Ever been “That Guy”? In 2009 Dave Patterson seemed destined for that not-so-coveted title.
That year he led a team in a competition, the RODEO, where his responsibility was to supply Team Altus with what it took to win, but once the competition began, he was to be Mr. Hospitality and man the tent. The city of Altus had provided the support necessary to make this the place to be with free beverages and food, which attracted such visitors and dignitaries as General Officers and Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force, even World War II retirees were stopping by. If you know Dave, he was in his element, because he loves hearing and telling stories.
One night as he was performing his hospitality duties with his beverage of choice in hand, a few of the city’s dignitaries motioned for him to join them. They introduced him to a man with a cowboy hat and wearing what looked like a leather military jacket. “Dave, this is Herb; Herb, this is Dave.” He was asked to keep him company while they took a few minutes to conduct some business. It was obvious this man was retired military and after he spent five minutes asking Dave questions such as where was he from, what did he fly, did he enjoy the Air Force, Dave found his chance to question him. “Are you retired?” He answered, “Retired, but I still stay involved in the business.” Now Dave starts realizing that maybe this man might not be retired military. So Dave asks what kind of business he was in. He answers that he played around in the airline business a little bit. Dave is slightly frustrated, because he can’t get a straight answer out of this guy, but maybe whatever he did in the airline business didn’t work out so well. Now for a direct question:
“Well, what did you do in the airline business?”
“I started a little one a few years back.”
“Which one would that have been,” Dave says.
Herb replied with a big grin on his face, “SOUTHWEST AIRLINES.”
Embarrassing!!! Dave felt about 3” tall at this moment. After 10 minutes of talk, it hits Dave that this is Herb Kelleher and if he had not asked him what he did for a living, he would probably never have been told who he was. What touched Dave the most was realizing that Herb Kelleher was there to support the military and was standing outside of a hospitality tent not entertaining those in the positions of power, but was talking to a 3” tall C-17 pilot who will always remember that day.