THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- LOW FINANCE

by: Wes Ishmael

Peetie threw his brand new smart phone out of the pickup's passenger-side window and glared a hole through the windshield.

Hooter glanced into the rear-view to see pieces of the phone bouncing along the pavement, some of them catching the sun's reflection to glisten for an instant before fading to dark like diamonds to dust. He could tell from the conversation that Peetie had been on the phone with his commodity broker and that the margin calls were getting a whole lot steeper than Peetie had envisioned.

“I take it that fundamental logic is turning against you,” Hooter ventured.

Peetie burned a while longer.

“I know the funds increase liquidity. I know the funds don't make the market,” Peetie growled as his grizzled left hand punched Hooter's dash board. “But I also know they can sure shove that market around. Same demand, same weather, same everything Thursday and Friday and nearby corn is down the limit. Worst of all, you never know if the funds are wolves or sheep; the results are the same, though.”

Hooter watched the road and Peetie at the same time. They'd had this conversation plenty of times before, just a lot more frequently of late.

“You know me, Peetie; I was never smart enough or big enough to play that game over the long haul. There's risk management and there's survival management. My focus on the latter usually doesn't leave me much time to consider the former, though I know the experts say the opposite should be true.”

“All I know is that there are days I'd like to strangle those Dutch tulip peddlers who brought futures markets to these shores way back when.”

“This one's for you, Peetie.” Hooter said, shuffling through his CD case and then loading Dwight Yoakum's Pocket of a Clown.

Orthodoxically Strange

“Besides, ain't nobody can trade cows like you can,” Hooter said. “And, if I know you and if I know Uncas, you're both going to make a deal you feel good about.”

Peetie stayed silent.

Hooter was driving Peetie across the Red River to peruse a package of broken-mouth cows on offer from Uncas Bingelmeyer. In all the years Hooter had known both Peetie and Uncas, the pair had never met, though they'd heard plenty about the other from their mutual friend.

Nobody would ever mistake Uncas Bingelmeyer for investor extraordinaire, Warren Buffet, but Hooter had to admit that his unorthodox buddy always seemed to figure out how to grow his land and cattle holdings. He always seemed to enter and exit markets at just the right time and never seemed to lose any sleep over it in between.

Peetie was still stewing when they pulled up to Uncas Bingelmeyer's shop.

Hooter made the introductions. “We were just exploring the mysteries of the world's financial instruments and the big board in Chicago,” Hooter said.

“Well then, you've come to the right place,” Uncas said with a grin as broad as the sweep of his arm inviting them inside. He gestured to a bench in the corner. There stood an obviously antique brass cash register, sparkling like it was new.

“How's that for a financial instrument?” Uncas asked. “It's an early 1900's model from National Cash Register. As you may know the history, they started in Ohio, but that's not all that far from Chicago.”

“Huh?” Peetie was flummoxed.

Hooter came to the rescue. “That's a dandy, Uncas. How'd you come by it?”

“E-bay,” said Uncas. He looked around furtively and whispered, “A friend of a friend tipped me off. Have you two heard of it? It's like a flea market on steroids. Why the other day I bought a gross of tongue depressors for $5.”

“Well, like they say, the best time to buy something is when you don't need it,” Hooter said.

“Exactly,” Uncas nodded.

Hooter could tell that Peetie was about to ask what tongue depressors had to do with the price of tea in China or the cows he'd come to see.

“Uncas, we've got a drive back ahead of us. Are the cows close?”

“Just up the road. Let's go.”

Logic and whatnot…

Given the conversation up to now, Peetie was more than pleasantly surprised to see the black and black baldie cows, in 12 o'clock condition with healthy looking calves at side.

“I got a good deal on them,” Uncas said, answering the obvious questions. “I bought a new place up in Kansas I haven't even told you about yet, Hooter. I planned to haul these up there, but I found an even better deal closer in. Freight being what it is, much as the market says to keep them, I figure I'd better sell these.”

Hooter knew that last statement had piqued Peetie's interest. Hooter knew that Peetie had filed away previous conversations concerning Uncas' amazing business success.

“You really think so?” Peetie said. “The market I mean.”

“Certainly. Don't you?” Uncas asked sincerely. “Of course you do, or you wouldn't be here to barter on this fine stock.”

Peetie gazed at the cows, getting a price in mind. “Hooter has told me you always seem to be a step ahead of the market. I'm finding that tougher to do all the time with the funds in the market.”

“Isn't that the truth,” Uncas replied, trying to steady the toothpick perched in the sizable gap between his front teeth. “My strategy has always been to intensify when it makes sense.”

Hooter could see Peetie's eyes light up like a raccoon seeing something shiny. “You mean like a Texas Hedge?” wondered Peetie.

“A what?” Uncas replied with sincere indignation. “No, you can be on either side of the river for it to work.”

“Huh?”

“You know,” Uncas said with some impatience. “Leverage the technical with the fundamental, like how you take on more risk exposure than what you're tying to protect.”

“But isn't that what a…”

Hooter interjected. “You two old hens best get to haggling if there's going to be any sunlight left.”

Peetie made a low-ball offer just like Hooter knew he would. Uncas happily accepted it, just like Hooter knew he would. That made Peetie a whole lot more talkative, unfortunately.

“What do you think about spreading and diversification?” Peetie asked Uncas on the ride back.

“I'm all for it.”

“So, you use the crush then?”

“The what?”

“You know, where you buy corn and Feeder Cattle futures and sell Live cattle.”

Hooter never knew how it was that Uncas' eyes could work independently of each other, but there they were, the left one spinning counter-clockwise considering the statement, while the right one help steady on Peetie.

“No, I'm thinking more along the lines of what I call outcrossing.”

It was Peetie's turn: “Huh?”

“You know like last week, before corn dropped the limit?”

Peetie's cheeks were flushed.

“Well, like you were also probably aware, the torrential rains in Beijing meant that the annual carnival there was going to be a bust, meaning there wasn't going to be near the demand on funnel cakes that everybody thought, so of course, corn had to go down. So, I'm guessing like you, I obviously sold my corn contracts the day before and a few more besides. Then I sold feeder cattle and bought more Mercedes stock.”

“Huh?”

“Well, corn is fundamentally higher, notwithstanding the funnel cake fiasco, right?”

“O.K.”

“And one reason corn is fundamentally high is because oil is high, right? In fact did you see the quarterly earnings last week?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, what do you think investors in oil companies are going to do with some of that profit?”

“Buy a new car?” Peetie replied, trying to follow the logic.

“And, not just any new car, a really nice new car,” Uncas said triumphantly.

“But, what about the cattle. You said you sold feeders when you sold the corn and bought Mercedes stock. What does cattle have to do with it?”

“Nothing. I sold the cattle because feeders were overbought. The money always runs out before the calves do. Everyone knows that.”

“But that doesn't make any sense at all,” Peetie said.

“Exactly,” Uncas said with unabashed pride. “That's why it works, the perfect hedge.”

“Now listen to this,” Uncas said even more excitedly, as he opened up the antique cash register to deposit Peetie's check.







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