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The Last Resort



The Bagbys, Walter and Estelle, got into the resort business by accident.

Walter always tried to do the right thing, which isn’t easy. So when Estelle’s brother Fred came to the Bagby’s with an investment idea—a fishing resort in Fennimore county lake country—and conjuring that more than hinted at a win-win scenario, Walter bought in. The land was “a steal,” the audience ripe—it was the 20s, after all—but Fred’s rosy predictions did little more than peek above the threshold of reality and Fred himself disappeared with most of the liquid assets, leaving his sister and her husband owners of a steep clay bank on the far side of Sturm und Drang and an interrupted dream with every right to become a nightmare.

The idea of a limited membership club had considerable appeal in the 20s, the decade of entitlement, with its Positivist notion of thinkers and doers versus the legion of mere hangers-on. Fred’s “connections” among the region’s movers and shakers (more delusion than real) allowed him to allege a handful of big names already signed and that their prestige would attract a generous sampling of what passed for the One Percent in those days. Wally and Estelle didn’t fancy themselves part of that social stratum, but Fred’s presentation allowed them to imagine some of its benefits within reach. A substantial (non-refundable) downpayment on the lakeshore was all Fred lacked. So Walter mortgaged his business and provided the only real capital the project ever saw.

Even before Black Friday the cards had begun to collapse. How the Bagbys duck-tapped it together again is a story for Part 2.

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