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Been just passin' through, mostly, but did a lot of cool things along the way... Was a disc jockey back when radio stations played 45 rpm records, did a stint as the news director of a state-wide radio network in Alaska, and logged more than a few years as a talk show host. Been both a deputy sheriff and a city cop... Seen murders and suicides, known good guys and bad guys, saints and sinners and stone cold killers... and been loved by some wonderful women.
Back in my really younger days, too full of Kerouac and Hemingway, I was 'On the Road' for a time, a guitar on my shoulder, sleeping under bridges and in parks and on the subway, thumbing rides, and hopping a freight train or two along the way just to say I had. Never could play the guitar worth a damn, but carrying the thing around got me rides, and into beach parties, and laid more than once.
Sometimes I wonder where I’m from. Grew up in Montana and Wyoming, but spent a lot of time in LA back when LA was cool, and the ironic, funny thing is, when I was in Wyoming I always felt like I was from LA, and when I was in LA, I felt like I was from Wyoming... I’ve always loved the west and all that history, though, (livin’ in Tombstone, Arizona now, go figure) and, through some combination of direction and DNA, I'm pretty sure it was my grandmother who gave me that.
She was a ranch cook and I was a Casper kid who spent summers on whatever ranch she happened to be working -- the ZN, the Big Creek, the A Bar A... One of the cowhands at the Big Creek Ranch -- a tall, lanky guy named Ray -- taught me how to throw a rope, and I could still stop a steer in its tracks if I had to. A cowboy at the ZN imparted the basics of fist fighting when I was about eight years old, and the boys at the A Bar A let me in on the branding more than once. But maybe more to the point, there's this little flashback: bouncing along on the front seat of a battered old pickup, my grandmother's hand on the stick shift that comes up out of the crank case, and she's saying, "Hole-in-the-Wall is over that way, just over those hills. Remember me tellin’ you about Butch Cassidy?...” Or, “It was right around Bosler here where Tom Horn was pickin’ off rustlers for the Swan Land and Cattle Company...” For better or worse, those are character building moments, and memories like that don’t fade much. Not ever. (I can still close my eyes and see about a thousand eggs frying on the griddle in the cookhouse at the A Bar A...)
Somebody asked me one time what book or movie I thought best represented my life. It was an interesting thing to ask but I had no interesting answer, so I more or less shrugged it off. That little pop psychology question rolled around inside my head for awhile, though... Once, I knew, I would've said, 'On the Road,' or 'Catcher in the Rye'... At another point in my life, it was very much the Clint Eastwood movie, 'Play Misty for Me'... At still another, later time, maybe 'The Blue Knight,' or 'The Choir Boys' or some other cop novel by Joseph Wambaugh... But it came to me in the form of a minor epiphany one day that it was all of the above, and a Dustin Hoffman movie came to my mind: Little Big Man. At the end, Little Big Man ruminates that he has lived his life in periods... "There was my missionary period," he says, "and then my Indian period and my Cavalry scout period, then my gunfighter period, and now my old man period..." And so -- I realize -- has it been with me. There was my Kerouac period, and my radio period, and my cop period, and now, I suppose, my writer period, which curves around and corkscrews into the Kerouac period... Could be it's that way with all of us.
Maybe, as Toby Keith once said, I Should've Been a Cowboy... Well, who ever knows? That's one of the roads untraveled for me. But you know, having given it some thought, I do know where I’m from... I’m from Wyoming.
So I’m in Tombstone now with Sam the cat. We walk the haunted streets together, and I try to keep him safe from the coyotes and the javelinas that come prowling at night. I write, and I’m with the Tombstone Marshal’s Office, and there’s a lot of weird but cool synchronicity in that, don’t you think?