Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, , at sacred-texts.com
ONCE there was a hard-grained Old-Timer who was living in the Past. He dated back to the Time when the Man who could sport a Velvet Vest and a pair of Blue-Topped Boots was considered a Hot Member. He had been a School-Teacher when the Education of the Young came under the Head of Manual Labor. In that remote Period there was a deal of Respect for the Adage, "Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child." The Rod was never Spared, and that is why all the Children grew up to be Self-Respecting Husbands and Model Wives, if you don't care what you say.
In the Stone Age of our Public School System, the Teacher had to Board Around and was paid in Pelts. The wiry Pioneer Schoolmaster of the Coonskin Cap and the tangled Back Hair was blazing the way for co-educational Normal Schools and Mother Conventions. At that time the Old-Timer had been regarded as a first-class Instructor.
When he applied for a School in his Day and Generation he did not have to go before a Superintendent in a Black Cheviot Suit and tell why X is to Y as the Known is to the Unknown, or what Crops they gather on the Head Waters of the Orinoco. If the Applicant was big enough to throw a Horse and had licked the Bad Man of the Township at a Kissing Bee, he was given the School then and there. On the First Day he always selected the Biggest Boy and got the Hammer-Lock on him and Wrassled him around on the Puncheon Floor and upset Furniture. If he made the Boy yell "Enough!" he was a Fixture, even if he did not know the difference between Diphthong and Semicolon.
The Scholars brought Red Apples to him, and he held the Book at a Spelling-Down, with no chance for an Argument.
Now it happened that the Old-Timer had a Daughter who had reached the HomeStretch without being Asked, so she was Teaching. And she was keeping up with Advanced Methods, which were as a Sealed Book to the Old-Timer, who had not set foot within a School Room for more than fortyfive Years.
One Morning the Daughter was ill and told her Father he had better notify the Main Squeeze so that her Pupils could be given a Holiday. The Old-Timer said there was no necessity of turning into the Street a Band of Children who were Panting for Knowledge and anxious to improve every Flying Moment. He said it was rather quiet around the Hardware Store and they could spare him, so he would go down and give the Rising Generation a slight Boost toward Useful Citizenship.
He went out and cut three Gads of about the size needed to convince a Mule. When the Children, with Faces shining bright, answered the Morning Bell, they found the Old-Timer seated at the Desk.
"Now, Children, which do we tackle first Readin', 'Ritin' or 'Rithmetic?" he asked.
The assorted Batch representing Our Country's Hope gave him the Ha-Ha!
"Are you having Fun with me?" asked the Old-Timer, severely.
"You'd better have some one wake you up," said a little Snip of a Girl who wore Glasses. "Who has been Stringing you? The idea of our trifling with the Rudiments you mention is really Ipskalorious."
"That's what they used to Teach," said the Old-Timer, who was so Flustered that he had to Spar for Wind.
"It must have been a long time since," said the Fresh Little Girl. "You don't look as if you had been On Earth since the Year of the Big Wind. If you don't know how to get away with this Job, you ought not to go against it. You are what Charles Francis Adams would call a Peachalorum."
"I do not know who Charles Francis Adams is, and I never saw a Peachalorum, but I am the Boy in charge here to-day, and I refuse to be Joshed," said the Old-Timer, with some Asperity. "If the Curriculum does not consist of the Three R's, will some one of you precocious Tikes put your old Uncle next to what you do study?"
"I will give you a few Points, seeing that you are stalled," said a very small Urchin. "First we design Wall-Paper, then we dissect a Rat, after which we have French and Calisthenics, and finish up with a few Stunts in Botany and Entomology."
"What in the Name of all Git-Out is Entomology?" interrogated the Old-Timer.
At this Bad Break there was more Scornful Laughter. The Little People certainly had the Old-Timer looking like Mexican Money with Holes in it. Every time they knocked him a twister he Fumbled it and fell over in the Tall Grass.
"Back to the Mines, Grandpa!" shouted one Roguish Youngster in the Back Row.
Then all of them began to Talk about him in French, which he could not understand. They said he was a Hommard, the same being French for Lobster.
"Stop all this Hifalutin' Tomfoolery," exclaimed the Old-Timer, with Rising Anger. "Talk United States and don't Jabber. How are you on the Spell?"
"We don't Monkey with Spelling any more," replied the Boy. "We simply start in and learn to Read the first Crack out of the Box."
"Well, since you are so Gay, let me ask you if you can make a Bird in the Free-Arm Movement without taking the Pen from the Paper?"
"Say, you must be a Fossil of the Lower Silurian Epoch," said the boy. "Whoever dug you up ought to have Labelled you and put you in a Cabinet. We don't make Scrolls any more. The Vertical System is now the Whole Thing."
"And I guess that'll Hold you for a While," added the Biggest Boy in the Room. "I think you'll Lie Quiet for a few minutes after that Last One."
"Where do all you Sophisticated Brats get your Rich Vocabulary of Slang?" asked the Old-Timer, who was now thoroughly Warm under the Collar. "Is that included in your Course of Studies also?"
"No, we acquire that at Home," said the Little Girl who had first spoken.
"Yes, and most of you have acquired about three Quarts too much for your own Good," said the Old-Timer. "I may be a few Stacks shy on this Billy Baxter Style of Kidding and 1 don't claim to know how to cut up a Rat or design a Bolt of 'Wall-Paper, but I think I can give all of you several Homely Hints on General Deportment and Respect for your Elders."
With that he produced one of the Gads and made a Come-Along Sign to the Biggest Boy.
"What are you going to do?" asked the Boy, turning pale.
"You," was the Response, for the Old-Timer was On to a few of these Farce-Comedy Gags.
"Surely you must know that Corporal Punishment has been relegated to the Archives of our Educational System and violates every Tenet of the new Science of Mind-Culture," said the Boy.
"I have not read This Year's League Rules," said the Old-Timer, "but I know what is Coming to you."
"We must be governed by Moral Suasion," said the Argumentative Youth. "If I am not susceptible to the ordinary Discipline, then I may be Punished by being Dismissed from the Room."
"I don't call it Punishment unless you can count the Welts," said the Old-Timer. "I attribute my own Success as Book-Keeper in a Hardware Store to the Fact that I was pounded Black and Blue at least three times a Week, all during those Happy Days at the Little Red School-House. The only Way to dispel the Latent Cussedness from a Child's System is to Thrash it out."
Saying which he grabbed at the Boy, who broke ground and Feinted with his Left and worked the Fitzsimmons Shift and had the Old-Timer spinning like a Top. Then the Boy did the Jab-and-Retreat Act a few times and waited for an Opening before he put in the famous Corkscrew Punch and terminated the Battle.
They helped the Old-Timer back into his Chair and dusted his Clothes and explained to him that there was a Gymnasium in connection with the School, having a retired WelterWeight as Instructor in Physical Culture.
"You should have slipped in an Upper-Cut when he spread his Guard," said the Little Girl with Glasses, as she straightened his Cravat for him. "You certainly had your Nerve with you to take on our Plunging Half-Back, who has been in Training all Fall."
"Children, you are one too Many for me," said the Old-Timer, meekly. "I am a Has-Been of the First Water, and I give in before Moral Suasion. School is dismissed."
MORAL: Stay with the Procession or you will never catch up.