Uncle Budge Mugg

Damon Runyon

Maybe I never tell you so very much about Uncle Budge Mugg, but he is certainly a wonderful character in many respects.

The only trouble with my Uncle Budge is he loves to punch the bag, which is a way of saying he likes to talk, and people who talk a lot are not apt to be very popular back in my home town, especially if they talk about certain subjects.

But there is nothing my Uncle Budge will not mention in his conversation. If he hears of anybody running a little talk-softly, which is a way of saying a speak-easy, he is apt to touch on the subject the first time he runs into the mayor. If he knows of who is doing a little gambling he is pretty sure to tell the marshal about it.

Naturally when such propositions are brought to their attention the mayor and the marshal have to do something or other about it, no matter if they do feel like not doing anything. So, my Uncle Budge is considered a public pest, and my Grandpap Mugg often says that killing is too good for him.

Well sir, what happens but one day my Uncle Budge comes out to our house to see if he can pick up any scandal about the Muggs, or anybody else, and while he is talking to my Grandpap Mugg about this and that, and one thing and another, he says to my Grandpap like this:

“I just hear of a wonderful business opening for a smart guy like me up in Billings, Montana, and,” my Uncle Budge says, “if I have a couple of thousand dollars I will certainly go up there and take advantage of it. It is certainly tough to be broke at a time like this.”

Well, of course, my Uncle Budge is never anything but broke all his life, or if he is not broke he has a terrible crack across his stomach, but my Grandpap Mugg does not mention this. In fact, my Grandpap Mugg does not any anything for a few minutes, but he is thinking quite some. Finally he says to my Uncle Budge like this:

“How far is Billings, Mont., from here?”

“Well,” my Uncle Budge says, “it is quite a ways.”

“Is that so?” my Grandpap Mugg says. “Well, Budge,” he says, “I think maybe I can get the two thousand for you.”

Naturally my Uncle Budge is much astonished at the idea of anybody lending him two thousand bucks, and he does not believe such a thing will really come off. But my Grandpap Mugg puts on his hat and goes downtown, and calls in on many of our leading business men, including guys who may wish to run talk-softlys, and maybe a little gambling, and he says to them like this:

“Gentlemen,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “Budge Mugg wishes to go to Billings, Mont., which is a good long ways from here, and open a business. All he needs,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “is two thousand bucks.”

Well in no time my Grandpap Mugg has the two thousand. In fact, his list is oversubscribed. He takes the money back to Uncle Budge Mugg, and the next day half the town is down to the depot to see Uncle Budge catch the Cannon Ball to Montana.

Well, we do not hear much of him for months, and things are certainly much better in my old home town with nobody to mention matters to the marshal or mayor, but one day Uncle Budge comes back. It seems he goes broke in Billings, Mont., and he figures on staying in my old home town for awhile.

“Montana is not the place for me,” he says to my Grandpap Mugg. “If only I go to Nova Scotia I will do much better, from what I hear.”

“Is that so?” my Grandpap Mugg says, with much interest. “How far is Nova Scotia, and how much do you need to get there?”

“It is very far, indeed,” my Uncle Budge says, “and I cannot do it on less than three thousand bucks.”

No sooner does he say this than my Grandpap Mugg is downtown among the business men, and the very next day my Uncle Budge is on another train headed for Nova Scotia. Naturally my Uncle Budge is much swelled up by this evidence of esteem in which he is held by the community, and he cannot say enough to thank them all.

This time he is away for over a year, and business is booming back in my home town. Then Uncle Budge shows up one day, and it seems he is broke again, but he had a wonderful idea.

“If I can get hold of forty-two dollars,” my Uncle Budge says, “I can buy an interest in Joe Higg’s cigar store right here in town, and I am sure to do all right, what with knowing everybody, and being so popular.”

Then my Grandpap Mugg shakes his head, and says to my Uncle Budge like this:

“Budge,” he says, “if you can think of a business in China, there is millions here to back you, but not a quarter behind you for anything in this town.”

And to this day my Uncle Budge cannot figure out how this is.