Grandpap and the Party Line

Damon Runyon

I am reading with no little interest in the papers lately about this radio proposition, and as near as I can figure out, everybody is daffy about it.

I have an idea it must be some new and very important matter, and as I never wish to be behind the times, I take to asking around to find out what it is.

Well, come to find out, it is only a proposition where a guy can sit one place, and say something or other into a machine, and it goes out through phonographes, and one thing and another, to a lot of people who are listening in their homes.

Well, this is certainly nothing new, because we have something to this effect back in my old home town out West years ago, and it reminds me of a very terrible experience which my Grandpap Mugg has as a result of same.

It seems that a telephone company comes along one time back in my old home town, and puts in telephones in ranch houses, up and down the Arkansaw valley, including one in my Grandpap Mugg’s house, because in those days he is living on a ranch not far from town, raising cattle, and one thing and another.

The reason the telephone is put in my Grandpap Mugg’s house is because my Grandmaw Mugg wishes it, otherwise it will never be there, as my Grandpap Mugg is no hand to monkey with new doo-dads such as this. In fact, it is a month or so before he will even go near the telephone.

But one evening it seems he has some most important business with a guy at the other end of the valley by the name of Williams, so he gets my Grandmaw Mugg to call him up, and then my Grandpap Mugg talks to him.

He is much surprised to see how well he can hear Williams, and after they get through talking business my Grandpap Mugg takes to gossiping about one thing and another to Williams, who is an old pal of his that he does not see for quite some time.

If there is one thing my Grandpap Mugg loves more than anything else, it is gossip, and by and by he is talking to Williams about people they know up and down the old Arkansaw.

Well, he mentions to Williams that old man Himebaugh, who lives just below us, once serves a jolt in the old penitentiary for stealing pigs, and that George Peabody gives out canary bird checks, a canary bird check being one that flies back, and how old lady Peabody is half daffy, and Herman J. Fink, the hog man, is no-account.

Well, what my Grandpap Mugg does not know while he is talking is that this telephone line is a party line, with one and all in the valley connected to it.

Well, sir, at daylight the next morning, somebody reports seeing a big cloud of dust coming up the valley road and behind it seems to be a lot of men, and women, and even little children, with pitchforks, shot guns, bailing hooks, and one thing and another, looking most ferocious indeed.

Something tells my Grandpap Mugg that this is no longer much of a place for him, so he saddles up old Pete, the paint pony, as quick as he can, and away he goes, hell-bent for election, the other way. By the time the crowd reach my Grandpap’s house he is just a little dot on the horizon, and there is nobody to receive them but my Grandmaw Mugg.

Well, of course, nobody is going to try to do anything to my Grandmaw Mugg, because she is apt to do it to them first if she gets mad, so the women and children sit down to rest themselves, while the men go on after my Grandpap Mugg.

But of course they never catch him.

It is a month before my Grandpap Mugg shows up in the Arkansaw valley again, and as far as anybody knows he never again goes near a telephone. And it is a hundred to one that not even the paint pony can run fast enough to ever give my Grandpap Mugg one of these radio propositions.