Thom Hickling, R.I.P.
Mornings are always the same in paradise. The sky lightens. Clouds always seem to hang over the mountains to east. They turn crimson on the edges and then, gradually pink, until the sun itself shows itself beneath them. It is a new day, just like the last one… and like none that has ever happened before.
Far out on the horizon, the sea is completely flat. Then, closer towards us, we see a chaos of small waves. But as we look closer to the shore, the waves form great rolling swells that crash into the rocks and pound down on the soft beach like an avalanche on a small mountain village. Except, it happens about once every 12 seconds and goes on night and day for all eternity. It is amazing that there are any rocks or beach left.
Today, we shuffle to our computer and sit with our shoulders stooped and our head low. We reckon today, as we do every day, but we reckon with a heavy heart. For we have lost one of our Daily Reckoning founding fathers…a dear reader…and a dear friend.
Thom Hickling was visiting his daughter, Holly, in Zambia, Africa, where she manages a refugee center. He had gone to spend Christmas with her. He sent us a photo just a couple days ago, showing the two of them, guitars in hand, entertaining a local crowd with Christmas carols, blues, rock & roll, and gospel songs. But the family got a call yesterday. Thom died in an auto accident. We are still not sure what has become of Holly.
We have always had a fondness for minstrels, misfits, and lost causes. At one time or another, Thom was probably all those things. He also had a wonderful habit of being around when you needed him…
We recall the first time we saw Thom – about 35 years ago. He wore a snappy outfit from the ’70s…and had a guitar on his back. The last time we saw him was only a week ago, at our Christmas party in Baltimore. He had not changed. He wore a pair of silver trimmed cowboy boots, a shimmery silk jacket, and one of those Texas string ties you could hang a man with. It was an odd get up for Baltimore, but Thom could make something like that work. Earlier in the day, Thom had led our annual meeting; he managed to turn a dull corporate event into a lively entertainment. Same thing at the party; Thom took over the microphone. Pretty soon, the whole place was rocking. Somehow, Thom could create a party just by walking into a room.
We also recall that when The Daily Reckoning was only an idea, Thom came along and got it going. He didn’t know much more about the Internet than the rest of us, but he was willing to try almost anything. And he had a network of contacts all his own. He brought in some of his musician friends. They wore their baseball caps backward, but they were forward looking when it came to technology. Somehow, the reckonings started going out in the last summer of the 20th century.
Another time, Thom was on hand when your editor thought he was dying. You need a good man around when you think your time has come. Thom comforted the family. Thom called the ambulance. Thom recorded our last words. And Thom prayed. Who knows? Maybe it was the prayers that turned the event from a tragedy into a farce.
Thom was there when we needed him. He almost saved our life. We only wish we could have saved his.
And so it is a new day…and a new world… It is not the world we wanted. It is not the one we made.
But it is the old world too. For the waves keep coming, one after another. Yesterday, they were glorious and beautiful. Today, they are dreary and relentless. Never stopping. Never slowing. The sea never goes quiet. The noise of it this morning was so awful we had to close the windows. But the groan continued, like a monster howling outside the city walls.
The waves keep bashing against the shore…wearing it down…pulverizing every rock…bleaching out every shell and tree…pounding, smashing, crushing, rubbing, melting, grinding…
…until every heart is broken…and every dream is turned to sand.
The Daily Reckoning
Decemeber 28, 2005 — Rancho San Jose de los Perros, Nicaragua