15 Life Lessons from Late Sausage King Jimmy Dean

The late sausage king and singer talks about getting old, being a good American, living up to expectations, and much more, as told to Esquire in October of 2001.

1. You gotta try your luck at least once a day, because you could be going around lucky all day and not even know it.

2. When I was a kid, I used to think, Man, if I could ever afford all the ice cream I want to eat, that's as rich as I ever want to be.

3. I used to help my granddaddy make sausage. He would mix it up in a cleaned-out washtub with his hands, no gloves. Man, if we did anything like that today, they would jack the jail up and throw us under it.

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4. You know you're getting old when you go to more funerals than you do weddings.

5. A lot of things I am, and a lot of things I am not. But I think I'm about as good an American as there is. I love this country. It's been very, very good to me. And it will be good to anybody if they are willing to give of themselves.

6. The majority of wounds are self-inflicted.

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7. I don't have a record of me singing that I can listen to. I hate to listen to me. Even "Big Bad John." I can show you a place in "Big Bad John" that's just pitiful.

8. Being a Baptist won't keep you from sinning, but it'll sure as hell keep you from enjoying it.

9. Yes, I believe in UFOs. Reason I'm grinning is a lot of people think you're crazy when you say it.

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10. Poverty was the greatest motivating factor in my life. I made more money yesterday than I ever thought I'd make in an entire lifetime. But it's like somebody's going to take it all away from me and I'll be back in Texas, installing them damned irrigation wells. I didn't like that when I was sixteen. And I know I wouldn't like it when I'm eighty.

11. Do what you say you're going to do. And try to do it a little better than you said you would.

12. How I came to make sausage: I was raising hogs in west Texas - about six thousand a year. It was going along really fine, and then the market fell out. All of a sudden I was losing about twenty dollars an animal every time I sold one. What in the hell am I gonna do? I can't stand this forever. So I was having breakfast in a little old diner in my hometown. Sausage and eggs. I pulled some gristle out from between my teeth about the size of the end of your little finger and I said, "Man, there's got to be room for quality sausage in this country." That's over thirty-five years ago, and we've been number one in this country for a long, long time. Now I'm more famous for my sausage than my music. That's all right.

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13. You can't take rejection personally. You have to say, "Well, that dumbass just didn't know any better."

14. I've seen a jillion miracles. They're all around. Every green leaf is a miracle. Not long ago, I noticed a leaf falling. It floated down on the porch, and it was brown and kind of wrinkled. I thought, Boy, that's a shame. It was once beautifully green and now it's all over and gone. Then I got to thinking. It beautified the world, then it fell off and will go back into the earth and fertilize and grow many more green leaves. And I thought, I hope I can contribute like that.

15. If I could give the world any advice, I'd tell 'em exactly like my great-granddaddy told me. He said, "Jimmy, be yourself. Because if people don't like you as you are, they're not going to like you as somebody you're trying to be." Generally, I've followed that advice. In the moments I haven't, I've gotten into more trouble than a centipede with fallen arches.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.