Monday, November 07, 2005

Courting Disaster

Our local paper ran a story of an incident that happened in the area last week. It seems that three laborers (probably illegal immigrants, as evidenced from the rest of the story) were working for a homeowner near one of our little town’s larger lakes.

The men decided to take a break, and “borrowed” a rowboat they found. The rowboat was a two-man craft, but that didn’t stop all three from piling into it and heading into the water.

The hull of the boat was damaged in some way, and the boat began to take on water. So they turned and tried to head back to shore.

About 100 feet from the shore, the boat sank. The two men who could swim made it to shore safely. The one who couldn’t… didn’t.

Emergency personnel were called. One of the wet survivors and another person took out another boat. They used paddles to locate the body of the third man. An ambulance team took him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead less than two hours after he climbed into the boat for a joyride.

The real tragedy, aside from the pointless death, is the fact that no one knows what town in Mexico the dead man comes from. They have no way of notifying his family of his demise. It is quite possible that his loved ones may never know what happened to him. In a very real way, America will have swallowed him up.

I’m not unsympathetic, but – honestly – what compelled him to go onto that boat in the first place? It’s a two-man boat. There were three men. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that perhaps the person who cannot swim shouldn’t add extra weight to an already overburdened craft.

Furthermore, if he were still alive on the bottom of the lake, mere feet from shore, one wonders what he must have thought as people above him started jabbing oars into the water to locate him.

The entire story is a tragedy, to be sure. But it is a senseless one. The accident should have never happened. Knowing he couldn’t swim should have kept the man off the boat in the first place.

The story made me think of the whole book edit fiasco. Of course, the book is not a matter of life and death. And I hope you don’t think I’m trivializing the man’s drowning by drawing an analogous conclusion. But there are certain inescapable parallels.

It appears that the book’s author is over his head with the project. Perhaps he should have stayed on shore, and not even attempted to write the book in the first place. But that is no longer the issue. A manuscript exists, even though it is as full of holes as a damaged boat.

But the manuscript cannot float on its own. It needs emergency assistance. The publisher and I are more than willing to provide whatever help is necessary to keep the project afloat. But rather than helping us dive into the material and bring up something worth saving, the writer is rather ineffectively paddling about, stabbing at surface issues. He’s knocking the real problems aside, rather than grappling with them.

The window of opportunity is rapidly closing. A rival publisher will soon release a competitive title. And the writer is busy avoiding us or making excuses for not working.

If he had only rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work when I first received the project back in August, his part would be done. In all likelihood, the project would have been revived and well on it’s way to recovery by now. Instead, it languishes in my filing cabinet, waiting for him to decide he’s ready to work on it.

I’m certainly not suggesting that one should never try new things. But my point is this: when you do venture into uncharted waters and try something that is out of your range of experience, do so advisedly. Don’t leave behind a life vest, if you can’t swim. And don’t hold would-be rescuers at arm’s length. If you do, you are only courting disaster. And disaster rarely plays hard to get.


On a completely unrelated note, my very talented friend Sharie Conard was named the 2005 Female Vocalist of the Year for USAGEM on Friday in Nashville, TN. Sharie also received the 2005 Ruby Award given to an individual who has shown outstanding dedication to the organization. She signed a deal with a recording company over the weekend as well.

Sharie recorded my song, “Carol of the Horse,” (which was nominated for Song of the Year) and included it on her current album release. It’s her lovely voice on the track that will accompany the book – once we find a publisher.

Anyway, no one deserves recognition and plaudits for her talent any more than Sharie does. I’m very proud of her.