On Good Turns

Damon Runyon

My old man used to have a motto that he had printed out himself in big letters pasted on the wall of his bedroom. It read: NEVER BLAME THE BOOSTER FOR WHAT THE SUCKER DOES. It was one of his favorite sayings, too.

He said it meant that you should never hold a fellow responsible for the consequences of an effort to do you a nice turn. He said many of his own troubles in life had come from getting the blame from friends he was only trying to help, like the time he took the stranger to a poker room back in our old home town of Pueblo.

The poker room was run by one of my old man’s closest pals, a fellow they called Poker Joe. The stranger got to talking to my old man down at the Union Depot and wanted to know if there was a poker room in town. He said he was not much of a poker player, but that he wanted to kill a few hours between trains.

My old man told the stranger he would be glad to take him to one of the nicest poker rooms he ever saw in his life. He personally vouched for the honesty and integrity of Poker Joe’s. So he took the stranger there, and when the stranger pulled out a roll of money that would have choked four horses, Poker Joe was so grateful to my old man that he wanted to kiss him. It was not often that a stranger with a big roll came Poker Joe’s way.

Well, the stranger won all the money in the house in such a short time that he still had to wait an hour at the depot, and Poker Joe hit my old man in the eye with his fist. He blamed my old man for bringing the stranger in, and that was when my old man went to the Chieftain office and printed his motto: NEVER BLAME THE BOOSTER FOR WHAT THE SUCKER DOES. We sent Poker Joe the first copy.

Another time, my old man met a woman who was looking for a boardinghouse. He knew a fine place kept by a fellow and his wife who were great friends of his. My old man was anxious to see these friends do well.

He took the woman to the boardinghouse, and she proved such a good client that the fellow and his wife never seemed to get tired of thanking my old man for doing them the favor of bringing her there. Then one day the boarder ran off with the husband, and the wife went to the Chieftain office where my old man was busy setting type and gave him an awful bawling out.

She called him names nobody suspected she ever knew. She put all the blame on him for her husband skipping out, just because my old man had taken the woman to the boardinghouse. He sent the wife a copy of his motto: NEVER BLAME THE BOOSTER FOR WHAT THE SUCKER DOES.

My old man said one of the worst enemies he had back in our old home town was a chap named Sam, to whom he introduced a girl Sam eventually married. My old man had often mentioned to Sam what a nice girl this girl was, and finally Sam insisted on meeting her. He even thanked my old man warmly for arranging the introduction, but, of course, that was before they were married.

My old man said every time he met Sam after the marriage Sam would recall that my old man had told him she was a nice girl. He seemed to feel that but for his recommendation he would never have married her. My old man said personally he continued to think she was a nice girl, but he was not so sure of Sam’s niceness, only he never mentioned that thought out loud, as Sam was a touchy fellow.

However, he sent Sam a copy of his motto. He also sent one to Mrs. Sam, but he said he doubted that she knew what it meant. He said he was afraid she might also be blaming him for the marriage.

My old man said he guessed he had sent nearly everybody in town a copy of his motto. He said he never failed to send one to merchants to whom he introduced customers and who blamed him if the customers failed to meet their bills.

He said one time he sent out several thousand in the course of a single week on postal cards. That was the time a candidate for public office got him to go around town plugging his candidacy. My old man told the voters that this candidate was a wonderful man for the job, and apparently most people agreed with him, as the candidate was elected by a considerable majority.

He immediately became one of the worst officeholders our old home town had ever known, and then a lot of people began remembering my old man’s work on behalf of the fellow, and started blaming him. So my old man just sat down and sent those postal cards to everybody he figured must have voted for the officeholder.

My old man once bought a hundred dollars’ worth of gold mining stock from a friend of his named Chris, who said the stock was as good as wheat in the bin. Chris left town, and my old man learned that the stock was phony and was going to have Chris arrested.

Chris must have heard of the threat, and he sent my old man a letter that kept him at liberty, because all he put in the letter was my old man’s motto: NEVER BLAME THE BOOSTER FOR WHAT THE SUCKER DOES.