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.