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Chapter 8

When In Rome

As some of you know, I was in the automobile business for a time. This tale is about the pinkie ring I wear to this day. In 1972, I won a trip to Rome by exceeding my quota in a contest sponsored by Oldsmobile Division. The winners assembled in Chicago at O'Hare and while I was standing around in my new Resistol trying to look disinterested, a man named Jessie Miles came up and introduced himself by telling me I looked like the only person in the airport who had any inkling of what was going on. That began a friendship that has lasted to this day.

We boarded two chartered Italia airplanes, a Boeing 707 and a Boeing 747. My wife and I had a seat across from one of the galleys on the 747 and I had a good view of the runway. We started our takeoff roll and we rolled and rolled and rolled. Runway 14R is 13,000 feet long. At the 12,000 foot marker we still had not rotated. Just before we became a statistic, the pilot practically jerked the airplane off the ground. So much for chartered flights and unlimited luggage.

I will say this. Once we were airborne, the service was impeccable. Abundant food and drink made for lively conversation and gave me a chance to get to know Jessie. He is from San Saba, Texas and as friendly as a puppy. By the time we landed at Michelangelo Airport we were old friends.

The highlight of the trip was a toga party. The entertainment was provided by an Italian Country Western band. Jessie knew I played guitar and convinced the band leader that I was a big star from the Grand Ole' Opry and asked if I could sit in. So there I was, dressed in a toga whanging away at Hank Williams tunes. We had a grand old time.

Back home things returned to normal. I received a call from Jessie one day. He told me about a customer who had walked up on his lot in San Saba, selected a Volkswagen worth about $200 and offered to trade Jessie a diamond ring for the auto. Jessie took the ring to his jeweler who told him it was a good piece of jewelry and offered to purchase it for enough to make a healthy profit. Jessie returned to make the deal but the man told him he had changed his mind, that the ring was the only thing he had left that his father had given him.

A few hours later, the man returned with the story that the had to have a car and that he would trade THIS ring for the Bug. Jessie took the ring and gave him the title. As soon as he was over the curb Jessie hotfooted it to the jeweler who told him this was not the same ring he had examined earlier and was only worth about $25. I listened to his sad tale and filed it for future reference.

About three months later, one of my salesmen, Don, came to me and said he had a man interested in a little Volkswagen but he didn't have any money. I said, "I bet he has a ring." Don's mouth flew open and wanted to know how I knew that. I told him never mind, write the deal up and bring me the ring. My jeweler friend had a store five minutes from the dealership and I had him look at the ring. He confirmed it was the real thing.

Don was waiting in my office when I returned. Before he could open his mouth I told him I bet the customer wanted to back out, that the ring had belonged to his father. Now Don was really wondering how I knew all this. I told him to sit down and let the customer wait a bit. After a few minutes, I told Don to bring the customer in to my office. When he came in he was all apologies for the trouble he had caused and went in to the spiel about his father and how much the ring meant to him.

I listened to his sad tale and then told him I had just been on the phone with Jessie in San Saba. That Jessie said the ring belonged to him and he was on his way to Weatherford to retrieve it and was bringing the sheriff with him. The man thought a minute and then said, "Looks like I am going to need a set of wheels doesn't it?" I had the title ready, gave it to him and told him he only had a short time to get out of town.

The ring never left my finger except when I let the jeweler examine it. It is still there today..well not at this moment, it is on the dresser in our bedroom.

I see Jessie on a regular basis. He has moved to Fort Worth and is in another business. He accuses me of having his ring but I pay him no mind.

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