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Page 56
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 3
a while, the tone of Marshall's spiel changed,
sounding a lot like a rehearsed narrative com-
ing from a man who knew a thing or two about
rehearsed narratives. Marshall made his final
point, a long sentence without commas or
breathing space--something about positive
community impact and economic growth and
ruts in the muddy easement road the size of
WWI trenches. He paused and looked Jerry
in the eye (this too might have been part of
the pitch), took a deep breath and rubbed his
hands together, waiting.
"Where?" Jerry asked.
"The airport? Not far. Up near Manor."
"How much money are we talking?"
Marshall had him, and Jerry knew it. Mar-
shall said, "Ah, well, that depends on how
many investors are involved."
"So how many investors are involved?"
"Ten," Marshall said, and crammed his
hands deep into coat pockets. "You'll make
eleven."
Of the eleven, one was a local attorney,
Darrow(not his real name), who took on the
role of spokesman, and who explained to
the group that the sticking points of a deal
at Bird's Nest Airport could be defined in a
single word: debt. How he came to reach this
juicy conclusion, Jerry and the other inves-
tors at the table didn't know. Okay, so the is-
sue was debt. Now what? Over the next few
weeks Darrow went about practicing his le-
gal voodoo, negotiating with Bird's Nest Air-
port's creditors and with owners, Ray Harding
and Mary Harding--who at this point were
mid-divorce, no longer a good-natured team
but adversaries in ways that left them feeling
awkward and futureless, and each with their
own counsel, making the probability of reach-
ing an agreement remote. Darrow spent un-
told hours on the phone and in direct face-to-
face meetings with unpaid suppliers and their
attorneys arriving in small groups, shuffling
into his posh conference room where they
sipped cold sodas, took notes, and demanded
large pieces of the pie.
Every few days Darrow called a meeting of
the "Campfire Girls"--an unbecoming nick-
name that stuck--and gave the group a full
report. The creditors wanted payment for
past services and the IRS and its unchinkable
agents were determined to squeeze some
hard scratch from the transaction. There was
also a short list of lawyers who piled on at
the last minute and demanded to be paid for
a host of unspecified legal maneuverings and
Darrow's co-investors, including Jerry Kahl-
bau, who wanted to be on the hook for as little
as possible when the ink dried. In addition to
all that, he had to unravel a particularly knot-
ty corporate structure in Bird's Nest Aviation,
Inc. Ray and Mary Harding had incorporated
back in 1972 and in the intervening years had
so entangled the corporation's finances that
undoing the mess would take time, if it was
even possible. The details of these negotia-
tions are lost or confidential or it's possible
no one's talking because the past is often left
in the past for perfectly sound reasons.
After weeks of wrangling, Darrow and
Bird's Nest Aviation, Inc. and its owners Ray
and Mary Harding and its creditors arrived at
a deal: Ray and Mary would walk away--from
a home made with telephone poles, an angled