Inspiration

I once had a successful full-time job before retirement, one full of fun, and tension. Following an extremely stressful event in 1992, I realized it was time to pursue a very old dream in earnest.

That decision was sparked by a very common event. The Late Winter track of John Denver’s Season Suite was playing on a high end sound system behind my desk. His wonderful music was always my tranquilizer of choice and that day it put me in a good place. When it ended, The Eagle and the Hawk came on, I turned to my IBM Selectric and pounded out the lyrics as he sang.

I am the eagle, I live in high country in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky.
I am the hawk, and there’s blood on my feathers.
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry.
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me
share in the freedom I feel when I fly.

Come dance with the west wind and touch on the mountain tops.
Sail o’er the canyons and up to the stars.
And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.

I ripped the sheet out of the typewriter with a satisfying sound of completion. The single spaced lyrics barely filled half of the page, so I folded it and thumb-tacked the lyrics on the 3×3-foot cork board above my typewriter. Then I took out a Sharpie and circled the last two lines.

And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.

I wanted more, even though I had a solid career and a girlfriend that had already changed my life forever. But I knew there was a dream I still needed to fulfill, that of being an author.

I was already a writer, a self-syndicated newspaper columnist appearing in nearly 50 newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma, with a rising following of readers. King Features Syndicate contacted me and said I was going to be the Texas Dave Barry. But then that little creation called the Internet came into bloom at that exact time and destroyed the careers of newspaper columnists across the country. Ever flexible, I bent with the wind and evolved to become a magazine contributor. Editors took notice and I appeared in a variety of statewide and national publications. Soon Texas Fish and Game magazine took me on as their Humor Editor.

But I wanted more. A higher level of success.

I took that sheet of typed lyrics off the office cork board one fine day in 1999 and taped the still-folded page to the second-hand computer monitor in my home office. I studied it for several days before realizing I wanted even more.

Being a contributor and columnist for magazines and newspapers wasn’t enough. I wanted, no, needed to write a novel. My first book began with something my granddad often said about bad guys. “Some folks just need killin’.” He knew. He served as constable in a hardscrabble northeast Texas community for forty years.

My grandmother also had a saying that stuck with me. “We’re from up on the river,” meaning the Red River, the border between Texas and Oklahoma.

Those two quotes sparked The Rock Hole. My first work was a little longer than it should have been at 140,000 words. But in my Glorious Ignorance, I didn’t know it at the time. I typed the manuscript’s final line after work one night, “You see, we’re from up on the river,” and hit Save one last time. My 286 computer hacked, gagged, farted, and flickered an unfamiliar statement.

Data Corrupted.

No one told me that my dinosaur writing program wasn’t designed to save an entire manuscript of that size on a 5 1/2-inch floppy disk. It was gone and I was numb at the loss of an entire finished manuscript.

Concerned technicians attacked the disk in their own machines and went to work salvaging my manuscript. They managed to recover exactly one page after two weeks of excavation.

I poured a scotch the day I received that single sheet, wept, and clicked alive the Word program on my brand new computer. My eyes fell on the yellowing lyrics taped to the monitor and I rested my fingers on the keyboard.

And reach for the heavens and hope for the future
and all that we can be, and not what we are.

I typed. “We’re from up on the river.”

Then I rewrote the entire novel from memory and went to find a publisher.

Thanks, John D. I know that you know.