A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 134

Henry Wilson: ghostly bather

Lois Greeley of Hillview Terrace has spine-tingling news of Henry Wilson that she feels must be passed along to the readership, and rightly so. On behalf of WOOOF, the late vice president's publicity agency, I extend to her both gratitude and a valuable lapel button, on which Henry appears as a lunerized face.

For our edification, Lois, in a recent letter, enclosed the following snippet from "Ghosts," a collection of Washington's most famous ghost stories, by John Alexander:

"Henry Wilson, Vice President in the Grant Administration, was among certain senators who frequently used the bath tubs in the lower Senate Wing. The hand carved marble tubs had been imported from Italy for the convenience of the senators. Tubbing was a popular pastime.

"Vice President Wilson, however, apparently caught a congestive chill on one of his tubbing ventures. It proved to be the death of him. That was in November of 1875, but the story only begins then.

"It was not too many years later that people who were concerned with guarding the Senate side of the Capitol began to relate how they had seen a diaphanous Vice President Wilson returning from tubbing. They claim also to have heard him coughing and sneezing. Several times since the death of Henry Wilson, mysterious sneezes have been heard in the corridor leading to the Vice President's office. The unusual thing about it is that no one is ever there. There is just a damp chill in the doorway and the faint smell of an old soap they used to provide for the senators' use in the basement tubs ... "

It is fairly obvious that the author of the foregoing piece was not aware, unlike Rochester Courier readers, that Henry was given to visiting spiritualists, and attempting to make contact with things beyond the grave. Knowing this, perpetual tubbing does not seem so odd - after all, even a ghost must practice personal hygiene.

When I had read Lois's letter, I called upon Henry Wilson's re-incarnation, that second-hand stove and freezer repairman who disguises his true identity under the pseudonym Royce Hodgdon.

"Henry," I asked him, "do you ever have a spirit in your bathtub."

"Oh, yes," came back the reply, "I always have a large American rye whiskey, it helps the circulation."

Wonderful luck

Missy Kirkpatrick, 17, of Alton, was researching her family tree, recently, for a class project, when, to her utter astonishment, she observed that her great-great-great-aunt was married to Jeremiah Jones Colbath, known to the world as Henry Wilson. Congratulations, Missy. Why not celebrate this good fortune by purchasing a WOOOF button for the low, low, price of $1.25?

In praise of book-burning

I have recently come out very strongly in favor of burning books. There are, in certain public places, dangerous propagandist tracts available to impressionable young minds that should be committed to the flames without a second thought.

Just take the reading selection now available to kids that attend Farmington Community Center. On a shelf of the meeting room is a tome entitled The World's Greatest Events, the sort of book an innocent child might well pick up in an idle moment. But wait! Dash that polluting book from its grasp! Henry Wilson has been completely expunged from that work.

For reasons known only to the editors, they insist that no great events whatsoever occurred between 1871 and 1878. Yet this period encompasses the very years when Henry became vice president, (1873), when he died (1875), and when he was spotted as a ghost, (1876-1878). Let us march upon the Community Center and demand that The World's Greatest Events be burnt to a cinder before our eyes. Today!

By way of contrast, cast your eyes, dear reader, upon a neighboring book, a work of remarkable insight and intelligence, entitled New Pictorial Encyclopedia of the World, Volume 17. Not only have the publishers of this enlightening work included Henry Wilson, they have displayed excellent taste and judgment by publishing a photograph of America's political giant.

Business Association news

Sandra Canney has completed a two-year term as head of Farmington Business Association, and the organization is at present casting its nets around for another president. Might I make the respectful suggestion that a deputation be dispatched at once to beg Henry Wilson's re-incarnation, Royce Hodgdon, to take over the reins. Royce is a Main Street businessman of long standing, whose only idiosyncrasy might be to request that cheese and wine parties bow out in favor of Bud and pretzels. Surely, this is a small sacrifice for the exciting changes that would ensue with such a man in the driving seat.

The main goal of the F.B.A. in the coming months is to raise money for a dazzling new set of overhead Christmas lights. Last year's lights, you may recall, arced out, causing fearful electrical flashes to run down a pole on Main Street. There was great concern, at the time, for the safety of Mrs. Lorraine Meyer, who was attempting to pass that dangerous location wearing an exotic metal dress.

Palanquin quitters

Good help is hard to get, these days! Can you believe that only one person answered an advertisement in the Rochester Courier for porters to bear an intrepid reporter through dense jungle on a mission of regional importance? (And that applicant, unfortunately, was rejected on the grounds of being a japester.)

Nonetheless, a dispatch will somehow reach the eyes of the readership, describing how the selectmen from Alton, Barnstead, Strafford, New Durham and Farmington, met to agree upon the spot marking the junction of the five towns, on the historic 15th day of October, 1988. The Courier management has firmly ruled out the hiring of a circus elephant as a mode of traversing this horrid terrain, even if this item is shared with Foster's, and the cost of employing a hot air balloon is prohibitive. It may yet be necessary, as a last resort, to steal Freddy Olson's donkey, although anyone who has read Robert Louis Stevenson's account of crossing southern France on such a beast, might well argue against this a course.

Shuddering at the thought of donkey tantrums, I am persuaded there is yet time to re-open the search for the prestigious position of press porter. Don't waste precious seconds by thinking it over. Call on impulse either 755-2926 or 332-1182.

Typesetter’s error

Some time ago, in an article dealing with the Henry Wilson Winter Carnival, the winner of the cross-country snowshoeing event, Elizabeth Nute, was described as "having the elegance of a large wading bird." This was a quite inexcusable typesetting error and should have read "having the elegance and largess of a fading era."

Of course, there are those among the readership, the critics and detractors of this column, who think that the timing of this correction is somehow associated with Ms. Nute's recent appointment as a police officer in the town of Farmington. Nothing could be further from the truth. Speeding ticket? Parking ticket? I fear not thy sting.

October 3, 1988

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