I originally started this substack with the idea of discussing writing, film and politics, but I just couldn’t stay out of the political damage that’s being done by the communist coup in America. It affects the rest, too. My novels are not chosen or are de-rated by the system due to their conservative approach toward freedom, capitalism and integrity, things the communists detest. When I criticized the education system in Rebel, they came on to lower the star rating, but so many others appreciated the take that they were swamped, but it still happens. No one on the left wants to read about self-sufficiency, honesty, hard work that are now classified as some sort of white culture. They don’t appreciate the obsession with freedom that my novels depict.
Whether it’s a different sort of take on the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression, in Shadow Soldier or the political issues of Texas being a federally occupied state in Home to Texas, these are unpopular subjects with the intelligentsia and the books get de-rated or ignored completely. And, they’re on Amazon, so there’s no interest in really looking at the quality of the books themselves, but they are also available on our 12 Round Productions site where I ship hard copies of Shadow Soldier and Home to Texas myself, the other novels I can ship myself, too, but they’re printed by Amazon.
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Shadow Soldier, Home to Texas and Deputized that, in speaking to quality, was a finalist for the prestigious Spur Award by Western Writers of America, are quasi-Westerns in that they are really literary novels, a distinction that most people don’t understand. A literary novel is something that doesn’t follow a formula like genre novels do, that’s all. It’s the only difference and because I write what I want to write, what I think my readers want to read, I don’t follow the rules for a genre Western. I guess the idea that I don’t want to follow rules would surprise some people, but I doubt it.
As for the contemporary, or near contemporary works Rebel and now the sequel to it, Rogue (coming out in October 24th but available for pre-sale through Amazon) they deal with attempts to seek freedom from a society increasingly hostile to it. Below you will find the first chapter of the sequel to Rebel, titled Rogue.
I believe completely in letting my work stand on it’s own merit, rather than me blathering on about it all the time. It’s one reason I have not been much of a success as a novelist or screenwriter, it requires too much of my time to self-promote and I hate it. Even this post is extremely uncomfortable for me, but if I didn’t believe that getting these books out to a wider audience wasn’t important, culturally important, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The values depicted in the novels: respect for one’s parents, honesty, decency, standing up for oneself and one’s desire for freedom, values that are being decimated by the constant promotion of the perverse and disrespectful, are important to the future, to demonstrate the damage they’ve done to America by comparison.
I ask that you read the reviews of the novels by readers, who are ten thousand times more important to me than reviewers, but the novels generally do well with honest reviewers, too. It’s just that there is that potential that the review will be tainted by the left’s desire to drive everything truly American into the ground, stomp it out, destroy it, rather than argue the merits of Marxism against it.
If you have read my novels, or one of them, please give your take in comments if you’re comfortable with that. If not, I understand. Don’t step out of your comfort zone simply because I have to.
I’m making this plea at this time, because I think some very bad times are headed our way. Soon, I won’t be able to publish anything through any venue or have my accounts seized for writing such blasphemy to the left as I do on this blog. My political views have always been a drag on my artistic work, because when they discover my politics, they become enemies. I read a lot of writers with whom I politically disagree, but I can set that aside, they can’t.
Pre-orders are very important to rankings when the book comes out. A good push can get it some attention that would never otherwise come my way, so consider that.
I could feel the vibration of the engines on the wings. Air blew from the small, round jets above my seat. The cheap fabric on the seats, the molded-plastic interior reminded me of the necessity to make the aircraft light, but it also felt lowest-bidder cheap. I looked out the window at the snow-covered mountain peaks sliding by in the distance; slipping away. The Colorado mountains I’d always loved, had used as a baseline to life, were drifting away from me, being left behind…again. I was abandoning them and my life in Colorado and reaching out to embrace a new one.
The Boeing 737 was packed with Air Force recruits like me. I glanced around at the others, easily identified by their youth and scraggly appearance. They looked scared. All of us were uncertain. We were leaving lives behind and being thrust toward the future. The only thing we knew was that everything was about to change and there were no friends on the other end of the flight, no gentle greetings. As soon as the plane landed, we’d be whisked off to something completely unique and dramatic.
As the plane rose higher and higher into the atmosphere the mountains drifted lower in the window until I had to raise up in my seat to see them. Then, they were gone and the window filled with brown desert and green fields, so I lost interest.
It was 1979 and I was headed to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. I was about to become property. It seemed strange for someone who loved freedom, who could only breathe when surrounded by it, that I would give it up, but there were some compelling reasons for it.
While I never experienced the dramatic scene in some 1960s films of a troubled young man standing before a judge that gives him the option of prison or the military, the reasons were the same. I got into trouble, a lot. When bullied a person can stand up for themselves or remain a victim of the aggressor, or worse, a sycophant to the aggressor. I chose to stand; I would not allow people to curse me, give me the finger or ridicule me without response. Marking that territory labeled me a trouble-maker. The illogical conclusion that the person who stood up for themselves, defended themselves when threatened was the trouble-maker vexed me and served to pit me against a system that would draw it.
We were outnumbered, the long-time residents of my town, a former agricultural area once awash in farms and ranches. It had transitioned with the technology that was just starting to reveal itself in the form of electronics. Kodak located a large manufacturing plant nearby and Hewlett Packard built a facility on the outskirts of town that, by the time I left for the Air Force, was fully engulfed by housing developments. Those imported to work in such places held no affinity for the rural people, institutions and rituals they’d developed over time. They wanted to transition the town to resemble New York or California, with modern, liberal attitudes that clashed with the desire to maintain the values of rural Colorado.
I went to school with the children of these workers, people who openly criticized the town folk as backward hillbillies and ignorant farmers and ranchers. The hostility boiled over often and I always felt threatened, bullied, but I didn’t respond like some others; I didn’t try to fit in and adjust, changing what I wore, the music I listened to, the beliefs I held. I fought back, holding onto my roots as examples of honesty, decency and tradition. I challenged their criticisms, sometimes violently. But I was the bad one, the trouble-maker, the criminal for defending a culture I believed in that didn’t have to be defended in years past.
If I was allowed to walk down the hall in peace, I’d take it, live and let live, but when they pointed me out to others and called me names like “goat roper” or “shitkicker” scream out “yeeeha,” I’d often hit them in the face until they stopped. For that, I was labeled a trouble-maker. After years of this, I recognized that I couldn’t continue being the outcast, the target of so many different antagonists and needed a break, to somehow reset my life on firmer ground. The conclusion I came to was to join the Air Force, learn something valuable that would enhance my world, like jet mechanics, instead of remaining in an endless cycle of retaliation that could only ever result in my ultimate imprisonment.
The guy sitting next to me and the one sitting next to him were also recruits. I wondered if I looked as scared as they did. Some of their fear might have been a fear of flying that I lacked. I loved it. Just being up among the clouds, feeling the thump of the occasional turbulence was exhilarating. Instead of worrying about the end of the trip, I was absorbed in the moment.
The other two recruits were hippies, with long hair and I smiled to myself, “not for long,” I thought and looked out the window. I suppose their thoughts about me were along the same lines, critical. There I was, short hair, Western shirt, jeans, belt buckle and cowboy boots. I left the hat at home along with my International Harvester ball cap that would probably just get squashed in the luggage anyway. It did feel odd not having a hat, but I could adjust.
“What?” I asked, lost in my own thoughts and only barely aware that a question had been asked.
“Where you from?” the guy sitting next to me repeated, while he rubbed his thighs with his palms as if he were cold.
I could feel my brow knit.
“Colorado,” I said looking at him. “We’re all from Colorado.”
He stared at me for a moment, realizing his mistake.
He nodded, but seemed unsure of where that was.
“By Fort Collins,” I said, helping him out.
Did he? I wondered and looked out the window. There wasn’t much to see, it was all just a carpet of clouds, interesting for the viewpoint at least, more interesting than explaining where Loveland was.
“Trinidad,” he said.
I glanced at him. I could tell he just wanted to talk to ease his nerves and he didn’t understand that I preferred silence to just damn near anything.
“Ain’t that where they cut your pecker off?” I asked, because someone had told me that Trinidad was where they did sex-change operations.
He stared at me with a combined look of defensiveness and embarrassment.
“That why you joined? To get out of there before they got around to yours?”
He turned away from me and asked the guy on the other side of him where he was from. I looked out the window.
I watched as the land changed and grew closer and closer. There was a high-pitched whine as the landing gear lowered and I felt a thump as it locked into place. The jet slowed to a rate that seemed entirely too slow. I expected the whole mass of metal and humanity to fall out of the air at any moment. Instead, there was a big thump and the jet settled down on the struts. The engines roared in reverse thrust, vibrating the whole fuselage.
From there it was an orderly process of getting all of the recruits off of the plane, through the airport and onto a big blue school bus with United States Air Force written in small, yellow letters on the side. I sat down in a seat along with another recruit.
A sergeant stood at the front of the bus holding onto one of the poles that extended from floor to ceiling. As the bus was being driven through the city, the sergeant filled us in on what to expect from there, swaying occasionally from the turns and lane changes.
“Don’t worry about your luggage. You’ll pick it up after the orientation and store it at the barracks. The orientation will prepare you for the next few days. After that, your Training Instructor (TI) will tell you where to go and what to do. Listen carefully and follow orders to the letter.”
In time, we pulled up in front of a movie theater and the bus stopped. It was then that I realized I knew nothing about the military. The base was like a little city. It surprised me. I’d expected something out of the television show Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.; all Quonset huts and white rocks lining the streets. Instead, they had a gas station, a base exchange (grocery store), a fire house and hospital.
We got off the bus and were ushered into the movie theater where we took seats and stared up at the massive curtain. The first speaker was somewhat congenial in his manner, giving us the initial schedule, which consisted of haircuts, vaccinations, dorm assignments and the like. The second speaker was different. He seemed upset. He told us what would happen to us if we stepped out of line in the smallest way. Then, he said something that I knew intellectually, but had not really understood until then.
The second speaker looked out at all of the shaggy, disorganized, unruly bunch of individuals in various shapes and colors before him and it was clear that none of us warranted a second thought. In his consideration, we were nothing more than society’s refuse; garbage to be sifted through to find some value.
He glared at us and said: “I am not your mother. I do not love you. No one here loves you.”
He was right. There was no one to turn to for affection or understanding. While I was not big on that sort of thing, it touched home. I was alone, left to work my way through it. It wasn’t anything new to me, but the acknowledgment from his perspective struck me.
“You have no rights. You have no recourse. You will do as you are told and promptly at that. There’s no one here to carry your luggage or hold your hand. You belong to us and we will make you into something worthwhile. If you don’t get it the first time, we’ll run you back through the training until you do.”
From there we went to our barracks. As we walked past these huge, square buildings that looked like blocks set upon square, concrete struts, I couldn’t imagine what they might be. There were a lot of them, though.
It was August and the sun beat down on us, the thick air surrounded us, impeding our progress, it seemed. I’d only experienced that sort of humidity in Fort Scott, Kansas. The air itself seemed hostile as we carried our luggage all the way; at least a mile. Finally, we stopped in front of one of the square buildings. This was our barracks, no long Quonset huts like Gomer Pyle. The building extended over open areas and we gathered under the overhang.
We were led trudging up a staircase and to a door that I could barely see with so many others in front of me. I heard the Training Instructor speak to someone on the other side of the door and it was opened. I’d soon find out that the door was always guarded; no one in and no one out without permission. A little bit like jail. Is that how it was going to be? My heart constricted with the idea of being held captive. I couldn’t even go outside when I wanted?
I didn’t have time to worry about it. We were brought in and our luggage was put in a storeroom where it would remain as long as basic training did. We were distributed into two bays, with twenty people per bay: “A” Squad and “B” Squad. I was in “A” Squad and found a bed with bedding neatly folded into a square with a pillow on top and a book, the training manual, on top of that.
The rest of the day and into the evening was spent learning how to make a bed, how to store our toiletries, underwear, T-shirts and fatigues, though we didn’t have those items, yet. There were diagrams showing exactly how it all had to be arranged, how far from one side of the drawer, folded into squares of a given size. The items had to be “grounded” to a particular side of the drawer. Uniforms had to be equal distances from each other on the hangars. They weren’t fooling around about it, either. That much was made abundantly clear. Failure to properly organize one’s area would result in a “demerit.” I had no idea what the result of accumulating too many demerits would be, but it wouldn’t be good.
By the end of my first day in the Air Force, I was sure that I’d made a terrible mistake. I slithered under my tightly made covers and looked up at the ceiling. The lights went out and I stared into the darkness. What had I done?
Several minutes after “lights out” I heard sniffling coming from somewhere in the cavernous bay. The sound was so slight and indistinct that I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Crying?
Throughout the day’s activities the group of us had gotten used to each other on a superficial level, even though no communication was allowed between us, but I still didn’t know of anyone I thought would break down and cry over it. I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest in the squad and felt no urge to weep.
The lights snapped on, startling me. The Training Instructor came around a corner with a Billy club in one hand, smacking the palm of his other hand with it.
“Crying?! You gotta be shittin’ me!” he screamed. “One of you limp-dick sonsabitches in here cryin’? Which one? Which one of you is blubberin’ into his pillow?” He walked up and down the aisle between the two rows of beds. He swung the Billy club and hit the metal frame of one of the beds.
“Was it you!?” he snapped.
“No,” responded the person in the bed.
“No? Get up!”
The guy got out of the bed and stood in his underwear, shaking.
“Don’t eye-fuck me, boy!”
I couldn’t see any of it. I was further down and raising up would have just made me a target. Whoever it was had to bear the brunt of it on his own.
“How do you address a superior, you low-life maggot?”
“You say ‘sir, yes sir, or sir, no sir.’ You do not say ‘no.’ You got me?”
“Sir, yes sir!”
“Who the hell was cryin’ in here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Get down on the ground. Hear me? Get down on the ground. Give me ten pushups and every time you do one you call out ‘sir, one sir.’
The unfortunate young man did a pushup and called out correctly, but made the mistake of calling out: “sir, one sir” after the second pushup.
“Can you count?’
“Sir, yes sir.”
“Then count damn you, and start over!”
It took several minutes for the guy to get up off the ground and back into bed. Finally, the lights went out again and I lay there understanding that the last thing I wanted was to attract attention. That was my goal, to remain absolutely invisible, because I didn’t know how well I would take to someone standing in my face, screaming at me with spit flying all over. Personal history would suggest that it would not be good.
One of the things that marred my entrance to the Air Force was my legal waivers, one of which was for punching a cop. It was not my best moment, but it was a pure, uncontemplated reaction when he grabbed me by the shoulder. It was instinct and I feared for that instinct to play out there, under those circumstances. I didn’t want to be sent home two weeks into the fiasco with a dishonorable discharge. Since I didn’t trust myself, the best I could do would be to avoid any interaction by staying low, getting things right and being just another unremarkable face.
T.L.’s Posts and Podcasts is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Ha! Even though I was Navy and this was my life 60 years ago, the memories are as vivid as yesterday. In this godforsaken environment we have today the new "boots" will never know the life we led so long ago in boot camp.
Today they may find the DI has prosthetic boobs and wears a dress. They will learn that their privilege has no place in todays armed forces and sensitivity training will encompass everything they do.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane and watch your six!
I don't have much time for fiction, but I need a break. So I ordered the set. Got Rebel in case the sequel depends on the background, and to whet my appetite while waiting for the new one.
By the way, the military calls their grocery stores a commissary. The exchange is more like WalMart.