Okie Boy II — Julian's Journey

Okie Boy II: Julian’s Journey continues the fictional story of the Milligan family as they struggle to escape the clutches of the Great Depression and attempt to establish lives for themselves in and around the city of Wenatchee in Washington state. This book deals with the family’s renewed struggle to survive and to maintain some sense of the kind of people that they want to be. More

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About Richard Merriman

About the Author

Richard J. Merriman was born in 1936 at Keefeton, a very small town near Muskogee in northeastern Oklahoma. His father was a farmer, for most of his life a sharecropper. When Richard was nine, the Merriman family migrated to the Wenatchee Valley in the state of Washington, looking for a better life.

In 1954, he became the first person in his family to acquire a high school diploma. In 1959, his younger sister became the second. Both diplomas were earned at Wenatchee High School.

Married in 1959 in Wenatchee, Richard and his wife Linda moved to Seattle in 1960 where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a teaching certificate from the University of Washington. Richard has remained the only one of the nine siblings to be awarded a four-year college degree. At the university three classes on the writing of the short story, under the instruction of Professor Grant Redford, advanced his understanding of the primary principles of fiction writing. Professor Redford took a special interest in Richard’s writing and sparked in him a continuing motivation and interest in it. Writing became something that he actually needed to do.

While at the university Richard spent roughly fifty per cent of his waking hours being a student and the other fifty per cent working at the Washington Bookstore. Linda’s time was also divided, taking time away from her secretarial duties to give birth to a son and a daughter and applying the remainder being a mother and wife.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a provisional teaching certificate, at the U., Richard became more diligent in his search for a teaching position. Though there were opportunities to interview for much sought-after openings in Seattle schools, he chose not to apply there, hoping instead to find a career for himself and a home for his young and growing family in a smaller community. He found exactly that in Okanogan, Washington, population an unwavering 2000.

That first real job turned into a 28- year career, teaching both junior and senior high school English, along with high school journalism. Linda was also employed by the Okanogan School District as a secretary, retiring in 1994 after a 26-year career.

Richard has only high praise for the place in which he and Linda chose to live and work:

“During my years at Okanogan I watched many young teachers arrive, linger a year or two and then move on. I never had any desire to do that. Linda and I bought a big old “work project” house on the Okanogan River with a large lot that she turned into a park-like paradise for our eventual four children.

“The parents of the community consistently supported their school and their teachers and sent our way, especially in those early years, class after class of well-behaved and extremely capable and respectful young people.”

Shortly after retiring from teaching in 1991, Richard owned and operated a small bookstore in Okanogan for two years. He was also for a brief time a part-time copyreader for a weekly newspaper in the neighboring town.

After selling their place on the river, they bought another “work-project” home 20 miles northwest of Okanogan in the resort community of Conconully, where he found time to begin work on his first book of the Okie Boy series, which was published in 2004.

In 1999 in order to be closer to their extended families and rapidly aging elders, they sold their Conconully home and moved back to Wenatchee.

Aside from several historical features which were published in a local newspaper and his first novel Okie Boy, this is the extent of his public literary output.

A part of the uniqueness of his two published books, however, is his use of verse/poetry. He plans to publish a separate volume of poems in the near future if time and energy continue to be available to him.

The third and final volume of Okie Boy is basically finished now also, and its future is in the same position as the volume of poems mentioned above.

Always an excellent reader, Richard had early become an avid, hungry reader and a tentative would-be poet, when he discovered the classics. At thirteen and fourteen years of age, he read from the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson and most of the other great British and American poets. He also read the work of many writers of enduring importance including the Russians: Chekov, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky; Frenchman Victor Hugo; famed British men of letters Charles Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, and William Golding; and such American writers as Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Crane, and many others including younger Americans such as John Steinbeck, Earnest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Thomas Wolfe. In the decade of the sixties, he found J.D. Salinger, Flannery O’Connor, Dalton Trumbo, Carson McCullers, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Ray Bradbury, and Pat Conroy. And he read The New Testament portion of The Holy Bible.

He read these works eagerly and did his best to understand them. As a twelve and thirteen year old, he read from them, and he began attempting to imitate them if not emulate them, especially the poets. He began trying to write poems and now and then a story of his own. Since that time he has never stopped trying. He has not made any attempt to publish these efforts.

Through time spent with the works of these great writers, he determined two primary principles that he saw in the works of all of them. One: Though they wrote fiction, they wrote about what was important to them. Two: they tried to tell the truth about human nature. These are the two main principles of writing that he tried to pass on to his students and to which he has fiercely clung in his own attempts to write something of sufficient value to offer to his readers.

“People count. Let us not in any way modify that,” is the final thought that this would-be teacher, poet, person would leave with us.

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