ambrose bierce’s “oil of dog”

I’d like to thank Doug Skinner for pointing me toward Ambrose Bierce’s short story “Oil of Dog.” It was just the right thing for a cold and rainy October night… Here, in hopes that it will entice you to read further, is how it begins:

My name is Boffer Bings. I was born of honest parents in one of the humbler walks of life, my father being a manufacturer of dog-oil and my mother having a small studio in the shadow of the village church, where she disposed of unwelcome babes. In my boyhood I was trained to habits of industry; I not only assisted my father in procuring dogs for his vats, but was frequently employed by my mother to carry away the debris of her work in the studio. In performance of this duty I sometimes had need of all my natural intelligence for all the law officers of the vicinity were opposed to my mother’s business. They were not elected on an opposition ticket, and the matter had never been made a political issue; it just happened so. My father’s business of making dog-oil was, naturally, less unpopular, though the owners of missing dogs sometimes regarded him with suspicion, which was reflected, to some extent, upon me. My father had, as silent partners, all the physicians of the town, who seldom wrote a prescription which did not contain what they were pleased to designate as _Ol. can._ It is really the most valuable medicine ever discovered. But most persons are unwilling to make personal sacrifices for the afflicted, and it was evident that many of the fattest dogs in town had been forbidden to play with me–a fact which pained my young sensibilities, and at one time came near driving me to become a pirate….

Doug mentioned that we might want to put on a public reading of the piece here in Ypsi, and I’m tempted to take up the challenge. While I wouldn’t be the right person to deliver it, I know someone who would be perfect, and I think that he might be willing to stand up on a table at the Corner Brewery and deliver it theatrically in exchange for a few pints of ale.

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8 Comments

  1. mark
    Posted October 17, 2006 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    No comments?

    Surely someone has something to say….

  2. erin
    Posted October 18, 2006 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    When’s it happening? I’d trade a pint.

  3. schutzman
    Posted October 18, 2006 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s very disrespectful to plagiarize the work of Bierce, considering that his body has never been found, and that he is most likely still alive and well in Mexico.

    You’re probably the type of naysayer who also thinks that we should no longer be maintaining the runway on Howland Island, in preparation for Earhart’s eventual landing.

    Shame.

    How many pints?

  4. mark
    Posted October 18, 2006 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I think we’r eup to two pints, Brett. One from me an done from Erin. Is that enough to do the trick? How many pints does it take to coax you out of your hole these days?

    (If it does happen, we should have someone videoblog it.)

  5. ChelseaL
    Posted October 20, 2006 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    That’s right! If I remember (and there’s no saying I do), Ambrose Bierce ran off to fight the Spanish American War (or whichever war it was) in 1911, at age 70 or so, and was never heard from again.

    Of course, he IS alive: right here at MM.com.

    This is so cool. A mini-community of Bierce-ophiles. Who knew?

    One of my yearbook quotes, and one that graced several of my office spaces, from the Devil’s Dictionary:

    Birth, n, The first and direst of all disasters.

    Cheers, dears

  6. It's Skinner Again
    Posted October 21, 2006 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    And here’s a quote for today:

    Men who expect universal peace through invention of destructive weapons of war are no wiser than one who, noting the improvement of agricultural implements, should prophesy an end to the tilling of the soil.

  7. It's Skinner Again
    Posted October 21, 2006 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    And here’s a quote for today:

    Men who expect universal peace through invention of destructive weapons of war are no wiser than one who, noting the improvement of agricultural implements, should prophesy an end to the tilling of the soil.

  8. jade
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    i would like to ask what is the climax of this story??

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