The railway freight agent said to the sophomore, "I'm sorry, son, but there's an Interstate Commerce regulation that says we can't bill human beings as freight."
This happened in Madison, Wis. one November afternoon in 1916. The sophomore represented some 35 fellow students of the University of Wisconsin, and he knew they were going to take the freight agent's decision hard. Wisconsin's football team was to play Minnesota in Minneapolis the following Saturday, and every right-minded student wanted to see the game, the most important of the year for both teams.
But in 1916 college students generally did not have automobiles. There probably were not more than a dozen cars on the campus. A round-trip railroad fare from Madison, plus a night in a cheap hotel, came to almost $24. Undergraduates did not have that kind of money for frolic.
Someone had suggested—brilliantly, his buddies thought—that the whole gang could go to Minneapolis in a railroad cattle car on a fast freight train. They had it all worked out in their heads that they could leave Madison late Friday evening, get to Minneapolis in six hours, see the big game and be back at their fraternities or rooming houses early Sunday morning. The sophomore had been delegated to arrange the details only to find out that there were none to arrange. He started the two-mile walk back home, muttering revolutionary criticism of bureaucracy.
He walked down State Street toward the university campus and saw a light truck, probably bound for the university agricultural school. Inside the slatted truck body were three or four hogs, very unhappy in such cramped quarters and squealing revolutionary sentiments of their own. The sophomore had an idea. He turned abruptly and almost ran back to the railroad freight office.
The freight agent, a kindly but dutiful man, was about to cite the rule again when the sophomore headed him off with a question: "How many pigs do you have to put in a stock car to have it billed as a 'car of stock"?" The agent said no specific number was mentioned in the rules.
"How many tenders can you have in a car?" This was a new one. The agent had no precedent to go by. He pulled down the tariff book, read up and down a column or two and said, "There is no mention of how many stock tenders. The book doesn't say how many pigs, and it doesn't say how many tenders, so I suppose one or more would be the answer."
First thing the next morning a farmer five miles from Madison was confronted by a couple of students as he was cleaning up his barn. "Mr. Kleinheintz," one of the students said, "we want to make a deal with you. What will you charge us to rent a pig from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon? We'll take good care of it and return it in as good condition as we got it."
The farmer was puzzled, but he could see by their faces that they were serious. He said, "I'll let you have that young sow over there for $6. If you return her in good shape I'll give you $3 back."
It was a deal. The young promoters asked, "Mr. Kleinheintz, what do you feed a pig?" They returned to their classes, happy with the answer.
The Friday afternoon preceding the game 32 students, dressed in their oldest clothes, assembled at the freight yard. Four more soon arrived, the honor guard for Mr. Kleinheintz's sow, who had a stout rope around her neck. They had brought the pig from the farm in the back seat of an old Model T.
The freight agent, a stickler for the rules but delighted that there was a way to beat them, made out the waybill. It had the high simplicity of all classic language: "One car of stock and tenders, Madison to Minneapolis and return."
The pig was tied securely in one corner of a well-ventilated stock car. Two bushel baskets of food—pieces of cabbage, carrots, celery tops, stale bread and potato peelings salvaged from the garbage can of a fraternity house—and a big milk can of fresh water were placed near by.
Francis of Assisi could hardly have improved on the cosseting given the pig, whose every little whim was catered to. It was a fast freight and made only three or four stops, each of which gave the tenders (but not the pig) time to get out and jump around to get warmed up. Some of the lads had blankets, some had overcoats. There were three lanterns, which helped a few to play cards on the floor. Everyone brought a paper bag of lunch; leftovers went to the pig, who was not proud. Nobody slept. A Chi Psi had brought along a ukulele; everybody sang, and the pig felt at home.
The freight train rolled into Minneapolis. The sportsmen went to a restaurant for a 45¢ breakfast of hot cereal, ham and eggs, toast and jam and coffee. A few of the purse-proud and greedy spent 90¢ on two breakfasts. The pig breakfasted in the car.
It was a happy caper, even though Wisconsin was swamped by Minnesota in the football game.
Back in Madison at 5 o'clock Sunday morning, the pig was returned to Farmer Kleinheintz, who refunded $3. The railway freight agent had been paid in advance, and when the cost was prorated it figured out to $4.60 each.
Since 1916 I have not missed a Wisconsin-Minnesota football game either at Madison or Minneapolis. Once I traveled 1,500 miles to get back for the game. Even during World War I service, while on leave, I saw the game.
Today the boys go to the game by train or plane or convertible. So do I—but it is not the same without a pig.