It was a special weekend for the ugly one as I finally got to meet a favorite writer of mine and all around nice guy, Dana King. Dana has been kind enough not to get too frustrated by my political rants over the years and not held them against my dopey books (and last year did an interview with me over at New Mystery Reader). We were trying to figure out where and how exactly we’d met, and figured it was either from one of his book reviews of mine (Shakedown) or on J.D. Rhoades blog (where I’ve pissed off half the western hemisphere from time to time). Anyway, here we finally are, in Gettysburg ... Dana is every bit the gentleman he is a terrific writer and I can’t wait until his first novel will be available (around September of this year). My Todd Robinson Thug Lit T-shirt inspired many comments along the way ... I had to keep pointing to the byline underneath (Writing about Wrongs). Check out Dana’s dynamite short story Hitter at A Twist of Noir.
Along for the ride was the lovely (and incredibly smart) Allison (who will be starting a special one year Masters in Sociology at Columbia University next week) and her beau, my second cousin, Jason (my weight loss coach and all around inspirational guy--believe it or not, he used to be in the plus 300 bills weight class).
Jason and Allison took this picture of the spot I always found the most compelling in Gettysburg (where the union damn near blew it when Sickles decided it was time to forge ahead just to the right of the Little Round Top and subsequently exposed the union left flank); where Joshua Chamberlain, after being warned by Gouverneur K Warren, fought off a rebel assault first with bullets, later with a bayonet charge that won him the medal of honor.
Speaking of heroes ... one of my 16 or so fans (it is going up), Dr. Don Kirkendall’s uncle, WWII Marine Veteran, Howard passed at age 89 on June 10. His remains were committed at a service in Arlington National Cemetery. Howard was a WWII marine vet.
In Dr. Don’s words: My uncle Howard was a larger than life figure to me as a child. His wife (my mom's sister) died far too young (cancer, late 1950s) so we kind of lost touch with him. Last I saw him was my sister's wedding in 1968. He lived deep down in southern MD. A couple years ago, I was in Baltimore and dreading the drive home around DC, so I looked at a map, saw his home town and wondered if he was still around. I found a phone number, called and after a little history to reintroduce myself he said come on by. Lived most of his whole post WWII life on 80 wooded acres among a lot of other similar sites directly across the Potomac from Mt Vernon. Bought his land for $100/acre. I asked what it was worth now and he said, depending on the stock market, between 30-50K/acre. that's $2.4 to 4 million. pretty good ROI I'd say.
Uncle Howard Stories: In early 1950's, there were still rural electrification boards bringing power to hermits like him. Around 1952, he and my aunt had built their house enough they could move in, so one Monday he went to the board saying he's ready to move in and to bring in the power. He was told that road wasn't due to get power for 18 months. Uncle Howard said that wasn't acceptable. The guy said, 'Sorry, pal, you just don't pull enough weight." My uncle's response (and this is about a verbatim quote), "I grabbed that pencil neck by the lapels, dragged him over the counter and said, 'How about now?' Power was going in on Wednesday." Once a Marine, always a Marine.
He always had big, hairy dogs like a German Shephard/Collie mix. Each lived a rich long life with him, 15y and more for all of'em. And each was named FoDay. FoDay #1 was from a litter an uncle (his wife's brother, a tobacco farmer down here). The first born of the litter was black as night so it was named Midnight. The second was promised to Uncle Howard. Now in those days were itinerant farm hands who wandered from farm to farm to harvest tobacco and this one guy was there for the births. When they were trying to come up with a name for Uncle Howard's dog, this guy said FoDay. When asked how he came up with that name, this farm hand said (and this sounds better with a real strong, and black, southern drawl), "Cuz everyone know that Midnight come 'fo day." Every dog Uncle Howard ever had was named FoDay. Think he was on #5 when he died (an aside-Howard had a stroke in early May, then a couple others in May and died on 10 June. FoDay #5 died over that Memorial Day. Guess old FoDay realized "I got him as far as I could. My work here is done." Howard was still able to go out back at watch neighbors bury him next to where all his other dogs were buried).
Very cool guy; a real hermit and pack rat, rarely threw anything away. Had a John Deere tractor he bought new in the mid 50's and never left it out over night, always under cover. Am told a quality working tractor from that era is worth $75K today. He could fix anything and had the tools to do it. There will be one hell of an estate sale up there someday soon.
Dr. Don’s Mom celebrated her 97th birthday last week. Don says her hearing isn’t so good anymore but she’s sharp as a tack and jokes with the workers at her nursing home.
Don co-authors a book reviewing site where all of my books have been reviewed. Men Reading Books. There’s an East Coast and West Coast Don (both legitimately doctors) ... not bad.