I never worry about the side of a proposition that I can see; what I want to get a look at is the side that’s out of sight. The bugs always snuggle down on the under side of the stone.
The best year we ever had—in our minds—was one when the superintendent of the packing-house wanted an increase in his salary, and, to make a big showing, swelled up his inventory like a poisoned pup. It took us three months, to wake up to what had happened, and a year to get over feeling as if there was sand in our eyes when we compared the second showing with the first. An optimist is as bad as a drunkard when he comes to figure up results in business—he sees double. I employ optimists to get results and pessimists to figure them up.
After I’ve charged off in my inventory for wear and tear and depreciation, I deduct a little more just for luck—bad luck. That’s the only sort of luck a merchant can afford to make a part of his calculations.
The fellow who said you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear wasn’t on to the packing business. You can make the purse and you can fill it, too, from the same critter. What you can’t do is to load up a report with moonshine or an inventory with wind, and get anything more substantial than a moonlight sail toward bankruptcy. The kittens of a wildcat are wildcats, and there’s no use counting on their being angoras.
Speaking of educated pigs naturally calls to mind Jake Solzenheimer and the lard that he sold half a cent a pound cheaper than any one else in the business could make it. That was a long time ago, when the packing business was still on the bottle, and when the hogs that came to Chicago got only a common-school education and graduated as plain hams and sides and lard and sausage. Literature hadn’t hit the hog business then. It was just Graham’s hams or Smith’s lard, and there were no poetical brands or high-art labels.
Well, sir, one day I heard that this Jake was offering lard to the trade at half a cent under the market, and that he’d had the nerve to label it “Driven Snow Leaf.” Told me, when I ran up against him on the street, that he’d got the name from a song which began, “Once I was pure as the driven snow.” Said it made him feel all choky and as if he wanted to be a better man, so he’d set out to make the song famous in the hope of its helping others. Allowed that this was a hard world, and that it was little enough we could do in our business life to scatter sunshine along the way; but he proposed that every can which left his packing-house after this should carry the call to a better life into some humble home.
I let him lug that sort of stuff to the trough till he got tired, and then I looked him square in the eye and went right at him with:
“Jake, what you been putting in that lard?” because I knew mighty well that there was something in it which had never walked on four feet and fattened up on fifty-cent corn and then paid railroad fare from the Missouri River to Chicago. There are a good many things I don’t know, but hogs ain’t one of them.