Chapter Twenty-Six

Sunday Morning, the Ratt’s Nest, 8 AM

Carl and Nathan sat at one of the many tables placed on the balcony outside the breakfast room. On the table, glasses of juice and milk stood above their two small plates heaped with pastries.

“Pretty nice party last night, huh?” Carl remarked.

“Yes, I’ve never been to anything like it before,” Nathan agreed.

“I remember how scared I was to come here when Tyler asked us in Salt Lake City,” Carl continued.

“I was too, Carl. To think I almost said no. Now I think that the luckiest thing that ever happened to me was getting mugged and later vandalized. While it was horrible at the time, it led to my meeting you, both of us meeting Tyler, and later our coming here. You know, I’ve been thinking. So far we’ve kinda lazed around here enjoying the prosperity that everyone here takes for granted. I think we need to start thinking seriously about what we’re going to do with our lives.”

“Well, we’ve been looking at school,” offered Carl.

“Yes and Ron has offered to get us a tutor to get ready. I think we should start digging in. You know, we can’t stay here forever.”

“Did anyone say anything about us having to leave?”

“No, and I’m sure they won’t,” Nathan said reassuringly. “Nevertheless, we’re both nearly adults. I’m sure that Ron and Tyler will expect us to stand on our own two feet before too long. I’m thinking that we should repay their generosity by working hard toward that day.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Nathan. I looked at all the people at the party last night. Except for the younger guys from Thornton everyone seemed to have their act together, and guys our age like Robert and Jeffery that live here in the garage apartment have jobs, are going to school and seem to be getting somewhere. I think we should let Ron know we’re ready.”

“Ready for what?” a voice from the doorway leading to the inside asked.

“Oh, hi Ron,” Nathan said snapping his head around toward the sound. “Hi Matt. You guys are up early.”

“Yes, we woke up an hour ago. I suspect we’ll have more company today, so we thought we’d get up and get going,” Ron explained. “Now, what are you ready for?”

“Carl and I were talking,” Nathan began. “We’ve decided that we’ve sat around long enough. We want to start getting ready for school and would like to start in the spring semester.”

“That’s great,” Matt joined in.

“Would you like me to find a tutor for you?” Ron asked.

“Yes, we’d like that,” Carl answered. “At least I would.”

“I would too,” Nathan added. “We were talking about maybe working too. It’s still about three months until school would start. Do you think you could help us find jobs?”

“I’m sure I could,” replied Ron. “What kind of work are you interested in?”

“I have lots of experience working with my hands,” Carl offered. “Maybe I could work construction, or something like that.”

“I’m not sure what I could do,” Nathan said. “I’ve worked in a Mickey D’s and stuff like that but I’d really like something different, I think.”

“Let me see what I can do,” Ron offered. “We have a friend, Ken Friday, who owns Friday’s Tire Stores. He often takes in guys from Thornton that are older. It’s hard work though. We also have a construction company. If you work for us though, you’ll have to start at the bottom as a laborer. In our companies, you earn your own way and achieve advancement through hard work and reliability.”

“I’m not afraid of hard work,” declared Carl.

“You don’t think that the Arts Trust guys could use some help do you?” Nathan asked.

“Perhaps, but unless you know something about art, it will still be a menial job.”

“I don’t care about that,” Nathan said. “I like art and I’m sure I’d learn a lot.”

“I like both of you guys’ attitude,” Ron complemented. “If you approach work that way I’m sure you’ll be successes. What do you guys have planned today?”

“Nothing, so far,” Carl answered. “We were so overwhelmed by your party and the people here that we haven’t planned ahead.”

“Maybe you’d like to take a drive,” Matt suggested, winking at Ron.

“That might be fun,” Carl agreed. “Where do you think we should go?”

“It’s not where, but how,” Matt answered.

“Huh?” both boys said, not understanding.

“Let’s go to the garage,” Ron suggested.

He and Matt rose from their chairs and headed inside, followed quickly by the two surprised boys. They crossed the breakfast room, entered the kitchen where Mary was already making preparations for the morning meal. Stepping into the hallway leading to the garage, Ron reached the garage door first and opened it for Matt and the younger men. The garage appeared the same as usual.

“What are we doing in here?” Carl asked.

“Look beyond the Escalade at the far end of the garage,” Matt directed.

The boys circled the Jeep, Ronnie and Jerry’s Honda, Ron and Matt’s cars as well as Tyler and Dan’s before coming to the large Cadillac SUV. Passing by its rear bumper they saw a new car that was normally not there. It was a Honda sedan that was identical to the one belonging to Ronnie and Jerry, except that it was gold in color instead of silver.

“Whose car is this?” Carl asked.

“It’s yours,” Matt responded. “It’s for the both of you, so you’ll have to share.”

“Woohoo!” Carl hooted as he rushed around to the driver’s side to peer inside.

“All right!” Nathan whooped in agreement, as he followed his friend and lover.

“Take it for a ride,” Ron offered as Matt approached the boys with a set of keys dangling from his outstretched hand.

“There’s an opener clipped to the visor,” explained Matt. “The button on the left opens the garage door where the car is parked and the one on the right opens the main gates. The tank is full, but if you’re going to be gone very long, let us know. Otherwise, we’ll expect you back by lunch.”

Nathan accepted the keys, then handed them to Carl.

“You first,” he offered.

“Thanks Bud,” Carl said beaming. “I’ll just drive it a little ways then it will be your turn.”

“Works for me,” Nathan said before he turned to Ron and Matt.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, guys,” he said giving first Matt, then Ron a grateful hug.

Carl followed with his own round of thanks.

“You guys are most welcome,” Matt responded. “When you see Tyler and Dan be sure to thank them too as they paid half.”

“You know we will,” Nathan promised. “You all have been so good to us. We’ll pay you back somehow.”

“Thanks, but that’s not necessary,” Ron said with a smile. “Just remember to help someone else when you have the opportunity, and take good care of the car.”

“We promise,” Carl said with sincerity. “We’re going to go now, but we’ll be back before long. By then Tyler and Dan will be up and we can thank them too.”

“Enjoy yourselves guys, and drive safely,” Matt advised.

“We will, and thanks again,” Carl responded as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Come on Babe,” Ron said to Matt. “I have the need for another cup of coffee.”

“I’m with you Ron,” Matt responded with a pleased smile on his face.

                         *                      *                      *

8:30 AM, Dave Rush and Eric Lundberg’s Suite, The Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

Dave and Eric sat at the small table near the window overlooking the huge lagoon in front of the luxury hotel. A small breakfast had been delivered to their room by an attractive attendant and they were just finishing it when the phone rang. Dave who was seated nearest the instrument reached over and plucked it from its cradle.

“Dave Rush,” he answered.

He paused, listening to the caller before responding with, “Yes, Mr. Phelps, that would be fine. We’ll have to confirm that it will work out with the other pair, but that shouldn’t take but a few moments. Thank you.”

“What’s up Dave?” Eric asked.

“You remember when we checked in I asked if we might play golf today? That was Mr. Phelps the concierge. It seems that a foursome is available today at Shadow Creek, the very exclusive course that was built out north of town by Steve Wynn when he was the CEO. I’m hoping that Ron and Matt might join us. If not, then perhaps Jake Marley and Tony Tegano or Ethan and Rick might play.”

“Do you have Ron and Matt’s phone number?” Eric asked.

“Yes, it was on the invitation that Matt sent out. I put it in my cell phone directory.”

Standing, Dave walked to the credenza where his cell phone was sitting, still attached to its charger. Unplugging it, Dave began to press buttons on the device until the number he wanted appeared. Pressing ‘send’, the phone ‘dialed up’ the number at Ron and Matt’s home.

“Good morning Mr. Parker,” Dave replied to Parker’s greeting. “This is Dave Rush. Is Mr. Turner home?” He paused as Parker replied.

“Thank you,” he said to Parker’s response.

“Ron,” he said when the man answered, “this is Dave Rush. I just learned that a tee time is available at 11:00 this morning at Shadow Creek. We were wondering if you and Matt might join us?”

Another pause ensued while Ron excused himself to confer with his partner before responding to the invitation in the affirmative.

“That’s great!” Dave said with enthusiasm. “I think we should be there by 10:30 at least, earlier if you want to spend a bit of time on the driving range.” Again a pause before he responded with, “That would be very nice. We’ll be out front of the check-in lobby at 9:45 then. We’re looking forward to it. See you then. Goodbye.”

“They’ll play?” Eric asked as Dave disconnected.

“Yes, they’ll pick us up at 9:45. I’m glad we brought our clubs.”

“It’s been a while since we’ve played,” Eric commented. “I hope we can put up a good showing.”

“Babe, the way you play, you’re almost a pro. I’m just an older guy and slowing down.”

“Ha!” Eric taunted, “You should have told me that last night! I’ve known guys half your age that have neither your stamina or enthusiasm.”

“It must be love Eric.” Dave responded. “You remember how spooked I was when we first made love.”

“I remember that you said you were spooked, but you were neither reluctant, nor lacking in performance. I will admit though, that every day gets better and better.”

“Practice,” Dave laughed. “Let’s jump into the shower and get ready. That shouldn’t take more than an hour unless you won’t stop tempting me.”

“You don’t take much tempting,” Eric observed with a wink as he began to disrobe while turning toward the suite’s huge bathroom.”

                                     *                      *                      *

9:45, the Porte-Cochere at the Bellagio Hotel

The large white stretch limo with gold RET initials on the front doors pulled to a stop. Eric and Dave, recognizing the logo moved to the long vehicle while the bell hop transported their clubs and accessories on a luggage cart toward the opening trunk. Ron climbed outside the vehicle to greet the two men, first shaking their hands, and then beckoning them to join Matt who had remained within the cavernous interior. Climbing in they were again greeted by Ron’s partner, who invited Eric to sit beside him in the rear facing seats while Ron and Dave faced ahead.

“I’m very pleased you could join us,” Dave said warmly as the door was closed and the limo began to roll.”

“You’ll probably have to excuse our erratic play,” Ron replied. “It seems we never have enough time to really excel at the game, no matter how much we enjoy it.”

“I’m sure it’s a common problem with many of us,” Dave responded. “We all have busy lives, and unless golf is your first love, it gets ignored in the rush of things.”

“Well, I’m afraid I’m along mostly for the scenery and the company,” Matt admitted. “I played a bit in high school and have played some since, but not nearly enough for my liking.”

“What’s your handicap?” Eric asked.

“My highest handicap was a 6,” Matt revealed, “but I doubt I can shoot to a 10 now.”

“I’m rather rusty myself,” Eric said. “The project I’ve been running in the Bay Area and all our business interests keep me pretty tied up. Occasionally, if Dave comes with me we sneak away for a round at the Olympic Club or if we have time, at Pebble Beach.”

“I love Pebble Beach,” Ron said. “I played it several times when I was younger, but not recently.”

“It’s still as pretty and as challenging as ever,” reported Dave. “It’s quite a walk too. I guess I’m destined to ride in a cart in future rounds. I enjoy the walk but I can feel the aftermath later. Have you two played Shadow Creek before?”

“I have,” Ron responded. “It’s a beautiful course. It’s hard to believe that it’s in the desert. There are over 10,000 pine trees on the course, completely shielded from the surrounding nearby desert and it’s beautifully landscaped with not only permanent plants, but with an abundance of flowers. There are even deer, pheasant, and quail around to liven up the scenery.”

“Do you walk and carry your own clubs, or are there caddies?” Eric asked.

“There are golf carts, but for each cart there is a caddy who rides on the back like a footman. He cleans the clubs, rakes the sand traps, and offers advice as to distances and how the green breaks for putting.”

“That should be interesting,” Dave responded. “I’m really looking forward to a fun round.”

“I am too,” Ron responded. “Do you want to have a little competition?”

“Sure, I’m game. Eric is the player on our team, and I suspect that you, Ron, are the ‘heavy’ on yours.”

“I know that’s true for our side,” confirmed Matt.

“How ‘bout Eric and Matt being one team, and you and me Ron, being the other. That way we can all get to know each other better.”

“Sounds fine to me,” Ron agreed after seeing that Matt also thought the pairing was fair. Ron suspected that Matt was looking forward to riding and playing with Eric who was a fabulous hunk, and would be great company even if he didn’t play well, which Ron doubted.

“What shall we play and what for?” Eric asked.

“How about lowest score per hole per team, and a dollar a hole?”

“I’m not sure we can afford that after paying $1000 apiece for our green fees,” Ron joked.

“Oh you don’t have to worry about that,” Dave said. “We’re being comped.”

“How did you rate that?” Ron asked. “I thought only ‘high-rollers’ got comped.”

“Well, it seems that our boy Eric decided to play Blackjack last night when we got back from your place, and took the casino for over $140,000.”

“I guess that means he gets to buy lunch,” Matt smiled in amazement. “That’s sure a lot better than we’ve ever done.”

“Sometimes you just get lucky,” Eric said simply.

“And some of us were born that way,” Ron mused.

“Amen to that,” Dave agreed.

                         *                      *                      *

4:00 PM, Shadow Creek Clubhouse bar

The four men settled themselves into comfortable chairs around a round table. The bartender asked for their preferences, then set about making the drinks. Eric was bent over the scorecard with the stubby pencil tallying up the damage.

"Hmmm, Let’s see. You owe us two dollars,” he announced.

“Darn, I didn’t know your partner was a ‘ringer’,” Ron said to Dave.

“He’s a very good golfer, even if he puts himself down. Actually he’s very athletic in many ways,” Dave confided.

“We weren’t talking about that!” Matt kidded.

Eric blushed as Dave and Ron laughed at his embarrassment.

“He’s really fairly modest around people in spite of his having been a lifeguard and out amongst crowds with little on in the way of clothing.”

“Maybe he’s changed since he found his true love,” offered Matt.

“I think both of us have changed,” Dave said. “I know that he’s gained an immense amount of self-confidence since we became a couple. I’ve changed too. I was practically a recluse, spending most of my time at home semi-retired, and with no love life and very little love OF life. His love was like a shot in the arm. Suddenly it was like I was alive again. I was not only captivated by the fact that he loved me, but my interest in everything, especially business blossomed. I was lucky to have captured him.”

“Hey big man, let’s keep the record straight.” Eric said with conviction. “Ron, Matt, it was me who fell in love first. I set my sights on Dave before he even knew I existed. It took some doing to land him.”

“It was only because I couldn’t believe that a hunk like Eric could see anything in an older guy like me,” Dave admitted.

“If you only knew. I wasn’t the only one of the lifeguards that your daughter had over for her pool parties who drooled whenever you showed your face,” Eric said. “It’s just that I made the moves first, and could hardly believe my good fortune when you returned my love. I felt so unworthy.”

“I never thought that for a minute,” the older man said. “Besides being a great lover, you’ve proved yourself in business a hundred times over.”

“Yes, I’ve followed Eric’s career, as much as you would let out to the public,” Ron agreed. “Eric set the financial world afire, and as a team the two of you are unbeatable.”

“You’re no slouch yourself, Mr. Turner,” declared Dave. “Eric and I are both pleased to meet the two of you in person at last. I’ve long followed the Turner Companies and your growth. In the last year your growth has been phenomenal.”

“That’s principally because of my brother Tyler and Aztec-Turner Security,” Ron said dodging the compliment.

“Nonsense,” Dave retorted. “Sure Aztec-Turner has been the star, but even without Aztec your growth as been very, very impressive.”

“It’s kind of you to say that Dave. I’ll take that as a sincere compliment. Now I’ll say thank you and hope we can drop the subject.”

“You’re most welcome, and we thank you too. I’m very happy that Matt and Eric made contact. We have many friends, but few that we really feel close to. Somehow I think that you’ll quickly be in that small group.”

“We feel the same way,” Ron answered.

“In one area you’ve far outshone the performance of our companies,” Dave stated.

“Oh?” Ron questioned.

“Yes. You’ve done far more to help others than we have. Eric and I have talked a lot about it, and we’ve got a serious program that we support to promote safe sex amongst young people, but it appears that you’re into helping people in ways that we’ve barely begun to think about. Our great friend Sara probably makes us all look silly, as far as generosity is concerned. To her it’s a life’s work. She’s such a sweetheart. If you ever need help in the City, she would be offended if you didn’t call on her.”

“I just love her to death,” declared Matt. “She is such a dear lady, and has so much class I feel like a country bumpkin.”

“Yes, she has that effect on people,” Eric agreed. “She’s taken me in like her long lost son, yet she treats me like a friend. I’ve learned more from her than from just about anyone, except maybe Dave.”

Ron’s cell phone began to ring, and he pulled it from its holder on his belt.

“Ron,” he said simply into the mouthpiece after seeing the call was coming from home.

“Hey Bro,” Tyler said. “How was golf?”

“It was great fun,” reported Ron. “What’s up?”

Jake and Tony are here, and Ethan and Rick are on their way. Bryan and Alan are coming too. We’re all going out for dinner, including you guys. I hope it’s alright. Of course Dave and Eric are invited too.”

“Where are we going?” Ron asked.

“I thought we’d try Dave’s Barbecue. I hear it’s very good and they have a small room that I’ve reserved for our whole gang. The boys are all coming too including Brandt and Rich, but they’re going to have their own table apart from us older guys.”

“Sounds good,” Ron replied. “Let me ask Dave and Eric if they can make it. Hold on.”

Ron put his hand over the receiver and explained the plans for the evening to Matt, Eric and Dave. The two visitors accepted at once, indicating that they needed to return to the Bellagio to shower and get ready. They also offered to have a hotel limo transport them to whatever destination was chosen so that Ron and Matt would not have to wait for them.

“What time does the shindig start?” Ron said speaking back into the phone.

“Dinner is at 7:30, but the cocktail hour is beginning here right away,” Tyler answered.

“We’ll take Dave and Eric back to their hotel, then return home,” Ron informed his brother. “They’ll have the hotel bring them up after they’re ready.”

“Fine Ron,” Tyler said. “We’ll see you when you get here.”

“Later Bro,” Ron said as he snapped the cover closed on his phone. “Well, I guess we’d better get a move on,” he told the others. “The party is already starting.”

                         *                      *                      *
6 PM, Ron and Matt’s home in Las Vegas

Ron, Matt, Alan and Bryan sat with the Tony and Jake sipping cocktails while Eric and Dave became better acquainted with Ethan and Rick as well as Tyler and Dan in another corner of the room.

“I was serious last night,” Ron said to the couple, “when I asked if you could stay over to visit the Thornton Center.”

“We saw it this morning,” Tony, the younger of two, replied. “We met Leonard Johnson last night at your party and he invited us over. It’s an excellent facility from what we could see on the tour he gave us. It’s rather deluxe compared to our youth camp, I’m afraid.”

“From what I’ve heard, your operation is highly admired,” Matt responded. “You’ve taken a much broader slice of the population than we have and in a much larger city too. Your work with disadvantaged youths has given so many a new perspective of what their future can be. Your challenges are much greater than ours, and from what I hear the results are excellent.”

“Yes,” Alan joined in. “We’re working toward a facility similar to Thornton in New York City and, of course, in researching success stories, your facility is highly praised.”

“Thanks Alan. We’ve been running our camp now for nearly 6 years. The older of our kids are now approaching college age. This year we’ll provide over 60 full college scholarships and expect an additional 40 next year. All this is for kids who were on a dead-end path. We really appreciate your comments though. Such compliments from a career professional such as you in the field of social work, are highly valued.”

“In many ways doing social work on the scale that we and you do is very difficult,” Alan continued. “ To be really effective with young people, especially those who have had difficult backgrounds, a lot of personal attention is required. That kind of attention is hard to attain in a large city and in a large social operation where there are so many in need. It’s the biggest problem. How do you find the time for one-on-one mentoring relationships to develop? I can tell you it’s maddening. Many nights, particularly when I worked with the City, I wanted to just go home at night and cry with the hopelessness of it all.”

“ Our approach is quite different,” Tony said, “We take the kids, most of whom have families in the City, and put them in a camp atmosphere in the country. There we place emphasis on developing goals for their lives, and show them how they can accomplish them. We don’t provide permanent housing as it’s a summer camp. Our direction is to take disadvantaged kids and provide the will and the means to succeed. While you tackle the homeless and those who have been excluded from society, we take mostly kids in the lower income strata and work to raise their lives out of the poverty cycle.”

“I’ve heard quite a bit about the Friendship Trust and its work,” Jake added. “I hear that it’s making true inroads into the City’s social problems, especially with youth.”

“We’re doing our best, though only about 40% of our efforts are centered on youths, Alan continued. “We have a wide variety of services, but our emphasis is to raise people out of the hopelessness of poverty, drugs, and bad backgrounds, and even of old age. Some of it is straight service to help the helpless, but our ultimate goals are to elevate people above their problems through education and counseling. Of course we’re going to have failures. There are many mentally ill people on the streets since government closed most facilities to care for them. They are the most difficult to deal with. Then there are young people and the aged. We try our best to give them a feeling of self-worth. Wherever possible we also assign people to individuals so that there is a human touch. We of course can’t do it all.”

“There are predators of course, especially of youths, who want to use the helplessness of young people in coping with the challenges of survival in the City for their own gain. Here we have made some genuine inroads. Aztec-Turner Security has been an ally to both us and the New York City Police in putting those guys away. Thanks to Tyler’s operation; we estimate that the number of pimps in the City has been cut in half. If that’s not a true figure, it can be only because they have disappeared from sight, which is just about as good. Most of the work by Aztec has been gratis, but there have been a number of ‘busts’ of criminals where rewards have been offered. Those rewards have helped offset the tremendous cost that has been incurred by Aztec-Turner. Fortunately, Tyler’s operation in NYC is a fabulous success and can absorb losses in helping us. Nevertheless, most similar security companies would not even attempt what Aztec has already accomplished.”

“I guess we need to spend some time talking to Tyler before we leave,” Jake responded. “We have an excellent security force, but they are mostly ‘defensive’ in nature. I guess it never occurred to us to go after those who prey on the helpless, though with our type of program it’s less of a problem.”

“It works, but it’s not cheap,” Ron commented.

“Neither should life be,” Alan rejoined.

“I agree with that, my friend,” Ron said as he nodded in agreement.

“Just how big is the Turner Charitable Trust and the Friendship Trust, if you don’t mind my asking?” questioned Dave, who along with Eric, Tyler, Dan, Ethan and Rick had joined the others.

“Right now the Turner Charitable Trust is about $1.2 Billion and the Friendship Trust is around a half-billion. The Friendship Trust is concentrated so far in New York City. We also have the Thornton Trust of about $100 million which supports our gay boys’ facility here,” Matt answered.

“I think you should expand the Friendship Trust to other cities,” Dave commented.

“I’m sure we will,” Alan answered, “when funds are available.

“I’d like to see it happen sooner rather than later,” Dave replied. “Eric and I have talked about it and our operations are making money like you wouldn’t believe. If you’d expand into California, particularly into San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, we’d be glad to support such an effort.”

“It would take quite an investment,” Alan said in surprise.

“You can count on us for about a billion, over 4 years if you can make it happen,” offered Eric. We’d like to split off some of our considerable ownership in our successful companies to provide the continuing funding.”

“Hey what about Florida?’ Ethan asked. “There are many troubled youths who have come to Florida to find hope.”

“What do you have in mind?” Matt asked.

“We’d like to contribute $500 million that would be used in Florida in a similar effort. We will probably increase that in the future as I’m sure that the problems in the Sunshine State are on the magnitude of California’s but it would be a start at least.”

“It sounds like the Friendship Trust is going to expand rapidly,” Ron observed. “Would any or all of you be interested in serving on the Board of Directors?”

“I would,” Dave Rush offered.

“I would too,” Ethan responded.

“I’d like Sarah in New York to be on the Board too, if she’ll accept,” Matt added. “She’s already contributed about $100 million to the Trust.”

“I’d second that,” Alan joined in.

“Who would be on the Board then?” Dave Rush asked.

Matt replied, “It would be you, Ethan, Ron, Tyler, Sarah, and Alan.”

“What about you?” Eric asked.

“I’m on the Board of the Turner Trust, as are Ron, Tyler and Dan, and I’m also on the Board of the Thornton Trust. My principal job is running the Turner Charitable Trust, and Ron aids by managing the investment/income side of all three Trusts and the new Arts Trust. I think that’s enough for me, at least for now. The Turner Charitable Trusts provided the start-up funding for the Friendship Trust and provided roughly half of all the funding for the Thornton Trust. The Turner Charitable Trust still has it’s own charitable giving, particularly in Las Vegas, and also is now funding the Arts Trust that was recently formed here for this City.”

“Whew,” Dave said, “You guys seem as busy as we are, though I must admit that our time is largely taken up by business.”

“Ron’s is too,” Matt admitted. “That’s why I concentrate on the Trusts’ business.”

“That’s amazing,” Tony Tegano said. “I must admit that we’ve spent more time dealing with our camp operations than our family businesses, but I can see that all the money has to come from somewhere.”

“Our combined Trusts earn nearly $500 million a year,” Ron reported. “A relatively small percentage is retained for growth, but the rest is put to work where we hope it will do the most good.”

“I’m sure that we can swell even that figure,” Eric said. “With more capital investment and our combined business acumen, we should easily double that figure in a couple of years, especially the Friendship Trust portion.”

“I think we’d like to join in too,” Jake said. “We’d like to concentrate on Texas and the Southwest, but we’d like to get on the bandwagon.”

“I’m sure we can work it all out,” Ron assured the handsome young man. “As a first informal meeting of most of the Board Members of the Friendship Trust, I hope we’re all in agreement that Alan should remain as President and CEO?”

“I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic if he wasn’t,” Dave Rush stated emphatically.

“Jake and I agree,” Tony Tegano added.

“We do too,” Ethan said for himself and Rick.

“That’s settled then,” Ron said with relief.

“Hey Ron,” Dave Rush asked, “Just how do you and Matt personally have enough time to raise the boys you have in your home here?”

“I don’t know,” Ron answered. “I guess you can always find time for those you love.”

“Yes, there is that,” Dave agreed.

                         *            *            *            *            *