Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Fallow Field

Carpinteria, California, USA

October 20, 2017

This essay, Fallow Field, is the sixteenth in an open group on People: It is also the prequel to View From A Fallow Wheatfield.

I am indebted to Don Cox who inspired this conversation.

True story. Christmas day. One of the jobs I requested and was assigned, was delivering Werner's Christmas presents to his friends in the San Francisco Bay Area. I loaded my teal Volkswagen  hatchback with all the carefully wrapped gifts, Werner's hand-calligraphed Christmas cards to accompany each one, and their recipients' names on a map showing where to deliver them. I called ahead from Werner's Franklin House  kitchen office to make delivery appointments (this was long before the days of cell phones) then set out down the steep hills of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge towards Marin county heading north for Tiburon.

Real estate in Tiburon is reputedly some of the most expensive in the United States. The view from the house in front of which I was now parked, not to mention the house itself, was stunning, breathtaking, mesmerizing. The owner of this fabulous home to whom I was delivering Werner's Christmas gift, was Don Cox. Don, before he became president of est, was vice-president of marketing and long range planning for Coca Cola, and now retired. I knocked, and Don himself opened the door. I delivered Werner's gift and prepared to leave. Don however, had other ideas. Resplendent in a Texan ten gallon  hat, western button down shirt, blue jeans, and high heeled cowboy boots, he asked if I'd like to come inside for eggnog. Would  I? I actually had more than enough time to make my next delivery, so I gladly accepted.

From president of est  ...
Photograph courtesy Wikimedia Commons
... to a fallow field ...
Photograph courtesy Supercuts
... to Supercuts
And that's how I got to be leaning back on my elbows, reclining on a shag rug on the floor sipping eggnog with Don Cox in his extraordinary home in front of its sheer plate glass windows, surveying out and down over the entire San Francisco bay, having delivered Werner's gift for him on Christmas day.

Knowing Don was retired, I asked him what he was doing with himself these days. He didn't answer immediately. Instead it seemed like he was savoring my question. Then the retired president of est  said (as if he'd only just recently discovered it for himself) "Well ... I seem  to be a fallow field"  to which I obviously had to ask "What do you mean 'a fallow field'  Don?".

A fallow field, he explained, is a field in which once, say, a crop grew. For whatever reason, the crop now no longer grows there, and the field has fallen into disuse. It may be covered in leaves. A few weeds have sprung up. It's empty, not sown with seed. It's fallow. And the notion of a fallow field (which was Don's entire thesis) is that something now new can and will grow in a fallow field. A fallow field is a field ripe with possibility. Don was looking for his next big idea ie at what seeds he could sow in that now fallow field he is, leaning back on his elbows, reclining next to me on the shag rug on the floor of his extraordinary home in front of its sheer plate glass windows, surveying out and down over the entire San Francisco bay, the two of us sipping eggnog on Christmas day, with Werner's open gift on a table nearby.

Too soon, waaay  too soon, it was time to go. I said goodbye and thanked him for a most enjoyable, insightful visit, then drove back down the Tiburon peninsula to continue delivering Werner's Christmas gifts. I didn't have to wait too long before finding out what became of Don and that fallow field he said he seemed to be: next, Don founded the Supercuts Franchisee Association DBA (ie Doing Business As) Supercuts, the hugely successful franchise chain of no-appointment consistent quality hair salons across these United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Today Supercuts has over two and a half thousand  salons in the USA alone. Some fallow field I would say, yes? And Don's idea of being a fallow field, unsure of what will come next, yet letting it be OK to be a fallow field transitioning between one of life's great adventures and the next, has stayed with me and served me ever since.

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