Damon Runyon


class="noindent">Sergeant Ed Dougherty, Sergeant Leland Kane, Sergeant Clair B. McDermott and Private Richard O’Neill of the infantry wrote me a letter stating they are unable to find a man in their regiment of the physical prowess of Rusty Charley.

This Rusty Charley was once exploited by me in a short story in which I mentioned that he knocked an ice wagon horse to its knees with a righthand punch that did not travel more than four inches though Charley called me up the next day to dispute the distance stated, claiming it was really only an eighth of an inch.

Anyway, the boys seem greatly impressed by the feat as reported by me. But I marvel that the soldiers apparently have not heard of one of their own who is ten times the man Rusty Charley is on the best day Charley ever saw. I refer, of course, to my friend Algernon, who since he returned home from the Pacific has been stopping with me.

Now I hesitate to talk about Algernon here because he is the object of much envy in certain circles and at times there seems to be a concerted effort to belittle his achievements. But I cannot let Algernon remain unknown to these worthy soldiers, and I must request my other readers to just pass this one up today and then we will not have any skeptical remarks.

Algernon operated in the Pacific under special orders from Washington, hopping from island to island and dealing savage blows to the enemy. He was not required to report to anyone but Harold Ickes, and how Mr. Ickes got mixed up in this situation is not known. Anyway, he appears in our story this once. Goodbye, Mr. Ickes.

Algernon had been provided with a diamond-studded bomber, but it proved too slow for him so he usually carried it under his arm. He did not discard it entirely on account of the diamonds, and, to tell the truth, they are what Algernon is living on at this time, as naturally I have to insist on a little board-and-room money from him.

Well, it seems that when he landed on an island where there were Japs Algernon would first uproot a cocoanut tree of perhaps 100 feet in height, trim it neatly, leaving just a sort of natural crotch in the shape of a hook at one end and then as he nabbed the Japs would string them on this tree as he used to string catfish on a willow twig when he was a boy living in a little town on the Big Muddy.

Inasmuch as Algernon always hit the islands ahead of everyone else he generally used up all the available Japs, and that is what brought the complaints against him. I think they were from the Marines. The Marines said they landed on the islands to annihilate Japs and that it was a terrible knock to their corps to land anywhere and find nothing to annihilate. One of the generals tried to make a deal with Algernon to leave just a few Japs for annihilation, but Algernon said no, he wanted them all. Hence the brass hats got busy with Washington.

It seems Washington was sore at Algernon, anyway. It discovered after he left on his mission that he had been courting a Washington young lady and one night he took her to the Washington Monument to press his suit. He inadvertently leaned against the monument and pushed it seven inches out of plumb. Algernon really does not know his own strength.

But the Washington authorities said he had no right to use the monument as a trysting place, and that is why Algernon is in very foreign with them.


Earl Shaub wrote me of Jack Dempsey’s great grandfather, Nathan Dempsey, who lived in the village of Leesburg, Tenn., and is said to have been the pioneer strong man of those parts.

“Why,” Earl says, his eyes bulging with excitement, “he could raise a 500-pound weight above his head or lift a bull over a fence.

“One story is the strongest man in Georgia came along one day looking for him and found old Dempsey riding a mule. The Georgian said: ‘I am the strongest man in Georgia. I have heard about you and came here to lick you.’

“Old Dempsey replied: ‘Just wait until I lift this mule over the fence and I will accommodate you.’ He lifted the mule over the fence and knocked hell out of the stranger, whose name was George Mancleves.

“One old gent of 85 telling of Nathan Dempsey said: ‘Jack was never the man his great-grandpaw was. Why, old Nathan could have turned Jack over his knee and spanked the sparks out of him….’”

I was a little surprised that Shaub deemed the small feats mentioned as worth reporting. It showed that he did not know about my friend Algernon, who as a mere school boy was challenged to fight by a grown man named Searles, who then suddenly became panic-stricken and ran to the union depot and hid in a passenger coach in a train standing on the tracks.

When Algernon got to the depot no one would tell him which car Searles had entered, so Algy picked up the cars one after another and shook all the passengers out of each until he shook out Searles. By that time Algernon’s vexation had abated so all he did was just throw Searles away.

The other day, while Algernon was sitting on our lawn, he was approached by two characters who identified themselves as Stuporman and Trash Boardman. They seemed to be quite peevish about something and the one who said he was Stuporman remarked to Algernon:

“I am going to give you a shellacking you will remember all your life—if you recover.”

“Yeah,” put in the one who said he was Trash Boardman, “and after my friend Stupe has finished with you I am going to mash what is left of you like a potato bug.”

“Why,” said Algernon, “what is eating youse guys? What have I done to you?”

“That is not the pernt,” said Stuporman. “The pernt is what we are going to do to you.”

“Ah,” said Algernon, “I see you are from Brooklyn.”

“Myrtle Avenner,” said Stuporman.

“What we are going to do to you should not happen to a pussy cat,” declared Trash Boardman.

“Just a minute,” said Algernon, getting to his feet. “Do youse boys mind if I feel your muskels?”

They did not mind, though they intimated it was only delaying disaster so Algernon felt them over very carefully and then he lay down on the grass and commenced to laugh. He laughed with such gusto he embarrassed the callers and they went away.

He laughed so hard that the following day the Los Angeles newspapers reported a slight earthquake in the vicinity of Holmby Hills, yet it was nothing but the action of Algernon’s reflexes. I tell you Algernon is real strong.