Gaston Kenna was his given names, but he always went by the initials G.K. I first got to know G.K. in 1973 when Dink (from another of my stories – okay a few of my stories) and I were teamed up doing projects together. GK was hired by my cousin Nelson, whom I already had a long working history with.
G.K. had worked for a wealthy businessman in Rockdale for many years. A drinking problem had been the cause of him needing to seek employment with Nelson.
A few years later G.K. became my traveling accountant / sidekick / office guy. His marriage had failed due to his drinking and other circumstances, so he was free to move around, going along as we were doing projects all over the state. This was something that I was able to do too also. Madeline and I were fairly portable. 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, 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. Although we were working through Nelson’s company, we were expected to be mostly self sufficient. The arrangement was designed, I suppose to help me learn every aspect of the business.
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 one day. 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 the Businessman in Rockdale. He knew how banks worked and walking in without collateral wasn’t exactly the way to get a banking relationship started.
We drove down the street and right in the middle of town, Breckenridge being a small town, there was a high rise building. 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 was passing through one of his ranches, so 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.
Bill 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 / 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 explained that I would be needing a new one if I was going get 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. It was a very nice truck for those days. Pickups were just beginning to get fancy along about that time.
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.
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 2 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 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”. He declined to loan us the money.
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.