Bravery, lurking and thanks

To both Suzannah and Kathleen,

Both you ladies were fantastic! Thanks for braving the blog.

To all the new members,

Thanks for joining us.  Suzannah and Kathleen, as well as a few others, lurk so feel free to drop a note or, if your not so inclined, think up questions and comments for Ann Hite.  “Ghost on Black Mountain.”  I’ll be posting about her on Fridays during the month.  On the last weekend, we’ll gather and converse.

A final good-bye, hurricanes, and ghosts

Final Good-bye

“The Final Salute” takes on some tough subjects; however, Kathleen, who is one forthright lady, can handle them.   Many thanks to her for spending the month as the featured author on a rather intense weekend.  Time for Kathleen to take off, though.  (pun intended)

Goodnight Irene

Hope Hurricane Irene treated you kindly, if she was at your house.

Ghosts

Next month the author is Ann Hite, “Ghost on Black Mountain.”  Look for a post about her next Friday.

Letter to a flyboy

http://www.amazon.com/Final-Salute-Together-Valor-Combat/dp/0982089201/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1314549687&sr=1-2

Jan. 18, 1991

Dear Tuck,

When I was young, I used to visit Aunt Cora at her funny smelling

farmhouse on the outskirts of town. The house had a long

front porch that stretched from one end of the house to the other. I

liked to sit on the porch and take in the view of the air base. The

highway, railroad tracks, and a chain-link fence separated us, the

farmhouse people, from them, the military. The front porch had the

best seat in the house. Unfortunately, the rattlesnakes thought so,

too.

Nevertheless, I spent hours camped out in a rusted metal lawn

chair and clung to an old garden hoe in case Mr. No-Shoulders

decided to slither up through the honeysuckle and join me while I

waited for the jets. The boom of the F-100 Super Sabers’

afterburners caused my aunt’s teacups to rattle, the windows shake,

and the life blood pump through my veins.

Then a big, dark jet would shoot straight out of nowhere over the

top of the farmhouse and scream like a mighty bird of prey. Its steel

belly so close I knew if I jumped high enough off the porch, I could

reach up and touch it before it landed on the other side of the fence

and rolled down the shimmery black runway and out of my life.

For one brief, shining moment, nothing else mattered. Then I

went back to look for snakes. You know Tuck, in all those years I

never did see one, dead or alive, near the premises. Yet I heard all

about them in the stories Aunt Cora would tell anybody who

listened—like how she nearly died wrestling the devil’s serpent with

the blade of her hoe. In the world of snake kills, the woman was an

ace.

Looking back, I realize I could have stayed inside and peered out

the picture window in Aunt Cora’s living room instead of venture

out into the danger zone of the porch, where things could bite. But I

had to see the jets and feel the thunder they created in the

atmosphere. Their arrivals and departures made my daydreams take

flight. The jets so close, yet so far away, in a world I wasn’t privy to.

A world my dad once moved in and out of as an airman, but left

before I was born. A world I didn’t think dangerous, until I married

you.

Last night, when they showed footage of an A-10 from Myrtle

Beach shot down over Iraq, the war came crashing into my living

room. After all these years, Tuck, one of those goddamn snakes has

finally crept beyond its boundaries.

It pisses me off. I’m sitting here 7,000 miles away on the edge of

your chair, armed with nothing but this lousy remote control. So

I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. As soon as I stick

this letter in the mail, I’m headed out to the shed to fetch the garden

hoe and tie a yellow ribbon on it.

Love You,

Gina

No candy coating

At the height of the Vietnam War, I studied journalism at Texas A&M University.  The university had a strong military training program, graduating a significant number of officers.  They went off to war.  If they came home in coffins, as they frequently did, the school honored its former students with a ceremony.  It would be at night.  Campus lights went out. The flags lowered to half-mast.  The slow roll of Taps began and, even in the summer, my skin crawled.  All activity ceased.  It was eerie and humbling, but it was not first-hand.

At bases around the country, a grim faced officer had made that knock.  Kathleen, who was and is a pilot’s wife, tells us the rules of conduct when that knock happens.

First weeks in Air Force, not a picnic

And life begins as an Air Force wife

 

Kathleen’s Bio:

Growing up in a family of six kids in Clovis, New Mexico, home of Cannon Air Force Base and the Santa Fe Railroad, I spent countless hours in a rocking chair, daydreaming about what it would be like to be someone else. Little did I know then that I was simply creating stories in my head. Then one day I learned that I could write them down.

Through my writing, I’ve been able to explore many subjects. My goal is always to get to the truth through the people and places I write about, real or imagined. Along the way, I’ve encountered many roadblocks and detours, but I’ve pressed ahead and kept my eyes on the goals I mapped out years ago.

My work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Air Force, Army & Navy Times, Family: The Magazine for Military Families, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Albuquerque Journal, Clovis News Journal, and in three anthologies: “Because I Fly,” by McGraw-Hill, “Lessons From Our Children,” by Health Communications, Inc. and “Hearts of Steel,” by Military Writers Society of America.

In 2008, Leatherneck Publishing released my debut novel “The Final Salute.” The following year, Army Wife Network selected it as their July book club pick and Military Writers Society of America awarded it the Silver Medal. In 2010, USA-Today and The Associated Press both ran stories about my sixteen-year journey to bring the novel to life.

I am the mother of two grown sons, Thomas (an award-winning artist) and J.P. (a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army). I live in Colleyville, TX, with my husband, Tom, a retired fighter pilot, and my Chocolate Lab, Bubba. My novel-in-progress is about a woman named Johnnie Kitchen.

 

Next week:  

The second part of the video interview.  She’s a former military wife who tells us frankly what it like to face the that time we hope will never happen, until it does, and how to write what you know.  Next Saturday, Kathleen answers our questions.

 

 

“Final Salute” author’s hometown pulls at her heart

Kathy 1972

Looking Homeward: It took a tragedy to show a kid from Clovis the warmth in her past

By

Kathleen M. Rodgers (formerly Kathy Doran, CHS class of 1976)

(Author’s note: This essay was originally published in The Albuquerque Journal 3/3/91)

When people used to ask me, “Where are you from?” my reaction always resulted in sweaty armpits and palms and flushed cheeks. Finally, and almost apologetically, I would rush through my spiel: “Oh, a place you’ve never heard of…Clovis, New Mexico.”

I used to feel guilty about my answer until I heard what my aunt Kay, an Albuquerque resident of more than 25 years, had to say about growing up in Clovis: “It’s a great place to be from, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” She voiced what I’d been thinking for years.

Clovis is just a hop and a skip from the railroad tracks that divide New Mexico from the Texas panhandle. It has even earned the nickname “little Texas” because it resembles many of the communities of the Lone Star state more than it does Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos, Gallup or Las Cruces.

I’d always considered the place I grew up in as just another small town that was staying alive because of outside forces, in this case because of the stockyards, the Santa Fe Railroad and Cannon Air Force Base. In high school, I couldn’t wait to get out. Each summer, between ninth grade and senior year, I got to escape the one-horse-town days of Clovis and spend several glorious weeks at my aunt’s and uncle’s house in Albuquerque. Aunt Kay and Uncle Larry took me places, and I experienced a true New Mexico culture that seemed so lacking on the east side of the state. We meandered through the historical sites of Old Town, ate Indian Fry bread at Isleta Pueblo, visited the sprawling campus of the University of New Mexico and drove through the scenic Manzano Mountains. I came away from those summers knowing that I wanted more than what Clovis had to offer.

A few years later, when I was 21, I married a “jet jockey” – what the local boys called the F-111 pilots from Cannon AFB. The marriage whisked me quickly away from home. And except for occasional visits to see my mother and brother, I happily stayed away for 11 years.

Until recently, I was convinced Clovis had so little going for it that if the base ever closed or a few businesses failed, the town would simple dry up and blow away. My view of my hometown could be summed up by a postcard I saw a few years before I left. It pictured a ragged burro in search of water under a scorching sun. The caption read: “Clovis, N.M., a hundred miles from anywhere and one mile from Hell.”

Then last June, while watching a national television broadcast, my childhood image of Clovis began to crumble.

The story showed the way the entire town pulled together to search for a missing child, 6-year-old Matthew Roberts. As I watched the townsfolk talking to the television reporters, I saw a Clovis that’s still a small town, but a vital one with an enormous heart.

The police force got little sleep after the call came in that Matthew was missing, and more than 5,000 of the town’s 35,000 citizens joined in the search. Churches, scout troops and schools helped distribute flyers all over town. Children wore T-shirts displaying Matthew’s picture.

Folks who generally kept to themselves came out of the woodwork to look for the little boy. My mother told me, for example, that for several nights right after Matthew was reported missing, she lay awake listening to what seemed like thousands of voices calling out into the night from the streets and alleys: “Matthew, where are you?” And the television program showed a crew of local bikers, in leather jackets and chains, ride up on their choppers and give Matthew’s parents a large sum of money they collected.

One man on the program gave a simple reason why the community was doing so much for one little boy. “Because he’s a Clovis kid,” he said.

More than two weeks into the search for this Clovis kid, his body was discovered inside a storage compartment in the back of a car near his home. It appears Matthew crawled inside and was asphyxiated within minutes.

Many people who did not know Matthew experienced the tragedy of his death, but for me it was particularly wrenching. I cried for days after the special was aired. I cried mostly for little Matthew and for his parents, the empty bedroom they must now face and their aching hearts.

But I also wept for myself – because I felt ashamed. I too was “a Clovis kid.” And I had turned my back on the town that had cradled me from birth and nurtured me well into my adult life. I got my first professional break in Clovis, with my early dreams as a writer fostered by the local newspaper editor who hired me.

That show made me realize that it’s people like my first boss, my Clovis neighbors and my own family that make a place what it is. What my hometown may lack in culture it makes up for in the quality of the people who live there, the way they sally forth when one of their own needs help.

Now when others ask me where I’m from, I proudly say, “Hey, ever heard of a place called Clovis, New Mexico? It’s a great little town.”

~  Kathleen M. Rodgers is the author of the award-winning novel “The Final Salute.” She resides in Colleyville, TX, but gets home to Clovis often. When coming into town, she always drives down Main Street and remembers those long ago days of “dragging Main” and “hitting the bricks.”