As I have previously reported, Carl Knobloch, the Chairman of the Board, had just appointed me President of Production Operators Inc. in 1989 and was himself spending most of his time with individual investors, brokerage companies and bankers. On several occasions, he took me with him to explain the technical aspects of our business of contract compression services to oil and gas producing and operating companies. I went with him to Atlanta locations and quite often to New York where we always stayed at the Yale Club across the western side street of Grand Central Station, a wonderfully convenient location. The club Is quite old and in 1989, the bedrooms were furnished like a bare student dormitory. The bed was an old metal frame model and the bath room, other than a
sink, was down the hall. ( Google says today that, “the 138 guest rooms are continually updated so that Yale alumni may have all the comforts of home while they are travelling”) The dining room was fabulous and we ate well which helped make that and the location compensate for the spartan amenities. I found that investors were only just beginning to be aware of POI and the insipid price of our stock on the NASDAQ exchange, but after hearing our two-part pitch, they seemed to become interested and receptive. I came to understand the value of Carl’s approach and it was obvious that he knew all about corporate financing and how to make a presentation. I also saw Carl at his best in giving his pitch, and it was obvious that he ‘believed his own bullshit’ as we used to say about him. In any event, our efforts were rewarded because our stock price finally began to slowly increase. When I joined the company in 1980 I was granted a 30,000 share stock option to buy at $3.00 and for the first five years it never even got to that level and I had mixed feelings about it as I tore them up when they expired in my fourth year. Over the next four to five years, I had been given small options at $5.00, $7.00 and $9.50 but I had resisted exercising them as they gradually became more valuable. In 1989, I exercised enough to pay off the mortgage on our house that was originally at a rate of 13.25 % in 1980 when we bought and, although we had been able to re-finance at 8%, it was still a burden and I welcomed the opportunity to end it. One of our senior managers did the same thing and we were both summoned to the Chairman’s office and suffered through a long harangue of reasons why we had, in his eyes, abused the system by exercising the options but had compounded it by what he thought was the insult of immediately selling the stock. His argument had some merit because what we had done gave the appearance of two insiders selling stock while everybody else was striving to make the company more valuable to its shareholders. I felt bad about it for at least the rest of that day but recovered to continue my own efforts to increase the stock value now I had had a taste of the potential benefits. My relationship with Carl never quite got back to the comfort zone I had previously enjoyed and I slowly convinced myself that it was Carl’s problem and not mine. This all fell out of my focus when our friends, the Carringtons came to Houston to go on a two week driving tour that we had been planning together.
After their first night, we took off for San Antonio that they had previously seen on their first visit to the States. We stayed this time at the Hilton on the famous River Walk and in the afternoon we took them via the tourist tram to the Mercado, the authentic Mexican market at the edge of town. This made us all feel as though we were actually in Mexico and we all found various bargain items. We stayed at the Mercado and had a great Tex-Mex dinner at a restaurant next to the market where we enjoyed the margaritas, the food and were serenaded by a mariachi trio. The next day, we drove west on I-10 to Fort Stockton where I had spent quite a bit of time monitoring our facilities on the Sacroc carbon dioxide pipeline that was head-quartered there. From there we turned south to the Big Bend National Park where I had reserved rooms in the park lodge, at that time the only building in the park. The park is almost one million acres in the Chisos Mountains and has 1200 species of plants, 450 species of birds, 56 of reptiles and 86 of mammals. It is said that when God made the earth all the pieces he had left over he put in Big Bend. It certainly gives that appearance because as you climb up the winding entry road you are confronted with every conceivable shape, type and size of the rocks. We drove
on some of the roads to see the various rock formations and to the St. Helena Canyon where the Rio Grande is the US-Mexico border. I had seen a photo of people wading up the river between the canyon walls so we took off our shoes to do the same and to our amazement, we sank into mud about two feet deep and actually had some difficulty getting out. When I mentioned this to a ranger at the lodge, he explained that if there was less rain and snow in the winter, the river runs slowly in the spring and deposits mud. Most years, with normal rain and snow, the river is quite rapid and the water is clear and shallow. In the evening, we went to a spot near the lodge called The Window and joined a group of fellow tourists there to witness the advertised, spectacular Big Bend sunset as the sun began to sink into the western Texas desert that spanned our whole view west between two pinnacle rocks that formed the window well down below us. While we waited, a ranger told us about the park species and the hiking trails. As the sun set, it was an amazing moment of silence and I believe some quiet praying, and it seemed to bond us all together and it was some time before anyone could speak. I know that Orientals gather for sunset watching and meditation but it was the first time I had had that experience and strangely, no-one in our group of four ever actually talked about it.
We had been told that if we were leaving by the west gate, as we were, we should try to leave as the sun rises at our back to better enjoy the downward, zig-zag, hump-back road to the lower levels. We did this and were rewarded by an unusual ride through the rocks, with a spectacular sighting of birds and animals we did not recognize. It is a drive I will never forget and it took us to Fort Davis by the
afternoon. Fort Davis was built in 1854 on the Houston to El Paso road as a protection for mail carriers, freight wagons and the growing number of immigrants to Texas. It has been preserved and is the best example of an army fort as they were during attacks by Comanche Indians. After the Civil War, the fort was manned by an all-black regiment. Not far away is the McDonald Observatory of the University of Texas where several telescopes are used under programs of CASA,
We continued our trek west the next day towards El Paso and New Mexico but that’s another memory for another day.