Random musings on lost, and found, friends
The entire time Lisa Schultz of Barkefellers was describing the luxury suites at her facility in Indianapolis, I was trying to imagine my Jack Russell terrier Hank—may he rest in peace, because he never did when he was alive—as an overnight guest. Hank was a dog only a pet guardian could love. When we boarded him, he picked the locks on his cage and escaped, or chewed up the bedding—not his, of course, but rather the foam-rubber bed belonging to his much maligned canine sister Daisy. His human sister, Becca, referred to him as a jerk.
And he was. At the Barkefellers photo shoot on Valentine’s Day, Hank would not be eligible for a “crush picture” (see story on page 8). The only dog he ever was excited to see was Fletcher, a golden retriever whose yard backed up to ours in Littleton, Colorado. Hank would pace relentlessly back and forth on the bridge that connected the master suite to the other second-story bedrooms, watching out the window for Fletcher to emerge from his house. Once he appeared, Hank would squeal like a butchered pig and run 100 mph down the stairs, skidding as he made the 90-degree turn on hardwood floors to thrust himself through a tiny doggy door. We always marveled that he could hit such a small target with such accuracy at that breakneck speed.
Becca and I were reminiscing about Hank the other day in email, and she joked that we should have moved the door over an inch just to see what would happen. “Yes, we should have,” I replied, “because a brain-injured Hank would have been so much more fun than a normal Hank.”
I have no doubt that I would have paid the price to ensure Hank spent his nights away from home in the lap of luxury. The only advice from Schultz I would have turned down was to send a dirty T-shirt with Hank so he would have my scent to comfort him. Knowing Hank, he would have insisted I still be wearing the T-shirt when he settled down to watch Dog TV in his suite.
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Ironically big game hunting happens in Eden. Not the Garden of Eden, which would be really weird, but on the ranches of Eden, Texas. In a twist of fate, African big game hunters make the trek to The Thirsty River Ranch for world-class exotic animal hunting, including shooting Scimitar Oryx, which are extinct in the very country they’re indigenous to.
I’ve never visited The Thirsty River Ranch, but I did visit its owner, Roger Schmidt, when he was senior vice president and chief general counsel at Curves, at his other ranch in Waco. I was accompanying a group of lawyers who drove down from the International Franchise Association convention in San Antonio for a BBQ and a shooting lesson.
Had I been on a hunting safari at Thirsty River, the animals would all be safe. I wouldn’t have to pretend to miss—since I really don’t like the idea of killing animals—my skill level with a gun would have taken care of that for me. During my shooting lesson years ago, Roger set the gun on a stand, pointed it at the target and to his amazement, I still missed. What can I say? I don’t like to harm targets either.
I’m always intrigued by the interesting hobbies or side businesses franchise execs have. Roger is now president of Young Chefs Academy, along with practicing law. But his 1,100-acre ranch is big business for big-game hunters. He and fellow ranchers have given game preserves in Africa pairs of Scimitar Oryx in an attempt to repopulate the herd that had been over-hunted there.
I was telling Assistant Editor Tom Kaiser about Roger’s exotic animals, but he was ahead of me. Several years ago he hung out with conservative rocker Ted Nugent on his high-fence ranch in Waco for a story on ATVs for another publication. Nugent also had the rare animals roaming his ranch. It was Nugent who introduced Tom to Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, who was a champion off-road racer. Let’s just say I’m glad I had my assignment and not Tom’s.
At dinner during Franchise Expo South in Houston, Roger introduced me to his partner at Young Chefs Academy, Julie Burleson, who founded the cooking school for children. Meeting Julie, who is both level-headed and dedicated to growing her business right, I am fairly certain Roger won’t be teaching the kids how to gut a deer at a Chefs birthday party. Sometimes not mixing church and state needs to apply to business as well as journalism.
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The untimely death of franchise consultant Marc Kiekenapp brought home to me just how important the franchise community is to all of us who spend a large part of our life at franchise events. How many times do we all comment when we see someone from our home town at an event that we only see them in other states? When Marc passed away in mid-December he was surrounded by friends he made through franchising. Friends, who flew in to be with him. A form of a memorial was held at the “sUNconference,” an event hosted by attorney Lane Fisher; Hot Dish’s Dawn Kane and Fishman PR’s Brad Fishman.
I was introduced to Marc when he was selling franchises for Sunset Tan, a new franchise with its own reality show at the time. Through the years, I made it a point to check in with him at events because he always had great stories. He once stopped a thief at an expo who was stealing an iPad from a booth display. I don’t want to sound like Brian Williams, but I remember being there, I just don’t remember if I actually saw it or heard about it later. What was surreal, however, was that the would-be thief threatened to sue Marc for “hurting” him when Marc brought him down.
Never underestimate the friends you see once a year at ABA or IFA or RFDC or FFGC. Franchising is all about acronyms and non-abbreviated friendships.