the man who fell into a well

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” ~ Marie Curie

Once upon a time, before time was collected by government agencies and shredded into suffocating regulations, a man fell into a well. His name, Bob,  is unimportant because before he fell, he never discovered, mainly because he wasn’t looking, what gift he brought into the world on the day he was born. Presumably, he is still falling because nobody heard a splash.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that he grabbed for the old oaken bucket, a viable hope to be sure, but it failed him because he never got around to replacing the old, frayed rope with a sturdy new rope from the seed and feed. Other than his falling into it, nobody had used the well for years. New ropes cost money. So did covering over the well or even placing a sign that said: “watch your step.”

Calls to his cell phone go directly to voice mail. “Hello. Your call is very important to me. I’ll get back to you as soon as I hit bottom.”

His wife, Grace, told police he was falling before he fell into the well. Never could get a handle on his purpose or his life’s story because–truth be told–his fields were always too wet to plough and he had proven on numerous occasions that he couldn’t dance the dance, much less walk the walk. “I felt like I always had to push him to do anything,” she said.

After the prescribed amount of time, she had him declared dead, inherited the mule and his forty-acre farm, both of which were sold to a developer for $267,613.40. He transformed the wet fields into a mall for the rich and famous who never bothered to show up.

The epitaph in his tombstone reads: “He fell from Grace.”

I knew Bob before he fell into the well. He had hopes and dreams, all that stuff. As the Asian bar girls said of many sailors in liberty ports during the Vietnam War, he was a “butterfly man,” going from flower to flower before falling away into a new desire or vision. I suggested many things when he asked for help. He didn’t like them, swore up and down he didn’t need them even though he said often, “Life is nothing but falling without a parachute.”

One might say Bob’s true gift to the world was falling into a well. If so, perhaps he will serve as an example to others who are prone to fall into wells. I doubt it since there aren’t many books about people whose primary accomplishment if life was falling into a well. What a paradox: those who need to hear his incomplete story will never know about it.

“Well,” somebody says during a pause in the conversation. “That’s a deep subject,” somebody else replies.

If they only knew before it was too late.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

‘Fate’s Arrows’ – New – Audiobook Edition

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released the audiobook edition of Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel Fate’s Arrows, narrated by Daniela Acitelli. Of course, I’m biased, but I’ll say this anyway: the narration is wonderful and fits the story perfectly.

Description

In 1954, the small Florida Panhandle town of Torreya had more Klansmen per acre than fire ants. Sparrow, a bag lady; Pollyanna, an auditor; and Jack, the owner of Slade’s Diner, step on fire ants and Klansmen whenever they can while an unknown archer fires fate-changing arrows at the Klan’s leadership. They are not who they appear to be, and while they take risks, they must be discrete lest they end up in the Klan’s gunsights.

When Julia and Eldon, a married couple from Harlem, New York, run afoul of the Klan because of Eldon’s pro-union stance at the sawmill, they find themselves down at the ancient hanging tree where two policemen, hiding their identity beneath white robes and hoods, are the ones holding the noose.

Acitelli

Meanwhile, Sparrow seems to have disappeared. When the ne’er-do-well Shelton brothers beat up the Klavern’s exalted cyclops because they think he harmed Sparrow, they, too, find themselves the focus of a KKK manhunt.

Bolstered by support from a black cat and an older-than-dirt conjure woman, Pollyanna persists in her fight against the Klan, determined to restore law and order to a town overwhelmed by corruption. In time, her targets will learn that Pollyanna is no Pollyanna.

–Malcolm

Fate’s Arrows is also available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover editions.

The Sacrifice

In 1959 when I was a high school student in Tallahassee, Florida and my father was the dean of the Florida State University School of journalism, the state’s board of regents (then called the board of control) decreed that FSU’s journalism school would close. The reason, which was never spelt out, was probably politics. Purportedly, the state thought it was spending too much money duplicating degrees at Florida State and the University of Florida in Gainesville.

  • Needless to say, both universities provided similar degree programs in a multitude of subjects. So, there was a duplication in many areas.
  • Of the two schools, the one at the University of Florida was weaker in terms of faculty and equipment.
  • My father was the most widely known journalism educator in the state. One wonders if he unknowingly stepped on somebody’s toes.

FSU teaches media courses under the auspices of a School of Communication. However, I think it is missing many courses that should be taken by anyone planning to be a reporter. 

The professors in the school of journalism were spun off into other departments, English among other things, or–like my father–received offers from other universities. My father had taught at many of them already as he followed his career prior to FSU. He chose to stay at FSU after the journalism school was destroyed and became a professor of English Education.

In 1959, I resented this. My father seldom spoke of the politics of higher education. While he was vocal in the press about the closing of the FSU journalism school, he never exactly told my two brothers and me why he wasn’t taking a position at another journalism school. My mother told me that he was making a sacrifice on behalf of the family because he felt we were so invested in Tallahassee (school, church, scouting, friends) that it would be unfair to us to force us to return to California or New York or Oregon where he had previously taught.

I told her that my dad’s career was more important than the hassles of moving to a new town and finding our way in new schools. She told me never to tell him that.  I didn’t.

The Scottish Clan Campbell’s motto is “forget not.” I do not forget and I often do not forgive. So the alumni association of Florida State University hasn’t made any headway getting me to join, nor have they received a dime of my money. When they ask for my reasons, I tell them and they say that was long ago and I say so what?

In 1959, I wanted a family meeting about living in Tallahassee or moving away. If we had one, I have no memory of it. It saddens me, though, this long after the fact, that I still do not agree with the sacrifice my father made for the family 62 years ago. And it angers me that FSU was too frightened of its own shadow to stand up strongly in support of its journalism school.

It was, I think, lose-lose for everyone in 1959, but there are times on long summer nights when I remember it like it happened yesterday, and think that it was all so unnecessary.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

 

The songbird that walks and flies underwater

“He is the mountain streams’ own darling, the humming-bird of blooming waters, loving rocky ripple-slopes and sheets of foam as a bee loves flowers, as a lark loves sunshine and meadows. Among all the mountain birds, none has cheered me so much in my lonely wanderings, –none so unfailingly. For both in winter and summer he sings, sweetly, cheerily, independent alike of sunshine and of love, requiring no other inspiration than the stream on which he dwells. While water sings, so must he, in heat or cold, calm or storm, ever attuning his voice in sure accord; low in the drought of summer and the drought of winter, but never silent.” – John Muir

When I worked as a seasonal hotel employee in Glacier National Park, my attention focused first on mountain sheep and mountain goats, deer and moose, marmots and ground squirrels, and–of course bears. The most striking birds were the ospreys and golden eagles, followed by large flocks of songbirds such as pine siskins. A month went by before I saw a water ouzel, beloved by John Muir, because this bird seems to spend more time underwater than in the air. Imagine resting beside a stream on a long hike, glancing down into the water where–amongst the minnows–you see a dark grey bird walking on the bottom looking for insects and even small fish.

Wikipedia Photo

We consulted George Ruhle’s Guide to Glacier National Park and learned the bird was a water ouzel, now (for reasons I don’t know) more commonly called the American Dipper ( Cinclus mexicanus). Cornell Labs calls the dipper “America’s only truly aquatic songbird,” noting also its thick plumage, low metabolic rate, and molting of feathers (like ducks) every year.

According to Audubon, “This distinctive bird is locally common along rushing streams in the West, especially in high mountains. It is usually seen bobbing up and down on a rock in mid-stream, or flying low over the water, following the winding course of a creek rather than taking overland shortcuts. The song and callnotes of the Dipper are loud, audible above the roar of the water.”

I found the bird fascinating even before I learned later that one of my wilderness heroes, John Muir considered it a favorite. 

–Malcolm

Glacier Park Novel

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

We used to say, ‘well, there’s a war on’

In the so-called old days, people often explained daily inconveniences as well as impulsive decisions with the phrase, “well, there’s a war on.” That excused everything from getting pregnant to getting drunk to getting married to singing the night away at a club you’d never go to if there wasn’t a war on.

I’m not sure we’ve come up with a gallows’ humor catchphrase to succinctly remind ourselves how much COVID impacts our lives on multiple levels. Perhaps “Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months” or “The Days of Wine and Masks.” World Wars I and II brought almost every normal thing to an abrupt halt. In a different way, so has the pandemic. Either way, the deaths and the wounded are real.

Some people ask “when will things get back to normal” while others say, “normal wasn’t all that good.” My feeling is that as bad as “normal” was, it was better than Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months. Those who want to pretend they are Nostradamus sagely predict things will never be the same even after COVID’s gone. I think they will because we have short memories.

Plus, I’ve never seen the point in being a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. I’d rather say that in spite of all the political wrangling, naysayers, false starts, and fearmongering that when we finally kick COVID in the ass, that we will have a feeling of accomplishment and survivorship. I want to say, “We beat the pandemic” rather than catalogue all the ways society will end up worse than it was.

In the meantime, I’m okay with Vaccine Days and Shutdown Months because, after all, there’s a pandemic on.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

I don’t understand mass shootings

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, I don’t want to understand mass shootings. But, as a country, I think we need to figure them out. So far, (through March) there have been 146 mass shootings this year, with a death toll of 148 along with 485 wounded. The latest one occurred in South Carolina yesterday when five people, including a doctor, his wife, two grandchildren, and another individual were killed by a shooter who apparently took his own life. No motive has been established.

Do you really need this for self defense? Wikipedia photo.

Many people believe these shootings occur due to easy access to guns, with the emphasis to “access” usually meaning military-style weapons. When I was in high school and junior high school, almost everyone I knew owned guns, as did my family. They were for hunting and target practice. That was 50 years ago, so how we felt about hunting for food is so different from today’s culture, that it would be inaccurate to say, we had easy access to guns and yet there were no mass shootings.

Some people hunted deer, though we never did. These folks used 30-30 and 30-06 rounds in a variety of rifles. Many were bolt action. Some held 3-5 rounds. We owned shotguns for hunting ducks. My grandfather in Illinois hunted pheasants, my wife’s father hunted deer and quail. Almost all of us went fishing. The purpose was always food that wasn’t available at the grocery store.

I cannot compare our access to guns in the 1950s and 1960s with today’s access to guns or with the kinds of guns people are buying, much less the rationale for buying them. So I’m perplexed about the motivation for buying semi-automatic weapons with large magazines. One doesn’t hunt with these. One doesn’t really need them for self-defense.

According to the New Yorker, “The late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said, in 1991, that the idea that the Second Amendment conferred a right for individuals to bear arms was ‘a fraud on the American public.’ Burger was no liberal, and his view simply reflected the overwhelming consensus on the issue at the time.” This interpretation matches mine, that being that we cannot overlook the part of the Second Amendment that mentions the militia–in today’s terms, the national guard.

The default interpretation today is to overlook the militia component of the amendment and say we all have the right to own all the military-style guns we want. That’s absurd on the face of it. Yet, when solving this problem of mass shootings, I think we need to look more at our culture than simply on access to firearms. Why would anyone bust into that doctor’s house and kill everyone? I’m not sure we know. Perhaps we will never know. If it comes down to, “The doctor pissed me off,” then we’re really not at the core issue of motivation. If you’re the shooter, knowing you will probably end up dead, being pissed off seems very lame as a rationale.

The “why” illudes us. Is it news reporting: copycats who say, “yeah, I want to die like that.” Is it the guns? Is it the fact many people don’t believe in the sanctity of life?

We’re not looking hard enough or deep enough at this problem.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Ready to be kicked by a mule?

“Side effects (such as fever, chills, tiredness, and headache) throughout the body were more common after the second dose of the vaccine. Most side effects were mild to moderate. However, a small number of people had severe side effects that affected their ability to do daily activities.”CDC

Since my wife and I are reporting to the county health department tomorrow afternoon for our second Moderna shot, I browsed through the side effects and didn’t find “feels like being kicked by a mule.” What a relief. Yet, there’s been talk. Others have dropped dead, possibly, and this seems to be better than being kicked by a mule. Or, maybe these are just myths and legends and the shot feels like a scoop of rocky road ice cream.

I got lots of shots when I reported to the navy. Most of them were given by things that looked like nail guns. But I was younger then and figured I’d probably die in the war anyway, so no big deal. I’m older now, obviously, and it takes me longer to recover when I’m kicked by a mule or shot with a .50 caliber machine gun round.

Some people won’t even get the first shot because they don’t know what’s in it. If they did, would they know enough about the ingredients to make a YES/NO decision? Somebody on Facebook said we don’t know what’s in hotdogs and that doesn’t stop us from getting two or three at the ball game.  Whenever anybody asks what’s in a hotdog, the answer is, “You don’t really want to know.” The response is usually laughter and another order of hotdogs–or the notorious slaw dog.

Every once in a while hotdogs are recalled after some glitch resulted in a whole town being wiped out. We haven’t heard anything that bad about our COVID vaccines. So, what can possibly go wrong?

You don’t want to know.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

If your zip code is 94027, congratulations

According to online information, if you live in the Silicon Valley town of Atherton, you probably already know that the average cost of a house there is $7 million and that 94027 is the most affluent zip code in the country. Marketers, political pollsters, and online data dealers also know it. Everyone who wants your money or your vote knows where you live and wants to get to know you better.

We are always worried about data breaches on sites like Facebook because our personal information–zip code, address, shopping habits, etc.–is used by marketers in targeting audiences for advertising. As for Atherton, we shouldn’t be surprised that the town is both affluent and in California because the state has 91 of the United States’ most expensive zip codes.

My first thought is that I cannot imagine buying, much less living in, a multimillion-dollar house, that is, one that’s worth more than all of the houses in my neighborhood. Second, I see one reason California has a homeless problem: regular people with regular jobs cannot afford the housing costs, much less people below the poverty line.

I was born in the San Francisco Bay area, a place I could not afford to live now, and I found that when I identified California on Facebook as my home state, I ran into a lot of trouble in political discussions because people assumed I was not only rich and entitled but probably believed in absurd concepts like sanctuary cities. (I don’t.) So, I changed my Facebook “hometown” to the one in Florida where I grew up.  That stopped a lot of abusive, profiler-style comments.

However, it opened up other nasty remarks because most people know I live in Georgia now. The default view people outside the South have of a Georgia resident is that s/he lot only longs for the purported glory days of Dixie and the Confederacy, but is more likely than not a racist. This makes it difficult to have meaningful discussions on Facebook about politics, race, immigration, and similar subjects because I’m suspected of being a white supremacist until proven otherwise. That’s hard to do at a time when the politically correct belief is that all whites are racist whether they know it or not.

We used to worry about a future in which an oppressive “big brother” government controlled everything. The government already knows too much about us. Marketers probably know more. But the most dangerous thing is other people who want to take my state or zip code of residence and pair that up with everything I say or write and then compile that into a worthiness profile that tells them whether I’m with them or against them. The fact that I don’t know who “them” is doesn’t factor into the PC algorithms.

What a mess.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

‘Lest We Forget’ – National Park Service Online Memorial

Katherine DeGroff’s article “Lest We Forget” in the Spring 2021 issue of, “National Parks” Magazine tells the story of former park service employee Jeff Ohlfs’ dedication to his project of memorializing online the deaths of National Park Service employees in the line of duty. 

According to DeGroff, “The memorial, which spans more than a century, sparingly documents the lives of 264 men and women, and includes references to more than 90 parks in over 35 states and territories.” The memorial went live last year when NPS was celebrating its 104th anniversary,

Reading the listings from start to finish honors not only those who died in falls, equipment wrecks, avalanches, plane crashes, and hostile encounters with law-breaking civilians, but with Ohlfs’ dedication to missing not a single person who died in the line of duty.

DeGroff quotes Ohlfs as saying, “We honor our military fallen. We honor our emergency services people. The National Park System isn’t too far away from that.” I agree, and I hope that when Ohlfs retires from his retirement duties, somebody with a love of the park service and the sacrifices it requires will step forward and carry the torch forward into the future, lest we forget.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Those Facebook Quizzes

There are two kinds of Facebook quizzes, those created by users which usually consist of a list of countries, states, National Parks, widely known attractions, etc., and ask how many of these have you visited. The other is the silly quiz operated by who knows who that asks a question like which historical character were you in a past life; to find out, you click on a link, answer a few questions, and then end up with a graphic on your profile page showing a famous person with words like Malcolm used to be (or is just like) Teddy Rosevelt.

I avoid the second kind because everyone says they’re sponsored by agencies trying to find information of use for advertisers.

The user-made quizzes are kind of fun, but more trouble because to play, you have to copy, say–a list of states out of one user’s profile, paste it in yours, delete the YES answers from the previous respondent, and then type in YES next to each state you’ve visited. Since I’ve been to every state except for Alaska and Maine, I usually leave the YES answers from the previous user and add my own.

These quizzes are more fun when they start discussions. People who’ve only been to a couple of states often say why they’ve done so little traveling. Those of us who’ve been to a lot of states often had parents who lived and worked in multiple places and/or went on a lot of family vacations when during the summers of their K-12 years. It’s interesting to see these little glimpses in the lives of one’s online friends.

One odd thing about visiting states when one is in elementary school is how fast the memories fade by the time one’s an adult. I visited Washington, D.C. once with my parents and once with my high school band. I knew where we went, but when my wife and I visited the Capital with our extended family several years ago, my having been there before hardly mattered when it came to getting around the city or remembering specific sites. So, it’s nice to go back as an adult–and take pictures–and see places that have long been a distant memory.

I suppose there’s vanity involved in these quizzes asking what states we’ve been to and what foreign countries we’ve been to. When people have been everywhere, they like telling people they’ve been everywhere. I’ll confess, when I see the list of countries, I’m very much aware of the fact I’m one of the few people to say YES next to Vietnam, Hong Kong, and when it’s on the list, East Germany.

Whether or not my answers make anyone jealous, I have no idea. I do know that I’m jealous of people who’ve visited places I always wanted to see. So it goes.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Website

Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page