Gary Cooper Would Be Proud Of Harry Cooper!

Gary Cooper was a film star to "The Great Generation".  His screen roles celebrated the American "traditional values" of hard work, reliable, fairness and above all honesty.  He, for that generation, embodied what every young man aspired to be.  Among those witness to Gary Cooper and the idealistic culture of that era was one Harry Cooper.  Harry Cooper built a viable and important business providing electrical/plumbing supplies in the Ozarks region.  I presume Harry Cooper did so by embodying  Gary Cooper virtues.  As it turns out,  Harry Cooper's name and his business flourished and is still an important participant in Branson's  economy.  

We all know that the "bottom line" guides much of today's  "Corporate Arrogance Economy".  Last year my business interests purchased from Harry Cooper approaching $100,000 in electrical and plumbing products for a Senior Care Residence being developed in Branson.  With confidence based on Harry Cooper's longstanding good reputation and assurances that we were a valued "preferred customer", we, with little scrutiny, ordered, received, returned, backordered, reordered, and paid for thousands of items.  In December, as our purchase agenda was winding down, we ordered and paid for $10,000 in pipe and couplings for a fire suppression system.  The material was timely delivered along with Christmas cookies.  The contractor crew ate the cookies and proceeded to install the pipe.  Soon, we realized that a particular coupling had been under ordered and was not immediately available from Harry Cooper.  We purchased the coupling from a competing supplier, and discovered, in the process, that the competitors price was about 30% of the price we, a "preferred customer", had been charged by Harry Cooper.  On investigation we discovered that $5000 in couplings purchased from Harry Cooper could be "equivalent product" purchased from several suppliers for approximately $1500.  We returned the unused coupling to Harry Cooper for an anticipated $3500 credit only to learn that the coupling were a "special order item" and would not be accepted for return by the manufacturer.  The good fortune of a specialty manufacturer whose pricing structure and return policy were not so special, put Harry Cooper between a rock and a hard place.  In that our subcontractor was at least partially culpable, Harry Cooper could have compelled us to take the hit.  Instead, with Gary Cooper style, they, Harry Cooper, hand delivered a full refund check and quietly went back to work.   I am, today, a little less cynical than I was last week.                                

                                                             WHO IS JOHN GALT?            


Branson - From Partisan To Pissed 

Last winter following the presidential election, I wore an Obama stocking cap on my daily journeys around Branson. In our closed ranked Taney County, (68% McCain), I drew much commentary.  With no exceptions, comments were offered as humorous acknowledgments of our competitive spirit much in the way that Missouri Tiger supporters exchange greetings with Kansas Jayhawk fans.  During the recent cold weather, I again pulled on the Obama cap.  Perhaps arising from the unusual cold, more likely from the years accelerating media polarization, and almost certainly cued by the struggling economy....well all the humor seems to have diaappeared.   At Walmart, restaurants, city hall, The Landing, and indeed everywhere, public note of an Obama reminder, is now being met with controlled disdain and implyed threats.  There is no mistake.  The main street mood in our community has moved way past "partisan within a united context".  Indeed it is, I sense, pushing the limits of civility.  Here in Branson, where the local economy is built on the celebration of  "traditional values", next years visitors may start seeing entertainment venues  featuring  Paul Revere , the Minutemen, the Continental Congress and other rallying images for a revolution minded populace.  It is a scary time!.  


Branson's Deadliest Gig!

It's "gigging season" in Branson.  Since recovering from the ultra cold first weeks of the new year, "the lights" have started to show up late at night on Taneycomo.  My first exposure to "the lights", several years ago, was erie. Beyond my residence picture window, the blackness of the river and the far side bluffs were slowly being illuminated.  Under reflection of a several million candle power light moving upstream at the surface, Taneycomo took on the appearance of an LAX runway.  There were no aliens....just "giggers".  For those of you who don't know "gigging", well it is a minor "blood sport" enjoyed by a hardy few.  From high tec boats equipped with large generators and banks of flood lights  a "navigator" slowly moves upstream on Missouri's waterways while a "giggor" uses a long pole, supplemented on one end with multiple barbed spears.  The sport objective is to stab light stunned fish asleep on the river bed.  Not surprisingly, the "catch" is much better than with a fly rod, although, like the "deerslayers", "giggors" prefer the term "harvest" for their sports yield.  Yes, it is legal, although it is supposed to be limited to less desirable fish such as carp, suckers, and drum. I doubt that there is much selectivity just down from Table Rock Dam where the 55 degree water supports mostly trout. Regardless any species would object to being so  selected.  It is true, there are no gladiator spectacles at "The Landing" but you'all can come down to Branson and enjoy a nice dinner and an evening of fish stabbing.


When The 9,000,000 Branson Visitors Go Home!

In a few weeks those responsible for Branson's pubilicity will be reporting that 2009 was a great year for Branson. In recent years the claims boasted high seven figure visitor counts, although, to my knowledge, they have never identify how the counts are made.  There will be no dispute that, whatever the count, vacationers came in droves, bringing profits for businesses and wages for the minimally skilled local work force.  Then after the early December Christmas crescendo, a regrettable thing happened.......the visitors all went home and the business owners all closed down.    For the mid four figure local workforce  who were barely scraping by in season, Christmas means only 90 days of desperation.  Their part time employee status precludes unemployment benefits and it is uneconomical for them to drive to Springfield in search of work.  A few catch on with temp services doing residential repairs and a few squeeze in a Walmart or McDonalds.  Many just shut down and extract subsistence from the public/private charity resources.  The notable exception to this annual pattern of unproductiveness is the legion of landscaping crews who manicure Branson's timeshares, restaurants and upscale residences.  They cut wood!  Indeed this year there are so many crews cutting wood that come spring, Branson may have deforested half of Tanney County and put more carbon in the atmosphere than Beijing.


There Is No Rest For Branson Trout!

My sense is that this morning with temperatures at record lows throughout the country, our nation's fish population is relatively safe.  Not so here in Branson, mecca for "obligatory vacations".  As I am writing, through the thermo pane windows looking out over the upper end of Taneycomo, I can see the digital thermometer reading of 7 degrees and  4 boats across my 100 yard lake panorama.   Rising swirls of heat from the much warmer lake, along with falling snow, are being blown by the strong west wind.  Within the hour as many as 10 boats have motored west against the wind and current, then drifted east with bait dragging for the unsuspecting trout.  I am not so close minded as to suggest that these fishermen have lost their minds.  I am old enough to know that often a few pursue that which most cannot imagine.
 Beyond this, I will only comment that for some of those braving the winter river, it is the playing out of their obsession with "value".  In the same manner as the airline passengers who eat whether they are hungry or not, many of those now shivering in their boats are just taking what they have prepaid with hard earned dollars, no matter how bitter.  It is a striking illustration of how Branson, America's Prepaid Vacation Capitol sustains.  To close with an unfortunate, but timely metaphor..... "once your hooked, it's so goddamn hard to get away that you might as well acquiesce to your caught status.