Facebook Page
garden railways.chap10.html
The ongoing Saga of the Toenail Ridge Shortline

Uploaded June 10,1998

Chapter 10
New Jersey Jack
The story continues

New Jersey Jack Lazyacre, dressed as a prosperous and proper business-man crossed the continent in the comfort of a Pullman car, spending his days winning small amounts playing rummy in the smoking car and his evenings winning large amounts playing poker in private compartments. He eventually arrived in San Francisco a wealthy man with a price on his head from numerous fleeced fellow railroad travellers.

At this time San Francisco was still the wild town of the west coast.
A thriving port, it pulsed to the influence of sailors, Asian immigrants, both legal and other, and was the gambling mecca of the continent west of the Mississippi.
The city also had a thriving population of ladies of negotiable affection, attractive girls whose duty in life was to cater to the needs of the sundry denizens of the city, fulfilling the physical requirements for the right fee.
The Census of 1902 had listed over 200 young women calling themselves seamstresses, but the same survey had found only three needles!

New Jersey Jack found that with his skills at forging and his uncanny ability manipulating a deck of cards, San Francisco was his sort of town.
No longer the young and almost innocent high-school teacher from the little Eastern town, Jack was wearing a Homburg hat and had a diamond stickpin in his cravat within a fortnight.

Two truths should become evident to anyone embarking on a discovery of the seamier side of life.

Never play pool with anyone named after a city, and never sit down to cards with anyone named after a state.

An ability to manipulate the deck initially gave Jack a sizeable stake, but he gained experience at the game itself and soon found that he was winning big on sheer ability alone.

That plus the fact that he could often plain out-raise the rubes who sat down to gamble with him.

A Royal Flush can't beat a pair of twos if you don't have the where-with-all to back your bet.

So Jack prospered and lived high.

And gained a bit of a reputation.

And attracted the attention of the men with the REAL money.

Who wanted to play.

And were capable of out-bidding Jack off the face of the planet.

And did.

Lazyacre came to the conclusion just about when the sheriff and bailiffs turned the corner into his street that perhaps it was time for another shift. This time the sheriff himself held the front door open for the frail wizened old woman who tottered half-bent from the hotel and down the front stairs. She entered a hansom-cab and directed the cabbie to take her to the Seattle & Portland railroad station post-haste.

And so Jack Lazyacre left San Francisco, heading to Northern parts, his pockets lined with cash gained from a last rushed fling with a check-book, the ink of which he had dried over the steam register in his hotel room.

Michael Cotton from the General Store had come to a point in his life while lying in the mud in the Main street of Selbyville when he realized that perhaps it was time for a change in himself. New Jersey Jack Lazyacre reached a similar watershed decision while puffing on a cheroot in the smoking Pullman and gazing at the rugged scenery as he was transported along the Oregon coast.

Time to settle down, put down roots, stop running and hiding from disgruntled creditors, gamblers and paternity suits.

He stopped in Portland long enough to set up his little portable printing press which he had acquired in Davenport, he purchased real parchment from a stationery supplier, and he bestowed on himself the degree of Ll.B, Bachelor of Law.

While he was at it he licenced himself to practice in the states of Iowa, Illinois and, just to cover all bases, His Majesty King Edward the VIIth's sovereign dependency of Jamaica.

Armed with the necessary papers to earn a legitimate living, Jack began quiet enquiries about a nice little out-of-the-way place to settle down.

Well, it doesn't take much imagination to guess what he was told, does it?

The Portland and Great Eastern Railroad passenger service travelled to Rowell in the middle of the state twice a week, although freight trains crossed the tracks on a daily basis.
In a last effort to cover his trail, Lazyacre approached a brakeman in his caboose, with a bottle of fine Tennessee whiskey in his hand, and begged a lift in the crummy, citing family emergency as his reason for wanting to ride the freight.

Now a fine bottle of Tennessee whiskey makes a very powerful argument, so with a small valise in his hand and his little printing press packed in a case, New Jersey Jack Lazyacre disappeared from the world of men and entered the valley of the Toenail Ridge Shortline.

A well spoken man with obvious education and qualifications, with skills in tact, diplomacy and general oiliness is assured of a welcome in virtually any town in the Western world.
The men admire his knowledge and worldliness, the women admire his manners and civility.

The town fathers saw in the newcomer lawyer a grand addition to the finesse of the town, an improvement in the tone of a place that, when you got down to tin-tacks, was really only the service yards for a railway.

So Jack was absorbed into the social and business life of Selbyville rapidly and within a year, no-one could remember a time when the town hadn't been graced by his presence and acumen.

A lawyer is a bonus to any community.

Bonus is an interesting word, seeing as how it is mostly "onus". And that's true too, a lawyer is an onus to a community.

It's remarkable how well people can get along, until someone comes along to teach them how to take advantage of each other.

A referee in a fight is there to see that each opponent obeys the rules and doesn't take unfair advantage.

A lawyer is a referee who earns his living showing how to bend the rules and exposing oppotunities for taking unfair advantage.

And New Jersey Jack took to lawyering like he was born to it.
For a man who had received no legal training his grasp of the field was miraculous.
He sprinkled his everday conversation with Latin mottos, he opined at length on weighty subjects with a tone that brooked no counter-saying, he adopted responsibilities in the community that required financial management, he greeted people with a firm handshake and a smile and a hearty "Non Amici Sans Lucre!"

Most folks in Selbyville thought that was a fancy Eastern way of saying good morning, but Lazyacre was in fact expressing the time-honored motto of all purveyors of legal opinion, "No Friends Without Money!"

One of the mainstays of social life and the better class of people is the church, especially if isn't Catholic.
Everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord, but in the heirarchy of the laity of a church, some people are more equal than others.
And while it may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, there are a hell of a lot of rich ment who are prepared to give it a go, prepared to grasp their riches tight to the chest until the Final Trump and then dispose of them to family and foundations in the hope that the Almighty and Allknowing God will be stupid enough to be fooled by their late beneficence.

Of course, one of the neccessities when planning to bestow worldly goods is a Will, and everybody knows that to prepare a proper will you need a person skilled in the intricacicies of the law.

A lawyer.

Who will cross the Ts, dot the Is and make sure that the whole procedure is legal and correct.

Law students spend semesters learning the correct way to handle wills.

New Jersey Jack Lazyacre read a book from the Rowell library on one of his trips to the town.
He read it while standing at the bar of the Rowell Hotel and Bar, drinking Jack Daniels whiskey and eating peanuts and pickles from the free bowls supplied by the publican.
Having committed the necessary information to memory he returned the book and once again journeyed to Selbyville.

As a fully qualified practitioner in the preparation of Wills.

The Selbyville church had prospered under the spiritual guidance of Reverend Jeremiah Little, membership was high, attendance was regular, and the church coffers were healthy.
The elders of the congregation decided amongst themselves that something must be done to preserve the assets of the church and perhaps to improve them by judicious and knowledgable investment.

A quiet evening in his rooms at the back of the hotel with the little portable printing press soon had Jack Lazyacre bestowed with a Degree in Business Administration from no less a prestigious establishment than Vasser College itself.

Fortunately, noone in the valley was aware that Vasser was an all-girls college, so that when the subject of investments came up and Jack produced his financial qualifications, all present were delighted to find the investor of their dreams in their midst, straight from the Ivy League.

With no hestitation on the part of the elders, Jack was empowered to take control of the church funds, to invest them as he saw fit and to oversee their growth.

New Jersey Jack may have given the impression to the Gentle Reader that he was a bit of a con-man.

Very astute, Gentle Reader.

But New Jersey Jack had every intention of staying in the valley of the Toenail Ridge Shortline and so he undertook to discharge his duties to the church and the community with diligence and zeal.
He pored over the financial pages of newspapers he ordered from Portland, and made copious notes of good stocks, of profitable railroads, of developments in the new automobile industry.
Every few weeks he received a copy of the Financial Times shipped all the way from England and the information in this prestigious journal added to his knowledge.

It was in fact in this newspaper that Lazyacre found the perfect investment for the Selbyville church funds.

The White Star Line, a shipping company based in Liverpool in England had recently announced that they were interested in laying the keel for a gigantic passenger liner, the very latest and safest in design, the epitome of luxury and speed, destined to revolutionize the Liverpool to New York Atlantic journey.

This magnificent ship was to be called the "Humungous", and investors were invited to apply for a prospectus.

Lazyacre journeyed to Chicago via the Toenail Ridge Shortline, the Portland & Eastern, and the Union Pacific railroads, carrying with him the entire monetary worth of the Selbyville congregation.
In the Windy City he met with canny stock-brokers who assisted him in procuring, in the name of the church, substantial interest in the new liner from England.

Being wise investment counsellors, they also advised him to diversify his investments, so the Selbyville church also became the owners of a large piece of an electric automobile manufacturer.

A similar investment procured an interest in a fledgling company which proposed to string wires from one business premises to another, from house to house, for communication purposes.
This radical scheme was staggeringly simple in its context, relying on the ability of a solid object to transmit sound waves greast distances.
At each outlet a hollow device was fitted to the end of the wire. Pulling on this device tensioned the wire, thus allowing passage of any speech uttered into the hollow device.
This speech could be received at the other end by placing that hollow device to the ear and likewise tensioning the wire.

It was promised to investors that within a decade every house would have a communication device coupled to a wire.

(In London, incidentally, the Postmaster General of His Majesty's Government decreed that Great Britain had no need of such modern devices, being the proud home of plenty of messenger boys. This is true.) Well, it didn't take Jack Lazyacre long to return to the Toenail Ridge valley with news of his shrewd business acumen.
On the promise of great returns on their investments, the elders of Reverend Little's church began to plan the erection of a magnificant new temple to the Greater Glory of The Almighty.
"Blessed are the poor" said the Son of God, and these poor, with joy and song, prepared to spend their inheritance.

I suppose it would be laboring a point to report in specific and painful detail the state of the church finances a year later.

As has been stated earlier, the valley of the Toenail Ridge was just about self-sufficient in its needs, and while all that extra cash would sure have been nice in their coffers and pockets, the parishioners still were able to participate in their worship and organized gossip and slander fests without the stained glass, the carpet, the upholstery, the gold chalices, the Wurlitzer organ.

New Jersey Jack was a ruined man. He had scrupulously not touched a cent of the church money for himself.
But he had pocketed the interest on it prior to its investment in Chicago.
And with that interest, plus the reserves surviving from his Davenport and San Francisco days, as well as the glowing letters of recommendation from seven different bank presidents in Pennsylvania and New York, (on which the ink finally dried,) he had floated a mortgage for an outrageous amount and purchased a brewery in Milwaukee.

Safest investment in the country.

Wars may come and go, Presidents are elected and depart, some in dignity, some with their tails between their legs, some with their pants around their ankles, but alcohol was forever.

Nothing would ever limit the right of the American working man to his beer after work.

No condition on earth could ever restrict the money-making potential of a man in the honest alcohol trade.


And to his dying day, New Jersey Jack Lazyacre never knew that Eliot Ness was his third cousin.

Chapter 11: Mac Attack!

Return to Main Page