From the organized clutter of Darrell's office.
Note: Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Holiday, Memoirs, Current Projects, Canning and Jelly Making, Book Report and more.
I did complete my next book, Space Trails and sent it off for editing. I also continued my memoirs and began this newsletter. Just as a note, I don't compose the newsletter all at once, but start a few days after the first of the month and work on it as ideas and subjects occur to me.
My memoirs have received quite a bit of attention from family, friends, fans of my books and other readers. I appreciate all the letters and comments I've received, especially from my uncle TC. Later in this newsletter I'm going to include a letter I got from him. Most of us today simply can't imagine what conditions were like for many Americans in the "olden days."
When's the last time you thanked your children for being good kids, just out of the blue, like "Sharon, you are really a good girl. Thanks you so much for being that way." Try it and you might be amazed at the reaction you get. Actually, it doesn't even have to be family or friends. How about the medical people and policemen and women working holidays? How often do we thank them for giving up those days to care for us and protect us? Not nearly often enough, most likely. We have a plumber who always calls right back when we leave a message and never fails to arrive when he says he will--or if he's unavoidably detained, he calls and lets us know. I made a special effort to remember and thank him for that courtesy the last time he was out here. Giving a little thanks for things you ordinarily don't think of doesn't take much time and it's certain to brighten another person's life. Give it a try!
I just noticed a nice review from a reader at Amazon for Medics Wild!, the fictionalized version of my time in Vietnam. The reviewer said I had put a lot of myself into the book and it's true--I did. I noticed a news item the other day about one of our naval ships making a port call in North Vietnam. How times have changed!
Alien Infection is still selling well. It is available in print, download and Audio versions. My most popular book, The Sex Gates, continues to do well, simply by word of mouth. It has become a small cult classic in the science fiction field.
We're making progress on getting the dust jacket ready for my first hard cover, Savage Survival. It should be released in the latter part of the year. Needless to say, I'm excited about my first hard cover book and really looking forward to it.
A couple of my short stories have been selected for audio versions, I'm pleased to say, and should be available soon at Fictionwise.com. They are "Darby" and "Unforeseen Reward." Both are available as downloads for reading on computers or hand held devices now at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. In fact, all my books are available at those two sites in electronic versions.
Canning and Jelly Making
I re-read a very old book by L. Sprague De Camp, "Rogue Queen." It's one of his best, and I've had it around for forty years or so, reading it every year or two again. Another repeat was "The Legacy of Heorot" by Niven, Pournelle and Barnes. Novels written by trios are rare but these three combined to produce one of the most remarkable books of intrastellar colonization I've ever read. I recommend it highly. A new one I picked up this month was "The Closers," a detective novel featuring Harry Bosche by Michael Connelly. I've read most of his work and this one is about as good as his others, all of which are on my shelves.
I continued reading more of Dan Mahoney's detective books. The latest, "Justice," was about a rogue cop who is killing drug dealers. It's as good as his others, I'm pleased to say.
I finally found a copy of "Lancet," a book I first read back in 1959, by Garet Rogers and have been searching for it for a long time. This is a fictional rendition of the life of the great 18th century surgeon, John Hunter. He was far ahead of his time. A factual history of his life recently was published also, entitled "Knife Man," which I've already reported on. I love it when I locate an old book like that. Since settling down here, and now that I found "Lancet," I've finally located all but one book I read as a young man and wanted to read again. Some of them I paid quite a lot of money for since they were collector's items, but I didn't begrudge the money, nor did Betty ever complain, even when she was making most of the money.
I've known only two women with presence. One of them is my wife, Betty. Everyone who knows her loves her, especially me. They go to her for comfort and loving. They call on her when in need, knowing she'll always respond. Anyone who's ever worked with her or been a friend to her remembers. She's still a presence in many lives, even though we seldom interact with persons other than the family any more and don't travel much. I'm always aware of her, whether she's beside me, in the next room or five hundred miles away. When we married, all of my family immediately fell in love with her, too, so this isn't just a man in love with his wife talking.
I promise you, I'm not confusing love with this phenomena. My Uncle TC has this attribute. Everyone who knows him loves him. He's a quiet, unassuming man, yet I've never known anyone not to listen to him when he has something to say. He's always been a force in my life even though we rarely saw each other after I turned twelve. The first time my oldest son met him, after he was a grown man, he knew TC had this attribute, even though he didn't have a word to describe it.
Presence is not to be confused with charisma, either. It's something similar, but not the same. As I said to start with, I'm trying to describe something that really doesn't have an accepted definition. When you run across a person who has it, you know it, though. Always. It's too bad more people in life don't have presence. It would be a better world. And before you ask, no, I don't have it. I'm a better man for living with a woman who does, though.
I'll bet some of my readers could tell me about people they know with presence, and perhaps define it better than my poor attempts.
Uncle TC and Memoirs
* * *
Darrell, back to the farm. The team I used to plow the fields was a span of large mules. Very large. They did not like to be bridled and harnessed early in the morning and would back around and hold their head so high I needed a ladder to get the bridle over their ears. Sometimes Lester would help me but mostly had his own things to do. Once I had them harnessed and hitched to the plow they would step right out and keep me hopping to keep up. We worked right on through until milking time in the afternoon. No such thing as stopping for lunch.
I kind of hero worshiped Lester in those days. He was so well muscled and fast and strong I wanted to be like him. He did kind of save my skin one time. I went into the barn lot to turn the old bull out. He was big and mean so I carried a stick about six foot long with me. He didn't want to leave so took a run at me. I started whacking him across the nose with the stick and had him backing up toward the fence where I hoped to make a quick exit, but unfortunately the stick started breaking of in short pieces and I was getting closer and closer to the bull. Too close to try to run. Just then Lester showed up with a pitch fork and gouged the bull a couple of times hard enough to make the old dude run. Thank you Lester!
Back up a few years. We were living in New Mexico in 1933 when my mother left to come back to Arkansas to be with her mother when her eighth child was born. When my father got word that son Travis had arrived he loaded up his seven other kids and brought us back to Ark. Moving was nothing new to us. By the time I was in the fourth grade I had been to eight schools. When we got back my Dad bought an old house and some land between Nunnley and Board Camp on slatey creek. About a half mile from the Walter Bain place.
We soon got acquainted with the Bains and visited back and forth at times. Some evenings Ruel and Frobin would bring their instruments over and make music for us. That really was a treat. We did not have a radio at that time. Along about then was when Dorothy saw That good looking Lester and fell head over heels in love. After a short courtship they decided to get married. My father objected at first because of Lester's past but after some long hard discussions things worked out. Lester joined the local church and they could and of course did get married with everyone's blessing. They lived in our vicinity until after Snooky was born then moved down to Louisiana.
Helen and I got married Nov. 13th, 1938. I was finding very little work around home. What I did find was ten hours work for one dollar and sometimes as much as a three mile walk to get there. When Dorothy and Lester asked us to come work with them on the dairy farm we made the move. Bill Cottman took us and what little stuff we had down to the little shack on the farm. Of course we were happy to be around Dorothy and Lester and glad to have work.
The dairy did furnish what milk we needed and the shack to live in but was all. We had barely enough money to get food to survive on until payday. Helen's mom had sent a few jars of her canned food with us. That was a big help.
I remember our first payday. A big ten bucks! Helen got a ride with some one to the grocery store, maybe Lester, I don't remember. I do remember all of the food she got and she even managed to get a cheep pair of shoes which she needed badly. Her old ones were about shot.
It was very hot that summer. Helen was pregnant with Jerry. There was no way to get cool except late at night, but she never complained.
We stayed and worked hard for about three months, then I heard of a job on a dairy at Mena. It paid twenty-five dollars per month and furnished a house. Sounded very, very good. I hated to leave my sister Dorothy and her family but thought it was the thing to do. Lester was kind enough to buy my crops. Thought he could make money since they were " laidby." That term meaning work was finished. Ready to gather and sell in the fall. I hope he did make something.
Did not get the dairy job until some time later. Had to leave Helen with her family and go on to Coffeeville where sister Daphne lived.
Did get a job there, working for the city digging a water line ditch.
That was fun too. Using picks and shovels (no one had ever heard of a back hoe in those days) about ten of us were lined up digging the ditch beside a street. It had to be five foot deep and no telling how long. We worked ten hours days and the temperature at noon was one hundred degrees in the shade. The water boy came by once an hour. Otherwise we worked, using a pick for awhile and then the shovel. But the pay was twenty five cents an hour! I never knew a working man could make so much money! After about two weeks the boss told me he had to let me go. I asked why, I was doing as much or more work as anyone on the job. He agreed I was one of the better workers but I was from out of town and city fathers said the job should go to local men. Politics!
Anyway, I was ready to see my wife so I drew my pay and left.
After Jerry was born we did get the dairy job in Mena. They did pay the twenty-five a month and furnish a small house. But the work time was about fourteen hours a day, starting at two thirty in the morning, lasting until nine o'clock at night, seven day a week. We also had to pay the dairy for the milk we used.
Never mind about all of this hard times stuff. Helen and I were together and our son was doing great and we had families within a few miles.
We just did not know how poor we were. Everyone we knew were in the same shape. We might be tired out at times but was mostly happy with our life. Looking back, it has been mostly good. Glad to still be here.
Take care and be happy. T C
Thanks to all for reading.
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