When you yearn to escape, it’s time to travel west

NEW COVERED WAGONWhen I tire of reading about the state of human affairs, I turn to my favorite author, someone who never fails to entertain me, to challenge me, to whet my appetite for adventure.

I know that the book I choose will follow the same plot line of nearly every book this author has written.

I know that the protagonist will be someone who has honed his basic skills of survival, who will shoot straight, knows how to throw a left jab and gets the girl before the story ends.

I want to be lost in the woods, travel over the western landscape, know how to handle knife and gun, sweat along a dusty trail, shiver in the cold, fight off a bear, ride a horse, sit around a campfire, watch the stars light up the sky. I want to be reminded of pioneer men and women who face life-and-death odds and prevail by the sweat of the brow, dogged determination and a willingness to take risks.

Last week I spent a lot of time reading what I call “heavy stuff” about finance, politics, economics and international trade policy. I also worked on the last few chapters of a romance novel that I’m writing. Even penned a letter or two.

Then I did what I always do. I went to the library and picked out a book by the late Louis L’Amour, who knew and wrote about the western landscape and its people.

He wrote 86 novels before he died in 1988, including my favorite, “Conagher,” and books about Hondo and the Sackett family.

Not bad for a guy who left school at 15 and completed his education as he traveled about the world living the characters that appear in my favorite “escape literature.”

Enough of Donald Duck. Gimme a real man and a courageous woman who stride out for the western horizon, making America what it always has been: great.

My father, the music man

My father trained as a classical violinist, but the First World War and a love affair with the daughter of Kansas wheat farmers ended that career.

After mustering out of the Navy, my father worked as a cook in a rural Kansas Dadcafé. During an afternoon “break,” he and fellow workers watched a blonde walk along a street nearby.

“Betcha a quarter you couldn’t get near that girl,” a buddy blurted. “She’s home for the summer from the University of Kansas.”

“You’re on.”

My father’s fellow workers didn’t know that he could play the violin and that the blonde played piano with a group of local musicians during vacation breaks from the university.

Guess who showed up at the next rehearsal?

I never heard my father complain about hitching a team of horses and working the field rather than pursuing a career as a classical violinist.

Rather, he played violin during worship services at the church we attended. After moving from Kansas to the Ozark Hills in southern Missouri, he became a popular lead for folk musical groups because he could hear a tune and then play it in any key.

My father also played his violin every evening before going to bed, a practice he pursued as long as he lived.

As I thought about Father’s Day this year, I was reminded that my father helped teach me the value of mastering the basics and of chasing a dream, a dream that can be lived every day — and night — of your life.

That was my father, the music man.

YOU CAN’T PASS UP A STORY EVEN DURING RETIREMENT

The story was too good to pass up.

Granted, I no longer am a newspaper reporter, but a story is a story.

So, I volunteered to interview and to write a story about the impending birthday Man at computerof a woman who resides at the retirement home where my wife and I recently moved.

It was of no consequence that the audience would only be a hundred or so residents of Terpening Terrace in north Eugene rather than thousands of subscribers to newspapers where I once worked as a journalist.

After all, a story is worth telling, especially one about a woman who will celebrate her 102nd birthday shortly after I finish writing this blog.

It required patiently interviewing a person who couldn’t recall many details about her early life in a rural western Oregon community. I also talked to members of her family and friends. Dates and places needed checking, and I shouted with glee when I located her name on a 1938 commencement document thanks to the Internet. Continue reading YOU CAN’T PASS UP A STORY EVEN DURING RETIREMENT