March 17, 2019
It’s a very long way from the woods of Vermont to the Rio Grande Valley in mid-New Mexico but, fortunately, Hubris gave me a good idea as to how to make the journey much easier. The first afternoon, after our stop at the gas station to make that call to Kamala, we had followed the highway south and by early evening we came to a truck stop. It wasn’t much of a place to tie up a horse for the night. As we were looking for a grassy spot to give Hubris something to eat and spend the night, Hubris turned unexpectedly and began walking toward a large horse trailer I hadn’t noticed. He went right up to it and whinnied—and he got a return whinny right back. It wasn’t long until the owner of that rig came out to give his horse some hay, fresh water and exercise. I dismounted and introduced myself. It turned out he was going south and had space in the trailer for another horse and wanted me to come along in the cab of the pick-up to keep him company. I offered to help pay for his gas and hay for Hubris and we struck a deal. That’s how we got back to New Mexico in a week instead of a few months. Truck stop to truck stop, we found a horse-trailer rig with space for us that was heading southwest, and hitch-hiked our way to the Rio Grande valley. Hubris was one smart horse and I wasn’t saddle-sore when we got home!
The day after our return I made a short visit to Lefty’s saloon and then I thought it was fitting to go to Jack Wright’s blacksmith shop to get that new set of shoes I had promised Hubris. I hadn’t been to Jack’s place in quite some time and when we got there I noticed a few things had changed. The first thing I saw was a big sign over the watering trough that read,
For Private Use Only
So, I dismounted and lapped the reins over and around the porch rail instead of letting Hubris have a drink.
When I went inside to talk to Jack about the shoes for Hubris, I felt like I had walked into a funeral parlor. The customers and the workers all looked like something bad had either happened or was going to happen. There was an air about the place that seemed downright mean and nasty.
Nobody was friendly or polite. When I asked Jack what was going on he just grumbled something about things just weren’t goin’ the way his customers wanted them to be. I tried to be polite so I asked Jack if his business had any kind of problem I could help him with. Jack and I go way back in our relationship. I think my question had softened him up because he put his cigar in a tin can, brushed the charcoal dust off of his leather apron, and with a grim look on his face, said, “Lou, I hate to tell you, or anybody else, but we have one hell of a serious management problem.”
Now, as all of you know, I’ve spent my earlier life up to my ears in management and problem solving. (Of course, since I was the management, I was the cause of most of the problems.) I reminded Jack of the first part of that fact in the kindest way I could and said, “Jack, I’m your friend and if I can help, in any way, I’ll be glad to do so.” Jack looked a bit sick, sober, and sorry when he said, “Let’s go out back to the tool shed. I’ve got something more I want to tell you.” Our walk to the shed was in total silence. After we entered the shed, Jack closed the door and asked me to pull up an empty nail keg and sit down. He pulled up another nail keg for himself, sat down, pulled a red bandana out of his pocket, and wiped the sweat off his forehead. I couldn’t figure out why he was sweating ‘cause it was a very cool, fall day in the mountains of New Mexico. After a long silence, Jack looked down at the floor and said, “Lou, we hired the wrong man to run our business.” I reflected on what he had just said for about a long minute and asked, “Just how did you do that?” Jack said, “That liar told us one thing in our interviews and, since we hired him, has done just the opposite.” I said, “Jack, your team really does have a very serious problem! I need some time to think about this. I’ll be back to you in a week or two.” This was a serious problem and I needed some time to give it serious thought.
The only thing I could think of doing right away was to go back to Lefty’s place and have a shot—or two. I left the shed, went around the shop, pulled the reins off the porch rail, re-mounted Hubris and with a hearty Hi Ho Hubris, Aaawaay, we were headed for Lefty’s. I was going to have to figure out how to help Jack. My problem was that I knew that Jack and his friends were, sometimes, their own worst enemies. Not too different than the bunch who ran Lefty’s. This was going to be one hell of a problem to solve!
Copyright, March 19, 2019, Louis J. Christen