Only A Poor Old Man is a comic story written by Carl Barks for the first issue of Uncle Scrooge. It was the first story with Scrooge McDuck as its main character (he had already made his debut as a supporting character in Christmas on Bear Mountain). The story was published in 1952 and is one of the most reprinted Uncle Scrooge comics. Gemstone selected it as the Free Comic Book of 2005. Barks expert Michael Barrier has dubbed the story a masterpiece.
The story begins with Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money bin, speaking his now-famous line, "I love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!" He is watched by his nephew Donald, and they discuss the relative merits of having so much money.
While looking through the window, Scrooge is alarmed to see that the Beagle Boys have bought the lot next to the money bin. Scrooge understands that they plan to build a house on it so they can secretly drain Scrooge's money out of the bin. Scrooge immediately faints.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie ask Scrooge why he is so attached to his money, and he explains that to him it is not just money: his fortune is the result of a long life of hard work and canny action. Every coin is a memento of an adventure. "You'd love your money as much as I would if you'd gotten it the way I did - by thinking a little faster than the next guy, by jumping a little quicker." Scrooge also repeats another of his now-famous mantras: he made his fortune by being "smarter than the smarties and tougher than the toughies, and I made it square!"
After calming down, Scrooge forms a plan: with his nephews' help, he installs a chute that allows him to empty the bin slowly, using the trucks with which the beagle boys take away the dirt of their excavations. The money is then dumped into the bottom of a lake, owned by Scrooge. By the time the Beagle Boys enter the bin, it is completely empty.
However, Scrooge is not at peace. Worrying that the mud at the bottom of the lake will ruin the banknotes, he has the money brought up loads at a time and the banknotes placed in glass jars before being re-sunk. Still with his money on the bottom of the lake Scrooge begins to miss his daily swim in his coins. To make up for it, he decides to create a temporary money island. But once he is indulged in swimming around in his money, one of the Beagle Boys coincidentally observes him from afar.
Realizing that the Beagle Boys have found out his where he hid his money, Scrooge immediately calls his nephews to help him guard the lake. The Beagle Boys buy the land in the valley downstream from the lake, showing that their plan is to destroy the dam at the end, causing the water and the money to flow down onto their property.
Scrooge and his nephews defend against the Beagle Boys' varied assaults on the dam: first, they use a giant magnifying glass suspended from a weather balloon to focus sunlight on the dam, hoping to burn it. Donald shatters the glass with a shot from an old-fashioned cannon.
Next, they force a bomb down the gullet of a fish and send it swimming toward the dam. Luckily, one of the boys is fishing, and manages to pull out the bomb and throw it away before it explodes. Scrooge tells him to chase all the other fish downstream and then string a net across.
Third, the Beagle Boys use trained cormorants who first steal beakfuls of change from the lake, then carry napalm bombs toward the dam. Scrooge, who learned cormorant language while trading pearls in Asia, orders the cormorants to turn around and drop their bombs on the Beagle Boys.
Fourth, the Beagle Boys seed the clouds, causing a thunderstorm, hoping a lightning bolt will be drawn to the metal in the lake, and set the dam ablaze. Scrooge installs a large lightning rod atop the dam, wired to a cannon ball shot into the Beagle Boys' backyard.
The Beagle Boys turn to Plan Five: breeding super-termites. One of them tricks Scrooge into buying them, thinking they are a termite-eating insects, and they chew through the dam. They are unable to repair the dam quickly enough, and it breaks, sending all the money flowing down onto the Beagle Boys' land.
Scrooge, to his nephews' surprise, decides to admit defeat, and invites them to come along while he congratulates the winners. The Beagle Boys crow over him, and as he gazes nostalgically at his money, he confesses that what he will miss most is swimming around in it. The Beagle Boys are intrigued, more so when Scrooge demonstrates. They decide to take a dive in themselves - and end up bashing their heads on the hard, unyielding surface of the money. They will be unconscious for months, more than enough time for Scrooge to transport the money back onto his land. When his nephews ask how he can dive through the money while the Beagle Boys couldn't, he admits, "it's a trick."
Scrooge pays his nephews their wages, and as they leave, Donald remarks that Scrooge's money is nothing but trouble, for all the work it takes to guard and preserve. Scrooge dismisses this advice, declaring "No man is poor who can do what he likes to do once in a while!" He then goes back to gleefully swimming through his money.
- The premise of Scrooge having his money hidden in a lake and the Beagle Boys' first and fifth attempts to break the dam were adapted into the DuckTales episode "Liquid Assets".
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