“It was a critical moment . . . a turning point . . . and most of all a tragedy that day in 1997. I lost a best friend—one who had become like a brother to me. When Bill Brackman passed, he left behind his wife and children, his work, his stellar reputation, his business and a chaotic void in the place where he had made such a good life. I still miss him.”
In 1999, Judy Brackman, Bill’s widow, approached me and asked me if I would help her. We had all been good friends, my family and Bill’s, and I knew she was having problems, her sons were young and she didn’t know what to do. At first, in my mind, I thought, “No!” But then several reasons to the contrary came rushing in: I was between jobs, I realized that these people were my friends, part of my extended family! Judy was a real lady and a best friend, like Bill had been, to me and my wife.
The Finishing Touch was the concrete finishing business Bill had started back in 1976. Bill and his company had an outstanding reputation and Judy had worked the business with Bill. And, of course I inherited a couple of young, eager boys: Matt was 18 and Andrew was 15.
When I made up my mind to take it on, Judy was always so supportive of me. When I had to “remind” the boys of certain realities, she’d say “That’s what Bill would say!” She’d always back me.
I don’t think she expected it, but I asked her to resume her relationship with the customers and she was really good at that. She had an easy, understated way with people and she’d sit down, often with the lady of the house, and she’d help them make decisions on the decorative side of the project. She had a great sense of color, pattern and design and a natural rapport with people.
In 2003-04, Judy and I decided to sell some of the equipment to the boys, starting with a skid-steer and a pickup. The Finishing Touch had limited equipment at the time. Bill had used only a skid-steer, a trailer, a pickup and a dump truck for many years.
I guess it could be said that this was the beginning of Brackman Excavating: Although the real beginning, may be hidden in the family lore . . . it’s the story of the time the whole family was thought to be indoors. Suddenly, there was a crashing sound outside and they all evacuated into the backyard to find two-year-old Matt stuck up on the woodpile, sitting on his stalled-out tractor with an innocent expression on his face!
Boys are hungry 24/7... Two Dozen Donuts
I had my own children: boys and girls. So I had some experience when I took over the operation of The Finishing Touch back in 1999. But as I then began to work with Matthew (age 15) and Andrew (age 13) my first serious lesson learned was, “Boys are always hungry!” I feel like I raised those boys to some extent—I took a shift anyway. So part of my job was to make sure they were well fed during the work day.
In the early 2000’s, we had quite a boom here in the Twin Falls area and we started to get lots of work. So the Boys worked hard and their mom was happy because boys who work hard don’t have a lot of time to get into trouble.
At the same time they were learning a lot too and they soaked it up as fast as they could. We had a crew of just four and as I look back I wonder how we accomplished so much! There was me and the boys and we had John Wolters who was an older, really good-natured guy. The boys would tease him all the time and I thought, “He’s going to throw something at them!” But he’d just take it. He kind of played the role of grandfather.
We were on a big pour one morning and I flew to town to get something we needed for the job. Now out of these four guys, I know: John will eat one donut. I will eat one donut. That leaves ten for the boys. So I’m on the run to town and Matt calls me and says, “You might want to get a couple of dozen.” And he was serious! Well, I got back with a dozen donuts and I said, “I think you can live with five donuts apiece!”