Ghost Ranger
A long haired, rednecked Indian Cowboy

Jul
25

Today I was notified that a friend died. At my age it wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last I get this type depressing news.. When I heard the news it was like a kick in the gut.  I have worked with many men around the world and almost all could be described as good men to ride the river with, but this man was special. I was a military brat when I met him. He was the son of a barber. I had lived in many places and went to many schools. He was born and raised locally. I really didn’t fit in in school. I worked after school and then roamed the street, that’s where I got to know him. In the 60’s, in Texas kids our age listened to rock ‘n roll or country. I did but I also listened to jazz and blues. I hung out at all night cafes and pool halls. We kept running into each other. I stayed in school, he dropped out but we still ran the streets at night together. Being a bit wild one of us often would get into a situation that was physically precarious, but we had each other’s backs. He with his trusty cutthroat razor and I with my collection of pocket pistols managed to survive. Unlike many others he didn’t judge me or I him. We were both a bit wild and naïve but way ahead of our peer group. Eventually I left the area to make my way in the world. Later I was to come home and we reconnected. He would call me up late at night, (early morning to most people) and we would talk about guitar pickers, music, and whatever else was on our minds. We didn’t get together much but we stayed in touch. He had become quite the hair stylist. Neither of us lost our appreciation for good music, or pretty ladies. We always knew that the other was only a phone call away. Today I feel empty. Today I feel pissed. He left way too soon. Sure I have other friends but without him there is a huge hole in my heart. He never got to cut my pony tail. He loved life. He loved people. He was a trusted and loyal friend.
RIP Jackie Don Duggins Sr., 12 Feb 1947 – 23 Jul 2016

Jun
23

I was once asked, why I have so many dictionaries. The reason is simple because they are different. New words are coined; out of use words are deleted from most dictionaries. Only one dictionary understands that words are forever, that the etymology of words is important. Over the years some words have even changed their definition, but without old dictionaries (or a complete set of the 23 volume Oxford English Dictionary with supplements at a cost of over $1000) we would never know.
There is a book I highly recommend for any lover of words and that is Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything. It is the story of the Oxford English Dictionary, [ISBN 9780198611868] but it is also a story about how a few men’s foresight and determination gave the world a gift of great knowledge. The book is eminently readable for a scholarly tome.

The American education system has been reduced to a mathematical algorithm based on Common Core. American students are not how to learn. They are not taught critical thinking . They are taught to take tests. Words have become shortened and pronunciations butchered; asked has become “axed”, this and that has become “dis” and “dat”. The spelling of the word dowery has become dowry, but the shortened word hides that the root word is dower (a widow’s portion) thereby obscuring the actual history of a marriage dowery. History of words is fascinating and when a word is used properly they give us insight into the past.

The use of big words has gone out of style. I used to love to listen to William F. Buckley Jr. with a dictionary in my hands. He was a remarkable sesquipedalian.

Writer’s write to be read, but we also write to convey ideas and to educate. Using simple words may get a point across but does little to challenge the reader. I do not advocate the over use of long words but next time you write think about using a Thesaurus, or even Norman W. Schur’s book, 2000 Most Challenging and Obscure Words (ISBN 0883658488).

Jun
23

I don’t sleep well. I never have. I’m not one for taking sleep medications due to an addictive personality. I have tried to control my busy mind with mental exercises when I lay down to sleep with some success but this often leads to some very weird dreams. I often write in my head or as one poet put it “on the black board of my mind”. As I get older my focus seems distracted as if I’m ADD. I have been told that I have some tendencies along those lines.
Normally when I abruptly aware it’s from a PTSD related nightmare, this morning it wasn’t. I was dreaming that I was listening to the radio and they were playing a song that has rolled around in my head for the last several days. It was Paul Simon’s Mother and Child Reunion. The song ended and the announcer came on announcing a contest for the weirdest facts. I woke up and went to the computer to log on and enter the contest with my fact. It was when I sat down at my desk I realized there was no radio on, there was no contest. My fact was that female kangaroos have two uteruses and are perpetually pregnant.
I’m not much on dream analysis and wonder what Jung would say about my dream, Perhaps people are correct in their analysis that writers are a bit crazy.

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Happy Birthday to Kris Kristofferson, a poet, a picker and an inspiration.

Jun
07

Why do we write? I would suppose that there are many answers to this question. I admit is nice to have things published, but is it ego or pride. Over the years I have had some poems published in various media, newspapers, periodicals and anthologies. My novel was self-published after several dozen rejections. I would have appreciated more sales not for the money but just to get my writing out there and to have it appreciated.
There are probably only a few people in my life at this point whose opinions really matter to me. Some have read my work, some haven’t. I periodically place something I write on-line but rarely do my pieces garner many comments. Criticism, positive or negative, is important to a writer; without it how can we hone our craft. I have tried a few writer’s groups but I was not impressed because it seemed that egos overcame common sense. It was like watching people beat their chests and declare themselves the best writer ever. The criticisms were subjective and often delivered in a demeaning manner.
Due to my physical problems and my weird sleep patterns it is easier and far healthier for me to stay at home. I tried a couple of on-line groups but they too lacked any personality. At one time I had a friend who was, whether they realized it, also a mentor. Sadly we drifted away from each other. They advised me on tools that helped me, Fowler’s Modern English Usage became one of my most used tools.
I have the need to write, but these days lack the focus. I wonder if there is a pill for that, after all I take so many pills now to improve my life why not one that improves my living. I outline and edit my story lines on my two novels in my head. They were on my computer before it gave up the ghost and I was not able to recover anything from the hard drives. During moments of contemplation I ask myself why I bother to write. Do people actually want to hear what I have to say? Do people even read today? Is poetry dead?
Next time you read something, please think about the author. A little comment or helpful criticism goes a long way in making the process of writing worthwhile for the writer.

Jun
06

I recently heard that every person has two personae, one public and one private. In writing this is often described as the duality of man. It is the basis for the most interesting characters that writers create, but do we create them or do we describe someone we have met? Are our characters figments of our imagination or do they exist? Are our protagonists actually extensions of our own psyche or do they exist within us? Or are we the antagonists that we write about?
The advice to “write what you know” is probably the most common advice given to any writer but I’m pretty sure that J.K. Rowling never went to a magic academy and there is no evidence that Shakespeare ever traveled to Italy, or Jules Verne to the Moon or below the sea. My travels have been extensive but when traveling I was working and sightseeing was not on the agenda.
As writers we try to connect with our readers, but often I read a novel that leaves me wondering what the heck happened. The great mystery writers drop little clue along the way. The reader discovers them at the same time as the protagonist, but there is always a twist. Personalities of the characters too should be introduced slowly. Far too often characters are flat and non-dimensional. Every character is important.
I once wrote a paper on Huckleberry Finn’s father. There are only a few lines about him in Samuel Clemen’s book but those few lines are very telling. I think most readers just skim over them and don’t think much about him, but it is his father that is key to Huck’s persona, so Pap is actually a major character. Re-read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn it really is a masterpiece of colorful characters.
Once again I seem to strayed from my purpose. I started this to discuss personae, duality and the possibility that people have more than two sides. My protagonists have multiple sides probably because they are in law enforcement. I spent a great deal of my time working undercover and each “legend” or cover identity had their own unique persona. I suppose it is much like a method actor must adopt characteristics of their roles and a bit of that character’s persona becomes a part of the actual actor. Postulating if I had the ability to alter my personae to suit my circumstance I must have many different personalities. Does this make me crazy or just talented? I was routinely subjected to the Briggs-Myers Personality Test when I was working. Often my my charts were right down the middle i.e. 48 -52, 51-49, etc. at which time proctors would immediately recommended me for further psychological consults. Today my charts are a bit more normal.
Personality traits are always changing as we learn or gain experience. Writing changes as we grow more familiar with our subjects. Our style is altered by what we read, what we see and what we experience.
My novel Ghost Ranger was cathartic for me. It was written as a series of intertwined short stories told from the point of view of different people. To be understood I believe it must be read at least twice. I wrote about a complex man with simple motives that people should be able to relate to. The novel has been described as entertaining but also as a picture of a man, a man with many personae, a man trapped into living lies and struggling to prove himself worthy.

Jun
04

Over the past few years I have attempted to reconnect with people who have had a positive influence on my life. Sometimes I’m successful but mostly not. I often wonder why they chose not to reconnect. I realize that I am often an enigma to those around me, but it strikes me that friends would at least understand.
During my working years I was in the shadows. The job required a certain detachment because I never knew who I would have to hurt or testify against in court. Even though I was told over and over never take the job home with you, it was impossible not to. I built walls to protect myself while working and these carried over into my personal relationships.
One thing I have learned about life is that it is fluid, constantly changing. After my heart attack and the ensuing open heart surgery there were lots of changes in my life. I started and continue to be sentimental, whereas previously, I was only empathetic. I continue to like action movies, but find myself watching Lifetime and Hallmark movies and enjoying them. Previously I rarely cried but now find myself tearing up over YouTube animal rescue videos.
I am now older than my Mother was when she passed and am rapidly approaching my Father’s age when he departed this mortal coil. On doctor’s orders, I have given up caffeine, motor cycle riding, and horseback riding. Several years prior to my heart attack I had eliminated alcohol use from my life, not the desire just the use. Forced retirement brought about other changes, just getting by financially became the norm. I gave up smoking cigarettes, but have since returned to cigars and am now considering a pipe. It’s the only vice I have.
You will note that I have omitted a vice; women. I have over my life always enjoyed the company of women, but kept making the mistake of marrying. Admittedly each time I got married I was far from sober, and I have concluded that I’m a lousy husband. I still enjoy the company of women but hormones have long since declined to the point where I able to do much more than talk about physical intimacy.
Physically, my body continues to deteriorate. Mentally the mind is slowing down. My Sudoku times have almost doubled. They have removed organs from my body and yet I weigh more. My eating habits are those of a college freshman, fast and cheap, which probably isn’t helping my waist line. Even with the weekly pill caddy, I forget to take my meds at least once a week.

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