George Horace Lorimer.

Old Gorgon Graham More Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son online

. (page 6 of 12)
Online LibraryGeorge Horace LorimerOld Gorgon Graham More Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son → online text (page 6 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you are in a fair way of becoming a good drummer by three things:

First - When you send us Orders.

Second - More Orders.

Third - Big Orders.

If you do this you won't have a great deal of time to write long
letters, and we won't have a great deal of time to read them, for we
will be very, very busy here making and shipping the goods. We aren't
specially interested in orders that the other fellow gets, or in knowing
how it happened after it has happened. If you like life on the road you
simply won't let it happen. So just send us your address every day and
your orders. They will tell us all that we want to know about "the

I was cured of sending information to the house when I was very, very
young - in fact, on the first trip which I made on the road. I was
traveling out of Chicago for Hammer & Hawkins, wholesale dry-goods,
gents' furnishings and notions. They started me out to round up trade in
the river towns down Egypt ways, near Cairo.

I hadn't more than made my first town and sized up the population before
I began to feel happy, because I saw that business ought to be very good
there. It appeared as if everybody in that town needed something in my
line. The clerk of the hotel where I registered wore a dicky and his
cuffs were tied to his neck by pieces of string run up his sleeves, and
most of the merchants on Main Street were in their shirt-sleeves - at
least those that had shirts were - and so far as I could judge there
wasn't a whole pair of galluses among them. Some were using wire, some a
little rope, and others just faith - buckled extra tight. Pride of the
Prairie XXX flour sacks seemed to be the nobby thing in boys' suitings
there. Take it by and large, if ever there was a town which looked as if
it had a big, short line of dry-goods, gents' furnishings and notions to
cover, it was that one.

But when I caught the proprietor of the general store during a lull in
the demand for navy plug, he wouldn't even look at my samples, and when
I began to hint that the people were pretty ornery dressers he reckoned
that he "would paste me one if I warn't so young." Wanted to know what I
meant by coming swelling around in song-and-dance clothes and getting
funny at the expense of people who made their living honestly. Allowed
that when it came to a humorous get-up my clothes were the original
end-man's gag.

I noticed on the way back to the hotel that every fellow holding up a
hitching-post was laughing, and I began to look up and down the street
for the joke, not understanding at first that the reason why I couldn't
see it was because I was it. Right there I began to learn that, while
the Prince of Wales may wear the correct thing in hats, it's safer when
you're out of his sphere of influence to follow the styles that the
hotel clerk sets; that the place to sell clothes is in the city, where
every one seems to have plenty of them; and that the place to sell mess
pork is in the country, where every one keeps hogs. That is why when a
fellow comes to me for advice about moving to a new country, where there
are more opportunities, I advise him - if he is built right - to go to an
old city where there is more money.

I wrote in to the house pretty often on that trip, explaining how it
was, going over the whole situation very carefully, and telling what our
competitors were doing, wherever I could find that they were doing

I gave old Hammer credit for more curiosity than he possessed, because
when I reached Cairo I found a telegram from him reading: "_Know what
our competitors are doing: they are getting all the trade. But what are
you doing?_" I saw then that the time for explaining was gone and that
the moment for resigning had arrived; so I just naturally sent in my
resignation. That is what we will expect from you - or orders.

Your affectionate father,

+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| No. 11 |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| From John Graham, at the |
| Union Stock Yards in |
| Chicago, to his son, |
| Pierrepont, at The |
| Planters' Palace Hotel, |
| at Big Gap, Kentucky. Mr. |
| Pierrepont's orders are |
| small and his expenses |
| are large, so his father |
| feels pessimistic over |
| his prospects. |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+


CHICAGO, April 10, 189-

_Dear Pierrepont:_ You ought to be feeling mighty thankful to-day to the
fellow who invented fractions, because while your selling cost for last
month was within the limit, it took a good deal of help from the decimal
system to get it there. You are in the position of the boy who was
chased by the bull - open to congratulations because he reached the tree
first, and to condolence because a fellow up a tree, in the middle of a
forty-acre lot, with a disappointed bull for company, is in a mighty bad

I don't want to bear down hard on you right at the beginning of your
life on the road, but I would feel a good deal happier over your showing
if you would make a downright failure or a clean-cut success once in a
while, instead of always just skinning through this way. It looks to me
as if you were trying only half as hard as you could, and in trying
it's the second half that brings results. If there's one piece of
knowledge that is of less use to a fellow than knowing when he's beat,
it's knowing when he's done just enough work to keep from being fired.
Of course, you are bright enough to be a half-way man, and to hold a
half-way place on a half-way salary by doing half the work you are
capable of, but you've got to add dynamite and ginger and jounce to your
equipment if you want to get the other half that's coming to you. You've
got to believe that the Lord made the first hog with the Graham brand
burned in the skin, and that the drove which rushed down a steep place
was packed by a competitor. You've got to know your goods from A to
Izzard, from snout to tail, on the hoof and in the can. You've got to
know 'em like a young mother knows baby talk, and to be as proud of 'em
as the young father of a twelve-pound boy, without really thinking that
you're stretching it four pounds. You've got to believe in yourself and
make your buyers take stock in you at par and accrued interest. You've
got to have the scent of a bloodhound for an order, and the grip of a
bulldog on a customer. You've got to feel the same personal solicitude
over a bill of goods that strays off to a competitor as a parson over a
backslider, and hold special services to bring it back into the fold.
You've got to get up every morning with determination if you're going to
go to bed with satisfaction. You've got to eat hog, think hog, dream
hog - in short, go the whole hog if you're going to win out in the
pork-packing business.

That's a pretty liberal receipt, I know, but it's intended for a fellow
who wants to make a good-sized pie. And the only thing you ever find in
pastry that you don't put in yourself is flies.

You have had a wide-open chance during the last few months to pick up a
good deal about the practical end of the business, and between trips
now you ought to spend every spare minute in the packing-house getting
posted. Nothing earns better interest than judicious questions, and the
man who invests in more knowledge of the business than he has to have in
order to hold his job has capital with which to buy a mortgage on a
better one.

I may be mistaken, but I am just a little afraid that you really did not
get beyond a bowing acquaintance with Mr. Porker when you were here at
the packing-house. Of course, there isn't anything particularly pretty
about a hog, but any animal which has its kindly disposition and
benevolent inclination to yield up a handsome margin of profit to those
who get close to it, is worthy of a good deal of respect and attention.

I ain't one of those who believe that a half knowledge of a subject is
useless, but it has been my experience that when a fellow has that half
knowledge he finds it's the other half which would really come in
handy. So, when a man's in the selling end of the business what he
really needs to know is the manufacturing end; and when he's in the
factory he can't know too much about the trade.

You're just about due now to run into a smart Aleck buyer who'll show
you a sample of lard which he'll say was made by a competitor, and ask
what you think the grand jury ought to do to a house which had the nerve
to label it "leaf." Of course, you will nose around it and look wise and
say that, while you hesitate to criticize, you are afraid it would smell
like a hot-box on a freight if any one tried to fry doughnuts in it.
That is the place where the buyer will call for Jack and Charlie to get
in on the laugh, and when he has wiped away the tears he will tell you
that it is your own lard, and prove it to you. Of course, there won't be
anything really the matter with it, and if you had been properly posted
you would have looked surprised when he showed it to you and have said:

"I don't quite diagnose the case your way, Mr. Smith; that's a blamed
sight better lard than I thought Muggins & Co. were making." And you'd
have driven a spike right through that fellow's little joke and have
nailed down his order hard and tight with the same blow.

What you know is a club for yourself, and what you don't know is a
meat-ax for the other fellow. That is why you want to be on the lookout
all the time for information about the business, and to nail a fact just
as a sensible man nails a mosquito - the first time it settles near him.
Of course, a fellow may get another chance, but the odds are that if he
misses the first opening he will lose a good deal of blood before he
gets the second.

[Illustration: "_Josh Jenkinson would eat a little food now and then
just to be sociable, but what he really lived on was tobacco._"]

Speaking of finishing up a subject as you go along naturally calls to
mind the case of Josh Jenkinson, back in my home town. As I first
remember Josh, he was just bone and by-products. Wasn't an ounce of real
meat on him. In fact, he was so blamed thin that when he bought an
outfit of clothes his wife used to make them over into two suits for
him. Josh would eat a little food now and then, just to be sociable, but
what he really lived on was tobacco. Usually kept a chew in one cheek
and a cob pipe in the other. He was a powerful hand for a joke and had
one of those porous heads and movable scalps which go with a sense of
humor in a small village. Used to scare us boys by drawing in on his
pipe and letting the smoke sort of leak out through his eyes and ears
and nose. Pretended that he was the devil and that he was on fire
inside. Old Doc Hoover caught him at it once and told us that he wasn't,
but allowed that he was a blood relation.

Elder Hoover was a Methodist off the tip of the sirloin. There weren't
any evasions or generalities or metaphors in his religion. The lower
layers of the hereafter weren't Hades or Gehenna with him, but just
plain Hell, and mighty hot, too, you bet. His creed was built of sheet
iron and bolted together with inch rivets. He kept the fire going under
the boiler night and day, and he was so blamed busy stoking it that he
didn't have much time to map out the golden streets. When he blew off it
was super-heated steam and you could see the sinners who were in range
fairly sizzle and parboil and shrivel up. There was no give in Doc; no
compromises with creditors; no fire sales. He wasn't one of those elders
who would let a fellow dance the lancers if he'd swear off on waltzing;
or tell him it was all right to play whist in the parlor if he'd give up
penny-ante at the Dutchman's; or wink at his smoking if he'd quit

Josh knew this, so he kept away from the camp-meeting, though the Elder
gunned for him pretty steady for a matter of five years. But one summer
when the meetings were extra interesting, it got so lonesome sitting
around with the whole town off in the woods that Josh sneaked out to the
edge of the camp and hid behind some bushes where he could hear what was
going on. The elder was carrying about two hundred and fifty pounds, by
the gauge, that day, and with that pressure he naturally traveled into
the sinners pretty fast. The first thing Josh knew he was out from under
cover and a-hallelujahing down between the seats to the mourners' bench.
When the elder saw what was coming he turned on the forced draft. Inside
of ten minutes he had Josh under conviction and had taken his pipe and
plug away from him.

I am just a little inclined to think that Josh would have backslid if he
hadn't been a practical joker, and a critter of that breed is about as
afraid of a laugh on himself as a raw colt of a steam roller. So he
stuck it out, and began to take an interest in meal time. Kicked because
it didn't come eight or ten times a day. The first thing he knew he had
fatted up till he filled out his half suit and had to put it away in
camphor. Then he bought a whole suit, living-skeleton size. In two weeks
he had strained a shoulder seam and looked as if he was wearing tights.
So he retired it from circulation and moved up a size. That one was a
little loose, and it took him a good month to crowd it.

Josh was a pretty hefty man now, but he kept right on bulging out,
building on an addition here and putting out a bay window there, all the
time retiring new suits, until his wife had fourteen of them laid away
in the chest.

Said it didn't worry him; that he was bound to lose flesh sooner or
later. That he would catch them on the way down, and wear them out one
at a time. But when he got up to three hundred and fifty pounds he just
stuck. Tried exercise and dieting and foreign waters, but he couldn't
budge an ounce. In the end he had to give the clothes to the Widow
Doolan, who had fourteen sons in assorted sizes.

I simply mention Josh in passing as an example of the fact that a fellow
can't bank on getting a chance to go back and take up a thing that he
has passed over once, and to call your attention to the fact that a man
who knows his own business thoroughly will find an opportunity sooner or
later of reaching the most hardened cuss of a buyer on his route and of
getting a share of his.

I want to caution you right here against learning all there is to know
about pork-packing too quick. Business is a good deal like a nigger's
wool - it doesn't look very deep, but there are a heap of kinks and
curves in it.

When I was a boy and the fellow in pink tights came into the ring, I
used to think he was doing all that could be reasonably expected when he
kept eight or ten glass balls going in the air at once. But the
beautiful lady in the blue tights would keep right on handing him
things - kerosene lamps and carving knives and miscellaneous cutlery and
crockery, and he would get them going, too, without losing his happy
smile. The great trouble with most young fellows is that they think
they have learned all they need to know and have given the audience its
money's worth when they can keep the glass balls going, and so they balk
at the kerosene lamps and the rest of the implements of light
housekeeping. But there's no real limit to the amount of extras a fellow
with the right stuff in him will take on without losing his grin.

I want to see you come up smiling; I want to feel you in the business,
not only on pay day but every other day. I want to know that you are
running yourself full time and overtime, stocking up your brain so that
when the demand comes you will have the goods to offer. So far, you
promise to make a fair to ordinary salesman among our retail trade. I
want to see you grow into a car-lot man - so strong and big that you will
force us to see that you are out of place among the little fellows. Buck

Your affectionate father,

+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| No. 12 |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| From John Graham, at |
| the Union Stock Yards |
| in Chicago, to his son, |
| Pierrepont, at Little |
| Delmonico's, Prairie |
| Centre, Indiana. Mr. |
| Pierrepont has annoyed |
| his father by accepting |
| his criticisms in a |
| spirit of gentle, but |
| most reprehensible, |
| resignation. |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+


CHICAGO, April 15, 189-

_Dear Pierrepont:_ Don't ever write me another of those sad, sweet,
gentle sufferer letters. It's only natural that a colt should kick a
trifle when he's first hitched up to the break wagon, and I'm always a
little suspicious of a critter that stands too quiet under the whip. I
know it's not meekness, but meanness, that I've got to fight, and it's
hard to tell which is the worst.

The only animal which the Bible calls patient is an ass, and that's both
good doctrine and good natural history. For I had to make considerable
of a study of the Missouri mule when I was a boy, and I discovered that
he's not really patient, but that he only pretends to be. You can cuss
him out till you've nothing but holy thoughts left in you to draw on,
and you can lay the rawhide on him till he's striped like a circus
zebra, and if you're cautious and reserved in his company he will just
look grieved and pained and resigned. But all the time that mule will be
getting meaner and meaner inside, adding compound cussedness every
thirty days, and practicing drop kicks in his stall after dark.

Of course, nothing in this world is wholly bad, not even a mule, for he
is half horse. But my observation has taught me that the horse half of
him is the front half, and that the only really safe way to drive him is
hind-side first. I suppose that you could train one to travel that way,
but it really doesn't seem worth while when good roadsters are so cheap.

That's the way I feel about these young fellows who lazy along trying to
turn in at every gate where there seems to be a little shade, and
sulking and balking whenever you say "git-ap" to them. They are the men
who are always howling that Bill Smith was promoted because he had a
pull, and that they are being held down because the manager is jealous
of them. I've seen a good many pulls in my time, but I never saw one
strong enough to lift a man any higher than he could raise himself by
his boot straps, or long enough to reach through the cashier's window
for more money than its owner earned.

When a fellow brags that he has a pull, he's a liar or his employer's a
fool. And when a fellow whines that he's being held down, the truth is,
as a general thing, that his boss can't hold him up. He just picks a
nice, soft spot, stretches out flat on his back, and yells that some
heartless brute has knocked him down and is sitting on his chest.

A good man is as full of bounce as a cat with a small boy and a bull
terrier after him. When he's thrown to the dog from the second-story
window, he fixes while he's sailing through the air to land right, and
when the dog jumps for the spot where he hits, he isn't there, but in
the top of the tree across the street. He's a good deal like the little
red-headed cuss that we saw in the football game you took me to. Every
time the herd stampeded it would start in to trample and paw and gore
him. One minute the whole bunch would be on top of him and the next he
would be loping off down the range, spitting out hair and pieces of
canvas jacket, or standing on one side as cool as a hog on ice, watching
the mess unsnarl and the removal of the cripples.

I didn't understand football, but I understood that little sawed-off. He
knew his business. And when a fellow knows his business, he doesn't have
to explain to people that he does. It isn't what a man knows, but what
he thinks he knows that he brags about. Big talk means little knowledge.

There's a vast difference between having a carload of miscellaneous
facts sloshing around loose in your head and getting all mixed up in
transit, and carrying the same assortment properly boxed and crated for
convenient handling and immediate delivery. A ham never weighs so much
as when it's half cured. When it has soaked in all the pickle that it
can, it has to sweat out most of it in the smoke-house before it is any
real good; and when you've soaked up all the information you can hold,
you will have to forget half of it before you will be of any real use to
the house. If there's anything worse than knowing too little, it's
knowing too much. Education will broaden a narrow mind, but there's no
known cure for a big head. The best you can hope is that it will swell
up and bust; and then, of course, there's nothing left. Poverty never
spoils a good man, but prosperity often does. It's easy to stand hard
times, because that's the only thing you can do, but in good times the
fool-killer has to do night work.

I simply mention these things in a general way. A good many of them
don't apply to you, no doubt, but it won't do any harm to make sure.
Most men get cross-eyed when they come to size themselves up, and see
an angel instead of what they're trying to look at. There's nothing that
tells the truth to a woman like a mirror, or that lies harder to a man.

What I am sure of is that you have got the sulks too quick. If you knew
all that you'll have to learn before you'll be a big, broad-gauged
merchant, you might have something to be sulky about.

When you've posted yourself properly about the business you'll have
taken a step in the right direction - you will be able to get your
buyer's attention. All the other steps are those which lead you into his

Right here you will discover that you are in the fix of the young fellow
who married his best girl and took her home to live with his mother. He
found that the only way in which he could make one happy was by making
the other mad, and that when he tried to make them both happy he only
succeeded in making them both mad. Naturally, in the end, his wife
divorced him and his mother disinherited him, and left her money to an
orphan asylum, because, as she sensibly observed in the codicil,
"orphans can not be ungrateful to their parents." But if the man had had
a little tact he would have kept them in separate houses, and have let
each one think that she was getting a trifle the best of it, without
really giving it to either.

Tact is the knack of keeping quiet at the right time; of being so
agreeable yourself that no one can be disagreeable to you; of making
inferiority feel like equality. A tactful man can pull the stinger from
a bee without getting stung.

Some men deal in facts, and call Bill Jones a liar. They get knocked
down. Some men deal in subterfuges, and say that Bill Jones' father was
a kettle-rendered liar, and that his mother's maiden name was Sapphira,
and that any one who believes in the Darwinian theory should pity
rather than blame their son. They get disliked. But your tactful man
says that since Baron Munchausen no one has been so chuck full of bully
reminiscences as Bill Jones; and when that comes back to Bill he is half
tickled to death, because he doesn't know that the higher criticism has
hurt the Baron's reputation. That man gets the trade.

There are two kinds of information: one to which everybody's entitled,
and that is taught at school; and one which nobody ought to know except
yourself, and that is what you think of Bill Jones. Of course, where you
feel a man is not square you will be armed to meet him, but never on his
own ground. Make him be honest with you if you can, but don't let him
make you dishonest with him.

When you make a mistake, don't make the second one - keeping it to
yourself. Own up. The time to sort out rotten eggs is at the nest. The

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryGeorge Horace LorimerOld Gorgon Graham More Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son → online text (page 6 of 12)