The South was devastated after the Civil War. Soldiers returning from the war often found little left. Families that fled from the conflict discovered homes, farms, and other properties burned, destroyed, and sometimes confiscated. Once a promising banker, Edmund McIlhenny came to Avery Island in Louisiana where his in-laws had once owned a prosperous sugar plantation and salt works. Just about all that was left was the family garden.
Union troops had occupied the land late in the war. While there, they had discarded some hot Mexican peppers that had re-seeded themselves in the kitchen garden. Given the responsibility of cultivating the garden to put food on the table, McIlhenny began experimenting with the rather bland diet available. His efforts produced spices and sauces that he added to the family fare. His greatest success was a pepper sauce that soon became a staple in the family diet.
Soon some of the neighbors began asking if he could make them some. Finding discarded women’s cologne bottles, McIlhenny began to market his Tabasco brand pepper sauce. A much-needed industry sprang up on Avery Island. By 1870, he had patent to produce his cork-top two-ounce bottles with the diamond logo labels similar to the ones you find in stores today.
Today, more than 50 million bottles of Tabasco sauce are sold around the world. Most restaurants place a bottle on their tables. I have a friend who carries a bottle with him in his suit pocket wherever he goes.
A devastated farm … throw-away seeds … a weed-choked garden … discarded bottles … an economy in ruins … an out-of-work banker … a perfect recipe for success, right?
Adversity does strange things to people. It can crush the human spirit or it can unleash it. It can overwhelm a person with despair or enliven one with possibilities.
- After his many struggles with the light bulb, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “I have not failed; I have just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”
- Zig Ziglar used this line often: “It isn’t your aptitude, but your attitude, that determines your altitude.”
Sometimes in the very shambles of our circumstances we find the means to recover, to rebuild, to refocus, to re-dream. Have you looked in your garden lately?