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From Nags to Riches

In the dear, dead days before the gasoline buggy became the ruler of the roads, Chicago had a special officer known as the knacker. His job, or privilege, was seeing that all the horses that died or were killed on the city streets were promptly hauled away to the glue factory. There he sold the animal, which had cost him nothing, and pocketed the clear profit.

One of the smartest knackers Chicago ever had was a lad named Jack Brennock. He started his political career by getting appointed to the fire department. But Jack had a yen for more money and easier money. What could be simpler than picking up dead horses for free and selling them? Up to that time the firemen had simply notified the glue companies and permitted them to come and get the animal. Jack soon corrected that economic error. He paid the firemen a buck for the tip and sold the horse for five dol­lars. Besides, Brennock was the only man in Chicago legally permitted to remove dead horses from the streets. No chance of any new connivers sneaking into his playground later on. It was a wonderful way of getting rich. Within a year Jack no longer did the actual work. He had progressed to the point where ten wagon crews took care of that. All Jack did was to keep the poli­ticians happy and count his proceeds. He amassed wealth so rapidly that within ten years he was a millionaire living in a palatial estate on the exclusive west side of Chicago.

Up to the advent of Jack Brennock, a special routine had been observed among fire horses who shuffled off the mortal coils. The city had permitted their buddies at the fire stations to handle their equine friends, giving them funerals in some city property well out of town. But Brennock laughed at such business. Funerals for horses? Nothing doing! They were grist for his mill, and profits for his bank accounts. His former buddies in the fire department could stand it no longer. One of the longtime favorites, old Danny Boy, made his last run on a bitter wintry day. He slipped on an icy corner and broke his leg. Old Bill Hannon had to climb off the wagon and shoot him. And Brennock's men came up in force and took him away to the common fate, the glue factory. The firemen were outraged. They got together and put the Connacht curse on Jack Brennock for his high-handed treatment of old comrades.

Mr. Brennock was becoming bored with life. His fabulous enterprise was providing more money than he could spend in normal pursuits, so he took up horse racing. He bought a fine string of colts, built magnificent stables for them, and hired the inevitable expensive retinue of handlers and trainers.

By all the laws of horse racing he should have had some success, but fate had decreed otherwise. Brennock had reckoned without the Connacht curse. In spite of all the money he spent, millions of dollars, in spite of ten years of racing and heavy betting, Brennock never had one single winner.

One day the banker called him in and gave him the bad news.

He was right back where he had started twenty years before, broke. But now he was getting along in years and he no longer had the lucrative concession that had made him rich.

Jack Brennock ended his days as a janitor in a shabby walk-up apartment and they found him dead one morning in the street, like one of the nags who had brought him a fortune. His was the strange case of a man who made millions of dollars on dead horses and lost every cent of it on live ones.

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