Kickypoo and the free enterprise system

At every stop in a 50-year newspaper career, I've told this story to illustrate many things. Often it's been to reflect the basics of the free enterprise system.

Anyone who knows me even slightly wouldn't accuse me of being a farmer or rancher but those are my roots.

Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, there was a 13- year-old lad in Brady. He lived with an older sister and their stepfather. The two teens lost their father 10 years earlier and their mother two years prior to this story's setting.

In fateful 1929, the lad was an eighth grade student. Two traits were quickly noticeable, mischief and adventure. He possessed a donkey by the unlikely but somehow apt name of Kickypoo. Each day, he rode his pet donkey to school, tying him up in a clump of trees near the schoolhouse.

At recess, the lad's propensity for mischief and adventure meshed with ingenuity to make a little money. He bet all the kids they couldn't ride Kickypoo. As he told the story many times over the years, no one could last but a couple of seconds on Ol' Kickypoo, whose back was to be graced only by his 13-year-old master.

Many classmates bit the dust and par ted w ith their hardearned money. Kickypoo's owner was cleaning up.

But, as fate would have it, something went awry. One day, a would-be donkey-buster broke his arm upon being rejected by Kickypoo. Naturally, the schoolteacher and the injured youngster's parents got into the act and the teacher told the lad he could no longer bring Kickypoo to school. The lad's stepfather was a little sterner. Kickypoo must go, he said.

Well, the youngster dearly loved that donkey, so he schemed to keep him. He found a sympathetic friend who allowed him to keep Kickypoo in his barn. Then, the ingenious youngster found another spot out of sight of the school where he could tie up Kickypoo while attending class.

One day, he was riding Kickypoo in town when, as he put it, a Connecticut Yankee came to town. He asked the lad sitting atop the donkey where he could buy a large number of burros.

The lad asked how much the Connecticut Yankee was willing to pay and why did he want a bunch of old donkeys anyway.

Five dollars a head was the offering price and the purpose was to use the donkeys for people to ride up and down a mountain at a Connecticut resort.

That captured the youngster's fancy. He informed the man that he could deliver enough donkeys to fill the tractor-trailer truck the Yank brought to town. The lad thought to himself that he knew where he could buy, on consignment, all the donkeys he needed for 50 cents a head.

He promptly rounded up "99 head" for the Connecticut Yankee and was paid. However, the Yank insisted that he needed one more burro to fill the truck. He inquired as to the price of Kickypoo. The young teen said he couldn't part with his pet for any price.

"Twenty-five dollars," said the Yankee.

"Nope." "Fifty."

"No way."

"One hundred dollars and that's my final offer," said the Connecticut Yankee.


The lad pocketed $595 (according to his precise story) that day and went home to tell his stepfather.

As the boy was pulling all that cash out of his pocket, his stepfather began to thrash him, feeling that the only way a 13-year-old boy could get that kind of money had to be illegitimate.

"He almost beat me to death before I could convince him I hadn't robbed a bank. And, that's how I got started in the hosstradin' binniss."

The story was related to me many times by my late father, who was a successful "hosstrader." He became a shrewd trader and all his life was a rancher and cattle-buyer. The latter occupation he worked on a free-lance basis as an order buyer for packing companies.

My dad gave me my farmranch roots and he exhibited how the free enterprise system should work in this countr y whether it is 1929 or 2009.

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2009-06-18 digital edition

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