Drunk Hogs & Invaluable Insects
Drunk Hogs & Invaluable Insects
The Alternative to the 9-to5 Job
Over the years, I've been involved in a long list of flaky business projects. Several of these ventures
actually made money. These business ventures were a byproduct of my strong desire to see the
world before everywhere looked like Greater Los Angeles, Jakarta or Calcutta.
In 1975, I was running a small gold placer operation in the Amazon Basin. Every two weeks or so, I'd
come out of the jungle and buy supplies for our camp. On one of these supply trips two German
businessmen approached me. They wanted me to collect insects. They had pictures and descriptions
of the desired arthropods. They give me collecting and mounting equipment and a crash course on
bug collecting. I was to be paid upon delivery of the properly processed insects to their office in
Germany. They paid the air freight from the capital.
I returned to the mining camp. I hired four Indians from the local village. In the evenings, we set our
traps and at dawn we collected our catch. The prices I was being paid to collect, mount and ship the
insects was staggering. For one large beetle, I earned $95/accepted specimen. On a good night, we'd
collect 25-40 of these beetles. There were nearly one hundred arthropods on the desired insect list.
Life was good. Two months later, our mining operation folded because my American partners weren't
happy with jungle life. I spend nearly the next seven months exporting insects to German.
Eventually, the local military commandant got wind of my insect exports and closed me down. The
reason he gave me was that my collecting was harming the jungle environment. Given that the
Government was spraying DDT by the ton at the time, I found his rational less than convincing. I later
learned that the commandant contacted my German buyers and offered to continue the shipments,
but wasn't able to ship acceptable material.
I had no clue as to why these insects were so valuable. I decided to fly to German to collect my last
payment. It turned out that I was supplying "investment grade" insects to German investors fearful
that the Mark would lose all its value. My buyers sold the insects arguing that insects were
appreciating in value faster than gold. Their value survived the Weimar Republic hyper-inflation and
would survive whatever currency problems German would face in the future.
Three years later, I was backpacking from New Guinea into Irian Jaya (West Irian, Indonesia). As I
passed through some of the villages, I noted that some of the villagers wore a great deal of placer
gold jewelry. Attempts to buy the gold nuggets for cash failed. From the villagers, I learned that the
local medium of exchange was the pig.
Upon completing my trek, I returned to New Guinea and took a crash course in pig appraisal. I found
a local bush pilot and went out and purchased several adult pigs. I quickly learned that all pigs have a
fear of flying in a single engine plane. The solution was to get them roaring drunk with beer. Drunk,
bound and gagged (I learned the meaning of "Hog Tied" flying pigs), I went off to barter for gold
nuggets. We flew two sows or one boar in the plane. As long as the cargo remained comatose, things
went well. However, on long flights, an occasional hog would start to sober up. A struggling 200-kg
boar made it impossible to fly the small plane in a straight line or to safely land the single engine
aircraft. We had a few near accidents running Air Hog, but the profits were good. Our motto was: "We
Deliver the Bacon." A few months later, I was grounded because I was running a business without
having a resident visa.
I can tell flaky business tales for hours. Over the decades, these efforts both successful and not so
profitable have allowed me to evolve into being a merchant banker, business finance consultant and
importer of high value items from antiques to mineral specimens. It's a life that I've greatly enjoyed.
Like you, I had a choice when I finished school. I could have opted for relatively security and taken a
9-to-5 job. I would have worked my way up the corporate ladder. A couple of years ago, I would have
retired. I opted for relative independence. It's why I know that pigs hate to fly and many other equally
useless facts for the security minded.
If you are happy with your illusion of security, I'm glad. However, if you are living your life through the
success of your local professional sports team or your children's lives, maybe its time to take another
look at the relative independence option. It's never to late to lead an interesting life.
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