After partying with friends over the weekend, I experienced an unexpected consequence: a twenty-one-year-old recently discharged from military duty. The army released me after my three years of military service as an airborne rigger in June 1969, which means I spent a reasonable amount of time jumping out of military aircraft and packing personal and cargo parachutes to drop paratroopers, military equipment, and supplies for air assaults. Doing it safely (okay, stop laughing) was the mantra, and I took pride in never sustaining an injury after fifty-five jumps from 1,000-1,200 feet and a sport free-fall from 8,000.
But despite my success, I didn’t expect a weekend of partying to humble me in the way it did. I never saw it coming and found it more embarrassing than anything else. It happened after a July Fourth celebration on a Monday at a construction site in St. Paul, Minnesota. And as I said, I had been partying, having a good time at a friend’s lake cabin, drinking cold beer, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad—picnic foods.
I Heard My Ankle Crack
A home-building contractor had hired me as summer help. The ground on construction sites can be uneven and unkempt. On the day my embarrassment happened, I had been nailing insulation board to wood two-by-four framing. I used a two-step ladder to reach the uppermost part of the board. As I stepped down, my right foot landed in a shallow rut. I lost my balance, and my body weight went into my ankle with enough force that it broke.
I heard it crack; fortunately, it wasn’t an open fracture. Instead, my ankle swelled to the size of a cantaloupe. The foreman saw what happened and called 911. An ambulance came and rushed me to the nearest emergency room. I spent the rest of the summer with my ankle in a plaster cast. Which my friends gleefully signed and jived me about my broken ankle. They’d repeatedly ask me, “How many jumps did you have?” Their asking me that question irritated me more than the itchiness I felt from my cast.
ST. GEORGE, Utah – March 12, 2016, was four years from when Brittany Anne Fisher fell 80-100 feet while rappelling Cougar Cliffs during a spring break trip. She returned as a 24-year-old paraplegic to face her fear. Assisted by the Washington County Sheriff’s high-angle rope rescue team, she rappelled safely down the cliffs that nearly killed her in 2012.
Brittany Anne Fisher with her companion dog, Cooper, a golden doodle
Click here to read the story I wrote for the St. George News about Brittany Fisher’s near-fatal fall while rappelling at Cougar Cliffs off State Route 8 in St. George, Utah.
Holy Mother of God! What caused the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol? It didn’t come from foreign terrorists. It came from US citizens. Some were active and inactive military veterans who vowed to uphold the law and defend the Nation.
Watching them on national television turned my stomach. It crushed my heart because I’m a veteran like them. I swore that same oath of allegiance to defend and protect this country.
How much blame should fall on them? The courts will have to decide. But the instigator, a serving president, Donald Trump, should be held accountable too. He got their blood up with his “Stop the Steal!” inflammatory rhetoric. In addition to any punishment the court hands out, I wish those charged and convicted could also be required to pass the Citizenship test.
What’s to be gained? Hopefully, insight and balance between Trump’s one-sided and anti-democratic views and the multitude of opinions in a democracy. Its essence depends on give-and-take, compromise, tolerance, and respect not only for the law but also its constitution, institutions, and traditions—otherwise, authoritarianism rules. Citizens who live in a democracy must uphold their end and act according to the defined and shared responsibilities of a free society.
Upon leaving Independence Hall, where he and other delegates passed the US Constitution in 1787, someone asked Ben Franklin what kind of government he had formed. “A Republic,” he said, “if you can keep it.” The attack on the Capitol has put his reply before those of us living today. I now share Franklin’s doubt.
“Death is a catastrophic experience.” That’s what college students heard Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross say during her four-part seminar at Winona State University, a liberal arts college in Minnesota.
She would become a renowned international author on death. I met her in 1973 after she published her first book, On Death & Dying. She was a Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in studying terminally ill patients.
I didn’t know it then, but I’d realize later how lucky I had been to meet her and write a story about her for the Winona Daily News.
I’ve never forgotten my lead paragraph: “Death,” she said, “is a catastrophic, destructive force bearing upon us, and we can’t do a thing about it.”
That’s how Dr. Kubler-Ross defined death. She had studied the experiences of hundreds of dying patients at the University of Chicago Billings Hospital.
Eventually, she would be recognized for pinpointing the five grief stages that dying patients felt. The stages included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The work she pioneered brought about the new field of thanatology (the study of death and dying and the psychological mechanisms of dealing with them).
What’s more, her work also achieved more respect for hospice care. She authored twenty-three books before she died in 2004 at 78.
I can think of many things that are easier to accomplish than becoming a fiction writer. Leaping a tall building at a single bound comes to mind. What surprises me is how uneasy I feel about posting my writing. After all, I’ve been for decades in writing professions: journalism, technical writing, and copywriting. Yet, I do. I think it’s because I’m putting my work up for public scrutiny as a budding fiction writer. My nonfiction work speaks for itself.
Regarding my fiction prose, my spouse and a few friends have read my short stories and a manuscript for a short novel I wrote. I know writers like to say it’s their novel in a drawer. Mine’s not in a drawer. Like mine, it’s most likely sitting on a hard drive somewhere.
My nonfiction includes my writing as a journalist, technical writer, and copywriter. Those also sit on a hard drive waiting for me to post them on my oeuvre page. My unpublished work includes short stories and crime fiction. I never had any aspirations of writing anything but short stories until I discovered a Simon & Schuster contest in 2022. I entered it.
Unquenchable Thirst To Write
So, in 75 days, I expanded one of my short stories to a 51,000-word short novel and submitted it to meet an October 15 deadline. I didn’t get a publishing contract, but the effort left me with a horrible itch I want to scratch—the desire to see my fiction published in print. And I’m happy to report that one of my short stories will appear soon in an anthology published by Heritage Writers Guild. It’s the St. George Chapter of The League of Utah Writers.
Writers Guild. I’m also waiting to hear if a national magazine will publish a short story of mine. Well, there you go—not a bad start. I have a good work ethic, thrive on deadlines, and am committed. Yet, I have no allusions. Threatening a camel through the eye of a needle might be easier than getting your novel published the traditional way. But what the heck, my byline has appeared in print. That excitement has passed. What I want most is to tell a good story. And I’m most excited when I write because I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Something Mark Twain said comes to mind:
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.