from American Legion Magazine
Black Hens and White Eggs
by Ellis Parker Butler
A few days ago a lively real estate firm in my town mailed me a desk card that had on it a motto that I thought was just about the best advice that could be printed on a card. It said: "Don't waste a lot of time doping out why a black hen lays a white egg -- GET THE EGG."
That motto made a big hit with me. "That's the stuff!" I said. "There's the whole secret of success in, as you might say, an egg shell. 'Get the egg!' Who cares whether the hen that lays the egg is white or black or red or green with pink tail feathers? 'Get the egg!'"
Because if what you are going after is an egg, the important thing is to get the egg, isn't it? You certainly can't get the egg if you stand with your finger in your mouth all day, trying to figure out why a black hen --
which ought to lay a black egg -- lays a white egg, can you? While you are standing there sucking your finger some up-and-coming fellow who don't give a hang why black hens lay white eggs will dash in and grab the egg and be home and eating an omelette before you know what has happened. It seemed to me, when I read that motto, that the whole spirit of success was in it.
But suppose you are a fellow who has worked pretty hard to save a little money -- and have saved it -- and somebody comes around and tries to sell you an egg. Tries to sell you a setting of eggs to hatch in your incubator, let us say. And you want to raise white chickens. You mighty soon discover that although a black hen can lay eggs that are white on the surface you can't possibly hatch white chickens out of the eggs a black hen lays.
If I wanted to put in this space a bit of advice that would be of the greatest possible value to you -- and that's what I do want to do -- I would say: "Before you spend your hard earned money for eggs, spend some time doping out whether they were laid by a black hen or a white hen." And that is what I do say. I have bought the eggs of the black hen myself. I have been stung and I know how it feels. It feels tough.
I believe there is more money lost through listening to smooth-tongued salesmen of worthless stocks in no-account companies than in any other way. I have a bale of them myself and they are not worth the paper they're printed on. There are stocks that are worth money, of course -- eggs of the white hens of business -- but the chances are that when a man comes selling stocks from door to door they are eggs of the black hen and that nothing ever will hatch out of them. All the man who is selling them wants is his twenty percent commission on the sale -- and he may get more than that. You are the poor egg that he wants to get.
He will come telling you of the millions you would have made if you had bought a few shares of Henry Ford stock when Henry was trying to get started, but don't get excited. Henry sold his stock mostly to his personal friends. Thousands of other Henrys have sold stocks that never paid a cent of dividends and are now waste paper. I own some of them. But I am wiser now. I want to know the color of the hen that is laying the eggs.
There is one sure way of learning at least a little about the actual value of stocks that are offered to you for purchase. Ask any bank what they will lend you on them. On listed prime stocks a bank may lend eighty percent; on any stocks safe enough to put your money into, a bank ought to loan fifty percent. If a bank won't lend you half what you are paying for stocks, why should you buy them? You would do better if you took the money down to the creek and threw it in.
Every hen cackles over her own eggs. Every lot of stocks offered is the "best ever." So I offer you this new motto: "Don't waste a lot of money buying sterile eggs -- ASK THE BANK." And if you take that advice I will have saved the readers of this magazine one million dollars. But if you insist on buying worthless stocks, buy mine.