Part 1 – By Ron Pestone
Sometimes the job you didn’t get turns out to be a real blessing. Years ago my friend George told me a story about losing a job I never forgot and thought it would be a good one to pass on.
George knew a small time excavating contractor whose total line up of equipment consisted of a beat up 977 Caterpillar track loader. George said Dominick was a likeable kind of guy but he had a certain kind of gleam in his eyes at times that could be a little unnerving. When I asked George what he meant, he said, “Sometimes when he looked at you he could spook you, it was kind of a crazy look.”
According to George times were slow back then and work was hard to come by and everyone including Dominick was having a hard time of it. Nobody was building and if nobody was building, nobody was going to need an excavating contractor or any other kind of contractor for that matter. As George said, “Dominick was sucking wind and so were a lot of other guys.”
George said Dominick tried everything to make a few bucks. He even took to renting his machine out with an operator [himself] for half the going rate and he still couldn’t get any takers. The machine sat most of the time and it was driving Dominick crazy because he not only had a family to feed he had to pay the monthly note on the machine. I could understand Dominick’s frustration because if anything can make you sick in this business is to see a big piece of equipment sit week after week not earning anything. They are like big Clydesdale horses, they eat a lot and they never stop eating.
The way George told the story,” When I thought Dominick was at the end of his rope he showed up at my office [a one room affair] and I thought he was going to put the bite on me for a loan so I looked into his eyes ready to say no but then I saw it and I knew it was something else, he had that crazy look. Christ, he could spook you.”
With that wild gleam Dominick said, “Take a ride with me.”
“Where we going?”
“Don’t worry about it, it won’t take long”, answered Dominick.
“I ain’t worried; I’d just like to know where we’re going”, grumbled George.
“Trust me will ya, I got something I think will be of real interest to you.”
“Me, interested in?” questioned George.
“You like money don’t you”, replied the wild one.
George shrugged his shoulders and followed Dominick out the door. As soon as they were in Dominick’s pickup truck Dominick gushed out, “Now when I show you this don’t say no right away. You know don’t think no. Give it the shot it deserves.”
George slouched down in the truck’s seat and was truly sorry he had gotten out of bed that morning.
According to George they didn’t talk much after that, they just rode. About 15 minutes later they drove into the town of Port Amelia and stopped in front of a massive two story brick building that sat about 10 feet above street level.
Climbing out of the pickup truck George read the sign at the top of the building and it read, Port Amelia High School. George looked questionably at Dominick who broke out in a huge grin and sniggered, “They’re tearing it down.”
Now Dominick who looked like a fire plug as he was built low to the ground with plenty of ballast and between his crew cut and mashed in nose, which had been pushed in a number of times in his career never looked a picture of success looked not only ecstatic to George at the moment but he actually looked to George like a guy who was on his way to a win. He was sparkling like a Christmas tree. George smiled the smallest of smiles.
Rubbing his jeans with his paws the words rushed out of Dominick’s mouth, “Can you believe it, they built a new High School and they want to take this baby down and they are willing to pay to have it taken down.”
George’s smile didn’t increase but Dominick’s volume did, “George this is a winner. I been on the roof and its solid copper. You know how big this building is? It’s almost a square block and it’s got tons of good steel in it and the bricks alone are worth a small fortune!”
George continued to look at the building and finally said, “When they built this elephant they built it at 10’ above street level and the footprint of the building is right next to the sidewalk. You have any idea how hard it will be to take this building down?”
Dominick fired, “I got a plan.”
“I was afraid of that,” answered George.
“Listen George, I will take this building down so fast the town will be talking about it for years.”
“That’s what I am afraid of.”
“George give it a thought. Let me tell you my plan and if you don’t like it we’ll forget about it, what do you say.”
“Are you asking me to do this with you”?
“George why kid ourselves. I’m down on my luck and I can’t get the bond without you and I don’t have the money to get all the permits and finance the job. If we do it together, you get the bonds, finance the job and control the checkbook. Me, I’ll work my ass off to get it down in a heartbeat. We split what we make 50-50. What do you say?”
George was one of those guys who thought fast and answered slow. He was one of those big Irish guys with that reddish complexion and a barrel chest that so many had mistaken for a brute instead of the genius that he was. In his one room office that nobody worked in except himself he made more money that guys that had 50 people working for them in their offices.
George was every contractors dream. He could get you bonds, he could finance you and he could take care of every kind of problem by a simple phone call. He was an expert at putting all the pieces together and he was involved in all kinds of deals. In all his deals he put up his half, you put up your half and you split what you made. If a deal turned sour he took his hit and never complained. George was a business man and he played by the old rules and the one thing George wasn’t, was a pig. Everybody who knew George knew under no circumstances was he a bridge you wanted to burn. George had helped me more than once, as he had a lot of guys I know, and he never made much of any of it. Like I said he was a contractors dream.
End Part 1
Don’t Forget: We Build America