It was about 7:00 on the morning of March 15, 2022.
I sat in my home office drinking coffee and anticipating lunch with my old pals Rick Young and Marty Yancey at the Olive Garden in North Myrtle Beach. I had not seen either of them in over a year.
Rick lived in nearby Little River but some time ago Marty and his wife Kay had retired and moved from Myrtle Beach back to Oxford, NC, so our gang’s once frequent lunch meetings now revolved around Marty’s visits to Myrtle Beach.
Jo Ann was in the kitchen preparing Rick’s favorite spaghetti for me to take to him. It was a dish she had introduced to him during a brief time thirty+ years ago when the three of us and my son Troy had been roommates in Rick and his wife Debra’s huge four-bedroom house in Dune’s Cove.
We had recently heard through Rick’s kids that he had lung cancer and that he was at home on oxygen. Knowing he was ill had created both urgency and dread about that lunch gathering.
Rick and I shared emails often, but we rarely spoke on the phone, so in early March I was pleased to see his name pop up on my inbound caller ID.
The purpose of his call, he said, was to ask how to order Amazon products through my wife Jo Ann’s online store.
I explained the process and when I thanked him for letting her earn the meager commission on his orders he said, “There ain’t nobody I would rather earn a commission off what I buy than Jo Ann Bailey.”
The rest of the conversation was sobering. I asked how he was doing. He said he had an upcoming appointment to learn his options.
“If I can just get my breathing straightened out so I could play a little golf, then I’ll be fine,” he had said. The man did love golf. Golf and family were his two passions in life.
Marty had planned to call Rick around 9:00 AM that morning to confirm that Rick felt up to meeting us that day. Rick no longer drove but often depended on his good friend Barry Smith for transportation.
I knew it would be an early lunch because Rick always insisted on meeting no later than 11:30. I often goaded him about the early meeting time, asking if he thought the restaurant might be out of food if we showed up at noon.
While I waited to hear from Marty, I recalled our last lunch together with Rick. It too, had been at the Olive Garden.
On that outing I had watched Rick’s ritual preparation of his unsweetened iced tea, just as I had watched hundreds if not thousands of times before. True to form, he perfectly aligned two Sweet & Low packets between his thumb and forefinger and shook the hell out of them to settle their contents to the bottom of the packets. Then he carefully tore their tops away and dumped the contents onto the tea. Then he stirred the glass, removed the spoon, and placed it on the table. Then came the lemon juice which he brutally squeezed from a lemon wedge onto the tea, followed by another stir. Now he was ready.
Woe is the waiter who dared pour fresh tea on top of his perfectly seasoned batch without first asking.
My flashback was interrupted at 8:15 when Jo Ann called out from the living room with devastating news. Rick’s daughter Ashley had messaged that Rick had passed away in the early morning hours at his home.
It was quite a shock. I called Marty immediately and then set about to extend my condolences and notify the large group of people I was sure would want to know the news.
Over the next several days I renewed contact with mutual friends and began to reminisce about our long time friendship.
And I did some crying.
I met Rick Young, III in 1978. I had been working for a few months at Country Club Villas, a new timeshare resort on Deerfield Plantation on the south end of Myrtle Beach. One of the resort developers, Richard Hunsucker, had recruited me from a talent agency I had worked for in Charlotte, NC.
It was an exciting change for Jo Ann and me.
Hunsucker came to me that fall of ’78 and said he had hired one of the top timeshare sales and marketing teams in the country to take over his operations at Country Club Villas. I was leery.
A few days later Hunsucker walked into my office with a young blond-haired gentleman who he introduced as the new sales manager, Rick Young.
When I stood and reached for his outstretched hand, Rick grabbed mine with both his hands and said, “How ya doing, Horse? Nice to meet cha.”
“Horse”, I thought. “Horse?” Where the hell did that come from?
As a youngster in North Carolina, my peers had often used the term ‘Hoss’, as in Hoss Cartwright of television fame, to address each other. But Horse?
Rick was quick to invite me and ‘the wife’ to join him and his sales team for drinks that evening at the local watering hole… and I was quick to accept. At my sparse income level, free drinks were always welcomed and I was curious to find out more about this guy.
That evening I saw right away that Rick was a very likeable, confident, and witty man. He too, was a North Carolinian. Our southern upbringing made communication very easy and we quickly began forming a friendship.
Jo Ann noticed his cordial and gentlemanly mannerisms and immediately liked him, too.
That evening his constituents showed him great respect and admiration, which he returned. The address of ‘Horse’ was used by nearly everyone in his group, not only towards Rick but to everyone else.
No one seemed to know who first used it, but I suspect that it probably originated with Rick. His enthusiasm for bestowing nicknames and using initialisms was well known, I would learn.
‘Horse’, it was explained, is a term used similarly to ‘pal’, or ‘buddy’ as in, “Good job, buddy.”
“Good job, buddy” becomes, “Good job, Horse.”
“Good shot, Horse,” could sometimes be heard on the golf course but unfortunately my game did not often earn the congratulations.
I quickly adopted use of the word.
Its use did become rather comical over the years as Rick expanded it to things like, “I hear ya, Horsio” and “Hello, Horse Collar,” and although I knew what a horse collar was, I was never quite sure where the ‘collar’ part fit in.
And over time most people who knew him, even casually, substituted his actual name with ‘Horse’ and referred to him in conversations as ‘The Horse’ or simply, RY. It seemed that everyone knew The Horse.
Our friendship grew stronger over the years, and became one that would bond Jo Ann, Rick and I through four decades of both celebratory and disappointing experiences. During that time he was not just a friend but sometimes my co-worker, my employer, my supervisor, my payday lender and, most importantly, a confidant.
I remember… How Rick loved golf
To say The Horse loved golf is a major understatement. It wasn’t just the challenge of the game that he loved but also its tradition and pageantry.
Rick honed his golfing skills early on with the help of his good friend and golf pro, John Manley. Rick worked hard at it and it paid off.
I remember…King’s Road Tavern
During our tenure at Country Club Villas our favorite watering hole was Kings Road Tavern in Myrtle Beach. Happy hours were a riot. If Rick was there, he ALWAYS picked up my tab.
I remember…When we left Country Club Villas
A few months into sales, Country Club Villas lost its funding and couldn’t make payroll, forcing Rick and his team to take a sales job in the Poconos.
We all went our separate ways.
I remember… Jade Tree Cove
Within months of leaving Country Club Villas, Hunsucker opened Jade Tree Cove in Myrtle Beach, a 30 unit ocean front hotel that he set about converting into timeshare units.
I went along for that ride and was elated when in short order, Hunsucker brought Rick and his team back from the Poconos to take over sales.
Rick’s team was quite the crew. They arrived at the Jade Tree one day in a caravan of about eight cars. In those days before cell phones they had communicated with CB radios along the way.
Rick had arranged furnished accommodations for them in a condo project next to the resort.
One of the crew, Tommy Smith, had a huge moving van arrive at the resort loaded with a house full of furniture and…a golf cart. On his first night in the condo, Tommy put the golf cart on charge in the parking garage under the condos….and the cart caught fire. Luckily the condo didn’t burn down.
The neighbors complained about the burned out carcass for days before Rick had it hauled off.
Many in that crew followed Rick for years.
I remember…Over the years how Rick and I have worked together on many projects.
…Vacation Properties International
Hunsucker had expanded his operations and formed this company to develop and timeshare properties in Myrtle Beach and Florida.
The company’s Sanibel Island, Florida property was a small motel right on the beach. We lived in the motel for a few months while we did the room conversions and started up sales. It was our first experience with the ferocious No-see-ums and Sand Fleas.
On our first night there, Jo Ann and I were startled to see people roaming the beach with flashlights. We assumed the worst. Maybe someone had drowned? When I rushed down to the beach to investigate, Rick was already there. We laughed when we discovered that it was only folks searching for seashells at low tide, a popular activity on the island.
Once again, inadequate funding for development and marketing forced us to move on.
…Timeshare Motivational Institute
Rick loved motivation and motivational quotes so he formed a company around it. One of the company’s products was framed quotes for business offices. Rick’s favorite was a large framed photo of a mouse standing on its hind legs and using a fork to pry a piece of cheese from a mouse trap.
The quote said, “I hold no interest in how it can’t be done.”
That quote described Rick’s philosophy to a tee.
…The Vacation Insurance Group
This business was Rick’s creation and offered a new timeshare owner an insurance policy against any loss of use of his timeshare vacation. It was an idea ahead of its time.
Rick, Marty, Danny Bercini, Kathy Lawless, John Manley, Marge Wiggins and I were on the team.
Rick convinced the Chubb Insurance Group and American International Group to underwrite the policy.
It went successfully along for a couple of years until we discovered that Chubb had improperly filed the policy in several states and we received a cease and desist.
It could have been great.
We were all forced to move on. Rick joined the Maritime Corporation in North Myrtle Beach as Vice President.
…In 1989 Hurricane Hugo destroyed the Maritime Beach Club and along with it, Rick’s position. I joined Rick for a few months to help him resolve the issues that event had created for the owners.
Rick joined me at Peppertree in 1997 as marketing director while I was stationed at the home office in Asheville. We had lunch every day at a little diner across the highway from our office. After a few months he took the position of Executive Director of Crown Memorial Park in Pineville, NC where he remained for many years.
…Carolinas Golf Promotion Association
Hunsucker hired Rick and I to do the marketing and sales for this unique company. It developed and sold discount golf books. With the help of our friend Chuck Hill, we recruited golf courses to participate and marketed the product to large groups of golfers.
…Our last work together was in Myrtle Beach. For a brief time we worked at creating a marketing plan for an investment management company.
I remember…Our group trip to California in 1983 for a business convention.
After the convention in Los Angeles, we rented a station wagon for Rick, Kathy, Marty, Kay, Jo Ann and me to take a two day drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco for our flight home.
Jo Ann had several bags for the trip. One was a huge purple suitcase that Rick and Marty were loading onto the luggage rack on top of the car when they discovered it was stuffed with mostly shoes. The rooftop rack was stacked high.
Later that evening it looked like rain so we decided to stop for the night. I whipped the station wagon into the covered entrance of a motel. When we got out of the car, we started to belly laugh at how there was less than two inches clearance between the entrance roof and Jo Ann’s purple suitcase on the car roof. We had avoided a disaster.
Rick had heard me tell the story many times of my army basic training a Fort Ord in 1968 and he remembered my tale of having my first legal cocktail at a bar in Carmel. So, he insisted that we stop off and have a drink. I reordered my first cocktail, a Singapore Sling.
I remember…Rick’s management style and work ethic
…His desire to give his very best effort to every task. He rose early every day, usually around 5:00 AM, and was always the first person at his desk.
…He wanted everything to run at its utmost efficiency. While Project Director at the Four Seasons he had a morning manager’s ‘to do’ list for each of his managers. One of the tasks was to turn on the radio to a specific radio station and set the volume to 5. Details mattered to him.
…He was obsessed with accurate reporting. He wanted to know the detail of every facet of his operation. He would spend hours trying to get a sales report to balance.
…Rick took copious notes. Every speech he gave was usually written out and rehearsed. It was a process I adopted. His favorite writing medium was a legal size yellow pad and a number two lead pencil. He bought them by the dozens.
…Rick was a strict but fair manager of people. During his time at Maritime Beach Club he had a strict policy of no drugs on the property.
One of his favorite stories was about Danny Talbot, a fantastic salesman who was somewhat of a renegade. Rick was giving Danny a ride to the Maritime one morning. Along the way Danny lit up a doobie.
Rick said, “Talbot, you know I don’t allow drugs on the property” to which Danny replied, “Don’t worry Horse. I’ll have it finished before we get there!”
I remember….. Sunday’s during football season.
…We were likely congregated at Rick’s place. If not, we were constantly on the phone high-fiving over a great play by our team or moaning and groaning over their lost fumble.
I remember… Rick’s love of fine dining and comfort food.
…Diet Pepsi. He was seldom without one by his side. The trash can he stored behind his car’s driver seat seemed to always be full of empties.
…Duke’s Mayonnaise. He swore by it and loaded it onto both pieces of his bread.
…Take-out and delivery food. No one was happier than Rick when meal delivery companies came on the scene. If you planned to pick up an order for the group expect to have to go to one place for burgers and another place for Rick’s favorite fries.
…He once told me that when he discovered French cuisine he thought, “Where have I been?”
…How he enjoyed a glass of Pouilly-Fuissé, one of his favorite wines that he called by a rather humorous risqué name.
…When he introduced us to Frangelica and soda at Jordan’s restaurant in Myrtle Beach.
…Brunch with him at Brennan’s in New Orleans and my introduction to Eggs Benedict.
…Dinners with a full table of friends at Nakato Japanese Restaurant in Myrtle Beach. He preferred Nakato’s because they had the ‘white sauce’.
…Our shared love of Steak Aupoivre.
I remember….His love of comfort.
…Power naps. He took one EVERY day. Don’t call him or knock on his door after lunch when he is snoozing for twenty minutes.
… Huggies. Rick was a sharp dresser and loved nice clothes and shoes. But he loved casual dress and owned many pairs of baggy terrycloth shorts that he wore every chance he got, even on the golf course where it was allowed. He called them huggies, after the kids’ diapers of the same name. Many in our group followed his lead on those shorts
…There was always a recliner and a comfortable sofa at his place
…And a comfortable sofa in his office for afternoon naps
…He would always decline to dine at a restaurant if it did not have comfortable chairs. He loved the chairs so much at one of his favorite restaurants in Charlotte that he bought four of them.
I remember…..His sayings
…Pretty work. Rick’s acknowledgement that he liked something or some result. Like when our team kicks a field goal to cover the spread; “Pretty work!” Or you draw a five into a 16 to make twenty-one; “Pretty work!” Or the pizza delivery guy shows up at the door; “Pretty work!” He began to use just the letters ‘PW’ in his emails. Everyone knew what he meant.
…B.O.B.L. Rick’s initialism for, ‘back of the box light’. It described that light beer located deep down in the coldest section of the cooler.
… Pecking corn. His reference to the bobbing of someone’s head when they are nodding off to sleep, like watching a barnyard chicken feeding on corn.
…One bite light. This was Rick’s interpretation of the dilemma one faces when dining and your side dish runs out before your entrée (or vice-versa). “Oh Hell, I’m one bite light!”
…”But wait, now what would you pay?” An annoying question from a 1980’s infomercial that we adopted into our vocabulary.
…1-800-257-1234. The television advertising number Rick ordered dozens of items from over the years. When you asked him where he had purchased a newly introduced item he would say, “1-800-257-1234”.
I remember…..The superstitions
…Hyme. One day during the Jade Tree era, I noticed that Rick had a large brass paper weight on his desk. It was shaped like the face of a longhorn bull. When I mentioned it he jokingly said it was the god of luck named Hyme.
“Don’t tempt Hyme”, he warned. “Never consider a ball game over until the clock runs out… or the last strike is called. Never say a wager is a ‘lock’. Never hit a sixteen looking at a three. Never place a bet on the ‘don’t pass’ line. And never, ever spend an anticipated commission from your timeshare sale until the rescission period is over. If you do, don’t be surprised when Hyme bites you on the ass.”
The expression, “Don’t Hyme it,” became our caution against assuming any outcome too early.
…Is it a heads? If you see a coin lying on the ground NEVER pick it up unless it is heads up. That means good luck to the finder. If it is tails, run away.
On a trip to Atlantic City we were walking down the boardwalk when I spotted a quarter lying heads up. I immediately picked it up.
Our run of luck was not very good at that time so Rick said, “Put it in your shoe, heads up.”
I did. It didn’t improve our luck at the tables so I put it in a slot machine and lost. Maybe it would give the casino bad luck, we surmised.
…Red headed dealers. If you see a red-headed casino employee be sure to place your bets at their station, regardless of the game. We would play tidily-winks against a red-headed dealer if we could.
I remember…..We were once at a comedy club in Tampa, Florida when a lady in the audience began to heckle the male comedian. He asked her to stand up. She was wearing a plaid dress.
He said, “My God, lady…. what are you wearing… looks like somebody shot a couch!” The audience roared and we adopted that line ourselves to describe garish attire.
I remember… Rick’s music preferences
…Rick enjoyed country music because of the message it often conveyed. One of his favorite lyrics came from Barbara Mandel’s song, Standing Room Only. It went, “I won’t lay Mama’s silver for a man who won’t say Grace.”
…But we were all so awed by Michael Jackson’s moonwalk on the Motown 25 television special in 1983 that we watched it repeatedly.
I remember …
…The evening in 1998 after I quit my 13 year job at Peppertree Resorts in Asheville. I called Rick. I was bitter and had written a scathing letter to my old bosses. After I proudly read it to him, I asked for his opinion.
After a short pause he said, “Write it in the sand, Horse.”
I threw the letter in the trash and never looked back.
Rick was indeed a mentor. His shared philosophies have positively affected both my business and personal life for over four decades and I expect them to do so for the rest of it.
Rick had a favorite toast that I heard him give dozens of times. It certainly is appropriate in describing his life. It goes:
“We come into this world naked and bare,
We go through this world full of sorrow and care;
We go out of this world…we know not where,
But if we’re thoroughbreds here, we’ll be thoroughbreds there.”
My friend, you were and are a true thoroughbred.
Great round, Horse. See ya in the clubhouse.
Johnnie and Jo Ann Bailey