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"Exit Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting" from Carry On

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Carry On
Exit Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting
by Ellis Parker Butler

When Henry K. Lunk came marching back to Jefferson Junction, Iowa, during the Civil War, with one arm off at the shoulder and the other off at the elbow, the village turned out and held a Henry K. Lunk meeting at Odd Fellows' Hall, with free food, free speech, and free music by the Jefferson Junction Juvenile Band. The mayor told almost three hundred citizens and boys that Henry was a hero, an honor to Jefferson Junction and, to put it in the mildest possible terms, the pride of Jefferson Junction, the State of Iowa, the United States of America, and the Universe.

To hear the mayor tell it the stars in their courses would stand still thereafter every time Henry K. Lunk wanted them to, and the sun would come right down to the corner of Main and Cross Streets and offer its flame every time Henry wanted to light his pipe. Only he would not have a pipe. Jefferson Junction would keep him in genuine imported Havana cigars for the rest of his natural life.

The Civil War was going on just then and every time there was a victory Jefferson Junction howled with joy. Every time there was a defeat the town yelled with rage. There was nothing in the world as big and important as the war, and there was nothing in the world too good for Henry K. Lunk.

At the big Hero Henry meeting in Odd Fellows' Hall there was food enough to last Henry six weeks, and he ate until his eyes stuck out. He sat on the platform right beside the mayor, and all eyes were on him. At the close of the meeting the mayor demanded, as the only possible thing to do, that everybody chip in to create a fund to be given to Henry, and everybody chipped. There was a pasteboard shoebox almost half full of money, and when the mayor handed it to Henry he reached out his stump of an arm before he realized he did not have even one hand left with which to take the money, and everybody laughed and cried at the same time, and then cheered Henry K. Lunk.

The mayor said, in closing the meeting, that Jefferson Junction considered Henry a sacred charge and that, come what might, Henry would never I feel want while one stone stood upon another in Jefferson Junction.

As Jefferson Junction was built almost entirely of wood, with one or two brick buildings, this was a safe assertion. The only place where one stone ever did stand on another was in front of the Hotel, where the village loafers usually played Duck-on-Davy.

But it was a grand night for Henry. He had lost his arms but Jefferson Junction told him he did not need any arms. It offered him free food, free clothing, and free shelter. It was wild to give them to him. It did not whisper it -- it yelled it. Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting made the well-known welkin ring as it had never rung before in Odd Fellows' Hall. That was up to ten o'clock that night. Then Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting put on their wraps and went home.

For a week Henry K. Lunk received invitations to dinner, but he was not expert at feeding himself with his bad arm yet, and that soon played out.

Then the war ended and Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting never came around at all except toward election day, and then they did not pay much attention to Henry. He was only one vote. He was only a battered-up ex-soldier in a faded uniform, and there were many other battered-up soldiers in faded uniforms.

The war being over, people grew tired of hearing of the war and of thinking of the war. About the best Henry K. Lunk could do was to sit on the bench in front of the Hotel and watch the other fellows play Ring-Toss or Duck-on-Davy. He got his pension and lived on that somehow, mainly by grafting his chewing tobacco from someone who could earn a living. He managed to live, but that was about all. He was moving around Jefferson Junction the last time I was there, some fifteen years ago, a sad-faced, useless, sick-of-life old man. He had done his share in one of the biggest things in the world, which is War, but he could not do his share in the other biggest thing -- the very biggest thing of all -- which is Peace.

Ward work in all of the military hospitals is well under way. Here at Lakewood one soldier teaches another the fundmentals of cartooning.

The glad words that the presence of Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting had put into the mouth of the mayor at the end of the meeting in Odd Fellows' Hall never came to anything real. Jefferson Junction did not feed and clothe and house Henry K. Lunk. Why? Because while a nation is at war and on the threshold of victory its men and women feel the greatest inspiration in helping the disabled man, but when the tumult and the shouting cease -- as Brother Kipling puts it -- and the war is completely over and the country has settled down to its normal work again, the country may not forget but the individual has his own cares and worries, joys and interests.

The country may, by pension or by insurance, give a small meed of support to the mutilated man but it can also give him the only thing you and I care a real hang for -- the chance to do our share in the work of the world. When I can't do some useful work I want to quit. If I ever have my arms and legs cut off I want somebody to make me a set of steel teeth and teach me to bite scallops in the edges of oak tabletops. I want to be doing something useful.

Every man and woman has this same feeling and he never knows how deep it is, and how necessary work is to happy life, until he can't work. To give the handicapped man a chance to do work is to give him the only opportunity for real happiness. Then he can look up at the sky every night and say, "I too, am doing my work in your world, O God!" That strikes me as being a lot better than looking up at the sky at eventide and saying, "I could not do a useful thing today, O Lord! but on the first of next month I'll get $19.64 pension money."

Don't try to think this thing out abstractly. Think of yourself and what you would like best if you lost all of one arm and half of another. You would like to be taught how to be independent by your own labor. You know you would.

The greatest thing in the world today, when this gigantic war has mutilated its thousands upon thousands, is to speed the good work of reconstructing these men. Reconstruction does not mean merely building a new arm that can work; it means reconstructing a life that has been wrenched from its old foundations and left shattered, and constructing in its place a new life of helpfulness, independence and solid self-respect. When it comes to selling Liberty Bonds Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting are fine helpers, but when it comes to the returned soldier who can be educated to self-support and usefulness, the nation's libretto should say, "Exit Mr. Tumult and Miss Shouting; enter John J. Common sense."



Saturday, October 07 at 1:11:26am USA Central
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