Personal Thoughts and Observations

Today I would like to view two different subjects, starting first that as a writer one must be continually observant. While that is an obvious statement, it still makes it true. For example in “The Caves of Steel”, by Isaac Asimov, he shows the differences between men and women in the use of a public restroom setting. If one were to observe the women’s the first thing that would be obvious is the continual talking and socializing, and then when observing the men’s quite the opposite where very few words are spoken, business is taken care of and then they leave. This example is something that is common and would easily be overlooked since it is such a commonplace happening. This always brings to mind that we, locked in our culture have a very difficult time stepping outside of it. And stepping outside of it is the responsibility of the writer. In the second unpublished book of the Discovery Series, I use that point exactly when one of the minor characters realizes that he may be applying solutions to the dig site that is tied directly to his culture and not to what they are uncovering. He then asks how can one separate what he has accepted from what they are discovering.

The second is something that I feel is a tragedy in many ways, and that is the loss of knowledge. Who truly knows where we would be if the great libraries of the past were still with us. Even now with the digital age and the supposed backing up of all the data, the possibility still exists that it could all disappear. If we look at history we can see time and time again how this knowledge has been destroyed. Whether it was because of a conquering race, a religious purging, or natural disaster, the results are the same. With the digital being the way of saving information now, it is the sheer volume that threatens to cause us to lose that knowledge.

The other portion of this is the experiences and learnings that each and every one of us have had over our lifetimes. Yet because we are locked within ourselves we can never really pass on what we have. Yes we try with the inexactness of language, and words in books. But these cannot really present what we have. So when we pass on all that we were, all that we learned, and that could be a benefit dies with us. This was probably one of the reasons that verbal histories were started. So that not everything that a tribe knew would be lost. Yet time and time again you could see where things were lost when through some tragedy that the person responsible for passing on this vital information would die before he or she did, resulting in having to rediscover it all over again. At least at this time there are no real answers to these thoughts and concerns as we still have not been able to break the barrier of the individual. And not in a way that is an intrusion that every government out that would love to do, but where we could truly share what we really have. Yes we still have those who would want to be dictators and such, and ones who would want the control. We surely have enough books and movies showing that very thing. It has been conjectured that at one time that we had the ability to talk mind to mind, and for those Christians out there, this was lost with the fall in the garden. And no I am not a Socialist or any other “ist”, and this is just about as political as I will get. After all I am an observer, and try in my simple way to write on what I observe.

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Published in: on October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Home Again

My wife and I have returned from our working vacation. On Friday and Saturday we logged 20 hours behind the wheel and reached our home in the early afternoon. As the day continued we found, as expected, that exhaustion had settled in and it was difficult to think of trying to unload the pickup and unpack. Eventually we gathered up the necessary energy and got the darn thing unloaded. In both directions of travel this time, all went really well. The truck that I drive started giving us some problems on the second day of our return trip, with the “Service Engine Soon” light coming on and remaining that way. The truck also became sluggish, but other than that continued to run and eventually got us home safely. While I had been with family for about a month, my wife had only 2 weeks, with 1 night for her 40th reunion. Overall the time spent was good.

I had goals of accomplishing needed work for my mother who is in her late 80’s. And I am happy to say that most of it was accomplished. My wife had much to do with her mother, and spent most of the time with her relatives to reach the assistance that she needed to give. As in these short visits you attempt to cram in as much time as you can to see your friends and family, and still get what needs to be done finished before returning home and facing the reality of she having to return to her job. We both could have spent another month doing necessary things and it still would not have been enough.

Yet much too soon we were giving the good byes, the hugs, and the promises to be back as soon as we can be. And that would be next year, unless some family emergency arises. Something that is a great possibility when dealing with aged parents. And since we believe that family comes first in all things it’s something that we would find a way to deal with. In this year my father has gone down hill considerably so I dread that in the near future that I will get the call that says he has passed. Yet when we are born we are terminal. So it is just when it is our turn. He has had a full life – not an easy one, but still others have not been so lucky.

So with this blog we, my wife and I, return to whatever is considered normal for us. The time went much too fast, and in the near future we will look back and wonder if we really took this time.

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Overrun!

Late in 1967 I was hired by the USPS as a seasonal employee. As positions opened because other seasonals’ were heading back to college, it gave me an opportunity to see if indeed wildland fire fighting would be something that I would enjoy. I had just turned 18 and reached the minimum age to be able to work for the government. Up until this time, studying and working in the local volunteer fire department had been the extent of my experience.

I always looked back to that crash of the military jet on our property in 1958 as the influence to become a fire fighter. The aircraft flew into our area during a foggy night, flying much too low. He hit a pile of boulders and exploded, with the front wing tearing off the aircraft and  continuing on its original path, flying over our house and then landing on the hillside behind the house. We were surrounded by fire – back to the incident.

The winds began to blow out of the east with gusts hitting 90 miles per hour. Then a major fire started, north on another forest, and equipment was being pulled to help suppress that fire. Our district was stripped leaving half the equipment it normally had. (This was, and still is, a normal procedure when other areas have a major incident break.) Then early next morning there was a new report of a fire breaking in the next district over from us. We were the closest unit out of our district and were dispatched along with what had been dispatched in that other district.

At the time there was only a 2 lane black top road as the main road through the county, and when these winds would blow the road would be shut down. We were the only vehicle on the road and the winds were blowing us all over the road. It was impossible to keep the fire truck in our own lane. Half way to the reported fire we were turned around with a report of another start. Heading back down the road we were still all over the road as the winds were now hitting us in the rear. Eventually when we got to where this report had been we could see that there was no new fire. What was being seen was the heavy dark smoke from the fire we were originally dispatched. Because of the strength of the winds the smoke was funneling down through the canyons and not rising in a defined convection column.

We finally arrived in the area of this major incident and immediately attacked a spot fire. Once under control we headed for a large overgrazed meadow next to the forest service station that had made the initial attack on the fire. The weather station that was there had been blown over and destroyed. The winds were so strong that if one opened the door on the fire engine that it was immediately grabbed out of one’s hands and either thrown wide open or slammed shut. Anything loose in the cab was grabbed and then thrown out and lost. As the fire continued to throw out spot fires we attacked them as we could. I watched fire travel across that meadow where I believed no fire could go.

One of the safety commands that must be learned is, “Situations that shout Watch Out!” This one states this: “You are making a frontal attack on a fire.” Followed by Standard Fire Fighting Order #4, which states, “Have Escape Routes for everyone and make them known.” That night anchoring off a spot fire that had been suppressed, we awaited the main fire along with a lot of other equipment. Hand crews had used the black area from the suppressed spot fire, and had worked their way into the danger zone and out of sight from where we were situated, which was on a single lane dirt road. Our escape route was down that road and away from the station that we had been close to earlier that day.

The fire hit us all at once. First the night sky lit up with falling burning embers which fell like rain and were falling across our line and began igniting spot fires. We were desperately attempting to keep up the sheer number of new fires starting. They were starting so fast that it became impossible to put them out and they began to combine. Just about this time the head of the main fire approached from the opposite direction and we found ourselves between the main fire and the combining spot fires. The fire had gone by us with no effort at all, leaving us surrounded by fire. Word had come down that the direction we had set up for our escape was now blocked as the fire had jumped the road in that direction earlier. Now facing a rising danger I was directed to assist in turning around the engine so that we could head back to that meadow area. As I directed the truck in the change of direction the whole area now was on fire. Everywhere I looked all vegetation was fully involved and the area lit up with an eerie orange-red glow, with flames everywhere. Once turned around we all got into the cab, and when we finally were able to leave, we had flames curling around the hood, and had any of us been in the outside back seat, we would have been burned, and had the fire engine stalled all would have perished.

And this was my introduction to wildland fire fighting. I found that I truly loved it and continued for a number of years until an injury took me out of it forever.

Published in: on October 17, 2011 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  

A Reunion Past

This week I attended the 40th high school reunion of my wife. I cannot say that it is my first such 40th, as I am older than my wife, so I attended mine a few years ago. In a sense, like she was when she attended mine, I was an outsider. Yet, by being an outsider, it gave me the chance to observe and think about what was transpiring around me. And here simply is my observations and thoughts as they came to me.

First let’s look back to when we either graduated from high school or college, and the friends that we had made during that time, and the promises we made once we were leaving heading into our individual unknown futures. One of the most common was to remain in contact with each other, and probably one of the first, in most cases, that did not happen. As life has a tendency to get in the way of promises, and goals that one has set for themselves. So then the reunions start, with the first milestone being the 10th. Here for the ones who attend most appear to be as they were when they left school. Then as time continues, and the reunions come and go, every time you attend, it then very briefly brings back those early days when life and things were much less complicated, and the only worries were those tests and classes you had to pass.

As people circulated through the much smaller crowd you could see them look at the name tags that had the pictures of each when they were seniors. Time to many had been kind, but to others not so. Then with recognition came excitement and joy when finding that old school buddy. They would converse for a period of time as each brought the other up to date, and of course promises to remain in contact, before moving on to find another lost friend from that time. For an observer it was both a happy and sad time. Happy because these lost friends had a chance, even if briefly to find each other again, and sad because it would for most only be here at this moment that this closeness would be felt, as time and distance would once again intrude, separating once again these old friends.

Then there is the one identifying trait that showed the age of the particular participants in this reunion. And with this it brings a smile to my face, even if it is once again a sad one. After all, age does take its toll – after all the participants were in their late 50’s, which meant for most that to see anything close required reading glasses. So as each name tag was read, you could see, all through the crowd, the reaching for those dreaded reading glasses, and aid that they would prefer to do without, but couldn’t.

Still it was an enjoyable evening. One that was much too short, and even though it wasn’t mine, I would not have missed it for the world.

Published in: on October 9, 2011 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

An Observation and Excerpt

I start this week looking at an observation of books and some movies. It is probably more pervasive than I have noticed, but is something that is used often enough to elicit a comment The first time I discovered its use was in the book Oliver Wiswell, by Kenneth Roberts. This is a fictional story placed in the time of the revolutionary war – an excellent read by the way. As you follow the main character through the story he has a companion that performs necessary actions behind the story allowing the main character to be successful in his endeavors. You find the same type of setup in the movie The Green Beret, starring John Wayne, Peterson was the scrounger in this setting. In David Drake’s RCN series there are actually two who perform this service, and in David Weber’s Honor Universe there are two, but only one is active within the story at a time.

By creating these secondary characters much that needs to be accomplished to keep the readers immersed in the story can happen in the background and still keep the story believable. If the main protagonist had to do everything necessary then the stories would either have to get much less complicated or would need many more pages to complete the adventure. So like the sidekick in so many of the movies that are out, let us praise these minor characters who keep the story moving, and continue to allow us, the readers to keep our concentration on the protagonist. To the many writers who use them I give you a great big thank you.

To the second part of this post – here is an excerpt from the manuscript, The Woman in the Snow. Again this is Contemporary Woman’s Christian Fiction – enjoy!

She slowly awoke and found herself in an awkward position, had she fallen out of bed?
What had awakened her anyway? Then she realized that it was very dark and very cold, and it appeared that she was dressed. So she couldn’t be in her room. At the same time she realized that her bladder was aching. Maybe that was what had brought her to life. She shifted a little and then realized that just about every muscle in her body hurt. What did she do? As she shifted something moved across her chest, and then she realized that it was a seatbelt. Had she been in an accident and had she been knocked unconscious? That thought almost caused her to panic.

Then it came back to her in a flash. That probably was exactly what had happened. She remembered driving down the remote backcountry road eager to get where she was going, and realized that the sky had become ominous, as it appeared that a new snowstorm was approaching rapidly. She could see that it was getting colder. The storm was something she hadn’t expected or prepared for. After all one had just ended and it was very late in the winter so she thought that the one that had just left was the final storm. So she was eager to get on the road and see her fiancé who was ending a semester in college and lived just about a day away.

Looking at the developing storm she became worried, and then she had hit that black ice which immediately sent her car spinning. She remembered desperately trying to get the car back in control and saw the edge coming up quickly. She screamed when she saw that there was no way she was going to stop the car from leaving the road. She felt the car fly off the road and knew that she was in the air. Grabbing the steering wheel desperately she braced herself and found that she put out a quick prayer to be safe. Now if she didn’t hurt as much as she did she would have laughed. While her family, and even her fiancé were Christians, deep in their faith, she thought it was stupid, something that belonged to those first century people. But had nothing to do with anyone with any ability to truly think. After all these religions had all been created when man had created gods to solve things they did not comprehend or understand.

So why had she prayed? She remembered her dad stating that there were no unbelievers in the foxhole, and thought maybe when she faced a possibility of death that she like those soldiers just reached out.

Published in: on October 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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