Chapter 2: A Wise Head On Young Shoulders

The most extraordinary thing happened last night. As usual, Wilbur, Junior and I were talking over the day’s happenings at the dinner table. We do try not to talk business in front of the child, but Wilbur had just returned from a successful trip and was in high spirits. The boys first spent a good twenty minutes debating whether they might go to Alleghany City, Pennsylvania, to see the new World Series game — after all, they kept reminding me — the Boston Americans are playing! (As if I care a whit for baseball.) Then Wilbur regaled us with tales from the road, which he likes to do with a great deal of color and detail. I think he gets lonely when he’s away and enjoys taking copious mental notes to share with us on his return. In truth, he is a wonderful raconteur and I often feel he brings the big, dusty world home to us here in sleepy Springfield, Massachusetts.

Of course, he does tend to favor stories about farmers or teamsters whose animals have made miraculous recoveries from strain or injury after the use of our products. Often, the grateful owners had given up all hope of reviving their animals’ usefulness. And though they may be most thrilled to know they can get back to business, Wilbur invariably dwells on the pleasure he feels to see a fine work horse standing tall and looking lively, where not long before there had been a downcast creature in obvious pain. 

Now Wilbur set his fork down. It was the darnedest thing, he said, pausing as he chewed a morsel of lamb chop, and shaking his head.

What’s that, dear? I inquired. He had talked so enthusiastically of his trip that I was positive his potato gratin was stone cold by now. I would have sent it right back to the kitchen but Wilbur isn’t fussy like that. He took off his glasses and gave them a quick polish with his napkin before he continued.

Everywhere I went, as usual, people couldn’t say enough about how efficacious they find the Absorbine liniment. Now, I’m used to that, of course, it’s been our best seller for ten years! But this time I had no fewer than three people admit they’d used it once or twice for their own aches and pains. Why even old Oakes, who I ran into at the hardware, confessed he’d found it a great balm to his sore legs. Hah.” Wilbur tore a roll in half and took a bite before he continued. “Well, I might have even rubbed a little on my own lower back after a delivery or two, but I thought that was my little secret. Don’t get me wrong, Mary Ida, we do make a very fine product, but I don’t think we can add ‘for human muscle aches and stiffness’ to the label — though I dearly wish we could!,” Wilbur chortled. 

Junior, who, let’s remember, is all of five years old, found this notion comical, too. When he was done laughing, though, he set his lemonade glass down with both hands, and asked, “So why don’t you make a kind that’s only for people, papa?”

Why, Wilbur and I looked at each other at once, immediately convinced it was a splendid idea but amazed we hadn’t thought of it ourselves!

What do you think, Mary Ida? I believe the boy may be on to something. Can we adjust the formula? 

I assured him that it was but the work of a day or two with Tom in the lab. But getting set up to mix it, bottle it, label it and distribute it — that’s the part that I admitted some worry over. 

Wilbur jumped up, kissed my cheek and said, Fear not! You leave that to me, darling. I think this is a Cracker Jack idea! And, Junior, he said with a wink, “I know just what we’ll call it: Absorbine JUNIOR, after you.”

Well, it has been a whirlwind of activity ever since, calculating the amount of money we’ll need to invest to get a new product line going, ordering the extra bottles and ingredients. We certainly wouldn’t have been able to do all of this so easily back in Meriden, Connecticut, but the move to Massachusetts and a proper factory has made that $500 loan from Wilbur’s father pay off handsomely.

Today after lunch, Wilbur took a pony trap down to see John Oakes on Pearl Street, to ask if he could use his story in the ads for the new product. He was back just in time for dinner. As the plates came to the table, Wilbur pulled a rumpled envelope from his inside pocket and waved it at us.

Absorbine Jr. Pamphlet 1909

What do you think I have here? he said to Junior. Give this a listen. He cleared his throat and began to read the note scrawled on the back: Absorbine Jr, the only remedy known that positively cures Varicose Veins and other diseases affecting the veins. Doctors told Mr. J.E. Oakes of 85 Pearl Street, Springfield, Mass., that he must have an operation. He preferred using ABSORBINE JUNIOR, and soon was completely cured — has had no return of the trouble. Mild, external application; positively harmless. Removes goiter, wens, tumors, varicocele, hydrocele, etc. Book “Evidence” and testimonials free. $1 per bottle at dealers or postpaid,” he concluded with a flourish and triumphantly slapped the envelope on the table. 

Truthfully, I think Wilbur may be as pleased with Junior being a chip-off-the-old-block as he is with the idea itself. Anyway, W.F. Young, Manufacturer of Veterinary Remedies, is on its way to adding another product to its line up — this one for the human animal!

And I’m pretty sure I know a little boy who will be going to the World Series game.

Read more about the history of Absorbine® 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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