Willie Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times, but he may be remembered best for the race he did not win. That was in 1957. He was aboard Gallant Man and gaining on Bill Hartack riding Iron Liege as the two horses dueled down the stretch.
Then an incredible lapse in attention occurred. As the horses passed the sixteenth pole, Shoemaker thought he had passed the finish line and stood up. Quickly he bounced back into the saddle and began riding hard again. But Gallant Man could not overtake Hartack and Iron Liege, who won by a nose.
John Nerud, the trainer for Gallant Man, stated, “I never figured out why he pulled up. He was one of the greatest riders ever.”
The answer seems to be simply that he was not paying attention. Paying attention to what is going around you, especially when you are about to win the Kentucky Derby, is the difference between defeat and victory!
Practical jokes can cause serious consequences. In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.
Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke.
The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
This touch of humor broke the tension caused by this practical joke.
Look for the humor in frustrating situations.
Locally, a recent issue is money used by the city to bury unclaimed bodies. It is hard to visualize a person so alone in the world that when he dies, no relative or friend cares enough to claim the remains. This is becoming more of a problem because of the increase in the number of unclaimed bodies. In 2011, Cincinnati spent $82,000 on pauper deaths compared to $43,000 in 2007.
Recently, in a neighboring city, a man died, remains unclaimed. No pallbearers were at his burial, and the cemetery director delivered the eulogy. Since he had served a tour in Vietnam, two soldiers came from Ft. Knox to represent the military. This story is repeated often in every large metropolitan area.
It is hard to imagine being so alone that when you die, no one cares enough to bury your remains except the state.
This story demonstrates the need to be a friend to those without friends and to keep track of people who live alone. As actress Anne Hathaway said, “Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me. “
My son has always been interested in coins and bills and as a child would often examine my coin stashes before I deposited them in the bank. Before he left home 20 years ago, he always rolled the coins for me.
This past week he received a fifty-dollar bill when obtaining cash from his bank. As he started to place it in his billfold, he noticed it looked a bit different from the other bills. So he looked more closely and discovered it was a series from the 1960’s, printed before he was born. Since the average life span of a $50 bill is 55 months, he thought perhaps it might be worth more than $50. So he priced the bill on E-bay for $75 and sold it in two days for the $25 profit. All the result of paying attention.
Simply giving careful attention to the ordinary and common can yield positive results. It pays to pay attention.