Several years ago, in one of those “let’s reflect on your life” TV news interviews, I was asked when I knew I had made it.
“When I realized I had 12 bird dogs,” I answered.
OK, it was a little tongue in cheek. But I’ve always felt that to be wealthy is to have an abundance of something you really love. And for me that something would be bird dogs. Back when I couldn’t afford one bird dog, I had two. When I couldn’t afford two, I had three. Today, I kennel around 25 pointing dogs, a couple of spaniels, and 13 Labrador retrievers at my Mesa Vista Ranch on the Canadian River in Roberts County, Texas.
Why? Because the Mesa Vista is 100 square miles of the world’s best bobwhite habitat. Each year, my guests and I spend 50 to 60 days out in the field quail hunting. Twenty-plus covey days and 15-bird limits are the norm. And that requires a lot of bird dogs.
But there are other ways I’ve realized I’ve made it, and two experiences on Twitter help tell the tale.
Yes, people still approach me and talk about how fascinated they are that I’m so active on social media, and Twitter in particular. It’s fun. And if we’ve learned anything from Donald Trump, it’s that tweets can make real news.
One of mine was a tweet with Drake, who, I’m told, is a rapper of some repute. One day he tweeted this out: “The first million is the hardest.” Someone tweeted back that Drake should check with me, @boonepickens. I picked up on that and followed up with “The first billion is a hell of a lot harder.” The rest was Twitter history.
No, making a billion dollars isn’t easy, and it didn’t happen to me until after I was 70.
Once, during a Twitter chat, I was asked: “What’s the hardest thing about being a billionaire?”
“Keeping it,” I responded.
My mother once admonished me to make money, and be generous with it. And I’ve followed that advice.
Several years ago, I fell off the Forbes’ “rich list” with a net worth just below $1 billion. Bad market calls and over $1 billion in charitable giving will do that to you.
Noted ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, a Twitter role model with 1.4 million followers, let them all know I’d fallen off the Forbes list.
“Don’t worry,” I tweeted back at him. “At $950 million, I’m doing fine. Funny, my $1 billion charitable giving exceeds my net worth.”
To me, that’s another way to know when you’ve made it and, coincidentally, lost it.