Borrowing Money On Your Word And A Handshake

Early in my contracting career, G.K. became my accountant, sidekick and office guy. His marriage had failed due to his drinking and other circumstances, so he was free to move around the state doing projects with me. Something that I was able to easily do too. Madeline and I were fairly portable. We went to Huntsville, Houston and eventually we ended up in Brackenridge, Tx.

We only had one child, a baby – Matthew, when in December 1976 an opportunity came along to go do the largest project I had ever undertaken. It was in Stephens County, Texas. It was a 10 mile long 24″ diameter water line.

When we settled in on the job and needed to get stated it occurred to me and to G.K. that we had a small problem. We had no money to operate on. We mulled over our options. There weren’t many.

The town of Breckenridge was to the west of our project about 20 miles. That was the nearest place to even get a plate of food. We drove in for lunch. As we ate I said “let’s just go to one of the banks here and make a short term loan”.

A skeptical G.K. ask me just how we would do that with no collateral? Being 24 years old and fairly naive I said we’d go find a banker and see what he said. G.K. had been in on some very large transactions with banks while working for his wealthy former employer. He assured me that Ol Dog wasn’t going to hunt.

We drove down the street and right in the middle of town was a high rise building. It looked out of place, with Breckinridge being a small West Texas town. It was the First National Bank of Breckenridge. I pulled up to the curb and we walked in. I told the receptionist I needed talk to the bank President. A few minutes later we were sitting in Bill Craig’s office.

I told him we needed to borrow $150 thousand. I explained what we were doing. Coincidently the water line passed through one of his ranches and he knew all about the project. I said we didn’t need the whole amount up front but we’d gladly open an account there and when we needed money we just let him know.

Mr. Craig had been a Fort Worth banker and had retired and moved to Stephens County to ranch. After getting there he had become involved with the bank. He dressed the part of a West Texas rancher, banker and wheeler dealer. He always had a big cigar in his mouth or near by.

He sent G.K. out to get with a gal to set up our account. My new banker friend and I talked. I ask him who I should see about a new pickup. I would be needing a new one if I was going get all around that area and get that project built. He and I walked down the street to the Chevrolet dealer and I picked out a new 3/4 ton 4 wheel drive truck. A very nice truck.

Mr. Craig had just traded in a one ton Dodge truck for a new Chevy for his ranch foreman. He recommend that I buy the Dodge if I needed a good truck. So I bought it for my mechanic, Paul. He financed them both with nothing down.

When we got back G.K. was nervously setting in the lobby tapping his foot. We walked out and drove away. He was stunned at how easily the loan been acquired. Then I told him about buying the two trucks.

Mr. Craig would come out and ride up and down the right of way with me every week or two. We developed a very good relationship. We finished the project and paid off the loan.

The next project we moved to was in Houston. We found ourselves in need of a loan a few months later. I pickup up the phone and called my old friend Bill Craig and told him of our needs. He declined to loan us the money. He said “I believe in you and have no doubt you will pay the money back, but I have a belief in loaning money where I can keep an eye on it and I don’t plan on ever coming to Houston, Texas”.

I was crushed. I thought that I would have a banker for a lifetime from the relationship we had developed. Later I realized that he was a very good banker that always put his shareholders first. That’s what he should have done.

He told me “son if you’re ever back up this way, let me know and we’ll do some more business together”.

I never made it back up there.

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