The Calf Path

“The Calf Path” ©2011 Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you; it’s by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911). It was written around 1893 and the message is still as relevant today as it was then. In fact, I believe the older this work gets, the more profound it will become. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


By Sam Walter Foss

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

Wasn’t that great? I think the message is clear. Just because something has been done a certain way for years or generations, doesn’t mean that it should continue to be done so. Apply this thinking to your business and the current state of the economy. Sure there are a lot of reasons we’re in the fix we’re in and this blog isn’t out to place blame, but we as individuals and as entities in the form of businesses—large and small—can shake things up just by doing things differently from time to time.

Seth Grodin in his powerful book “The Purple Cow”, tells us how the television industrial complex is dead and how advertising on that medium is far from what it used to be in terms of effectiveness. He offers up a lot of great suggestions in the way of completely changing the approach we take to marketing our products and services. I highly recommend buying and reading this and all his books. He’s an excellent author and knows his stuff. He opens the door to our deep-thinking-abilities and makes us jump off the beaten (calf) path and try something new; the same way our friend Mr. Foss urged us to do 118 years ago. That Mr. Grodin’s book is about cows and Mr. Foss’ poem is about calves is strictly fortuitous.

Of course, it’s not just a valuable lesson for business. It can be applied to myriad aspects of life. Our personal or societal habits or beliefs can be other areas of attention. How many beliefs or habits hold us back from self-actualization? We’ll never know unless we step back and see how many actions we take or don’t take are blindly guided by what we take for granted. It’s almost always a good idea to shake things up a bit.

I’ll take this opportunity to offer up the services of Busy Bee Promotions. If you have never outsourced any of your marketing and promotional efforts to a company that specializes in it, you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. What type of results can you expect? A lot of attention from the marketplace is one. We’ll make your product or service stick out in the crowd like a giraffe in a field of mice and a lot of new and potential customers beating a path to your door will be the result. You may be skeptical and that’s good; just be sure to apply that same skepticism to the ways of the past. If your phone isn’t ringing off the hook and your front door isn’t always swinging open and closed with the processionary march of new paying customers, then try something new & allow me to add; don’t just try a variation on a tested theme either. Go for broke and do something that will really shake things up. For instance, you could have Busy Bee execute a publicity stunt for you that will put on the evening news and morning papers. That’s free media time & that gets you customers. You can’t make the news without doing something outrageous. Let us be that vehicle for you. Of course, that’s just one idea; browse around our site. Check out our other services on the “It’s About YOU” page. These times call for bold decisions and a break from the past. Allow Busy Bee Promotions to be your partner for the years ahead and for setting—then swiftly smashing—the precedents of the future.

Thank you for your interest!


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