Robert Gates has had the good fortune to live a long and eventful life — and it seems to be far from over. Ever since he was a young boy in a struggling household during the Depression, he has eagerly greeted the world with wonder and appreciation. Wherever he turned his gaze, he saw both beauty and opportunity — and he always met it more than
halfway. As you read his story, you see that Robert made his own success, over and over again, with a mixture of pluck and ingenuity, and by embracing hard, honest work.
Robert started supporting himself early on, by trapping animals for bounty and pelt money, and working summers on his Uncle Woody's farm. As soon as he was old enough, he began driving a milk truck (a full-time job while still in high school). He worked for a while on Frank Lloyd Wright's estate, and occasionally took afternoon tea with the world-famous architect.
When he saw his first chainsaw, a new invention in those days, it fascinated him, and he knew he was looking at his first career — as a logger and later a successful lumberyard owner and builder and seller of log homes. His logging career began when horses were still used in the woods to move logs, and it was with some misgivings that he finally traded them in for mechanized skidders.
Robert had the first Stihl chainsaw dealership in southern Wisconsin. He invented, developed and marketed a gas-and-oil can for use with chainsaws. He learned to fly an airplane, and quickly got his commercial license. Then he owned a series of
planes, developing a private charter service. Naturally, having an airplane opened the way to more adventure, and took Robert to far-flung places, including west to Montana, where he logged, lived, hunted and trapped for a few years. And his wings took him as far east as Maine, in connection with his log home franchise. Wherever he went, he made friends and gathered more stories to tell.
For much of his life, Robert has found an affinity with native Americans and their way of life — first among the Winnebago in Wisconsin, where he met the man who was to become his best friend, and later in Arizona, where he established close friendships with members of the Navajo and other tribes. He also values his many friendships with his brother Masons, an organization he considers very important in his life.
For the past twenty-one years (as of this writing) Robert and his wife Sandra have spent their winters living among friends in Arizona, where he is an avid and successful trapper. They summer near his boyhood home in southwest Wisconsin, where he still works full-time as a hazardous materials truck driver.
Robert is a world-class story-teller. For years, friends and relatives have been urging him to "write those stories down," and with this book he finally takes them at their word. It was my privilege to hear every story afresh, and to help get them all
on paper. The world has changed a lot in Robert's lifetime, and some of the things he did would now be impossible for anyone to duplicate. Nevertheless, in a time when so many people seem to prefer the well-worn path, it's inspiring to hear what a lively curiosity and independent thinking can accomplish.Thanks, Robert, for including me on this adventure.