As a Candidate
by Edgar Wilson Nye
The heat and venom of each political campaign bring back to my mind with
wonderful clearness the bitter and acrimonious war, and the savage
factional fight, which characterized my own legislative candidacy in
what was called the Prairie Dog District of Wyoming, about ten years
ago. This district was known far and wide as the battleground of the
territory, and generally when the sun went down on the eve of election
day the ground had that disheveled and torn-up appearance peculiar to
the grave of Brigham Young the next day after his aggregated widow has
held her regular annual sob recital and scalding-tear festival.
I hesitated about accepting the nomination because I knew that
Vituperation would get up on its hind feet and annoy me greatly, and I
had reason to believe that no pains would be spared on the part of the
management of the opposition to make my existence a perfect bore. This
turned out to be the case, and although I was nominated in a way that
seemed to indicate perfect harmony, it was not a week before the
opposition organ, to which I had frequently loaned print paper when it
could not get its own C. O. D. paper out of the express office, said as
follows in a startled and double-leaded tone of voice:
"The candidate for assembly in this district, whose trans-Missouri
name seems to be Nye, turns out to be the same man who left
Penobscot county, Maine, in the dark of the moon four years ago.
Mr. Nye's disappearance was so mysterious that prominent
Penobscoters, especially the sheriff, offered a large reward for
his person. It was afterwards learned that he was kidnapped
and taken across the Canadian line by a high-spirited
and high-stepping horse valued at $1,300. Mr. Nye's candidacy for
the high office to which he aspires has brought him into such
prominence that at the mass meeting held last evening in Jimmy
Avery's barber-shop, he was recognized at once by a Maine man while
making a telling speech in favor of putting in a stone culvert at
the draw above Mandel's ranch. The man from Maine, who is visiting
our thriving little town with a view to locating here and
establishing an agency for his world-renowned rock-alum axe-helves,
says that Mr. Nye, in the hurry and rush incident to his departure
for Canada, overlooked his wife and seven little ones. He also says
that the candidate's boasted liberality here is different from the
kind he was using while in Maine, and quotes the following
incident: Two years before he went away from Penobscot county, one
of our present candidate's children was playing on the railroad
track of the Bangor & Moosehead Lake Railroad, when suddenly there
was a wild shriek of the iron-horse, a timid, scared cry of the
child, and the rushing train was upon it. Spectators turned away
in horror. The air was heavy, and the sun seemed to stop its
shining. Slowly the long freight train, loaded with its rich
freight of huckleberries, came to a halt. A glad cry went up from
the assembly as the broad-shouldered engineer came out of the tall
grass with the crowing child in his arms. Then cheer on cheer rent
the air, and in the midst of it all, Mr. Nye appeared. He was told
of the circumstance, and, as he wrung the hand of the engineer,
tears stood in his eyes. Then, reaching in his pocket, he drew
forth a card, and writing his autograph on it, he gave it to the
astounded engineer, telling him to use it wisely and not fritter it
away. 'But are you not robbing yourself?' exclaimed the astonished
and delighted engineer. 'No, oh no,' said the munificent parent, 'I
have others left.' And this is the man who asks our suffrages! Will
you vote for him or for Alick Meyerdinger, the purest one-legged
man that ever rapped with his honest knuckles on top of a bar and
asked the boys to put a name to it."
I was pained to read this, for I had not at that time toyed much with
politics, but I went up stairs and practiced an hour or two on a hollow
laugh that I thought would hide the pain which seemed to tug at my
heart-strings. For the rest of the day I strolled about town bearing a
lurid campaign smile that looked about as joyous as the light-hearted
gambols of a tin horse.
I visited my groceryman, a man whom I felt that I could trust, and who
had honored me in the same way. He said that I ought to be indorsed by
my fellow-citizens. "What! All of them?" I exclaimed, with a choking
sensation, for I had once tried to be indorsed by one of my
fellow-citizens and was not entirely successful. "No," said he, "but you
ought to be ratified and indorsed by those who know you best and love
"Well," said I, "will you attend to that?"
"Yes, of course I will. You must not give up hope. Where do you buy your
I told him the name of my butcher.
"And do you owe him about the same that you do me?"
I said I didn't think there could be $5 one way or the other.
"Well, give me a memorandum of what you can call to mind that you owe
around town. I will see all these parties and we will get them together
and work up a strong and hearty home indorsement for you, which will
enable you to settle with all of us at par in the event of your
I gave him a list.
That evening a load of lumber was deposited on my lawn, and a man came
in to borrow a few pounds of fence nails. I asked him what he wanted to
do, for I thought he was going to nail a campaign lie or something. He
said he was the man who was sent up to build a kind of "trussle" in
front of my house. "What for?" I asked, with eyes like a startled fawn.
"Why, for the speakers to stand on," he said. "It is a kind of a
combination racket. Something between a home indorsement and a
mass-meeting of creditors. You are to be surprised and gratified
to-morrow evening, as near as I can make out."
He then built a wobbly scaffold, one end of which was nailed to the bay
window of the house.
The next evening my heart swelled when I heard a campaign band coming up
the street, trying to see how little it could play and still draw its
salary. The band was followed by men with torches, and speakers in
carriages. A messenger was sent into the house to tell me that I was
about to be waited upon by my old friends and neighbors, who desired to
deliver to me their hearty indorsement, and a large willow-covered
two-gallon godspeed as a mark of esteem.
The spokesman, as soon as I had stepped out on my veranda, mounted the
improvised platform previously erected, and after a short and
debilitated solo and chorus by the band, said as follows, as near as I
can now recall his words:
"Sir: We have read with pain the open and venomous attacks of the foul
and putrid press of our town, and come here to-night to vindicate by our
presence your utter innocence as a man, as a fellow-citizen, as
a neighbor, as a father, mother, brother or sister.
"Mr. Nye, on behalf of this vast assemblage (tremulo), I
thank God that you are POOR!!!" (Page 115)
"No one could look down into your open face, and deep, earnest lungs,
and then doubt you as a man, as a fellow-citizen, as a neighbor,
as a father, mother, brother or sister. You came to us a poor man, and
staked your all on the growth of this town. We like you because you are
still poor. You can not be too poor to suit us. It shows that you are
"Mr. Nye, on behalf of this vast assemblage (tremulo), I thank God that
you are POOR!!!"
He then drew from his pocket a little memorandum, and, holding it up to
a torch, so that he could see it better, said that Mr. Limberquid would
emit a few desultory remarks.
Mr. Limberquid, to whom I was at that time indebted for past favors in
the meat line, or, as you may say, the tenderloin, through no fault of
mine, then arose and said, in words and figures as follows, to wit:
"Sir: I desire to say that we who know Mr. Nye best are here to say that
he certainly has one of the most charming wives in this territory. What
do we care for the vilifications of the press—a press, hired, venial,
corrupt, reeking in filth and oozy with the slime of its own impaired
circulation, snapping at the heels of its superiors, and steeped in the
reeking poison and pollution of its own shopworn and unmarketable
"We do not care a cuss! (Applause.) What do we care that homely men
grudge our candidate his symmetry of form and graceful upholstered
carriage? What do we care that calumny crawls out of its hole,
calumniates him a couple of times and then goes back? We are here
to-night to show by our presence that we like Mrs. Nye very much. She is
a good cook, and she would certainly do honor to this district as a
social leader, in case she should go to Cheyenne as the wife of our
assemblyman. I propose three cheers for her, fellow-citizens."
(Applause, cheers and throbs of base-drum.)
Mr. Sherrod then said:
"Feller-Citizens: We glory in the fact that Whatshisname—Nye here, is
pore. We like him for the poverty he has made. Our idee in runnin' of
him fer the legislater, as I take it, is to not only run him along in
this here kind of hand-to-mouth poverty, but to kind of give him a
chance to accumulate poverty, and have some saved up fer a rainy day.
"I kin call to mind how he looked when he come to this territory a pore
boy, and took off his coat and went right to work dealin' faro nights,
and earning his bread by the sweat of a sweat-board daytimes, for Tom
Dillon, acrost from the express office. And I say he is not a clost man.
He gives his money where folks don't git on to it. He don't git out the
band when he goes to do a kind act, but kind of sneaks around to people
who are in need, and offers to match 'em fer the cigars.
"He's a feller of generous impulses, gentlemen, or at least I so regard
him, and I say here to-night, that if his other vitals was as big and
warm as his heart, he would live to deckorate the graves of nations yet
Several people wept here, and wiped their eyes on their alabaster hands.
I then sent my maid around through the audience with a bucketful of Salt
Lake cider, and a dishpan full of doughnuts, to restore good feeling.
But I can not soon forget how proud I was when I felt the hot tears and
doughnut crumbs of my fellow-citizens raining down my back.
The band then played, "See the Conquering Hero Comes," and yielding to
the pressing demands of the populi, I made a few irrelevant, but low,
passionate remarks, as follows:
"Fellow-Citizens and Members of the Band—We are not here, as I
understand it, solely to tickle our palates with the twisted doughnuts
of our pampered and sin-cursed civilization, but to unite and give our
pledges once more to the support of the best men. In this teacup of
foaming and impervious cider from the Valley of the Jordan I drink to
the success of the best men. Fellow-citizens and members of the band,
we owe our fealty to the old party. Let us cling to the old party as
long as there is any juice in it and vote for its candidates. Let us
give our suffrages to men of advanced thought who are loyal to their
party but poor. Gentlemen, I am what would be called a poor but brainy
man. When I am not otherwise engaged you will always find me engaged in
thought. I love the excitement of following an idea and chasing it up a
tree. It is a great pleasure for me to pursue the red-hot trail of a
thought or the intellectual spoor of an idea. But I do not allow this
habit to interfere with politics. Politics and thought are radically
different. Why should man think himself weak on these political matters
when there are men who have made it their business and life study to do
the thinking for the masses?
"This is my platform. I believe that a candidate should be poor; that he
should be a thinker on other matters, but leave political matters and
nominations to professional political ganglia and molders of primaries
who have given their lives and the inner coating of their stomachs to
the advancement of political methods by which the old, cumbersome and
dangerous custom of defending our institutions with drawn swords may be
superseded by the modern and more attractive method of doing so with
"Fellow-citizens and members of the band, in closing let me say that you
have seen me placed in the trying position of postmaster for the past
year. For that length of time I have stood between you and the
government at Washington. I have assisted in upholding the strong arm of
the government, and yet I have not allowed it to crush you. No man here
to-night can say that I have ever, by word or deed, revealed outside the
office the contents of a postal card addressed to a member of my own
party or held back or obstructed the progress of new and startling seeds
sent by our representative from the Agricultural Department. I am in
favor of a full and free interchange of interstate red-eyed and pale
beans, and I favor the early advancement and earnest recognition of the
merits of the highly offensive partisan. I thank you, neighbors and band
(husky and pianissimo), for this gratifying little demonstration. Words
seem empty and unavailing at this time. Will you not accept the
hospitality of my home? Neighbors, you are welcome to these halls. Come
in and look at the family album."
The meeting then became informal, and the chairman asked me as he came
down from his perch how I would be fixed by the first of the month. I
told him that I could not say, but hoped that money matters would show
less apathy by that time.
I have already taken up too much space, however, in this simple recital,
and I have only room to say that I was not elected, and that of the
seventy-five who came up to indorse me and then go home exhilarated by
my cheering doughnuts, forty voted for the other man, thereby electing
him by a plurality of everybody. Home indorsement, hard-boiled eggs and
hot tears of reconciliation can never fool me again. They are as empty
as the bass drum by which they are invariably accompanied. A few years
ago a majority of the voters of a newly-fledged city in Wisconsin signed
a petition asking a gentleman named Bradshaw to run for the office of
mayor. He said he did not want it, but if a majority had signified in
writing that they needed him every hour, he would allow his name to be
used. They then turned in and defeated him by a handsome majority, thus
showing that the average patriotism of the present day has a string to
Who was the first to make the claim
That I would surely win the game,
But now that Dennis is my name?
Who stated that my chance was best,
And came and wept upon my breast,
Only to knock me galley West?
Who told me of the joy he felt,
While he upon my merits dwelt?
Who then turned in and took my pelt?