When Silence Calls is now available in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com. Writing it with my brother has been a great adventure. Finding the right voice was a challenge. Ultimately, it is his story, told by him but extensively edited to make it flow and read easily. His is an inspiring story with a wide variety of experiences and emotions that everyone should relate to on some level.
I HAVE STARTED WRITING A NEW BOOK
Sometimes a writer doesn’t find a story, the story finds the writer. For years I have encouraged my brother to write down his story. His journey has been no less than amazing. No one could have predicted the course of his life, nor the impact he would have on thousands of deaf children.
G. Dennis Drake is the founder and director of the International Deaf Education Association (IDEA). How he got there is a fascinating tale, and I have been challenged to capture it on paper. This is no small task for me, but I am a willing laborer. With input from Dennis and family, combined with a lot of research, I hope to present his incredible adventure in the pages of a new book.
With barely three chapters under my belt, I’m sure many months will pass before its completion. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
I got about halfway through my first fiction novel and put it aside. Not that it’s a bad novel, I just don’t know if I am a novel writer. In fact, those who have previewed it say that it is an intriguing story. Somehow, though, I feel like I’m cheating. I’m best known for my memoirs and stories based on real-life events. Making everything up as I go is a bit unsettling for me.
I love flying or driving with a GPS. No worries. I can see exactly where I am and where I am going. Still, in the air, I carry a paper sectional chart to track my course… just in case. The GPS seems too easy. That’s the way I feel about writing a novel. Too easy. Of course, that could also mean that my novel writing is a bit on the weak side.
So, for the time being, I think I will stick to short stories based on real life. They are fun to write, people seem to relate to them, and I know the beginning, middle, and end before I start. The challenge is in making the story come alive and entertaining.
I may eventually get back to the novel once I run out of interesting true-life adventures to write about. Time will tell.
When I decided to track down some of the airplanes that influenced my life, the biggest surprise was finding a little aerobatic airplane I had restored in the 1990’s hanging from the ceiling in a Burger King. After the initial impact of viewing internet pictures of my handiwork suspended peacefully above fast-food tables, I had to wonder how the little plane came to be caged. Numerous attempts at reaching the owner of the establishment and/or the airplane have so far been unsuccessful. In the meantime, while searching my files, I came across a story (Snap Rolls to Burgers) I had written shortly after completing the resurrection of the aerobatic bird.
The truth is, I flew only one competition in N20DS even though I owned her for several years. We did a lot of playing and dancing in the wild blue yonder, but she had a bad habit of sharply dropping the right wing in a stall even if I wanted to spin to the left. I’d pull hard back on the stick, full left rudder and instead of entering a left-hand spin she would drop hard to the right and then flip over to the left. Once I got used to it, her erratic behavior didn’t bother me much, but it made the maneuver look ugly to the judges. As a result, I lost points and scored low. I figured out that the right-wing attach-points were slightly off and, instead of tearing things down to redo them, I learned to live with her small idiosyncrasies and avoid further competitions. I did, however, spend a lot of time competing with myself, trying to improve on my figures in the sky.
N20DS and I parted company in July of 1997. I never saw her again until she showed up on a Facebook page a few months ago. Now I have the urge to somehow rescue her from burger prison. I’m not sure if that is even possible given current circumstances, but the wheels in my head are spinning. Time will tell.
A full half-century has passed since I wore bell-bottom pants, paisley shirts, and a fringed leather jacket. To be honest, I was never quite that cool. I did own bell-bottoms and paisley shirts, yes—but, no fringed leather. A ragged old jeans jacket had to do. But that was in the early 70’s. In high school, I was caught between the doo-wop days and the Beatle cut, white socks, and penny-loafers.
Back in those days, college was the way to avoid the draft. The Vietnam War was raging somewhere in Asia, and nobody wanted to become a jungle-tramping, ground-pounder carrying an M-16 rifle. Of course, there was always Canada, but that was considered the coward’s way out.
My first attempt at college was a total bust, so I figured joining the Air Force was safer than getting drafted. As it turned out, attending classes and studying harder in college would have been the best alternative by far.
Wearing the Boots
I ended up in a top-secret compound run by the National Security Agency in the East China Sea, processing intelligence information coming out Vietnam and all South East Asia. “Intelligence” was an oxymoron when referring to military secrets. Sending hundreds of thousands of good American boys to fight a war we couldn’t win, in a country that didn’t want us, didn’t seem intelligent to me. The more I learned, the less I believed in our government’s decisions.
At any rate, many years later, after raising a family and obtaining a crop of grandchildren, my daughters convinced me to write down my unique experience of protesting an unjust war from within the military. They had heard my stories many times of the Red Boots Rebels, and our stand against the idiocy of the Vietnam War. In a way, the story of the Red Boots was the M.A.S.H. of the late 60’s. While being intensely serious with potentially grave consequences, the outcome was quite humorous.
What better way to spend a summer afternoon than playing tag with a good friend in Piper Cubs. Mike and I would roam Montana skies looking for challenging landing spots. We took turns selecting a field or road to plop down on while the other followed. Some landings were ego boosters. “Let’s see if he can get down on this jeep trail.” Others were easy in-and-out for a picnic lunch or snooze by a river.
I found my Piper J-5 rotting away in the back of an Oklahoma crop duster’s hangar. The sad little plane ended its days as an agricultural sprayer and had been neglected for a number of years. With the purchase of an old flatbed trailer and a few hundred yards of rope, I hauled the derelict back to my Montana shop and restored her to life once again. I have no doubt she enjoyed bouncing in and out of wheat fields much more than the life she had previously lived dowsing them with chemicals.
The J-5 played an important role in the love story of the aviator and the hippie, as told in my book, Schellville.
My father flew B-24 bombers and tankers out of India during WWII. As an artist, he also painted nose art on a number of airplanes (see my book, Across The Yellowstone). “Cute Lil Lass” was one of the last paintings he made. This was the B-24 he flew back to the states from India at the end of his tour. He had flown forty-two missions into Burma and China. As a memento, he removed the 8-day clock from the instrument panel and hid it away in his luggage.
The clock now sits on my bookshelf below a model of the B-24 he built when he was in his eighties. Although it ceased to tick years ago, the hands on that clock represent a wonderful reminder of the bravery demonstrated by my parents and their generation. I look at the face of that timepiece and imagine it vibrating next to the other instruments from the drone of those four huge radial engines, as the plane struggled for altitude to cross the Himalaya Mountains. I can see my father sitting at the controls, a young man of twenty-one, in charge of a crew of kids, freezing in their flight suits after sweating in the heat of India prior to takeoff. The stories he and others told of their experiences are awe-inspiring, bone-chilling, and humbling. They left extremely large footprints to follow.
I grew up with that clock and all the other paraphyllia my father saved; log books, flight suits, diaries, cadet books, and picture albums. I don’t know if my love for aviation came from my exposure to those things, or I was attracted to them because of my desire to join the birds in flight. Either way, I can’t express how thankful I am that he left those treasures for me and others to enjoy.
Several years ago, my siblings and I decided to donate much of Lt. Vernon L. Drake’s war memorabilia to the National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, CO. His legacy will live on there for years to come.
Yep, there are airplanes in my stories, but you don’t have to like them to enjoy the tale.
Some people are into cars, others are crazy about horses. I even have a motorcycle in the garage, but my preference is spending time with the birds. Even so, my books aren’t necessarily about flying. They are about living, loving, and the challenges we all face. After all, life is a series of relationships with people and things. When someone is striving to be a good ballplayer, computer wiz, CEO, or the best mom on the planet, we all share similar emotions. So, whether or not a person likes airplanes or performing inverted spins in them (that’s a younger me in the photo), chances are pretty good that they will relate to the struggles, challenges, defeats, and successes I write about.