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August 2006

  From the organized clutter of Darrell's office.

Note: Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Holiday, Memoirs, Current Projects, Canning and Jelly Making, Book Report and more.

Betty and I spent the July fourth holidays quietly at home with Tonto and Susie, the dachshunds. For a change, Tonto stayed out of trouble (well, mostly). He did let a copperhead bite him, necessitating a trip to a pet emergency clinic in the middle of the night that cost $250.00, but shucks, things like that are normal for him. About the only thing of note we really did in July was take our monthly excursion to Wal-Mart. The nearest one to us is about 15 miles. Exciting, huh?

I did complete my next book, Space Trails and sent it off for editing. I also continued my memoirs and began this newsletter. Just as a note, I don't compose the newsletter all at once, but start a few days after the first of the month and work on it as ideas and subjects occur to me.

A free sampler of some of my books is available in PDF format. Please request it by e-mailing me from my web site. Thanks.

The fourth segment of my Biography/Memoirs was posted at my web site during the month (See July, Fourth Installment), covering the period 1950 through 1953 and ending with a very momentous decision, one that changed the rest of my life. I made that decision when I was only thirteen years old and have never regretted it. Those years were quite an odyssey for a young boy who had never been much of anywhere.

My memoirs have received quite a bit of attention from family, friends, fans of my books and other readers. I appreciate all the letters and comments I've received, especially from my uncle TC. Later in this newsletter I'm going to include a letter I got from him. Most of us today simply can't imagine what conditions were like for many Americans in the "olden days."

All too often I believe we fail to thank our friends and families for things which don't ordinarily occur to us. For instance, I happened to remember that when I first began writing and showed my feeble efforts to Betty, she never laughed at what I had written or discouraged me in any way at all. After going over some of those early manuscripts lately (and discarding most of them), I'm surprised she was able to keep a straight face when she read them way back then. At any rate, thinking of those days, I went straightaway and thanked her. I might not be a writer today had she said what she really thought. That's one of my instances. Can you remember any of yours?

When's the last time you thanked your children for being good kids, just out of the blue, like "Sharon, you are really a good girl. Thanks you so much for being that way." Try it and you might be amazed at the reaction you get. Actually, it doesn't even have to be family or friends. How about the medical people and policemen and women working holidays? How often do we thank them for giving up those days to care for us and protect us? Not nearly often enough, most likely. We have a plumber who always calls right back when we leave a message and never fails to arrive when he says he will--or if he's unavoidably detained, he calls and lets us know. I made a special effort to remember and thank him for that courtesy the last time he was out here. Giving a little thanks for things you ordinarily don't think of doesn't take much time and it's certain to brighten another person's life. Give it a try!

Current Projects
As noted, I finished Space Trails, my latest book. Yes, I've decided on the title now, and it's gone for editing. It should be released as an E-book in August. It's a curious book, encompassing an idea I've had for years but couldn't figure out how to go about it. I wanted to write a science fiction that paralleled in some ways the exploration of the American continent by our forebears. I've always admired those pioneers, and finally came up with a way to write about similar people in the future. What's next? Well a few days off first, then I may go back to the Williard brothers series or a book about Tonto, both works in progress. Tonto sure deserves a book, just for surviving so far if no other reason.

I just noticed a nice review from a reader at Amazon for Medics Wild!, the fictionalized version of my time in Vietnam. The reviewer said I had put a lot of myself into the book and it's true--I did. I noticed a news item the other day about one of our naval ships making a port call in North Vietnam. How times have changed!

Alien Infection is still selling well. It is available in print, download and Audio versions. My most popular book, The Sex Gates, continues to do well, simply by word of mouth. It has become a small cult classic in the science fiction field.

We're making progress on getting the dust jacket ready for my first hard cover, Savage Survival. It should be released in the latter part of the year. Needless to say, I'm excited about my first hard cover book and really looking forward to it.

A couple of my short stories have been selected for audio versions, I'm pleased to say, and should be available soon at Fictionwise.com. They are "Darby" and "Unforeseen Reward." Both are available as downloads for reading on computers or hand held devices now at Fictionwise.com and eReader.com. In fact, all my books are available at those two sites in electronic versions.

Knowledge News
I rarely recommend a web site, but I'm going to make an exception. Try Knowledge News at http://www.knowledgenews.net/. The url listed will tell you all about it, but basically, it's a daily newsletter which brings you some new knowledge every day, sometimes deep background about current events. An example is the last two days, where Knowledge News first gave a historical perspective of Beiruit, then brought it up to modern times. I've found Knowledge News always interesting and informative, with no bias that I've seen so far. You can try it for free, then if you like it, a year's subscription is very reasonable. The articles are short, concise and give you all the essential information about the particular subject without overwhelming you.

Canning and Jelly Making
Canning and making your own jelly or jam are two things which are done less and less these days. Betty still cans tomatoes, but that's all. She does still make jelly, but nothing like when we still had the Christmas tree farm open. Then, she made nearly a thousand pints of jam and jelly for the season and we always sold out. Nowadays, she takes a special order occasionally and does some for the family. And she's promised to make me some more plum butter, my own personal favorite. That's a labor of love, too, because to make a dozen jars is an all day project. It's an old fashioned recipe from up in Arkansas and tastes better than anything from a grocery shelf. I've done without the last two years since being diagnosed as a diabetic, but that's long enough. I'm having withdrawal symptoms!

Book Report
I finally got around to reading "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" by Jim Bishop. It was published 50 years ago. Betty has had it on her shelf for years and I saw her re-reading it the other day and decided to try it. I was surprised--it's very good, and has lots of history in it, too. A new one I tried and liked was Watch Me by A.J. Holt. It's about a renegade FBI agent who takes justice into her own hands. A little gruesome in parts but very good. I continued exploring Steve Martini's courtroom/mystery books with The Judge and Double Tap, both just as good as his others. He's a very good writer and I'm glad I discovered him.

I re-read a very old book by L. Sprague De Camp, "Rogue Queen." It's one of his best, and I've had it around for forty years or so, reading it every year or two again. Another repeat was "The Legacy of Heorot" by Niven, Pournelle and Barnes. Novels written by trios are rare but these three combined to produce one of the most remarkable books of intrastellar colonization I've ever read. I recommend it highly. A new one I picked up this month was "The Closers," a detective novel featuring Harry Bosche by Michael Connelly. I've read most of his work and this one is about as good as his others, all of which are on my shelves.

I continued reading more of Dan Mahoney's detective books. The latest, "Justice," was about a rogue cop who is killing drug dealers. It's as good as his others, I'm pleased to say.

I finally found a copy of "Lancet," a book I first read back in 1959, by Garet Rogers and have been searching for it for a long time. This is a fictional rendition of the life of the great 18th century surgeon, John Hunter. He was far ahead of his time. A factual history of his life recently was published also, entitled "Knife Man," which I've already reported on. I love it when I locate an old book like that. Since settling down here, and now that I found "Lancet," I've finally located all but one book I read as a young man and wanted to read again. Some of them I paid quite a lot of money for since they were collector's items, but I didn't begrudge the money, nor did Betty ever complain, even when she was making most of the money.

Some people have what I call, for lack of a better word, a presence. This is a rare attribute, one that makes these people beloved and remembered and persons you always want to share your triumphs and tragedies with. Presence is the fact that you're always aware of these persons, even if it's in the background of your mind, and the awareness makes you feel better. In all my working life, I've run across only two supervisors who had a real presence, one in the army and one in civilian life. I was always aware of them as a guiding part of my life and their presence is still with me even though I haven't seen either of them for thirty or forty years.

I've known only two women with presence. One of them is my wife, Betty. Everyone who knows her loves her, especially me. They go to her for comfort and loving. They call on her when in need, knowing she'll always respond. Anyone who's ever worked with her or been a friend to her remembers. She's still a presence in many lives, even though we seldom interact with persons other than the family any more and don't travel much. I'm always aware of her, whether she's beside me, in the next room or five hundred miles away. When we married, all of my family immediately fell in love with her, too, so this isn't just a man in love with his wife talking.

I promise you, I'm not confusing love with this phenomena. My Uncle TC has this attribute. Everyone who knows him loves him. He's a quiet, unassuming man, yet I've never known anyone not to listen to him when he has something to say. He's always been a force in my life even though we rarely saw each other after I turned twelve. The first time my oldest son met him, after he was a grown man, he knew TC had this attribute, even though he didn't have a word to describe it.

Presence is not to be confused with charisma, either. It's something similar, but not the same. As I said to start with, I'm trying to describe something that really doesn't have an accepted definition. When you run across a person who has it, you know it, though. Always. It's too bad more people in life don't have presence. It would be a better world. And before you ask, no, I don't have it. I'm a better man for living with a woman who does, though.

I'll bet some of my readers could tell me about people they know with presence, and perhaps define it better than my poor attempts.

Uncle TC and Memoirs
I promised earlier to include a letter from TC, whom I've mentioned a number of times in my memoirs and my newsletters. He's written me several times in response to reading my Memoirs and has filled in some blanks and told me some things about his early life I think anyone would like to read. So here it is: (Note: Lester and Dorothy are my parents. Ruel and Frobin are my uncles, Dad's brothers).


* * *

Darrell, back to the farm. The team I used to plow the fields was a span of large mules. Very large. They did not like to be bridled and harnessed early in the morning and would back around and hold their head so high I needed a ladder to get the bridle over their ears. Sometimes Lester would help me but mostly had his own things to do. Once I had them harnessed and hitched to the plow they would step right out and keep me hopping to keep up. We worked right on through until milking time in the afternoon. No such thing as stopping for lunch.

I kind of hero worshiped Lester in those days. He was so well muscled and fast and strong I wanted to be like him. He did kind of save my skin one time. I went into the barn lot to turn the old bull out. He was big and mean so I carried a stick about six foot long with me. He didn't want to leave so took a run at me. I started whacking him across the nose with the stick and had him backing up toward the fence where I hoped to make a quick exit, but unfortunately the stick started breaking of in short pieces and I was getting closer and closer to the bull. Too close to try to run. Just then Lester showed up with a pitch fork and gouged the bull a couple of times hard enough to make the old dude run. Thank you Lester!

Back up a few years. We were living in New Mexico in 1933 when my mother left to come back to Arkansas to be with her mother when her eighth child was born. When my father got word that son Travis had arrived he loaded up his seven other kids and brought us back to Ark. Moving was nothing new to us. By the time I was in the fourth grade I had been to eight schools. When we got back my Dad bought an old house and some land between Nunnley and Board Camp on slatey creek. About a half mile from the Walter Bain place.

We soon got acquainted with the Bains and visited back and forth at times. Some evenings Ruel and Frobin would bring their instruments over and make music for us. That really was a treat. We did not have a radio at that time. Along about then was when Dorothy saw That good looking Lester and fell head over heels in love. After a short courtship they decided to get married. My father objected at first because of Lester's past but after some long hard discussions things worked out. Lester joined the local church and they could and of course did get married with everyone's blessing. They lived in our vicinity until after Snooky was born then moved down to Louisiana.

Helen and I got married Nov. 13th, 1938. I was finding very little work around home. What I did find was ten hours work for one dollar and sometimes as much as a three mile walk to get there. When Dorothy and Lester asked us to come work with them on the dairy farm we made the move. Bill Cottman took us and what little stuff we had down to the little shack on the farm. Of course we were happy to be around Dorothy and Lester and glad to have work.

The dairy did furnish what milk we needed and the shack to live in but was all. We had barely enough money to get food to survive on until payday. Helen's mom had sent a few jars of her canned food with us. That was a big help.

I remember our first payday. A big ten bucks! Helen got a ride with some one to the grocery store, maybe Lester, I don't remember. I do remember all of the food she got and she even managed to get a cheep pair of shoes which she needed badly. Her old ones were about shot.

It was very hot that summer. Helen was pregnant with Jerry. There was no way to get cool except late at night, but she never complained.

We stayed and worked hard for about three months, then I heard of a job on a dairy at Mena. It paid twenty-five dollars per month and furnished a house. Sounded very, very good. I hated to leave my sister Dorothy and her family but thought it was the thing to do. Lester was kind enough to buy my crops. Thought he could make money since they were " laidby." That term meaning work was finished. Ready to gather and sell in the fall. I hope he did make something.

Did not get the dairy job until some time later. Had to leave Helen with her family and go on to Coffeeville where sister Daphne lived.

Did get a job there, working for the city digging a water line ditch.

That was fun too. Using picks and shovels (no one had ever heard of a back hoe in those days) about ten of us were lined up digging the ditch beside a street. It had to be five foot deep and no telling how long. We worked ten hours days and the temperature at noon was one hundred degrees in the shade. The water boy came by once an hour. Otherwise we worked, using a pick for awhile and then the shovel. But the pay was twenty five cents an hour! I never knew a working man could make so much money! After about two weeks the boss told me he had to let me go. I asked why, I was doing as much or more work as anyone on the job. He agreed I was one of the better workers but I was from out of town and city fathers said the job should go to local men. Politics!

Anyway, I was ready to see my wife so I drew my pay and left.

After Jerry was born we did get the dairy job in Mena. They did pay the twenty-five a month and furnish a small house. But the work time was about fourteen hours a day, starting at two thirty in the morning, lasting until nine o'clock at night, seven day a week. We also had to pay the dairy for the milk we used.

Never mind about all of this hard times stuff. Helen and I were together and our son was doing great and we had families within a few miles.

We just did not know how poor we were. Everyone we knew were in the same shape. We might be tired out at times but was mostly happy with our life. Looking back, it has been mostly good. Glad to still be here.

Take care and be happy. T C

I've run past the word count I normally allow for the newsletter, but I felt readers would like to see the letter from TC.

Thanks to all for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
August 2006

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