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Tahoe Pine Nuts: Mr. Lincoln had a refined sense of humor

McAvoy Layne
Special to the Bonanza

President Lincoln called his cabinet to the Oval Office to announce his intention to put forth the Emancipation Proclamation.

Once everyone was seated and the room was quiet, the president picked up a book by a humorist, Artemus Ward, and began to read out loud…

“In the Faul of 1856, I showed my show in Uticky, a trooly grate sitty in the State of New York. The people gave me a cordyal recepshun. 1 day as I was givin a descripshun of my Beests and Snaiks in my usual flowry stile what was my skorn disgust to see a big burly feller walk up to the cage containin my wax figgers of the Lord’s Last Supper, and cease Judas Iscarrot by the feet and drag him out on the ground. He then commenced fur to pound him as hard as he cood.

“What under the son are you abowt?” cried I.

Sez he, “What did you bring this pussylanermus cuss here fur?” and he hit the wax figger another tremenjis blow on the hed.

Sez I, “You egrejus ass, that air’s a wax figger — a representashun of the false ‘Postle.”

Sez he, “That’s all very well fur you to say, but I tell you, old man, that Judas Iscarrot can’t show hisself in Utiky with impunerty by a darn site!” with which observashun he kaved in Judassis hed. The young man belonged to 1 of the first famerlies in Utiky. I sood him, and the Joory brawt in a verdick of Arson in the 3rd degree.”

Everybody laughed at that passage from Artemus Ward, except Secretary of War, Stanton, who thought it inappropriate, and to register his indignation, he got up to leave. The president was quick to stop him.

“Mr. Stanton, please, sit down. There are times when we must have a little humor or go insane.”

President Lincoln then went on to introduce his Emancipation Proclamation. And the rest is unfinished history.

In another, more-relaxed moment, Lincoln was heard to say, “If this is coffee, I’ll take tea. If it’s tea, I’ll take coffee.”

And of course there is his famous caveat, “When you have got an elephant by the legs and he is trying to run away, it is best to let him run.”

Lincoln is as relevant today as he was in the 19th century. To the hot topic of inequality he might like to say, “So while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

Abe would have been a good former president in lending a steady hand to reconstruction, a healing hand filled with grace and compassion and humor. And too, he can demonstrate to us today, how we might disagree without being disagreeable.

I miss Honest Abe, and I know you do too. Let us lift our glasses together today at five bells and wish him a well-deserved happy 203rd birthday.

Read more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.


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