During the summer of 1947, even before I reached the ripe old age of ten, found me traveling with my Uncle on a months long excursion throughout the desert southwest, visiting a variety of major and minor fossil and archaeological sites all across Arizona and New Mexico.
One day several weeks into the trip, even though the truck was was brand new, we had to stop in the small New Mexico community of Corona to put water in the radiator and tighten a loose fanbelt. While waiting for the engine and radiator to cool down, and with some time to spare, we sat in the shade drinking a couple of iced cold sodas. In the process, with the hood up and man and boy possibly stranded, a number of locals stopped by to see if everything was OK. My uncle, actually being from New Mexico and knowing a few people in the general Corona area, dropped a few names and before long everybody was the best of friends. In a friendly general conversation sort of way they asked where we were headed and how the trip was going. My uncle told them about our fossil hunting and visiting various, mostly Native American archaeological sites during the day, and studying the stars at night as well as having stopped near Williams, Arizona to pay reverence to the dead and injured and my survival after having been caught up as a passenger in a train wreck near there a few years before. However, he told them, now we were on our way to Fort Sumner to see Billy the Kid's gravesite.
One of the group, who appeared much younger than the rest, maybe late teens or just into his twenties and who was being left out of the conversation, began talking to me, who had also been left out of the conversation, mostly I guess, because of the kid I was and the kid he appeared to be. Anyway, I told him pretty much the same thing my uncle had said, emphasizing that on this part of the trip we were on our way to see Billy the Kid's gravesite. During our interaction, the young man, that I would learn later was named Tommy Tyree and who would eventually become a minor player in much bigger events, proffered the following:
"He told me that in a couple of weeks he was going to go to work on a nearby ranch. He also told me, connecting the story to Billy the Kid --- in that I was on my way to visit the Kid's gravesite --- that Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid in 1881 was shot and killed in 1908 by the uncle of the ranch foreman who hired him. The ranch foreman, actually a lease holder, wasWilliam W. Mac Mack Brazel, the man that first discovered the material spread all over the Foster ranch he leased, that would become, in later years, famous in Roswell lore as the debris field. The man who killed Garrett, Jesse Wayne Brazel, was the brother of Mac Brazel's father."
My uncle and me going to the Kid's gravesite came up through a series of conversations over a period of time during our road trip that summer, primarily connected through discussions surrounding the 1862 forced relocation of the Navajo and Apaches called The Long Walk that ended at a place called Bosque Redondo. As serious as the subject matter for those discussions may have been, the existence of Billy the Kid came into my life in a much more frivolous fashion --- by seeing the 1946 re-release of the Howard Hughes all about cleavage production of the movie The Outlaw with Jane Russell. After seeing the movie and my uncle believing it was a travesty of history he obtained and gave me with instructions to read, which I did, a small book with the cover title of Billy the Kid, The Outlaw (Atomic Books, 1946) that was actually garnered from a much larger book titled Authentic Story of Billy the Kid by sheriff Pat Garrett, the man credited with shooting Billy, and of which a PDF online version can be reached by clicking the graphic below:
Up until the time of reading the aforementioned book above, most of what I had learned or heard of Billy the Kid did come, as so rightly cited by my uncle, from Hughes' The Outlaw or from comic books such as the graphic below. It should be mentioned another notable western character in the Hughes' movie was Doc Holiday, also in my uncle's esteem, grossly mischaracterized. The Doc Holiday situation was remedied in much the same manner by my uncle taking me to Tombstone and eventually the two of us, years later, visiting Holiday's grave site as well.(see)
Around the same time I saw the movie The Outlaw I coincidently came into the personal sphere of Howard Hughes himself twice. The first time, although he didn't actually have time to talk at length, I was close enough to have touched him. The second time we actually met and talked for some time. Howard Hughes was known for a lot of things other than just making movies, such as being rich, reclusive, and a serial womanizer. He was also a record setting aviator and known in the world of aviation for a giant eight-engine prototype seaplane he designed and built as a troop transport for the war effort.
The plane, of which the major portions such as the wings and fuselage were made almost entirely of wood --- and done so because of the shortage of metal during the war it has been said --- wasn't completed until after the war ended. Even though the government canceled the contract, Hughes took it upon himself to finish the project. The craft had been designed and constructed at Hughes Airport just southwest of Culver City, for final assembly and testing it had to be moved --- in several giant pieces --- to the southeast end of Terminal Island in the Port of Long Beach.
Over a period of six days, starting on June 11, 1946, an outfit called Star House Movers began trucking the two 160-foot-long wing sections over the 28-mile journey to Terminal Island. Their job was completed when the huge hull was successfully transported over the 15th and 16th to the same location after cutting or raising 2,300 power and phone lines along the way.
Early one morning in June of 1946 I was outside the old High Spot restaurant in Hermosa Beach at the top of the hill where Gould Avenue rises up from the beach and intersects with Pacific Coast Highway hanging with the ex-marine taxi driver I was staying with at the time. Typically we would eat breakfast at the Happy Hour Café in Redondo Beach owned by the infamous Fifie Malouf, but that day the two of us were planning to spend the day, or week if we had to, catching up with, watching, and following the giant flying boat. While I was drawing circles in the dirt parking lot with a stick and the ex-marine was sitting on the front fender of his taxi finishing a coffee-to-go, a black sedan pulled off PCH into the parking lot. A tall lanky man wearing a hat and a brown leather jacket got out looking around for a while and in the process making eye-contact with the ex-marine, followed by a slight head-tip toward each other. The taxi driver told me the man was Howard Hughes, the owner of the flying boat we were about to see and that I should go to talk to him, but I didn't.
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TARZAN AND THE HUNTRESS
Howard Hughes, Da Vinci, and Flying Machines
The second time Howard Hughes and I came in contact we actually met and talked to each other. Even though Hughes was a billionaire and considered by most to be a tad eccentric he loved all things aviation. If it had to do with airplanes or flying, for the most part your status or level in the scheme of things didn't mean much if you were innovative or good at what you did. With the help of my uncle I had designed and built a flying machine that once launched, theoretically could carry a man, or a boy like myself, some distance in flight. Although my uncle and I never discussed actually flying the machine, one day without his knowledge I took it up to the roof of the second story building across the street and holding on for dear life, jumped off, with the following results:
"Initially the flight played out fairly well, picking up wind under the wings and maintaining the same two-story height advantage for some distance. Halfway across busy Arlington Street though, the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way. Other than a few bruises and a wrecked machine, nothing was broken, although as it turned out, my dad wasn't nearly as proud of me as intended. I never forgot the thrill of that flight and carried that thrill and Leonardo's dreams into my adulthood."(source)
The flight made the local press with a reporter doing an interview with my uncle and showing me next to the wrecked craft. Two nights later my uncle and I were in the garage contemplating repairs of the flying machine, now hanging securely from the rafters, when a man in a dark suit and a hat stepped in through the open garage doors from the darkened alley. He talked to my uncle in muted tones for a few minutes, then, stepping back out of the garage, flashed a pen-sized flashlight on and off down the alley a couple of times. A few seconds later a sharp-looking light green Lincoln Continental convertible with the top up and headlights off slowly pulled up in front of the open garage doors. A tall lanky man dressed to the nines like he was on his way to a high-class nightclub or something crawled out of the back of the car on the passenger side and came around the front of the car just barely staying out of the light. My uncle and the two men talked in the alley a few minutes then my uncle and the lanky man came into the garage, all the while the two of them looking up and walking around under the machine while my uncle pointed out some of the crafts finer attributes. After a short time my uncle motioned me over and introduced me to the lanky man. His name, Howard Hughes.
This time Hughes talked to me. He asked me about building the craft, the flight, and what flying it felt like. After a few minutes he headed back toward the car. Just as he was getting into the back seat he turned and told me he had wrecked more than a few airplanes himself.
In 1970 my uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, traveled to California to see his brother, my father, who was quite ill and near death. In that my uncle was in Los Angeles for the first time in many years and his friend cowboy-western author Louis L'Amour lived in L.A. as well, my uncle made arrangements to catch up with him taking me along. The two of them had known each other for years after having met in early-mid 1920s just as L'Amour was beginning his sojourn across the west. In conversation Billy the Kid came up as did a number of other old west personages of note. Some of what L'Amour said regarding Billy the Kid he has since in later years, gone on record with. The following, from L'Amour himself, pretty much sums what was related to my uncle and me, albeit from 1987 rather than our conversation in 1970:
I cannot be considered a Billy the Kid historian although I've known two women and five men who knew him well, and are on record as having known him. At the time I listened to their stories but did not have skills or the knowledge to ask the proper questions. I did hear the stories from their lips. I was a drifter in Fort Sumner in the early 1920s with a lively interest in all things historical.
The basic stories about Billy's last hours are true; Billy was killed by Garrett at Pete Maxwell's house in 1881.
When I arrived at Fort Sumner and worked there for a time a few of the old timers were still around. Deluvina Maxwell was still alive at Old Fort Sumner and remembered Billy well. She prepared his body for burial.
I had not become a writer but was interested in all aspects o American history and talked with as many old timers as I could find. George Coe was alive then and so was Tom Pickett. Sarah McQueen Barker was living further south in New Mexico.
In 1974, unrelated to anything Billy the Kid, I visited L'Amour a second time, sans uncle. During our first visit, in that L'Amour's favorite weapon of choice in many of his novels seemed to be the 1847 Colt Walker, I mentioned that my Stepmother, actually ex-stepmother by then, owned one. When I was a kid, even though the pistol was nearly as big as I was, I used to run around day after day playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers disintegrator in the other. When I mentioned the pistol to L'Amour and my uncle confirmed both my story and that the pistol was in fact genuine, L'Amour became very interested --- even to the point of wanting to know if it was available. I told him I would contact my stepmother, which I did.
When I lived with my stepmother as a kid she was quite wealthy, however, over the years she had fallen on hard times. When I caught up with her and told her the Colt could be worth several thousands of dollars and that the man who might be interested in it was Louis L'Amour she felt comfortable parting with it. I called L'Amour telling him I had the Colt and made arrangements to meet. He carefully examined the pistol from barrel tip to butt handle, as did a firearms expert he brought with him. After he and the expert talked in private for a few minutes he said he was interested. I told him to talk with my stepmother, made arrangements for him to do so, and returned the pistol to her.
I don't know what transpired between she and L'Amour if anything. I don't even know if he contacted her. However, I do know when she died in 1985 the Colt Walker was not to be found anywhere among her effects. To this day I have no clue what happened to the Colt. As well, to my knowledge, nothing has surfaced in any of her records or to indicate that she ever received any sort of a sudden, large influx of cash from any source from the time I saw her last in 1974 until her death in 1985. It is my suspicion, although I have no proof, in that my ex-stepmother seemed to have fallen into the company of a variety of low-lifes and that once it became known the Colt (thanks to me) had a potential high value to it, somebody absconded with it before L'Amour was able to act on it.
It wasn't like the old days when I was a kid growing up seeped in the culture of Cowboy Code of the West --- or even long before in Billy the Kid days --- although it must be said, Billy the Kid, who on one end of the scale has been likened to almost being a western Robin Hood by some or a coward and blood thirsty killer at the other end by others, might be tough to shoehorn into being an ardent follower of the Cowboy Code of the West. On a broader general scale most likely, but it doesn't mean it didn't permeate his life on a personal level. Some authors, such as Walter Noble Burns, who wrote The Saga of Billy the Kid (1926), dedicated a whole book to just such a possibility.
ABOUT BILLY THE KID
HISTORY OF BILLY THE KID
OIL PAINTING OF BILLY THE KID
FULL LENGTH MOVIE: THE OUTLAW (1943)
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LOUIS L'AMOUR: STAGE WEST
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HOW HE BECAME A MOUNTIE
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
As outlined in The Last American Darshan, after six months or so in India as a young boy, upon returning to the U.S., in that my immediate family in California had apparently dispersed to the four winds following the death of my mother, the foster couple I was traveling with left me unexpectantly and unannounced with a relative of mine in Pennsylvania that didn't know me and who I didn't know. It is not clear how long I was there nor who I was traveling with, but it is known that that late in June of 1944 I somehow left Pennsylvania for Chicago and there boarded the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief headed westbound toward Los Angeles.
Although a lot of what went on in those days relative to me is unclear, the fact that I was on the Chief is well known because around midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, bearing the Santa Fe road number #3774, a powerful Baldwin built 4-8-4 Northern with 80 inch drive wheels and clocking out at over 90 miles per hour, hit a marked 55 mph speed limit curve, with the locomotive derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for well over 500 feet before coming to a stop. The rest of the 14 car train ended up in various stages of derailment and wreckage on and off the track, some cars remaining upright with two actually staying on the tracks undamaged. The fireman and three passengers were killed. 113 passengers along with 13 train employees injured, among them the severely injured engineer.
(photo courtesy Arizona Republic)
Although I was unhurt, the person or people I was traveling with was among the injured and taken, with me along with them, to either Williams or Flagstaff. Because of the nature of their injuries, whoever I was traveling with was held-up under doctors care for several days, leaving me without direct adult supervision. My grandmother, who had been contacted by the railroad, called my uncle in Santa Fe. He inturn contacted a nearby tribal spiritual elder to oversee me until he was able personally to intercede and safely get me to Los Angeles Union Station and thus then, to my grandmother's home in California.(see)
The events found in this footnote has also been presented by me in virtually the same manner and same form in any number of my other works. What I have not included in the above account or have not revealed previously is a part of the crash event that circulates around the somewhat mysterious tribal spiritual elder my uncle arranged for me to be watched by until he, my uncle, could catch up with me. As you may recall, after the wreck, because the adult or adults I was traveling with had been hospitalized, I was left without adult supervision. I write about sitting in the waiting room late at night in some train station out in the middle of Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder waiting for my uncle to come get me.
What I don't write about is that I recognized the spiritual elder the moment he walked into the hospital waiting area looking for me as found in the following quote:
"Mid-evening on the night of the-unknown-to-anybody at the time up-coming crash I had gone to bed in the bunk in my compartment and as far as I knew had fallen fast asleep. Sometime during that period between the time I fell asleep and the crash occurred I found myself neither asleep nor in my bunk but outside of the train standing barefoot on the desert floor in the middle of the night in my PJs some distance off from a set of railroad tracks, my hand being held by an elderly Native American man."
THE SPIRITUAL ELDER AND THE SANTA FE CHIEF
Three years later, within a day or two of the third year anniversary of the train wreck, July 3, 1947, found me and my uncle traveling in the desert southwest having passed through Williams, Arizona on our way to Fort Sumner, New Mexico to visit the gravesite of Billy the Kid. We stopped at the crash site to pay reverence to those that died and my survival. While my uncle sat in the truck I walked the tracks where the wreck occurred. In the three short years since the derailment barely a sign of anything having happened remained, the wind along with the heavy downfall of summer monsoons nearly erasing the 500 foot groove and other marks caused by the huge Baldwin locomotive and passenger cars. If a person was unfamiliar with what happened it would have been unobservable.
As we left the crash site my uncle told me the story about me sitting in the waiting room of some train station in Arizona with the tribal spiritual elder late at night waiting for him, my uncle, to arrive and take me to California. The spiritual elder was quite obviously Native American and I was quite obviously not. A lot of people seemed concerned with me traveling with an Indian, that is, except for an older man who seemed concerned that I might be bored.
He came over and sat next to me and asked if my dad was in the war. I told him no that he worked in the shipyards. Asking if I liked comic books he opened his suitcase and pulled out one called Blue Bolt. All the while he was thumbing through the pages like he was looking for something he was telling me he had a son in the war and that his son was a pilot. After he reached a certain spot he folded open the pages and pointed to a story about a group of American pilots that shot down 77 German planes in one outing. Then, carefully reading the story page by page and pointing to the different pictures he told me that his son was one of the pilots. My uncle told me with that I took the book from the man's hands completely fascinated, so much so I read the story over and over without stopping or setting it down. The man, seeing how much I appreciated the comic and the story, said I could have it. After that my uncle said I continued to read it again and again all the way back to California and months afterwards. That story is covered extensively in:
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
SANTA FE LOCOMOTIVE #3774
RIDING THE CAB FORWARDS
Even though my uncle had no problem overseeing me he missed his old haunts in Santa Fe and the surrounding environs. As time crawled by for him in Los Angeles he was forever mumbling under his breath that he was unable to fully adjust to the daily stresses of what he saw as city life and took to directing more and more of his attention trying to figure out how to continue doing what he was doing --- that is, taking care of me --- but still return to the desert southwest. Especially so after a trip I took to Catalina Island, returning rattled with what happened to me. After hearing my story, which I sum up in THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana, right away he started figuring out ways to get back to the desert and take me with him, which he was eventually able to do. He told me there were people and places all over the desert, secret and sacred places that had people that would identify with my experience and me. It seemed like we went everywhere and visited everything. Some were secret and sacred places like he said, others more historical and well known such as Billy the Kid's gravesite.
Another of the not so secret but more well known places we visited was the onetime wide open western town of Tombstone, Arizona --- the town too tough to die --- where, on October 26, 1881, the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral occurred. There, for the first time that I can remember, I heard the word tuberculosis. Someone there told me that at the time of the OK Corral, Wyatt Earp's friend, the gunfighter Doc Holliday, was dying of tuberculosis, and because he knew he was dying anyway, was fearless in the face of death --- and the reason why he was so deadly.
One day my uncle and I were on one of our excursions deep into a remote part of the southern New Mexico desert to visit a very strange man my Uncle was somehow associated with. After arrival the two sat together in the shade outside the man's shack and talked for a good part of the day while I either played with the dogs or sat in the cab of the truck fiddling with the radio tying to find stations that wouldn't come in. In relation to that excursion, at the bottom of the page on Don Juan Matus I write, without further elaboration:
For all I know the very strange man that handed me the feather as reported in The Boy and the Giant Feather could have been Don Juan --- or for that matter, even better, the very strange man might have even been Don Juan's own unknown, albeit, unnamed master teacher said to have been a diablero.(see)
On the way across the desert in the truck my uncle told me the man we were on our way to see had tuberculosis. I remember it specifically because of how impressed I had been by the fact that Doc Holliday had been dying of tuberculosis, and because of it, being deadly --- I somehow liked the idea of being deadly.
It would be clear up into 1971, with me as a grown man (?) and my uncle an old man, before the two of us finally made it to Doc Holiday's gravesite together, and that in itself was a whole adventure of it's own. See:
FOLLOWING THE FU SANG TRAIL
Drawings and paintings of Billy the Kid have come into my life on more than one occasion, and not just from comic books either. For example, the oil painting below of Billy done by a friend of my uncle, the famed southwest artist John W. Hilton (1904-1983) done in 1937:
OIL PAINTING OF BILLY THE KID BY JOHN W. HILTON, 1937
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In The Curandero and the Magic of the Mojave Desert Creosote Ring I write about me as not much more than an eight year old going one day to the Anza-Borrego Desert with the Curandero. During our return trip the driver of the pick-up truck said he knew a short cut through the mountains. In the process we got inexplicably lost eventually ending up on a dead-end road blocked by another vehicle anyway.
No sooner had we stopped behind the vehicle, and with me squatting low in the back of the truck but still able to peer out over the top of the cab in the near waning twilight, than the curandero got out and started walking toward two men coming our way down the trail beyond the end of the road. It was obvious the curandero knew one of the men and from my vantage point I could tell I knew the second man. The first man turned out to be one Marshal South who was one of those prospector type desert rats that seem to inhabit isolated far corners of the desert eeking out livings off the land and their own wits. The other man turned out to be my uncle. My uncle had been in Yuma for some undisclosed reason and since he was so close decided to visit his old friend Marshal South.
Although I did write in The Curandero that I rode back with my uncle, what I left out of the narrative was that the two of us didn't follow the Curandero directly back home. Instead my uncle and I took a rather long un-quick detour to see an artist friend of his, the aforementioned John W. Hilton. Hilton and my uncle were long time friends for any number of reasons, both were artists of the desert southwest and both were in a sense bio-searchers, but they were friends mostly because of their love for the desert. Re the following regarding Hilton from the source so cited which matches almost word for word my uncle's viewpoint:
"He was a life-long student of the desert's geology, biology, zoology, its history, its native people, and especially its beauty. It was this passion which attracted John's friends, both the famous and the not-so famous. John liked everyone who possessed a zest for life and a love of the desert and shared a desire to thrive in its beauty. In turn, those who had that zest for life and a love of the desert liked John."(source)
It was there at Hilton's I saw the, or at least "a" Billy the Kid painting done by Hilton. He had painting after painting of desert landscapes, none of which I remember specifically, but only one anywhere like the Billy the Kid one.
A few years after graduating from high school but before being drafted, a buddy and I went on road trip throughout Mexico. We bought a 1951 Chevy panel truck we fixed up like a camper and drove down the Baja peninsula crossing by ferry to the mainland from Santa Rosalia, eventually going as far as the Yucatan before turning back toward the states. During the trip I sought out Colonel Harvey Greenlaw, one time second in command of the Flying Tigers who was living in Baja Mexico at the time. Even though he lived in a small community called El Arco which was in a rather remote area, it was fairly convenient because our route took us almost right past his place. A little detour and we were there. Greenlaw's wife by the way, was the infamous Olga Greenlaw who wrote the definitive 1943 book on the Flying Tigers titled The Lady and the Tigers.
In an article said to have appeared in Cabo Life Magazine reportedly stated that the same artist, John W. Hilton, painted a mural on Harvey Greenwall's wall a year or two before I visited him --- during the same period Hilton was gathering material for a book he was writing titled "Hardly Any Fences," a book that dealt with his various travels in Baja California from 1933 to 1959. In a chapter or section of that book, published in 1977, titled "South to El Arco," in his own hand, Hilton presents a slightly different version of any attempt at what could possibly be misconstrued as him having painted a full wall mural:
"I took a liking to Harvey Greenlaw at once. His house had a dirt floor but there were murals on all of the walls painted and drawn by artists and would-be artists who had stopped by to visit him. I added some cereus and cactus plants on each side of a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This gave her a local touch, we thought."
WHERE THE BILLY THE KID "DESPERADO" COMIC BOOK PAGE CAME FROM:
When I was in the fifth grade or so I was living on a ranch owned by my Stepmother in the Mojave Desert. Down the road on the next closest ranch lived a much older boy than me that collected every cowboy western comic book he could get his hands on. He had hundreds of them neatly stacked in brand new turned-up orange crates made into shelves in his room, each book in pristine condition and always kept in order by title and chronological by month, date, and number. I used to go to his place whenever I got a chance sitting around all day hanging out and reading them.
During that period, one of the comic books he collected centered around a female western hero who, according to the storyline, had been found near death and saved by Native Americans. She was then adopted into the Dakota Tribe who gave her the name Firehair because of her red hair. Both my mother and her sister had beautiful long red hair. In that they were so close together age-wise and looked so much alike almost everybody mistook them for twins. Although I do not remember much about my mother I remember my aunt very well, and because of their look alikeness I always felt I had a good idea of what my mother looked like. As a young boy I always held a certain affinity towards the Firehair character because I liked to believe my mother, with her red hair and all, would have been like her, maybe even, since I never went to her funeral, found by Indians and saved.
A couple of years later I was living in the home of a foster couple that I ended up running away from on more than one occasion. One day I traded two or three comics for a copy of Rangers Comics #63 dated February 1952, a comic I wanted for two reasons. One, the lead off story was about Firehair, who I had not seen anything on since leaving the ranch. And secondly, it had the page on Billy the Kid I would eventually end up using on this page. As I was reading the comic for the 100th time the woman of the foster couple, seeing the story I was reading was about a redheaded woman like my mother, grabbed it out of my hands and threw it across the room telling me to get over it, my mother was dead and long gone, and she was my mother now. As soon as I saved a few bucks I packed up a handful of things, including the comic book, and as found in Firehair link below, I ran away.
FIREHAIR, QUEEN OF THE SAGEBRUSH FRONTIER
TOMAHAWK: THE FLYING FRONTIERSMAN, 1771 AD
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Although as a young boy I never lived in the downtown area of Los Angeles I did grow up in the suburbs as well as the 20 mile away beach towns and the even further away farm and ranch areas that surrounded the city in those days. Unlike now, during those same growing up years, traveling by train was big, with the main railroad terminal in Los Angeles being Union Station, a place that figured large in my life on several occasions. In Footnote  in The Code Maker, The Zen Maker I wrote about how a series of four black and white photographs of my brothers and me figured prominently in my life. On the back of one of the photos of the series of four, in cursive writing, most likely in my mother's or grandmother's hand and using fountain pen ink, was the first names of my two brothers and myself along with the words 'Union Station' with the date 1942-43 which is the first time and earliest date and year I can confirm being at Union Station, the next time following the aforementioned wreck of the Santa Fe Chief in July of 1944.
About five years later, following the death of my mother and by then living with my stepmother, I met an elderly (to me) Chinese man that washed dishes and swamped a bar not far from where I lived. During slow times he used to meditate in the alley near the back door of the bar. The two of us met while I was traveling with a couple of kid-friends from school collecting and turning in beer and pop bottles for the deposit. One day I came by without my friends and he asked why I was traveling without my buddies.
I told the Chinese man come dish washer that several days before, just as I was leaving the garage with a wagon to catch up with my two friends to collect bottles my godfather stopped me and asked if I was going to meet up with the "Jew-kid" and the "(explicative)," using the N-word in that one of my school buddies was Black. If I had ever heard either word before I don't remember, but I remember well the day my godfather said them. Although I usually fell under the auspices of my uncle, my godfather was still an adult figure in my life and when he said what he said I could tell by the inflection in his voice that somehow, at least as he viewed, something was wrong with both my friends. Continuing, I told the dish washer the following from the source so cited:
"A couple of days later I was at Union Station in Los Angeles with my stepmother who was either meeting someone or seeing someone off. I was on the platform some distance behind dawdling along when out of nowhere, using one of my newly learned words, I said, 'Woo, woo, here goes the (explicative)-train,' using the same N-word my godfather had used. The next thing I knew a Redcap was bending over with his face in mine, grabbing my shirt around the collar at the neck with one hand and waving the index finger of his other hand inches from my nose and loudly saying, 'Don't you ever use that word again!' Having never been grabbed like that before, by a black man or otherwise, I was scared shitless. Before I could respond in any fashion my stepmother was on the scene with her bodyguard asking what was going on. The Redcap, recognizing who my stepmother was, quickly reinstituted his Redcap role and using her first name by prefacing it beforehand with Lady almost as if she was royalty, related what happened. It was easy to tell my stepmother was totally aghast, fully unable to believe I would use such a word and insisted I apologize immediately not only to the Redcap but to all within earshot. She scribbled something on the back of her business card and handing it to the Redcap thanked him for what he had done telling him if there was ever anything in her power she could help him with, to call. Back in the car she demanded to know where I was learning such words. I told her what my godfather had said. Not long after that, under my stepmother's request, he was gone."
The Chinese man asked if I read comic books. When I nodded yes, he asked me to wait, got up and went through the back door of the bar returning in a few minutes with a handful of six or eight comics, all of which were in pristine condition. He went through the stack until he came to a specific issue, then he thumbed through that issue until he found what he was looking for. The comic book was called the Green Lama and the story he was looking for was about discrimination in the Army during World War II, how wrong it was and how it was resolved. The story was long for a comic book, ten or eleven pages. The full story as well as the source for the quote above can be found at the Green Lama site so linked, however the page below pretty much sums up the gist of the story:
The Green Lama was a 1940s superhero. Sporting an everyday guise as Jethro Dumont, a rich New York City resident and man about town, if necessity demanded it and he recited the Jewel in the Lotus Mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum", Dumont underwent a startling and dramatic change, becoming the Green Lama, gaining super strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly.
THE GREEN LAMA
OM MANI PADME HUM
THE OLD CHINESE MAN, ME, AND KUAN YIN:
As the young boy that I was, I used to go by the bar and meditate in the alley with the old man. Sitting in the shade on the back steps amongst the garbage cans and flies behind the bar one afternoon, while drinking hot tea out of tiny little cups with no handles in a near ritual-like tea ceremony he insisted on, the elderly Chinese man told me a story about the bombing of Japanese occupied Taiwan by B-29 Superfortresses of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. He said from ancient times there was a "girl Buddha" whose followers believed that reciting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum would, because of her compassion, deliver them from harm. He said even though he himself had not practiced or invoked the mantra, while seeking refuge in the midst of the attack he inadvertently ended up amongst a group of believers who were also running to find shelter from the explosions. Then, while within the group, most of whom were verbally repeating the mantra, overhead, pure white and almost cloud-like the "girl Buddha" appeared in the sky above them actually deflecting the trajectory of the bombs away from their exposed path until they reached safety and out of harms way. The old Chinese man told me the "girl Buddha" was know by many names, but he referred to her as Kuan Yin, a name I was unable to recall for many years.
B-29 IN INDIA RETURNING FROM A TAIWAN BOMBING RUN. ART BY PETER HURD
(Hurd, a war-correspondent artist in World War II, received a European Theater Medal for his service)
(please click image)