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market goes down, he's mighty apt to get a lot of ideas with holes in
them and bad habits as the small change of his profits. And if the
market goes up, he's likely to go short his self-respect to win back his

Most men think that they can figure up all their assets in dollars and
cents, but a merchant may owe a hundred thousand dollars and be solvent.
A man's got to lose more than money to be broke. When a fellow's got a
straight backbone and a clear eye his creditors don't have to lie awake
nights worrying over his liabilities. You can hide your meanness from
your brain and your tongue, but the eye and the backbone won't keep
secrets. When the tongue lies, the eyes tell the truth.

I know you'll think that the old man is bucking and kicking up a lot of
dust over a harmless little flyer. But I've kept a heap smarter boys
than you out of Joliet when they found it easy to feed the Board of
Trade hog out of my cash drawer, after it had sucked up their savings in
a couple of laps.

You must learn not to overwork a dollar any more than you would a horse.
Three per cent. is a small load for it to draw; six, a safe one; when it
pulls in ten for you it's likely working out West and you've got to
watch to see that it doesn't buck; when it makes twenty you own a blame
good critter or a mighty foolish one, and you want to make dead sure
which; but if it draws a hundred it's playing the races or something
just as hard on horses and dollars, and the first thing you know you
won't have even a carcass to haul to the glue factory.

I dwell a little on this matter of speculation because you've got to
live next door to the Board of Trade all your life, and it's a safe
thing to know something about a neighbor's dogs before you try to pat
them. Sure Things, Straight Tips and Dead Cinches will come running out
to meet you, wagging their tails and looking as innocent as if they
hadn't just killed a lamb, but they'll bite. The only safe road to
follow in speculation leads straight away from the Board of Trade on
the dead run.

Speaking of sure things naturally calls to mind the case of my old
friend Deacon Wiggleford, whom I used to know back in Missouri years
ago. The Deacon was a powerful pious man, and he was good according to
his lights, but he didn't use a very superior article of kerosene to
keep them burning.

Used to take up half the time in prayer-meeting talking about how we
were all weak vessels and stewards. But he was so blamed busy exhorting
others to give out of the fullness with which the Lord had blessed them
that he sort of forgot that the Lord had blessed him about fifty
thousand dollars' worth, and put it all in mighty safe property, too,
you bet.

The Deacon had a brother in Chicago whom he used to call a sore trial.
Brother Bill was a broker on the Board of Trade, and, according to the
Deacon, he was not only engaged in a mighty sinful occupation, but he
was a mighty poor steward of his sinful gains. Smoked two-bit cigars
and wore a plug hat. Drank a little and cussed a little and went to the
Episcopal Church, though he had been raised a Methodist. Altogether it
looked as if Bill was a pretty hard nut.

Well, one fall the Deacon decided to go to Chicago himself to buy his
winter goods, and naturally he hiked out to Brother Bill's to stay,
which was considerable cheaper for him than the Palmer House, though,
as he told us when he got back, it made him sick to see the waste.

The Deacon had his mouth all fixed to tell Brother Bill that, in his
opinion, he wasn't much better than a faro dealer, for he used to brag
that he never let anything turn him from his duty, which meant his
meddling in other people's business. I want to say right here that with
most men duty means something unpleasant which the other fellow ought to
do. As a matter of fact, a man's first duty is to mind his own business.
It's been my experience that it takes about all the thought and work
which one man can give to run one man right, and if a fellow's putting
in five or six hours a day on his neighbor's character, he's mighty apt
to scamp the building of his own.

Well, when Brother Bill got home from business that first night, the
Deacon explained that every time he lit a two-bit cigar he was
depriving a Zulu of twenty-five helpful little tracts which might have
made a better man of him; that fast horses were a snare and plug hats a
wile of the Enemy; that the Board of Trade was the Temple of Belial and
the brokers on it his sons and servants.

Brother Bill listened mighty patiently to him, and when the Deacon had
pumped out all the Scripture that was in him, and was beginning to suck
air, he sort of slunk into the conversation like a setter pup that's
been caught with the feathers on its chops.

"Brother Zeke," says he, "I shall certainly let your words soak in. I
want to be a number two red, hard, sound and clean sort of a man, and
grade contract on delivery day. Perhaps, as you say, the rust has got
into me and the Inspector won't pass me, and if I can see it that way
I'll settle my trades and get out of the market for good."

The Deacon knew that Brother Bill had scraped together considerable
property, and, as he was a bachelor, it would come to him in case the
broker was removed by any sudden dispensation. What he really feared was
that this money might be fooled away in high living and speculation. And
so he had banged away into the middle of the flock, hoping to bring down
those two birds. Now that it began to look as if he might kill off the
whole bunch he started in to hedge.

"Is it safe, William?" says he.

"As Sunday-school," says Bill, "if you do a strictly brokerage business
and don't speculate."

"I trust, William, that you recognize the responsibilities of your

[Illustration: "_I started in to curl up that young fellow to a

Bill fetched a groan. "Zeke," says he, "you cornered me there, and I
'spose I might as well walk up to the Captain's office and settle. I
hadn't bought or sold a bushel on my own account in a year till last
week, when I got your letter saying that you were coming. Then I saw
what looked like a safe chance to scalp the market for a couple of cents
a bushel, and I bought 10,000 September, intending to turn over the
profits to you as a little present, so that you could see the town and
have a good time without it's costing you anything."

The Deacon judged from Bill's expression that he had got nipped and was
going to try to unload the loss on him, so he changed his face to the
one which he used when attending the funeral of any one who hadn't been
a professor, and came back quick and hard:

"I'm surprised, William, that you should think I would accept money made
in gambling. Let this be a lesson to you. How much did you lose?"

"That's the worst of it - I didn't lose; I made two hundred dollars," and
Bill hove another sigh.

"Made two hundred dollars!" echoed the Deacon, and he changed his face
again for the one which he used when he found a lead quarter in his
till and couldn't remember who had passed it on him.

"Yes," Bill went on, "and I'm ashamed of it, for you've made me see
things in a new light. Of course, after what you've said, I know it
would be an insult to offer you the money. And I feel now that it
wouldn't be right to keep it myself. I must sleep on it and try to find
the straight thing to do."

I guess it really didn't interfere with Bill's sleep, but the Deacon sat
up with the corpse of that two hundred dollars, you bet. In the morning
at breakfast he asked Brother Bill to explain all about this speculating
business, what made the market go up and down, and whether real corn or
wheat or pork figured in any stage of a deal. Bill looked sort of sad
and dreamy-eyed, as if his conscience hadn't digested that two hundred
yet, but he was mighty obliging about explaining everything to Zeke. He
had changed his face for the one which he wore when he sold an easy
customer ground peas and chicory for O. G. Java, and every now and then
he gulped as if he was going to start a hymn. When Bill told him how
good and bad weather sent the market up and down, he nodded and said
that that part of it was all right, because the weather was of the Lord.

"Not on the Board of Trade it isn't," Bill answered back; "at least, not
to any marked extent; it's from the weather man or some liar in the corn
belt, and, as the weather man usually guesses wrong, I reckon there
isn't any special inspiration about it. The game is to guess what's
going to happen, not what has happened, and by the time the real weather
comes along everybody has guessed wrong and knocked the market off a
cent or two."

That made the Deacon's chin whiskers droop a little, but he began to ask
questions again, and by and by he discovered that away behind - about a
hundred miles behind, but that was close enough for the Deacon - a deal
in futures there were real wheat and pork. Said then that he'd been
misinformed and misled; that speculation was a legitimate business,
involving skill and sagacity; that his last scruple was removed, and
that he would accept the two hundred.

Bill brightened right up at that and thanked him for putting it so clear
and removing the doubts that had been worrying him. Said that he could
speculate with a clear conscience after listening to the Deacon's able
exposition of the subject. Was only sorry he hadn't seen him to talk it
over before breakfast, as the two hundred had been lying so heavy on his
mind all night that he'd got up early and mailed a check for it to the
Deacon's pastor and told him to spend it on his poor.

Zeke took the evening train home in order to pry that check out of the
elder, but old Doc. Hoover was a pretty quick stepper himself and he'd
blown the whole two hundred as soon as he got it, buying winter coal for
poor people.

I simply mention the Deacon in passing as an example of the fact that
it's easy for a man who thinks he's all right to go all wrong when he
sees a couple of hundred dollars lying around loose a little to one side
of the straight and narrow path; and that when he reaches down to pick
up the money there's usually a string tied to it and a small boy in the
bushes to give it a yank. Easy-come money never draws interest;
easy-borrowed dollars pay usury.

Of course, the Board of Trade and every other commercial exchange have
their legitimate uses, but all you need to know just now is that
speculation by a fellow who never owns more pork at a time than he sees
on his breakfast plate isn't one of them. When you become a packer you
may go on 'Change as a trader; until then you can go there only as a

Your affectionate father,

+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| No. 15 |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| From John Graham, at |
| the Union Stock Yards |
| in Chicago, to his son, |
| Pierrepont, at The Scrub |
| Oaks, Spring Lake, |
| Michigan. Mr. Pierrepont |
| has been promoted again, |
| and the old man sends him |
| a little advice with his |
| appointment. |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+


CHICAGO, September 1, 189-

_Dear Pierrepont:_ I judge from yours of the twenty-ninth that you must
have the black bass in those parts pretty well terrorized. I never could
quite figure it out, but there seems to be something about a fish that
makes even a cold-water deacon see double. I reckon it must be that
while Eve was learning the first principles of dressmaking from the
snake, Adam was off bass fishing and keeping his end up by learning how
to lie.

Don't overstock yourself with those four-pound fish yarns, though,
because the boys have been bringing them back from their vacations till
we've got enough to last us for a year of Fridays. And if you're sending
them to keep in practice, you might as well quit, because we've decided
to take you off the road when you come back, and make you assistant
manager of the lard department. The salary will be fifty dollars a
week, and the duties of the position to do your work so well that the
manager can't run the department without you, and that you can run the
department without the manager.

To do this you will have to know lard; to know yourself; and to know
those under you. To some fellows lard is just hog fat, and not always
that, if they would rather make a dollar to-day than five to-morrow. But
it was a good deal more to Jack Summers, who held your new job until we
had to promote him to canned goods.

Jack knew lard from the hog to the frying pan; was up on lard in history
and religion; originated what he called the "Ham and" theory, proving
that Moses' injunction against pork must have been dissolved by the
Circuit Court, because Noah included a couple of shoats in his cargo,
and called one of his sons Ham, out of gratitude, probably, after
tasting a slice broiled for the first time; argued that all the great
nations lived on fried food, and that America was the greatest of them
all, owing to the energy-producing qualities of pie, liberally shortened
with lard.

It almost broke Jack's heart when we decided to manufacture our new
cottonseed oil product, Seedoiline. But on reflection he saw that it
just gave him an extra hold on the heathen that he couldn't convert to
lard, and he started right out for the Hebrew and vegetarian vote. Jack
had enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is the best shortening for any job; it
makes heavy work light.

A good many young fellows envy their boss because they think he makes the
rules and can do as he pleases. As a matter of fact, he's the only man in
the shop who can't. He's like the fellow on the tight-rope - there's plenty
of scenery under him and lots of room around him, but he's got to keep his
feet on the wire all the time and travel straight ahead.

A clerk has just one boss to answer to - the manager. But the manager has
just as many bosses as he has clerks under him. He can make rules, but
he's the only man who can't afford to break them now and then. A fellow
is a boss simply because he's a better man than those under him, and
there's a heap of responsibility in being better than the next fellow.

No man can ask more than he gives. A fellow who can't take orders can't
give them. If his rules are too hard for him to mind, you can bet they
are too hard for the clerks who don't get half so much for minding them
as he does. There's no alarm clock for the sleepy man like an early
rising manager; and there's nothing breeds work in an office like a busy

Of course, setting a good example is just a small part of a manager's
duties. It's not enough to settle yourself firm on the box seat - you
must have every man under you hitched up right and well in hand. You
can't work individuals by general rules. Every man is a special case and
needs a special pill.

When you fix up a snug little nest for a Plymouth Rock hen and encourage
her with a nice porcelain egg, it doesn't always follow that she has
reached the fricassee age because she doesn't lay right off. Sometimes
she will respond to a little red pepper in her food.

I don't mean by this that you ever want to drive your men, because the
lash always leaves its worst soreness under the skin. A hundred men will
forgive a blow in the face where one will a blow to his self-esteem.
Tell a man the truth about himself and shame the devil if you want to,
but you won't shame the man you're trying to reach, because he won't
believe you. But if you can start him on the road that will lead him to
the truth he's mighty apt to try to reform himself before any one else
finds him out.

Consider carefully before you say a hard word to a man, but never let a
chance to say a good one go by. Praise judiciously bestowed is money

Never learn anything about your men except from themselves. A good
manager needs no detectives, and the fellow who can't read human nature
can't manage it. The phonograph records of a fellow's character are
lined in his face, and a man's days tell the secrets of his nights.

Be slow to hire and quick to fire. The time to discover incompatibility
of temper and curl-papers is before the marriage ceremony. But when you
find that you've hired the wrong man, you can't get rid of him too
quick. Pay him an extra month, but don't let him stay another day. A
discharged clerk in the office is like a splinter in the thumb - a centre
of soreness. There are no exceptions to this rule, because there are no
exceptions to human nature.

Never threaten, because a threat is a promise to pay that it isn't
always convenient to meet, but if you don't make it good it hurts your
credit. Save a threat till you're ready to act, and then you won't need
it. In all your dealings, remember that to-day is your opportunity;
to-morrow some other fellow's.

Keep close to your men. When a fellow's sitting on top of a mountain
he's in a mighty dignified and exalted position, but if he's gazing at
the clouds, he's missing a heap of interesting and important doings down
in the valley. Never lose your dignity, of course, but tie it up in all
the red tape you can find around the office, and tuck it away in the
safe. It's easy for a boss to awe his clerks, but a man who is feared to
his face is hated behind his back. A competent boss can move among his
men without having to draw an imaginary line between them, because they
will see the real one if it exists.

Besides keeping in touch with your office men, you want to feel your
salesmen all the time. Send each of them a letter every day so that
they won't forget that we are making goods for which we need orders; and
insist on their sending you a line every day, whether they have anything
to say or not. When a fellow has to write in six times a week to the
house, he uses up his explanations mighty fast, and he's pretty apt to
hustle for business to make his seventh letter interesting.

Right here I want to repeat that in keeping track of others and their
faults it's very, very important that you shouldn't lose sight of your
own. Authority swells up some fellows so that they can't see their
corns; but a wise man tries to cure his own while remembering not to
tread on his neighbors'.

[Illustration: "_A good many salesmen have an idea that buyers are only
interested in funny stories._"]

In this connection, the story of Lemuel Hostitter, who kept the corner
grocery in my old town, naturally comes to mind. Lem was probably the
meanest white man in the State of Missouri, and it wasn't any walk-over
to hold the belt in those days. Most grocers were satisfied to adulterate
their coffee with ground peas, but Lem was so blamed mean that he
adulterated the peas first. Bought skin-bruised hams and claimed that
the bruise was his private and particular brand, stamped in the skin,
showing that they were a fancy article, packed expressly for his fancy
family trade. Ran a soda-water fountain in the front of his store with
home-made syrups that ate the lining out of the children's stomachs, and
a blind tiger in the back room with moonshine whiskey that pickled their
daddies' insides. Take it by and large, Lem's character smelled about as
various as his store, and that wasn't perfumed with lily-of-the-valley,
you bet.

One time and another most men dropped into Lem's store of an evening,
because there wasn't any other place to go and swap lies about the crops
and any of the neighbors who didn't happen to be there. As Lem was
always around, in the end he was the only man in town whose meanness
hadn't been talked over in that grocery. Naturally, he began to think
that he was the only decent white man in the county. Got to shaking his
head and reckoning that the town was plum rotten. Said that such goings
on would make a pessimist of a goat. Wanted to know if public opinion
couldn't be aroused so that decency would have a show in the village.

Most men get information when they ask for it, and in the end Lem
fetched public opinion all right. One night the local chapter of the
W.C.T.U. borrowed all the loose hatchets in town and made a good, clean,
workmanlike job of the back part of his store, though his whiskey was so
mean that even the ground couldn't soak it up. The noise brought out the
men, and they sort of caught the spirit of the happy occasion. When they
were through, Lem's stock and fixtures looked mighty sick, and they had
Lem on a rail headed for the county line.

I don't know when I've seen a more surprised man than Lem. He couldn't
cuss even. But as he never came back, to ask for any explanation, I
reckon he figured it out that they wanted to get rid of him because he
was too good for the town.

I simply mention Lem in passing as an example of the fact that when
you're through sizing up the other fellow, it's a good thing to step
back from yourself and see how you look. Then add fifty per cent. to
your estimate of your neighbor for virtues that you can't see, and
deduct fifty per cent. from yourself for faults that you've missed in
your inventory, and you'll have a pretty accurate result.

Your affectionate father,

+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| No. 16 |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+
| From John Graham, at the |
| Schweitzerkasenhof, |
| Karlsbad, Austria, to his |
| son, Pierrepont, at the |
| Union Stock Yards, |
| Chicago. Mr. Pierrepont |
| has shown mild symptoms |
| of an attack of society |
| fever, and his father is |
| administering some simple |
| remedies. |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -+


KARLSBAD, October 6, 189-

_Dear Pierrepont:_ If you happen to run across Doc Titherington you'd
better tell him to go into training, because I expect to be strong
enough to lick him by the time I get back. Between that ten-day boat
which he recommended and these Dutch doctors, I'm almost well and about
broke. You don't really have to take the baths here to get rid of your
rheumatism - their bills scare it out of a fellow.

They tell me we had a pretty quiet trip across, and I'm not saying that
we didn't, because for the first three days I was so busy holding myself
in my berth that I couldn't get a chance to look out the porthole to see
for myself. I reckon there isn't anything alive that can beat me at
being seasick, unless it's a camel, and he's got three stomachs.

When I did get around I was a good deal of a maverick - for all the old
fellows were playing poker in the smoking-room and all the young ones
were lallygagging under the boats - until I found that we were carrying a
couple of hundred steers between decks. They looked mighty homesick, you
bet, and I reckon they sort of sized me up as being a long ways from
Chicago, for we cottoned to each other right from the start. Take 'em as
they ran, they were a mighty likely bunch of steers, and I got a heap of
solid comfort out of them. There must have been good money in them, too,
for they reached England in prime condition.

I wish you would tell our people at the Beef House to look into this
export cattle business, and have all the facts and figures ready for me
when I get back. There seems to be a good margin in it, and with our
English house we are fixed up to handle it all right at this end. It
makes me mighty sick to think that we've been sitting back on our
hindlegs and letting the other fellow run away with this trade. We are
packers, I know, but that's no reason why we can't be shippers, too. I
want to milk the critter coming and going, twice a day, and milk her
dry. Unless you do the whole thing you can't do anything in business as
it runs to-day. There's still plenty of room at the top, but there isn't

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Online LibraryGeorge Horace LorimerOld Gorgon Graham More Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son → online text (page 8 of 12)