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Cobb is remembered best for his humorous stories of Kentucky and is part of the American literary regionalism school. These stories were collected first in the book Old Judge Priest (1915), whose title character was based on a prominent West Kentucky judge named William Pitman Bishop. Writer Joel Harris wrote of these tales, "Cobb created a South peopled with honorable citizens, charming eccentrics, and loyal, subservient blacks, but at their best the Judge Priest stories are dramatic and compelling, using a wealth of precisely rendered detail to evoke a powerful mood."Among his other books are the humorous Speaking of Operations (1916), and anti-prohibition ode to bourbon, Red Likker (1929).
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Chapter I: Extra! Extra! All About The Great Reduction!
Chapter II: Those Romping Elfin Twenties
Chapter III: Regarding Liver-Eating Watkins and Others
Chapter IV: I Become The Panting Champion
Chapter V: On Acquiring Some Snappy Pores
Chapter VI: More Anon
Chapter VII: Office Visits, $10
Chapter VIII: The Friendly Sons of the Boiled Spinach
Chapter IX: Adventure of The Fallen Egg
Chapter X: Wherein Our Hero Falters
Chapter XI: Three Cheers for Lithesome Grace Regained!
THE WAY I LOOK AT this thing is this way: If something happens to you and by writing about it you can make a bit of money and at the same time be a benefactor to the race, then why not? Does not the philanthropic aspect of the proposition more than balance off the mercenary side? I hold that it does, or at least that it should, in the estimation of all fair-minded persons. It is to this class that I particularly address myself. Unfair-minded persons are advised to take warning and stop right here with the contemporary paragraph. That which follows in this little volume is not for them.
An even stronger motive impels me. In hereinafter setting forth at length and in detail the steps taken by me in making myself thin, or, let us say, thinner, I am patterning after the tasteful and benevolent examples of some of the most illustrious ex-fat men of letters in our country. Take Samuel G. Blythe now. Mr. Blythe is the present international bant-weight champion. There was a time, though, when he was what the world is pleased to call over-sized. In writing on several occasions, and always entertainingly and helpfully, upon the subject of the methods employed by him to reduce himself to his current proportions I hold that he had the right idea about it.
Getting fat is a fault; except when caused by the disease known as obesity, it is a bad habit. Getting thin and at the same time retaining one’s health is a virtue. Never does the reductionist feel quite so virtuous as when for the first time, perhaps in decades, he can stand straight up and look straight down and behold the tips of his toes. His virtue is all the more pleasant to him because it recalls a reformation on his part and because it has called for self-denial. I started to say that it had called for mortification of the flesh, but I shan’t. Despite the contrary opinions of the early fathers of the church, I hold that the mortification of the flesh is really based upon the flesh itself, where there is too much of it for beauty and grace, not merely upon the process employed in getting rid of it.
Ask any fat man—or better still, any formerly fat man—if I am not correct. But do not ask a fat woman unless, as in the case of possible fire at a theater, you already have looked about you and chosen the nearest exit. Taken as a sex, women are more likely to be touchy upon this detail where it applies to themselves than men are.
I have a notion that probably the late Lucrezia Borgia did not start feeding her house guests on those deep-dish poison pies with which her name historically is associated until after she grew sensitive about the way folks dropping in at the Borgia home for a visit were sizing up her proportions on the bias, so to speak. And I attribute the development of the less pleasant side of Cleopatra’s disposition—keeping asps around the house and stabbing the bearers of unpleasant tidings with daggers and feeding people to the crocodiles and all that sort of thing—to the period when she found her anklets binding uncomfortably and along toward half past ten o’clock of an evening was seized by a well-nigh uncontrollable longing to excuse herself from the company and run upstairs and take off her jeweled stomacher and things and slip into something loose.
But upon this subject men are less inclined to be fussy, and by the same token more inclined, on having accomplished a cure, to take a justifiable pride in it and to brag publicly about it. As I stated a moment ago, I claim Mr. Blythe viewed the matter in a proper and commendable light when he took pen in hand to describe more or less at length his reduction processes. So, too, did that other notable of the literary world, Mr. Vance Thompson. Mr. Thompson would be the last one to deny that once upon a time he undeniably was large. The first time I ever saw him—it was in Paris some years ago, and he was walking away from me and had his back to me and was wearing a box coat—I thought for a moment they were taking a tractor across town. All that, however, belongs to the past. Just so soon as Mr. Thompson had worked out a system of dieting and by personal application had proved its success he wrote the volume Eat and Grow Thin, embodying therein his experiences, his course of treatment and his advice to former fellow sufferers. So you see in saying now what I mean to say I do but follow in the mouth-prints of the famous.
Besides, when I got fat I capitalized my fatness in the printed word. I told how it felt to be fat.
I described how natural it was for a fat man to feel like the Grand Cañon before dinner and like the Royal Gorge afterwards.
I told how, if he wedged himself into a telephone booth and said, “64 Broad,” persons overhearing him were not sure whether he was asking Central for a number or telling a tailor what his waist measurements were.
I told how deeply it distressed him as he walked along, larding the earth as he passed, to hear bystanders making ribald comments about the inadvisability of trying to move bank vaults through the streets in the daytime. And now that, after fifteen years of fatness, I am getting thin again—glory be!—wherein, I ask, is the impropriety in furnishing the particulars for publication; the more especially since my own tale, I fondly trust, may make helpful telling for some of my fellow creatures? When you can offer a boon to humanity and at the same time be paid for it the dual advantage is not to be decried.
IT HAS BEEN MY PERSONAL observation, viewing the matter at close range, that nearly always fat, like old age or a thief in the dark, steals upon one unawares. I take my own case. As a youngster and on through my teens and into my early twenties—ah, those romping elfin twenties!—I was, in outline, what might be termed dwindly, not to say slimmish. Those who have known me in my latter years might be loath to believe it, but one of my boyhood nick-names—I had several, and none of them was complimentary but all of them were graphic—was Bonesy. At sixteen, by striping myself in alternate whites and blacks, I could have hired out for a surveyor’s rod. At twenty-one I measured six feet the long way, and if only mine had been a hook nose I should have cast a shadow like a shepherd’s crook.
My avocation in life was such as to induce slenderness. I was the city staff of a small-town daily paper, and what with dodging round gathering up items about people to write for the paper and then dodging round to avoid personal contact with the people I had written the items about for the paper, I was kept pretty constantly upon the go. In our part of the country in those days the leading citizens were prone to take offense at some of the things that were said of them in the public prints and given to expressing their sense of annoyance forcibly. When a high-spirited Southern gentleman, regarding whom something of a disagreeable nature had appeared in the news columns, entered the editorial sanctum without knocking, wearing upon his crimsoned face an expression of forthright irritation and with his right hand stealing back under his coat skirt, it was time for the offending reporter to emulate the common example of the native white-throated nut-hatch and either flit thence rapidly or hunt a hole.
Since prohibition came in and a hiccup became a mark of affluence instead of a social error, as formerly, and a loaded flank is a sign of hospitality rather than of menace, things may have changed. I am speaking, though, of the damper early nineties in Kentucky, when a sudden motion toward the right hip pocket was a threat and not a promise, as at present. So, what with first one thing and then another, now collecting the news of the community and now avoiding the customary consequences, I did a good deal of running about hither and yon, and kept fit and spry and stripling-thin.
Yet I ate heartily of all things that appealed to my palate, eating at least two kinds of hot bread at every meal—down South we say it with flours—and using chewing tobacco for the salad course, as was the custom. I ate copiously at and between meals and gained not a whit.
IT WAS AFTER I HAD
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