Chapter Five, The Boy Who Saved America

tree ringsAs a child, I learned to honor and respect people in positions of leadership and authority whether I agreed with them or not. Those people included my parents, my teachers, coaches, clergy, police officers, mail carriers, elected officials, team captains, referees, young camp counselors … even the lady who served me at the soda fountain in J.J. Newberry’s department store on North Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The President of the United States

The elected official we most revered was the President of the United States. Four Presidents stood out more than the others to me as a young boy: the 1st, the 16th, the 34th and the 35th – Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower and Kennedy. Each captured my imagination in a special way. While I have tried and will continue to respect the President of the United States, only one since John Kennedy approached the ethereal realm in which I place the four, and that President was Ronald Reagan, our 40th President.

Addressing Hate Groups in Tobit

TobitI have great interest in the American Civil War. In my mind, the men and women engaged in that conflict were ‘the greatest generation’ because through the severe challenges they faced, they managed to preserve this nation, a nation that remains the land of the free and home of the brave. In 2011, I wrote Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South. As I researched that book, I learned much about the conflict and the people involved in the War Between the States. I am no expert, but I know for certain, as sure as there were good people on both sides, there were not so good as well. I addressed hate groups in Tobit, and I think I handled it well for a man writing with 150 years of hindsight.

Months prior to all the non-productive jaw flapping and media misinterpretation of ‘confederate’ statues, etc. I was staring at Matthew Brady’s timeless portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Familiar with William H. Herndon’s 1889 biography of our 16th President, I recalled an incident where his boyhood friend Austin Gollaher saved him from drowning. That incident inspired this story.

Tree Rings, Chapter Five, The Boy Who Saved America

On the Passing of Glen Campbell

Glen CampbellAs I remember singer, songwriter and entertainer Glen Campbell who passed away yesterday, the sound and significance of music becomes even more important to me. I reflect on the beauty and joy he brought to the world. My kids will say, “I thought you were a Neil Diamond fan?” That’s true, but my musical tastes go far beyond that noted troubadour.

An Important Part of Life

Music is an important part of every creature’s life, and it enters our individual space from many sources. As I write with my window open this morning, I hear a Blue Jay singing his familiar song in the distance. He is joined by other songbirds as they celebrate the start of a new day. Birds begin to sing one hour prior to sunrise. Years of conscious listening confirm that fact for me. What a great way to start each day. They are most active and alive in the Spring, much like life as it erupts anew every year.

Evolution of Recent Recorded Music

I remember vinyl records, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CD’s, MPEG’s, and now MP3’s and 4’s. Each brought joy to billions of people around the world. I have many old CD’s, but the only ones I find myself listening to regularly are the Christmas CD’s. I use an old CD player I acquired almost 15 years ago. It sits on top of an old cabinet in the sunroom. Beyond Christmas, I listen to its radio, which is tuned to the Minneapolis PBS station. Occasionally, as we prepare dinner, I pull up my Harry Chapin station on Pandora.

A Courageous Fight

Glen CampbellWhen I learned yesterday that Glen Campbell had died, I was glad his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease was finally over. He showed courage through the fight. Mr. Campbell had over 20 top 40 hits. My favorite Glen Campbell song was written by his long-time friend and collaborator Jimmy Webb in 1968 when Mr. Campbell outsold the Beatles.

What Songs Bring You Joy and Comfort

Great music surrounds us and holds the Earth in its tones. Here are what I consider the five most beautiful songs. In reverse chronological order …

  • Stranger with the Melodies, written, composed and performed by Harry Chapin, 1979
  • Please Come to Boston, written, composed and performed by Dave Loggins, 1974
  • Mr. Tanner, written, compose and performed by Harry Chapin, 1973
  • Stones, written, composed and performed by Neil Diamond, 1971 and
  • Wichita Lineman, written and composed by Jimmy Webb, performed by Glen Campbell, 1968

What songs bring a smile to your face and calm your heart? Which words and melodies bring you joy and comfort? While I expect everyone’s musical tastes to be different, take a moment and reflect on your favorites as you listen to Glen Campbell’s original recording of Wichita Lineman.

Thank you, Glenn Campbell for making the world
a better place to be.

Chapter Four, The Boxer

Pugilism has been a part of my life since I first donned the pair of red, vinyl boxing gloves my dad acquired using my mother’s S&H Green Stamps.  My journey continues today through my involvement with the Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil, Haiti.  It might not have been that way if it wasn’t for that brash boxer from Louisville who became a great Peace Hero.  To him, I fashioned Chapter Four, The Boxer. May he rest in eternal peace.

Tree Rings

The Boxer is Coming Soon to “Tree Rings”

Olympian

The first book I penned – The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas – is about the value of a human being told through the experiences of a boxer and a poet – Theagenes of Thasos who won the boxing championship at the 76th Olympiad in 480 BCE and the Greek poet Simonides who wrote the immortal words, “Go tell the Spartans …” I did not choose the story. The story chose me. Ten years after I put the first words of The Olympian to paper, I published a novella – The Sixth Day, A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting – a story of faith told through the exploits of a young boxer in a small, New England town. Again, the story chose me. I am drawn to boxing and the stories that are born in the violent world of pugilism.

A Man of Conviction

Months before my intimate involvement with Team Guepard and the Guepard Boxing Club of Cité Soleil (GBCCS) in Haiti, I had completed a chapter in Tree Rings inspired by Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali was a man who happened to box. Far more importantly, Ali was a man of conviction and a Peace Hero. He inspired millions around the world, he inspired them not to be boxers, but to be men, women and children of conviction. I count myself among them. I think of Ali often and remember how important he was to my life and to the lives of so many others.

Things You Should Never Forget

At nearly 4,000 words, The Boxer is the longest chapter to date. I look forward to presenting it to you next week. Indeed, as Elie Wiesel tells us, “To forget denies the relevance of the past.” I sincerely hope that the images I include in Tree Rings, encourage you to remember images from your past and to recall things and people that should never be forgotten.

Chapter Three, The Artist

As a young boy the first thing I ‘wanted to be’ when I grew up – other than a cowboy, of course – was an archaeologist.  Things ancient and old have fascinated me since childhood.  I believe there is a spiritual connection between those who created things we now call antiquity and us.  I can look at this mural from Lascaux and be one with the person who painted it.

Tree Rings, Chapter Three, The Artist

 

Stories for Memorial Day

In 2011 as I was writing Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, I was commissioned by Black Mesa Publishing Company to write a West Point football trivia book.  The book is divided into five sections, and each section required a short introduction.  I decided to write about five West Point football players who graduated and went on to make a more important impact on the world stage.

  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Omar Bradley
  • Douglas MacArthur
  • Robin Olds and
  • Bill Carpenter

I offer these stories on this 2017 Memorial Day.

Duty, Honor, Country

Memorial Day Stories

Migrant Mother

Available for download on June 1, 2017 … Tree Rings, Chapter Two, Migrant Mother.

“The mother is adept at many things.  She is very good at making babies, better still at caring for them.  She has, does and will continue to do whatever is necessary to provide for their needs and to secure a future despite how hopeless that endeavor may seem at times like this.  She will not allow Desperation a foothold.”

E.S. Kraay
from Tree Rings

Cowboy

I am pleased to present the first installment of my new book Tree Rings.  There is not a man I know born in my generation who did not at one time in his youth yearn to be a cowboy.  Chapter One is inspired by the work of American painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer Frederic Remington (1861 – 1909). 

Tree Rings, Chapter One, Cowboy