There are things that happen in our lives that leave us wondering about human nature. This story left me feeling less trustful.
I had become very good friends with an old gentleman that was my neighbor. Upon his retiring after a long and successful career as an excavation contractor in Austin, I bought his office and yard and several pieces of his equipment. I didn’t buy his business per se, and I’ve alway questioned why I didn’t. He had almost cornered the market on doing the big excavation projects around Austin. Oh well, I guess things work out.
One of his ex-employees came to work for me. The rest scattered out across the area, going to work at other construction companies.
Woody was his accountant and I really needed an accountant. So that was a good move for us both.
About three years later (1980) one of his old superintendents came to me and said he had decided to go in business for himself. Eddie was a really well respected and knowledgable dirt hand. He said working for the other man just wasn’t getting him where he needed to go. He had always worked for the other man but knowing he was honest and hard working there was no reason he wouldn’t be successful or so I thought.
I had a 12F Caterpillar Motorgrader that I had bought from his former boss, my old neighbor. It set most of the time and Eddie knew that, so he ask if I’d be willing to sell it to him. He had been around the machine since it was new and knew it was in great condition. We were able to strike a deal. I also had a good water truck that I sold him. I had connections with an equipment finance company so I was able to help him acquire the needed financing.
After about six months Eddie came to me and said that being in business just wasn’t for him. There were too many worries and he just wasn’t cut out for it. He just wanted to find a job where he could go home every night and not have to worry about running a business. Would I be willing to buy back the motorgrader and water truck?
I really didn’t need the motorgrader but told him I would give him the full amount he had paid me for the water truck. But if he couldn’t find a buyer for the motorgrader come back and talk to me. A few days later he was back. Could I help him?
I said that since I didn’t want to have put it back on my depreciation schedule, if he wanted me to make the payments I would do that for the remaining 2 1/2 years that were left on the note. There was approximately $30,000 owed and at a thousand dollars a month, it seemed like something that would help him and I’d be able to do it without being a huge burden on me. It would be like is was renting it until it was paid for. Those machines held their value so everything would work out.
Every month I’d mail him a check for the amount of the payment. I made it a priority to always have the money to him, so his wife could in turn make the payment and protect his credit. We never missed a time of getting it to him.
At the end of the term I called and ask him to send me a paid bill of sale. He said he would but it never came. I forgot about it and a year or so passed. The machine seldom left our yard.
One day I pulled up on a job site where Eddie was working. I ask about the bill of sale. He said that his wife and son thought he should get something out of the deal. “I had to lay awake a nights worried about whether you were going to pay for it or not” was his response. Of course I explained that I had in fact done him a favor in making the payments for him and really had found little use for the machine.
He held firm, as did I.
I got busy with life and decided just forget the whole deal. I would use the machine some and never even worried about ever selling it. Therefore the bill of sale was a mute point. I kept it on my insurance policy.
I took it to a project in 1988, some years later, to do some cleanup and final grading work. We got back to job after a weekend and the machine was gone. It had been stolen. We turned it in and collected $35,000 from the insurance company. Not knowing what to do with the money, the check laid there for a couple of months.
One day as one of my guys was headed home he passed a construction site. There was the stolen grader. It had been equipped with a distinctive modification that made it easy to identify. Several of my guys met there with me to wait while the police arrived.
The contractor was none other than Eddie’s son. An ex-city policeman that had recently gone into the excavation business. He explained that I had illegally been in possession of his dad’s motorgrader and they had called in a repossession notice to police department and simply driven it off the job that day a couple of months before.
We were told to each bring all of our paperwork to the police department the next day to try to resolve the dispute. We each showed up and it was easy to see what had happened. The conclusion was that we could take procession of the machine.
Only thing standing in the way was a $60,000 bank loan that the son had taken out on the $35,000 machine. If we would pay off the loan we could have the machine.
I walked away knowing we had literally had a machine stolen from us. The bank ended up having to take the equipment back when that business failed.
We returned the insurance check.
A while later I saw where Eddie had passed away. He and I had never spoken again.
A year or so later I took my kids to a movie one evening. As we were leaving I looked up to see Eddie Jr., walk in with his family.
I stood back and when they got in the concession line, I walked up to him and re- introduced myself and said “I saw where you lost your dad a while back”. As he shook his head I then said “where is he buried?” Surprised by my asking he told me. I then added “good, I’ll go by there tomorrow to piss on his grave”, and then turned and walked out. I didn’t go. I should have.
I really think the whole thing was something that Eddie allowed his wife and son to push him into.
(This is a likeness to that motorgrader)