The Plesiosaurus in Politics
by Ellis Parker Butler
Court-officer Durfey leaned on the rail in front of the desk of that eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, and asked a question.
"Judge," he asked, "what do you think of this plesiosaurus that fellow said he saw down in Patagonia? Is it there or ain't it?"
"Durfey," replied Judge Hooper, "I hate to say. The evidence is slight and the difference of opinion is amazing. Some say it is and some say it isn't. The talk about it is like unto our illustrious Senate uniting in wisdom on a question of great importance. Here is one man saying it is a genuine old Mesozoic plesiosaurus wallowing in the mud, and here is a man saying that what the fellow saw was a bullfrog. One man is willing to bet seventy thousand Russian rubles or even as much as four cents in real money that the thing is an oversized alligator, and the next man wants to bet that the Argentine that brought in the story in time for the mail edition was drunk and dreamed it. One man holds the opinion that it was not a plesiosaurus but a two-tusked leather-lunged brontosaurus with pink pin-feathers, and the next man says he knows blame well it is a green elephant with yellow spots because he saw it the last time he had 'em.
"It is a perplexing question, Durfey, and no less difficult is what should be done in this crisis. Here's one man in favor of giving it a slug of poison gas and sinking it before it bites the baby, and the next minute the Bonus Heirs (I may have the name of the town wrong) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals wants it left alone unless some kind friend will send it a ton of coal and a wool undershirt. This man wants to catch it and put it in the third cage to the left of the main entrance as you enter the tent, and that man wants to poison the miserable snake! Here is one man wanting to chloroform it and stuff it, and here's one that wants to buy the motion picture rights. One man would throw a harpoon into it and boil it down for oil, and the next man would sneak up and put salt on its tail and take it home for the baby to play with.
"My own opinion, Durfey, is that this whole plesiosaurus business is no more than a cruel satire some fellow down there is using to poke fun at our august Senate. You've got to take the whole business parabolically, Durfey. There's some bitter satirists down yonder below the Equator. The whole thing is but their way of saying that when our Senate gets hold of any problem bigger than 'Shall the dog-tax in the District of Columbia be boosted 50 cents?' it agrees the way folks agree about the plesiosaurus and what to do about it.
"You'd think, Durfey, that when the Senate has one of these whale-big, plesiosaurus-like questions on hand some of the great minds would run in the same channel, but do they? If every august Senator has not had a different way to raise the bonus money it is because some of them have been asleep, or every known way was mentioned before the middle of the list was reached. The only plan not suggested was to fine the ex-service men and pay them with the proceeds. That may come next.
"If the Senate hears of a treaty, Durfey, one Senator jumps up and swears it is a bloody-toothed plesiosaurus and the next vows it is a snow-breasted dove of peace. One bets it will put all war in the wastebasket, and the next bets it will bring Armageddon on a japanned tray before next Tuesday. One says it will permit us to reduce the army to six generals and one private, and the next says it will have every one from the baby to grandpa in the trenches in a week. One says it is a noble-hearted British concession to American ideals and brings tears to the eyes, and the next says it is the ironclad fist of the greedy Sassenach on our windpipe.
"'In regard to the Allied Debt plesiosaurus,' says one Senator, 'I beg to say it is a debt and must be paid to us.' 'A debt nothing!' says the next; 'it was a present to our loving allies.' 'It must be paid to us in gold before sun-up tomorrow,' says one, and 'Take bonds for it, payable a million years from tomorrow, and I hope tomorrow never comes,' says another. 'They owe us nothing,' says one. 'They owe us more than they owe us,' says another, 'but we'll cancel the debt.' 'Cancel nothing! We'll collect the money and give it to the starving Armenians,' says still another. 'And how can you do that,' says the next, 'when I've already promised the money to the ex-service men?' 'Gentlemen,' says the next Senator, 'you're all wrong. We will cancel the debt and collect the interest, using the deficit to buy plows for Russians so the Chinese can settle the strike in South Africa by turning Fiume over to the Poles, thus ending the Tacna-Arica difficulty for all time. 'To all of which I object,' says Senator Johnson, 'on the grounds that I did not think of it first.'
"And there you are, Durfey! My opinion is that much time could be saved and equally wise results obtained in Patagonia and Washington, D. C., by rolling two cubes of ivory with black spots on the six sides of them. The language used, if reported by Roy Octavus Cohen or Hugh Wiley, would be more interesting and increase the circulation of the Congressional Record."
"But what do you think about the plesiosaurus, Judge?" Mr. Durfey insisted.
"If you mean the one in Patagonia, Durfey," said Judge Hooper with his customary grin, "I refuse to be interviewed. If you mean the Allied Debt one I shouldn't wonder if, in the outcome, the Senate figured up how much the Allies owe us -- principal and interest -- and then sent them a check for it."