This article is part of the Fur Trapper Saga series.
Knowing my friend's spirited disinterest in the medical profession, I decided not to involve my personal doctor and shaman, F. Gerald Thornton. Instead I enlisted my chief grader, Mr. R. J. Heckwolf. Both Heckwolf and I agreed that Swanton's body was scarcely fit for sale on the open markets. We also agreed on another immutable truth: HIS BEARD REMAINED GLORIOUS.
Having once been host to that very beard, I could not agree more. IT IS MY FIRM BELIEF THAT MY FORMER BEARD KEPT HIM ALIVE DURING HIS TIME IN THE WELL, giving him warmth in the cold night and additional sustenance when he took to eating his own lips to stave off starvation.
So moved was I by his tenacity that I IMMEDIATELY SHAVED OFF MY NEWEST BEARD with every intention to resupply his face. I could see those horrifying blackened pits he calls eyes light up as I gently added my oft-admired hair to his face, careful not to agitate the festering sores and infected tissue surrounding what used to be his lips.
Over the next few weeks I worked diligently to restore my friend's health. I sat beside his devastated body and read him excerpts from past editions of this very catalogue. I regaled him with stories of my most triumphant trapping expeditions and told him of how my children were excelling in age, skill and love of fur trapping.
There, basked in the warm glow of my integrity, my dear friend became whole again. It was a bittersweet day when he walked out of our auxiliary fur shed and returned to his deplorable home. Before he departed, the entire Fouke Fur Company offered him a gift: HIS DEAR SWEET BADGER, PROFESSIONALLY STUFFED AND POSED.
I tell you this story for a very important reason. If that is how I treat my greatest business rival, imagine how I will treat you. You can rest assured that I would offer no less than the same personal courtesy to any of you should you fall into a well. I make this promise to each and every man reading this catalogue today. If you have done business with the Fouke Fur Company or intend to one day do so, I WILL DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO KEEP YOU ALIVE.
In honor of my heroics and the recovery of my friend, I kindly request that you deduct one hundred and ten per cent (110%) from all catalogue prices.
TRAPPERS AND SHIPPERS, HEAR YE THIS: $1000.00 REWARD TO THE MAN WHO BRINGS SWANTON'S ATTACKER TO JUSTICE
When I questioned my former employee Captain H. W. Grieves as to whether he pushed Swanton into the hole, he denied any involvement. He assured me that had he pushed Swanton into the hole, he would have followed him down to finish the job. Knowing his work ethic, I am inclined to believe him.
Thus I turn my suspicions toward Mr. A. P. Brown. Knowing his keen desire to corner the St. Louis fur market at any cost, I wonder if he might have had the audacity to engineer such a fall. I am not suggesting that it was by Brown's own hands that Swanton made his fateful tumble. Brown could have hired any number of thugs, imbeciles or Pinkertons to carry out the act.
Thus I turn to you, my most loyal agents, to solve this mystery and bring the cowardly assailant to justice. To the man who brings me J. F. Swanton's attacker, I offer a humble reward of $1000.00. I look forward to your noble efforts in righting this great injustice.
A PARTING WORD
Even as I nursed my fallen friend back to health, I maintained a firm grip on the day-to-day operations of this company. I examined every piece of paper, careful to understand its full import and purpose. I initiated meetings and handshakes with associates and suppliers to negotiate cheaper prices on all catalogue goods. In short, I continued in my unwavering commitment to provide to you the finest and most compelling prices imaginable, AT GREAT COST TO MY OWN HEALTH AND WELFARE.
Though I may experience pains greater than any man was meant to endure, though I may sometimes see my loved ones as strangers and howl at them as if they were demons, I take solace in one important fact: people will always need fur, AND I WILL BE THE MAN TO DRAPE THEM IN IT.
And here's my name to say so...
P. B. Fouke
Pres. & Gen. Mgr.
Fouke Fur Co.
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The esteemed P. B. Fouke, villainous J. F. Swanton and technocratic blowhard A. P. Brown battle for fur market supremacy in this series of old-timey dispatches.