The Whittlers' Gazette, owned and published by Clyde Brant of Lucasville delighted local readers in the 1930s with news, stories, and poetry by a “hillbilly poet” with the homely and humorous pen name of “Rube.” Of course, everyone who read the Gazette knew Rube was a figment of Brant's imagination, but Brant loved to entertain his audience with tales of Rube's anonymity. He even wrote a post offering a reward for the person who could ascertain the true identity of Rube.
In this edition of the Gazette, Rube wrote ...
“I have offered a $1.00 reward for the apprehension and identification of one hillbilly poet goin' by the name of “Rube.” He ain't worth that I am sure but I'll give that much to find out who he is. The following persons have been accused most often of bein' him: Esto Davis, Jack Hood, Mark Crawford, Nell Bricker, J.H. Finney, and Rev. Carter. I don't think it is any one of them for various reasons.
“I asked Dave Hickman if he thot Rube ever lived on Miller's Run and he said, 'No, I never knowed of any educated fool livin' out our way.' They say Dave can make anything out of iron or wood, includin' a clucker for a hen, a quacker for a duck, and a pair of wooden tails for a rabbit.”
Here is a sample of Rube's homespun poetic work:
Says Em to me the other day,
“Say, Rube, how come our hens won't lay?
I've fed 'em tons of fancy grain'
Their nests I've ined with cellophand;
Their vity-mines and calo-rees
I've figered out from A to Z;
But nary an egg will them hens lay –
I've got to find some other way.”
“Why, Em,” says I, “I'm sure surprised;
Why don't you ever use your eyes?
Why don't you read the magazines?
It ain't no lack o' feed and things;
You've got to use 'psychology'
On hens as well as husbands, see;
Them hens had lived, year after year,
Without the 'proper atmosphere.'
Now just you leave this thing to me –
By cracky, Em, I'll guarantee
Inside o' ten or twenty days,
Them hens'll lay so many eggs
We'll have to borry Frailey's car,
To haul the durned things to the store.”
That afternoon at half past four,
I drove down to Brant's Village Store,
An' bought a Victor Phonygraph –
By gorsh, thinks I, just let 'em laugh.
I slipped in home by the back way,
An' hid the blamed thing in the hay.
That night, when Em begun to snore,
I rose, snuck out the kitchen door
An' got that dratted music box –
I felt as sly as some old fox;
I crept inside the hen-coop; then
(I'd get my sleep I knew not when)
I clapped a record on the thing,
As Bing Crosby begun to sing;
Them hems commenced to bill an' coo –
They laughed out loud at Bing's “boo-boo.”
Well, all that night I had to spend
With Rudy Vallee an' them old hens
An' Lawrence Tibbett an' John Boles.
(I'd grind them records into holes
But what I'd make them durned hens lay,
An' lay before the break o' day.)
Just as Caruso's tenor blare
Begun to fill the moring air,
Them hens, they cackled long an' loud;
My plan had worked – an' was I proud!
In another edition of the Gazette, Clyde Brant berates Rube for his refusal to reveal his true identity. In the article, the name calling is ironically erudite as it continues and continues to the point of absurdity. I will leave it to the reader to look up the definitions of the words used in the entry. Suffice it to say, it is quite a mouthful for a country store owner.
“Rube, I ain't no coward like you are. I yam what I yam, you are nothing but a derned old sneak. You are afraid to let me know who you are. You are an old hypocrite, a little insignificant, whifflin' sophist. You buzz like a bumble bee but you are only a June bug. You wouldn't know a punkin pie from a custard. Em has got you right under her thumb. I ain't araid of no woman.
“Talking about the weather, you are probably more familiar with moonshine than you are a wet moon. And talk about bein' modern, I'll bet Em makes you drink frog-pond coffee made in an old fashioned, inefficient percolator while I get up myself like a man and make my own coffee in an ultra-modern, efficacious, calisthenic, redoubtable, animative, and vivifying tricolator, which sucks every bit of the tasty, fragrant juice and soul and substance and quiddity and quintessence and sap right out of every granule of coffee.
“… I bet you are one of the Jello Boys and a salad gulper, and a gramnivorous (sp.), phytophagous, Gargantuan, spinach gastronomist. You can't see the difference between a pseudo-scientist and a man like me who has two big feet on the ground. Maybe you will learn something if you keep on readin' the Gazette, like you been doin,' as I can see you ain't missed much. But you will never amount to nothin' Rube, till you find out how to handle Em. Women is handy and a big comfort around the home if you know how to manage 'em.”
Of course, Rube has to reply to this verbal assault. He rails at Brant's “inadequacy” in his choice of vocabulary. And, Rube reveals he is blackmailing his wife Em to keep his identity hidden. And, oh yes, Rube gets in some foreign phrases to boot. He writes ...
“I noticed by your bulletin board that you are offering a reward for me – a whole dollar. Now Editor, you should be ashamed. You should have seen me making tracks out of that store. And was my face red! Have only been back once since, and that was to get Em's new dress. You see, I didn't have any more brains than to go home and tell her, and she's been blackmailing me ever since; wants to turn me in just to get that durned, measly little old dollar. Now can you top that? Every time she gets het-up I have to promise her another dress. Have only had to get her one so far (one of those new prints or calicos you got in a week or two ago), but that old gal never forgets my promises. If the roads hadn't been so bad I can't get down very often, I'd have been out about five dollars by this time. And it's all your fault for teaching Em how to blackmail like you yourself did Liggett and Myers and the Leggett Company (sponsors of the Gazette).
“And by the way, there were several names you forgot to call me in your 'comments' on my so-beautiful and inspiring poem. By Cracky, I'm surprised at the extreme inadequacy of your vocabulary. And you a big Editor! Think of it! Now for instance, there's hick, moron, nit-wit, runt, boob, flat-tire, bum, scab, half-breed, shrimp, nonentity, hay-seed, skunk, cuss, scum, half-pint, scallaway, half-wit, scamp, anguis in herba, lusus naturae, ame de boue, un sot a triple etage, advocatus diaboli, and so on. Oh, yes, and a dirty so-and-so.
“Now see that you do better next time. Just think of all those nice things I said about you in my poem. And you'd better look up the correct spelling for 'graminivorous,' or have your printing company do it. It was probably their fault, like the mistake they made on my poem. They took a line off the first stanza, and tacked it onto the second. Did you notice it? They durned near ruined the effect of my old-maids, teachers, brides and widows.”
In one of the last issues of Whittlers' Gazette, Clyde Brant admits defeat and holds out hope that the government will crack the mystery ...
“All the local detectives have failed utterly to uncover the identity of Walt and Rube, Whittlers' Gazette poets. Better watch out boys, if the Government finds out what a big income you are getting' from your writings, the G-Men will get you for evasion of taxes, like they did Al Capone, and are thinkin' of doin' with the *Black Legion leaders.”
Note – The Black Legion was a secret vigilante terrorist group and a white supremacist organization in the Midwestern United States that splintered from the Ku Klux Klan and operated during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
I hope you enjoyed this small sample of Clyde Brant's genius. May it inspire some local wit to take up the cause and begin a new local journal of homespun news and entertainment. I don't see many folks whittling anymore, but maybe a tweeting club would sponsor a paper because they do just as much loafing and manipulating their fingers as the old whittlers did… that is, if they could find the time to put down their electronic devices and compose.
The Whittlers' Gazette. The Official Publication of the Whittlers' Clubs of America Clyde Brant, Owner and Publisher. National Headquarters Brant's Village Store, Lucasville, Ohio.
Editions of the Gazette used: December 1935; February, March, and July 1936.
Enjoy reading the Gazette issues in their entirety. Click here: https://www.yourppl.org/history/collections/show/39