Love Letters from the Roost of Former Gov. Bob Taylor

Dr. B. Harrison Taylor, a grandson of the celebrated former Governor of Tennessee, Alf Taylor, sent me a letter: “Several months ago you had a historical article (“Old Limber”) in the paper about my grandfather. I thought you might enjoy this quote of Alf’s brother, Bob, from a little booklet entitled “Governor Taylor’s Love Letters to the Public,” especially in the light of present events.”

Harrison copied six pages for me and highlighted portions of it. In a letter written to Uncle Sam dated January 1, 1899, the former governor made the following statements: “I very much fear that you are going too far from home on your gunning expeditions. Why not be content to sit down to your own hog and hominy, and turnip greens, and canvasbacks, and beef and venison, and ‘possum, and pumpkin pie and political punch? I suppose that while you are contracting and expanding, you will take a notion after awhile to stretch yourself to your full length on the western hemisphere, until the mosquitoes shall roost on your big toe at Cape Horne, while icebergs form on your whiskers in Alaska. Remember me kindly to the American Eagle, give my love to the Goddess of Liberty and may we all live long and prosper.”  

I located and purchased the illustrated 95-page soft back booklet, published in 1899 by J.F. Draughon Company of Nashville. I paid more than the cover price of 25 cents. The 14 letters in the works were composed between Feb. 1 and Sept. 22, 1899; eight of them were written at “Robin’s Roost,” the governor’s residence in south Johnson City. Bob’s delightful humor comes through in his excerpts to various people:

To the Politicians (Feb 1): “Somehow or other we have never flocked together in the paradise of politics. You wanted me to blow your trumpet, but I preferred the mellower notes and softer tones of the old-time fiddle of the people.”

To the Boys (Feb. 6): “I have seen something of life in (cities and towns) and my observation has been that the country is the place to raise a boy, where the green hills and beautiful landscapes broaden his views. …”

To the Girls (Mar. 1): “If a woman has thoughts, let them fly; there is room enough in the intellectual air for every wing. If she can write, let her have the ink bottle; give her a pen and foolscap (paper) ‘‘a-plenty.’”

To the Fishermen (May 8): “What a glorious time to resurrect the fishing tackle from its dusty tomb in the lumber room and the red worm from his slimy sepulcher under the sod and to impale him on the hook and send him diving after suckers.”

To the Mothers-In-Law (no date): “(She) is the conservator of the peace and not its disturber, as many bad men would make it appear. She is the Goddess of Liberty, enlightening the little world within the four walls of home.”

To The School Teachers (July 24): “There is a glorious field of labor already ripe for our teachers; let them enter it and reap the golden harvest. The hills of the future are abloom with opportunities; let them climb to the heights and pluck the flowers.”

The remaining seven letters with the same articulate elocution were written to Bachelors, Drummers (salesmen who are paid to “drum” up business), Fiddlers, Candidates, Sweethearts, Sportsmen and The Blue and the Gray.

The last paragraph of the Introduction best summarizes the former governor’s inimitable flair: “Bob Taylor is something more than a humorist and a musician; he is also a great word painter, putting into the sublimest language the grandest and the most solemn thoughts conceivable by man.”