Pack mule, old accident story

Yeah, I know, that’s not a mule.

If you hike enough trails in Glacier National Park, you’ll sooner oer later come along a pack train of mules hauling supplies to backcountry chalets, fire towers, and ranger stations. If I’d worked on one of those instead of as a bellman, I wouldn’t be spending all this time looking at YouTube videos about how to pack a mule and how to harness a mule.

Why do I care? One of the characters in my novel in progress hauls goods around the area in a mule train. So now I need to learn how he handles the mules and the tack. If I were in the Matrix movie, I could just download all that info into my brain and be an expert.

This is the kind of detail that really slows down the writing.

Old Accident

Here’s a two-door version.

When we lived in Eugene, Oregon during the time I would have been in kindergarten, we seemed to have family and friends throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. So, we were on the road a lot in our giant, four-door 1950 Nash 600.

On one of those trips, we were passing a flatbed truck. Mother was driving, Dad was riding showgun, and my younger brothers and I were in the back seat. In those days, it seemed to be customary to tap the horn twice before passing somebody. Mother did that and then started doing around the truck when it swerved  into our lane to pass a smaller car in front of him. Mother honked again and put on the brakes.

The truck driver saw us, over-corrected, and went rolling down through a field. I have know idea who called the police, but we were parked off on the shoulder for ages. After the officers figured out what happened, filled out their paperwork, we were allowed to go on.

The odd thing about this is that after it happened, my folks never spoke of it. Growing up, I didn’t think of it often, so never asked for details. The subject just never came up, and if there were injuries or fatalities in the truck (which seemed certain to me), I can see why my parents wouldn’t want to speak of it. Otherwise, I have no idea why–at least when I ws an adult–I never asked, “What do we know about the near collision with the truck when I was five?”

I’ve been searching digitized newspapers, but so far haven’t found anything. It would help if I knew for sure which state we were in when it happened. In an Internet age when we seem to hear about everything, most of which isn’t important, it’s frustrating to look back in time and find nada, zip, and endless void.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Fate’s Arrows, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback and hard cover editions. 

Family murder never solved

My uncle, Frank M. Campbell, was murdered in Fort Collins, Colorado in November 1919 while he was walking to church. The murder was never solved. Some said it was probably a holdup attempt. Some said it was a case of mistaken identity. He was twenty years old, and the loss would haunt my father all his life and, from time to time, it haunts me even now long after the fact.

Some years ago, I tried to find out if the police department had any information. They didn’t. The case was open but too far back in time to be relevant. I even asked a psychic. He told me it was an ether-related crime, this at a time when ether was a drug problem like heroin and cocaine are today. My assumption was that Frank was approached by somebody who needed money to support his habit.

My grandparents and their three other children left Fort Collins and moved to California (the Los Gatos area) where they still were when I was born many years later in Berkeley. I don’t think this kind of crime ever leaves a family unscathed. My father and his two siblings, and of course their parents, carried this moment with them forever.  Even now, over a century later, I find myself angered and perplexed by it.

I wonder as I read the daily news about crimes across the country, when (if ever) the horrific memories of violent crimes ever fade away. I think the survivors never forget even though the news stories are gone with the wind.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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True Grits at Thanksgiving

This morning’s bowl of grits reminded me of many Happy Thanksgivings in the Stewart family where Ma and I sat on the front porch watching traffic on County Road 777, happy that my dear old Daddy was in the barn sleeping off a week’s worth of extra partying. We were grateful for moments of silence punctuated by the sounds of our spoons clattering against the sides of our heaping bowls of grits and homemade butter.

“It takes true grits to live in a family like ours,” Ma always said.

“You’re right as rain, Ma.”

“Yep,” she would say. “Of course, if Pa were awake, we wouldn’t have heart-to-heart moments like this.”

“We still love him though.”


“Well then, I’m grateful for ‘mostly.'”

Good times, a lot of memories, grits and a fair amount of ‘mostly.’

Jock Stewart