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First Experiences In Selling
by [?]

I sat with a group of friends around a table one evening not long ago, in one of the dining rooms of the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. The dining room was done in dark stained oak, the waiters whispered to each other in foreign tongues, French and German; on the walls of the room were pictures of foreign scenes painted by foreign hands; but, aside from this, everything about us was strictly American. We had before us blue points with water-cress salad, mountain trout from the Rockies, and a Porterhouse three inches thick. We had just come out of the brush and were going to “Sunday” in Denver. It was Saturday night, A man who has never been on the road does not know what it is to get a square meal after he has been “high-grassing it” for a week or two, and when such can become the pleasure of a drummer, he quickly forgets the tough “chuck” he has been chewing for many days.

We were all old friends, had known each other in a different territory many years before; so, when we came together again, this time in Denver, not having seen each other for many years, we talked of old times and of when we met with our first experiences on the road.

When a man first begins to hustle trunks he has a whole lot to learn. Usually he has been a stock-boy, knowing very little of the world beyond the bare walls in which he has filled orders. To his fellow travelers the young man on the road is just about as green as they make them, but the rapid way in which he catches on and becomes an old-timer, is a caution.

A great many decry the life of the traveling man, even men on the road themselves are discontented, but if you want to get one who is truly happy and satisfied with his lot, find one who, after having enjoyed the free and independent (yes, and delightful!) life of the road, and then settled down for a little while as a merchant on his own hook, insurance agent, or something of that kind, and finally has gone back to his grips, and you will find a man who will say: “Well, somebody else can do other things, but, for my part, give me the road.”

After we had finished with the good things before us and had lighted cigars, we could all see in the blue curls of smoke that rose before us visions of our past lives. I asked one of my friends, “How long have you been on the road, Billy?”

“Good Lord!” he yawned, “I haven’t thought of that for a long time, but I sure do remember when I first started out. I left St. Louis one Sunday night on the Missouri Pacific. It was nearly twenty years ago. I remember it very well because that night I read in a newspaper that there was such a thing as a phonograph and, as I was traveling through Missouri, I didn’t believe it. I had to wait until I could see one. The next day noon I struck Falls City, Nebraska. It had taken me eighteen hours to make the trip. To me it seemed as if I were going into a new world and I was surprised to find, when I reached Nebraska, that men way out there wore about the same sort of clothes that they did in St. Louis. I would not have been surprised a bit if some Indian had come out of the bushes and tried to scalp me. The depot was a mile and a half from the hotel. Here I took my first ride in an omnibus. The inside of that old bus, the red-cushioned seats and the advertisements of a livery stable, a hardware store, and “Little Jake’s Tailor Shop” were all new to me. Mud? I never saw mud so deep in my life. It took us an hour to get up town. The little white hotel with the green shutters on it was one of the best I ever struck in my life. Many a time since then I have wished I could have carried it– the good friend, chicken and all–along with me in all my travels. My best friend and adviser, an old road man himself, had told me this: ‘When you get to a town, get up your trunks and open them and then go and see the trade. You might just as well hunt quail with your shells in your pocket as to try to do business without your samples open.’