Following the Butterfield Overland Mail Route

butterfield horses

September 16, 1858 — In the early mist of a warm Ozark morning, John Butterfield rose from the seat of the stage, lifted his whip over the backs of a team of six horses, and cracked open the late summer stillness. Tall and robust at 56 years of age, he was about to ride into his place in history.

After unloading packets of mail from the train from St. Louis to Tipton, Butterfield drove the coach on the first leg of its journey west. The brightly painted stage arrived in San Francisco a scant 24 days later, one day under the contracted agreement.

In 1857, after winning the government contract to deliver the United States Mail from St. Louis to San Francisco in the seemingly impossible time of 25 days, John Butterfield sent out agents who spent a year surveying existing roads which could be used to fulfill that contract. They built no roads, but sometimes constructed short cuts between established routes. In effect, Butterfield was overseeing  the creation of the first Interstate thruway. It had to be short and fast to meet the demands of the contract.

Butterfield trail

In the twelve months prior to opening the route, Butterfield had some 2,800 miles of route surveyed, purchased land for stations and mapped out river and mountain crossings. The firm purchased 1,200 horses and 600 mules, branded each with an OM (Overland Mail)and shod and distributed them to the 141 stations. Over 1,000 men were hired and trained to serve as conductors, superintendents, drivers, station masters, veterinarians, blacksmiths, and wranglers. Orders and specs were drawn for over 250 regular coaches, special mail wagons, freight wagons and water tank wagons. Coaches were painted either red or green and the running gear was bright yellow. The colorful coach, inscribed with the O.M.C. insignia on the doors, weighed 3,000 pounds and had a load capacity of 4,000 pounds. Though contracted to deliver the mail in the shortest time possible, the stages would carry six to nine passengers inside and an unlimited number on top. Celerity wagons, or mud wagons, were used on the rougher sections of the route, which included the rugged Boston Mountain crossing south of Fitzgerald’s Station near Shiloh (Springdale) Arkansas, and the hotel stop in the county seat of Fayetteville.

The difficulty of Butterfield’s accomplishment has been compared to that of sending a man to the moon in our lifetimes. For our growing nation, no other achievement may compare, for not only did he create a reliable line of communication by establishing the longest mail route in the world, he increased the rate of speed of overland travel. It was believed that no one could manage more than 25-30 miles in 24 hours. He proved them wrong by traveling 120 miles in that length of time. His mail deliveries often made faster time than ocean steamships. But most important to our country’s history, he cemented a bond of common interests between the East and the West that saved California to the Union when the Civil War broke out a few years later. Ironically, the war would shut down the southern route of the Butterfield Mail route. But in those three short years, one man’s ingenuity, fortitude and stubbornness earned him a permanent place in history.

Many people today confuse the Butterfield Stage Route with the Butterfield Overland Mail Route. When Washington County decided to mark the route from Shiloh to Van Buren, my husband and I were asked to locate, verify and map the miles from Strickler through the Boston Mountains into the Arkansas River Valley to the river crossing.

This endeavor was one of the more satisfying of my efforts while researching and writing about the history of the Boston Mountains. So many people held different ideas of that route because the Butterfield Stage had many routes through Missouri, Arkansas and on west. We were able to locate and order the books written by a couple who followed the route in an old Buick and mapped every mile. We also located a man who lived near Strickler whose father rode it often on horseback.

butterfield signing

One beautiful Ozark morning we and the board responsible for the mapping met and spent five hours with him. He pointed out every gap crossing, watering hole and actual existing road for us. It was truly a trip into the past, for many of us imagined we heard chains rattling, wheels creaking and animals chuffing on their way alongside us. Unfortunately, though the route was officially marked from Shiloh to the southern city limits of Fayetteville, it has never been marked along the rugged Boston Mountain Route where only mules were used to pull the wagon. But we spent hours walking many of those miles precisely where John Butterfield laid them out.

Each of us who assisted in this effort signed the large sign that marks the beginning of the route at the northern border of Arkansas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Naked in the Bayou

Or

Unidentified                                                   Health School

Wilderness Schools and Reminiscence

They’re almost invisible today, all grown up within trees, brambles and kudzu vines. But if you listen you can hear the children’s laughter, the squeal of a girl chased by a boy, the ringing of the bell that recess is over. Boys lined up at one door, girls at another, to go back inside and finish the school day. Then walk home, sometimes a mile or two. Or the lucky ones would ride home in a wagon brought by a parent.

They have names like Health and Bethlehem, Who’d Thought It, and Black Oak. Within their walls a few generations of Arkansas children learned their A,B,Cs, their ‘Rithmetic and their Writin’. They grew up to be teachers, farmers, loggers, engineers, and builders; mothers and fathers and preachers. And lawmen. Very few became gangsters, or killers. Boys carried guns to school, rifles they used on their way home to kill meat for supper.

It was definitely a different world. They never heard of heroin or crack. If they smoked it was out behind the barn and if they were caught it meant discipline.

I had no intention for this blog to turn out this way. It started to talk about one room schools and small towns and the lives once lived in the Ozarks. Guess I just kind of got off track.

In those days school and church were held in the same building. Now that I’ve mentioned all the nostalgic memories, there are others. My Dad came to Arkansas when he was sixteen to help build Highway 71 from Mountainburg through the fifteen miles of rugged hills to Winslow. It was a road, but a treacherous one. His Dad was a powder monkey, which to those who don’t know, is the man who made the holes in bluffs and boulders, stuck in sticks of dynamite and lit the fuses blowing the way for the highway.That was my Grandpa, a half Cherokee Indian from Tyler, Texas who had four rough boys for sons, my Dad being the oldest.

My grandmother, also half or more Cherokee, had died leaving two boys and two older girls from a previous marriage and Granddad’s boys. Now my Dad was a man who had more fun than most and just about everything he thought up was funny. The most hilarious being the Sunday afternoon when one of the churches in Mountainburg was having a picnic along the banks of Frog Bayou, now known as Clear Creek. He and a couple of his friends wearing boots and hats, ran shouting and naked down the middle of Frog Bayou during the picnic.

I doubt anyone is alive today who might remember that, but even so I won’t name the other two boys who were with him, but every time he told that story he laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes. Perhaps the tears were a bit from the nostalgia of a time when something like that was funny and no one was arrested or shot. He also remembered turning over outhouses during Halloween and the time he saw a man get his throat cut from ear to ear during an argument in downtown Fort Smith. Said the man was sitting at the wheel of his car when it happened and he bled to death right there. So bad things did happen back then.

My Dad met my Mom and never went back to Tyler, Texas. They married and lived on the mountain above Shepherd Springs in a small log cabin he built. He helped build a lot of the rock houses that still stand alongside Highway 71. So this is my home, where my roots are, my memories too. I’ve been in other places until about 45 years ago when I returned here to stay. I never attended a one room school because my mother insisted on moving to Mountainburg across from the school there when I turned five. The house we lived in was torn down several years ago to add property to a local church. The house I was born in is gone, and is now a picnic area above the shores of Lake Fort Smith. I suppose as I get older I reminisce more, so forgive me if I waxed sentimental a bit.

 

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They Came on Horseback

 

traveling preacherI never knew when I arrived at The Observer on Thursday morning what I would find. Of course there’d been the day I was invited to go slither and pet with snakes, the tiger episode and taking a flight with a barnstormer. This day my visitors were a couple of guys on horseback who looked like they had stepped out of the 19th century. They told me they were traveling preachers or ministers, whichever I preferred.

Yep, they were actually riding along highway 71 looking for people who wanted to attend a sermon right out there in the open. What better place to worship the Lord, they told me, than surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks. We visited a while, I grabbed a picture or two and they went on their way.

 

traveling minister

So, what possessed these men to step back into another century to do their good work? Well, they liked the idea, first off. But they also had a love for riding horses. Said they could see a lot more of the country than if they were cooped up in a car. And there’s something about a horse as a companion. Those of us who have ridden know exactly what they mean. In those brown eyes lies a spiritual understanding of the bond between humans and beast. What better way to preach the gospel?

Back in the century they stepped from people spent a lot of time outdoors. Imagine an entire family living in a one- or two-room cabin. You’d be out in the open as much as you could too, under those circumstances. Of course, there was always wood to cut for the winter, a garden to tend for growing and storing vegetables. In the spring everyone went out to look for first signs of poke coming up, after a rain there were morels to gather, wild blackberries made delicious pies, later walnuts and hickory nuts covered the ground and could be gathered, cracked and used to make candy and add to cake at Christmas time. Then children were gathered and all the family trooped through the woods to find the perfect cedar tree to decorate for Christmas.

Much of the time was spent outdoors. There was, of course, running to the outhouse no matter the weather. Children walked for miles to school. On Sunday the wagon was hitched to a team that carried everyone out in the open to church even if it was snowing or raining.

Okay, so most of my readers, including myself, weren’t fortunate enough to grow up during those early days, but we can remember mothers or grandmothers relating fond memories.

My second picture was taken and shared with me by the family. These folks lived in West Fork and they are pictured with a traveling minister who had stopped by on this day to share the gospel with them. From their dress the date must be before the turn of the 20th century. By then someone in the family or a friend had a camera and could snap a photo. This traveling preacher had arrived on horseback. The family probably fed him before he went on his way. In those days visitors were always fed something, even if there wasn’t much in the larder.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip into the past with me.

 

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Arkansas’ Last Pony Express Rider

mounted mail carrier

Sometimes a story carries many surprises, and this one did just that. One never knew who would be on the other end when answering the telephone at the newspaper. And some stories were so surprising I’d actually go mute. An unusual situation for me.

Imogene Norton called one day to say that she had a story about the last mounted mail carrier in Arkansas. I jumped at that for history of the state from any source fascinated me. I was not to know how fascinating until I arrived at her door.

But let’s take that trip. Readers remember I drove a Ford Thunderbird in the early years making my way around the county in search of interviews. It had been a rainy winter and spring so when I took out for Black Oak Road, not the one just a mile away from my home in Winslow, but the one east of Fayetteville near Round Mountain, I was in for a wild ride. Puddles cut large holes in the unpaved road. The only way I could be sure of not falling into a lake was tracks went in and tracks went out on the other side.

I was at the very end of the mud soaked road when I approached a large mobile home surrounded by thick woods. This would be the Norton home unless I was totally lost. A petite graying woman greeted me at the door. I entered and settled with my pad, pen, and recorder, ready for a story from the previous century.

Imogene spoke right away about her husband Silas and his mare Topsy carrying the mail in the Fifties. Confused because this woman could not be that old, I stopped her, something I rarely did. I was sure I had misunderstood something. “The 1850s?”

She smiled in the sweet way she had. “Oh, no, dear. This was the 1950s. He was the last mail carrier in Arkansas to deliver from horseback. It was out of Limestone in Newton County. You know in those days carriers delivered all sort of things besides mail, and he serviced 40 families. He retired from that job in the early sixties and went to work in the log woods.”

Astounded, I launched into the interview, amazed at her story. She told of how he would ride out three days a week, leaving before daylight and not coming home till after dark.  Sometimes on winter days he would return with his boots frozen to the stirrups from crossing five or six creeks. She would have to help thaw him out, so to speak.

“No wheeled vehicle could cover the route so he rode his mare Topsy.” Though he had several different horses, Silas said she was the best he ever had. She would stop at every mail box automatically, whether there was mail or not. Silas didn’t stop with the three day route, the other days he delivered to the Fort Douglas Post Office. Both routes were in the heart of the Ozark National Forest in the Piney River area. There were still 18 families receiving mail there before the routes were abandoned along with several other remote routes in the state.

I’m thinking what a rough life that would have been for this man. Then Imogene tells her story. “I was only a girl when we married in 1946 and had our first child when I was 17. I rode the route with him once.” She stops and laughs. “That was the last time I ever did that.

This tiny lady with shining eyes leans back and studies me a moment, probably realizing how blown-away I am by her story. “I still miss those days. Oh my yes, I do. Even the early morning breakfasts and the late nights. I remember most of the time Silas carried a .30-.30 because there were too many varmints in the woods and snakes too. In the beginning he earned fifty dollars a month and we had five living at home then.”

I can’t speak for a while, but I think she understands. I’m trying to imagine living on fifty dollars a month, even in the early 1950s, even in the hills of Arkansas. I know there was a home garden, bartering with neighbors and a cow for milk. No such thing as electric or phone bills. Still it seems impossible.

A newspaper once referred to Silas Norton as Arkansas’ living link to the Pony Express, and indeed he was. You can read Silas and Imogene’s complete story and many others along with my own, in my book, Wandering In the Shadows of Time, to be re-released by Oghma Creative Medie, to be released soon.

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Really Messed up, go to earlier post for story, nothing I do will fix this

Logan France

Logan spins a yarn

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Stories From Wandering

Above: Logan spins a yarn while Chub reacts

Here’s a bite from a story included in the first book I had published. It was in April, 1994 and I carried the manuscript with me to an OWL meeting where W. C. Jameson asked to read it. He was in the process of opening a publishing company and he wanted stories set in the Ozarks. He read it that same day and approached me asking to publish it, pretty much as it was. To say I was elated is putting it mildly. After writing for nearly ten years, attending conferences, learning my craft with writers like Dusty Richards, Suzann Ledbetter, Lisa Wingate, Delores Cannon, and Cait London to name just a few, I was finally preparing myself for submissions to publishers.

I’d like to share with you a portion of this story about Logan and Chub France, whose family had owned property in the Arkansas Ozarks since the late 1820s, had survived imminent domain when Lake Ft. Smith was built and went on to settle on 500 acres in the Mountainburg Valley. This is only one of the stories which appear in that book published so long ago. Wandering In the Shadows of Time, some claim is my best work. Though I’m proud of it, I’d hate to make that claim, for we should improve over the years.

This book will be published again by Oghma Creative Media. Doing so today and including all the photos from the first edition, will be much easier, what with computers, scanners, etc. In those early days we had a much harder go of it. Each photo had to be taken to be copied and specially prepared, which meant many visits to a business equipped to do just that. Submitting meant mailing hard copy of the manuscript, the numbered copies of photos plus the spot for the placing of each one numbered in the manuscript.

Here’s an excerpt. If you’d like to see the video filmed as a result of the publication of this book, it’s online. It was presented at the Arkansas Film Festival in Batesville. I think you’ll enjoy traveling with me into the Ozarks to meet some of the wonderful settlers I had the privilege to interview.

Here’s a taste of Logan France’s folk stories:

Logan enjoys telling tales. His eyes fill with amusement even before the first words fall from his lips. He has an audience, and likes nothing better.

“I had four brothers and come Saturday night they’d all ride to Chester and get drunk. I’d take out for Bidville and listen to gospel music, or go to a spelling or ciphering match. I was a poor reader but no one could spell against me. At the Kinney and Winfrey match, they brought in outsiders just to whip me and Carl Hutchens. He and me, we could spell every word in the Blue Back Speller, and so we always won.

“There was a schoolhouse down south at Winslow on a rise there just across from Tip-Top, or what they called the Boston Mountain Lodge. The school was named ‘Who’d A Thought It.’ Yeah, that’s right. John L. Collins, John Ridenour, and old man Harrison was on the school board, and that school was going on when ours was out. Dad went to see if me and Carl could go to school there. They said yeah. There was seven or eight about my age, and they’d heard about my spelling, so the very first thing, they decided to have a spelling match. They had this teacher about thirty years old who weighed near 250 pounds. We had to spell gymnasium and gigantic and all the hard words they could find. That teacher, he couldn’t hardly pronounce most of them, but me and Carl, we could spell ‘em. That was the last time they did that with us.”

What was it like to give up the land? To start over again?

“Leaving the old land where you was raised, where your great-grandparents on both sides had lived, naturally it put a bitter taste in your mouth. But they was nothing you could do about it. Chub, now, she just worried it to death. But women ain’t supposed to know as much as a man. If they had a-been, He’d a-made ‘em first. They get excited, you know. I’ve done learned that if something is impossible, there’s no need in worrying it.

“She seen me and she chased me ‘til I finally give in to marry her. But I told her one thing she’d never make me do was live in town. That’s one place we weren’t ever goin’, was to town.”

And they never did. They lived out their colorful lives on that Mountainburg Farm. I can still see Chub standing in her front yard waving a white towel at the train as it passed. They were delightful people and it was an honor to have known them.

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Drums Beat a Challenge

 

Al HouserArkansas Film FestivalWorking for a small weekly newspaper meant I wore several hats. From one day to the next I never knew who I would meet where. We had a receptionist who also set type, our publisher covered most of the night meetings and I did the rest, whatever that might be.

This day was peaceful and calm, but how long would it remain that way? Inside the neat little house lived a Chiricahua Apache. Standing on the porch my Cherokee blood beat a challenge. Blood being blood I readied myself for a battle of words. What was he doing in Fayetteville, Arkansas? How would he relate to me and my questions?

All I knew going in was he was running a business wherein he would translate and tape all the dying Indian languages. I was there to interview him about that business, how it started, who might be assisting him. You know what? That interview, interesting as it was, lasted perhaps fifteen minutes. It was an important quest and one not many could accomplish.

A small man looked up at me when he opened the door. I’m six feet tall so I dwarfed him, something I was accustomed to but had not expected here. He knew I was coming and smiled warmly when I introduced myself.

We sat in the small room and it took a moment for me to begin. My curiosity was not so much about his work, though I thought it extremely important, as it was his history. For years history had been my main interest. I took all the information about his business, which took very little time, then asked him about his heritage.

I had asked the right question, for his demeanor changed and he became more a proud Apache who sat before me. Body language says so much about all of us. Our happiness, fears, desperations, the sadness we’ve experienced, the hurt of someone’s words. This made it very important what subjects I brought up and how.

For in our history lay a brutal war, the takeover of his country by us. We call it Imminent Domain and that’s okay cause everybody does it. Not only that Tribe versus tribe had their share of wars. But hey, other folks we’ve fought with are now our friends. That’s th way the world works.

Al Houser was the first baby born after the Apaches were released from imprisonment at Ft. Sill. They are known as the Fort Sill Apaches. Al has a brother, also known as Al, who is a famous sculptor whose work is exhibited around the world.

This small, soft spoken man with his Apache history behind him fought in WW II as only a warrior would. The same country that had imprisoned his people called and Houser answered. In the Air Force he learned to fly and became the pilot of a B-24 Liberator. He and his ten-man crew were soon singled out for an elite, top-secret strike force.

In the peacefulness of his Arkansas home I sense the echo of war drums behind his words, envision brilliant scrawls of battle paint across his sharp cheekbones and broad forehead. See a warrior mounted on his horse, riding hard and shouting into the night.
“They called us the Lone Wolf Raider. We were like the stealth bomber is now. They painted our plane gray all over, even the tires. No names or numbers showed anywhere..”

I’m pulled into his story as he speaks, gesturing with his hands. “We flew using radar and had only black and white photos taken during daylight hours to navigate by. Sometimes the missions would last ten to twelve hours, leaving us barely enough fuel to get home.”

This Chiricahua Apache did well by his ancestors during the big war receiving two Distinguished Service Crosses, three Air Medals and three Presidential Citations. After thirty-five missions over the skies of Germany, he came home.

The remainder of this exceptional man’s story is in my book, Wandering In The Shadows of Time which will be re-released soon by Oghma Creative Media. It chronicles my return to Arkansas, what I felt and some of the stories I found hiding in the wilderness of the beautiful Ozarks. The video shot in connection with that book is available in the link posted at the beginning of this story.

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There are Storms, then There are Storms

 

On the right is a funnel cloud, two more in the distance, others forming  in clusters above

storm skyvue 1If asked I can tell you what was going on in the west in 1874, but when I recall something in my recent past I can’t remember if it took place last year or the one before. This caveat because of a memory I’m recalling for my blog today. And on thinking about it I can’t recall if it happened last year or the one before. The time doesn’t really matter to the tale. I only know we were in the breathtaking conference building hanging on the side of Winslow Mountain at Sky Vue. We being a gathering of authors, editors, a publisher, and various other members of Oghma Creative Media. It was our annual retreat.

I’m telling this because last night our area experienced a similar weather phenome like we did that day at Sky Vue. Where we’re located we seldom are hit by a full blown tornado. What happens on these Boston Mountains is those threatening tornado clouds love to play tag overhead. This causes some of their playful antics to whirl tree tops viciously, break a few limbs, flatten gardens and rip off a few shingles. It isn’t often one actually plows up the ground, but they do. These are usually wet storms while in Kansas and Oklahoma, they often occur during a dry storm.

Want to talk about wet. Yesterday we recorded 12 inches of rain in less than 12 hours with one more on the way the evening of my tale. And during those vicious storms continuous lightning struck trees on top of the mountains all around us vibrating our eardrums and shaking the ground underfoot.

Now I was brought up in Wichita, which was occasionally actually hit by ground sucking tornadoes that dragged debris around redepositing it elsewhere. Debris such as houses, trailers, trees, etc. So I know a bit about the difference in a storm that demands one take shelter underground and one that allows one to watch out the windows.

I’m getting back to the storm on Winslow Mountain that sky-blue day when everything suddenly turned dark. You know the one. It was a dark and stormy night. So when someone hollered ‘oh look,’ I looked. Having heard nothing, like the roaring of a train I didn’t panic when the small elephant-like clouds swung down out of the wall cloud following the valley below. They‘d play tag a while then move on. So I remained calm while those around me came apart.  Like we are often advised to do. All but the local folks, who played it cool.

“Where’s the storm cellar?” Someone ran in circles hollering.

This set off the usual crowd response.

“It’s okay.” I grabbed my phone and took some pictures as the clouds rushed along outside the wall of windows while behind me mayhem grew.

“Downstairs. We need to go downstairs.” And away they went to miss this show of their lifetime.

Those of us accustomed to these silent storms remained and more than one snapped some great pictures before the wall moved over and away. Mentioning pictures means I have to look for them. Wish me luck. It will take a while. I saw them just the other day. Found them. Just another exciting day in the life of a writer. Like they say, it’s what we do. Experience and write about it.

Now to last night, which reminded me of the earlier experience. This one much wilder than that one last year, or was it year before last? Someone will remind me.

These little buggars decided to drop down for a visit in the midst of one of the hardest rains we’ve experienced in ages. I sat in my living room watching, cheated of a good look at the funnel-producing cloud, because it was a gloomy evening, not like the bright afternoon up on the mountain. But lightning flashed so continuously that the upper limbs of large trees surrounding the front of my house begin a whirling dance, twisting round and round, bowing to the ground. I knew those little trunk like clouds were playing overhead. Not real close cause there was no roaring except from our creek that had grown massive due to the heavy rains.

Twice more the storms raced by, breaking a few limbs in my yard, taking down a tree in my daughter’s yard. Lightning struck so close it made our eardrums vibrate. And finally, as always, the power flickered and went out. A fine finish to an exciting evening. The generator ran till four a.m. I heard it click off and when I climbed out of bed this morning the electricity had been restored.

A power pole was knocked down with the electric wires running through the creek. I give those guys credit for the repair so fast. Our park where ball games are played is destroyed and all is underwater there. My road was washed out a mile or so from here. Big kudos to the guys in the volunteer fire department for being out and about during all this helping those in need for one reason or another. Some were spotted covered in mud moving gravel to clear a drive so a man could get out and go to work this morning. They are fantastic, or as the kids say awesome. Winslow is a terrific small town.

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What’s Real, The Future or Now?

What’s Real and What Isn’t

In a movie I was watching last night the idea of memory regression came up. It took me back a lot of years to a dear friend whose name will remain anonymous for reasons soon to become obvious. We were rooming together at a conference and she spoke of her work. For years she had practiced hypnotic regression. In our late night conversation with the lights out and everything spookily quiet she told me of one of her clients.

Now, no names or dates were mentioned, she was simply using this example to convince me that this was possible. She’d had it happen in her own work. For over a year she’d worked with a young, troubled girl treating her through hypnotism. Suddenly, after long months of the sessions the girl began to tell her she was somewhere unfamiliar.

My friend played the tape of the session without identifying her client in any way, more to let me see what might well be possible. That we could live previous lives. I was so skeptical I guess she thought the tape might open my mind, if not make a believer out of me.

In the dark silence of our room I listened as the girl talked of a life totally unfamiliar to her. She spoke of names and places, then described a man in white that she along with others, was following. Then she started to speak in a tongue vaguely familiar to my friend. She told me it was Aramaic. She also explained to me that this young girl had very little education and could not know the names of the specific locales, which were all in that ancient tongue. My friend explained that she had verified the existence of the area and villages she spoke of

Before the girl finished reciting her experiences I recognized the man in white. She had joined a group following Jesus as he walked and talked to them. Listening to her speak, and to the changes in the inflection of her voice, shivers ran down my spine. If this young woman had not gone back to a previous life, then she was one heck of an actor. Because of her lack of education she certainly could not have known how to speak the language or no way of knowing some of the descriptions of clothing, goods, and experiences in those days.

I came away from that experience with questions in my mind that have never been answered. My friend firmly believed what had occurred and she went on to lecture and carry out these sessions until her death. I’ll admit we don’t know anywhere near all there is to know about an afterlife or the possibilities in this life, and I wonder to this day if she has found the truth.

More and more discoveries in quantum physics make so much possible in our vast universe that we could never have believed. So I’ll hold back my judgment for now.

One thing’s for sure. I’ve had some strange experiences while working for the newspaper, and even more as a writer. The one thing I’ve learned for sure. It’s a wide, wonderful, secretive, strange world and it pays to take it all in not only for enjoyment, but for the fun of it. And of course, we writers can always put those wild experiences in our books.

We can think of it as if using this mirror. The past is what we see reflected  and it’s something we know. Our present is where we are with the mirror, and a future is what we see beyond the mirror. Yet we can only guess what lies where we’re going ib the next world. Sort of a simplification, but hey I’m of a simple person.

Besides I promised to post this photo I took out in New Mexico when I advised someone to take a few scenic shots this way and see what their results. It was a stretch to get it into this post.

future past

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Heroes Aren’t Immortal

beyond the moon cover new

For weeks now I’ve posted blogs relating to my experiences during the years I was an investigative reporter for the Washington County Observer. I’m breaking that protocol today for a good reason. It won’t be long before the long awaited sequel to my novel, Beyond the Moon is released. I wanted to give my readers a small taste of Glen and Katie’s continuing story.

As you know, the story is based on what many women have lived through after welcoming home men from war, some who have changed so much as to be unrecognizable. If you’ve read Beyond the Moon you know that Glen was in a POW camp in Vietnam for more than seven years. That his wife has divorced him and he lives in an evil fantasy world until Katie walks into his hospital room.

Here is an excerpt from a review among many received, all praising the book.

“This book is incredible! After I finished the last page, I just sat there, stunned. This is the true cost of war. For the rest of the day I was quiet, considering Katie and Glen’s struggle and (almost) Katie’s descent into madness. My heart went out to them and to anyone else who has ever dealt with the after effects of fighting a war.”

I did not know this reviewer until she contacted me and we later became email friends. I have still not met her. Another woman who was married to a wounded warrior from Vietnam brought her husband to our writer’s group so they could both meet me after they read Beyond the Moon. She took my hand in hers and said, “You wrote my story. Thank you.” This is the kind of reaction that makes my work worthwhile.

And this is the kind of novel we writers wish could find the readership it deserves. It’s getting an audience that challenges writers because there are so many books of all value on the market. I will probably never write a story like this again. It took all my heart and soul to live through the research alone. The stories I found tore at me until I felt I couldn’t write the sequel. But I was urged to and so Immortal Hero will finish Katie and Glen’s love story.

Here is the opening of Immortal Hero

The shot rings out and I come awake choking on my own heartbeat. Golden eyes shimmer in the night like bourbon struck by moonlight.

It’s dark, the bed I lie in huge and empty. Tears hot on burning cheeks. My fingers wipe them away, but they come back. No sound in the lonely house. Shadows wrap around me cold and silent. The bottom of a gaping black well embraces a lost and lonely heart.

No more sleep. Toes grip the furry rug, hands fumble for a robe to wrap around my shivering nakedness, socks to keep my feet warm. The coffee smells good making but turns to ash on my tongue. I pad into the living room and snap on the light over the painting above the cold fireplace. Each brush stroke, each shadow and highlight harsh reminders of the new, the old. The memorialized figures. Youth to warrior. A man I will always love for his amazing courage. His eyes speak words he cannot say. A sketch pad filled with all manner of depictions until they’re just right, until they express his every emotion. His desires, disappointments, hopes and dreams. His love. My Immortal Hero. Only he isn’t. Immortal, that is.

What I plan has to work, yet how can I be so arrogant? Where he is he might as well be dead. I’m not exactly alive myself. What if this doesn’t work? What if I can’t do it? And if I do, what if he tries to kill me… us… again?

I will stop there. For more stories from vets who have lived through what is depicted in these two books check out this veteran’s link.

And watch my website and Oghma’s release information for the date Immortal Hero will be released. If you haven’t read Beyond the Moon grab a copy at your local bookstore or online.  Available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle.

 

 

 

 

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