Much too soon.

I was surprised to see his name on the caller ID. Hadn’t spoken to Michael in a while. He had called more than once this morning, which gave me a sense of foreboding.

Sure enough. It wasn’t good news that prompted Michael’s call.

Our friend and radio associate, Tripp Haggard had passed away in the night. No warning, apparently. Just there, and then gone.

tripp

At McAlester High School we were in the same class, although he was one of the movers and shakers. Committees and groups and such. Much more of a joiner than I was at that age, although I did take membership in the Jaycees at his urging. Tripp was the president of the Pittsburg County chapter and later moved up in the national organization.

He did the morning radio news and made it fun to listen to, even if the news wasn’t always designed for entertainment. He and I swapped that job a time or two back in the day. Tripp moved on and moved up. I was the boomerang-er that kept popping back up on KTMC-AM until I finally sprouted my own set of wings.

Tulsa is a bigger town and Tripp and I fell out of touch, although we bumped into each other a couple of times at some festival or another. As I recall, he had gotten into the catering business and apparently did well at it. The image shows Tripp on the right looking comfortable in his apron. Coincidentally, I’m wearing one just like it as I type this. He and I shared interests, obviously, even if we didn’t share a lot of time together later on in our lives.

As we talked this morning, Michael reminded me that Tripp had run a cooking event in Tulsa that proved to be popular. In fact, a couple of years ago, Tulsa People recognized Tripp as one of the communities movers and shakers. He was nominated for the cookoff he organized and carried out to benefit charitable causes. From the article:

Tripp Haggard provided the vision and driving force to create the Oklahoma Championship Steak Cook-Off, and his strong will and leadership skills have made it a success each and every year. The event draws thousands to downtown Tulsa and receives rave reviews from all who attend. We are proud it is hosted at Trinity Episcopal Church, conducted by our Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence and a benefit for selected nonprofit organizations each year. All because of Tripp’s idea and leadership.”

The passing of an associate is certainly a reminder of our mortality. Even as I think of Tripp’s friends and family who will be shaken by the loss, I am determined to become a better correspondent with my own circle of acquaintances.

Because, you just never know.

Rest in peace, my friend.

What do you do with a 2nd chance?

He survived the crash. Now he’s wondering why. If you look closely at the image, you can see Mr. Whitby wedged between two semi-trucks. That little grey thing wrapped around him used to be his pickup. It was a Chevy Silverado. That’s one of the big trucks.

He was driving on an interstate in Oregon yesterday morning, before the west coast fog had burned off. He crested a hill to find a semi-truck jackknifed across the highway. In the span of a few seconds, one collision led to two others and a pileup involving some twenty cars. Mr Whitby hit the brakes immediately, but it was too late. He slammed into the back of the trailer.

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Ten seconds later, another semi crested the same hill and smashed into Mr. Whitby’s stalled pickup.

A fellow named Sergi Karplyuk snapped the picture before he helped 27 year old Kaleb Whitby out of the wreckage. Mr. Karplyuk – another truck driver who narrowly avoided the wreckage – even asked permission to take the photo. The two of them managed to wiggle Mr. Whitby out of the broken window frame to safety. He needed two band-aids on his right hand. That’s it.

“Do you believe in miracles?” sportscaster Al Michaels once asked.

And maybe it is something along those lines that has Kaleb Whitby asking – why? Why did I survive? Looking at the picture of him trapped in that crushed truck, it is a thought-provoking scenario.

I finished a book the other night that promoted Why? as a theme. It’s a motivational-type story with a forward written by Urban Meyer, the coach of the just-crowned National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. That alone may have been enough to spur the brisk sales of Todd Gongwer’s “Lead…for God’s Sake,” but when there are endorsements by folks like OU’s Bob Stoops who recommend the book as “must reading” for any coach at any level – that’s enough to send the title into the out-of-stock category.

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Luckily, I got an order in early.

It isn’t the first book to imply that motivational tactics have to go beyond Reward and Punishment, and I won’t try to paraphrase Mr. Gongwer’s own approach to successful management. He does a good job of explaining why there has to be more involved in the creation of a winning team, whether it is on the playing field or in the corporate office.

Why – is a big question though. When players or employees realize that the coach or the boss has their best interests at heart, they respond like family… because they are. Hoping for the best, watching the backs of others, creating a comfortable (and some might say – loving) environment, and forgiving the unavoidable errors that are a part of life – those are the things done in a well-founded family.

When we ask ourselves “Why am I doing this?” and when the answer can be boiled down to “For others,” we can create scenarios for success and happiness. Sometimes the answer to the why-question takes some soul-searching.

The why-and-how-come facing Mr. Whitby will nag at him, as studies of survivors indicate. Survivors of catastrophes respond differently, of course, but many turn their interests toward the greater good, helping others, donating time toward charitable causes, or consoling those whose circumstances were not as fortunate.

And – why – am I passing this along?

I’m trying to justify my time here in the office watching Green Bay and Seattle, and Seattle has just recovered an onside kick late in the fourth quarter, so here is a good stopping point. Why?

Just because!

We’ll be serving it up Monday, so

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow, OK!

A Whale of a Time…

I didn’t know. Several things, in fact. The story about the giant white whale and Cap’n Ahab’s crazy quest for vengeance? Based on a true story.

Not so much the tale of an obsessed whaling captain: Herman Melville made that part up. But the section of his novel about the whale attacking the ship is based on an account of the Nantucket whaler Essex, lost in the south Pacific in 1820.

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It’s amazing the things that can be learned over lunch. While waiting on a table of ladies this afternoon, I was asked if I had an account of the sailing ship Essex, a title that I remembered having been in the Disasters at Sea section. (Yes: We do have an area for that specific topic…)

Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2001 recounting of the disaster is called “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.” It has been in and out of the shop numerous times over the years, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that I learned of the event behind the book.

After locating a hardcover copy, I carried it over the table and handed it to her. She mentioned that “this is the story that Moby Dick was based on.”

Well.

I had every reason to believe that Moby Dick was an original story, but not wanting to dispute a guest’s account, I opted to Google it. Wow.

As tough an account as is Moby Dick, the real story is positively hair-raising. Obviously, Herman Melville thought so too, because he created a wild-eyed whaling captain named Ahab in order to retell the disastrous story of the Essex and its loss at sea. In his retelling, Melville actually cleaned up the tale, a story much too gruesome to swallow. (Those of you who know the story of the Essex will please forgive my pun there… I can rarely resist cannibal puns.)

In the few minutes between the ladies’ finishing of their meal and the cash register I learned a lot about the Essex and its fate. The original account of the disaster was penned by twenty-three-year-old First Mate Owen Chase, one of the few survivors and the author of the first-hand recollection published in 1821.

After encountering a pod of whales and harpooning one, Chase noted that a whale much larger than normal was lingering nearby “acting strangely.” The stunned crew watched as the whale suddenly began swimming rapidly toward the ship, continuing its torpedo course until it rammed the wooden vessel. The whale floated next to the Essex as if injured, but moved away at last beyond the bow, but then turned back toward the ship.

“I turned around and saw him,” wrote Chase, “about one hundred rods [500 m or 550 yards] directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed of around 24 knots (44 km/h), and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship.”

Things went south from that point forward. Waaaaaay south.

To be specific: in the South Pacific, some two-thousand miles west of South America. That’s where the Essex sank, and the twenty sailors discussed their next course of action from their three whaleboats, the smaller craft used to chase and harpoon whales. They would be months aboard those stranded boats. Some never left. In the end, only eight crew members survived and eventually made their way back to Nantucket.

That’s where Owen Chase wrote down his recollections, which he titled “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex” and published in 1821. That’s the book that Herman Melville was so taken with that he adapted it for a fictional account – Moby Dick.

Foolishly, I thought the Chase book might be so obscure as to be available for purchase at a reasonable price. It is – if you consider $13,500 a reasonable price. There is a single copy offered currently in the bookseller circles. Of course, compared to a first edition copy of Moby Dick, Chase’s book IS a bargain. Melville’s version of the story was published in 1851 and is available for a smidgen over $35,000.

Of course, you’ll find a much more affordable copy in the Literature section here at the shop with no mention of the particular details of the whaling ship Essex.

Especially over lunch.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!