From Cornfield Philosophy, by C. D. Strode, Illustrated, Chicago: The Blakely Printing Co., 1902; pp. 15-19.
HOW TO ACQUIRE RICHES.
I suppose I’d better tell you.
It is a weakness of mine that I can’t bear to see a person, man, woman or child, working at a disadvantage when a word from me will set them right.
Ofttimes my efforts are not appreciated. Only the other morning I saw a man get off a street car as it was starting up, and as he got off the wrong way he was thrown violently to the pavement. As he arose and limped away a lot of unfeeling people laughed at him. I felt sorry for the man and stopped to explain to him how to jump off a moving street car, and if you will believe me, he turned and cursed me.
I do not mind such things, however. I am sustained by the conviction that I am doing my duty.
I can look back upon my early life and see where a word of advice from someone who knew as much as I know now would have saved me from making mistakes; but the advice was withheld, and I blundered on.16
That isn’t right. I believe that a man who knows as much as I do has a moral obligation to discharge. Whenever I see a man who needs my advice I am going to give it. If he wants to get mad and rear around about it that is his business.
The subject, “How to Acquire Riches,” is an important and engrossing one. It comes near the heart of every man. Every man is trying to answer it. Even newspaper men are interested in it in a way, but this and all other matters appeal to journalists in a different way than they do to ordinary people.
The journalist does not make a study of politics merely to decide how he shall cast his own vote. He does not take an interest in the advance of science because he expects to ride in a horseless carriage or heat and light his house with electricity. No. His interests are deeper, wider and more unselfish than that.
I have a friend who is an editor of an electrical journal, and is a recognized authority on electrical matters, who lights his house with a kerosene lamp. He writes glowing articles each week about the possibilities in the development of electrical transit, and walks to and from his office because he hasn’t money to pay street-car fare. And I know an editor of a leading lumber paper who will split hairs with you over the merits of different hardwoods for interior finish, who lives in a flat finished in white pine painted a sort of muckle-dun brown.
So I answer the question — “How may riches be acquired?” not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of the thousands of readers who look to me for inspiration and guidance.
My uncle who raised me (bless the man for doing a good job of it!) made a life study of it, and although he 17 did not succeed to his satisfaction he developed some good points.
It is scarcely necessary to state that I was a source of delight to my uncle. He had great faith in education and used to send me to a country school three months every winter. I will never forget his surprise when he found I could measure a stack of hay and tell him how much it weighed. He sold a stack on my measurement once, and when he hauled it off he weighed it to see how it held out. It brought him $2.38 more than it would have had he sold it by weight, and thereby greatly increased my uncle’s respect for education.
He built a cistern of such dimensions as I figured out would hold fifty barrels. After the work was well under way he became convinced that that a fifty-barrel cistern was not nearly large enough. He was greatly worried until the cistern was finished, and he found it would hold about twice as much as he expected and was just what he wanted. This pleased him greatly and he said that schooling was a great thing.
Seeing me take books and rules and secure such satisfactory results my uncle bought a book of a book agent, entitled “Wealth — How to Acquire It,” and told me to figure it out for him. He said if it turned out like the cistern it would be all right. He wanted me to figure out how to make $50,000, and if it ran a few thousand over he wouldn’t care.
The first chapter was on “Early Rising.” It said that a man who wished to acquire wealth must get up early.
This was a bitter blow to my uncle. He said that since his coon dog had died and he had traded his shotgun for a heifer calf, about the only pleasure he had in life consisted of lying abed of mornings. Nevertheless, my uncle was determined, and for three months he got up 18 every morning before sun up. He would, being a man of consideration, get up quietly and go outside and sit on a bench and whittle. After trying it for three months he said he couldn’t notice any difference, so he gave it up and said the dinged book was a swindle.
He never gave up trying to solve the problem, however. He saw an advertisement once which read:
“How to become rich! Send 25 cents for reply.”
He sent the money and received the reply:
“Fish for suckers — as we are doing.”
But enough about my uncle. The results he achieved were merely negative. While he learned that a good many things would not produce riches, he did not find what would, and he died a disappointed man. He was a gentle, genial soul, however, who cherished no malice, and his disappointment did not embitter him. Before he died he forgave all his enemies except the man who wrote the chapter on “Early Rising.”
Before I tell you how to become rich, you must promise me that once you know you will not become miserly and avaricious, but that you will act with sense and moderation. The piling up of vast fortunes is a mistake. They bring more worry than contentment. I want you to promise that you will be content with a moderate fortune and that you will leave something for others.
Too much greediness defeats its own ends. Mythology tells of a man named Midas, who was so greedy for wealth that the gods conferred on him the gift that whatever he touched should turn to gold.
Mr. Midas was delighted. He touched his house and it turned to gold. He touched his furniture and it turned to gold. In a transport of joy he picked his baby from the floor and it turned to gold. They brought him food and the moment he touched it it turned to gold. It was 19 the same when he tried to drink, and the poor man died a miserable death. You need to be careful.
I read of another man who, in going through a forest found a block of gold so large that he couldn’t carry it. Being too greedy to leave it lest someone else should find it, he remained beside it until he died of starvation. I hope you have more strength of character than this, and if you have not I advise you to keep out of the woods altogether.
I could go on multiplying instances of this kind indefinitely, but while it would fill space, it is not necessary.
Another thing I want is that you shall promise that when you get your money you will make good use of it. If I thought that the information I am going to give you would be misused or abused — if I thought that you would use the money I am going to tell you how to make merely for your own selfish pleasure, that you would allow it to sap the foundations of your manhood, I would not give it.
Do you know that I am very serious about this? It is my observation that but few men can stand prosperity. It takes trials and adversity to develop a noble character, and if I tell you how to acquire riches it may be the ruination of you and I will be responsible.
I have hardly time to go into the matter just now, anyhow, and as I have some doubts as to whether it is best to go ahead or not, I believe I will hold the matter over for a while.