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Tumac White Lie

Despite being 5ö years younger than his brother Paul, Bob McCracken was close to Paul and his family. Bob lived with Paul, Sally (Paul’s wife) and their two-year old son, John right after college and the relationship grew.

Sally describes the brothers’ interactions at the time: “Paul and Bob had a typical sibling relationship in that Bob was always trying to trip Paul up a little bit to prove that he wasn’t the little guy, that he knew just as much as Paul did. They would sit at dinner and cite verse and page number of where they could find the answer that proved the other one was wrong. And you new neither one of them had any idea what they were talking about.”

In 1959, some Canadian friends in the industry offered Paul the backing he needed to leave his job at Hallinan-Mackin and start his own business. He told his co-worker in the Portland office, Bill McPherson (who is Dave Halsey’s grandfather) about the opportunity and McPherson said “I’ll go with you.” They formed Tumac, named for the two Macs—McCracken and McPherson—who formed it.

But Paul told a different story… as Sally recalls, it went like this:

“Paul was in New York at a dinner party and he was seated next to a sophisticate woman at this dinner who asked him, ‘where does the name Tumac come from?’ Paul decided that the truth was way too corny for her, so he made up a story on the spot—and this is classic Paul and Bob—Paul told her, ‘Well, ‘Tumac’ is an old Nez Perce Indian word that means ‘bountiful forests’.” And she thought that was lovely.

“Well, Paul comes home from that trip and he runs into a fellow at church who had written a book about the famous Nez Perce Chief Joseph. Paul tells him the story and wants to know if there is any chance he’ll be caught in the lie.

The guy tells him, ‘That’s the safest lie you’ll ever tell because there is no word ‘tumac’ and there is no word for ‘bountiful forest’. And there are only about three people in the world who know the Nez Perce language well enough to know that, so you are safe.’

“And that the kind of conversation Paul and Bob used to have all the time.”