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A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 8
their current planned location and slide them
west, closer to SH130 for easier customer ac-
cess and saving me the cost of a stretch of
road in the process. Bottom line, if I could get
a yes out of Francine anytime soon, the Zschi-
esche crowd would walk away with $1.04 mil-
lion and get to keep the remaining 318 acres
to hold or sell or for whatever other purpose
they had tumbling around in their noggins.
To my way of thinking, I'd just made one of
those offers impossible to refuse.
I was wrong, of course.
Ten days later, I got a somewhat laconic
message from Francine saying she'd received
the offer and that the family would ponder it if
and when she could ever get the whole posse
together, which to my way of thinking was un-
likely to ever happen.
Once again, I was wrong.
In March, Craig Zschiesche (Speedy and
Betty Jean's son) called and invited me to his
home in Leander, Texas, for a family get-to-
gether at which Francine, Betty Jean, Caro-
line, and Allen, would all be in attendance to
discuss selling, or not selling, the property.
I met with the Zschiesches, told them of my
plans for the airport, and listened to their con-
cerns. Mostly the heirs wanted more money.
Secondly, they wanted something intangible
that I never got my head around precisely be-
cause no one in the room could manage to
put the thought into words--possibly to walk
away with millions and at the same time hold
on to the family farm and its collective memo-
ries forever, which wasn't such a lousy wish
as wishes go, but unlikely to happen.
What I didn't know until much later was
that this somewhat awkward gathering was
a turning point. In meeting me, the clan put
a face to the offer and, more importantly, as
Francine shared with me years after the fact,
the family was able to see that a living breath-
ing person, and not a feckless development
corporation, was behind the push to expand
the airport. My offer to buy their property,
to expand the airport, to build something of
substance and quality and meaning, at least
to me, was in fact a genuine heartfelt goal of
mine. Standing before them was a man with a
dream, a pie in the sky vision no less impor-
tant to me than the notion of honoring their
father and mother by making sure the family
farm was nurtured and celebrated long after
they released their hold on it. At a minimum,
life would feel a whole lot better if they passed
on the family farm to someone who cared.
And on that day in late March 2008, accord-
ing to Francine, I came across as a man who
How I'd come by this artifice of negotiat-
ing I have no idea. Or possibly it was no ploy
at all, but the opposite, a truth so obvious to
others that any stranger could take one peek
at me (you or us) and know what matters and
what doesn't. Possibly I'd gotten so clear on
what mattered and the legacy I'd chosen to
leave behind that any artifice had been grad-
ually replaced with a candor and frankness so
fundamental that I couldn't hide it even if I
wanted to. And what mattered to me was pay-
ing the Zschiesches a fair price and then con-
structing an airport Austinites could be proud
of for decades--heck, why not centuries?
By meeting face-to-face I made the negotia-