“The kid ain’t ready.”
There were four of us in the expansive suite at the Hotel Chisca.
“I’ve seem him spit. He can sell.”
The two standing men, arguing about whether or not I could hack it as a mule auctioneer.
“You know, I could just talk to him myself.”
Me, the twenty-something kid, sitting on a stiff chair, eager to take his piece before the mule market dried up.
“Think you’re ready, boy? To step into the walls of my castle? To work under my name?”
Lastly, the Colonel. Mister M.R Meals, the obese god of mule sellers. He sat on a loveseat, taking up the entire thing by himself. A cane with a mule’s head and inlaid gold filigree was propped off to the side. His white seersucker suit was impeccably pressed.
“Back in ’39, there was a day I sold two mules a minute for the whole damn day.” The Colonel pointed at me with a sausage finger. “You think you could keep up with somethin’ like that?”
“I suspect. Least if I don’t, I know I can out run you.”
Then a guffaw of laughter from the Colonel.
I was hired on the spot.
An extension of Memphis being the cotton capital of the world was that it was also the mule capital of the world. Why? Because mules were the main tool of the farm to plow the fields. Amongst the auctioneers that made the mule trading business run, Colonel M.R. Meals was the best. Over the course of his extensive career he sold nearly a hundred and seventy million dollars worth of mules, much of that here in Memphis. Sadly, the mule market shrunk dramatically with the rise of industrial farm tools after World War II.