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Social Arts As Salesmen’s Assets
by [?]

Salesmanship has already been defined as the art of overcoming obstacles, of turning defeat into victory by the use of tact and patience. Courtesy must become constitutional with the drummer and diplomacy must become second nature to him. All this may have a very commercial and politic ring, but its logic is beyond question. It would be a decided mistake, however, to conclude that the business life of the skilful salesman is ruled only by selfish, sordid or politic motives.

In the early nineties, I was going through Western Kansas; it was the year of the drought and the panic. Just as the conductor called “All aboard” at a little station where we had stopped for water, up drove one of the boys. His pair of bronchos fairly dripped with sweat; their sides heaved like bellows–they had just come in from a long, hard drive. As the train started the commercial tourist slung his grips before him and jumped on. He shook a cloud of dust out of his linen coat, brushed dust off his shoes, fingered dust out of his hair, and washed dust off his face. He was the most dust-begrimed mortal I ever saw. His ablutions made, he sat down in a double seat with me and offered me a cigar.

“Close call,” said I.

“Yes, you bet–sixteen miles in an hour and thirty-five minutes. That was the last time I’ll ever make that drive.”

“Customer quit you?”

“He hasn’t exactly quit me, he has quit his town. All there ever has been in his town was a post office and a store, all in one building; and he lived in the back end of that. It has never paid me to go to see him, but he was one of those loyal customers who gave me all he could and gave it without kicking. He gave me the glad hand–and that, you know, goes a long ways–and for six years I’ve been going to see him twice a year, more to accommodate him than for profit. The boys all do lots of this work–more than merchants give them credit for. His wife was a fine little woman. Whenever my advance card came–she attended to the post office–she would always put a couple of chickens in a separate coop and fatten them on breakfast food until I arrived. Her dinner was worth driving sixteen miles for if I didn’t sell a sou.

“But it is all off now. The man was always having a streak of hard luck–grasshoppers, hail, hot winds, election year or something, and he has finally pulled stakes. When I reached there this time it was the lonesomest place I ever saw, no more store and post office, no more nice little wife and fried chicken–not even a dog or hitching post. My friend had gone away and left no reminder of himself save a notice he had lettered with a marking brush on his front door. Just as a sort of a keepsake in memory of my old friend I took a copy. Here it goes:

“‘A thousand feet to water!
A thousand miles to wood!
I’ve quit this blasted country
Quit her! Yes, for good.
The ‘hoppers came abuzzin’
But I shooed them all away,
Next blew the hot winds furious;
Still, I had the grit to stay.
There’s always something hap’ning;
So, while I’ve got the pluck–
Think I’ll strike another country
And see how runs my luck.
God bless you, boys, I love you.
The drummer is my friend.
When I open up my doors again,
Bet your life, for you I’ll send.’

“Wouldn’t that cork you? Say, let’s get up a game of whist.” With this my friend took a fresh cigar from me, and, whistling, sauntered down the aisle hunting partners for the game. The long drive, the dust and the loss of a bill no longer disturbed him.