Dennis had 100
pheasants trucked in the night before the clients arrived so that the salesmen
could rave about the bountiful game. Tragically, the birds were packed too
tightly, and half of them suffocated. Dennis wanted to cook them for lunch but
his staff found the idea unappetizing.
From the moment
the jet charter landed at the Siskiyou County airport things seemed to go awry.
The customers were to have ridden to the ranch in buses on backcountry roads.
However, there was a bus-driver insurrection. The men refused to take the
prescribed route because it meant driving their 14-ton Greyhounds over a
Klamath River bridge with a posted limit of nine tons. "We took buses over
that bridge when I was working on another land project up here," one of
Dennis' men protested, "and nothing happened at all. It's not your
responsibility if the bridge doesn't hold up. That's the highway department's
problem." But the drivers were adamant, taking a less rustic route.
On tours of the
ranch the salesmen coordinated their patter with the scenery; as each man
reached a thin stand of pine, he turned off the air conditioning, rolled down
the windows and let the visitors smell the trees.
By the end of the
day it was apparent that the customers sent up from San Francisco were bad
ones—freeloaders, husbands without wives, some who did not even have the
courtesy to bring their checkbooks. One couple actually had gotten on the wrong
charter flight at Oakland airport; they had intended to go to another
development called Lake of the Pines. The salesmen tried unsuccessfully to
close deals at picnic tables by an artificial stream as Dennis barbecued
steaks. Someone dug into a freezer and hauled out a few sizable steelheads
caught back in July in the Klamath River. Still no interest.
remained undaunted, even though just five sales were made that day. For one
thing, he had carefully hedged his bet. He had retained 500 acres adjoining
R-Ranch to develop commercially. And in Mendocino County he happily was
proceeding with plans to chop 28,800 acres into lots, forming the biggest
"rural" subdivision in California history.