Who Invented Everything? by Col. Stoopnagle

            How I managed to crawl under the Iron Curtain by lifting it with my right hand, then dropping it on the torso of the Russian Secretski Service-off guy who was following me, will be told in a subsequent article, probably by someone else.  But I actually did get into Russia, I think, and while the facts which I hereby set down may not be wholly authentic, they are at least questionable.

            My trip was made to try to determine just how much truth there is in Soviet claims that its inventors not only invented everything, but invented it first, including the very word "invention."  I had a hunch, for instance, that a few of my own inventions were conceived right in my own mind, where very few Russians have ever been.  But I found a certain Russian calling himself Colonel Lemikov Q-ski Stoopnaglovitch who says he invented motor oil with catnip in it to make engines purr.  That is a blatant lie, or, as the Russians call it, the unvarnished truth.  I can prove that I, Stoopnagle, was sitting in my car at a South Norwalk, Connecticut, filling-station while the attendant was pouring some #32 oil into my crankcase on Thursday afternoon, May 12, 1949, Dnepropetrovsk Time.  This particular oil had come from a gusher which happened to gush up through a bed of catnip, and I own 17 of the cats who were there at the time.  An exhaustive affidavit proving the plausibility of this tall tale is on file at almost any S.P.C.A office.  Bah-ski to this crimson Stoopnaglovitch!

            Of course, my inventions aren't one, two, three with those of (one) Edison, (two) Franklin, and (three) Fulton.  Take Edison, for instance.  He invented the electric light bulb, a thing perhaps best known for puncturing tires when broken into little pieces and scattered on driveways.  It took the likes of me, however, to think up the Flashdark, an instrument which has a black bulb for making cellars dark in the daytime for looking for a burglar you don't want to find.  But a Russian claims priority on this, too!  He is 80-year-old Dmitri Pasto, who owns a small, but inadequate, electric fixture emporium on the Rue de la Borscht in uptown Moscow.  Pasto swears that the flashdark idea came to him one time years ago when he was baby-sitting at the home of Andrei Gromyko's parents.  It seems that the 3-year-old Andrei was even then showing signs of being against everything and everybody.  He was anti-sleep, anti-toys, and, worst of all, anti-Pasto.  So Pasto, unable to cope with this problem-child, gave him a hit in the head with a flashlight and he's been light-headed ever since.  This prompted Pasto to invent a flashdark (so he says) so he can hit someone in the head and give him a dark outlook.  I could stand no more of this guffski, so I thanked Pasto for being so untruthful and boarded a two-horse sleigh for East Upper Vosnesensk.

            In that quaint town I went to see a man who claimed his name was Eli Whitnioff.  Whitnioff allowed as how, in 1764, one of his ancestors had invented the cotton gin.  Pressing him for the details, I made him admit that through circumstances quite odd, this was one year to the day before our own Eli Whitney was born.  Pressing him still further (by this time he must have looked pretty flat), I got him to admit that it actually wasn't  the cotton gin his ancestor had invented, but just plain cotton gin, which was merely absorbent cotton soaked in a concoction of malt, barley and juniper berries which the Russians ate like marshmallows.  Eventually, of course, the cotton began plugging up their systems a bit, so someone invented vodka, to which most Russians have cottoned ever since.

            Some years ago, long before my trip to Russia, I woke one morning with a world-shattering idea.  I had been worrying over people who have removable teeth, because I wondered whatever happened on cold nights.  So, immediately after breakfast, I sat down and invented Stoopnagle's Patented Oscillating Denture-table.  I don't recall a single Russian anywhere in my home at the time, nor any evidence of cable-tapping; I simply mention this because of what happened later on.  Anyway, this Oscillating Denture-table became an overnight sensation, for it served as a convenient depository for false teeth while the owner slept.  On chilly nights there was merely the matter of pressing a button which actuated an eccentric motor; this shook the table, thus making the false teeth chatter even though they were out of the mouth of the wearer.  So you may imagine my chagrin when I learned through my secret overground channels that a Russian named J. Falsovitch Teethskov claimed prior rights and was selling thousands of similar tables to freezing Siberians for out-of-mouth chattering purposes.  So, determining to face this stinkerooski in his lair, I set out to reach his home in the town of Nizhnii-Novgorod, which, spelled backward, is just as unpronounceable.  Luckily, as we...I say "we" because a large detachment of friendly Russian cavalrymen, with swords drawn, followed me everywhere...luckily, as we came up to Teethskov's house, there was J. Falsovitch himself, sitting blandly on his varanda, putting the finishing touches on a solid gold oscillating table, emblazoned gaily with the letters S-T-A-L-I-N, in baguette diamonds.  I showed the guy my U.S. patent papers, but he just laughed and offered me a drink.  After a few fast vodkas, Teethskov and I became not only fast friends, but drunk, and unfortunately I woke the next morning beneath my cot with as awful a hangunder as I had ever had.  So I remember but little of what Teethskov said.  I do recall, however, his mentioning something about having invented perforated sticks of bubble-gum so his grandchildren couldn't blow bubbles and mess up their faces and the furniture.  And I thought that pretty barbaric until I realized that I myself had conceived that very idea.  But I had been forced to abandon it when I found that my children had put an ugly half-inch slit in all my fresh cigars in retaliation.

            Of course this article so far has dealt strictly with experiences in connection with my own inventions.  I haven't told you that the Russians assert that they not only conceived the idea of the steamboat, but that they invented Fulton, too.  They claim that Franklin proved the identity of electricity by the use of a Russian kite, a Russian key and some specially-prepared Russian lightning.  And one of their most notorious contentions is that it wasn't Samuel Morse who invented the telegraph early in the 19th century, but an obscure Moscovite named Samskya Morschkov.  Samskya,  they say, sent the first message to Ivan the Terrible in 1550, which said: "Twinkle, twinkle, little Tsar!"  What a brazen per-, shall we say, verication!  Their own reference books show that Morschkov wasn't even born until 1600. Challenged on that score, one of their experts says that in those days, people could be minus years old.  But the most flagrant and notorious misrepresentation of which the Russians are guilty is their claim that a Slav first thought of sex in the Sexth century.  Previous to this, they say, the human race multiplied by means of pollination -- that our present-day method of explaining the mysteries of life to children dates back to this insensible and highly unemotional period.  And then one night under a full moon, they tell us, Igor, the Slav happened to be lying in the cool, damp grass in the vicinity of a doll named Valia, discussing cross-pollination and the pre-Trotsky Theory of Revolution, when an uncommon-soft breeze, smelling of honeysuckle and gardenias, was wafted across the fertile valley.  Instinctively, they leapt into each others' arms.  The ensuing exquisite thrill so titillated their emotions that two very significant things resulted: the other was that all their previous conversation was forgotten, and they lived happily ever after as President and Vice President of The Society for the Heck with the Birds and Bees.  This fabulous tale is retold here only to show the strange and unfathomable minds of people who insist that nothing ever happened in which they didn't have a hand.  Next, I suppose they'll be taking credit for The Hereafter.  That I'll wait to hear after I'm gone.

            Oh.  One thing I forgot to mention: I  invented the Russians!  Sometimes I wish I hadn't. 

[From The American Legion Magazine, October 1949]


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