Lee Pitts: Stealing my own money
Years ago I owned a livestock newspaper and a purebred breeder owed us a lot of money for advertising he purchased in advance of his bull sale. I paid all my own expenses to go work ring at his bull sale which was two states away from my house. Months passed after the sale and still no check was in the mail. Then I started hearing rumors the purebred breeder was in trouble and sure enough, the bank announced his complete dispersal.
The sale manager for the dispersal called and tried to place a big budget of advertising but there was no way I was going to go work the sale or give the breeder one inch of advertising until his bill was paid in full. The sale manager begged and begged, probably because all the other periodicals the breeder owed money to wouldn’t “sell” him any ad space either. After several calls I came up with a brilliant bit of cowboy capitalism: my repayment plan was that I’d work the two-day dispersal and sell ad space for the sale but I’d purchase a dollar amount of cattle in the dispersal equal to the breeder’s total outstanding bill and not pay for them. The sale manager thanked me profusely and readily agreed to the deal.
I thought I was the first person to come up with such a plan but my buddy Russell from South Dakota busted my high opinion of myself when he told me about a similar deal he struck in the first year he had his real estate office. It seems Russell was a member of the county school board which was in the mandatory process of bussing kids to school and changing where many kids went to school. One parent complained bitterly to Russell who half-jokingly replied, “Why don’t you sell your ranch and move closer to the school.” A month later the complainer did just that.
Russell got the place sold but the rancher owed so many people money that there wasn’t enough left to pay Russell’s commission, so Russell took a pony cart, a Shetland Pony, a harness to pull the cart and an IOU for $2,500. Two years went by and still Russell didn’t get his money. One day Russell saw a ranch auction advertised for the guy so Russell went to the banker, explained his predicament and the banker said he could deduct $2,500 off any amount he paid for cows.
“I got the cows bought,” said Russell, “but I started worrying if I had enough money to pay the difference and how was I going to get the cows to my ranch. I was walking to my pickup when a man ran up and asked, ‘Have they sold the cows yet?’ I said yes and I’d just bought them.”
So Russell sold the cows to the tardy auction-goer after tacking on a commission, got his $2,500 and came out of the deal smelling like a rose.
I only wish I could say the same thing. After I’d bought some bulls roughly equal to what the purebred breeder owed us I had them home only a few days when I got a call from the sale manager who explained that I was going to have to pay for the cattle because a bankruptcy trustee was at the sale and he wrote down the price and buyer of every hoof that went through the ring and now he wanted to know when this Lee Pitts feller was going to pay up. The sale manager told me, “Either you or I are going to pay and it darn sure isn’t going to be me.”
Oh, the scoundrel, how he lied!
In the end, we never got paid for any advertising, I had to pay for the bulls and I used them on a small jag of cows. I only wish the bulls were as full of bull as the guy who bred them because they only settled 40 percent of my cows and those that did get pregnant had dwarf-like calves. So I sold the bulls in the slaughter run for $1,000 less than I paid and I still wasn’t finished paying because every time I looked at those runty calves I just had to ask myself, “Am I a genius or what?”