Why was I voted least likely to succeed? Because my father was poor. We were poor growing up. I fought my way through school, because kids would make fun of me because I wore old-fashioned clothes. I had holes in my pants because they were hand-me-downs from my cousins.
But what that created in me was the desire to improve and better my life, not to feel sorry for myself. Because my father didn’t have the money to buy me clothes, I started my own business when I was 9 years old, my very first business. You know what it was? Trapping. I trapped beaver, bobcat, muskrat, and coyotes in the wintertime. I would build stretchers and stretch their pelts, and then when my father would go to Idaho Falls to the fur traders, he’d take my pelts and sell them.
Back in the late 50s, I was getting $3.50 for a bobcat pelt, $2 or $2.50 for a good coyote pelt, and as much as $15 for a good beaver pelt. My father would sell my pelts, my furs, and bring the money home. I’d put it in my little bank account, and then in the spring we’d go to the stock auction, and I would buy baby calves with my money. I would feed the calves through the spring, summer, and fall, and then I would sell them and put the money in my bank account. So from the time I was in the 4th grade, my father never bought me clothes for school again; I bought all my own clothes.
One time I got really tired of being humiliated and being made fun of because I couldn’t afford a pair of cowboy boots. So I went to a leather store and bought leather, and I made a pair of cowboy boots that was the envy of everybody in school. I hand stitched them myself. It took me 3½ months to make my first pair of cowboy boots. I never wore them out—the only pair of boots I never wore out. I wore them until my feet outgrew them.