Sunday, July 25, 2010

My One True Calling

To my friend, Terry Stonecrop, the ingenius creator of Gardner West, Private Eye, and whose post today asked the question: Born To Write...Or To Be Wild? I think both. Wild AND a writer. But then maybe those are synonymous.

Of the callings she listed, the two I never considered were bull fighter and hockey player. Which one was my favorite? Ooo, ooo, fighter pilot!!

In 1975, I had a pen in my hand poised over the dotted line. I was seventeen, a senior in high school and had just scored 98 percentile on the ASVAB. They wanted me. Badly. Here was my chance to be a pilot.

Like Terry, the 'Fighter' part of pilot eluded me.

I 'inherited' my daddy's love for airplanes. He worked for Lockheed, in Marietta, Georgia, at the main base. Next door to Dobbins Air Force Base. The bases enthralled me and the airplanes wove a spell deep down in my bones. The Blue Angels. The Thunderbirds. Still, today, I thrill at the sound of fighters flying maneuvers. My body hears. And knows. As it recognizes the drone of the C130 and the whine of the C5A.

"Top Gun" is one of my favorite movies, and what wins me over every time is Fightertown USA. I long to be there. It's the F16's and the migs and the dogfights.

Oh, and the soundtrack.

And the kiss.

Every time Maverick climbs in the cockpit, I am in that plane with him.

Here's another video to go with the one Terry posted.

My daddy (Melvin Hugo Herrell, RIP) was a sailor, a Navigator in Korea. He wanted to fly, they said he was too short. I had felt his pain and maybe, suddenly, his dream became mine. Who knows. But right then and there I decided to be a pilot and join the U.S. Navy.

I remember the headiness of that moment, standing in the middle of the lunchroom cum testing center with a recruiter from each branch of the U.S. Armed Services fighting over me. No one had ever fought over me. Because of my daddy and the Blue Angels, the other branches didn't have a shot.

Blue Angels Air Show 7/24/2010 by Stephen Lasley
So there I stood, pen in hand. It had happened so fast, yet in slow motion. Surreal and slick all at once. I'm not sure what stopped me. A moment of sanity, maybe. Or some of my daddy's good old-fashioned horse sense kicked in. But, out of the wild blue yonder, a question popped in to my head and I opened my mouth and asked it.

"OH! Do I have to have 20/20 eyesight to be a pilot?"

When that handsome young man in the dashing uniform said yes, I almost cried. The dream, that had been so real for all of five minutes, flew bye-bye.

Since that day I've drifted from one 'career' to another. I've worn many hats, perfected the art of the cameleon. Once I mastered it, I got bored. I moved on. Flew the coop. On to the next calling.

Now here I am, at the end of time, with my one true love: Words. An avid reader from the age of four, books became more central to my life than the real world. Oh, don't get me wrong. The real world was real. But sometimes, looking back, it's easier to recall the plot or character of a book than it is to recall bits of my life.

So here I am. Writing. And loving it. And knowing what I was born to be. In the arts.

P.S. For Wally: the comments should be available now on That Rebel. Go check it out. And thank you so much for not giving up.


  1. My dad had that problem when he enlisted in the Armr Air Corps at the beginning of WWII. His eye sight kept him from being a pilot.

    However, it also probably also saved his life. My dad was sent to safe Roswell, N.M., for the duration.

    Other than a few wayward aliens, there was not much action at Roswell.

  2. Did you ever live there or was that pre-Walter?


  3. Roswell for my dad was pre-Wally. I grew up in Tucson.

    Strange things are suspected of happening in Roswell, mostly UFO stuff. Did you know that Al Gore was born exactly 9 months after the Roswell Incident?

    It makes me wonder.

  4. Hmm, no. I did not. One of my favorite movies is MIB II so I'm cool if he is. But, thanks for making me laugh!

  5. When a young boy, I wanted to be Commando Cody of RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON. The weekend classic movie marathon introduced him to me long decades after the serial was dust.

    I never forgot my dreams of flying through the skies with that roaring rocket on my back. Such are the dreams of little children. Roland

  6. Ah, Roland, you found WhackaDoodle. I neglect it terribly. Yes, but the dreams of children become the dreams of adults. And thank the Maker for that.


  7. Being a science fiction writer, aliens are my favorite topic. But, they probably do not exit, except in writen and movie fiction. You know, lide elves, gremlins, and eskimos.

    I once took 4 flying lessons. I had to stop. It scared me even move than Roland's books and a back alley in New Orleans.

  8. Walter, I wish the heck you would get a blog so us little folks could commune with you. You crack me up. As does your book, btw! I finally started it last night and am on page 78.

    I haven't laughed out loud yet, but I've grinned and chuckled and I can tell that belly laugh is coming. It took me a few pages to get in to the rhythm of your writing and then a few more pages to let go of convention and roll with it.

    Dude, you have serious mental problems. Haha. Just kidding. I LOVE your humor and want to know just one thing so far. Why did you name your female character Private SoSaysYou?? LOL

    I'm now hooked and can't wait to read more. As for aliens, aren't we all aliens of some sort or another?? Me? Yeah, it's the only explanation that makes sense. Just ask my daddy. :)


  9. Fantastic Post! Love it! And thanks for mentioning me. That was sweet of you.

    Oh yes, I hear you. I can't believe you came so close to the dream. Bummer! But maybe, as you said, you ended up just where you were meant to be, a writer! An honorable profession, if ever there was one. And certainly not dull.

    Love your video, too. Goose bumps! Still feel the thrills. Top Gun, oh yes, a big fave!

    Thanks for sharing this. Now I have to go back and replay your video:D

  10. Olivia:

    Among other things I am a history buff. So when I write my science fiction, and my humor, and the combat stuff, I also tried to sneak history into it. All 13 books are inspiered by hidden historical facts, people and quotes.

    The female private's name, Elena Ceausescu, comes from recent history (l990's?). Check the internet for details, but she was the wife of a Romanian communist dictator who was over thrown during a place revolt when the peasants did not like the speach her husband was giving.

    They both were quickly put on trial and executed. The later court scene in my first book was inspired by the transcripts of that trial.

    Of course, every thing I wrote was meant to be humorous and entertaining, and I try very hard to not knock people over the head with my politics, or any politics. It's a parody, making fun of my characters, not matter how serious they try to be.

    But every page comes from somewhere. Some of it is an inside joke, but most, if you are well read or know your history, movies, and TV, you may spot. Good luck with that.

    I'll give you a homework assignment. Try to find a Woody Allen Quote "buried" somewhere deep.


  11. Terry, I'm so glad you dropped by and thank you for your thought-provoking post and for bringing back this memory. I literally got to relive those moments with fine clarity. It was quite refreshing and invigorating. I love both our vids and, if you'll click over on the one I posted there are several more.

    Wally, homework? Seriously? Okay. If I havta. :)
    Is that the only clue I get? Hmm, now I'll be looking for sure! If you sound out Ceausescu and keep the last 'c' soft, her name could be pronounced 'so says you'. So you got a twofer out of that one! :)


  12. Dream, Olivia! You don't need 20-20 for a private pilot's license. Maybe not the same as a fighter plane, but it still gets you up there. I think that quite a few kids who sign on with the Navy with the dream of being fighter pilots end up with a rude awakening when they actually take the time to find out what the prerequisites are.

    Ceauşescu, now there's a name I haven't heard in awhile. He definitely marched to the beat of his own drummer.

  13. Hey Olivia - I wanted to fly too!! But I have terrible eyesight as well. Then I almost joined as a linguistics person. Something stopped me as well. Great post! And Top Gun - the soundtrack, the kiss - all of it. I agree. Awesome!!

  14. growing up I dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot in the Canadian forces. When I met up with the recruiter, he practically laughed at me. I was female, way too short and nearsighted. But he said he had lots of desk jobs for me...
    I was out of there so fast his head must have spun. So here I am, writing:-)

  15. Whackadoodle? Better than being just a boring whacky dude, yes?

  16. I love airplanes too. We live close to WPAFB and the air force base museum. It is so cool to walk around and look at the history and all the different planes they have in the museum.

    Cool post!