Chapter 1: Young At Heart

Mary Ida walked past the long raised beds, stooping down to closely inspect the stems of the Sweet Annie — also known as absinthe or wormwood. It had rained hard the day before and the feathery plant preferred a well-drained soil. Though these were newly planted seedlings, her neighbors would soon remark — as they always did — on her green thumb. Where they saw colorful beauty in her orderly beds of Coneflowers, Pot Marigolds and Sweet Annie, Mary Ida saw cures: Echinacea, calendula, wormwood. This was the largest garden and the earliest planting they’d ever risked, but she knew that they’d soon need to find another source for their herbs in order to keep up with the demand for the new veterinary liniment.

“Afternoon, Mary Ida,” chirped Willy, the postman, opening the gate. “Got a letter for you—from the mister, I expect?”

Mary Ida brushed the earth from her hands and rose to her feet.

“I expect so,” she said, suppressing a chuckle at his barely disguised nosiness. Well, Meriden, Connecticut, wasn’t a big city — people knew each other’s business and theirs was literally booming. Mary Ida took the letter and waived it at Will as she headed up the front porch steps.

“Thank you, William. Enjoy this sunshine,” she added as she slit the envelope and settled into a rocking chair.

To Mary Ida Stevenson, later Mrs. Wilbur Fenelon Young was scrawled above the date: April 19, 1892. Silly man, she thought, he still likes to think of me as his blushing bride. But her cheeks did flush. Traveling had brought out the romantic in Wilbur and it made up for his frequent absence as he worked the northeast with a wagon team, delivering freight and taking orders for Absorbine almost faster than they could make it.

Ida, my darling girl

I shall be unable to see you before Friday evening next. Wed eve in New Haven, Thurs eve in Middletown, so shall be obliged to postpone my pleasure until Friday eve. I am quite busy and hustle is the word.

Ida rested the letter in her lap for a moment, feeling a twinge of disappointment but also savoring the good news, and the note of pride she could hear in her husband’s small boast.

I hope you have secured good help by this time, so as not to be obliged to labor so hard.

Hah. Easier said then done, she thought, but the new employee had potential. What Elsa didn’t know about herbs she made up for with a cheerful, hardworking attitude, which was a fine start. She’d learn. And now Mary Ida could spend more time supervising the mixing, bottling, labeling and bookkeeping efforts.

What a heavenly time I had with my dear one Sunday. Thoughts of your love and goodness make me happy.

My Ida you are a gem of the world. I attend the wedding of my cousin Estelle Young in Wallingford tomorrow p.m. at 2 o.c. in the Baptist Church. I envy her as I wish it was Ida and I. You are indeed the sunshine of my life. Please have charity for me and excuse my brevity as my time is limited this eve.

Absorbine has reached $91.78 this month.

I have written 22 letters this evening.

Remember me to your mother and the boys. Accept thoughts of love until I can send more by freight.

Lovingly yours,

Wilbur F. Young

Mary Ida folded the letter and returned it to the envelope, rocking for another minute as she contemplated the unlikely success that had come to them — and all because she couldn’t bear to see the poor horses suffering. Of course, they were bound to get muscle and tendon strains hauling pianos and other heavy cargo hundreds of miles across rough country roads — they worked so hard! — but the “cure” of repeated blistering to increase circulation at the wound site seemed harsh. She had been sure there was a better way and her own handiness in the garden got her thinking. When she proposed the idea for an herbal remedy to her older brother, Thomas, who was a chemist, he said, You know, little sister, that just might work.

The ratios took some adjusting but she soon had a batch she felt good about. Wilbur brought it on the road with the team, rubbed it onto their legs and into their muscles each evening and soon reported great improvement. Now he sold bottles of the liniment as he traveled and often bragged that there was no better advertisement than their own team of horses, which showed remarkable stamina and health, despite the grueling work schedule.

Mary Ida missed Wilbur, but she knew she couldn’t slow him down. He was a born salesman and a true evangelist for “her medicine.” She’d gone with him once to the local agricultural fair. He’d leapt onto the back of the wagon and swept off his straw hat, using it to seemingly sweep a crowd around him.

Absorbine Booklet 1897

Friends, he called out. YOU know the value of a sound horse! What if I told you there was a better way than using a knife or blistering to cure capped hock, wind puff, shoe boil or even a regular inflamed knee? There is, there is and it’s going to keep your horses healthy and on their hooves. Have an injury? Get some very hot water— the hotter the better — wring out a damp sponge and hold it on the wounded spot for 5 or 10 minutes. This opens up the pores. Then apply Absorbine, which I have at hand here for only $2 a bottle, and reapply every hour, rubbing in a little at a time. NO blistering, NO hair gone. Just reduced swelling and a return to fresh stamina. But don’t take my word for it: I have here a booklet full of testimonials. Free for the taking. Step up and try a bottle of the amazing Absorbine veterinary liniment…

The first time she’d seen Wilbur selling the liniment had been a revelation. As his eyes sought hers in the crowd, she realized that it was not merely the high quality of their product he believed in. He believed in her and the good they were doing for animals together. Like the horses they loved, they were a beautiful and tireless team. And the life they were building together was a better one than they had ever dreamed.

Discover how Mary Ida and Wilbur F. Young’s son innovates their business in the second chapter of the Absorbine® story, and find the complete series here

W.F. Young, Inc. is a marketer of many top equine brands, including ShowSheen® Hair Polish and Detangler, UltraShield® Insecticide and Repellant, Hooflex® and Horseman’s One Step® Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.

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