A classic G. George Ostrom Column from 2004...
That does it! I’ve decided to not be a millionaire. Years of planning are down the tube, but I know it is the right decision.
Ever since I was a little kid in hand-me-down overalls, sharing a bedroom and a bicycle with my brother, I’ve been working on goals and schemes for acquiring great wealth. This drive was increased by my not having a car at college, and the ultimate deprivation…my family not owning vacation retreats in Hawaii and Sun Valley.
In 1955, I spent a winter in Florida as a yacht bum. Worked on a fancy boat, mixed drinks for the owners and kept rich millionaires from falling overboard when they got drunk while cruising out to the Bahamas. Nobody worried about us poor guys falling in the ocean.
A Wrigley’s chewing gum heir had a “winter home” near the Bahia Mar Yacht Basin where I worked. One time I sneaked his kids some Black Jack gum, which caused the guy to go bananas. I envied the things he got to worry about. Think of the fit Edsel Ford got to throw when he saw his kid in a Chevy. And I remember when John D. Rockefeller gave one of his sons a few million dollars to get rid of a wife he didn’t like, and later that same kid got to be a governor. I thought, “I’d be happy if my dad just bought me a state and made me get rid of the girls on my own.”
Big-time experienced millionaires don’t pack bags when they travel because they have their own toothbrush and a clean pair of underwear at more than one place. That plush concept of conspicuous consumption has had an almost mystical appeal to me. Imagine going to exotic places without taking any luggage.
I loved the story of the Texas oilman who willed that he be buried sitting behind the wheel of his gold-plated Cadillac. After the elaborate cemetery services were over and the grave diggers arrived to fill the pit, one stared at the deceased Texan sitting in the Cadillac and said, “Man! That’s really livin’.”
What has soured me on reaching for these kinds of earthly achievements? It is the latest report on millionaires which appeared in a recent news magazine. It said that by the end of the year, one in every hundred American households would have a net worth of a million dollars. That means there could be 150 millionaire families right here in Flathead County. Before we know it, they’ll be as common as wood ticks on a gopher, and I for one have never gotten real excited about being just a run-of-the-mill kind of person.
First wife Iris seems a little disappointed, but I feel like the universe has been lifted from my shoulders. I will now be able to spend more time getting back to basics. Wandering through fields with a shotgun and wading streams with a fly rod to put hard-earned food on the table.
I’ll be doing some skiing of sun-swept slopes in search of the true meaning of life and, of course … giving my grandkids whatever kind of gum they want.