The group was on high alert the moment the tailgate dropped clanging on the rusted bumper. The occupants clambered out of the bed of the old pickup truck.
Some of them walked around to regain circulation from the long ride. The more seasoned of the group acclimated to their environment and waited for their leader.
“Hey Roy, does Sam always leave this early in the morning?”
Roy watched the condensation clouds from his breath, longing for the warmth of the fire before he responded to Ben.
“He grew up on a farm and was an intelligence officer during the war. This is a late start compared to his regular schedule.”
Ben walked closer to Roy but gave him some distance out of respect for his position in the group. He couldn’t resist giving him some grief about his age.
“Maybe it’s best you stay with the truck and guard the gear. Hate for you to break a hip in the dark,” Ben said after his nostrils flared, filling with an unfamiliar smell in their environment.
Roy reflected on his first hunting trip. Sam had sold his 15 Ben Franklin Discount Stores and took Roy hunting in his brand new pickup truck. The smell of beef jerky is always insatiable. He kept his cool, though.
“Ben, don’t even ask about the beef jerky. Hang back, learn from the others, but most of all, always heed Sam’s commands and he will reward you. Sam shares the spoils of success with his associates and treats them as partners."
Ben nodded and ambled to the flanks to observe the group and Sam.
“Roy, I was bred for this day!”
This kid has potential, Roy thought.
Roy checked over the group one last time, looking back at Sam stowing his thermos in the truck. The hunt was about to begin.
“You did a good job out there today, Ben,” Sam said, relaxing in the shade of a hill overlooking the expanse of wooded land they traversed.
Ben shifted his weight from his aching muscles to lean against the shade tree.
“Thanks Roy, you kept pace with us. I am impressed. Where does Sam take you every day?”
Roy lapped up some water and smiled.
“Sam takes me in his airplane to scout new locations or meet associates at his stores.”
Ben sensed Roy was in story mode about his adventures with Sam and got comfortable.
“Sam is a good leader. He will challenge you with new opportunities and give you the space to succeed or fail. I was in his office when military officers met with him to talk about his investment in the Just-In-Time inventory management system.
Rumor is he has more computing power than the Pentagon, but Sam downplayed his role and gave all the credit to a recent college graduate who helped build the system,” Roy said.
Ben nodded, his tongue rolling out the side of his mouth, attempting to picture what Roy was telling him.
“Sounds like a lot of work. Going hunting with him is enough for me,” Ben said.
Before Roy could respond, he felt a clasp lock on his collar and a tug on the leash.
“Come on, boy, you're riding in the truck next to me,” Sam said, scratching Roy behind the ears.
Sam whistled for the rest of the pack to follow them.
“Ben, get the rest of the group into the truck. I think I might retire today.”
Ole Roy died in 1981 early in the growth trajectory of Sam Walton’s discount store empire, but immortalized on Wal-Mart’s private label dog food packaging.
Photo by Patrick Adcock on Unplash