Heroes–Prologue

SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
JUNE 1968
The warm summer sun shone down brightly on the bleachers in the football field of Simi Valley High School, while on the field, seated on folding chairs, the Class of 1968 anxiously awaited the graduation ceremony.
The weather was hot as was usually the case at that time of year in the bedroom community that lay northwest of Los Angeles, the warm Santa Ana winds occasionally blowing through to cool things slightly.
Tommy McPherson sat midway back in the rows of seats as he waited for the principal, Mr. Jacob, to start the ceremony. Though his immediate mind was on the ceremony, his mind was also on the War.
To young men of his age, the War meant Viet Nam. Five years ago, he had not even known where Viet Nam was. It still remained only a place half the world away. Early on in high school, he was determined to join the Army upon graduation.
As the date drew closer when he would graduate, some of his friends tried to dissuade him from going. Things were becoming extremely heated across the United States as university students protested. Large groups held rallies to burn their draft cards. Some young men fled to Canada rather than fight. And this spring, students in protest had taken over administration buildings of the universities as they had at Columbia in New York.
The national scene was intense, not only for the protests, but because of the assassinations of Martin Luther King, and just that month, Bobby Kennedy, who was likely to win the nomination for the Presidency was shot down in Los Angeles. He recalled how he and his girlfriend Cheryll had heard the news on KHJ radio as they had sat in the front of his 1965 Mustang on the hill behind the drive-in.
Cheryll had begun to weep, and he also was greatly moved. It wasn’t quite five years since JFK had been shot, and the nation had seemed to go haywire after that.
Tommy recalled how he had made the final decision to go, despite everything that was happening, despite his friends viewpoints. He knew many disagreed with the War, but his parents had instilled in him a strong love for his country. America meant something to him. And he hated communism.
He knew others in his class who were also going: his best friend, Peter Wall, and Peter’s cousin, Fred. Both had enlisted in the Marines, and would be driving down to Camp Pendleton near San Diego once the graduation celebrations were over.
Tommy himself had chosen the Army. He had always loved the Army as a kid. He had watched all the TV shows about World War II. He had gone to the Army-Navy store in the San Fernando Valley and bought Army fatigues, a canteen, everything he could put his hands on. His mom thought he would grow out of it, but as manhood approached, his boyhood love had honed into a strong determination to go and serve.
She had tried to talk him out of going, had hoped he could avoid the draft, but when he told her he had enlisted, she wept.
“Tommy”, she cried that night, sitting out on the back patio as the sun set over the valley and the shadows eased across the lawn, “I don’t want you to go, son. You might be killed. I’ve seen such terrible things on the news.”
He had knelt beside her and held her hand and tried to explain to her how he felt. It didn’t matter, that some of his friends didn’t understand. It didn’t matter how the country was reacting to the war. What mattered most to him was he felt a strong sense of duty within himself to do it.
“Mom, I have to. It’s something I have to do. It’s…it doesn’t matter to me what anyone thinks. I have to do this for myself. I realize there is a lot of things going on in this country, and not everyone agrees with the war. But I hate to see people trampled on. We are in Viet Nam to help people stay free of communism. That’s important to me.”
He wiped her tears, and she hugged him to her. “You’re my only child, my only son. What would I do if you were lost to me?”
He kissed her head gently, “I love you, Mom. And I will miss you and Dad very much. Please try to understand. You both raised me to love this country. We have what we have because someone went and fought. That’s what I’m doing. I’m keeping the world safe for you and Dad.”
She raised her head and looked into his eyes, nodding, and while she felt a sudden pride at his determination, it was with reluctance that she accepted his decision.
His Dad had more readily accepted it, and had given him a pep talk about keeping himself clean and straight-thinking because he was going into a place that was chaotic. Tommy had always been close to his father, and knew he would miss his strong, steady example.
They would give him a party for graduation, and once that was over, they had planned to drive him up the coast to Monterey, to the Army training camp at Fort Ord for his basic training.
The hard part would be letting go of Cheryll. Cheryll had been his girl friend since junior high. They had met through Peter Wall who knew Cheryll’s brother. He had gone with their friends to Chi Chi’s Pizza and they had talked for most the night. Since that time, they had been practically inseparable, driving their parents to distraction with long telephone calls, dropping in at each other’s houses, prom dates. Once they reached high school, everyone assumed they would get married after graduation.
Cheryll was the one person who tried to understand his reasons for going. She did her best to support him, and they had an understanding that once he had an income, and came home on leave, they would become engaged. It was a difficult decision, particularly since it could mean they might not get married for a couple of years, but they both wanted to make that commitment before he left.
Leaving his best girl behind was not easy. She had been a steady part of his life for five years. He wanted to marry her, and, once he came home, have a family with her. She was a beautiful girl, with long, straight blonde hair and lovely almond shaped green eyes framed by a slender face. Like Tommy, she wasn’t extremely outgoing or popular, but loved quiet, peaceful places, and books, and taking long walks together. She wasn’t always into parties and while she dressed nicely, she wasn’t into style. She dressed more conservatively than other girls, since her parents were conservative people. Her father was in shock when one of her girlfriends starting wearing mini-skirts. He had put his foot down that his daughter wouldn’t wear them, which was perfectly fine for Cheryll.
He planned to spend his last night with her, taking her out for a nice dinner where they could just talk. He loved her, and wanted to absorb all the memories he could before leaving.
When he had told Cheryll he was going, they had just come back from a party at Peter’s house, and he had driven her home. He pulled up in front of her house in the Texas tract, and she waited for him see her in.
“Cheryll”, he had started, and then quietly said, “I’m going into the Army.”
At first she said nothing, but searched his face. He hadn’t expected an outburst—Cheryll wasn’t like that. But after a moment, tears began to flow.
“I knew this would happen one day, Tommy.” Her words were even despite her emotion. “We’ve known each other for awhile, and I know how much you’ve wanted to go in the Army, ever since you were a kid. I had hoped you would change your mind, but I guess it’s something you have to do.”
He nodded and then embraced her gently. He wanted her to know that even though he was going away, her feelings for her hadn’t changed.
“You know how I feel about you, Cher. You know I still want to get married.”
“Yes, I know, Tommy, and….I will wait for you. I love you, and I want us to someday be together. I had just hoped that would happen soon.”
He looked into her eyes and then quietly said, “I would ask you to get married before I left but I don’t want you to go through that. I mean, some guys end up captured, prisoners of war. If that were to happen to me, I wouldn’t want you to feel bound to wait. It would be very hard on a person.”
She hadn’t considered that, but then there were many stories of prisoners of war. She didn’t know what she would do if that happened to him.
So, they had made plans as much as they could, and when he saw her to the door, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, and then ran inside. He walked back to the car, and headed home, but the sight of her tears and the lingering kiss filled his dreams that night.
He came out of his thoughts to realize that the ceremony had begun. Everyone was standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Followed by the Ivy girls and Mr. Jacob giving a speech, the valedictorian also gave a speech. Shortly thereafter, they began to call the graduates up to the stage for their diplomas.
In some ways it seemed unreal that he had arrived to this point, but at the same time, he felt in the coming months, he would look back on this day as golden. His life would never be the same, he knew, and the people he loved would never be the same, and their lives were changing rapidly, their world headed God only knows where.
He heard his name called, and he headed up to the platform, following those in front of him. He came to stand beside Mr. Jacob, who warmly shook his hand and handed him his diploma. He held it high so Mom and Dad could see, and then headed off the stage, headed toward his future, headed toward Fort Ord, basic training and Viet Nam.
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JOSIAH and Heroes project

After a couple of weeks rest, I am working on a couple of projects.

The first is the book about King Josiah from the Bible that I had promised my grandson.

The second is a book about a returning Vietnam Vet and his experience with the shame and degradation heaped on him by an ungrateful, unfriendly nation.  With the help of a Christian friend, he finds new purpose in Jesus Christ.

Future project: Across the River

For a long time, I’ve had a project in the back of my head.  It is an updating of the Book of Ruth with the setting being the Civil War.   Eli and Naomi Armstrong leave their home in Bethlehem, Indiana to go live in Moab, Kentucky with his cousin and now business partner, Lot Bowman.  Eli has failed as a farmer and is enticed by the opulent lifestyle of his merchant cousin, who breeds and sells horses on the side.    Lot also has a black concubine.   Eli dies and then both his sons do as well, leaving Naomi alone with her two daughter-in-law Ruth and Orpah.  Orpah is happy with the Southern lifestyle and unapologetic about the Cause.  However, Ruth sees a new sense of faith in both her husband and Naomi, and when the war ends, both she and Naomi return to Bethlehem.   Well….you know the high points of the story.

One thing I was struggling with was how to present Naomi telling Ruth to lie beside Boaz within the framework of a Victorian era.    Then, in reading something the other day, I realized that what she was essentially doing was proposing to him.  So here is that scene, which I will use for this future project.

 

The moon shone across the fields, now shorn of their wheat, as Ruth moved silently toward them.  The men lay near the tall bound bundles, each with his own bedding spread beside them.  She had watched carefully to see where Boaz was settled and made every effort not to awaken anyone.

Her heart beat rapidly within her, though she kept control of her emotions.  She knew that approaching him was risking herself, despite the fact that she had sensed his tenderness toward her on many occasions.  Why he did not propose, she did not know, but it was difficult for him to hide the fact that he had a fondness for her.

She came upon him where he lay, and for a moment watched his face in peaceful repose.  Her heart swelled with the admiration she held for him.  It wasn’t that he had wealth, or that he had status in the community that she admired.  Though a man approaching middle age, he had fine, strong features, though he was not as startlingly handsome as some of the younger men she had met.  Above all, she felt he was a man of integrity and strong faith.   She recalled the faith of Mahlon, and the faith of Naomi, and here was their cousin, a man of like, precious faith that she could trust to guide her life.

She knelt gently beside him, and then placed her hand on his shoulder, hoping to rouse him.  Boaz opened his eyes, and at first could not adjust to the fact that she was there.  He sat up quickly, and looked into her face, trying to search for meaning.

“Ruth…what are you doing here?”  He looked at her, puzzling, trying to fit it together in his mind.

“Boaz, I wanted to speak to you.   I am a poor widow, sir.  These past few months, I have worked diligently to ensure that I and my mother-in-law have been provided for.  I want to thank you for helping me in that.”

“Ruth, you have no need to thank me.  I am your cousin, as I am Naomi’s.  A man is supposed to provide for those in want among his family.  But surely, my dear, you did not stay just to offer me your thanks.”

She hesitated, and her gaze met his.  “No, that is so.  I stayed behind tonight because I wanted to…I wanted to ask you sir if you would take away my burden.  I wanted to ask if you would marry me.”

His face changed as he looked at her.  He smiled, shaking his head that she had been so bold, but also knowing she was surrendering her pride to do so.  He couldn’t believe that this lovely young woman was offering him marriage.  It should’ve been he who had offered it to her.

“Ruth, there are many young men who would be glad to marry you.  Why do you approach me?”  He ran his hands through his hair to comb it.  “I also know that Lucian has had his eyes on your property.  I would want to ensure he has no intentions toward you first.”

Ruth nodded.  “I understand that.  I do understand you don’t want to create trouble with your cousin.”

“My dear”, he began, holding her gaze, “I want you to know I consider it a profound honor that you would ask this of me.  I realize you have risked your reputation in doing so.  Ruth, you must know that I do care for you.  You are not only a lovely young woman, but I’ve seen your character, as you’ve cared for Naomi.  The only reason I did not ask you before now is because I believed myself too old to hold your interest.”

She shook her head.  “Mr. Armstrong, I would be proud to be your wife.  I’m not looking for a young man, someone who can cater to romantic needs.   When I married Mahlon, I saw the strength of faith he had, the faith of his mother.   I wasn’t raised with that, Boaz.    My father lived loosely, and my mother was stiff and proud because of it.  I needed something more.  I saw in my husband a light of hope, of a different life.   I believe God led me here, to find the roots of that faith among his people.  I see that same faith in you, Boaz, that strength of relationship with God that I need in my life.”

Boaz surveyed her for a moment.  He couldn’t believe his good fortune.  Here was this lovely lady asking to marry him.  He hoped in his heart….he prayed he knew Lucian well enough.

“Ruth, I would ask one thing of you.   I want to approach Lucian.   If he has no intention of asking you to marry him so that he can have Eli’s property, then I will certainly, without a doubt marry you myself.”  He brushed back her fine black hair.   “My dear girl, you should leave here though before it turns light.    People might think wrongly of you, and I wouldn’t want that.  Do you trust me to do what is best for you as your cousin?”

She looked into his steady brown eyes and nodded.  “Thank you, sir.”  She stood and began to walk away when he said, “Wait.”

“I know you would not want charity, but I do not want you to return to Naomi without something.”  He picked up a nearby wheat basket and filled it with wheat.  “You can take this to the mill, and they can turn it into flour for you.”

She took the basket and nodded, and then slowly disappeared into the night.

Boaz thought of tomorrow.  He must be convincing.  He must somehow convince Lucian, because he wanted to marry Ruth.  This dear, honorable girl who had sacrificed her pride to come to him.

 

 

 

 

 

Completing Liberty’s Promise, then editing, editing, editing…

Just a few more pages to write on the 10th chapter of Liberty’s Promise and then a brief epilogue on the Declaration of Independence, and my 4th book will be done! I am so glad this one went a lot quicker than the last. I’m very near 235 pages and 40000 words on this one.
I intend to spend the next couple of weeks editing the three books. I don’t want to take on any more new writing projects until they are completely edited and published.

The Militiamen of Massachusetts

As I’m writing about the Battles of Lexington-Concord and Menotomy, I realized I needed information about leaves, etc.  I came across this nice powerpoint done by the National Parks detailing the equipment of the militiamen, which varied by town.  Some towns required them to totally outfit themselves, while others might provide things such as bayonets.

Following Lexington, the militiamen who turned out not only chased the British back to Boston, but besieged the city so that the British were blocked in by land.

Massachusetts Militiamen

Lexington-Concord in Liberty’s Promise

Writing in the 9th chapter of Liberty’s Promise, I just passed 200 page, with about 33000 words. I am thinking there will be one, perhaps 2 more chapters. Right now, I am describing the timeline of events of Lexington-Concord. How the patriots chased the British back to Boston.  A lot of people do not realize they had a major battle in the process at a place called Menotomy.

Liberty’s Promise and the Locket

I am working on the 7th chapter of Liberty’s Promise, so it is at about 3/4 complete.  I am well pleased with the progress I am making on it.  The past few days, I have just felt so impassioned in writing that it is quickly taking shape.

I decided that I will work on proofing the Locket and getting it ready to publish, as A Wounded Heart still needs considerable editing.  So, hopefully by next week sometime, I will have the Locket on Amazon for sale.  It’s a lovely story taken from a lot of my personal experiences, though it is set in the post-World War I America.

Here is the blurb for The Locket:

Ella Goodwin is a Christian girl living with her parents in the rolling hills of Los Angeles in the last year of WWI. Her father is a lawyer, while her mother is a devoted housewife. They are people of great faith, yet that faith is shaken when tragedy strikes. A devastating illness–influenza–comes to the Los Angeles area after causing many deaths worldwide. Ella must strive to put her life back together, all the while holding on to a promise of love sealed by a golden locket so long ago. She must discover for herself that God’s promises hold true in the midst of her ever-changing world.

Excerpt from “Liberty’s Promise”

Thomas Rockdale took off his wig, and settled back on in his favorite chair at the rectory.  He poured himself a glass of wine, and sipped from it, thinking of Anna Barton.  He wondered for a moment whether he was wasting his time with her.    It wasn’t as if she was the only woman attracted to him.

True, she was startlingly beautiful, and he felt deeply attracted to her.  He did want her as his wife, but he also felt a rebellious streak in her.  Women did need a man to rule over them.  And he felt Anna resented that.

He had long felt that all women needed a man to control them.   Women were naturally rebellious ever since the Garden of Eden, and though they really wanted the rulership of men, they tried to control man.  It took strong men, men like himself, to refuse their games of love, to bring a woman to obey and fear God correctly.

It was just like these unruly colonials.  He had meant his words.  They were like an unruly woman that needed force to bring them under control, and force they would get.  He had heard about their “Congress” that was meeting, though small good that would do.  No, rather, they needed to fall into line and accept the rulership of their King and Parliament and do what they were told.

He came from a very old British family, long before the Elizabethan era, and he didn’t understand this unreasonable behavior among them.    His father, as an Earl, had shouted “God Save the King” at George III’s coronation.  His earliest known ancestor, Richard of Rockdale, had fought alongside Henry VI, the last Lancastrian King of England before the Tudors.  No, he did not understand these rabble at all.

The fireplace flickered, and he let his mind wander back to Anna Barton.  If he were her husband, he would teach her to obey him.  He was a strong man, and smart enough to know the little games women played.  He knew how to overpower them with his personality, how to make them recognize the superiority of men, until they had to give in.  Then she would obey him, and he would teach her what being a godly woman was.

No, if he were her husband, there would be no more speaking against him.  There would be no more games.  Men had to use their superior minds and their force of being to overpower a woman or she would use her feminine wiles on him.  He had seen it in his mother and sisters, how his father gave in to them.  He had seen it in the wives of his friends.  He would not allow a woman to do that to him.

If he were Anna’s husband, she would obey him in the end.  He would make her a compliant, peaceful wife who would fear God and fear him and there would be no feminine games, no emotional outbursts, no shrewish disagreements.   And she would thank him for his attentions to her.

It helped that her own sister was for him.  The insipid Mrs. Tetford.  He knew how to use women to his best advantage and he felt no qualms in doing so.    He realized some women even felt themselves the equal of men, but he knew better.  It was a man’s world, and would remain so, because of strong men like himself.

God had intended the world to be ruled by men.  He had intended a natural order of things, in marriage, in the church, in society.   Men tried to defy the divine right of kings, when they were truly casting off their God.   And women threw off the divine rulership of their husbands for the same reason.

All this talk of “liberty” was against everything he knew in life.  They brought up the Magna Carta, while ignoring that the rights contained in it were barons, and not for the lower classes.    This had begun to be a problem as liberal ideas of the rights of man had taken root in men’s minds, convincing them that they were the equal of kings.   He hoped their government would soon send the Army.  This rebellion needed to be put down before it got out of control.

He sat in his chair and considered what his next strategy should be.  What would bring the beautiful Mrs. Barton to crave more of his attentions?  Perhaps a little jealousy was due.  He could think of one or two women in the congregation he might enjoy having lunch with, and if he let Hope know….He smiled to himself.

He knew Anna was attracted to him.  He felt it whenever he entered the room.  Perhaps if she thought he was considering another woman, she would be more amiable to him.  She was after all, a widow, and not getting younger.  Certainly her number of suitors must be waning—why else would her sister be matchmaking for her?

Yes, he finally settled, he would make her jealous for his attentions.  He would meet with her again soon, and make her think he wanted to marry her, and then he would have lunch with one or two ladies.  She would be anxious about his attentions.

He took out some stationary, and wrote a letter to her.

My dear Mrs. Barton:

I do feel our last meeting was not as amiable as I had hoped.    I was really hoping you would enjoy to hear me speak, and understand my devotion to God as well as to my King.

Anna, I must meet with you at your sister’s home again soon.  I implore you to say yes.   I am sorry if you did not understand my statements on the duties of a wife, but I hope you will give me the opportunity to better explain them to you.   I hope that once you see the truth of my statements, you will agree with them.

After we discuss that, there are other, more important matters I want to discuss with you.

There, he thought.  He felt he was forceful and dynamic, and he also left open the possibility that he might take a closer step toward engagement.  A real man simply had to play the game better than the woman if he was to succeed with her.    And he did feel he would succeed with Anna.