Letters from Viet Nam, 2

Der Phil, Greeting from sunny South Viet Nam (20 Feb 70). I know, I know. I’m a finky creep for not writing sooner, but I had such a riot on leave I didn’t write anybody! Up until now I’ve been too busy, but here it is. Arrived in-country the 28th of January. Took Jungle training until the 12 of February. Already I’ve got a war story fer ya. But that can wait for a minute. I arrived in Bien Hoa on the 28th & moved to Long Binh the same day. They’re both replacement depots. Three days later we flew north to Eagle at Phu Bai. The next day we went north to Camp Evans for Jungle Training which was the un-godliest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. Since the 13th I’ve been up here at Thunder. Just take a wild guess at what is due north of us by five miles. Yer right! The D.M.Z. (demilitarized zone: the border between North and South Vietnam). Anyway back to my spine-chilling war story. I’d been on bunker guard three nights straight when it happened. Here’s the layout: The main bunker has the machine gun & grenade launcher in it. My buddy Haydon was in there. There’s a smaller backup bunker on each side of the big one. My other buddy Kehoe (both guys I knew from A.I.T. advanced infantry training) & myself were in these. I was on the right, him on the left. We were each armed with our M-16’s, 21 clips of ammo apiece, and six fragmentation grenades each. Dig it? I think it was about 2 A.M. when we heard the first noise. Haydon called in for illumination & very shortly we had it. They use parachute flares, which made it as bright as day. Sure as hell, I knew the game was fixed. Twenty-seven gooks came chargin’ out of the rice paddies at us. I mean, that ain’t even fair odds. They were only about a hundred feet away, and that’s not much when they’re spittin’ AK-47 rounds at you. So Haydon opened up with the machine gun. He got about half of ’em in about five seconds. Me & Kehoe started workin’ out with the hand frags & blasted a mess of ’em all over the field. I polished off the last three with my M-16 & a little fancy footwork. Ta da! The whole show only lasted about a minute. If it’d taken any longer I wouldn’t be here rappin’ about, cause those last three gooks were gettin’ ready to crawl into my bunker & cuddle up real close when I zapped ’em. When it was over, we were scared, but happy that we’d pulled it off. Believe me Phil, it ain’t like on T.V. Nobody stuck their head out any further than necessary, and nobody pulled a John Wayne. To hell with him, it’s a lot safer my way.

So the next day when we got off guard they held a big ceremony and gave each of us a medal. Not quite. You’re still thinking of the T.V. version. That morning we were all called into the C.O.’s (commanding officer) office and busted from Spec 4 to P.F.C. Guess why. Give up? Because we neglected to call in and obtain permission to fire on those gooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters from Viet Nam, 1969-1970

My brother Roger Clausen was an Army 101st Airborne door-gunner on a Huey helicopter stationed at Quang Tri near the border between North and South Vietnam, the so-called “demilitarized zone”. His helicopter was named “Death on Call” and they were called a lot. Rog sent me, his kid brother, these letters trying to school me on what the Army was really like and then, in the later letters, urging me not to come to Vietnam. Our father, Charles Clausen, was a B-17 Bomber co-pilot in WWII, so I suppose we both felt a responsibility to serve our country and do our part. These five letters begin with Army Basic Training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I have never shared them with anyone and even as I begin I am debating whether to sensor certain parts. They were private and never meant to be politically correct. Rog got drafted (a two-year hitch) early in 1969, was given the opportunity to enlist (a three-year hitch) with the inducement of being able to choose the best Army specialty he was qualified for. He chose the longest school: Aircraft Armament Repair, 26 weeks. After completion he was immediately sent to Vietnam.

Der Phil (civilian!) Time goes by so damn fast it’s almost meaningless. It seems hard to believe that it’s been a year since we saw each other, but I guess it’s true. Now as for your questions about the army: We consider civilians some sort of mythical god, because nobody remembers what one looks like. Everybody here runs around baldheaded in look-alike green fatigues. We get haircuts once a week. A very short butch. You’re right about Army women being a sore sight.  Same goes for lifers, (that is, people who reenlist) they just couldn’t make it back on the block. “The Block” is Army slang for civilization. Anyhow, that’s the only way I can account for so many of them being pricks!

This letter may be a little dull, but I’m gonna tell you just exactly what the army is all about. To begin with, don’t believe anything bad you’ve been told about the Army. It’s not bad at all. It’s four times worse! The Army sucks! It reeks. Get the picture? There, now I feel much better. You probably think I started Basic (training) a day or two after I was sworn in. Not so. I was sworn in April 9 (a day of infamy) Basic didn’t start until 2 weeks ago yesterday. In other words, tomorrow is the beginning of my 4th week, even though I’ve been here over a month. Each day drags so much it feels like two. Anyway, the rest of the time was spent processing in. The first 3 weeks of Basic have been hell. The hardest part to bear is the constant harassment. I’ll have to see you personally before I can describe how bad it is. I don’t think I can write anything foul enough to describe it. I’m a very patient person with a very low burning point compared to many here, but I’ve come so close to busting this one officer & NCO (non-commissioned officer) that it was almost beyond my willpower to control myself. I know you don’t like being pushed around, ’cause I’ve seen how pissed off you get sometimes. Before you join or get drafted you’d better develop the control of a regular martyr. No joke. Before I explain any farther about this farce, I must clarify some points. Since I came here, Fort Lewis has been on a strict meningitis program. That’s why we didn’t get sent to Ord (Ft. Ord, California). It’s almost an epidemic down there. But it’s bad enough up here. This takes further explanation, so attend closely. There are 55 men in a platoon. There are 4 platoons in a company (220 men). Three companies in a battalion (660 men) and 4 battalions in a brigade (2640 men). Now I can continue. When we arrived here we had 4 platoons. Now there are three. The survivors were dispersed to be re-cycled. In other words, over 30 men died from meningitis. Some of them lived next door. One lived in my barracks. Guess I was lucky. So anyway, because of this they can’t make us run in the company area, or for punishment, or give us unscheduled Phys. Ed. So we don’t have to run to the mess hall or latrine, but they make up for it in other ways. For instance, if one man does something wrong the whole platoon is punished. Like this one dude who was late for company formation. The whole bleeding company had to do pushups until they dropped. But they can’t do this is the company area or they’d get in trouble. They wait until we’re out in the field on a training exercise when the Captain ain’t around. This happens about four times a week. Ask Dad how many pushups he could do with full field gear on. One time, after bayonet practice, they gave us two hours of P.T. and a five mile forced march. Why? Because we weren’t yelling “Kill” loud enough to satisfy them. Chickenshit stuff like that can damn near kill you off. Or make you go A.W.O.L. (absence without leave). Then if you look tired they say, “What’s wrong with you pussies? You outta shape? Maybe you need some more!” And sometimes they give it to us. But enough of that. Just remember you have to put up with that sort of shit about 16 hours a day. Might as well tell you the whole schedule while I’m at it. You don’t have to get up ’til 5:00 A.M. But that only leaves you 20 minutes ’til formation. So we get up at four so we can shave, shit, shine boots & make our beds.

Well, it’s Monday night now. Man, have we been through hell today. We had the privilege to go through the Gas Chamber. You get to walk in wearing your gas mask, just to make sure it doesn’t leak. Then you have to take it off. This is tear gas (C.N.) I’m referring to. The tears flow down your face like a river, & they sting so bad you can hardly see. Your throat is so irritated you don’t know what to do. Then you have to walk around singing “Jingle Bells” until they think you’ve had enough. I’m not lying to ya brother. But the best was yet to come. Ten minutes later we were crawling through a cloud of smoke on our stomachs & minus masks. Then they added Tear gas II (C.S.) Before I continue, let me explain. After this was over, I hated their guts. But it was good necessary practice. We had two hours of class before “testing” & if you did what they told you, you didn’t get hurt. But it was still a bitch. Okay, to continue. We were crawling on the sand with rifles, helmets & full field gear under & past barbed wire. Then they throw the C.S. grenades at us. No warning. The only way you know it’s in the air is when it hits you. But you’ll know it. It’s sharp & acrid. It’s three times as powerful as C.N. & induces vomiting. Takes effect in 9 seconds. After you smell it, you have 9 seconds to roll over on your back, unfasten & remove your helmet, lay it & your rifle on top of you (to prevent contamination), open mask carrier, pull it out, put it on, clear it & check it. By the time you open your mask carrier you’re crying, coughing, choking, gagging & the snot begins to run down your face. That’s clearing out your sinuses the hard way, right? It may sound impossible, but you can do it because I did. You know what was sickening? Watching the guys who didn’t make it in time. First their masks filled up with snot & puke, then they ripped them off & puked all over themselves & everything. Some of ’em were covered with snot & vomit from head to foot. Why? Because they panicked. You do not breathe after you smell the gas. Some guys panicked and tried to run from it, but were thrown back in bodily. Sickening. But they were the minority. About 95% kept their cool & made it. I know you could do it. Another affect is irritated skin & eyes. It goes away in 10-15 minutes if you don’t rub them. If you do you could cause serious damage to your eyes. After that we had to go on a 10 mile forced march in the mountains. That was rough. Seemed to be straight up & down. Got my first view of Puget Sound. Beautiful!! Hadn’t seen anything that pretty in a long time. Made it all worthwhile, in a way. Very refreshing. We also have a good view of Mt. Rainier from here.

If this hasn’t destroyed any of your illusions about the army, I don’t know what will. Any time you want, I can get you 50 signed affidavits supporting my claims. That’s just from my barracks. Now, as to the reason I signed up for another year (three years instead of two). The school, of course. Why do I want 26 weeks of brain cramming? It will keep me from getting my ass shot off in Viet Nam. In other words, there is no way in hell I’ll have to go Infantry (I hope). I’ve probably missed half the questions you asked, but this is the general idea. If you think of any other questions, fire away. But right now I gotta sign off, or I’ll never get this sent. Gotta shake it for now, Bro. Appreciate your writing, send more soon. Yours Muddily, Rog. What, Me Worry? Hooze Yer Hootie?

(I will try to enter Letter Two from Nam, tomorrow)

How I Became a Gold Hunter, Part Four

So, off I went into the wild kingdoms of stone where so many gold hunters had gone before, searching for the precious gleaming wealth one man said lay hidden within a lakPhilip at Pyramid Lake_Coo Yui Pah_1990e. I forgot to mention, besides my camping gear, clothing and water, I brought food called ‘trail mix’, a combination of dried fruit and nuts. Trail mix keeps me strong and also negates the need for dangerous fire-making and bad cooking.  Also, bears love it. I’ve never been bothered by bears while camping in the mountains, but to be safe, I always suspend food over a tree branch on a rope. I followed a steep trail that was exhausting, but my strenuous workout was only just beginning. Even though this was July, the rugged trail ended in a ten-foot wall of snow. With sun for compass, I went off-trail into trackless wilderness. That first night I camped high on a ridge overlooking a deep granite bowl of a valley that contained three jewel-like lakes. Darkness fell amazingly fast and the sky filled with stars that looked like tiny campfires. Far to the east  in the Nevada basin country I could see thunderstorms, pulsing globes of distant light.

The next day I hiked into the beautiful valley, although ‘galloping’ was more like it. The steep slope was completely covered with tangled shrubs and vines so thick I sank into and sprang out as if I was bounding down a giant mattress. I fell a dozen times and rose again knowing my return climb would not be nearly as joyous and I would need to find another way out of the valley. I spied a small deer and followed it into a side canyon and never saw it again. There was a small granite bowl of a lake not too big to throw a stone across. But in my novel, I parlayed this homely specimen of deer into a grand mystic white buck leading the adventurer to the hidden and incredible Gold Lake–the ancient volcanic entrance into the mysterious California Motherlode.

I camped at the edge of this lonely lake and that night something magic happened, nothing to do with heavy treasures of stone. Some crackling, crunching thing awakened me somewhere past midnight, perhaps the deer or a night-visiting bear. I got up to look around and saw nothing terrifying. But in the lake, there was something wonderful. The constellation of stars known as the Big Dipper lay stretched out just above the rim of rocks that hid the lake. And there on the glass surface was a vision more memorable than gold: The water held a perfectly reflected image of the Big Dipper as if the stars existed both in the water and in the sky. This was an indication, a symbol to me of the treasure I was seeking in these ancient California mountains and it inspired and informed all of that which I was yet to write. There really was a secret treasure in the Sierras no ordinary man would find.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about this mysterious lake and the true gold of the Sierra Nevada in my four-part novel, The Goldfinder Series: Book One, The Gold Hunter; Book Two, The Gold Shaper; Book Three, The Gold Soldier; Book Four, The Heart of Gold Lake. (Amazon.com.PhilipAtlasClausen)

 

 

 

Calm the Storm

Originally published: August 6, 2016

Somewhere in the future of humankind the weather forecaster warns the people of a hurrican eyegreat hurricane coming from the sea. But instead of telling them to evacuate and run for their lives, the forecaster urges them to hurry to their God Center. In the future churches are called the God Center because people have finally realized that God is omnipotent, everywhere at once, the center of every thing, the power of every thing.

Hundreds of thousands of people hurry to the many nearby temples. Others remain at home and sit in a room they have dedicated to prayer and peace. But it is not like the old days. These people are unafraid and full of faith. The great multitudes of humankind calm their minds and hearts–and then they pray.

And the great hurricane dissolves itself at sea. The people rejoice, thanking God for giving humankind a way to calm the storm. And then they go back to their many good works. It is not like the old days. Now people are calm and know prayer is powerful and they have great faith in God who is the God of every thing. The people of faith do not believe prayer works, they know prayer works.

One of the great Masters stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm. Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?” But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

When you calm the storm of fear in your heart, at that time your prayer becomes full of power. May God teach all of us how to pray! Phil

How I Became a Gold Hunter: Part Three

Being a gold hunter is not for the fainthearted. Whether 1849 (when the California Gold Rush began) or 2017, gold is not found in any easy-to-reach location. Gold is the heaviest natural element, heavier than rocks or sand. Its specific gravity is 19.3, which is much heavier than lead (11.3), which means gold sinks to the bottom of any other material (saTrail below Long Lakend and gravel) and will keep right on sinking until it is stopped by something solid, that is: bedrock or boulder, or (very often) a crack or crevice in a slab of rock. Sandbars are good places to look for gold. Just be sure you dig all the way down to the bottom of the sand to the bedrock. When you find black sand (magnetic sand) you will be close to gold. This bottom layer of sand is called pay dirt. But, as I said, I wasn’t looking for gold. I was looking for a mysterious lake called Gold Lake.

I first became aware of Gold Lake while researching an original copy (1882) of a historical text called,  History of Plumas, Lassen & Sierra Counties, Farriss & Smith, (p 145) relates the original tale from which I drew my inspiration of the search for Gold Lake, as well as wonderful adventure tales and names of the real gold hunters. If you find yourself caught up in the golden spell of California Gold Rush History, I also recommend: History of Rich Bar, A Blue Ribbon Gold Camp, by Jim Young, which I used to model my camp called, Gold Nation, in my novel. Want to know what daily life was like in a real gold camp? The Shirley Letters by Dame Shirley (Louise Clappe) is a world-famous account (one of the most vivid accounts ever written) said to have influenced such luminaries as Mark Twain and Brett Hart. By the way, I visited this gold camp, still being actively mined on the Feather River, and visitors are not welcome. Historical and modern Rich Bar Gold Camp is far more interesting than the original ‘1848 Marshall Gold Discovery Site’ at Coloma and if I ruled the world should be a historical monument as a true treasure of California (as is Coloma). If you really go over the rainbow crazy about California gold, get a copy of Geologic History of the Feather River Country, California, by Cordell Durrell, a truly awesome book detailing an amazing volcanic history of upheavals that produced the northern California Sierra topography—and also the inspiration for the volcanic source of the Motherlode in my novel. Warning: You could get addicted to the real magic kingdom of California. (Hint: it’s not at Disneyland).

If you’d like to learn the nuts and bolts of actual gold hunting, panning, and extraction, (even just the armchair variety) try a wonderful little book/pamphlet called, Gold Fever, The Art of Panning and Sluicing, by Lois De Lorenzo, and also, book/pamphlet, Diving and Digging for Gold, by Mary Hill, which packs more gold-lore per inch than any other bigger book. (Interestingly, if you thought this was a man’s-game, both of these delightful booklets were written by women). And if you really want to get out there and find gold, The Complete Gold Country Guidebook tells you exactly where to plant your shovel and dip your pan in the California Motherlode Region.
After I left my river-gold friends, I headed on foot into the remote, geologically-crazed, granite kingdom of the High Sierra, delirious with gold fever and high confidence that I would be the one chosen to rediscover the location of the Lost Gold Lake. (To be continued.)

How I Became a Gold Hunter, Part Two

Philip at Decorah IowaBeing born in California, home to the greatest gold rush in history, probably helps bring out the gold hunter in anyone. The magnificent Sierra Nevada range runs from the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles all the way up the length of California to Mt. Lassen and Mt Shasta, for me, the most beautiful mountains on earth. I was probably imprinted with gold hunting fever at an early age. I met a Swiss visitor in Yosemite National Park who said, “The Alps are nothing compared to this.” It was a family trip to this park with my three boys where I first experienced symptoms of gold fever. We found glittering rocks along the edge of the Merced River and began yelling, “Gold, gold, gold!” A Native American watching from a distance stared at us soberly shaking his head. Of course, it was ‘fool’s gold’: iron pyrite, pretty glittering rocks, but nothing like the bright luminosity of real gold, which shines in the shade, which has been called the sun metal. Pure gold is so soft you can dent it with your teeth. Gold does not react to other metals; it doesn’t rust. Back in 1848 or ’49 gold may have been found along the banks like Easter eggs, but not anymore. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of gold left. A park ranger at Coloma (the original 1848 gold discovery site) told me very seriously: “There is more gold yet to be found than even the great sums taken from the earth in the last 170 years.” I wanted to believe him. This is musical candy to the gold hunter’s ears.
I began my raft ride on the Feather River early and it ended fast. Late July, the river water level was low, and I kept hitting rocks. I wanted this raft ride for the adventure, but also because I was writing a story called The Gold Hunter, about a young man who finds the lost Gold Lake, refuses to give up its location, and to scare him, bad men lash him into a canoe and send him down the white-foaming, raging river. I wanted to know what that felt like. I pictured my raft leaping and dodging among swells, snags and boulders, a nimble water horse on a magnificent water course. The reality was much different.
It was painful. As I sat in the raft, I got punched in the rear end by barely submerged boulders. If I knelt in the raft, my knees got hammered by the hidden boulders. A few minutes later, paddling madly, I crashed into a granite wall and snapped off a paddle. I had no replacements. It was the end of my rafting. It had lasted fifteen minutes. In a bad mood of fury and shame, I dragged my raft back to my car and drove up to where I had stashed my camping gear. My new friends were already in the river. They were wearing diver’s wetsuits, goggles and wearing 50-pound weight belts so they could walk underwater on the bottom of the river. I told them about my brief raft ride and they nodded knowingly. They waved and went under. A big six-inch hose emptied a continuous stream of water and debris on the boat, onto a riffle, and then out the other end. My friends were underwater ‘vacuuming’ the river bottom. This is how modern gold hunting is done. Since I was a writer and explorer (and not a rival), they allowed me a few days with them. They shared their secrets. They showed me their treasure. I didn’t realize how unusual this was at the time. Gold hunting and especially gold finding is highly secretive work. Not a good idea to let anyone know you’ve hit the jackpot. A rough-looking stranger called down to us one day while we were eating lunch wondering if we had any luck. My partner yelled back in a big bass voice, “Just making wages.”
The treasure my gold hunting friends gave me was knowledge and pleasant companionship. They knew nothing of a lost lake. But they knew rumors of an ancient river, ‘Old Blue’ buried somewhere in the mountains and said to contain vast reserves of gold in its banks. I wished them good luck finding ‘Old Blue’. They wished me good luck finding my lost lake. (To be continued).

How I Became a Gold Hunter, Part One

Mining Dredge OperationI wasn’t planning on searching for gold: I was searching for the location of the Lost Gold Lake in the Lakes Basin Area of Northern California. The legend is, in 1849 a pioneer became lost while hunting deer for his wagon train and instead found a remote lake lined with gold, or so he said. But he was never able to find it again–and so the legend of Gold Lake was born. My one-man raft and pair of paddles would float me down the Feather River into remote areas my research said might contain the mythical lake. I wouldn’t chance losing my camping gear in the water, so I drove up a high and narrow, winding logging road to drop off and hide my gear where I planned to stop floating and start searching for the lake on foot. I kept only the clothes on my back, boots, a water bottle and a ‘Hawaii 5-0’ ball cap my boys had given me. After an hour of mountain driving, I left my car and hiked up the river to find a place to plant my gear. I got very lucky. By a beautiful spot in the river was a camping trailer and two men cooking their supper. They had a small pontoon boat anchored in the river tied by gold-colored ropes. Other gold ropes marked off what appeared to be a 50-foot section of river. I had no idea what this meant. Later I learned this was their mining ‘claim’. They greeted me and told me if I planned on hiking off into the wilderness, “Better lose that police hat.” They explained that there might be hidden marijuana growers more likely than any hidden lakes of gold and they wouldn’t like visitors in police hats. I removed my hat and a few minutes later hid my gear and returned to my hour-away upriver campsite, eager for an early start the next morning. The next day would begin my life as a gold hunter. (To be continued).

400 Pound Slab of Limestone Gives Heartache, Backache, and Egyptian Flashback

Limestone slab

I went to the landscape store to pick my stone for a wide step down to the ground from my new deck. All limestone slabs give me a thrill because of the massive amounts of time encased in beautifully layered stone, so I took my time enjoying myself in a field of roughly stacked piles of flat stones. The one I liked was almost six feet long, weighed 400 pounds, and roughly shaped like Australia. A friendly, smiling man loaded it into the back of my Ford pickup with a heavy forklift. “Have you got a loader at home?” I smiled back, saying, “Just me and my wife.” (We are both 60-something-ish). My exact thought was, If I lift one end at a time, that’s only 200 pounds. I can do it.

At home, I put on my power-lifting grip-gloves and after several manly heaves, realized this stone was not moving. I literally could not budge it. (I’m a retired UPS driver). I began to doubt the wisdom of having 400 pounds of flat slab sitting in the rubberized bed of a truck and wondered how bad the resale value of my Ford truck would be hurt with an immovable stone in the bed. A greater, darker fear emerged: What if you hurt your back? This rock could really knock you up. Game over. No more lifting and playing with the grandkids. No more careless afternoons in the garage doing work working projects. No more sleep for the rest of your life. I got out a scissor-jack from my wife’s Honda Fit.

Using it sideways, pushing with blocks and posts against the back wall of the truck bed, a piece of flat sheet metal beneath the front of the stone, I was able to move the stone about one-inch per minute of cranking the jack; retracting the jack; repositioning the blocks and posts; using a pickaxe to lift and reposition the path of the stone. This is when I began to feel like an Egyptian.

I thought: This is a mere flake of limestone compared to the giant blocks ancient men moved by the thousands. I began to appreciate them. How did you do it, guys? The only answer was: They knew something we no longer know—Mysteries of Moving Stone. Just try it and you’ll agree. They had something better than a Ford F150.

I created a bed of thin, used (rather slippery) plywood paneling for my mighty stone to fall upon, hopefully to slide upon, if I survived the fall.

After three hours of non-Egyptian pushing and shoving, I had the stone teetering on the edge of my tailgate (braced underneath by plywood and 4×4 posts) and was finally (with the help of my power-gloves) able to lift one end, and slide the other end to the ground. There the mighty slab stood, an Australian-shaped monolith leaning against my tailgate—while I pictured all the ways things could still go wrong trying to lower the stone to the ground: a crushed hand; a wrenched back; the truck tailgate gouged or buckled. (I could hear the Egyptians from 6,000 years ago snickering, jeering and laughing).

Since pride and pink-slip of my pickup were at stake, I manfully grabbed the top-heavy end of my Australia-shaped stone and pulled hard. It slipped an inch sideways, but would not come towards me. I was not man enough, or Egyptian enough. I pondered for an hour, sitting, sweating, sipping lime water (which is supposed to clarify thinking). Okay. The Egyptians took pity on me. They told me what to do.

I put a heavy wooden crate below where the stone would fall and pulled heartily on the bottom end of the stone. Then—like the shift of a continent, the bottom of the stone slid on slippery paneling and the top fell onto the crate. My beloved Ford was not hurt. My swift, powerful hands were not crushed. My back was only slightly tweaked. I took two days away from the stone to do more thinking.

Then—my wife and I, using blocks for fulcrums and 2×6 boards for levers—were able to incrementally, in just under two hours—shift the great Australo-Egyptian slab on its ten-foot journey to its new stepping-stone home below my deck. This, I assure you, is the last time my wife and I will ever move a 400 pound stone again. By the way, the new limestone step is beautiful, perhaps a million years old, and it will never move again so long as I live. The Egyptians whispered to me: Once you get it there, leave it alone.

Why Real Writers Carry Notebooks—and a Super Secret Tip

I carry a pocket-size spiral-bound paper notebook in my shirt pocket. Why? All of us get random thoughts coming out of the blue at no particular time of the day. I’m talking about ideas that pop into your head when you’re not thinking about anything at all. By the time you get to a piece of paper, the thought has virtually disappeared into thin air. You can’t remember a thing about it, not even the faintest thread. As for me, I write it down instantly. No need to rely on my faulty memory. No need to fumble around with expensive electronic devices.

The spiral notebook never lets you down (unless you accidentally drop it in a lake); it never runs out of batteries. You can jot things down quickly, or at least make a quick sketch of two or three words if you’re at a stoplight, so you can pick up the thread when you have a chance to stop and write it out.

Here’s the Super Secret Tip. You’re not just jotting down only your obviously brilliant ideas. You’re jotting down the humble plain and simple ideas as well. “Her eyes were the lyre of my love.” (Maybe the beginning thread of your next beautiful poem). And “Pick up a gallon of milk.” (Maybe your spouse is speaking telepathically). You get the idea.

Here’s the incredibly important Secret: You’re building a relationship with your subconscious mind. That’s where those fleeting ideas come from. That’s where the really good stuff comes from. Why record the beautiful and also the humble ideas? If I say, No, that’s not a great idea. I’m not writing that down—that’s a big mistake. You’re pre-editing and passing judgment on the subconscious source. This shuts down the creative process. You must cultivate respect for your subconscious mind. The greatest ideas come from this deepest source. Get a spiral-bound notebook. You could become a real writer.

“The Gold Hunter” BlueInk Review says:

This story, the first in a projected series of four novels collectively called The Goldfinder, is a well-crafted excursion into the world of magical realism. A surreal dreamscape that moves back and forth through time, identities and presumptions, the book is set in mid-19th century American West where everyone is infected, one way or another, with the4 often-fatal disease of gold fever.