THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
I spent yesterday with the Old Billionaire. And as usual when he and I are together I learned a lot.
“My son the Harvard Grad Genius is driving me crazy,” he said as he picked me up in his old flatbed truck. “He’s suing me! His own daddy! If he thinks for one minute that I’m going to turn a world class business I built from scratch over to his overeducated MBA self to manage however he pleases, he’s got another think coming!”
We pulled out of the clearing and went down the Mountain, turned onto the highway to Paradise.
“The wife’s car needs new tires,” he said. “I spent most of last week looking for the best deal. Looks like Paradise Tire’s got it. A hundred dollars a tire, down from one forty-five.”
“What’s Nettie have to say about all this?” I asked.
“Nettie’s fine with it. She knows it’s not safe to drive around without any tread.”
“I meant about what’s going on with your son,” I said.
The Old Billionaire frowned. “She wants Michelins. But she knows the Goodyears are a bargain,” was all he would say.
At the tire shop, Brent, the assistant manager, greeted us with a smile.
“Your tires came in just a few minutes ago,” he said, taking us to a stack in one of the work bays. “Hope this tread isn’t too aggressive for your wife.”
“Those look like they’ll eat my poor driveway alive,” said the Old Billionaire. “‘Course, it might be worth repaving if you got ’em down to, say, seventy-five per….”
Brent laughed. “We’re as low as we can go. It’s not our special, it’s the wholesaler’s.”
“Who’d you say that wholesaler was?”
Brent named a name that didn’t register with me. The Old Billionaire nodded. “Toss ’em into the back of the truck while I write a check.”
In just a few minutes we were back on the highway. We turned onto Church Street, where a sign caught the Old Billionaire’s eye. “That a new furniture store?”
“New store. Old furniture,” I said. “Gwen and I bought a nice old kitchen table there for the Annex last week.”
“Well, I just happen to need a nice old recliner chair,” said the Old Billionaire. “Something I can sit and rock on when I’m hiding from Nettie in the garage.”
We parked and went into the tiny store. Portland, the owner from—of course—Portland, Oregon, came running from the back as soon as he heard the bell.
“Can I help you?” he said. “Everything’s twenty percent off. And if you need me to deliver it I’m there. I got a great buy on that king-sized bed over there if you make an offer….”
The Old Billionaire looked past the other man, and his eyes fastened on a big lounge chair in a corner of the store. He looked it over. Sat down. Pulled the lever. Lay back.
Portland, who was still talking, quickly changed his patter. “That’s my favorite chair in the place,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about taking it home. Have you ever felt anything so comfy?”
“How much?” the Old Billionaire asked.
“A hundred and fifty—make that one twenty-five. One fifteen and it’s yours.”
“Thanks, but no.”
The Old Billionaire and I left the store.
“Too bad,” he said. “The chair’s perfect. But that old boy in there made me way too nervous. I could never sit in it without thinking I was smelling his salesman’s sweat.
The Old Billionaire went on. “The fella in the tire store’s a different story. He’s got an air about him. Confidence. Makes the buyer like and trust him right away. He’ll be in business forever. This other one’s too desperate. He and his place’ll be gone in two months.”
We got into the flatbed. The Old Billionaire reached for the ignition. Stopped. Sighed.
“Reckon it’s time,” he said.
“What do you mean?” The way he said it worried me. “Time for what?”
Another sigh. He stared straight ahead. “Time to do the right thing,” he said tightly, “and turn the business over to my kid.”
“Because that’s the reason you built it up in the first place?” I said, feeling wise.
“Because here I am, one of the richest men in the world, spending a week looking for bargain tires so I can bust my back mounting ’em myself. And buying some that’re on special—from a wholesale company I own!”