Our First 10 Years

There were four or five guys working at the site from Great Britain and they didn’t do much, but were always involved in the wiring or reading the paper. They were referred to as Limey’s. All the other workers were Hispanic and they took care of the horses, maintenance, all the landscaping and all the masonry. There were retaining walls and rock work everywhere, and they were good at it. None of them spoke English and nobody spoke Spanish, so it was like building the Tower of Babel. Frank never showed up before noon, so nothing was getting done on their end. One day we noticed the place deserted with no one in sight. A white pickup was parked near the main house. It was a Building Department Inspector but they all thought it was someone from the I.N.S. Even the Limey’s scattered up the hillside and hid until he left. “Can you spell undocumented workers?”

One of the great things about California over Oregon is that they have city and county owned golf courses, everywhere. In San Diego, they have the two famous championship courses at Torrey Pines, and in 2008 they hosted the U.S. Open. Westlake Village was about ten minutes South of Sly’s jobsite and their city golf course had lights. I guess everyone spends they’re daytime hours either at work or stuck in traffic. Anyway, at night they’d light up nine holes, so you could tee it up in the dark. We indulged ourselves about a half dozen times and couldn’t get enough of it. The one thing about night golf is, you have to concentrate more on hitting the fairway, because the rough was not lit up. If you missed it, consider that ball lost to the golf Gods. Plus, your depth perception was way off as everything looked much farther away then it really was. I remember one night playing with Joe and Ron, as Joe was laying up to a par four after a bad tee shot. He hit it a little thin, ( a Twiggy ), only to see the guy up on the green, bent over and cussing. Joe had nailed him right in the back from about a hundred and fifty yards, nice shot. It was dark, so we snuck over to a different hole, abandoned his ball and finished our round. “Welcome to California!”

Joe was asked to stay on and help them finish everything on the four projects. We agreed that it would help to make sure things got done right and continue a good working relationship. He was promised cash, around $25.00 per hour, which was a big increase over what we were paying him. He finally found out why every one of the workers left the jobsite every other Friday for an hour, emptying the place. Frank had an arrangement for each of them to cash their checks and pay him $10.00 per hour off the top. Like Joe, if you made $25.00 per hour you got paid $35.00 and Frank got ten. No wonder nobody was in a hurry to finish the homes, especially Frank. It’s probably the way things are done, if you live in Philadelphia or New Jersey. Where’s Tony Soprano when you need him? “You gotta problem wid the way we do bizness?”

After all the homes were finished and the polo field an unnatural shade of green, Sly decided to sell the ranch to an international financier. He was able to mark up the price an extra million dollars because a celebrity slept there, him. Frank had promised us this was the first of many log homes he’d build for the rich and famous, but had a falling out with Sly once it was sold. “I wonder if someone spilled the beans about the ten dollar skim job?” We never did hear back from him, but sipped champagne when we got back to Oregon. We were so happy to be working for regular folks again. Afterwards, we bought out Brian, who had gone out on his own, and it was down to the two of us, Tom and myself. “So much for our fifteen minutes of fame and being in a Rocky movie!”

The best brochure wins. From the earliest days I’d sent away for brochures from other log home manufacturers, especially the successful ones. Most people don’t realize that this business is a mail order business, trying to get your catalogue out to the public and on their coffee tables. It may take five years or more for some of our customers to get their property, have the utilities installed and be ready to build. But they’ve made their mind up to build a log home. You don’t have to talk them into logs, just get them to use our logs and building system. Our plan has been to have the best brochure and to show as many color pictures as possible. And keep it simple. Beautiful designs, what is included, what is the price and have the lowest price?