Sunday, May 10, 2009

Proper Accounting Skills

The efficient management of any mercantile business depends upon good bookkeeping. It is, however, a tedious, mechanical act which anyone with the proper training can do. Since my wife usually remains at home while I am on the road, I determined to train my assistant Bleb, who accompanies me on business trips, in the basics of math and record-keeping. This would enable me to make the most of my valuable time in other lucrative pursuits.

At first I tried to teach Bleb using stones as counters, but he would not respond. After switching to corn, however, a light seemed to dawn and he quickly learned his tables. He seemed to like addition and multiplication the best, with somewhat less enthusiasm for subtraction and absolutely no tolerance for simple long division. This suited me fine as I’m not so fond of even splits myself.

Bleb’s final hurdle was learning to tell coins apart. He had no problem determining the difference between copper pennies and five dollar gold pieces -- both are small coins but of different colors. Denominations between those gave him pause, however (two-cent and three-cent pennies sometimes confused him, as did dimes and silver half-dimes). He developed a two-part method to overcome any problem: first he would eye the coin, and if he knew the denomination he would push it off the table into a sack and record the amount with a hoof mark in the dirt. If he was uncertain, he would lick the questionable coin and thereby ascertain its true value. He was quite accurate, though my wife complained of having to wash our income before she could pay for groceries.

Things were working out well until the day I decided to put all our profits in a new hiding place. Bandits had been holding up coaches and lone riders alike on a long stretch of road we had to traverse to get home, and I was afraid that the usual spot was too obvious. I was right in that respect. When several masked men stopped me outside of Dahlonega, the first thing they did was search the wagon bed for a hidden compartment – which they found right away. It was empty, however.

I protested that I had lost all my money in a game of chance the night before, but the bandits refused to believe I had nothing (one of them insisted he had lost all his money to me at that same game). They tore the wagon apart, then ripped up my coat and pants, looking for hidden linings. They found nothing. Finally, after much cursing and smashing of Wizard Water© bottles, they left in disgust. I heaved a sigh of relief, and removed Bleb’s feedsack, which he had been quietly munching on through all the ruckus. At the bottom of the sack I had buried about a pound of five-dollar gold coins. Unfortunately, it was empty, too. Bleb had eaten all his feed, and being rather hungry that day, the gold as well.

From this I discovered that it is possible to develop a taste for accounting, but there’s still no accounting for taste.

Luckily, I was able to get Bleb home to the barn before that costly meal worked its way through his system. My wife will never forgive me, though, for the cleaning job she had to do on our income that week.

copyright ©2009 Laurie J. Anderson, all rights reserved.

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