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I the fall of 1979, Jack Patrick had some success selling peeler logs to Spanish customers through an agent named Frederico Carrascosa. At first, everything went according to the contract and payments were honored per the terms. Then Carrascosa booked several orders for clears totaling half a million feet and valued at about $750,000. His supposed customers turned out to be either crooks or phantoms and before long the shipments were sitting on docks in three Spanish ports, with no buyers in sight. As might be expected, the market for clears commenced to decline.

Bob McCracken and Jack Patrick flew to Valencia, Spain, to attempt to salvage the situation, but without much real success. They did, however, make a contact in Dan Greene, an expatriate who had good connections but little knowledge of lumber. After a second trip, this one by Tom Carstensen, the distress merchandise was sold off at distress prices, resulting in a sizable loss to offset an otherwise good year.

“I do remember a very uncomfortable five days in Spain trying to get rid of some lumber that never should have been sent there,” Carstensen recalled. “In fact that was probably my worst five days in the wood business.

“I couldn’t speak any Spanish and Greene, my chauffeur and translator, didn’t know a thing about wood. Business didn’t really get started until about 10:00 pm, after large meals and plentiful wine, which, for a truly diurnal person was a great problem.

“I finally found a buyer who it appeared could and would pay. The downside risk, aside from the buyer not actually paying, was huge—we were facing large storage fees and possible confiscation by port and customs authorities. And the wood was green, sitting on the dock in a very humid climate, so deterioration was likely to come rapidly.

“On the last evening, with the deal done, I was taken to a restaurant serving the Spanish delicacy, angulas. These are baby eels, sautéed in olive oil, and looking to me like a bowl of maggots.

“I finally got off the plane at Heathrow in London, found the first available pub and stayed there way too long. I can’t remember the Spanish buyer’s name or the details of the transaction, but I can still close my eyes and see the bowl of angulas.”