MAKE MINE RARE!

“If my books never make a best seller list that’s okay.”

A simplification of the word rare regarding collectibles is, limited quantity or scarce. I have a few items meeting this definition, and some things headed that direction.

A special 1799 silver dollar given to me by a departed friend is quite rare. There were several minted but only a few survive. Twenty or more Alaska drug store bottles in my possession are quite scarce. Only five or six are known of the Iditarod specimen.

A prized book by author, William Guthman, is extremely rare and valuable. I’m blessed to have a copy in my library. The rarity comes from a limited amount being printed.

Years ago, I looked into writing screen plays for movies. I was immediately turned off in seeing that writers need to belong to the Screen Writer’s Guild. That was an immediate let down. The same with writing music. There’s even a Song Writer’s Guild.

What these guilds amount to are hands sticking out wanting a share of your talent and money. They’re nothing more than a hungry buzzard circling overhead, much like Colonel Tom Parker was to Elvis Presley.

The same greediness exists where writing books is concerned. It’s hard to get new publications noticed unless you have a publicist or agent. There again, more fingers are lurking in the shadows wanting their cut. Thankfully, I don’t write strictly for money as some writers do. I’d be better off flipping cars or houses if financial reasons were what powered me.

I get offers all the time from companies and individuals professing to be promotional experts where selling books is concerned. I screen my calls carefully and never pick up. They’ve went so far as to track down my children and friends, asking if they knew how to get hold of me.

I was once asked why I didn’t reach out to these professionals. One person said I could sell a lot more books if I did. I look at it this way. I didn’t seek their help composing my material, and I don’t need it now.

I’ve even had some criticism where my writing is concerned. When you’ve lived in Alaska as long as I have, snide remarks have a way of getting back to you. One self-acknowledged expert on Alaska history criticized a book that I wrote on Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby. “He should’ve never included religious viewpoints!”

What this fellow failed to realize is that I was led to do so. I’m not sure he’d even know what that means. I took the time and effort to put this book together strictly because it came to me one night while sleeping. Mattie “Tootsie” Crosby wanted folks to know foremost, that she was a Christian. Her letters to a newspaper that I accidentally came across dictated such. Earlier articles published on Mattie Crosby failed to disclose anything dealing with her faith.

If my books never make a best seller list that’s okay. In one hundred years, they’ll join the ranks of rare collectibles much like that 1799 silver dollar, Iditarod medicine bottle, and William Guthman book. I’d much rather have a few publications in this category, than a thousand, sitting on secondhand store markdown tables throughout the country.

I truly wish I could be here when my future grandchildren inform their friends, “My great grandpa wrote this book and it’s rare.”

That alone will be priceless!

DEEPER MEANING

“Give it due time!”

My former co-worker and good friend, Rod Steiner, passed away on August 5, 2022. We were alike in many ways. Rod’s sense of humor was right up there with mine.

We’d both had several skirmishes with the law in our younger days where obeying traffic laws on motorcycles was concerned. Rod and I often told our stories over lunch and always got a hoot recalling them. Life wasn’t taken as seriously back then by either of us.

Rod had one unfortunate experience that I suppose he would’ve liked to have avoided. Him and his older brother, Keith, had just finished building a turbocharged, methanol-fuel-burning Yamaha. My friend elected to road test it first. He was just wicking the throttle up on a stretch of asphalt when a radar unit nabbed him doing 70 in a 45. The officer immediately turned on his lights.

Eluding police on a motorcycle in Anchorage back in the day was easy to do. There were so many places to pull off the road and disappear into tight alleys or thick woods. It was common procedure. Rod was looking to do just that when a State of Alaska – Fish & Wildlife pickup truck pulled directly in front of him. The fish cops overheard things taking place on their police radio and decided to intervene.

Rod hit the brakes yet couldn’t stop, smashing into their driver side door. His Yamaha was pretty much totaled. Besides suffering a broken leg, he had to pay a hefty fine, plus cough up funds for damages to the truck. Rod believed the fish cops went to extreme measures to stop him.

I had similar instances but fortunately never had an accident in the process. Rod, knowing that I liked to write, jokingly mentioned that a book should be written about my escapades. When I said that I didn’t have sufficient material for a whole book unlike him, Rod’s answer was, “Give it due time!”

We even came up with a humorous name for our brainstorm, “You Don’t Know Squat!” This was a popular saying used quite often back then. Squat was a nickname we had for several people, including ourselves. I think for us it was more of a nickname for Sasquatch. Rod and I both had reddish hued beards during this time.

This all happened some forty years ago. It’s taken me that long to archive enough material to place between book covers. Having not talked to Rod for at least ten years, I was just getting ready to write him, when word came of his unexpected death. I wanted to inform my friend of a story in the book explicitly written about him and me. There was one additional item.

When Rod’s father passed away in 2003, I stopped by his parent’s home as he searched through things in the garage. Inside one of his dad’s high school yearbooks was written in fading ink: “All great men are dead. I’m not feeling too well myself!” Rod chuckled, mentioning that it was his father’s handwriting.

We saw great humor in the words, and it became our motto of sorts, not contemplating that it actually had serious meaning. I liked it so much that I decided to add Mark Twain’s attributed quote to the last page of my book.

Sadly, and ironically, the Friday I did so is the exact day my friend departed this life. Once humorous words instantly took on deeper meaning. Older and wiser have a way of changing thoughts. It did mine!

DIVIDED NATION

“It’s not fair!”

Because of growing tensions, by 2030, the United States is divided into two separate entities. Socialists, or Democrats live in one half of each 50 states, while Capitalists, or Republicans make up the other. A stipulation put to citizens beforehand was that whatever side was picked, they, along with children and grandchildren, will remain there indefinitely. Relocating was not a choice.

By 2035, Capital Heights is flourishing. Things were actually great at the start, because most intelligent people in the United States decided this was the best place to be. Small groups of immigrants from other countries are being courteously vetted and allowed in via organized procedure.

Jobs are plentiful and newcomers are happy to start at the bottom, realizing that they can work their way up. Food is plentiful made possible by supplemental gardens and fruit orchards. There’s a surplus monetary supply thanks to conservative leadership. Crime is almost nonexistent due to sufficient police.

Over in Socialville, things aren’t exactly the same. With political leaders promising to hand out free stuff in order to get folks on their side, those looking merely for handouts drifted that direction. Undocumented aliens and criminals not wanting to earn a living crossed unchecked borders like pirates on a mission. Water is scarce including food. Drugs and drug pedaling runs rampant.

So many sickly residents live within, that understaffed hospitals can’t take care of them all. Topnotch medical care is nonexistent, because the majority of well-educated doctors and nurses elected to go capitalist. Abortion clinics and methadone dispensaries flourish.

Instead of subsistence gardens and orchards being planted, weed is the number one crop in Socialville. Medicinal and recreational users lay around like driftwood waiting for the next tide to arrive. A few menial jobs are available, but people don’t commit. Why work when the government hands out bigger checks for doing nothing. Businesses go under at a rate never before seen in American history. Crime is off the scale.

Come 2050, Socialville has been reduced to that of a third world country. Residents angrily glare across state borders, complaining that they don’t have what the capitalists have. They fail to remember that they voluntarily reduced themselves to have not status. Now, looking for political or government assistance, there is none to be found. The cookie jar is empty. Their brainless leaders have left the building.

Across the border in Kansas, a child trapped in Socialville cries out to another youngster on the other side,

“It’s not fair!”

The Capital Heights resident thinks for several seconds before yelling back,

“Blame your parents. They put you there!

A WHOLE LOTTA DAMAGE

“A cookie jar doesn’t remain full forever.”

I read daily where people are illegally walking across our border. They hail from various places, all walks of life. I understand folks wanting to better their lives, as everyone should have an equal opportunity to achieve such. It needs to be done according to the rules.

Legal means do exist for entering the United States. Millions of immigrants chose that route during the last 200 years. They filled out the paperwork, marked appropriate boxes, and over time, became legal residents. Becoming a U.S. citizen isn’t akin to picking up a burger at a fast-food joint, yet some now think it is.

What I don’t understand is this: Why are government officials allowing this to go on, yet the rest of us are held to the laws of the country. One party in particular appears to be behind it all. Do they condone illegal acts merely for a vote at the next election? It appears that way. I call this cheating.

If Sarah was running for sixth grade class president, and wanted to easily win votes, she’d offer up free cookies in exchange for ballots. The word for this is bribery. Of course, cookies aren’t free as someone has to pay for them, and it wouldn’t be her. Sarah has no job nor allowance.

Someone is also having to front the bill for illegals flocking across the border. Food, clothing, cellphones, lodging, medical help, doesn’t come from gardens. Working stiff taxpayers are footing the bill here, and they have no choice in the matter, at least where Democrat politicians are concerned. I use the term Democrat loosely, because this isn’t the same Democrat party of fifty-years ago. They’ve shifted 100% to socialism where platform is concerned.

There’s nothing I can do to stop this madness other than vote for politicians opposing such. Regardless, it will cease on its own somewhere down the line. A cookie jar doesn’t stay full forever and money doesn’t grow on trees.

Ultimately, if allowed to go unchecked, the Democrat party will be successful in dragging us down to the level of those countries that people fled. Venezuela comes to mind here. A scary thought.

To quote successful television entrepreneur, Phil Swift,

“Now that’s a whole lotta damage!”

So much damage, that even Flex Seal can’t fix it.

STAMPEDE TO OATMAN

“You’ll be welcome there, at least by the tourists!”

I’ve been through just about everything in my life. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, quicksand, threat of nuclear war, and last but not least, covid.

My encounter with quicksand wasn’t so much sand as mud. When the tide goes out of Cook Inlet in Anchorage, Alaska, a thick mud made of silt and clay is left behind. You can walk across it, but don’t stop and jiggle feet, because it quickly turns to goo. Many a person has been trapped in this muck, with several people tragically drowned when water came rushing back in.

I became mired on one fishing expedition and was fortunate to be wearing hip waders. My brother and a friend quickly lifted me out of the rubber boots. With some effort, they were able to yank them loose as well. I only made that mistake one time. Newcomers to Anchorage are warned about walking on the mudflats. I’d been told, but gave it little thought up until then.

One thing I never encountered is a stampede. Vintage western movies dramatize them all the time, and in some cases, regurgitated the same film footage over and over. I became good at recognizing such.

We were driving from Lake Havasu City, Arizona to Chapman, Kansas a few years back. Part of this trip took us through through Texas on US-54. I could smell the Dalhart cattle feedlot before seeing it. Tooting my horn to say hello as we rolled past, my wife asked me to cease, claiming the animals might stampede. I respectfully obliged.

A fellow at a gas station said there was close to 60,000 head crammed in that place. They were hunched together tighter than raisins in a box. It’s hard to envision delicious hamburger patties and steaks originating from such a ghastly scene.

I’ve often wondered if stampedes were something dreamed up by Hollywood producers. After a bit of research, I came across a newspaper account of one taking place in Arizona in 1891. It’s rather a short story, so I’ll transcribe things exactly as is from the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph. I did make a couple of slight sentence adjustments, as they were quite archaic in composition.

*********************************************************

Stampede in the Mule Mountains

“A drive of 900 head of steers, to be delivered at Wilcox for J.V. Vickers, had reached a gap in the Mule Mountains, on the way from the southern part of the county, on Friday night, when for some unforeseen reason they stampeded and scattered in all directions.

The stampede occurred at about eleven o’clock at night and when daylight came, but 238 head were in sight. A stampede to most people unacquainted with the range, is believed to amount to some similar act of cussedness as a cow kicking over the milk bucket, or a bull jumping over the garden fence and eating the cabbages. A stampede, however, is an entirely different thing.

Imagine 700 steers in a race away from some object which they imagine is after them, each one trying to outrun the one ahead of him; the air trembling with the sounds of their hooves; trampling each other under foot and carrying everything before them.

After the band, in the present instance, had passed the level country they made for the mountains with seven cowboys after them, trying to control them and allay their fear. All night long they rode through brush and rocks to head them off from getting back to their old range. When daylight came the horses and men presented a sorry looking sight.

The clothes were nearly torn off from the men and the horses bleeding and crippled from contact with brush and rock in the darkness, and 237 head of cattle to be seen out of nearly 1000 head was a discouraging outlook.

Word was brought to Tombstone, and fresh men and horses went to the rescue and the work of rounding them up still goes on. But one steer was killed; he fell and was trampled to death by those which followed.

When they broke, they made directly for the camp where the wagon and supplies and bedding were located. It seemed as though there would be nothing left of it, or the occupant of the wagon, who was asleep.  The cook, however, heard the noise and being no tenderfoot, he grasped the situation and a blanket at the same time. Standing up, he waved the blanket in the face of the oncoming avalanche. The effect was marvelous; the terror-stricken animals parted, went around the camp, and came together on the other side.

The cattle belonged to Dick Clark, the Snake Ranch, Fred Herrera, and others. It is expected that by tomorrow they will be on their way to Wilcox.”

*******************************************************

Looking back on my trip to Kansas, perhaps honking at those incarcerated steers in Dalhart, Texas was the right thing to do. Had they stampeded and escaped from that horrible place, a few might’ve made it south to Mexico unscathed. In western movies, that’s where outlaws on the run always go.

There’s another popular sanctuary for creatures on the lam a bit further down the trail, with Oatman, Arizona being refuge to quite the population of wild burros. Those four-legged creatures will never starve as long as visitors with sacks of alfalfa cubes keep stopping by.

Next time I’m driving on US-54 and pass that cattle prison camp, I’ll honk for all it’s worth. Most definitely, 60,000 stampeding steers can easily bust through the metal fences, and I doubt there’s enough real cowboys left in Texas to stop them. Slowing to a crawl, I’ll yell out an open car window with my best western drawl, while pointing the way,

“Head west little dogies and don’t look back ’til you git to Oatman. You’ll be welcome there, at least by the tourists!”

Oatman burros looking for a handout.

BLOCH – JAMES – SHUPTRINE – HOUSE

“A short newspaper article from 1888 told me lots, as did the size of the grave monument.”

618 Dallas Avenue

Work in progress

I was looking at an old residence for sale in Selma, Alabama and wondered how much history I could find on it in short time. The home was built in 1860, and is called the Bloch – Shuptrine House, as well as the Bloch – James House. In short order, I found that all three names, Bloch – James – Shuptrine, are accurate

The Shuptrine’s were prominent Selma residents. They owned various businesses and were involved in farming and ranching. I quickly uncovered massive amounts of information on them, enough for a book.

Peter Conrey James, and his wife Mary, were evidently wealthy Selma residents as well. I say this because of their once living in this stately home. As of yet, I haven’t put a whole lot of effort into tracing down their history. They’re both interned at Live Oak Cemetery.

I was more interested in the Bloch family because it appears they built the place. Morris Bloch came to the area around a855. They were extremely wealthy. Another book could definitely be written here. What intrigued me most, was the short timeline between Morris’s death and his wife’s. A newspaper article from 1888 told me quite a bit, as did the size of the grave monument

Morris and Mary Bloch monument -Live Oak Cemetery – Selma, Alabama

THE OFFENDED WARD

“I promised myself I’d leave politics out of this.”

note: this story is being used as the ending to my latest book

A while back, I overheard a stranger say she’d been terribly offended by another person’s statement. There appeared to be tears in the woman’s eyes. I didn’t catch the whole conversation, so I had to leave things to my imagination.

Most likely, the offensive remark had something to do with social media. Perhaps someone expressed a differing political or religious opinion on Facebook or Twitter. That happens every five seconds give or take a second.

I’ve offended a person a time or two simply by voicing my thoughts, when in fact, they probably should have been kept under wraps. It happens, especially when you’re a writer. Several times I’ve had to apologize to friends and family over such.

I was defriended on Facebook by one individual regarding my viewpoints on politics. To me, it was silly, but evidently to the person opting me out it was much more serious. Not to be offensive, but thin skinned comes to mind here. The guy evidently needed to stop using lotion.

Hey, I should’ve been offended at times, yet the intended insults went flying directly over my head instead. Only after friends rehashed things did I finally see the light. One such remark has already been mentioned in this book.

It deals with an old truck I built, where I turned a guy’s slam into a compliment. The other one that I recall, regards a long beard that I wore for a couple of years. Initially, I took the negative statement as meaning they were jealous. It wasn’t until much later that this person told me the truth. They absolutely despised it. No harm done. I’m still alive and so are they.

It seems there’s an organized group of people throughout the United States, wanting to muffle anyone both verbally and literally, who disagree with their way of thinking. I promised myself I’d leave politics out of this. Hollywood elite are the loudest of the loud here. That’s only because they get radio and television coverage to express their viewpoints.

I’ll finish my life by not holding back on opinions, unless it’s Facebook of course. I told my daughter I’d bite my tongue before doing that. A couple of times I’ve slipped and thankfully she didn’t catch me.

Something needs to be done for those poor souls so easily offended and I believe there’s an answer. Hospitals should start construction of offended wards.

Whenever a person becomes highly offended like that man I encountered, they, or someone close to them, should immediately call for emergency help. Strapped to a gurney in an ambulance, they’d be quickly whisked away. A giant, open box of Kleenex’s at one of these wards would comfort the patient, along with trained therapy counselors.

Seem farfetched? Check back with me in 2055 and we’ll see if such becomes reality. Why 2055 you ask? That’s when I turn 101, the same number as there are stories in this book, and hopefully, the same number of books that sell by then.

Should you ever come to one of my birthday parties, and bring plaid pants and shirt, including red suspenders as gifts, call for an ambulance right away. Have it whisk me straight to “The Offended Ward” without stopping.

An ambulance responds to the scene of an offended person.

FAMOUS PEOPLE

“I didn’t intentionally plan on insulting the guy, yet sticking foot in mouth sometimes happens on its own.”

Brian Hitt

I’ve been in the company of several famous people or celebrities a time or two. Throughout 68 years, I’ve crossed their paths, observed, and even went to school with one. Other former students might’ve hit fortune and fame, but I don’t have any names jumping out at me like Brian Hitt’s.

Brian Hitt is drummer for REO Speedwagon and has been for a long time. That’s a rock group for those not into music. Brian attended East Anchorage High School in Alaska, graduating in 1972, like I did.

I recall several classes we took together. Mrs. McBeth’s geology class being one, and P.E. class, under either Coach Bob Durado or Coach Chuck White. I’m sure there were others I’ve forgot. The one thing I remember most about Brian, is him walking down the hall after class let out with pretty girls at each side. Brian Hitt had a huge following even back then.

In 1986, I met IndyCar driver, Rick Mears, in Portland, Oregon. I’d won tickets to the Portland 200 race through a Snap-On tools promo. Part of the prize package was an opportunity to attend a meet & greet session with Rick. I didn’t intentionally plan on insulting the guy, yet sticking foot in mouth sometimes happens on its own.

There was a short line of people waiting under a corporate tent for autographs. When it came my turn, I jokingly said to the famous racer,

“It must be hard competing with writer’s cramp.”

He stopped short on signing my poster and replied back with no expression whatsoever.

“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen!”

At this point, Mears was eager for the next person to step forward, most likely wanting me gone. My wife asked why I said such a stupid thing,

“It just came out.”

Rick Mears had been finishing up front in most all races leading up to this one, and he was the reigning IndyCar champion from the previous year. He finished 16th out of 21 participants at this event. It’s probably good he didn’t spot me in the bleachers after things were over.

Several years later, in 1993, I bumped into IndyCar champ Nigel Mansell at a K-Mart in Portland. Sponsored by the retail outlet, he was autographing photos at a table they set up. I had my picture taken with him, plus got his signature on a K-Mart hat. I made sure not to insult him like I had Rick Mears.

In the race, Nigel came in a competitive second, right on Emerson Fittipaldi’s back wheels. Evidently, the strain of signing signatures didn’t affect Mansell as much as it did Mears.

Actress, Della Reese, was riding in the back of a transportation cart in the Salt Lake City airport. This would’ve been around 2001. Unbeknownst to me, the driver of the cart needed to get around me. The fellow tooted his horn and I jumped out of the way almost falling. He slowed down and stopped, making sure I was okay.

Della cracked up and I did too. Recognizing the face, I waved at her, and she smiled back. Both of her hands were full. In just a matter of seconds, I sensed this lady was the real deal, much like her character, Tess, in Touched by an Angel.

In 1964, President Richard Nixon was in Alaska on a fuel stopover. I was fortunate to see him depart Air Force One through binoculars. He waved at the crowd, and I waved back, yet I doubt he noticed me amongst all the taller adults.

Pope John Paul II flew to Anchorage in 1981. I was a mere fifteen feet away from the religious leader as he slowly rode down Minnesota Boulevard, while standing and waving at bystanders in back of new Chevrolet pickup truck, surrounded by Plexiglas. They called this contraption, “The Popemobile.”

Even with my brief glimpse, there was a look of total peace on the pontiff’s face, something I’ve never observed on any mortal before or after. As far as that Popemobile goes, I had to laugh.

Roli, from reality television Counting Cars fame, was eating lunch in a local Lake Havasu City Mexican restaurant in 2019. We sat a few tables away from his entourage, which consisted of two other people. On the way out I nodded at him, and he returned the gesture. Car guys are good at remaining humble.

My wife and I traveled to Havasu from Anchorage in 1990 to attend the “Run to the Sun Car Show.” At his event, I heard someone paging Mike Love over the intercom. Asking someone if Mike Love had cars in the show, a vendor told me that he had several. The man then pointed to one hot rod in particular with Mike and a group of people standing around it.

I wanted to get an autograph but decided it best to wait until folks left. Several minutes passed and I looked over that direction, finding everyone gone.

Back in Anchorage, I informed numerous people I’d seen the famous Beach Boys singer at a car show but missed getting his autograph. It wasn’t until twenty years later that I discovered there were two Mike Loves. The one at the car show wasn’t the famous singer. He’s famous though, for being one of the finest automotive painters on the West Coast, if not the U.S.

Where actually meeting famous people in person is concerned, I have a total of four: Brian Hitt, Rick Mears, Nigel Mansell, and Mike Love. Yes, I was fortunate to finally meet Mr. Love a few years back. He’s a nice guy like the other three. They are indeed icons in their respective fields.

Surprisingly, these gentlemen have something in common with me.

We aren’t getting any younger!

“Popemobile” – Anchorage, Alaska – 1981