Saturday Snippet: more hazards on the trail

Following my recent heart attack, I’ve found my writing activities severely disrupted.  Part of it is the sheer amount of time I have to spend on cardiac rehabilitation classes, seeing doctors, and other related activities.  However, much of it is due to medication issues.  I’ve been put on one of the most recent anticoagulant/blood-thinner medications, which is doubtless very effective at what it does, but also plain whups my butt!  It leaves me breathless, dizzy (particularly when I stand up too quickly), and exhausted if I try to work too hard.  (That may be intentional, for all I know, to stop cantankerous

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Saturday Snippet: The USS Enterprise and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

As we all know, the US aircraft carriers weren’t at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked it on December 7th, 1941.  However, they weren’t far away.  USS Enterprise was one of only three US carriers (along with USS Saratoga and USS Ranger) to serve throughout World War II from the first day to the last.  As the Japanese attack went in, she was returning to Pearl Harbor after delivering fighter aircraft to Wake Island, soon to be occupied by Japan. Cdr. Edward P. Stafford wrote a history of the ship, “The Big E”.  Published in 1962, it’s become one of the classic accounts of naval warfare.  I’m particularly pleased

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Saturday Snippet: Elephants and their noses

Rudyard Kipling is famous for many books, but not too many people on this side of the Atlantic Ocean are aware of his “Just So Stories“. It’s a volume of a dozen stories for children, including many favorites such as “How the Camel got his Hump” and “The Cat that Walked by Himself”.  I grew up with them, and greatly enjoyed them (and still do). In order to introduce them to those who don’t know them, here’s one of the stories in full.  It’s titled “The Elephant’s Child”, and tells how the elephant got his trunk.  The cover illustration above

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Saturday Snippet: the perils of small game collecting in West Africa

In the 1950’s, naturalist Gerald Durrell went to what was then known as British Cameroon in West/Central Africa to collect animals for zoos in Britain.  He chose the region of Bafut for his collecting activities, and recruited local tribesmen to help him in his hunt for specimens.  In a moment of whimsy, he christened his hunters, collectively, The Bafut Beagles, which became the title of the book he wrote about his adventures.  It was an instant best-seller when it was released, and remains popular today. Here’s how Durrell and the Beagles hunted the rock hyrax, an animal well known to me in South Africa as the dassie.  The picture

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Saturday snippet: the perils of trail driving Texas longhorns

As part of writing the Western novels in my “Ames Archives” series, I spend a fair amount of time and money looking up original sources, written accounts of the Old West from people who were there and lived its reality.  (Recently, in this series, we heard from famed scout Billy Dixon about the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, which sparked the Red River War of 1874-75.) One of the scariest events for a cowhand was a stampede by the herd.  It could be sparked by almost anything:  the scent or a glimpse of a predator such as a wolf, bad weather, a rattlesnake’s warning buzz, or the

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Saturday Snippet: Repairing a capitalist motorcycle in communist Yugoslavia

Tim Severin is almost legendary among modern explorers and historians.  From his college days, he’s specialized in studying an ancient voyage of discovery or some other historical travel narrative, and recreating it using technology of the period and in as practical a way as possible.  In doing so, he’s dispelled many myths, but he’s also proved that many stories thought to be myth and fable were, in fact, firmly grounded in reality.  (Two of the most fascinating are the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and Ulysses’ voyage from Troy to his homeland of Ithaca, both re-enacted aboard a galley built in

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Saturday snippet: urinary frigidity

A few weeks ago, I published an excerpt from the late Brigadier Dick Lord’s history of the South African Air Force, “From Fledgling to Eagle“.  It was well received, particularly because it was very funny, and I had several requests for more of his tales of flight and fighting in the service of three different countries.  I’m happy to oblige, and I’ll post more snippets from his books at odd intervals in future. This tale comes at the end of his advanced training as a pilot in Britain’s Fleet Air Arm, during the very early 1960’s.  It’s taken from his autobiography, “From

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Saturday snippet: Sam the Sex God

Some years ago I published “Walls, Wire, Bars and Souls“, a memoir of my service as a prison chaplain. Many of the realities of prison life are grim and unappealing, but there are flashes of humor even inside the walls that can relieve the tension.  Here’s one incident, as narrated in that book. A large proportion of the hardened criminals in high-security institutions are mentally unstable, to say the least. Some are downright psychotic. We have psychologists who constantly monitor our inmate population, treat those who need it, and advise the rest of us on problem areas. Inmates whose condition

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Saturday snippet: A doofus in Africa

This isn’t your typical “Doofus Of The Day” incident.  It’s a tale from about forty years ago, when yours truly was still young, sweet and innocent.  (That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!)  I came across it while re-reading the late Brigadier-General Dick Lord’s excellent book “From Fledgling to Eagle: The South African Air Force during the Border War“. The story made me laugh just as hard as it did the first time I heard it, so I thought you might enjoy it, too.  It became something of a legend among troops on the border between South West

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