I had acquired my own drab little office in a large old brick building in downtown Dallas. In the morning I walked into the office and found my father and a couple other people. We began talking.
Two attorneys for whom Louise had been working named Barny and Larry were sitting there talking. They also worked in these offices. Barny was making a list of how much money we all earned and writing down each person's figures. For his weekly wages he put down around $580. For Larry's he wrote about $515. And then he wrote down how much I made. The figures were supposed to just be hypothetical, but I had the feeling they were accurate.
When I came in I was wearing an old brown coat and I felt rather sloppy; but it didn't really bother me.
Barny kept talking; I began to become impatient because I wanted to leave to go do something. When the conversation finally came to a close, I told my father I was going to go look at some houses and asked him if he wanted to come with me. He said he did and we left. I said, "I wonder if that's all the money they really make."
He answered, "Probably is."
I said, "That's certainly not very much."
I realized that the sum they had mentioned was after they had paid all their expenses and that their gross income would actually be much higher. I thought if they would hire someone like Louise to clerk for them, they would generate more work for themselves. Then even though they would have to pay out more money, they would still earn more.
We boarded a car and began riding around. I told my father I was thinking of buying some old run-down houses and fixing them up. I thought about Lynn (a Waco lawyer) and said, "Lynn's only 26 years old and he's worth well over a million dollars. He started out when he was in law school by buying old houses and fixing them up."
My father said he had done the same thing himself. He said he tended anymore not to buy really old houses, but rather cheap, new houses. He said the newer houses held heat much better. I mentioned to him I had seen an ad in the paper for someone who had been advertising for a partner. I said, "Apparently he buys old houses too and fixes them up. And he needs a partner. He's got a crew also that works for him. I don't know exactly why he needs a partner, but apparently it was for the finances. Because it was very clear from the ad in the paper that he needed somebody with good credit standing."
My father seemed rather skeptical about the whole idea, but I continued thinking about it. I reflected how I presently had a $100,000 line of credit to work with, but since Vaughn and Lynn had established the credit, I would need to talk with them about whether I could use the money to simply buy houses, fix them up and sell them.
I figured I wouldn't want to pay more than $10,000 for a house and would probably buy run-down houses in black neighborhoods to fix up.
We continued riding around and then returned to the building where we had been. I got out of the car alone and went up to the floor in the building where I worked.
I remembered that before I had moved to Dallas about three months earlier, I had talked with a man in Dallas on the phone who had been a trustee for a foreclosure sale. The man had told me he had quite a bit of foreclosure work and he had suggested I come in and talk with him, but I never had. I got on the phone and called him. I thought his name was D.R. Lawrence. When I began talking with him, I realized he was working on the same floor of the building where I was working. In fact I could even hear his voice coming from a nearby room and I asked him if it would be OK for me to come over. He said, "Sure."
I hung up the phone and walked to the door of a neighboring office. It was a plain wooden door with a window in it; I saw the man's name printed backwards on the window. Several people (probably in their early 30s) were sitting around inside. Quite a few were working in wooden stalls lined up and down the wall. A couple people were standing around a table in the middle of the room.
When a fellow walked up to me, I told him I was looking for D.R. Lawrence. After the fellow told me Lawrence was on the phone, I could hear Lawrence talking on a phone in a stall at the rear of the room. The fellow and I sat and talked a while.
At one table some men and women were working with some pink cards; I thought at first they were just playing a card game, but apparently the people were working with the cards, which had something to do with houses.
I inferred Lawrence owned many houses and I remembered his having told me on the phone he owned over 300. I concluded the people working here in the office were involved with attending to the houses.
Lawrence hung up the phone and motioned me back to him. He was sitting in a chair and asked me to come back and sit down. He was a tall thin man with dark hair. After walking back and sitting down beside him, the first thing I noticed about him was his yellow teeth. It looked as if debris was between his teeth and as if he hadn't cared for them at all. His teeth were also a little crooked. He was certainly not an attractive person.
I introduced myself and said, "Well, I don't know if you remember, but about three months ago I talked with you on the phone about a house you were foreclosing on and you suggested I come in and talk with you in person. I'm sorry I never got around to it before, but I've come in today and hope you have a few minutes to talk with me."
After he indicated he had time to talk and we had chatted for a few minutes, I finally asked, "So are you involved in foreclosure business?"
He said he was and said he had just missed buying a good house at foreclosure the previous month, but he had also bought a good house.
A thin fellow who was probably about 26 walked up and sat down beside us. He had dark hair and was about my height.
I finally said, "Well I understand you have 300 houses."
He answered, "No, it's 3,000."
I said, "Oh 3,000. I understood it was 300."
He said, "No, it's three thousand."
Lawrence looked at the other fellow sitting there, smiled, looked back at me and asked, "And do you believe that?"
I looked around at all the people working there and said, "Well, you must have substantial number to keep all these people working."
We continued talking until Lawrence finally excused himself to go do something. I continued talking to the younger fellow and explained to him that I had an office here on the same floor and that I was getting started in that same kind of business. All the other people in the office were simply the hired help. The fellow was curious about what I did. I found him rather repulsive. We began talking about houses and how hard it was to take care of them. I said, "I know. I've had to fight for one of my houses for a month and a half."
I was thinking about the house on Angelina Street in Dallas which I had bought at a foreclosure sale. I thought about telling him how difficult it had been for me to evict the people in the house and how they had stolen the carpeting, but I didn't go into it.
He asked me how many houses I had. I told him I had three so far. I had bought two at foreclosure sales the preceding month. In addition I was including the store I owned in Canton, Texas.
I had been noticing how unhealthy the people here seemed. I, in comparison, was in very good shape. Especially my teeth were in good shape.
I asked the fellow if he planned to work here for a long time. He answered, "Well, until I get new teeth."
He then opened his mouth, pointed to his teeth: his two bicuspids were missing. He began laughing and then pulled out his top teeth, which were false. I said, "Well it looks like you've been in a few knock-down drag-outs."
He began laughing.
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