Many of you have asked me over the years why have I not written a book of many of the interesting characters and experiences I have had here over the years. My stock answer has always been that the statute of limitations needs to run on a lot of them. That is Arabic for, “some of the folks that I might write about need to be deceased.” Well, I just checked the age of this customer in my trusty card file, and if he is still alive, he is 99 years old. Since I am still slightly in awe of him, I will only use his first name and background before telling my story.
Prior to the story, please allow me to digress for just a moment. In the early 1970s, Dad and I started a consulting company designed around the concept of teaching folks how to design, build and manage a hunting operation. We soon discovered that we could not charge enough to discourage people, and that the only decent competition we had were those that we had consulted with. We closed that business, and decided to let anyone desiring to get in this business learn it the hard way like we did beginning in 1957. I am telling you that so that you will know that we have learned a lot of trade secrets the hard way, and we NEVER tell anyone how we manage every aspect of this business.
Now I can get to my story. While not trying to blow sunshine up anyone’s skirts, it’s a safe bet that the best and brightest folks in the world hunt with us at Riverview. They are naturally inquisitive, and often try their dead level best to get us to divulge exactly how we do what we do. I wrote my first guide training manual in 1974. In it, I listed for new guides the 100 most frequently asked questions by guests, and how they should answer them. On a few really sensitive questions, or if in doubt, the answer was always supposed to be, “I don’t know. You need to ask Mr. Cader.” I also had to convince my guides and myself that you do not go to hell for telling business lies.
Well as the old song title goes, “Along Came John.” Mr. John had retired as chairman and CEO of one of the major Standard Oil Company spin offs that was headquartered in Chicago. After retirement, a major big bank in Chicago failed, and Mr. John was asked to come out of retirement to see if he could right the ship. Now you must remember a big bank failure was a huge deal back in the 70s. They became a dime a dozen during the great recession of 2008-2010. Well, Mr. John did right the ship. He also hunted at Riverview when I was about 23-26 years old. To say that he had a strong personality would be the epitome of an understatement. My job was to convince people like Mr. John that, while they were boss of the world, I was the boss of Riverview, and he had to do things my way. To his credit, after a very rocky start with both me and his guides, we got along famously.
But that is not the story, and here it comes. One night he walked over to the Main Lodge, looked at me sternly, and said, “Son, I want to ask you a few questions. I have hunted with three different guides, and have either gotten conflicting responses or have been told to ask you.” I smiled and replied, “fire away.” Big mistake on my part! He asked me about 25 questions in rapid succession without allowing me to answer the first question until he finished with his last one. I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts, and then calmly answered every question. He leaned against the mantle of the fireplace for a moment, looked me square in the eye and said, “You are lying because if you did ABC, the results would be XYZ, but that is not what I am observing here.”
Now, you must realize that to call someone in the South a liar is fightin’ words. The problem in this case is that he was correct. I was lying my fanny off. I took a deep breath and said, “Mr. John, you are correct. I did not tell you the truth, and I have no intention of doing so, but I will make you a promise. I promise you that you will never catch me in an UNBELIEVABLE lie again.” That tickled his funny bone and he started laughing. I learned a valuable lesson, and I also rewrote the guide training manual. This experience also served to reinforce to a young man that I needed to always be on my “A” game when talking to brilliant people, which is one of the reasons I made myself a rule to never have a cocktail with my guests. I couldn’t afford to burn even one brain cell out if I was going to hold my own with our guests. They have certainly taught me a lot over the years, and I will be forever grateful for those lessons.
There will be more stories to come as time goes by. Some of them are much funnier than this one, but the characters are still alive; so stay tuned.