The FDIC's closing of IndyMac Bank brought back memories of Riverton, some fond, some not-so-fond.

First, the not-so-fond. Having to explain to panicky and angry depositors that "we're from the government and we're here to help you." Ha ha.

We have an IndyMac branch in Mission Viejo. I went over there on the Monday morning after the closing to watch the fun. There was a crowd of maybe 200 and a nervous FDIC staffer trying to answer questions...


You can always tell the FDIC guy. He's the one in suit and tie. Perfect target...


I don't know what it's like today at the FDIC, but in 1985, we had something called the "Matt Bader Rule."

First, a little background. When the FDIC moves into your town and sets up shop, it's a signal that the local economy is probably "tits up". That's military talk for being on the ropes. Typically, they hire out-of-work credit and banking types, of which there are many in the community by the time the "Feds" show up. Face it. If the local economy's bad, banks and loan companies are cutting staff.

The FDIC had two types of employees back then. The temporaries, who were on year-to-year contracts. And the "GGs", or Government Grades, who were permanent. GGs were expected to relocate at the drop of a hat. When they made you a GG, they told you to "keep a bag packed."

Now then, about the Matt Bader Rule. Matt Bader was an in-your-face, burnt-out-behind-the-eyeballs, loose cannon whackjob who signed a one-year contract as a Liquidation Assistant at the Costa Mesa office. Right away he put in for GG. He picked a good time. The FDIC had a slew of problem banks out there and hardly anyone to handle them. They were delighted to make Matt a GG and, six months later, they shot him off to Cody, Wyoming, to help close a bank there. Matt got upset and quit. Evidently, he thought they were joking about keeping a bag packed.

After that, there were no delays. The minute you made GG, you were sent packing. They wanted to be sure of you right at the getgo. Within days, I was sent to Puerto Rico. Then they yanked me out of Puerto Rico and sent me to Oregon. From Oregon, they sent me out to Riverton, Wyoming. I owe it all to Matt Bader. Thanks, Matt. You're a pal.


Riverton, Wyoming.

What did Digger Phelps say about Las Cruces, NM? "It's not Hell, but you can see it from there." That fits Riverton to a T.

August, 1985. I was working out of the Portland office.


I was rarely in Portland. More likely than not, I was out at closings in places like Gold Beach, Enterprise, Turlock. It was all a blur. Just one vast metropolis after another.

I got a phone call from Bob Longworth. "You're going to be the Assistant Liquidator in Charge at American National Bank in Riverton. You got two days to get out there." "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

The biggest thing in Riverton is the K-Mart. That should tell you all you need to know.

A week after the closing, I was on the front page of the paper....


Like the article says, First Wyoming Bankcorp took over the failed bank. Their people were in the offices in the bank building. I and my staff were upstairs across the street in a building called the Executive Mart.

A hundred years before, the Executive Mart was a saloon and a whorehouse, dispensing pleasure (liquid and otherwise) to Swedish sheepherders and Irish railroad workers. In 1985, it was a two-story red brick building with a restaurant on the first floor and office space on the second. It was owned by this couple going through a nasty divorce. She ran the restaurant. He had an office upstairs where he spent a lot of time pretending to sell real estate. One daughter helped the Mom. The other had a tanning clinic in two of the upstairs suites. It was fun watching them walk on eggshells around each other.

Funny story. Some of Riverton's businesswomen decided to hold a fundraiser. It was advertised as a "Girls Night Out" affair. What it was, was, they had rented the American Legion Hall for a Tuesday night and they were bringing in two male strippers from Cheyenne. So on the day of the event, these two guys smelling like Thai hookers pull up in a Hertz Rent-a-Car and head up the stairs straight to the tanning clinic next to my office for a tuneup. The husband decided right then and there to make a scene, because the wife had put the Executive Mart phone number on the "Girls Night Out" flyer and it seemed like every horny woman in town was calling up to make reservations. He said it was disgraceful. Disgusting. Embarrassing. A blot on the family name. She suggested he go out in the parking lot and sodomize a goat. Or words to that effect. The strippers rolled their eyes and shined it on.


One of the fond memories of life in the FDIC was seeing the USA. All of it.

When I was in Riverton, I took a few days off after things quieted down and headed east to a spot near the South Dakota border where there's a National Monument called Devil's Tower. There's all this Indian mythology about it which is mostly bullshit. There's also a lot of bullshit about aliens living there. The fact is, there was a volcano and the molten core cooled and solidified into rock. The mountain eroded away leaving this core which sticks up like a 900 foot hard-on.


Here's Devil's Tower up close and personal.


And around Devil's Tower you have all these prairie dogs. They're friendly, up to a point. Here's my boy, Tom, playing hide-and-seek with a prairie dog.



Thinking back now on all those bank closings, all the trips to small towns in the dead of winter, all those K-Marts and Dairy Queens, two things I know to be true:

1. Matt Bader was wrong to quit. He shouldda stuck it out. The FDIC retirement package is awesome and well worth the drudgery.

2. No one believes you when you say, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."

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Bruce Aboff said...

I was there in Riverton with Dale. Great guy, not a drinker and everyone else was. Knew Semi tough and baseball. Fell in love with it out there. Met someone---was the alternative to a cowboy, you know, get in the pickup. I'm a city kid, and the openness of the country was great. Fishing at Alcova north of Casper. I enjoyed the heck out of it, but part of it was being a kids. Flew to Reno for a weekend. Heck of a time.

Unknown said...

Great to hear from you, Bruce. Yes, Riverton was great as a getaway from the dweebs and the nerds and the bean counters. I recall you went on a great road trip to Jackson Hole or someplace up north. Came back with some cool pictures and outrageous stories. Life was good back then....

Kristine Calitri said...

Dale, I loved your story! You are a most entertaining raconteur. Where can I read more of your adventures?

Unknown said...

Thanks, Kristine, I do appreciate it!