Editorial-Opinion December 2017

Steve Burch | December 1, 2017

This is the month, back in 1986, when GON was created. There were nine owners back then. We all came together in a law office and put money of the line, forming GON.

Over these many years, as the goals or needs of these investors have changed, the company has bought their shares, sometimes out-right and sometimes over time.

Now, in 2017, this is the month that I finally own all of it.

I know that many of you have been under the impression that I have owned it forever, and you are not wrong, per se. But this is different.

Most of us own a house, but also owe a mortgage. A few of y’all own the house free and clear. My Christmas present this year is that I finally own GON free and clear.

I cannot express to you how thankful I am to each of you, how humbled I am to everyone of you, for the honor and privilege it has been to work for your approval and support over these many years. It is you all who have given me this job, and who have sustained all of GON over all of these years.

I want to tell you about this present you have given me, and what this accomplishment has meant to me over these years.

I was blessed to have three mentors in my life who set excellent examples for me—and sharp experiences.

One grandfather was one of the best shots I have ever seen, and one of the most accomplished self-taught musicians I have ever known. He was the father of seven, and he always had a job. I loved Daddy Will. He taught me how to “bed” a rabbit; to see it in its bed before it exploded from cover and went racing away. He also taught me, if one was convenient, to use a tree as a screen between me and the rabbit to block shot except for the exposed nose of the rabbit, to make a quick, clean kill, to bloody-up no meat. To this day, I love to eat rabbit.

Daddy Will had five daughters and two sons. I never knew my Uncle Ford. He was killed in Italy in WWII, and the flag that draped his coffin remains with me as a reminder of him, and of our family’s sacrifice. My grandmother was a Gold Star mother.

My other grandfather grew up as an only child to an alcoholic father who left he and his mother on a poor farm on Armuchee Creek in Texas Valley in Floyd County when he was 11 years old. He left school in the third grade and, with a mule and a plow, made a crop when he was 12. By the time I came along, he had taught him- self to read a slide rule and build any- thing. He was as tough and splintery as an old axe handle, and he accepted no limitations on himself.

He had two rules. The first was embodied in a scripture verse hung on his office wall: “As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.” The second rule was, “When you make a line, hold to it.”

He expected everyone else to live by those rules, too.

My father was remarkably accomplished, given the place from which he began. There is much written about discrimination these days, and it all focuses on white discrimination of blacks. I understand that. I was in school before desegregation.

But little is made of the white-on- white social and economic discrimination so common in most, if not all, of the mill villages in the South.

My father escaped that ghetto through a GI Bill education, and by his own considerable personality and drive. He built a very successful life as the most accomplished salesman and then sales manager for an industrial manufacturer out of Chicago. When Dad was in his early 50s, the company was sold and the new owners axed their sales team and went with a manufactures rep group. For Dad, this was a heavy blow. He was stoic, and he moved on with his life, and he had a good life. But the lesson taught to me was that I wanted to own my own job.

It is this owning of my own job, this control and say-so over my own future that has been the greatest accomplishment in my life. And with the last payment this month to one of my original eight investors, the last piece of that job ownership is complete. It is a fabulous, bucket-list Christmas present. Again, thank you each and everyone. So what comes next? For me, I simply give it all back. Really. And I am looking forward to that, as well. For GON supporters, for our GON family, the best is yet to come.

Merry Christmas!

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