedian is one of the phenomena of my strange existence;  many infants, if they live, turn out to be people.

            It is my intention to set down in this book a few of the most interesting phases*  of my career, not because I believe I shall ever be classed as the writer of a bestseller, but largely because I wish this to be a warning to others who think that a life devoted to the dissemination of nonsense must be a wonderful life indeed, even though it is a wonderful life indeed.  To those who confess to having heard of Colonel Stoopnagle, hello.  And to those who either won’t confess it or who actually haven’t heard of me -- well hello, too, even though you wouldn’t know me from Adam.

            “You wouldn’t know me from Adam.”  Funny expression, isn’t it?  Who is this Adam that you wouldn’t know me from?  You wouldn’t know me from Adam who?  We’ll soon learn, for it became one of my earlier ambitions to find out who this Adam guy is.  So one day in Desombre, which is another way of saying it was a gloomy day in December, I packed a picnic lunch and boarded a train for Lake Placid, New York.  I had heard that this Adam person was a skier of no mean repute.  I boarded the train, poured myself into a roomette, which fitted me quite cozily, and the next morning there I was at Placid.  Snow was falling, at which I was not very much surprised, as I never saw it doing anything else before it got to the ground.  I asked the clerk at the hotel desk whether by any chance he knew of an Adam somebody, and he replied that I would find Adam Flansgrans, the only Adam he knew of, out at the ski-jump.  After wandering around for several hours, I finally looked up into the sky and saw several people flying over my head.  “This must be the ski-jump,”  I said to myself.  “It is the ski-jump!”  I answered, gaily.  And there, at the bottom of it, sliding down his own receding forehead, was a man who turned out to be the very Adam Flansgrans I was looking for.

            I approached him.  “I beg your pardon, sir,” I said, “but are you Adam Flansgrans?”

            “Yes, I am,” he replied, “but how did you ever know me from some other person?”

            “That’s a wonderful way to answer me, sir,” I said, for I knew then that my search was successful.  “You are, then, the Adam that people don’t know people from you.”

            “Yes,” he said, “I am that very man.  I take it you are Colonel Stoopnagle.  You have his eyes, his ears, his nose.”

            “I know,”  I answered, “I have so many of his things that Stoopnagle is forced to sit at home with the shades drawn and wait for my return.  Fortunately I don’t have his posterior, or he’d have to stand up all this time.”

            “You’re quite a josher,” replied Adam, “but let’s talk about me.  You are obviously here to interview me and find out how I happen to be the Adam people refer to when they say: ‘I don’t know you from --’  Funny thing, how that started.  I used to have a nurse when I was a baby, and she looked so much like my mother that women used to stop her on the street while she was wheeling me in my carriage and say: ‘Good morning, Mrs. Flansgrans!  What a fine broth of a boy you have there!’  The nurse would draw herself up to her full five feet and reply: ‘I’m sorry, ma’am, but I am not Mrs. Flansgrans; I am the nurse.  I’m surprised you wouldn’t know me from Madame.’  So you can see, Mister, that the expression ‘You don’t know me from Madame’ sounds exactly like the expression ‘You don’t know me from Adam.’  Well, time went on, and somehow the ‘You don’t know me from Adam’ phrase stuck to me.  It put me in the ranks of the Immortals, I guess.  Certainly nothing else could have, except possibly my skiing, at which I am more than adept.”

            With that, Adam Flansgrans fell flat on his fritter.

            Perhaps you may be wondering whatever happened to the nurse.  Her name, by the way, was Miss Gretchen Ther, only daughter of old Doctor Ther, the inventor of the now well-known Ther mometer, an instrument for not being able to see what your temperature is.  I heard only the other day that Gretchen had joined a traveling show headed by a magician named Rabbit, who pulls people with pink eyes out of a hat.  He’s quite an accomplished fellow, I understand, and among the more spectacular of his tricks is a thing called “Sawing a Woman in Half.”  This, briefly, consists of taking a female and sawing her into two equal parts.

            Of course, this trick would frankly be quite dull without the use of an actual woman, so Miss Ther had applied for and received the job.  It was a “natural” for her, since earlier in life she had had a position with another magician, whose name, oddly, was Rabbit, too, but who spelled it Rabbbit.  Strangely, Miss Ther had been born in two pieces, and “among the more spectacular” of Dr. Rabbbit’s tricks was to put her two halves together, making one woman out of her.  This was billed as “Not Sawing a Woman in Half, but Just the Opposite.”  And when she walked out on the stage from both entrances, it caused quite a stir, especially among the people who had never before seen the upper and lower halves of a woman going in more than the same direction at one time.

            Oh, I know what you’re saying; you’re saying that this is purely a figment of my imagination.  Well it is!

            Nothing much happened on my trip back from Placid except that I had the pleasure of sitting next to a man who introduced himself as a Mister Isaiah Unh.  He turned out to be the very fellow who invented making railroad coach windows hard to open.  I can therefore hardly allow Mr. Unh to pass unnoticed.  He was a rather smallish man, with bushy eyes and deep, penetrating eyebrows.  The part in his hair was eight inches wide, and the wrinkles in his forehead ran up and down instead of sideways.  His face was inordinately red; when I asked him why, he replied that mine would be, too, if I had spent a lifetime trying to open windows in trains.  I was glad I hadn’t spent any time at it, to speak of.

            “Trying to open train windows,” I said, with a wry smile, “when you just told me you invented making them hard to open?”

            “Yes,”  said Mr. Unh.  “You see, I am always afraid they might have forgotten one.  So every time I board a coach, I go from one end to the other trying to open windows.  My veins stand out in such a varicose manner now that my intimates often refer to me as Old Wireface.”

            “What ever got you into a mood where you felt like foisting such a preposterous scourge upon mankind?”  I asked, using large words which I figured such a small man wouldn’t understand.

            “Oh, I guess it must have been plain doggedness, let’s say,” answered Mr. Unh.  “It was the day my wife ran away with the chauffeur.  I was boiling mad, and I suppose I just decided to take it out on the general public.  Where on earth was I ever going to get another chauffeur?”

            “I can well understand, Mr. Unh,” I replied, never having had a chauffeur myself.  “Tell me -- how do you make coach windows adhere so lovingly to the window frames?”

            “Adhere!  Gad, man, ‘adhere’ is hardly the word!  If you knew the truth, you’d realize that when these windows are made at the railroad coach factory, the window frames are only partly cut out of the sides of the cars.  It looks as though the windows could be opened, but unless an Atlas gets a grip on one and actually splits the wood, they can’t be opened.  However, so many Atlases have developed since the introduction of vitamin tablets, that there’s hardly a window frame left that can’t be tampered with.  One fellow I remember in particular; he was so muscular that he used to un-exercise, in order to get his muscles down to normal.  He got hold of a particularly tough window one day and, after struggling valiantly for five minutes, he finally put his whole strength into it and ripped the entire side of the car out.  Luckily, it happened to be a warm summer’s day, and after the first flush of indignation, the railroad president thanked him publicly, for it was this very same president who later became the inventor of open trolley cars.”

            “Do you recall the strong gent’s name?” I asked, sparring for time.

            “Yes. It was Joe Sinew, strangely enough.  He is now standing in the Metropolitan Museum, stuffed.”

            By this time, our train had been in the station, had unloaded its passengers and had backed out onto the railroad yards.  Mr. Unh gathered up his belongings, said a hasty goodbye, and stepped off the platform into the Harlem River.  He made a peach of a splash.

 
 

HOW TO FIND YOUR CORRECT AGE

Subtract your correct age from 100.  Add your age to the answer.  If the total is 100, your age is what you subtracted from 100.  However, if you gave your age as “over 21,” it won’t come out right, so don’t blame me.

 

[From You Wouldn’t Know Me From Adam.  New York: McGraw-Hill/Whittlesey House, 1944.]


* All except the phase on the barroom floor.

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Page created November 14, 2006.  Copyright 1998-2006 by Richard D. Squires.