To understand what the man built, you have to travel the frontier. In his seven years as president and chief executive officer of Alaska Commercial Co., Allan Gallant did more than revive the oldest business in the state; he changed the face of the bush itself.

Take the town of Bethel. The two-and-a-half-hour flight west from Anchorage is a reminder of just how enormous, and how empty, Alaska is, a wilderness twice the size of Texas with fewer people than metropolitan Austin. You fly over mile after deserted mile, over the glaciers and peaks of the Alaska Range, over the sinkholes and silt streams of the endless tundra, until Bethel inally appears through the fog, a small airport and a collection of tar-paper shacks huddled along the slate-gray Kuskokwim River.The road from the airport to the harbor and backo is a rutted dirt loop running past the tanning salon and the sled-dog kennels, the piles of scrap wood and the rusting snowmobiles.

In this somewhat raw retail environment, on a site between the federal housing project and the town TV satellite dish, Allan Gallant had the chutzpah to plan a new Alaska Commercial store. Not just a small-time, small-town, beans-and-jeans trading post, either -- Gallant's store would be the biggest in Bethel's history, 47,000 self-contained square feet perched atop the permafrost. There would be space for offices and a videocassette rental store, a Japanese steak-house-and-sushi-bar, a post office, and a parking lot big enough for every pickup in town.

It was the kind of gamble that made Gallant and AC, as the company is known, a force to be reckoned with in the state, and it was pulled off with characteristic Gallant style. First he bullied his conservative board of directors into letting him take the risk. Then he bluffed his bankers into giving him another overdraft to build. "The Bethel Mall," read the bold brown letters on the side of the corrugated metal building, completed in October 1980. "Creative Financing By Allan D. Gallant."

Today, an average of more than 1,000 people flock through the doors each day. They include Yupik Eskimos, prospectors and trappers over from Cripple Creek, Eek, and Napakiak, men, women, and children from the rest of the 56 villages throughout the delta, all come to marvel at this wonder of American suburban culture transplanted to the bush. Before Gallant, the local AC carried such staples as Spam, Kool-Aid, and Pendleton wool shirts, most shipped in by barge. Now the grocery department features Boston and Bibb lettuce, Persian melons, and kiwi fruit, all flown in, plus orange juice squeezed in the store, freshly baked pizza, and cut flowers. You can still sell your gold nuggets, trade your furs, and buy axes or a new pair of mittens. But you can also buy Nike running shoes, a videocassette recorder, or a sweater like the one Krystle wears on "Dynasty." The mall is the region's largest source of credit and native employment; it has become a hangout as well. Grizzled fishermen sit in silence on the wooden benches that line the vestibule. Their grandsons, dressed in camouflage pants and Members Only jackets, drop quarter after quarter into the video-game machines.

There have always been merchants in the bush, of course, white men chasing boom times in fur or platinum, gold or oil. But Allan Gallant's Alaska Commercial was different. The company itself had been bought in 1977 by the Community Enterprise Development Corp. of Alaska (CEDC), a nonprofit agglomeration of community-based organizations, primarily native groups formed during the War on Proverty days, and it was an important symbol of native Alaskans' new wealth the power. As for Gallant, he was a social activist as much as a businessman. Though trained in finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, he had worked for 10 years as a community developer, first with the Ford Foundation and then as a private consultant, traveling from the Louisiana Delta to the South Side of Chicago to East Los Angeles. He thought of himself as a business packager, finding an opportunity for a community group, figuring out how to fund it, then matching it with a local entrepreneur.

Gallant doesn't look like a pioneer. Round, relentlessly ebullient, he peers out from behind Coke-bottle-thick glasses that are perpetually askew beneath disheveled gray hair, more a jovial walrus than a builder of empires. Still, pioneer and empire builder he was. When Gallant took over in 1977, Alaska Commercial was stagnant: 11 trading posts with 177 employees and $9 million in sales. By 1985 he had spread the company's trademarked red flag across the state, building a 23-store giant with more than 400 employees and $55 million in sales. He brought merchandising and marketing from the lower 48 to such settlements as Bethel and Cordova, and he delivered a string of profitable R&L's to his owners, all on borrowed dollars.

Even in the beginning of 1985, when Alaskans were predicting lean times as the great oil bonanza trickled out, Gallant saw nothing but new frontiers to conquer. For seven years, perpetually starved for cash, he had had to scramble to survive, battling not only the bush but also the go-slow bias of his board of directors. Now a new employee stock ownership plan had provided him with new capital, newly committed employees, and a transformed board. He planned to make AC a $100-million company, then take it public: it would be Alaska's first "twenty-first-century retailer," offering such in-store amenities as banking and insurance and travel services.

Instead, a few months later, the most innovative and successful merchant in the state was fired.

The statement issued to the newspapers after the May 8 meeting of the AC board of directors was brief and mysterious: three short sentences, including an appreciation of Gallant's "long and dedicated contribution in building the company." His dismissal, without cause, was effective immediately, and there was no other public comment.

Allan Gallant, the pioneer who transformed the frontier, was gone, voted out by the directors of the company he had built.

Alaska Commercial has been central to the state's history since long before Allan Gallant. The oldest business in Alaska, heir to the trading posts that sold staples to Russian trappers, it predates Secretary of State William Henry Seward's purchase of the territory in 1867. It was an AC river pilot, George Williams, who spread the news of the first gold strike in the Yukon in the fall of 1886, and it was company traders who kept the prospectors in grub and gold pans. When Roald Amundsen stumbled out of the bush and into the village of Eagle after his two-and-a-half-year trek to the pole, he stayed in a cabin owned by the local AC storekeeper.

Such frontier glamour, however, was lost on the Eskimos and other Indians who were AC's main customers. "AC fit the strereotype of the white trader," explains Perry Eaton, head of CEDC of Alaska Inc., AC's nonprofit parent. "Every villager from time immemorial has known the store was ripping him off. Retailing in rural Alaska is rape and run -- with the local people always the victims."

In the 1970s, both the politics and the economics of the situation began to change. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), passed by Congress in 1971 to settle the claims that were blocking construction of the Alaskan oil pipeline, awarded natives a total of nearly a billion dollars plus control of more than 40 million acres. The pipeline itself brought first-time cash employment to thousands of potential AC customers. Yet while new cable TV systems were introducing consumers to all the riches of the lower 48, most of those consumer dollars were flowing out of the bush to catalog operations like Sears and Eddie Bauer. Alaska Commercial Co. -- then known as Northern Commercial Co. -- was thus a logical purchase for CEDC, a chance both to stem that flow and to improve the lives of the villagers.

The asking price was $9 million. The company's major asset was $6 million worth of small land parcels scattered throughout the bush -- hardly solid collateral for debt, even if a banker had wanted to fund a social experiment -- and CEDC had nothing else in the way of assets or capital. Gallant, however, saw his deal in a week. For equity, he went to the government well, prying a $2.5-million grant out of Jimmy Carter's Washington. The other $6.5 million he borrowed, in part by overvaluing AC's inventory and receivables and in part, he says, by "playing on the bankers' guilt about a lifetime of ripping off Eskimos." Then Gallant was offered the task of making his deal work.

"When I finished putting it together," he says, "I knew it was the package of a lifetime. So I turned to the lady I was living with and said, 'Babe, let's get married and move there and run this.' I knew I couldn't miss. I've got a lot of balls, I really do."

The next few years bore out the bravado. Gallant's forecast called for modest growth: a few more stores and a few more jobs, raising sales from $9 million to say, $20 million. Instead, sales hit $35 million in 1983, $50 million in 1984, and $55 million in 1985. Behind the numbers lay some dramatic changes. The old store had been run by a bureaucracy in Kent, Wash. Gallant left accounting, buying, and warehousing there but moved headquarters to Anchorage, where he ran AC hands-on. For the first time, individual stores were linked together by regular managers' meetings, and bush-store managers were given a say in merchandising, marketing, and credit policies. Headquarters sprouted advertising and public relations departments, both new to the bush, along with experts for site location and long-range planning. To weather the state's notorious boom-and-bust cycles, Gallant diversified, creating a home-products division and a fashion division, strengthening the company's marinas, and going back into the fur business on a cash basis.

The old company had bought in bulk from a Seattle supplier; Gallant scoured the market, looking to buy as much as possible from Alaskan suppliers. The old company had shipped about a million pounds a year, mostly by barge. Gallant increased his hard goods turn from one to 3 and his grocery turn from 3 to 10, making a total of 15 million pounds of merchandise a year. To move it, he lobbied the U.S. Postal Service to permit merchants to ship bundled orders of foodstuffs by bush air service at parcel-post rates. Gallant still offered necessities like chewing tobacco and ammunition, but now they were loss leaders supplemented by a wide range of other goods. Customers were drawn in through regular sales and colored "best buy" fliers.

Gallant the social activist was as successful as Gallant the businessman. "I took this thing to prove you could mix social goals and economic goals, and make community ownership work," he says. "We believed that the old company was ripping off the villages. We were willing to say we're not going to make as much money on every dollar we sell, we're going to sell a lot more dollars' worth and make a lot more money. We believed as well that we could help employ natives, bring lower prices and better service to the people -- all those noble goals." Such ambitions helped make AC not only the dominant retailer but also the dominant private institution in its villages. Aisle signs were written in the local native tongue as well as in English; benches and bulletin boards in the lobby made the store a community center. Almost half of the employees were natives, including 20% of the managers.

The same closeness to village life informed Gallant's most celebrated concept, village corporation joint venturing. Gallant had neither land of his own nor money to buy it or build on it. So he convinced some local village corporations, funded by ANCSA, to lease village-owned stores to AC for a monthly rent and a percentage of sales or profits. It was an elegant move. The village corporation got an AC store in its town, along with a regular stream of income. Gallant got new stores, and the involvement and support of the local community for "their" AC store.

To grow at such a pace, though, Gallant needed all the creative financing he could muster. AC's new variety meant that merchandising and marketing decisions became a gamble, with winners and losers. Yet there were times when he didn't have the cash to cover payables, let alone to take a chance on new inventory. With the company perennially leveraged at ratios on the order of 3.5 to 1, Gallant used his bank line of credit as permanent financing.

Gallant's moves left his banker dazzled. "Allan wheeled and dealed, but he had demonstrated his ability," says Frank Kaufmann, vice-president of First Interstate Bank Alaska. "He may have been wild and loose, but he certainly knew how to spot an opportunity." Trouble was, the moves left his board dazzled as well, albeit in not quite the same way. "It's not what Allan wanted," explains board member Tom Humphrey, "but his style clashed with the low-key approach of the natives. Allan would get excited about something and he'd start yelling. But there were people on the board then who weren't even comfortable in English.

"Every time there was a board meeting there was some decision that had to be made. The board wanted to move slowly. Allan always made them feel rushed."

The board, of course, was Allan Gallant's boss.

You've got to give credit where credit is due," says Perry Eaton. "Gallant is a wizard. He brought the company to a market saturation. We have a product mix that is 10 times broader. And the social goals have been met in spades. But there comes a time in every company when a change is appropriate."

The 40-year-old Eaton is as buttoned-down as they come, a soft-spoken former banker at home in a tweed jacket and rep tie. A Koniagmuit, Eaton grew up working the fishing boats near his home on Kodiak Island, and had dreamed of a career as a cannery superintendent. But the politics of post-ANCSA Alaska opened new vistas. Rather than becoming an engineer, he studied finance and went into banking, first as a loan officer in Seattle, later as vice-president of marketing at United Bank Alaska, the nation's largest minority-owned bank. In 1981, he took the top job at CEDC.

Eaton has his ambitions. "There are maybe 300 players in this state," he explains, "and I suppose I'm somewhere in there." Someday, he says, he would like to be the state's first native lieutenant governor -- but for today his job is to ensure that CEDC runs smoothly enough to fulfill its mandate of native-controlled economic development. When Eaton joined CEDC, insiders believed that he was hired to keep a rein on Gallant's enthusiasm. While Gallant never reported directly to him, membership on the AC board was dictated by the CEDC board of directors, and Eaton was their eyes, ears, and native voice at corporate headquarters.

"There is a long history of tension between Perry and Allan," says Humphrey. "Allan is a classic risk seeker, and Perry is a classic risk averter."

In style, Gallant couldn't have been more of an entrepreneur if he owned AC himself. Eighteen separate department heads reported to him directly and deferred to his instructions. Staff members were treated like children, listened to and loved, but kept in their place. Gallant would carry a loyal employee like Tim Frye, later to become director of personnel and training and an employee board member, through years of alcoholism, helping him dry out and keeping his job secure; but he would dismiss an employee like Emerick Kauzlarich as "an old fart," for the crime of challenging Gallant's plans. Overweight and rumpled, loud of voice and quick of tongue, Gallant ran AC like the patriarch of a family business.

In particular, he put his board on notice from the start that "pure community ownership doesn't work." He had seen hundreds of community-owned businesses launched during the era of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, he said, and he had seen hundreds of them die, killed by social and political activists who wouldn't let "an old-style entrepreneur" do his job. "The problem is that a community group has difficulty understanding the difference between ownership and management," Gallant explained. He found the members of his own 12-person board a mixed blessing at best. They were patient equity, looking for long-range change rather than quarter-by-quarter goals. And they gave him eyes and ears in the bush, as when a native board member suggested the benches in store vestibules. But he felt they had no collective investment in AC, and that their style was alien. Most came from the village and regional corporations, natives introduced to such concepts as capital and margin by ANCSA. They had grown up in a world that rewarded caution and prized cooperation, and his highprofile juggling act made them nervous.

He certainly didn't want them to tell him how to run the business. If he wanted to float an overdraft for a mall in Bethel, it was a gamble he thought he could win. If he wanted to spend his time or money spinning off a natural-food supplier, it was because he saw a payoff down the road. If he wanted to create an employee-of-the-month award, then bill the company for the cost of the sublease of his Maui condo, it was all for the greater growth of the company.

"I guess I come from the school that believes you push until you hit the wall," Gallant admits.

"There was conflict from the beginning," Tom Humphrey remembers." The idea of rapid change was the hardest thing for the board to accept. Some of them wanted to keep the status quo, because they felt more comfortable that way."

In part, Gallant was trapped by his own success. The more the company grew, the more he put at risk and the more freedom he felt he needed. But the larger their stake became, the more the board members felt they needed to understand and shape policy decisions. When there was a profit at year's end, why was it always lower than he had promised? Why did they have to spend so much on growth? Why did they have to take almost 6% off the top of each store's gross to pay for his headquarters staff? Did he have to be quite so liberal in his terms with the villages -- wouldn't AC make more money if they gave up a little less in their joint-venture leases, or if they let prices reflect supply and demand more and village needs less?

"I'll run this my way," Gallant would tell them. "If you don't like my way, get someone else to run it for you."

"The board would continually go in to executive session, to talk without Allan," says Humphrey. "We'd usually agree that what he wanted to do was right, we just didn't like the way he presented it. The feeling was always, 'We'll let Allan get away with it one more time."

Gallant thought of the ESOP, approved in 1984 after a three-year battle, as his masterstroke. By convincing the board to sell one-third of the company to AC's employees, he got $2.45 million in new capital to fund his expansion plans. He also got a new voice on his board, a voice that he thought would understand what it took to make AC grow. "I had tried for years to split the ownership," Gallant remembers. "Then I said, let's put an ESOP in. You won't sell it to me. You won't sell it to outsiders. You won't sell it to the village corporations. Let's sell it to the employees.

"What finally convinced the board was the conclusion that to continue growing, I needed more money. They didn't have the $2.45 million we needed, and the most compatible partner for them was the employees. Gee, it was pretty -- the whole $2.45 million went right into the company, and the debt retirement is all deductible.

"It took a lot of doing, though. A lot of them said, 'To hell with it, why not just stop growing?' My response was, 'That's one alternative. But if that's the one you choose, I'm not running it for you."

Pushing through the ESOP, however, was the battle that cost Allan Gallant his job. Usually the master politician, he failed to understand how the new voice on the board would change the power equation. "Allan was probably writing his own pink slip all the time he was working for the ESOP," says Patricia Walsh, one of the four employee board members elected after the plan was instituted. "He failed to understand that a democratic company needed a democratic leader. He needed to be king."

"I tried to warn him," Perry Eaton says. "You have to respect your boss, and that's where he got in trouble. With the ESOP, the employees became his boss -- and he never understood that."

As 1984 came to a close, there was talk of a recession in the bush. Oil prices were down, and the flood of petrodollars was ending. Construction and government spending were being curtailed, and belt-tightening was the order of the day.

There were dire predictions for the bush's number-one merchant, too. Although AC's projected annual sales were up to $57 million, Gallant told his board that earnings would barely top $30,000. Although the ESOP was approved retroactive to April, the actual $2.45 million hadn't arrived until October, pushing Gallant through his available credit. A new store in the town of Cordova, originally scheduled to open in 1984, had been delayed for months. Even worse, Gallant had lobbied for the right to lease the Anchorage International Airport gift shop for $100,000 a month, then had watched as the store's opening was hampered by the discovery of asbestos in the airport ceiling. The board had approved the project, reluctantly, on the assumption that it would be a way of funneling money from the city into the bush. Now CEDC found itself in the uncomfortable position of owning a for-profit subsidiary that was taking dollars from the villages to subsidize Anchorage.

Gallant himself was beginning to feel burned out. He and Eaton sang each other's praises publicly, but the intrigue and manipulation taking place behind the scenes was wearing. He had fought to push the ESOP through, only to see Eaton convince the board that he should not share in the equity. Eaton told him that his plans to become a "twenty-first-century retailer," with cash machines, travel agencies, and financial services in the bush, "didn't pencil out" and would have to be shelved. Then Eaton had tried to get him to move upstairs, to take over a new for-profit holding company created under the CEDC umbrella. Frustrated and restless, Gallant spent more and more time in 1984 on personal ventures like his new natural-foods supply company and Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

After a month's vacation in Maui, though, his natural ebullience seemed to return. When he came back to start the new year, he announced that there were going to be some changes made.

For as long as he could remember, Gallant told his staff, the winter quarter had been a disaster for the company, with the biggest losses of the year. This year there would be a new productivity campaign, with a potential cash reward. All vacations would be suspended, and he was adding a half-hour of work time per day to the company's office hours. But, he promised, he would reward them all with cash bonuses if they could improve the company's performance by a certain amount.

The response astonished him.

Patricia Walsh, for one, was livid. "Imagine coming back after taking the month of December in Hawaii and telling everybody they couldn't take vacations!"

The board was equally inflamed. "Giving away profit is the board's prerogative, not yours," Eaton told him. "You're exceeding the boundaries of your authority."

"I've been taking that month off for four years, and I'm not going to change because of an ESOP," Gallant shot back. "If everybody worked as hard as I work, we'd have a better company."

"Not my prerogative!" he stormed to the board. "If that's where you are, maybe you ought to fire me."

By the end of the quarter, the issue was moot. Even with Gallant's austerity program in place, AC had lost money. But as spring began, the CEO was embroiled in far more serious problems.

Tim Frye, the recovering alcoholic Gallant had helped rehabilitate, was the last employee he might have expected to turn on him. But Frye was director of budget and systems, and once seated on the board, began to ask if Gallant's "creative financing" might not be a shade too creative. Expense accounts and car allowances, leased condos and political contributions: he made a list of possible transgressions and brought it to the board.

On April 17, Perry Eaton, accompanied by CEDC and AC board chairman Richard Romer and an accountant from Touche Ross & Co., appeared at the AC office in Kent, Wash., and began to delve into Gallant's financial management. Just how much compensation, exactly, was the CEO taking out of the company? Was he taking a $700 housing allowance that wasn't in his contract? What about Nutra-Source Inc., the natural-foods supplier? Gallant was a member of the board and part owner: did he have a $60,000 AC check written to purchase the Nutra-Source business? And what about the airport? Was there anything fishy about that lease? Was there any money being sloshed around -- to lobbyists or politicians, say?

The allegations that resulted were contained in an eight-page letter from the Touche Ross accountant to the board. Gallant didn't get to see them until the special board meeting convened on May 7 to discuss "possible termination of the president of Alaska Commercial Co. for cause."

"Chicken shit," Gallant wrote in bold black letters across his copy. But the lawyers hired by the board felt differently. They saw possible "malfeasance or fraud," and grounds for immediate dismissal.

To this day, Gallant remains convinced of his rectitude; he himself provided INC. with a copy of the Touche Ross letter and the lawyers' report. He had taken only the compensation he was entitled to, he said, the same as anyone else. Certainly there were problems at the airport, but these were not of his making.Yes, he had an AC check written to purchase Nutra-Source, but he had covered it from personal funds in five days "and at no time did the company have a nickel out." He insisted he had done only what it took to make the company grow. He had never crossed the line, and he had certainly never gotten rich.

"I should have gotten a lawyer, but that's not my style," Gallant says. "I argued that I ran it like it was mine, but for them. That's who I am. I didn't say I'd change. I couldn't.

"I didn't believe they would fire me; I'd have bet a huge amount of money they couldn't do it."

True or false, the charges were only a catalyst. Times had changed inside AC, even if Gallant couldn't. The era of pushing back the frontier had ended.

"Maybe the charges were petty, compared to whatever else was going on," Tim Frye said. "But there was a strong feeling we needed a different approach. We were in a very precarious position. Overhead was high. Morale was poor. It was public knowledge that the airport was leaving money on the table. I wanted a CEO who gave his staff an opportunity to look at these things.

"The employees weren't interested in growth. We wanted profits, and we talked to Allan about that. But Allan would never have been happy with that. He had us on the precipice of becoming a $100-million company."

For Perry Eaton and the board, the charges were one crisis too many. Eaton needed stability and order at AC to keep CEDC thriving -- and Gallant, finally, was as expendable as anyone else. "The needs of AC today are not growth related," he explains, echoing Frye. "Allan was a jovial genius who built an empire in spite of himself. But running the company never interested him, and that was all that was left.

"Nobody did him dirt; you have to know that. Whatever was done, he did to himself. Nobody got him; he got himself. He had a death wish."

The ending was decorous and discreet. The allegations would be overlooked; Gallant's dismissal would be without cause, and he would be entitled to 90 days' severance pay. But even as they negotiated the terms of the dismissal, the board members searched for one final compromise. They offered him a new job, "chairman of the executive committee," in a separate office, away from day-to-day operations. Gallant turned them down. "I cannot maintain my personal integrity, self-respect, and the confidence of my associates in the business world by supporting such a proposal," he wrote back with formal politeness. "I believe that a simply prepared press statement, approved by both of us, should be made to avoid any embarrassment to either party."

Then he packed up his desk and was gone, that same day. Still astonished. "I want you to know," he wrote, "that for the next three weeks I will be available to resume my full-time job should you so change your mind."

Allan Gallant's ghost was very much in evidence when the new AC store opened in Cordova last June. He had fought the board since 1978 to get it built, and now it was a 10,000-aquare-foot beauty, complete with a chicken broaster and optical scanners at the checkout. Construction delays had eaten into the company's profits and aggravated the board, but once the store opened it could compete with anything this side of Anchorage, an hour away by air.

The grand opening was a festive affair. Sam Salkin, Gallant's protege and successor as president and CEO, flew a group of some 40 employees, suppliers, and friends over for the day, for speeches and a ribbon cutting, followed by mimosas and tacos in the restaurant overlooking the fishing fleet. Outsiders were still surprised by the firing, and the company banker, Frank Kaufmann, was particularly apprehensive about the transition. But among AC's executives there was a feeling of relief, and an eagerness to put the trauma of the past few months behind them. Without Gallant, the company would be different -- more conservative, more attuned to building earnings, less concerned with charting new territory. Gallant had built an institution, and it would continue without him.

After all, there is no need for a pioneer once the frontier has been conquered. "There are people who think Perry set up the whole thing to get rid of me," Gallant muses. "I don't believe it. But he's a schemer. He could have stopped the process. Part of him was punishing me for pushing through the ESOP, hanging me on the rope I braided. He doesn't like my style. He doesn't like my visibility.

"I am not unique. There are six or seven guys who have gone through the same agony, entrepreneurs brought up from the lower 48 to run native corporations. We're a breed that went out and took a risk in a culture that doesn't reward risk-taking. There's a brief life span for all of us. If I had run the company quietly and nongrowth oriented, with no exposure, I'd still be there."

As to the future, Gallant is philosophical. "I'm a genius," he says cheerily. "I just have to figure out where to put that genius to work." He still has his dreams of a bush transformed, of helping to build a twenty-first-century retailer, and there will be other companies, although "never another where I'm not in control."

Meanwhile, he remains strangely tied to AC. For a few months, he moved only as far as a desk in a buddy's construction office just down the hall from AC headquarters. By now he has moved out. But he still feels tied to AC, his own brush with Alaskan history, and he still confers with Eaton and Salkin almost daily, "because after seven years I put a hell of an investment in there."

And Perry Eaton remains strangely tied to Allan Gallant. "I love that fat guy," he says. "We were blessed to have him while we had him. Losing him was my greatest failure.

"But Allan has a future to play in this state," Eaton promises. "I have great plans for him, if he'll play."