Persistence pays! Case in point: Dimples is home. (See previous blog post “Search for Dimples”.
I either drove people nuts with my constant posts about the search, asking them to compare pictures, lamenting my lost childhood friend, or they really got caught up in the journey. Finally, one of my classmates dating back to 6th grade sent me a message saying, “I think I found her.” And indeed, she had!
A couple of questions to the eBay seller convinced me, and to make a long story short, on Friday Dimples came home and took up residence in an antique doll buggy I’d bought years ago for my granddaughters.
She has blonde hair, but I intend to take her to my stylist tomorrow for a consultation. I know she can cut and shape the somewhat unruly wig. Coloring it may be another matter, but she’s clever.
Understandably, there may be those out there shaking their heads at my obsession about finding my first doll. The original, unfortunately, eventually broke as dolls did in those days and was, I’m sure, consigned to the trash. Today she might be repaired, but we’ll never know.
This doll has some damage to her legs, but a pair of sock/shoes from Dollar Tree took care of hiding/protecting that. I probably won’t have any restoration done. It’s enough just to see her sweet face and the somewhat quizzical look in her eyes.
Why did I want her? Why did I spend the money on an “antique” doll when I’m not a collector? Why am I so pleased at having her at long last?
If you can answer those questions, we’re kindred spirits.
If you can’t, then just keep shaking your head.
I’ve probably written my last full-length novel—though that’s not to discount the idea of a novella (up to 40K words) somewhere down the line. Right now, I’m finding real joy in “shorts” and just came up with what Haley Mills in “The Trouble with Angels” called a scathingly brilliant idea.
Having read Lost Mansions of Mississippi Volume 2 (Mary Carol Miller, 2010) again, this time in more depth, I find my fascination with these vanished homes is now at a peak. It’s not just the houses but the people who built/lived in them who have fired up my imagination.
My short story “Good Bones” about a fictional antebellum mansion called Bel Reverié, was published several months ago in eMerge Magazine, the official publication of The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I enjoyed writing it and pictured myself as the character who spots the aging grand dame and stops for a closer look.
It occurred to me, as I closed the book Lost Mansions, that these homes and their stories could be fictionalized as a series and turned into an anthology. A writer friend with whom I shared the idea thought it just might fly.
So, I’ll be going through this lovely book again and making some notes in my “Brilliant Ideas” notebook…and we’ll see what happens.
These books are available at Amazon, btw.
Before my parents married some 81 years ago—March 2, 1940—they built a two-bedroom home in a new addition in my hometown and furnished it, probably from Sheppersons. Anybody born and raised in San Angelo remembers Sheppersons.
The furniture moved with us around 1949 and was still in use when I left for college. People didn’t toss and buy new the way they do now. However, much of the furniture did go when my parents were faced with merging two households after my grandparents died.
The one piece I’d give my eye teeth to still have is the chair like the ones pictured above. I always called it a “club chair”, but I find it’s just an “easy chair”. (I found one online, made in Denmark, priced at $10K+ with a shipping tag of over a thousand dollars!)
Cooled by the old swamp cooler in the window, one could plop down, back against one side and legs dangling over the other, with a good book and a “firestick” on a summer afternoon. The chair was both fascinating and comforting. I don’t think I ever saw one like it in any other house.
Covered in a semi-smooth yellowish tan upholstery, I’m sure it was the very devil to keep clean, but that wasn’t my job in those days. I just lounged and read and felt somehow safe from the world within its confines.
It’s funny the way the strangest things trigger memories both good and bad. It was part of the family and part of me—and I’d love to have one more good plop-down, peel back the cellophane from a firestick, and open the lastet book from the Tom Green County Library, my home away from home.
Once upon a time, I had a friend named Dimples. She probably arrived in Santa’s sleigh at Christmas in 1946 when I was barely two. In the spring or summer of 1947, someone—probably my mother—snapped this picture.
Dimples was composition with a cloth body and a mohair (probably) wig. Unfortunately, ‘composition’ in those post-war years meant very breakable hands, face, and feet, and that’s what happened to her at some point. I’m sure she was consigned to an ignominious end in the trash.
I’ve never forgotten her, though, and, In fact, I’ve used her fictionally in several stories. Recently I had the photo restored by a great online company. I highly recommend them.
Now I’m on the hunt for another Dimples. I’ve posted in several antique doll groups on Facebook, browsed through two great doll museums, and searched the internet in vain.
She may be a Shirley Temple or one of the Effanbee dolls. The hang-up is the mouth. Everything I’ve seen has a very small mouth or a slightly open mouth with teeth showing. I don’t remember this feature—nor can I tell from the picture, well-restored as it is, if such is present. But she has a smile I’d know anywhere.
I also had a small brown wicker doll buggy in which she rode. That’s gone, too, but several years ago, I passed an antique shop in Denton and immediately stopped to inquire about an even older buggy on display. It’s waiting for Dimples…when and if she comes home.
So the next time you’re out and about, keep an eye open for my friend Dimples. There’s no finder’s fee, but you’d be my hero if you happened to spot her!
Three important announcements:
(1) Due to some intense publishing, republishing, and marketing, I’ll be blogging only once a week for the foreseeable future.
(2) I hope you’ve enjoyed the snippets from writing journal #1. I’ll come back to more at a later date.
(3) Please take a look at the new form which you can use to comment on anything you read here—positive or negative—and/or make suggestions about what you’d like to see. The comment goes straight to my email. You’re strictly anonymous unless you want to include your name and contact information. Once the comment is submitted, it disappears from the page.
All that said, here’s a list of the projects I hope to complete in March:
(1) Design new covers for the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series, republish and re-promote.
(2) Re-promote the Dreamland Series.
(3) Publish Susanna’s Secret as an eBook and also in paperback.
(4) Make a print copy of Four Summer Days available along with the eBook.
(5) Publish The Legacy of Diamond Springs.
(6) Consider serializing another unpublished novel.
Thirty-one days in March and perhaps a week or two in April before in take off for our sixtieth high school reunion—that’s right, SIX-ZERO!—and a week of research in my hometown.
So it’s off to the races…or something!!
His words echoed hauntingly in the cold room. “We had it all planned,” he murmured. “But we didn’t count on this.”
The police lieutenant nodded at the morgue attendant who slid the gurney out of sight again. “I’m very sorry for your loss. Is there anyone I can call to come…”
The other man covered his eyes briefly, then let his hand drop. “No. Not, it was just the two of us.”
In his office, the lieutenant poured two cups of coffee. “How long had you been together?”
“Three years…three and a half. She was going to quit work at the end of the summer so we could start a family.” He reached for the coffee with an unsteady hand.
“What did she do?”
“She was a test driver for Alamo Tires. Almost ten years.”
“A test driver?”
Their eyes met.
“She was good, too…too good for what you said happened.” He slapped both hands flat on the desk and leaned forward. “It wasn’t an accident!”
The officer picked up his phone. “Give me Perkins in homicide.”
Framed travel posters covered the walls of her efficiency. Brochures, many now out of date, littered the tiny two-person table and the floor around it. But she knew—she just knew—her dream trip was around the corner.
Sunshine, warm sand, exotic flowers, or perhaps narrow cobbled streets and quaint buildings with window boxes blooming with color…or maybe even the hum of city traffic, corner coffee shops, and a third-floor walk-up with a Murphy bed and a kitchenette….
Any place would do. Any place but this one. Here she was dying a little every day. There—somewhere—she would be reborn and her slumbering dreams rekindled.
The right place…the right time…it would all happen. She knew it would. It had to happen. Sighing, she extracted the latest batch of travel folders from her backpack and laid them on the table.
In silence, the man watched a flock of geese rise from the still lake in pristine formation. Then he turned at the sound of something pushing through the knee-high grass. Two men in full hunting gear, their guns open across their arms, looked from the birds to him and back again.
“You deliberately spooked them!” one of the hunters growled. His companion menaced him with his eyes.
He smiled. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they?”
“We came out here to hunt, and now the birds are gone.”
“Yes, thank God.”
The second hunter advanced on him. ‘You sorry…”
The man didn’t move. “Skeet shooting’s a better sport. Takes more skill, too. Doesn’t destroy life.” The birds disappeared in a whirring of wings. “Godspeed, my friends,” he murmured.
“I suppose I could let something go,” she observed as she surveyed the chaotic scene.
“It’s not like I’m a hoarder, you know.”
“No, but your mother was.”
“She grew up during the Depression. You didn’t throw things away.”
“You know it has to go. All of it.”
“I know. All of it.”
The garage sale—two grueling days in the heat of August—had been profitable. What didn’t sell went to charity. She hardened her heart as the last familiar items disappeared into the back of the truck.
When the house—empty and sparkling clean for the first time in years—sold quickly, she pocketed the money with a guilty conscience. “Just take it and go.”
“Alone?” A familiar tightening in her chest signaled a panic attack.
He smiled and held out his hand. “I had something else in mind.”
“You need to find a job.” She looked up from the stack of bills she’d been shuffling in a borrow-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul way.
He didn’t even lower the newspaper he’d just opened. “I have a job.”
“Not one that pays the bills.”
“They’re your bills. I make sure the mortgage and the utilities are paid, and there are groceries in the house. The rest is up to you.”
“I need things.”
“You want things.”
“You want too much.”
“I can’t help it if styles change every year.”
“I wear the same suits for years.”
“That’s different. You’re a man.”
“Be a woman then. A sensible one.”
Springing from the chair, she dashed out the door, slamming it behind her. He lowered the newspaper then. “She should’ve put on last year’s coat. She’ll catch pneumonia in this weather, and that’ll be expensive for sure.”
The curtain rang down on Act One. He joined her in the wings as the stage hands rushed to change the set. “You were very good You almost had me believing your logic—or lack of same.”
She kissed his cheek “I personally have all I’ll ever need or want. I have you.”
“And a chance to shine on the stage—even though it’s not Broadway,”
“It wasn’t a choice—having my name in lights or on marriage license. Can we afford Chinese on the way home?
“If you stop at two egg rolls. Now go powder your nose for Act Two.”
The shrill sound of the factory whistle irritated Irene despite signaling the end of her ten-hour shift. She acknowledged her weariness. At least, her body cried out for rest even as her thoughts churned.
It had been six weeks since the last letter from Billy who was, as far as she knew, still somewhere in the Pacific. He couldn’t tell her where, of course, but the newsreels in the movie theater had been focused on a place called Tarawa.
The fighting had been fierce. She’d sat through the same movies two and even three times just to rematch those stark pictures in hopes of catching a glimpse of him.
Casualties had been high, and her next door neighbor had received the dreaded telegram from the War Department last week. Missing. Of course, she wouldn’t get a telegram, but a phone call from Billy’s mother would be just as bad.
Still at her locker when the whistle blew again for the next shift, she realized she had no choice but go home, hoping all the way. She found a reason to stop at the drugstore, the dry goods store, and finally the hardware store for a washer to repair her dripping sink.
Her feet dragged as she turned up the walk to her small house. On the porch, she hesitated before lifting the mouth of the mailbox. Its emptiness gave rise to a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Then, as she put the key in the lock of the front door, she heard the phone ringing.
Because I’m busy with beta-reading a couple of projects for other people, February’s blogs are coming from my writing journal. I take my prompts from Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan. These entries are just free writing—perhaps a beginning, a middle, or even an end of what could segue into a short story. There’s no title, only an idea.
She emptied the last drawer, tossing the jumbled contents into the cardboard box which sat askew on the bare desk. As she closed and taped the lid, it occurred to her she’d probably never empty the box once it made its way into the closet at home. Someone might do it someday, but it wouldn’t be her.
From the hall came the voices of workmen shouting at each other to move this way or that way, to be careful, to watch out. She shook her head. What difference did it make if a wall were gouged or the floor scraped? In a couple of weeks, a month at most, they’d start demolishing the century-old school building anyway.
The silence of the empty classroom enveloped her. How many generations of sixth-graders had sat in the attached back-to-front desks, stared out the long windows stretching from near the ceiling to the tops of the squat radiators where they dried their socks on rainy days and warmed their hands?
Their eager feet had hurried excitedly through the door for the last time, and now so would she. A school board member had put it plainly, “Out with the old...in with the new.”
Over the years I’ve thought “what if” about so many things. Here’s a list:
traveler: train, backpack, RV
Maybe I could’ve done all of these things over time—and maybe not. Some items on the list were out of range financially; others were out of range psychologically—that is, I was programmed from an early age to be “conventional” and never take risks. Perhaps that’s why, as I’ve gotten older and free of family expectations, I’ve traveled on my own. My trips have been smaller but nonetheless enjoyable, and I’m not finished yet.
Archaeology was outside the realm of possibility, but genealogy, trolling old cemeteries, and even standing amid the ruins of an old ancestral home was just as good.
I’ve never owned a bookstore, but I troll every independent shop which comes across my path.
My one train trip was something of a disaster, but there’s still time for a tour...somewhere, somehow. I’m too old to backpack, but I did pack up my sons, hitch a pop-up camper, and make combination genealogical/historical tours in the summers.
I still sigh over old buildings turned into loft apartments. Unless I strike oil in the back yard, it’ll never happen. And I probably wouldn’t choose to live near the water along a coast because of hurricanes, but I’ve enjoyed a lot of boat tours—specifically, the Branson Belle in Branson, MO. And I still have my eye on a Mississippi River Cruise if/when all the restrictions lift.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Judy Nickles says, “Tis better to have dreamed and hoped than never to have dreamed at all.”
So there you go.
For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.
Most members of my generation are familiar with Whittier’s words. And most of us have regrets about what we’ve done and/or failed to do. As we grow older, we become more reflective. I’ve been thinking lately about what I would’ve liked to do in seventy-seven years but, for whatever reasons, didn’t do. Lest anyone feel this series is headed into a dark place, let me assure you in this first post that it’s not, only a few “ruminations” about opportunities lost and why—and about possibilities still out there.
When I was about nine or ten, the desire of my heart was to be a lady detective. Really. In another time, I might’ve pursued this goal. In the fifties, however, little girls didn’t grow up to be part of what was then a man’s world.
We saw female police officers on the city streets but only as meter maids. They patiently plodded from parking space to parking space, writing tickets for cars occupying spaces with no time left on the meter. That’s not what I wanted to do.
In some ways, I’ve realized this early dream through my oldest son who has almost thirty years in law enforcement. He’s received advanced training in criminal investigations and has occupied that desk off and on in the last dozen years. (He admits to preferring “the beat” and interacting with people in that capacity.)
And I’ve pursued closure to mysteries of my own creation as I write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense. It’s handy to pick Son #1’s brain for the small details which make a story believable. I prefer that venue to the women investigators portrayed (mostly erroneously, I’m guessing) in television police dramas. They’re cynical, foul-mouthed, and seemingly only interested in pinning a crime on someone—real guilt is secondary. But that’s entertainment, and I don’t find it entertaining.
So I didn’t become a lady detective, but I’ve enjoyed being on the fringes, and that’s enough.
Wednesday: Fleeting Dreams
One story I took from information on a death certificate concerned young unmarried woman who felt driven to end her child’s life and, with it, her own, because she couldn’t live as an outcast in the society of her era. But I explored (fictionally) who she was—her hopes and dreams, her ultimate betrayal, and finally her redemption several generations removed when a relative uncovered her story and saw to it that she was fittingly remembered for herself.
I wrote a fictionalized account of Walkin’ John, a more or less permanent transient in the San Angelo area, whose death in 1937 made front page news in the San Angelo Standard Times. I’ve been working on finding out more about him for going on two years now and hope to write his true story one of these days. The hopeful note is that someone who knew him didn’t want him buried in public ground (Potter’s Field, Pauper’s Graves) and provided a plot in a section of Fairmount near where my family rests. Though his grave is marked “Unknown”, he was well-known in his own way. We know where he is—but where did he come from and why?
Listed only as “Soldier, Unknown” in the roster of a Potter’s Field, my soldier came to life in another short story—with the honor he deserved.
But the one which tears at my heart is the sad odyssey of a family through several states. The mother died of TB (a common scourge in the past), leaving young children. Then, the oldest child died in a tragic fire in a home for the mentally challenged and was buried in a mass grave with other victims. Finally, the father died a few years later, also of TB, leaving his young family completely alone.
Granted, the death certificate started my search, but I used it to find other resources through genealogical websites, burial records, etc. This family’s story needs to be told. Though it will be fiction, the truth will come through triumphantly—I hope!
Lest you think this is dark matter, please consider the fact that only lives forgotten are really at an end. Each of the persons whom I researched walked in this world as a unique creation and a child of God. Somewhere in those lives, before the dark, there was light—which is the story which needs to be told.
Fiction? Yes, of course, but also a remembrance and a tribute.
Monday: One more blog on story sources...what I’ve discovered while doing genealogical research on my own family
One of the most heartbreaking events I’ve run across are all the young men aspiring to be pilots during WW II who died in training accidents. I’ve often thought of the pediatrician who took care of my children in the 70s who shared with me that, as a young doctor during the war, it was his job to go out to these crash scenes. I remember how his voice trailed off, and he shook his head sadly. So I think of those young victims and who they were in life, where they came from, who was waiting for them to come home, and how their lives might’ve impacted the post-war world.
Surprisingly, many places of death are listed as such-and-such a hotel—single men, traveling salesmen, retired men in residence, all of whom died alone and were found later by strangers. But I like to think of their lives—what were they like before they were alone? What legacy did they leave behind?
House fires, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in the days before such was mostly preventable, burns caused by clothing catching on fire from outside cooking fires, and even murders...all of these make the lights twinkle in a writer’s mind.
People found multiple ways to end their own lives. I never realized that so many poisons were as available over the counter! These make me feel especially sad as I ponder what brought these people—young and old—to the point of choosing not to go on. So from these, I like to build an alternate scenario which shows a journey from despair to joy.
Friday: Stories I’ve written and stories I’d like to write
This week’s three-part series is on writing resources—specifically, where I find story ideas, which ideas I’ve used, and which ones I’d like to use someday...sometime…
Genealogists (which I am) use a variety of sources, hopefully primary ones, to trace their family trees. One of the best primary sources is a death certificate, although the information on it is only as reliable as the knowledge of the informant. I’ve been disappointed more than once to find that the person who supplied the facts about the deceased ancestor really didn’t know doodly squat!
You won’t find death certificates for all states in genealogical databases. There’s usually a cut-off date, but if the ancestor hunter is lucky, he/she can learn
birth and death dates
place of birth
place of death
current address at time of death
cause of death
profession/line of work
name of funeral home
name of informant (which can lead to other discoveries)
doctor’s name (sometimes the coroner)
check box for accident, homicide, suicide (not in the earliest documents)
parents names/places of birth if known
So what does genealogy have to do with sources for fiction? Just this: death certificates are one of the richest story sources around. Let me explain: when you read a death certificate as a writer rather than a genealogist, you’re looking at a microcosm of society at any given time.
For example: an era where women often died in childbirth; a time when people of all ages died young from the common scourge of TB or from diseases now curable if not preventable; the age-old tragedy of young people dying in accidents which shouldn’t have happened; and the timeless tragedy of suicide.
Death, of course, need not be the focus of a story idea sparked by a death certificate. Vibrant life can come from the cold, hard facts. To wit: What if the young unmarried professional man who survived World War II hadn’t shot himself only a year later? What if he had chosen life instead? That’s the story—life, not death!
In the next two blogs, I’ll be exploring story ideas I’ve used and have yet to use, all of which were sparked by what was on—or not on—a death certificate!
Wednesday: What’s in the folder of dc’s saved to consider writing about?
Post #3 in the series about "taking to the skies" during WW II and beyond...Be sure to read the previous two posts to get the most info from this one.
I’ve already forgotten the exact year with the Commemorative Air Force brought a B-24 to the Hot Springs Airport. But I haven’t forgotten my resolve not to let this opportunity go unseized.
First some history on the plane for which production began in 1942. Over 18,000 rolled off the assembly line before the end of the way. The plane could fly higher, faster, and longer than the B-17. It carried a crew of ten, an 8000-lb. bomb load, and eleven .50 caliber machine guns. See more.
Known as “the Liberator”, it was called “the flying coffin” by the crews who flew in it because there was only one exit at the rear of the plane. Nevertheless, it was the standard heavy bomber used in the Pacific Theater and also saw service in the European Theater. See more.
The plane I flew in, built in my birth month and year, never saw active service. There are only two airworthy B-24s left.
So I drove with determination to the local airport, plunked down the hefty fee before I could change my mind, and climbed aboard through that infamous single back door. Seated near a gun turret, I fought air sickness in the hot, cramped cabin throughout the flight. Thinking of the ten-man crews who had to endure much worse, I hung in there.
The flight, one of those impulsive experiences I’m known for avoiding like the plague, is one I’ll remember forever. I touched history I was too young to remember and almost felt at one with the young men who gave up all their tomorrows for our todays. Sometimes I ask myself if we were worth it.
1. B-17 Fortress at War (Roger A. Freeman)
2. B-17 at War (Bill Yenne)
3. Ghosts of the Skies: Aviation During World War II (Philip Makanna)
4. One Last Look: A Sentimental Journey to the Eighth Air Force Heavy Bomber Bases of World War II in England (Philip Kaplan and Rex Alan Smith—Forward by the inimitable Andy Rooney)
“Memphis Belle” (Information)
“Memphis Belle” (Movie)
If you haven’t read the previous blog post, you’ll need to do that now.
The highlight of the afternoon was 86-year-old W.C. McGinley who actually flew in a B-24 liberator rather than a B-17. He held court in the shade of the wing, sitting in a lawn chair with his scrapbook in his lap. He recounted how his plane was shot down on a mission, and the pilot and co-pilot were captured. Two of the crew were killed, and the others, including himself, escaped. For 71/2 months he was hidden by a woman in the Underground. She fed and clothed them and eventually got them to safety.
He showed us the telegrams his parents received: the first saying he was missing in action and the second confirming his death. The government paid his GI insurance to his parents. Official letters of condolence reached their mailbox. And then—he came home to his family and to the lovely girl he’d met at the USO in Little Rock. They’ve been married for sixty-four years now!
I stood in silent awe as he told story after story. A middle-aged man handed him the name of another B-24 crew member and, voice breaking, thanked him for his service to the country.
This afternoon was one of those special moments in time that will never come again. These warriors are leaving us daily. Only 50 B-17s remain intact, 10 of them airworthy.
Already the day is a memory, a moment in time which has passed forever.
A moment I will cherish and carry with me the rest of my life.
Friday: My flight in a B-24 liberator also built the year I was born and a reading/resource list for those of you who would like to pursue more on these miracles of the skies and their valiant crews.
The three-part blog series this week takes to the skies with the B-17/B-24 bombers and their indomitable crews—and those committee to “Keep ‘em Flying”! On Friday, I’ll post a reading list and some resources for those of you who’d like to dig deeper. But today I’m resurrecting a blog I wrote in 2008.
This afternoon I went to the local to airport to see the restored B-17G “Sentimental Journey” brought by the Arizona branch of the Commemorative Air Force. It was smaller than I’d imagined but daunting in its ability to call up the past and to evoke emotion.
Betty Grable’s famous legs and over-the-shoulder peek-a-book graced the nose. On older man sidled up to me and, slipping his arm around my waist, asked, “Is that your picture up there?” I laughed and replied, “I wish.”
Later I eavesdropped on some conversations and eventually intruded myself with questions. One man had been the top turret gunner on a B-17 in the European Theater. Another had been a tail gunner. They had come to remember.
Peeking under the plane at the ball turret compartment, I wondered how anyone could have willingly folded themselves up into such cramped, hazardous quarters and still do his job. Yet thousands of young men did. Somehow, I can’t see the young men of this “woke” generation doing the same.
The Norden bombsite, once so secret that before each mission it was carried to the plane under wraps, stood out plainly in the nose compartment. It was an innovation in the B-17G model, I understand.
Not being inclined to fork over $425 for a 45-minute ride (the plane costs $2000/hr. to operate), I stood with most of the other not so inclined and watched it taxi and take off. When it soared above the runway, I was hard pressed not to applaud!
“Sentimental Journal” was built in November 1944, so we are the same age. I think she may be in better shape than I am—polished and gleaming, preening herself in the September sun and the respectful attention of all who came out just to see her.
Tomorrow: The personal account of a man reported missing, then KIA, but now sitting beneath the wing of “Sentimental Journey” recounting his experiences.
I ran across a this photo in a book called Old Angelo by Joel A. Gibson. The name “Fisherman Jake” caught my eye because while doing some research on another local character, I’d found he was buried in an unmarked grave in the same plot. His date of death was given as 1905.
The book provided scant information about Jake except that he immigrated from Germany and made his living catching and selling fish and Concho pearls. He was living in his tent on the Dick Nasworth Ranch when he was “mysteriously” murdered in March, 1907.
Fast forward to a telephone call with the Fairmount Cemetery office where a most helpful person got back to me with the information that Jacob Schmidt was actually buried in another block, specifically Blk 6 Lot 17—in 1909.
Jake did his thing. He was a free spirit. No doubt he was a friendly, familiar face around San Angelo. I’d have liked to know him—and I intend to find out more about him if there’s more to be found.
Next: Who knows?
The Story of Three Jakes
Fairmount Cemetery in my hometown of San Angelo, Texas, is the final resting place of many souls. Each has a story. Recently I stumbled on three names—all Jakes—whose stories struck me as needing to be told.
Earlier, I told you about Jacob W. Wilks, who escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad, fought with the Union Army, and later became a Buffalo Soldier.
The second is Cook Second Class Jake Spurlock whose body actually rests beneath the waters off Honolulu, Hawaii, where he died on July 4, 1944, when the submarine on which he served went down with all hands on board. No cause of the training accident has ever been determined. He is remembered as well on a memorial in Honolulu. However, in 1959, his widow applied to the VA for a flat granite memorial marker. The application says it was placed at Delta Memorial Park, but his burial place at Fairmount is specific: Blk 86, Row 28.
Born in Madisonville, Texas, he was living and working in San Angelo in 1934 as a bus boy at the Naylor Hotel Coffee Shop. In 1941, he is listed as an employee of the Roberts Hotel Coffee Shop. In 1943, he married Opal Downing in Dallas. The next year, he died in the service of his country at the age of thirty-two, one of millions who gave up his tomorrows for our todays.
The rest of the story needs to be told also: Mr. Spurlock served in a segregated military which fought for rights which at home he had never fully possessed.
I've heard many combat veterans say, "I'm not a hero. It's the men who didn't come home who are the heroes.
Thank you for your service, Jake Spurlock, late of the United States Navy, an American hero.
Next: Jake Schmidt aka Fisherman John
Fairmount Cemetery in my hometown of San Angelo, Texas, is the final resting place of many souls. Each has a story. Recently I stumbled on three names—all Jakes—whose stories struck me as needing to be told.
This Jake has two listings at Fairmount—one as “Jake” with a tombstone which reads Gone but not forgotten" and the other as 1st Sgt. Jacob W. Wilks. The story on Find-a-Grave, apparently written by his great-grandson, is one you shouldn’t miss. Briefly, Mr. Wilks was born a slave in Kentucky in 1841, escaped the plantation with his family via the Underground Railroad, and later served in the Union Army. When the war ended, he enlisted as a Buffalo Soldier.
In reading his story, don’t neglect clicking on the names of his wife and children for pictures and other information. This family belongs in a novel and/or on screen—but not as fiction. They were real people with real stories—and their legacy should live on in the city they decided to call home.
I feel richer for coming to know 1st Sgt. Jacob W. Wilks even if only on paper. Click, read, and so will you!
Next: The Jake Who Came After
My New Year’s Wish for You
January 1, 2022
I found this piece among some old papers. There is no author, but I remember hearing it recited once on a 78 RPM record belonging to my parents. So, with apologies to the unknown composer whom I am unable to credit, I would like to share this with all of you.
The sun will soon be rising on the morning of another day---
The first day of the New Year.
What can I wish that this day, this year will bring?
Nothing that shall make the world or others poorer,
Nothing at the expense of other men.
But just those few things which, in their coming, do not stop with me,
But touch me rather as they pass and gather strength;
A few friends who understand me and yet remain my friends;
A work to do which has real value, and without which the world would feel the poorer;
A return for such work small enough not to tax unduly anyone who pays.
I wish this New Year to bring me a mind unafraid to travel,
Even though the trail be not blazed;
A heart that understands, and in understanding
Better able to help you carry your load in life.
May I understand the meaning of the tears that sometimes dim your eyes.
May I never be the cause of the deep hurt that I've seen in your eyes.
May the New Year bring sight of the eternal hills and the unresting sea
And of something beautiful the hand of man has made.
Bring me also, and this is important,
A sense of humor and the power to laugh;
A little leisure with nothing to do but spin my dreams
When the day is done, and evening descends
And cloaks us in her robes of deep velvet.
I wish those who are away a speedy and safe return,
And for those who return not,
The reward they sought in the house of Our Father.
I ask also for a few moments of quiet meditation
And the knowledge of the presence of God.
May I never be the cause of one tear to fall,
One heart o ache, one friend to lose.
I ask for the patience to wait for the coming of these things
With the wisdom to know them when they come.
And that is my New Year's wish for you