Monday, December 8, 2008

Pigs, pigs and MORE pigs!

Is a Guinea pig a pig (as in porcine, porker, hog, etc), or is it something else....

I never had a chance to actually delve into this book in years past, though I'm very familiar with the book -- it was one of the perennial favorite titles that older customers used to request when I worked in an open shop. Back then (eons ago, it seems) I never had the time to find out what was so amusing. Last Thursday, though, when I was entering the data for this particular copy in my database, I thought, what the heck, I'll poke through the first couple of pages.


I ended up reading a whole chapter (which is not hard, as it's easy reading & the chapters are short) and wanted to read more. Unfortunately, even now, the life of a book dealer is not one of constantly sitting down to READ the material at hand, it's to list it and SELL it (or we don't last long as dealers, now do we).

The pig part is simply, and yet as complicated as you could ask for -- is a Guinea pig a pet in the eyes of a railway company transporting it from point A to point B, or is it a Pig (as Wilbur the Pig in Charlotte's Web)? For Mike Flannery, the Westcote agent of the Interurban Express Company, the answer wasn't so easy or simple. And it revolved around money.

"But, you everlastingly stupid idiot! - shouted Mr. Morehouse, madly shaking a flimsy printed book beneath the agent's nose, - can't you read it here - in your own plain printed rates? - Pets, domestic, Franklin to Westcote, if properly boxed, twenty-five cents each.- He threw the book on the counter in disgust. - What more do you want? Aren't they pets? Aren't they domestic? Aren't they properly boxed? What?"

And the answer from Mike Flannery... "Here's the rule for ut. - Whin the agint be in anny doubt regardin' which of two rates applies to a shipment, he shall charge the larger. The consign-ey may file a claim for the overcharge. - In this case, Misther Morehouse, I be in doubt. Pets thim be, but pigs I'm blame sure they do be, an' me rules says plain as the nose on yer face, - Pigs Franklin to Westcote, thirty cints each."

Another thing I hadn't known about this slim, but hilarious book is that it originally was published as a pamphlet to be handed out to customers of a railway line (as noted by Between the Covers book store in their description:One of 30,000 copies of the first edition, which was distributed for free by the Railway Appliances Company. ) This was Ellis Parker Butler's first book and started his career as a humorous writer off with a bang.

Hopefully, when I have a bit of time (and before it sells) I'll be able to finish this book.
I'd like that.
I'd like that a lot.
(PS: two little Guinea Pigs don't stay lonely for long in a railway station, especially if it's a mated pair!)

1 comment:

Dave said...

It's so easy to get caught up in reading an old book isn't it?
Before you know it a few hours have passed. But they sure have passed with pleasure and I reckon you are getting great pleasure from this particular old book now. As far as I am concerned nearly all old books are worth delving into.
Dave Robus