>>Joe Brandl has worked for years honing his expertise of primitive bushcraft skills. His many years as a Boy Scout leader, vast experiences as a hunter in Wilderness Adventure, and his expertise and tanning animal hides have transformed him into a warehouse of knowledge and skills. In 1988, he began to operate a small tannery at the sea of the Wind River Range in Dubois, Wyoming. Since then, Absaroka Western Designs and Tannery has grown into a large tannery facility and showroom, producing Western decor for homes, lodges, and businesses. His love for outdoors guided him to attend the University of Nebraska, where he obtained a BS in Natural Resources in Wildlife Management. Joe’s expertise also led him to the oldest participant to survive the 21-day challenge on Discovery Channel in Naked and Afraid. So from Dubois, Wyoming, welcome Joe Brandl.>>Thanks. I’m not your typical speaker, I’ve never been typical in any way whatsoever. So, I love outdoor survival. I love outdoor bushcraft and it gave me a chance to be on Naked and Afraid, one of the amazing experience in itself. One of the most difficult things to do is to get a coal with two pieces of wood. Very very few people can do that. A lot of cultures can and there’s lot of mechanical ways to rub two pieces of wood together to get a coal but it’s rather difficult. One of the things that I practice is how to do this on trying to start a fire, which we won’t actually start a fire but we’ll be close, of just rubbing two sticks together. What goes along this was one of my mantras that I picked up when I was in Africa in Naked and Afraid, and it’s one thing that a mantra that I carried with me day-to-day, and it’s that when you fail, it’s not if you fail, it’s when you fail, you want to fail forward. The reason for that is as two of the greatest people that use that mantra “Fail, fail forward” was probably Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. They figured out a thousand ways on not how to do it. I knew that when we were in Africa that we had to get a fire started. Unfortunately, we had a fire striker gone and I knew that was pretty simple. So for me, I figured if I tested myself on some of the most difficult ways to get a fire going would be the handrail. I watched several people do this and it was just magic. It’s like how can you spin your hands fast enough and hard enough in order to create the temperature high enough that you can get some sawdust to catch a coal. It took me a long time to figure this out on how to do this. People go, “Why would you do that? Just use a lighter.” I go, “Well, that’s true.” But I don’t get the same sense of accomplishment as when I’m rubbing two sticks together. Sometimes in the evenings, when I’m in my shop, I’ll find myself going upstairs, and what they call it is busting a coal, can you bust a coal? You have to rub this hard enough and long enough so that it’ll create a temperature high enough to make a coal just like this. The point of this is that this coal is your business idea. You’ve taken the simplest thing that you can of just two pieces of wood and now you’ve got a coal, but you’re a long ways from a fire. So, what you have to do is you have to come up with other ideas that you start out with this coal as a business idea, and now you’ve got to have a business plan, you come up with all these different things. So what they would do in starting a fire, they take the small coal and they’ll dump this small coal into what’s called a coal extender. This coal extender is just called mugwort. When it burns, it smells like pot. Not that I’m familiar with that, but that’s what it smells like. I was through to coaled the other night or so and I’m carefully taken my hand, I’m not blowing hard on it, I’m just cokes of it, into this coal to get some life into it to try and get this mugwort burning, and of course I’ve got it all over me, it’s kind of big heavy smudge thing, and when my wife got home she goes, “God, have you been smoking pot?? I go, “No. I haven’t smoke.” She goes, “You smell like pot.” When we went out to eat she goes, “I think people are going to think you’ve been smoking pot because you smell like it.” So once you get this coal and you get the coal extender by using the mugwort here, it’s going to make a bigger coal and grow into a bigger and bigger coal, those are going to be keep it. At any time, this could go out. I could fail. I could fail for a number reasons. It could be my wood was too wet, I didn’t have the right combination of woods or different types of woods that you use, one’s for the base, one for the spindle. You had to figure out what’s that combination that’s going to create that coal because once I take this and it blows into a larger and larger coal, what it’s going to do is get big enough that I can put it into a tinder bundle and I can blow onto it and provide the three things that fire needs, which is fuel, and oxygen, and heat. Those three combinations are going to give me a fire. When we’re on Africa, it was so cold at night, down to the lower 40’s that we’re freezing just to stay warm, and there wasn’t enough firewood around that we can have two fires to sleep between them. So we end up with just one fire and of course, we burnt our shelter down, which was I told her it’s totally her fault. She told me she was a woman, she goes, “I’m cold, puts more wood on the fire.” I did and burnt the shelter down. So we lost our shelter on it. But you’ve got to have fire, and the fire is going to bring you warmth, it’s going to bring you comfort, it’s going to bring you ability to cook food and to boil water. Okay. What’s the point of all this? All that has to do with business. I started out in Nebraska just a farm kid, working there, spent a lot of time outdoors, hunting, and trapping, and fishing but I grew up with great values. Those values, you’re going to let people smell it, aren’t you? Those values that I grew up with were not just given to me by my parents. My father died when I was 10 years old of health complications. So I was mentored by my wrestling coach and my Scoutmaster. So my passion in life for outdoors, wrestling, and scouting. I just recently retired after about 30 years of being a Scoutmaster. It’s just because it was just time to let somebody else to take over. But there’s one that mentored me which meant they kicked my butt when I needed it. So I learned value in the sense that to be good to people, to be respectful, and to be accountable. I went to school of University of Nebraska, got a degree in wildlife, thinking I want to be a game warden. I want to be a biologist, I want to be a forest ranger, I want to do something I can help wildlife with. After spending five long years in college, I can’t believe I actually graduated. During that time, I had a choice to go either to Grants, New Mexico, or Wyoming. You’re going to find yourself, if you haven’t already, you’re going to find yourself coming to forks in the road and you got to choose one way or the other. You’re going to make that choice and you’re never going to be able to change that choice once you do that. You can’t go back in time. You just can’t go back. I’ve always wondered, “What if I had chose the other option?” I could wonder all I want but it didn’t make any difference. I’m who I am today because of those choices. I chose to go to Wyoming. I started working summers for the Game and Fish Department, worked at Habitat, lived in some great cabins in the outdoors. Once I graduated in 1984, I moved back out to Wyoming thinking I’m going to get a full-time job at the Game and Fish. I got to feed elk, 300 herds of elk upon the grove on mountains with teams of horses. I had my first survival lesson in the sense I went over the snow machine, got it stuck. I didn’t have any survival gear with me. I end up spending the night out at subzero weather with my dog, with no matches, nothing to start a fire with. So I ended up cutting off my underwear. It’s the one thing I didn’t really need. I did have a knife. So I cut off my underwear, wrap around the sticks, dunk it in the gas tank, use a spark plug to start the fire and had the fire all night. I ended up burning my bed by the time I was done because it was just so freezing cold. The snow was deep, and I walked out 8.5 miles the next day, and after that, I’ve never not carried survival gear. Believe me, I have survival gear all the time with me. So, if you’re in a survival situation, and you’re with me and I die, check my pockets because I’ve got a lot of stuff in there. Once I got working for the Game and Fish Department, I kept thinking I’m going to get a full-time job. I’m going to use my degree and I’m going to get a full-time job to do what I want to do and I had a chance, I took the Game Warden Exams. While I was feeding elk, I took the bar exam, scored fairly well. The more I thought about becoming a game warden as if I’m a game warden, I got to be on the reservoir crew and that’s not going to be good. So I didn’t go that way, they didn’t hire me. I don’t know what happened, they never hired me. In 1987, I was working over in Jackson’s pool, working on habitat for the Game and Fish, it’s seasonal. So I was just worked in summers, and they said, “We’ve got enough money to keep you on till December, but after that you’re done.” Here we were, my wife at the time, Jean, had gone through cancer. We had one son, Josh, and in 1985, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Yes, she was pregnant at the same time, and we had to make that choice because a doctor was saying that you need to have an abortion and we said, “No, we can’t do that, That’s not part of our faith.” So we’re going to take chances, we’re going to go and do this. Josh was born premature. We had no money, I mean, we had no money and so what we did have insurance. But even though it paid 80 percent, 20 percent of hundreds of thousands of dollars is a lot of money. Here, I was making barely a $830 a month, that’s what I was making. I got a free cabin to live in but that was it. So we ended up moving over to Jackson, working for the Game and Fish in December 31st, and said, “That’s your last day.” I had already lived in Dubois, Wyoming for a while working for the Game and Fish. So I called a buddy, Michael Therlind Stewart, and I said, “Lind, I need a job, I don’t care what it is, I’ve got a strong back, and a weak mind, and I’ll do anything you want.” All my life, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for a job, nothing. There aren’t any ditches I wouldn’t have dugged, there ain’t any sewers I wouldn’t have cleaned out, there is nothing I wouldn’t have done for a job. During that time when we’re going through these difficult times, I was working sometimes two jobs. Anything I could do to make ends meet because it was more important that I support my family, that what I was doing even though it wasn’t the dream that I had. I don’t even know what my dream was except for I needed a job. So we moved back over Dubois, Wyoming, and Lind Stewart had a little tannery, was about 1800-foot garage, is much smaller than this whole room. It had little tannery there and I start tanning hides for him. What I did is I shaved hides, you have to pull hides across the wheel, and as a shaving job, and it’s pretty mindless to do this job, and he paid me $5.25 an hour to do this job and this was 1988. Fortunately, by the grace of God, Yellowstone burnt down. So Yellowstone fires happen, they took all the surrounding satellite communities and they decided that we needed help from that. So they hired me up at the airport after work after 5:00, 5:30. I went up, I was the airport manager, $10 an hour. Okay, so that was great. So I’d work in the morning very early till late as I could. Go up the airport, sit at the airport till about 12:31 O’clock watching planes come in, and helicopters, and things. Go back down, go to bed. At this time, we still had one son. I just kept working that way. We worked from this little crappy tannery. We had a wood stove in the middle, when you got 20 feet away everything far. It was crappy, but we work so hard at it. Finally, when I was working there, Lind decided he was going to back to school, he said, “You want to buy the business?” I said, “Well, yeah.” I said, “How much you need for this?” He said, “I want $35,000 for, but I need $5,000 down.” You could have been asking $35 million. We barely had, ever had a couple $100 in our checking account. We just had bills we had to pay, we pay doctors $10 a month, $15 a month whatever we could. So what I did and I thought, well, okay I’ll just ask some people to give me some money. So I called a couple of relatives, and I said, “I need $2,500 to pay down a downpayment on this tannery,” and they said okay. So, they wrote me cheques, every $2,500 with no expectations ever being paid back. So we took the 5,000, put it down in the tannery, ended up kept working a tannery that far. It kept growing and growing because we work very, very hard at it, late nights. My kids grew up with dead animals everywhere. They slept in grocery carts filled full of beavers, and foxes, and coyotes, and elk hides and stuff. That’s where they slept at night, and they learn that’s what our life was. We kept trying to grow, I kept thinking, oh my God, I remember the first time when Lind turned over the business and I tanned up like a dozen beaver hives, and a guy wrote me a cheque for those. It was, I don’t know, $300 or $400, and that was my money that I did myself and It inspired me to work harder because if I do 20 more, that’s a lot more money. If I do this, and this, and this, and I kept working, and we started going to rendezvous in different shows, and selling all these different things. At one time, I had all this great grandiose idea about how can I expand the business and a guy came through. I don’t know how I met the guy from Canada, he’s a Canuck. He said, “You know what? I got a business deal on rabbits.” He said, “We got all these rabbits up here and the Indian people are tanning them but they suck at it.” He goes, can you do these rabbits, and I go, “How many you got?” He goes, “10,000.” I go, “Sure.” I got the rabbits and I go these are really bad rabbits. So I made a deal with them for like 20 cents a rabbit. So here, I had this bundles of rabbits,10,000 rabbits, that were just nasty, damn but nasty. So I decided, well, I’m going to take all these rabbits and make something out of them. So I started making bags and purses, and dyeing them pink, and purple, and green, and things like that. Then, someone somehow, I want to clarify this is that, I’m going to write a book someday called “God was my CEO”, and It’s going to be a bestseller because God was my CEO. I’ve been around religion all my life. Even though I’m not necessary a religious man, I have great faith, okay. Always, always have faith. Somehow, somebody came through and said, “I got some cheap labor for you. I go, “Where?” He said, “The prison system.” I said, “No kidding.” He says, “Yeah, I sit down Crowley, Colorado, they’ll do stuff for you.” I said, “Okay.” So I contacted the prison system, the hobby shop. I said, “I got all this rabbit skins, and I got a little pieces of leather.” I was having tannery at Fox Valley leathers in Salt Lake at the time, and Roger Maris was an inmate. He was a murderer, I don’t know who he killed, but he was, but a nice guy. Then I met him in person, but he was a nice guy on the phone. He could have been Charles Manson, I didn’t care, he was a good sewer. So I said, “I’m going to send you down some leather and some rabbit skins.” He said, “Well, you can’t send blue and red down because they’re gang colors.” I said, “Okay.” He goes, “You’ve got to make sure you count all the needles,and stuff.”” I go, okay, so nobody’s making the shanks out of things. Roger, would sew up these bags for me for like 15-20 cents, but Roger was an entrepreneur. Because what he would do is, he would hire out other inmates in the prison at two and three cents a piece to do his work for him. He said, “God, why would they do it for that is because they got out of their cell to go to the hobby shop, where they could make shanks if they needed him. Here, I was an entrepreneur trying to figure out a business, here was a guy in prison who is an entrepreneur they had the system down. Then as it worked out, we kept working and working. Roger got transferred somewhere else to another prison, couldn’t take a sewing machines. I still have his sewing machines, and all those patterns, and stuff he made. Going to have to buy them, offer him cheap because what he’s going to do if I didn’t buy them. So I end up getting all this. But we started growing the business more and more and more because we work so hard at it and I was trying all these different things. Well, then in about 1994, no maybe 1993, I was friends with the guys at Fox Valley; Bill Brown, Ron Rolon, and Tony, great guys. Bill said, “Hey, you know what, there’s an auction in New York ” and I said, ”New York City?” He goes,”No, no, I first stayed in New York. There’s a tannery called Four-year Leather, they’re going out of business; bad management, bad entrepreneurism.” So he said, ”They’re going to have an auction, they’re going to have all these equipment for sale”. He said, ”You should go and buy some”. I thought, “Hell, I got no money.” But that’s all right, doesn’t matter. So I said, ”Okay, that sounds great.” So it’s going to be an online auction. You just bid on it. So I don’t only think about online auctions, you know, my first computer was a little tiny Mac about like this and which I was excited to get, at the time but online wasn’t such a thing then. Finally, things worked out. I thought, ”Oh dear God! How am I ever going to get these equipment?” I mean I need to go out fly and look at it. I go, “I don’t have any money to fly out to New York to see these equipment.” The next couple of days somebody walked in the tannery and the little office we had there and bought $400-$500 worth of hides and leather. I don’t know why he came and he did. I thought, ”Hell, there’s a plane ticket.” So I got a plane ticket and I flew out to New York and all the guys that were there in the tannery there, were all the workers. The blue collar guys that fixed everything, did stuff and there were a skeleton crew guys, and they were beer drinkers. I thought, ”Well, I’ll just buy these guys beer.” So I’d buy some beer and I would go there and hang out with these guys. They were playing cards and all they were doing was watching the building. These buildings were huge, huge tannery. You’d get lost in the leather tanneries. There was seven tannery that’s this company owned and there was five of them in New York. I thought, ”Well that’s great.” So I made friends with all these guys by buying them beer, part of the barter system and I came back home I thought, ”Oh my God! There’s so much stuff, there stuff I’ve never dreamed of having. How am I ever going to get any of that stuff?” So pretty soon they said, ”Well, we’re not going to an online auction. We’re going to go ahead and just have an auctioneer come out bid on it. I thought, ”Oh my God! There’s another plane ticket.” So we worked hard, we worked hard and lo and behold, somebody came in and bought enough stuff. I got a plane ticket to go back to New York. So I went to New York and I’m dressed. I look like legends of the fall. I got a big cowboy hat on, big tall black boots, best and everything. I look different than everybody else out there, and I’m walking around and now I’ve made friends with all these guys and they’re telling me, “Joe, don’t buy that, buy that, don’t buy that, buy that.” Everything was like five and 0.10 cents on the dollar. The two auctioneers were two Jewish guys from New York. Three-piece suits I mean, they were just Jewish lawyers or auctioneer’s and all they cared about was the bottom line. Here I am this little guy walking around here and there are people from India, and China, and South American, and all of the United States, who are multi-millionaire tanners. They own the largest tanneries in the country; and here I am, walking around with these guys thinking, “oh my God! I don’t belong here. But look at all these cool stuff.” They would come up to me and a couple of the old guys and they would go, “So, where are you from?” I said, “Dubois, Wyoming.” Oh, I kind of love Wyoming, honeying, you know the whole thing.” They said, “So how many thousand hides you do here?” I go, “one.” He said,” Well, let me help you because I was in the same place you are, years ago.” He says, “I’m going to help you out.” Throughout that three days of auctions, which I was barely making them, before I could even go, I had to go to the bank and tell them I needed these equipment. I didn’t even have a tanner, I just had 1,800 foot garage tannery. I didn’t even have my new tannery yet. So here I was over there trying to buy equipment hoping, that if I bought these equipment, the bank would go, “Well, with all these equipment we’ll give you some money to build a new tannery.” I was very optimistic at the time. So I was out there and everybody took care of me. In fact, there were times when I would bid on a piece of equipment and I didn’t get it. I lost out on it. One of the other guy from the big tanners would go, “Joe did you need that?” I go, “I did”. They go, “Cancel my bid.” They dropped their bid and allowed me to buy it for $100. This went on time and time again. Again, God was amazing. So now, I got through all this auction and the bank had loaned me, $3,500 as a line of credit. I don’t know why they did because I didn’t have any money. I was- they liked me. So now I had all these equipment and I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh! How am I going to get these equipment home? How am I going to get the equipment even out of these buildings?” I didn’t think quite that far ahead. Well, at some time during the auction, I had met some guys there. Irish Catholics, fit right in there in New York, and they said, “While I was bidding on stuff, I bought a whole palette of these great big belts.” There’s big pallet of belts or sit and I paid $25 maybe $50 so that palette of belt that run the big drums. As we’re going their LV, one of the Italian Catholic guys, he come back said, “Joe did you buy those belts?” I said,” yeah I did.” He said, “We need those belts because we bought the drums that’s got to go to a tannery, to 10 alligators in Louisiana. We need to have those belts. What will you sell it to us for? And these guys have been so good to me. I said, “You know what, Elvie?” I said, “You can have them.” You know I said that I didn’t pay much for them. He said, “No Joe.” He said, “I’ll tell you what?” He said, “We’ll trade you those belts. We got all these equipment here too. We’ll take our crew, we’ll take all your equipment out here for you and load it on the trucks.” He goes, “We’ll trade you all that for those $50 worth of belts.” I thought, “Oh my God, it’s amazing, how does this happen?” So now I fly back home I think, “Oh my God, I’ve got all these equipment coming.” I think, “What am I going to do with it? I have no building to put it in?” So I went to the bank and I said, “I need to borrow $250 thousand.” They said, “Well, do you got any collateral?” I go, “Of course not, you know who I am. I don’t have any collateral.” They said, “Well, you got to get a, you got to get an ordinance to build a tannery.” I’m out in the country in town and the town had an ordinance that said; no tanneries, no blacksmith shops, no lumber yards, no cold storage, any of that stuff and I said, “Well, you got all these other stuff but I can’t be entitled now?” They said no. They said, “You have to change the ordinance.” I thought, “Oh my God, I got to change the ordinance.” So, I went to the town council and pleaded and begged. I just want to stay in town in Dubois because when we first moved there in 1985, working for the game and fish, and when my first wife got cancer, there were people in town, there’s this little town at Dubois, Wyoming that raised so much money for us. We had to drive all the way to Salt Lake and in Poker teller to get treatments every week. We didn’t even have the gas money to do it with. There were these people that would come up to me and stick $20 in my pocket. I was a garbage man, that winter in Dubois. A whole garbage I got a lot of cool stuff that I hold on. There wasn’t a job that I, that I wouldn’t take. I was a garbage man in Dubois. The lumber mill had just shut down, it was pretty depressed and people constantly gave us money when we most needed it. I don’t know why, they just did. Sometimes, we needed just enough money to get to poker teller, to Salt Lake and people did that for us; and so I just felt this commitment back to Dubois. I owe Dubois for what you did to me. We had other options that we could have taken our tannery to and built it somewhere else, but for some reason, God decided we need to have it in Dubois. So we did. So I had to go to town ordinance they voted it down three times because a couple of people didn’t like my tannery idea. I mean, they just, we went there with tears on our eyes saying, “I just want to be here in Dubois. I just want to build a tannery. My kids want to grow up here in this town. We love this town. The people did so much for us. I want to give back to it.” Finally, the bank said, “We can’t loan you any money, until you get an ordinance passed.” Finally after months, we got an ordinance pass. The bank said, “Okay, you’ve got to write a business plan.” I thought, “Oh my God!” I go, “Not a business plan, I don’t know how to write a business plan.” He said, “Well, you got to write one because we’re going to get an SBA loan and that’ll cover 80 percent of your loan.” I thought, “That’s great.” So I went back home, I thought I have no idea how to write a business plan whatsoever, I had the books, no idea. So what I did was, I just told them my story. I said, “Here’s who we are, and we’re from Nebraska, and we’re Germans, and we’re hard workers, and we’ve never cheated anybody on a debt. We owed a lot of money to the doctors, we paid it off. We had borrowed people $5,000, we paid them off. Because we promised. We put our word out to it that we do that and the bank was made up of people who were loggers and ranchers that were hardworking people. Meanwhile, I’d been working in the community, helping out youth groups and the Chamber of Commerce and doing things. Doing whatever I could to help out the community. They said, “You know what, we’re going to help me out.” So I wrote the business plan which was just my life. I just said, “Here’s who I am, here’s what I want to do and I promise I’ll pay you back.” The SBA said that was a nicest business plan they’ve ever seen. I thought, “Well, that’s pretty cool, but it’s Wyoming, there’s not a lot of business plans probably but they thought it was great.” I had a million ideas. I mean, I was a shotgun approach for I was going to not only tan hides I was going to clean semi-truck tarps. I was going to clean saddle blankets, I was going to get me a cool stories. The store- I had a million ideas. I mean I just puked it out there. I wrote it all down and it was grandiose. So I went to the bank and I said, “Oh, here it is,” and the SBA said, “That’s great we’re going to loan you 80 percent of the money, you got 20 percent you’ve got to come up with.” The bank says, “You got 20 percent?” I said, “No, I don’t have any money.” I had no money. I owed everybody money. A guy who wanted to build my tannery was a contractor named Gary Epps, and Gary died a few while back. Gary said, “I believe in you. So I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I got a piece of property in town and I’m going to give you that land and take a second mortgage on you, it’s worth $40,000.” That’s a market value. “You take that land, go to the bank, and use that as collateral.” I said, “Okay, cool.” So I went to the bank, and they said, “Are you sure?” I said, “No, Gary thinks, he’s going to sign a second mortgage on.” So he did. Gary built my building and as we’re building the building, we thought we had no place to live. We were going to have a huge mortgage on this tannery. Meanwhile, all this equipment was coming from New York and I’m out there in the snow in the winter welding and trying to put all this stuff together figuring out. Now, I’m going to have a building to put it in. So I’m putting all this equipment together. The banks decide whether they going to loan me the money. I got the 40 percent now or the extra 20 percent, and we’re working away. Christmas Eve we’re sitting there in the store and I don’t have the back-end done. So big wooden building in the front and it’s a metal building in the back where the tannery is. I had almost done but I didn’t have enough money to finish it because we’d put a basement apartment into it because we need a place to live, and that cost like $30,000, $33,000. So we’re sitting there, we’re staying in the store and a friend of mine John Worth came by. John Worth of woodworker supply catalogs, the most aimless man I’ve ever met in my life. He’s an engineer. So if you guys are engineers, so anal. But John’s got a big heart. John was a self-made entrepreneur. He started out selling tools in his garage, and now he’s one of the largest woodworking companies in the United States. He’s good friend of ours and John came through Christmas Eve during day and he said, “Well, what are you doing?” I said, “We’re staying in the store.” We had no money for Christmas, nothing. If it wasn’t one for grandparents, our kids would have gotten nothing. By then I had two sons. So I said, “I’m out of money and I can’t finish the back of my tannery to finish the construction. I don’t know what I’m going to do?” He said, “You need to go to the bank, you need to write a plan out.” He said. “You need to write a plan that says why you need that extra $30,000 because what you do with it was build yourself a place to live, which is better financing in the long run. You got to go bank and tell them your story.” Oh, my God. So I said, “Okay.” So then John came back, cuting a Christmas tree and he walked back in the shop and he said, “You know what Joe and I’ve been thinking about this.” He said, “You go to the bank and do that. If they won’t give you the money, I’ll buy off the loan and I’ll finance you.” I thought, “Oh my God, you do that for me?” He said, “Yeah, absolutely because I trust you. I believe in you and I trust you.” I said, “Okay.” So I went to the bank and I went to the President, he goes, “Are you out of your mind?” He said, “You’re already borderline with quarter of a million dollar worth of money, you want to borrow another 30,000?” I said, “If I don’t, I can’t keep my business.” So we all go talk to the board. The board said, “Well, hell why not. We already gave 250,000, we’ll give you a couple more.” So they gave me $30,000 more and I went back and I said, “Okay, I got more money.” Then I was so close to get the building done, I couldn’t afford to finish it. I went to the contractor who gave me the land. I said, “Gary I, can’t afford to pay you anymore. I can’t afford your percentage.” I said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” He said, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.” He said, “I’m going to subtract my percentage off. You hire my guys at their wage. You can have all my tools. I’ll take my self clear of picture and then we take another dime for you.” That was the only way we finished that building. Then we finished the building, moved all the equipment in and we started up rocking and rolling. We were doing really well. We have a lot of homes in Jackson, we were doing furniture. We were, oh, my phone is on. Don’t you hate if that happens. It’s not my mom, so it’s okay. This is my first phone that I’ve had like this. When I first got it, I dressed it up because I thought it was really funny, and here you go, honey, I can’t even read it. I made a selfie stick with a plunger on my head. If you go to my Facebook account, you’ll see all the creative ideas I did with selfie sticks. But the first one was a plunger on my head with a selfie stick. So now, we’re going great guns and we’re doing really well on the business. We have a lot of clients in Jackson and they’re buying a lot of furniture, and were doing well. So we buy some land outside of town because my wife decided that she can’t live in the basement anymore, we need to buy some land for a house. So we did that, were back in debt again. So we lived there for awhile and things got deteriorated, got worse and worse, ended up getting a divorce back in 2007. During that time to the recession hit, and everybody with all these multi-million dollar homes wasn’t buying stuff anymore. During that time, I decided that I had a lot of heights for tannery, we had five-six employees, things were going good. Pretty soon, people just start doing other things and I was getting less and less people. I had to decide what was I going to do? A lot of people were complaining that, “Oh my God, business is down, tourism down, I got to quit my business.” I didn’t think that way. What I thought, “Okay, what am I going to do now?” Well, during this time, I was doing reenactments, dressed up in clothing and going to these different events selling my goods. Then I got connect with people they said, “Hey, can you do movie costumes? Can you do Western?” “Oh yeah, of course I can. I can make anything.” I lied but I can make anything. So, I connected with these people and they said, “We need 150 pair of moccasins for a movie.” I said, “I can do it.” So after I got that tan and hides, what I did is I sold moccasins. Then pretty soon, I got to be more clothing and then I got to be on a movie set as assistant costumer, and I was making more principal costume. They were paying me ridiculous prices for this stuff, renting it, so I got it back. I sold it again and this kept going on and so, “This is so cool.” Then I got to do some public speaking things and people were paying me to stand up here and tell them my story. I said, “Oh my God, that’s so cool. Can you believe that?” So I kept thinking about all the different ideas that I could do to make my business work because if one thing wasn’t working, you had to come up with something else. So far, what I’ve tried to do is I do tepees, I set up tepees for people. Paint tepees, setup tepees, take down tepees. I’m the tepee guy in Dubois. I do costumes for western films and movies not quite as much but I do that. But I also made stuff for movies or for museums and other projects. I make clothing, buffalo coats, and things for people. A few years ago, I ended up getting into rawhide because I’m, “Oh, I can make rawhide because that’s easy.” You’re right on, tanning hides with a hair on. But if I can just let the hair slip off, I can make rawhide, we were going to make rawhide tanneries. So, I called a guy in Havre, Montana that said, “Yeah, I want to sell my tanner. I’m going to retire. So how much you want for it.” I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Let me look check the prices.” I went to the bank, we’d had pretty decent year and I said, “I need to borrow $30,000, I’m going to refinance my loan because last time I got a divorce, I took on all the debt and my mortgage went back up another $100,000.” So that, “Oh, shit, I’m back in debt. I have all the Fs. I owe people so much money.” I worked hard and I went back to bank and I said, “I need $30,000 added onto my loan because I’m going to buy this rawhide equipment up in Havre, Montana.” So, I got back home and I called Larry up there and I said, “Larry, I have $30,000, I’m going to buy your equipment. He said, “Joe, that 30, 000 can only buy the fleshing machine because that’s 45,000.” “Oh my God, what am I going to do now?” I’ve got all this big plan I’m going to make rawhide. The next day, a guy walked in my shop, Ron Johnson and he needed a piece made for his horse. He had a horse had an injury and he needed some raw, he need something. To prove that I’m going to help this crippled horse. So I showed him what he needed, we’re sitting there talking and I said, “You know, Ron.” He goes, “How things going?” “Well, I have this idea that I could buy this rawhide equipment and make a lot of money.” I said, “But the guy needs $80,000 for everything that I want to get.” I said, “I can get 30,000 from the bank but I don’t know what to do. My son said that he can propagate a military loan and loan me the money but I don’t want to put him through that.” Ron said, “You need 50,000?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, ” I got 50,000.” He said, “I’ll just write you a check.” I said, “Well, are you serious?” He said, “Why not. ” He said, “I trust you.” We shook hands on it. He said, “We probably ought to get some paperwork because I’m getting older.” He said, “I might die off and my son’s needs to know what’s going on here.” In a couple of days he wrote me a check for $50,000, I just gave the same interests I was paying on my loan just because of who I was and what I stood for and the work that I did. I was just brought to tears, I couldn’t believe people kept doing this for me. Why would they do it for me? I know why and that’s because I worked hard, I had integrity, I had responsibility, I had accountability, and my handshake was as good as gold, I’ve always believed that. So I bought all this tanning equipment, brought it all down to to Dubois again. Made several trips up there. Right now, I’m the largest rawhide producer of wild game in the United States. Well, maybe of deer and elk. Then, I thought what am I gonna do with all of it, all these other small size? So, I started making pet shoes. I’m the only person in the United States that makes rawhide pet shoes out of wild game and it’s all organic because I only to use food grade lime and vinegar to neutralize it. So if you need dog shoes, I’m the guy you want to see. But the problem is is that I’m working so hard day-to-day just with the operations. I don’t have anymore employees, I’m working by myself. Same-size building, I have kids that come in. Oh my gosh these kids. The millennium group. But these kids come in to me because they need work experience, and everybody just sends them to me. I asked God a long time ago for patience. He sent me these kids, and they’re absolutely dumb. They’re dumb as rocks. I was not a patient man in my 20s and 30s and even early 40s. But I’m telling you right now, nothing fazes me. These kids come in and they’re part of what’s called a sore group. They’re from all over the United States, usually come from pretty wealthy families and they don’t know a dang thing. They don’t know hot water, cold water. They don’t know righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. They don’t know anything. I’ve got hundreds of thousand dollars worth of equipment and a lot of sharp knives in there. What the hell, I’ve got insurance. So they come down here. One kid’s named William, and William is from New York City. All his life, he’s 19, 20 years old, and he’s lived on the 15th floor of this apartment. The kid has done nothing in his life remotely related to anything I’ve ever thought of. He’s never had to wash dishes, he never cooked a meal, he’s never done anything. Always gone to private schools. But he’s got some issues. So his parents send him off to this school, and they teach kids leadership stuff. The source was a great program. So they sent him and Daniel down to me. Oh my gosh, you have no idea. But Daniel is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever had. He loves doing crappy work. That’s my yodel. That’s the only one I can hear. I’m tone deaf. It’s the only one I can hear. I know how to turn it off. So anyway, these kids work so hard. In fact, because of my work ethics that I’ve done, I have parents send their kids to me for boot camp. They don’t get any electronics, and they cry a lot. I’m not very sympathetic to kids. I’ve had some eight, nine-year-olds all the way up to 15,16 years old. I go, yeah, they can just come live with me. All of this has helped me develop my business. I’ll never be rich, I’ll never have a great retirement. I love what I do because it gives me such satisfaction of taking something that’s so simple as just a rawhide, a nasty hide. I turn it into this beautiful project. When I finish it, I’ve never not appreciated a beautiful, soft buffalo hide. Along the way, some of the things that I’ve learned, number one, the first one was, fail, fail forward, no matter what. When you fail and you will fail, you fail forward. When I went to Africa for Naked and Afraid, that was a great opportunity. I was so lucky to get it. I was oldest one to do it, I had a cute partner, and I lost a lot of weight. It was a good diet plan. But when I got to go there, I got a free camping trip to Africa, and I was the oldest guy to do it. Here, I had this 29-year-old lesbian with me. I didn’t know that for about five days, and it’s called the darkest hour when you see it. But on the other hand, I come right out in the open: I’m conservative, Republican, Catholic. Hope my partner’s the same: liberal, Democrat, gay, small, young. When we met each other, great big hugs, and we got along so well because we both knew that no matter what happened to us, there were people in the world that were surviving every day with a place to live, a job, no arms or legs, very, very difficult things. We only have to do is survive 21 days. My ex-wife at the time, we stay very connected because of two boys, was dying of heart failure, because of the cancer treatment that she got in 1985. It destroyed her heart and her lungs. So I was with my boys just before I left, and I said, “Don’t worry, things will be okay. Things are looking good.” I said, “No matter what happens with your mom, you guys have to really be close together.” She was back in Nebraska at the time. So I was confident that when I got back, things were going to be okay. During that time, on April 23rd, she died. So it was very difficult for my boys to deal with it because I should have been there. I felt huge, huge guilt. They didn’t tell me this. My producer called Mary Ellen, my wife here tonight, and said, “How’s Jean doing? She goes, “Well, she died yesterday.” They said, “Well, can we tell Joe and film his reactions?” She said, “‘No, the boys said don’t do that.” So I didn’t know this. Meanwhile, I’m out there trying to find something to eat, food. Believe me, a lot of shows are staged, a lot of it is crap, but I’ll tell you from my heart that everything we did, we earned it. I will have nothing less. I wasn’t going to take any handouts. They didn’t script anything to me. Probably why I’m never going to get on XL because I don’t do drama. I was there to survive, to help my partner. She had post-traumatic stress, her mother’s Mormon, her dad Mexican Catholic. She had all the bats against her trying to grow up as this gal in Moab, Utah, being gay. She’s an amazing, amazing person. I just love her to death. She had never been with a naked guy in her life ever, and we were spooning together at night. It was not comfortable for her. It’s all about survival, I kept saying. It’s all about survival. So anyway, look how happy she is. Actually, she’s going, “Oh, God, I’m going home. So she hated being naked too. She spent more time on clothes than getting food. My job was to get food, her job was to make her a new outfit. She owned 86 pair of shoes. The sandals I made her, she goes, “Oh, this is pair 87.” So yeah, 87 pair of shoes she has now. Every day when we were there, we first had to get the fire started. She had this crappy little fire starter that her grandfather gave her. When she pulled it out, I thought, “Oh, no.” because I had my knife. Not too many people know this, but hidden in my knife handle, they don’t know this today in Discovery, had an extra fire steel, fish hooks, and fishing line hidden my handle. Let’s not let it go outside this room here. Just in case things didn’t work, I was going to make sure I had extra stuff in my knife handle. So I lied to them when I got there about my knife. I said, you know, this knife was my father’s. It’s the only thing I got from him. They go, “‘Oh, God. You should get that knife.” I go, “Yes. I made the knife myself.” So it was a white lie but I got my knife. She got this crappy little fire starter. She’s trying to start the fire. I am doing my best to make sure that I get the finest tinder to get this fire going. She’s okay and skilled but she’s not great. But it didn’t matter, I just wanted someone with a great attitude. So meanwhile, while she’s drawing sparks on this and it is not going right. I said, “Well, I can’t do it.” She go, “I got to quit.” I go, “No, no. Fail, fail forward. I just got to get better tinder.” Finally, she got a spark, we got the fire going, she’s thrown big chunks of wood on, I’m trying to take them off. Thinking to myself, “Do not say anything because if you say it on camera, you own it and they will make you a villain to this sweet little Mexican girl.” So I didn’t say anything. I just kept put little pieces of wood on. We finally got the fire going, it was all great, hooray. She wanted a chest bump, I said, “No.” So anyway, now we got to get food, our first food are two grabs, they were grabalicious. She didn’t really like them that well but she got those. Then, for the next 12 days, we ate grubs, and menos, and snails. All the food for both of us in 12 days, if you masticated it up, would have filled this bottle in 12 days, okay? That’s how little food. But you don’t need much food, you need water, lots of water. We had a pot, we were able to boil water in it. I built these really cool traps. These are Polka bird traps, they’re so cool. But on 13th day, we finally caught one of the birds and it was like the greatest bird of my life. I tried to explain this, “How’d you feel about the bird?” The camera crew was gone. They’d already left for the night. So it’s just Andrea and I. So when I went over and I saw this bird, I was like, “Oh my God. This is so great.” She didn’t like killing things. Even though she owns a lot of guns, she’s a police officer once, she owns a lot of guns, she’s got a new pink Beretta, she doesn’t like killing things. So I had no problem popping that bird’s head off. No problem at all. But she’s happy about the bird. We cooked the bird that night and it was the best, delicious bird I’ve ever had my life. Then the next day they go, “What was it like killing that bird?” I tried to explain to them, “If you guys are hunters, guys and girls that hunt, if you remember the first time you ever killed your first duck, your first deer, your first goose, whatever it was, there’ll never be another first. There’s only one first, okay?” So that’s what it was like. It was emotional for me. But meanwhile, when they interviewed me, I kept saying, “Cowboy up. Cowboy up, I’m tough. Cowboy up.” But there were certainly emotional parts. One was the bird. The second one, she came out and said, “I’ve always felt worthless all my life and I always felt bad because of who I was.” She tried to kill herself. She had cuts on her wrist. One of the coolest things was that one of my mattresses has always been, when I’ve went through really difficult times of my life, I said, “Just breathe.” When I got to the airport, a little African girl that picked me up had tattooed on her arm, “Just breathe.” I go, “Oh my God.” I go, “That’s mine.” She goes, “Oh yeah, I was into drugs and alcohol and I wrote that on my hand to remind me when things get tough you just got to breath.” When I got to Andrea, she had a lot of tattoos. So on her wrist, in white, across her scars, was “Just breath.” I go, “Oh my God. That’s cool.” So that was a great connection for us and we kicked butt. We did a lot of really cool things, built this cool raft. When I got home, when I got out the last day, we went back to the Lodge, and I got on the internet, it was really spotty because we’re way out in the boonies. They had generators. I saw an email from my son that said, “Mama died.” Man, I just burst into tears. I was so upset because I thought, “Why couldn’t you wait? Why God couldn’t you just wait till I got home?” I felt so bad that I wasn’t there for my boys. Here, I just accomplished one of the most amazing things that I thought of my life. That I got to survive naked in Africa, all with a partner to help her out with minimal gear and I kick butt. Man, I mean, I kick butt. I had this personal trophy of mine on my imaginary shelf that said, “Look at what I did.” All of that was nothing because now, I had to go home to my two boys and trying to explain to them why I wasn’t there when their mother died. That was so difficult for me. So the plane ride home was really tough. When I got home, I realized several things. One thing was the fail, fail forward got me through it. I think that was really important. But what I learnt most importantly was that, pay attention to the details in life. All the things that I took for granted, I call them gifts of God, I think. The details I had to pay attention to out in Africa during the show was like how the birds behaved every day, where the food was, where the water was. All your senses become so enhanced when you’re out there with nothing. Your sense of taste and smell, we could smell people when they came towards us. So I learned when I got home, humbled that knowledge where I fail, fail forward, I had to pay attention to the details in life, okay? That was so important to me and I do. When I see something amazing, whether it’s a rainbow, whether it’s cloud, whatever it is. Sometimes when you meet people, I was talking to the students here before this, and I said, “I don’t know how positive, negative energy works, I just know that it does.” I know that when you have a lot of positive energy and you go to someone who’s in trouble and you give them a great big hug, that there’s a transfer of energy. I don’t know how it works, I don’t care how it works, I just know that it does. I told the students at the dinner table a little earlier today that you got to be positive. Andrea told me what got her through after the suicide and all the other stuff, she goes, “Joe, if you think positive, positive things happen”, and it did. We thought positive everyday, and then we even not only got one bird, we caught four birds and we caught a huge catfish, and I found Amarula tree with lots of fruit. Everything was so positive, and I vowed to myself after being with this person and she’s just unloaded on me all her difficulties and our tears were just flowing. In fact, there was a hug by all the camera crew. They were just bawling because the emotion that was with this of her telling her story. When I got home and I kept thinking about the details of life, I go “That’s so true, you really have to pay attention to the details in life.” Just like my story about my business, how people came into my life and gave me things I never expected, “I just never expected that you would be so good to me. Why would you do that for me?” I think again, it’s because of who I was, the presence that I had, and I tried to be good, and I tried to be positive, and I’m far from perfect. So I paid a lot of attention to the details when I got home. Lastly, one of the things I learned is that focus on the things you can control in life. I was just like you guys, probably dumber, but if I was going to college. But I worried all the time about, “Oh my God. I got a test coming up. I got a mortgage I got to pay. I got all these stuff.” I go, “Next week this might happen and this might happen. Or if this happens, I got to do this.” I worried, I stressed all the time, and it’s such a waste of time. So I learned that when you get up in the morning, focus on what you can control at this moment. So whether it’s tonight when you leave here, and what you do for your actions, when you leave here, the people that you see, the people that you’re going to greet, when you get up in the morning, when you go to class, and you go to work, and you meet people, you control your actions. Nobody else does. Never let anyone define who you are as a person. That’s one of the best thing I ever did for myself because despite all the financial burdens that I’ve gone through, I still go through, I still worry about am I going to get my business sold. What’s my life going to be like? Is this going to happen? Are we going to get another show? All these things I worried about, now I get up in the morning and I think, “Okay, what can I control today?” If I need money to pay a bill, it means I have to get up and work. It means I have to do the work, so that money comes in. God does not drop you a check off in the mail, I guarantee you, I’ve asked for it 100 time, doesn’t work. You need three things to survive. Number one, you need a good head, you need a good pair of hands because whatever you do, you’ve got to work with your hands and you need a good knife. Remember that, get good knife. You can do anything that you can think of. Some of the questions I got today when I was here is, what was the most difficult thing in Naked and Afraid and what was the best thing? The best thing was catching the first bird, and the most difficult thing was was freezing, was so difficult, cold, things like that. But when I got home, my relationship with Mary Ellen was different. My two sons, I didn’t see them for probably another two or three weeks and I knew that I did not have any control over being there. I’d already signed up for this, I couldn’t change it, I didn’t want to change it. I thought things were going to work out for the best, while I was gone and it ended up being that way. My sons had to stand on their own two feet. They had to count on each other to get over the grief of their mother dying. My family that was back there In Lincoln, stepped up to the plate and I have eight brothers and sisters. So we’re Catholic-Mormon combined, that many kids. They stepped off the plate and helped the boys all the way through it too and it was exactly what needed to happen and I had no control over that whatsoever. I’m at peace with that. I’m okay with that. So for me, it’s a matter of being at peace with yourself, working hard. Mike says it the best, “Love what you do.” One of the things, I just learned this quote the other day, this is so cool and has a lot to do with businesses, is that I saw this quote the other day about an apple, “It’s easy to count the seeds in an apple. We can take this apart, we can count every seed in there. We know for sure how many seeds are in this apple, but none of us know how many apples are in a seed.” Your businesses are the same way. You can lay everything you have out on the table, you can count it all out and you can figure everything that you have and you know that for a fact but nobody knows what the potential or your business can be and who you are. A couple of other pieces of advice to close with, John Worth again told me a couple of things for you guys that are going to run businesses. Number one, and this is great advice, when you do a good job, you produce a good product to a customer, they will tell 13 people that you did a great job. If you do a crappy job and you say that’s just good enough and you push your product out the door, 13 people, that one person is going to tell 13 people what a crappy product you had and it’s just going to keep going. The second best advice I got as an entrepreneur was, when someone calls you up and they’re angry at you because they didn’t like your product, your service or something about you, listen. Let them blow it off for five, 10 minutes. Then don’t offer them anything, don’t offer them because right away we’re ready to apologize, give them the world. John said, what you do is you say, “What can I do to make it right with you?” Nine and a half out of 10 times, they will ask for less of what you would have offered because all they want is to know that you cared about them. I practice that all the time now, I don’t BS. When I screw up, I tell them, “Look, of course I’m at the age now, I go brain fart, not my fault.” So I just tell them, “I’m sorry, I screwed up, I will make it my personal agenda to take care of you the next time” and I’ve never lost a customer because of that. So I think that’s important. So thank you very much, I really appreciate the audience, the time. If you have questions, you can ask me anything. Well, almost anything.>>Does anyone have any questions for Joe?>>It’s a quick question. You’re going to eat that apple?>>I’d give you half of it.>>Thank you.>>I did spit on my hands before I did that bow drill though but it’s all right.>>I’m just curious, how you gone Naked Afraid, did you submit yourself? Did they find you because you’re a cool guy or how did you get on that show?>>Nobody knew I was that cool. I watched these shows, all the different survival shows and I thought, “These people are idiots. They don’t know what they’re doing” and so I applied and I gave them this crazy story about who I am, I told them my boy scouts were the toughest ass troop for the United States and they are. So- they took us tremendous- I started in September and I didn’t know until December. They flew me out to LA, my God, they flew me out to LA, talk about a country mile in the city to interview, because they want to know what you’re like. So I’m out in LA, they take me to a hotel where we interviewed. I got my cowboy boots on, my cowboy hat, and I got this duffle bag and this, I think it’s really funny. So I’m squatting down, watching people with my back to the wall and there are the strangest people in California I’ve ever seen. I was really amazed when I got to Logan here and I went to Smith, and I’m, “Look at all these weird people, look at how they’re dressed,” because I don’t get out of town very much. As a honor, you guys know a buck from a dough, when your glass of don’t show how they walk. You know the difference. You can see right off. So I’m up against the wall there watching people in this hotel in LA and I’m watching this woman walk towards my, I’m thinking, “That’s a buck,” and I though, “Man, it’s dressed like a dough.” I was just thinking, “Oh my gosh,” and sure enough it was a buck in dough’s clothing. I kept asking myself, “Should I be here?” So I went through all the interviews and it took a long time and they finally called me back and I said, “Guess what, you’re in, you’re going to go and you’re going to Africa,” and I’m thinking, “Yes,” and at the same time, I was interviewing for a show called Migrations. It was on National Geographic of these 20 people that follow, it’s just a starvation marches all it was, and they follow the wilder beast across to Africa and some of my friends ended up getting on that. I’ve never applied for a show my life, I always thought it’d be cool to do a television show like the Red Green Show or something like that. But I thought, okay, and now had a chance to do two show. They were going to fly me to New York for the final interview for Migrations and hopeful I was going to get on, it was a good chance I was going to and then all of a sudden Naked and Afraid called, said, “You’re going to Africa” and I thought, “Oh my God, that’s so crazy.” So I just applied. I got really lucky, there are thousands of applicants. I have applied to Alone, I’ve applied to all the other survival shows, but I’m so screwed by this contract from Discovery because I don’t get out of it till May and you can’t do anything else. It’s a lawyer contract and it was written by LA lawyers. When I got the contract, I sent it to two lawyer friends of mine and I said, “What do you think of this?” They were, “You’d be an idiot to sign this.” They go, “But you’re perfect for the show.” I said, “Okay,” so I signed it and sent it off. So anyway, but who knows where I’ll go from there, I have no idea. Here’s another great quote, “Expectations are the seed of unhappiness.” Do not have expectations, I guarantee you you’re going to be disappointed. Have hope, lots of hope but never have expectation. So I have no expectations at all in life anymore. I have great hope though. Is that it? Ready for ice cream?>>All right Joe, well we just wanted to share a little bit of cash value with you.>>All right.>>Because you shared a little bit. So thank you so much.>>Thank you very much.>>Yes, that’s good.>>Thank you guys very much, I appreciate it.