I used to spend a fair amount of time around horses in upstate New York. They all have very different personalities, but after a while you start to realize that they share one common characteristic. They all spook easily, and when they do, they all do PRECISELY the same thing, which is to look for the nearest opening and charge for it. Some of the things that spook horses make a good deal of sense, once you think about it: snakes in the middle of a trail, aggressive dogs, loud Harley Davidsons. Other things that spook horses make... well... not so much sense. Did you know that horses absolutely cannot abide tarps that make rustling sounds in the wind? Sheets that cover up a mound of mulch? Horses hate that. And here's one you might not know about. Disposable tin foil pie pans hanging from a fence or pole. That's enough to send a horse reeling at 40 miles an hour towards the nearest break in the fence. And when one horse spooks, I swear to god, they must be interconnected by a neural net. They ALL will spontaneously break into flight mode. In no other aspect of life can a crinkly sounding nylon tarp or clattery sounding aluminum foil pie pan have such a profound impact (except those certain instances detailed in the body of this article, which you may find if you keep reading).
It is not nice to frighten animals... and yet, sometimes it is hard to help one's self. It becomes acutely difficult to behave like a responsible animal lover if you own an African Serval. For those of you unfamiliar with the Serval, it is a medium sized cat indigenous to Ethiopia and central Africa - generally about the size of a bobcat or lynx, with long lanky legs, spots and a very small head. Servals are by far the most intelligent of all cats, and the deadliest, as well. When a Serval attacks prey, it sports a kill rate of over 50%. They don't miss. The animal with the closest kill rate is a great white shark, and they clock in at around a 35% kill rate when they strike. Sharks are total wusses compared to a Serval.
But for all it's formidable intellect and strength, the Serval has one critical weakness: they are far too curious for their own good. If you put a cardboard box in the middle of the floor where it does not belong, the Serval MUST look in the box. They have to know. Paper bags in unusual locations will be inspected by a Serval, whether or not you warn them "that's a no-no." True, the Serval might look at you quizzically if you tell him that peering into the paper bag is a no-no, but invariably, the Serval will decide to ignore you and peer into the bag never-the-less.
Here is a picture of what a Serval does exactly at the moment when he climbs onto your work space and you tell him "that's a no-no."
You just can't make this shit up.
You might not have known this before, but you heard it here first. I have a very important life lesson that all African Servals really ought to know, and that is this: sometimes, you really should NOT peer into the paper bag in the middle of the floor. Do you know why? The answer is because in the bag, there may be something truly spooky. Something that should cause you to leap out of your skin with revulsion, horror, and primal rage.
Such as an overgrown eggplant.
For some reason, African Servals detest eggplants. Why eggplants strike terror into the hearts of Servals, nobody really knows (at least I don't, and I have been studying this first hand for years - many experiments. Many). When a Serval comes upon a paper bag containing a large, overdeveloped eggplant, the Serval will initially leap 6 feet into the air and gallop away. The most intrepid Serval will return to gingerly paw at the bag with morbid curiosity. And so much the more interesting if you happen to own a dominant alpha male, because you will see that the Serval may very well start to pound the eggplant with his front paw. They even bark at eggplants. They stare menacingly at the eggplant, ropes of saliva dangling from their jaws, pounding the ground with their paws like an enraged judged banging a gavel.
It's hysterical to watch.
Playing the eggplant trick is one of life's little guilty pleasures for some of us. And would you believe that all of this actually does relate to the stock market? I believe that you can understand every single thing you need to know about corporate finance by placing eggplants in surprising locations around an area inhabited by African Servals, or hanging aluminum tin foil pie pans around places where horses are known to frequent.
Today, Starbucks announced fantastic earnings. The stock tanked 9%. I would have been left scratching my head at that, until I watched my pet Serval interact with a particularly odious, somber-looking zucchini in the middle of the floor. Turns out they don't like veggies in general. Hmmm.
In separate news, The Bank of the Ozarks was off 11% on news that a particular executive departed and was replaced. Rarely is one person worth 11% of the value of a multi-billion dollar enterprise. I could almost hear the clattering sounds of disposable aluminum tin pans in the wind as I watched that stock swan dive. And then, the FDA announced that it would hold hearings on requiring cigarette companies to reduce the nicotine content of traditional cigarettes. Altria shares were off almost 16% at one point in after-hours trading before recovering slightly (makes no sense to me - when I was a smoker I'd have gladly smoked down twice as many cigarettes if that's what it took to get my nicotine fix). Not sure why Altria stock didn't rally on the news, to be honest.... but is that a scary nylon tarp in the distance I see?
No, it makes no sense. I call this sort of thing a "market eggplant" moment. And three in one day. Whew. Needless to say I sold some of my top performing shares of expensive stocks like Lockheed Martin, and bought shares of Starbucks, Philip Morris and Bank of the Ozarks. Consequently, the portfolio income leapt that much higher.
THank heavens for eggplants, tarps, pans, the FDA and, last but not least, my friend, the stock market. Some days it really seems as those these are the gifts that just keep giving.
Disclosure: I am/we are long OZRK, SBUX, LMT, MO.
Additional disclosure: This is not investment advice. This is advice on how to have fun with uncommon pets.