July 25, 1997
President, General Manager, Chairman of the Board, and Chief Embezzler of the Bayfield Transfer Railway
"Visionary"... "Man of Action"... "Deboniar Man-About-Town"... "Human Dynamo"... "Entrepreneur"... "God's Gift to Women"... "Genius of Commerce"... "Captain of Industry"... These are some of the labels applied to Col. Phineas T. Stouphangel over the years. ("Moron", "scum", "cheap crook", "short-change artist", "toad", "lying bastard", "penny-ante chiseler", and "butt-wipe" are some of the other labels, but that's not important now.) The Bayfield Transfer Railway appears, on the surface, to be just another struggling shortline ekeing out a marginal existance from bridge traffic and odd-lot freight that nobody else wants to bother with. For the most part, that image would be true, were it not for one man -- Colonel Phineas T. Stouphangel (pronounced "Stoup-hangel", not "Stoufangel"). Col. Stouphangel has, more than any single other person, made the Bayfield Transfer Railway what it is today (sometimes merely by giving the employees a common enemy to band together against, but that's not important now either).
But who is Col. Stouphangel?
The picture one gets of Col. Stouphangel depends greatly upon the source one consults. One could, for instance, consult the book, "STOUPHANGEL -- Entreprenurial Colossus of the North" (copyright 1988, Phineas T. Stouphangel. Author: Stouphangel, Phineas T.; Jacket design by Phineas T. Stouphangel. Back cover photo by Phineas T. Stouphangel. Movie rights reserved by Phineas T. Stouphangel. Special effects by Stouphangel Light & Magic. Soundtrack by Phineas T. Stouphangel, available on Stouphangel Records, CDs and Tapes. Pub. 1988, Stouphangel Press, Ltd., Bayfield, WI.)
Consult a different source -- say, for instance, "People vs. Stouphangel, Phineas T." (State of Wisconsin Supreme Judicial Court) -- and one would get a very different view indeed. (Acquittal on 5 counts, 3 nulli prosecui and a nolo contendre, but that's not important now.)
And yet a third view would come from his neighbors and acquaintences in northern Wisconsin where he has lived all his life, and still spends most of his time. To those unfamiliar with it, the harsh beauty of the south shore of Lake Superior is sometimes hard to grasp, but those born and raised in the area are never totally free from its pull, even such a least-favored son as Col. Stouphangel.
The epithet "Colonel" warrants a moment's explanation. There is no history of any (legitimate) military service in Stouphangel's background. When asked, which he freqently is, what service he served with, his unvarying answer is that he is "a Kentucky colonel". The stolid, hard-working, and decidedly unfanciful folk of the northern climes invariably greet this with a puzzled look and the comment, "But this is Wisconsin".
It is the purpose of this article to simply and clearly state a few salient points of the historical record, and let the readers judge for themselves (or considering the circulation of this rag, let the reader judge for himself, if he's not already asleep). Thoroughout, we have endeavored to maintain the highest standards of objectivity and diligent validation of sources, in the best tradition of The Bayfield Picayune and its earnest desire to avoid litigation, aided only by an abiding yearning for Truth. (Alright, we were also aided by too little sleep and way too much caffeine, but that's not important now either).
The best insight into Col. Stouphangel's character actually comes from his own words -- he was, truly, "born a hundred years too late". When asked, he says that he feels that way because "back then, a man could prosper without limits other than those of his own ambition". In actuality, he wishes he was born a hundred years ago because he's always wanted to be a "Great Railroad Robber Baron" when he grows up, and he can't get away with that sort of thing any more (rude people like the Securities and Exchange Commision, the U.S. Patent Office, and the ASPCA keep interfering). From this deep-seated internal conflict, which Col. Stouphangel refers to "my Olympian grappling with Destiny" (also known as paranoid schizophrenia and Multiple Personality Disorder), come the forces that have shaped Col. Stouphangel, and, thus, the Bayfield Transfer Railway.
The Early Years
Phineas T. Stouphangel acquired his wealth in the best possible way; he inherited it. This is how it came to pass that a considerable fortune came into the hands of a person totally unsuited to produce it -- or anything else useful -- on his own. His total lack of any drive whatsoever and complete unsuitability for anything approaching meaningful work was recognized from the very first, when his first-grade teacher, Sister Andrea Doria, characterised him on an early report card as "lazy as a cut dog and stupid as a box of rocks". By his high school graduation this potential had blossomed fully, as shown by his high school counsellor's pencilling in the following comment on his record: "Dumber than hammered owlshit".
These setbacks had no effect at all on young Phineas, who applied himself industriously to learn exactly one thing: how to count money. He was well aware that he would one day inherit a considerable legacy, and simply decided that nothing else mattered -- and above all, that there was sure as hell no reason to work! This unswerving devotion to avoidance of honest labor became a guiding principle in Stouphangel's life. (In point of fact, that and an unslakable love for money seem to be the ONLY principles in his life, but that's not important now). But whence came this money that he was destined to inherit? It came from the same place as many of the great fortunes of the 19th century -- crime.
This started with Phineas' great-grandfather, Edward Treach Dick Turpin Jesse William F. Bonney Clyde Barrow John Dillinger Stouphangel, who called himself "The Terror of the North" (though on his Wanted posters the two most common ailiases were "Numb-Nuts" and "Shitbag", but that's not important now either). For most of his adult life this Stouphangel amassed a minor cache of loot by cattle rustling, card-sharping, extortion, chicken stealing, cheap thuggery, and stealing candy from babies. He had collected only a small amount when he met his demise. It seems that some local farmers were jealous of Ole Johnson's prize heifer and the amount of milk she gave, so they hired Stouphangel to milk her dry late one night. Stouphangel, however, could not tell one cow from another, and ended up trying to milk Johnson's prize fighting bull, with results better left to the imagination rather than described. ("Moo!", the animal was later quoted as saying). Suffice to say that it was possible to identify the victim, but only just barely.
Some have conjectured that these local farmers not only knew of Stouphangel's hopelessness around animals, but, in fact, were counting on it, but these allegations have never been proven.
The Stouphangel fortune grew much more quickly in the next generation. The scion of that generation was one Cornelius Vanderbuilt Jupiter Pierpont Andrew Carnegie James J. Jim Fisk Stouphangel, known to one and all as "Corny". Corny Stouphangel was left with the small nest egg that his father had left behind. Further, he had inherited his father's utter lack of scruples and his mother's intelligence. He thus applied for, and got, Orphan's Relief from a number of organizations dedicated to helping the unfortunate. This gave him the financial resources he needed to embark on a life-long career of shady dealings, stock fraud, insider trading, speculation, peculation, and highway robbery (though those charges were never proven). Like father, like son; Corny Stouphangel's son Hogarth (known, invariably, as "Horny") continued his father's long tradition of staying one small step ahead of the law while amassing larger and larger fortunes. He and his father both invested heavily in iron ore and copper mining rights in the South Shore area, and thus World Wars 1 and 2 were to vastly increase the Stouphangel fortune (aided by both Stouphangels engaging in a level of price-gouging unseen since Jacob sold his brother a bowl of soup). Corny Stouphangel had, by age 40, gained a reputation for ruthlessness unparalelled since the days of Vlad Tepez. His son, however, was to prove a hard-nosed, hard- boiled negotiater of such egregious viciousness as to make his father seem like your favorite uncle. All the younger Stouphangel ever said on the subject was, "With this nickname, you'd be mean too".
Thus, by the time Phineas T. Stouphangel was born in 1945, his position was assured as the heir of one of the many second-tier industrial fortunes of post-World War 2 America. Though he would never possess the wealth of a DuPont, a Getty, or a Rockafeller, he nonetheless knew at a very young age that he would never have to worry about food on the table or a roof over his head. His response to this was the same response that been made by many young children of wealthy families: he became spoiled, selfish, and petulant.