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by Ronald Kitching, retired

[This is from the editor’s email archive, dated 15/12/07 with “New Story” in the email subject.]

As is usually the case, years ago there was a horrendous drought in Queensland. Then wool fell to the lowest price since before the Korean war started.

The sale yards at Richmond in NW Queensland had a record number of sheep for sale. The auctioneer called for bids on lot one. Not a murmur of response stirred the air.

Then the same thing happened with every lot there was and there was not a bid made. The Auctioneer was frantic, as were the poor devils selling trying to get enough to hang on until the drought broke.

One enterprising squatter Fred Tritton called out, “Put up the lot and see if you can get a bid.”

So, in desperation the auctioneer called for bids for the thousands of head available. I have forgotten the figure, but it was something like one and six a head (15 cents) that Fred bid. To his surprise the entire herd was knocked down to him.

Fred beetled off to his bank manager to make sure his cheque would be covered. The Bank Manager was furious and did not want to back Fred.
But Fred was very persuasive and got the cover for his cheque.

Again I have forgotten the number of sheep involved, but as the entire district was up for sale it was an enormous number. Something like 35,000 comes to mind.

Fred’s wife was beside herself with worry and gave Fred a hard time over his impulsive action. Fred retorted calmly that: “They might as well die on Silver Plains as anywhere else.”

Silver Plains is only about 10 or 15 minutes drive from the town. Soon, after all of the sheep were ensconced on Fred’s place, it rained. The best rains for many years. It was good steady rain for days on end. Dams were filled, creeks ran and the grass grew. A week after the rain, wool recovered and leapt to heights that had not been seen since the record prices at the outbreak of the Korean war.

Fred went into the sheep selling business. Now the thing about it was all of Australia was after sheep. Fred’s agents advertised widely and all Eastern states were represented at the sale. Something like six pounds a head comes to mind for the average sale price. Fred’s Bank Manager thought Fred a genius. Fred paid off his overdraught and had piles left over. He built the towns first Motel. Mum was rewarded for her harrowing experience with her own new car, a pearl necklace and a diamond ring.

Fred was not a niggardly person in any respect whatsoever. He became the towns Mayor and regularly made learned announcements about all things economic.

He engaged in other business activities and was highly regarded as the district’s greatest entrepreneur.

The great economist/Social scientist Ludwig von Mises once said that all entrepreneurial activity carries risk and that luck sometimes plays an important part in entrepreneurial endeavours.