George Ade’s THE FABLE OF THE KID WHO SHIFTED HIS IDEAL*

Posted by jlubans on August 07, 2020

20200807-rsz_jimjeffries-217653.jpg
Caption: James J. Jeffries (1875-1953)

An A.D.T. (American District Telegraph) Kid carrying a Death Message marked "Rush" stopped in front of a Show Window containing a Picture of James J. Jeffries and began to weep bitterly.
A kind-hearted Suburbanite happened to be passing along on his Way to the 5:42 Train.
He was carrying a Dog Collar, a Sickle, a Basket of Egg Plums and a Bicycle Tire.
The Suburbanite saw the A.D.T. Kid in Tears and it struck him that here was a Bully Chance to act out the Kind-Hearted Pedestrian who is always played up strong in the Sunday School Stories about Ralph and Edgar.
"Why do you weep?" he asked, peering at the Boy through his concavo-convex Nose Glasses.
"Oh, gee! I was just Thinking," replied the Urchin, brokenly.
"I was just Thinking what chance have I got to grow up and be the Main Stem, like Mr. Jeffries."
“What a perverted Ambition!" exclaimed the Suburbanite.
"Why do you set up Mr. Jeffries as an Ideal? Why do you not strive to be like Me?
Is it not worth a Life of Endeavor to command the Love and Respect of a Moral Settlement on the Outskirts?
All the Conductors on our Division speak pleasantly to Me, and the Gateman has come to know my Name.
Last year I had my Half-Tone in the Village Weekly for the mere Cost of the Engraving.
When we opened Locust avenue from the Cemetery west to Alexander's Dairy, was I not a Member of the Committee appointed to present the Petition to the Councilmen?
That's what I was! For Six Years I have been a Member of the League of American Wheelmen and now I am a Candidate for Director of our new four-hole Golf Club.
Also I play Whist on the Train with a Man who once lived in the same House with T. DeWitt Talmage (a famous preacher)."
Hearing these words the A.D.T. Kid ceased weeping and cheerfully proceeded up an Alley, where he played "Wood Tag."

Moral: As the Twig is Bent the Tree is Inclined.
------------
Mr. Ade’s Suburbanite
may well have been the inspiration for Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt (1922).
The idolized world champion boxer and “Main Stem”, Mr. Jeffries was, alas, shortly (1910) to be knocked from his pinnacle.
But, all that aside, have you not met the smug Suburbanite seemingly happy with his circumscribed life who seeks re-assurance by bragging of his accomplishments?
It need not be the suburbs; it can be a job in any traditional line of work.
Sort of like the afflicted-with-office Barney Fife of Mayberry, who not only chases fires but also hands out tickets for dogs running without a collar and for a homeowner's “failure to abate a smoky chimney”.
In any case, the ADT kid is hardly convinced to abandon Mr. Jeffries; instead, being of a distractible age, he pursues, for the moment, other interests.
Do you wonder if the Death telegram ever gets delivered?

*Source: FABLES IN SLANG by GEORGE ADE, ILLUSTRATED by CLYDE J. NEWMAN 1914

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© Copyright John Lubans 2020

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