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Contracts, livestock, and the Bernoulli process: an application of statistics to B. Traven's 'Cattle Drive'


  • Emil Berendt


One of the pivotal devices B. Traven employs in his short story 'The Cattle Drive' is a contract between the cattle owner and the trail boss who brings the livestock to market. By specifying a per-diem rate, the contract appears to encourage a wage-maximizing trail boss to delay the delivery of the cattle. However, a statistical model of the contract demonstrates that a rational trail boss has an incentive to maintain a rapid rate of travel. The article concludes that statistics can be applied in non-traditional ways such as to the analysis of the plot of a fictional story. The statistical model suggests plausible alternative endings to the story based on various parameter assumptions. Finally, it demonstrates that a well-crafted story can provide an excellent case study of how contracts create incentives and influence decision-making.

Suggested Citation

  • Emil Berendt, 2008. "Contracts, livestock, and the Bernoulli process: an application of statistics to B. Traven's 'Cattle Drive'," Journal of Applied Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(2), pages 193-202.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:japsta:v:35:y:2008:i:2:p:193-202
    DOI: 10.1080/02664760701775571

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