copyWrite: July 30, 2014
Scanning through historical archives of our state's favorite Daily Oklahoman news publication, I found this odd but interesting classified ad inserted over one hundred years ago on May 21, 1914. "FOR SALE–Patent right: new invention: weighs and empties cotton sack by pulling a rope: has other uses: fortune for a man with money. Particulars, Horace Finch, Lookeba, Okla.
First thought was a disappointing "sounds like a Flim Flam Man scam and this guy's from my hometown." Second thought was "well at least it was a long time ago and nobody knows or remembers." Third thought was "ole Horace Finch must have been quite a character." Fourth thought was "he didn't actually leave any precise contact info." Without a fifth of thought, I moved on to search for other interesting items relative to relatives or hometown stuff. Great way to burn a few minutes of a rainy day unless your younger than fifty and need a little more excitement built into your life.
Ran across one other classified ad from ole Horace while looking around the early 1900's archives. About a year after his pitch to sell a patent right, he was looking to trade a "10-Acre truck farm one mile outside of Christine, Texas, for an A-1 conditioned Ford." Not for sure of value of either item in 1915, but it sounds less of a Flim Flam Man scam than patented rights to empty a cotton sack by pulling on a rope. That is, unless the land didn't actually exist along with that infamous ocean front property in Arizona.
This particular Saturday, June 19, 1915, classified posting would be the last read of Horace Finch in the form of published archives for near some thirty years. I was thinkin' maybe he scammed somebody large enough to land in jail on felony charges? Maybe he passed away as his age was never recognized in any way? Maybe he straightened up his Flim Flam ways and got married and joined the church and lived a normal life under public radar? Could be a number of things happen to ole Horace. So, who knows or who can guess his destiny?
A few months later I was bored and back at it. Sailing through the Oklahoman Archives searching for anything that might be odd, rare or interesting or possibly all three. Sure enough by weird science chance I found something cool to delve into. It was an article published in the November 2, 1942, edition of the Daily. Right there on the front page headline news read "State Man Invents Life Raft After Fire During Sea Flight."
The article was mostly about the invention of a life raft that "is saving lives of hundreds of American and British war fliers." The newly invented "drop" raft was being utilized by fighter and transport planes crossing the English Channel. This new invention allowed a flier in distress to jerk a valve cord, toss the invented bundle from a plane at any altitude or speed, and the rubber raft immediately begins automatic inflation from a cylinder of compressed carbon dioxide. According to article, "the raft drifts leaf-like to the water surface where it alights upright, fully provided with rations, drinking water, repair tools, smoke and whistle signals, fishing tackle, first aid kit and oars." Amazingly up to seven men can board without overload.
As his men did just that by tightening their parachute harness, the pilot began to consider the odds of survival if they had to jump. Results of consideration included frightfully slim chances while leaping into a broad ocean swarming with sharks.
Luckily, in this instance, the pilot shut off the flow of fuel to the burning motors. The fire died out, a sea landing was made and the motors repaired making it back to home base of Pearl Harbor.
With thoughts of the inadequacies of rescue equipment then in use, the pilot wandered towards the Naval machine shop on base. With more thoughts of the numberless times a pilot and crew may have to bail out of a ship with nothing but miles of water beneath, he went back to work on the "drop" life raft which has proved to be a priceless compliment to Naval aviation.
Well, now I have to apologize to the spirit of ole Horace Finch from Lookeba, Oklahoma. Turns out he didn't die near one hundred years ago and, he wasn't such a jail worthy Flim Flam Man after all. His infinite contribution to our military and to our society itself is immeasurable in regard to lives saved. I remove my LS cap and salute such a great man and am proud to say I'm from his hometown!
Horace M. Finch sacrificed over a quarter century of his life for our country as a U.S. Navy pilot and later as a U.S. Navy Warrant Officer. He enlisted in Oklahoma City in the year 1918. With an immaculate record of conduct, his marking for all subjects, including ability, leadership and seamanship, was nearly as high at 3.989.
Finch was 46 years old at the time of archived publishing in 1942. His father, Benjamin H. Finch, was a retired resident of Binger. Finch had two sisters, Mrs. C.W. Drake and Mrs. Walter Von Allman, both of Binger. One other sister, Mrs. L.R. Hall resided in Oklahoma City.
Caddo County has produced some interesting and great people over the years. MLB Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is first to come to mind as he was huge back in the 1970's with the Cincinnati Reds. Verlon Thompson is one of Oklahoma's ultimate songsmiths and is well known throughout the country and folk music industry. More recently, Mike Moore who was a 1989 World Series winner and MLB All-Star.
With such greatness found from people born within a county, it makes a person proud to be from "Peanut Country" for sure. But, in my opinion, no one from within home county lines has or will be able to differentiate themselves equal to or beyond the accomplishments of one Horace M. Finch from Lookeba, Oklahoma.