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Old 08-01-2017, 07:19 AM   #1
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Cobb, Irvin S.: Those Times and These (collected shorts). v1. 02 Aug 2017

A collection of short stories BY IRVIN S. COBB (1876–1944)

The contents of this book first appeared 1913–1917 in various magazines. This collection, Those Times and These, was published in 1917. Text is in the public domain in countries where copyright is “Life + 70” or less, and in the USA.
Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was an American author, humorist, editor, and columnist from Paducah, Kentucky who relocated to New York in 1904 for the remainder of his life, writing for the New York “World”, “The Saturday Evening Post”, “Cosmopolitan”, and other newspapers and magazines. Cobb wrote more than 300 short stories and 60 books (most of these being collections of his stories and articles). Some of his works were adapted for film.

Cobb was one of America’s most popular humorists during the first third of the 20th century, but his writing was not limited to comedy only. His descriptive writing was masterful, and his stories were often dramatic, poignant, tragic – even terror-ridden.

Herewith, a tasty buffet serving up tidbits of the many flavors of Irvin S. Cobb.

EXCERPT (from “The Start of a Dream”)
It seemed that New England in general – and the state of Connecticut in particular – was thickly speckled with delightful old places which, through over-cultivation or ill-treatment, had become for the time being sterile and non-productive; so that the original owners had moved away to the nearby manufacturing towns, leaving their ancestral homesteads empty and their ancestral acres idle. As a result there were great numbers of desirable places, any one of which might be had for a song. That was the term most commonly used by the writers of these articles – abandoned farms going for a song. Now, singing is not my forte; still, I made up my mind that if such indeed was the case I would sing a little, accompanying myself on my bank balance, and win me an abandoned farm.

The formula as laid down by the authorities was simple in the extreme: Taking almost any Connecticut town for a starting point, you merely meandered along an elm-lined road until you came to a desirable location, which you purchased for the price of the aforesaid song. This formality being completed, you spent a trivial sum in restoring the fences, and so on, and modernizing the interior of the house; after which it was a comparatively easy task to restore the land to productiveness by processes of intensive agriculture – details procurable from any standard book on the subject or through easy lessons by mail. And so presently, with scarcely any trouble or expense at all, you were the possessor of a delightful country estate upon which to spend your declining years. It made no difference whether you were one of those persons who had never to date declined anything of value; there was no telling when you might start in.

I could shut my eyes and see the whole delectable prospect: Upon a gentle eminence crowned with ancient trees stood the rambling old manse, filled with marvelous antique furniture, grandfather’s clocks dating back to the whaling days, spinning wheels, pottery that came over on the Mayflower, and all those sorts of things. Round about were the meadows, some under cultivation and some lying fallow, the latter being dotted at appropriate intervals with fallow deer.

[ … ]

Besides, I had been waiting impatiently for a long time for an opportunity to work out several agricultural projects of my own. For example, there was my notion in regard to the mulberry. The mulberry, as all know, is one of our most abundant small fruits; but many have objected to it on account of its wooly appearance and slightly caterpillary taste. My idea was to cross the mulberry on the slippery elm – pronounced, where I came from, ellum – producing a fruit which I shall call the mulellum. This fruit would combine the health-giving qualities of the mulberry with the agreeable smoothness of the slippery elm; in fact, if my plans worked out I should have a berry that would go down so slick the consumer could not taste it at all unless he should eat too many of them and suffer from indigestion afterward.

Then there was my scheme for inducing the common chinch bug to make chintz curtains. If the silk worms can make silk why should not the chinch bug do something useful instead of wasting his energies in idle pursuits? This is what I wished to know. And why should this man Luther Burbank enjoy a practical monopoly of all these propositions? That was the way I looked at it; and I figured that an abandoned farm would make an ideal place for working out such experiments as might come to me from time to time.

The trouble was that, though everybody wrote of the abandoned farms in a broad, general, alluring way, nobody gave the exact location of any of them. I subscribed for one of the monthly publications devoted to country life along the Eastern seaboard and searched assiduously through its columns for mention of abandoned farms. The owners of most of the country places that were advertised for sale made mention of such things as fourteen master’s bedrooms and nine master’s baths – showing undoubtedly that the master would be expected to sleep oftener than he bathed – sunken gardens and private hunting preserves, private golf links and private yacht landings.

[ … ]

None of the places advertised in the monthly seemed sufficiently abandoned for our purposes, so for a little while we were in a quandary. Then I had a bright thought. I said to myself that undoubtedly abandoned farms were so cheap the owners did not expect to get any real money for them; they would probably be willing to take something in exchange. So I began buying the evening papers and looking through them in the hope of running across some such item as this:

To Exchange – Abandoned farm, centrally located, with large farmhouse, containing all antique furniture, barns, outbuildings, family graveyard – planted – orchard, woodland, fields – unplanted – for a collection of postage stamps in album, an amateur magician’s outfit, a guitar with book of instructions, a safety bicycle, or what have you? Address ABANDONED, South Squantum Center, Connecticut.

Text was obtained from Transcription errors were corrected; punctuation, diacritics, and italics formatted; American spelling restored (as in initial magazine publication); some spelling and punctuation modernized to provide consistency.
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Last edited by GrannyGrump; 08-03-2017 at 04:45 AM. Reason: add excerpt
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