Historic people

Lost & Found

Have you ever been lost? I mean lost. I’m talking totally turned around, can’t remember which way you came from, cheeks flushing in frustration lost. Up until a few weeks ago, I don’t think I could’ve recalled being in that kind of situation. And, if I’m honest, I may have made (friendly) fun of someone who ended up in the predicament I was in. Here’s a brief summary, and then I’ll get to how this is history related:

My destination was a 7-year-old’s birthday party at a generic “fun center” in a town just down the road. A town that I have been to literally countless times. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? WRONG. I was feeling quite prepared as I set out, even having consulted the almighty internet for a map to the party. One missed turn, however, and a town in my backyard turns into a labyrinth of neighborhoods and strip malls. And then it got dark. And started to rain.2016-01-25 12.11.55[1]

Amidst such helpful comments coming from my two young sons in the backseat as: “you should just keep turning right, because then we will be going the RIGHT way!” and “we probably wouldn’t be lost if daddy was here,” I began to think about people in the past who have been lost. Because that is the nerdy sort of thing that I do. And not lost on their way to a birthday party, armed with a cell phone, and a friendly grandmother to the birthday boy to finally seek me out and let me follow her to the fun center (yes, this actually happened). But real people who found themselves “lost,” the end of their stories still unwritten.

I thought of Amelia Earhart, and Jimmy Hoffa. And then I wondered about others on the list of the missing. So, after recovering from my own disoriented experience, I did a little research. And I found, among a list of the lost and unaccounted for, the name Richard Halliburton.Richard_Halliburton[1]

Photo: a public domain image.  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Richard_Halliburton.jpg

I am now completely fascinated with this man. He was lost at sea in 1939 while attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean from Hong Kong to San Francisco in a Chinese sailing ship. But this is small beans compared to the adventures that Halliburton embarked upon during his 39 years. Here are just a few examples: he swam the length of the Panama Canal, he took the first aerial photograph of Mt. Everest from standing in the open cockpit of a plane that he and aviator Moye Stephens flew around the world, he climbed both the Matterhorn and Mt. Fuji, and crossed the alps on an elephant, Hannibal style. This is just a short list. Wow.

I’m always amazed at people who cram adventures that seem to belong in movies into their real lives, and in this case, so many of them. I have to say, it makes me feel like a bit of a slouch.

Halliburton documented his adventures and was one of the first to make a career out of “travel writing.” What a cool, cool guy. Too cool for me to not research him further or for this to be my only post about him, so, you’ll be hearing about him every now and again on this blog. I’ve started reading Richard Halliburton, His Story of His Life’s Adventure, which is the publication of a series of letters he wrote to his parents throughout his lifetime. I’ll post about this reading periodically.

My experience of getting lost a few weeks ago ended up helping me to find this fascinating character in history, so for that, I take back all the inward cursing of internet maps and confusing road signs that I subscribed to during my off course wanderings, and thank the misadventure for leading me to find Richard Halliburton.


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