Jay Leno in his ultra rare Doble steamer stopped by one of my book signings at Auto Books Aero Books in Burbank.

It was a bizarre series of coincidences that led to an interview in Jay Leno’s garage. Long hours, hard work, endless research and laser focus on a goal ended with the biggest financial loss encountered to date. My first book contract was awarded because of who I knew and not what I knew. A literal wrong turn led to one of the most amazing jobs.

After years of trying to get my foot in the door at a major publisher, I was awarded a contract. The book was in the last stage of completion – final edit, photo selection, cover design approval. And then they declared bankruptcy and the project was brought to an abrupt end, with the company retaining publishing rights.

Much like Louis Chevrolet I haven’t always taken advantage of opportunity. And like the legendary Arizona frontier prospector Paulene Weaver, sometimes I never realized it was an opportunity until months or even years had passed. And then, like David Buick, there were incredible opportunities that I squandered or that were akin to an attempt to nail Jell-O to the wall.

In the past 18 months my entire world was up ended, and I had to draw on survival techniques through decades of good times and bad times. Can you relate?

I kicked off the year 2020 with bright and shining opportunity stretching to the far horizon. By the end of January my schedule included paid speaking engagements throughout the United States, western Canada and in central Europe. Even better, I had corporate sponsors for most of the travel expenses.

The first engagement was a museum fund raiser in Needles, California. As it turned out I packed out the house at the historic El Garces. I never imagined that this would be the highwater mark for the year. Within a few short weeks every engagement had been canceled, travel plans were suspended, and sponsors placed support on hold.

In March notice was given that Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, was the recipient of a major award. Then the publisher closed resultant of COVID-19, and promotion was reduced to almost nothing. Then the warehouse was reduced to a skeleton crew and as a result, even my order for books was delayed by weeks.

For months on end each day was a new high in low. The classes I teach for Mohave Community College were canceled. My pa passed and I was unable to return to Michigan. All work with tour companies was canceled, postponed or suspended.

In April, I took sick. When I finally gave in and went to the hospital with a temperature of 104 degrees, I was told that, “You do not currently meet testing criteria for COVID 19. However, your symptoms are indicative of either COVID 19 or another closely related viral illness.”

There is a point to this darkly comedic tale. It is best summed up by the legendary cowboy crooner Chris LeDoux. “He said “Sit tall in the saddle, Hold your head up high
Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky
And live like you ain’t afraid to die
And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride”

The past sixty days have been a complete reversal of fortune from 2020. But that doesn’t mean that these are trouble free times.

I accepted a book contract on a very short deadline. The final edit and photo selection was completed last week. And I have another book in the works with a deadline of October 1. But there was a snafu on paper work and so payment was delayed.

A few weeks ago I was the guest speaker at an event in Vail, Colorado with a very prestigious audience. I was compensated adequately and I also had the distinct pleasure of imitating an environmentalist on the way to a climate conference. The company plane was sent to Kingman to pick me up.

Apparently my performance was well received. I have now been invited to participate in a think tank series of round table discussions on business, tourism, and community development next spring.

Over the years I have developed a reputation in Kingman, Arizona, my adopted hometown. Of course the reputation I have today is quite different from the one I had years ago when a visit with Judge Clyde McCune was a regular occurrence. That fact alone makes the Kingman Main Street initiative to erect a statue in my honor even more amazing. There is definitely something darkly comedic in this distinct honor.

And there is another component to the Kingman Main Street initiative. I have accepted the task of developing a narrated, self guided walking tour of the historic district and Route 66 corridor. This is a project that I have envisioned since proposing it to the city tourism office in 2014.

Model of the proposed Jim HInckley by artist J. Anne Butler © Jim Hinckley

Another project is development of some promotional materials for the City of Tucumcari. This is a challenging and interesting project that checks all of the boxes. Tell people where to go. Provide a service. Learn something new. Make a dollar.

The key to a successful and relatively worry free life is an ability to adapt, to be flexible. The proverbial dog doo will hit the fan. You can take that to the bank. And you have little or no control over the circumstances. You do, however, have control over how you react and how you adapt.






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