ALL ABOARD | Smoking elephants, warmed-over lawyers and 9-irons

Now that it seems dark by 4:30 every afternoon, causing me to feel like bedding down before 7 p.m., I have really been enjoying my nightly pre-sleep reading.

Since it does not take much reading for me to fall asleep, I try to finish at least one book a year.

This year, I selected “The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes,” edited by Clifton Fadiman.

I try to read at least three or four anecdotes a night before falling asleep, getting up a couple hours later to turn off the reading light.

I know it is the middle of November, but already I am on page 69 which features anecdotes on temperamental golfer Tommy Bolt and U.S. pioneer Daniel Boone.

The story goes that Bolt was once teaching a golf clinic. Trying to enliven the participants, Bolt asked his 14-year-young son “to show the nice folks what I taught you.”

On cue, Bolt’s “son obediently hurled a nine-iron into the blue sky.”

The only Daniel Boone anecdote shared describes a moment with the then mid-1780s frontiersman, while he was having his portrait done by American artist Chester Harding.

Harding asked Boone if he had ever been lost.

“No,” replied Boone.

“I can’t say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”

On page 70 are featured the anecdotes of John Wilkes Booth, his father Junius Brutus Booth and comedian Victor Borge.

Forget John.

His dad Junius, who apparently had a broken nose profiled like that of Ichabod Crane’s, was once approached by a lady admirer who remarked: “You’re such a wonderful actor, Mr. Booth, but to be perfectly frank with you, I can’t get over your nose.”

“There’s no wonder, madam,” quipped Booth. “The bridge is gone.”

If there was any unanimity in our family while we were growing up, it most certainly was that Victor Borge was a comedic genius.

The anecdotes for this Danish pianist are too numerous to share here, but we certainly have room for my favorite.

When asked why the keys of his piano were so yellow, Borge insisted that it was not that the piano was old, but because “the elephant smoked so much.”

Last night I flipped ahead to page 253 to read about Ulysses S. Grant. Apparently, Ulysses often used to dress in a rather undistinguished manner, not unlike I do when I go to Island Recycling.

Once, upon entering an inn one stormy winter’s night in Galena, Ill., Grant was particularly shabby in appearance.

Seated by the fire were gathered several lawyers, in town for a court session. As Grant approached, one lawyer looked up to offer his observation.

“Here’s a stranger, gentleman, and by the looks of him he’s traveled through hell itself to get here.”

“That’s right,” said Grant cheerfully.

“And how did you find things down there?”

“Just like here,” replied Grant, “lawyers all closest to the fire.”

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