Debt free on the highway
Published 9:32 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013
By Rex Alphin
He picked me up in Wyoming as the sun was setting.
I heard the same old question: “Where ya’ headed?”
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“South,” I replied, sliding my numb fingers under the dash to catch the heated air. “They say it’s warmer down there.”
He chuckled and I glanced at my chauffeur, grateful at his willingness to pick up a lone hitchhiker. He appeared about mid-50s, silver hair, wire-rimmed glasses and articulate speech that made me guess he had some college education. Perhaps graduate school.
He seemed intrigued at my independent, roving lifestyle and soon, judging by his relaxed posture, he considered me harmless. Consequently, his conversation, like the biting wheels of a locomotive at its start, gained traction.
“I don’t mind telling you, I was doing well in ‘07. We were building houses at a frantic pace. We reinvested the profits. My company was worth over $20 million.” He said it in such a casual way, I did not question his statement, as if his intent was not to impress.
“The Meadows, Golden Pond, Bridge Point — they were all our developments.” (As If I should know of them!). “Then the recession hit. We were sitting on 1,300 half-built, unsold houses. The banks tried to help, but we were too highly leveraged. I had some assets that couldn’t be touched, but we lost everything else.”
I got the impression he had never shared this story with another person. At least, not in this way.
“Don’t get me wrong. We are doing all right. But the glory years are gone. We laid off our various crews, the banks moved in like vultures on our properties, and we licked our wounds.
“There are some that will not speak to me today. Can’t say I blame them. But business is business. Someday it’s going to turn around. Always does. When that happens I plan to….”
“Whoa!” I said. We were about to pass my exit. Two hours had passed, and I could smell a new topic with grand plans about to begin.
“Thanks,” I said, stepping out.
“Anytime. Good luck.”
I started down the road, heaving up my backpack, the only possession to my name. And thankful it was paid for.
Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.