the Wanderling


(please click either image)

"Within a few years of finishing high school, like countless other young men of my age and era, the Selective Service, or the draft as it was known, came calling. No sooner had I finished eight weeks of Basic Training than I was sent to even more weeks of perhaps less physical but more intense training at the U.S. Army Southeast Signal Corps School, training that involved a whole bunch of time learning to send and receive Morse code at ever increased speeds with ever increased accuracy. I was at the Signal Corps school only a short time when, unknown to me and behind my back, it began filtering up through higher and higher levels of the upper echelon and beyond that I possessed a rather special, almost uncanny talent when it came to sending and receiving Morse code, a talent that powers that be felt was ripe for exploitation."

As Found In The Main Text Below


As a kid in elementary school and clear into high school I was always making crystal sets, actually having started well before elementary school by building what was called a 'foxhole radio,' a kind of primitive or rudimentary device like a crystal set that just "runs on air," made in such a way that they can receive radio stations, as shown above, simply by using a razor blade and pencil lead with no battery, crystal, or electricity required.

Never satisfied with the one I just made I was always trying to make bigger and better ones to pull in farther and farther away stations, most especially so by after the war moving away from foxhole radios to crystal sets. Even so, because the signals of far away stations were always weak and the sound low I decided I needed the best pair of earphones I could get. So saying, my Uncle took me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in L. A. to pick out a pair of war surplus earphones with a full set of large foam rubber ear pads. Palley's had everything and we used to go there often with me always returning with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and one of my very favorites, an Army Signal Corps J-38 Handkey with a leg-band for sending Morse code.

It wasn't long before I discovered all the earphones in the world would not solve the problem of bringing in weak or far away stations. My next step was to jump to "electricity." In doing so I bought and built a small build-it-yourself one step above a crystal set kit that ran on electricity called an Air Champ AC-100 One Tube Radio Kit:


As an even younger kid, long before my uncle ever entered the picture, I had a babysitter who lived next door to me with her parents and her curmudgeon old grandfather. He was a sort of Rube Goldberg inventor type guy that seemed like he could fix or build anything. He had set up a junk filled workshop in the detached dirt floor single-car garage on the back of their property collecting, working on, and making stuff he said was to thwart the "impending invasion," meaning of course, by the Japanese. For me though, the old man was sort of a progenitor or prototype of things to come, being there teaching and showing me things and laying the groundwork in my young life long before my uncle or mentor came on the scene or I was even old enough to start school. The sun, stars, electricity, pneumatics, the speed of light, time. They were all there in an embryo way.

"One day I was snooping around the old man's shop, going through his junk, the little guy that I was, when I came across a small rectangular piece of wood that looked all the same as having been a mousetrap at onetime, but instead had coiled wires and other electrical stuff mounted on it with printed words identifying it as a Dot 'N Dash Electric Telegraph Set. The old man told me it was one half of a two part set that when hooked together with wires and a battery could, by using a series of dots and dashes, send messages back and forth between two or more people over long distances --- something he said the two of us could do if I was ever able to locate the other half. In the meantime the old man hooked the half of the set I had up to a battery and buzzer device allowing me, even though it wasn't connected to another set, to at least practice making Morse code sounds, in the process driving everybody crazy. I did however, learn code, at least on the sending side."

Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set

(please click image)

Although it may not be blatantly chronological noticeable in all that I have written, and even though a number of people have noticed and have actually asked about it, there exists a rather large or lengthy gap during my childhood where Morse code, on the rise in my early years disappears not to return until my high school years. Those same barren Morse code years as some have also noticed, overlay or parallel almost exactly the same years I was being overseen by my uncle.

Their observations are for the most part, correct. My uncle was just not a big electronics or radio guy. Although he didn't discourage my explorations into such areas he himself had little interest in it and what we did together often overshadowed my singular participation. He did however provide me with an extraordinary insight that subliminally may have contributed to my interest. Most of you who have read any amount of my works knows that from the youngest age I held the great renaissance artist, inventor, and scientist Leonardo Da Vinci in the highest esteem. One of the things that really cemented my uncle and my relationship was our collaboration together and reason behind the two of us building a flying machine initially based on a Da Vinci design.

As soon as my Stepmother noticed I had a certain propensity toward art she talked my Uncle, who lived in the Santa Fe, Taos, New Mexico, area and a well established artist in his own right, and who had been going back and forth per my grandmother's request, to just stay on the west coast. Except for being a bohemian through and through, my uncle was no slouch having been classically trained in the fine arts with a strong emphasis in drawing and painting at major art schools and universities on the U.S. east coast as well as studying under one of the major members of the Ash Can School, John Sloan.

Once my uncle decided to stay my stepmother set him up in a fully equipped artist's studio and covered all expenses, including models, lots of models, even though he was a desert landscape or still life sort of a guy. All my uncle had to do was have me as a protege, develop my budding talents, and arrange for me to have as many art and educational experiences as possible, although my stepmother questioned my sudden interest in life modeling.


On the other hand, my uncle, observing my deep interest in building a flying machine quickly became a strong promoter of actually building a craft and flying it --- for a number of reasons, but most prominently so --- cutting to the quick --- because of how it is explained in the following quote as found in the source so cited:

"At the time my older brother loved to build model airplanes and continued to build bigger and better models until eventually he was constructing huge gas engine powered remote control six-foot wingspan B-24 Liberators. He was also the apple of my father's eye. My uncle, noticing the situation, decided I too could impress my dad, only through art."





That lull or space in time in my life with little or no Morse codes, codes, crystal sets, or radios, was supplanted by any number of other things, but in doing so was mollified by my uncle in a most interesting way. He tied it all together by pointing out that Samuel Morse, the man who invented the Morse code, was in fact as well, an artist. Not only was he a painter of some repute, one of his most famous paintings according to my uncle had a tie back to Leonardo Da Vinci. Apparently Morse spent three years in Paris, specifically in one of the galleries at the Louvre, painting a massive picture of the inside of the gallery, a gallery in the Louvre that at the time had on exhibit Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. When Morse painted the paintings as seen on the walls of the gallery, like he did with all the other paintings, he included his rendition of the Mona Lisa as it hung on the wall at the time as well. You can see it just to the right of the man, said to be Samuel Morse himself, bending over and wearing the long tailed coat. I have included a close up Morse's Mona Lisa right after the graphic of his painting below:



(please click image)

(please click image)

During my first two years in high school I worked part time a couple of days a week stacking books and running errands for a man who lived around the corner from my house I call in my writings my Merchant Marine Friend. Just five months into World War II the ship he was on was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Florida. Making his escape from the damaged ship he was badly burned and his lungs scorched after jumping overboard into the water and coming up for air through burning oil. So much so was his injuries that years later he could still barely move, spending most of his time in a room stacked shelf after shelf with books, sitting in a chair overlooking the street reading. One day he and an ex-Navy man he met in the Philippines before the war by the name of Guy Hague got into a huge debated discussion as to the international distress signal, SOS.

Hague insisted SOS meant Save Our Ship, the former merchant marine said it was selected because it was a fast and expedient way to send Morse code, three dots, three dashes, and three dots, in rapid succession --- and other than that, the letters it represented, SOS, didn't mean anything. The merchant marine said since the dots and dashes are sent without breaks one after the other they could just as easily mean VTB, but the letters 'SOS' were chosen because together there was a certain memorable ring to it. From overhearing that discussion, especially the VTB-SOS part, even though I had actually been doing Morse code on-and-off since I was very young as found in the Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set link below, for some reason I felt compelled to delve into sending and receiving Morse code in a more formal adult grown up fashion.

"If it wasn't for the increase in my level of interest in learning more about Morse code in my early high school years I would not have been in a position in later years to have the code sending abilities the Army came to value, which in turn put me in a position to be at the monastery. If you take away nothing else from what I have ever written, try to remember the present moment is shaped both by past and present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. With that said, there is an axiom that goes: This being present, that arises; without this, that does not occur. In my case then, no code, no Army, no monastery."

The Code Maker, The Zen Maker

Within a few years of finishing high school, like countless other young men of my age and era, the Selective Service, or the draft as it was known, came calling. No sooner had I finished eight weeks of Basic Training than I was sent to even more weeks of perhaps less physical but more intense training at the U.S. Army Southeast Signal Corps School, training that involved a whole bunch of time learning to send and receive Morse code at ever increased speeds with ever increased accuracy. I was at the Signal Corps school only a short time when, unknown to me and behind my back, it began filtering up through higher and higher levels of the upper echelon and beyond that I possessed a rather special, almost uncanny talent when it came to sending and receiving Morse code, a talent that powers that be felt was ripe for exploitation.

During the Civil War John Hunt Morgan was a general infamous as the leader of southern guerrilla force known as the Morgan Raiders. A major part of Morgan's success that entrenched him into the historic annals of war was his successful use of telegraphy as an integral part of his military operations. He did so by recruiting into his Raiders a certain telegraph operator, a savant telegrapher of unusual genius named George A. Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was known for being able to listen to another telegraph operator for just a few minutes and then mimicking that other operator's "fist" to a perfection. For the most part all telegraphers send with a distinct style, known as a fist, which other telegraphers can recognize as easily as they are able to recognize a familiar voice. Ellsworth would tap into a telegraph line used by Union forces and copy military dispatches transmitted on that line. By tapping the wire, Ellsworth's instruments became a part of the line and he could then, by blocking the downstream or incoming code at his point of entry, rewrite or send misleading or false messages downstream with the other-end recipient, listening to the fist, assuming the sender was a familiar.(see)

Over time in the Army I had developed a reputation as a notorious code sender with abilities thought by some of my superiors to have been on par with the above mentioned George A. Ellsworth or, just as equally if not more so, thought by the Army Security Agency as ready for the stockade. The ASA was always after me for some reason or the other. In the early days when I was no more than a private slick sleeve, if it hadn't been for higher authorities with higher priorities, ASA would have most certainly nailed me. The ASA, after I was caught goofing-off replicating the fist of a staff sergeant that unbeknownst to me at the time was actually gone from the base on leave, discovered that I, with almost a minuscule amount of practice, had an uncanny ability to accurately duplicate or counterfeit almost any Morse code operator's fist to such a point that what I sent, was totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent by me and that of any person I was imitating. My fate was sealed and immediately appropriated by higher ups for other duties, I myself becoming top secret. If there were others like me I never learned, but they didn't want anybody to know my skills nor to have my whereabouts tracked.

Almost on the first day of Morse code training after arrival at the Army's signal corps school, unlike most of my fellow fledging GI telegraphers floundering around at 10 words a minute or less even after two weeks, than I was easily surpassing sending and receiving 20 words a minute headed toward 90 within a few days, and was noticed for doing so by the instructor. The instructor, who was a civilian, had worked for Western Union as a telegraph operator for thirty years or more and could himself easily send and receive upwards of 200 words a minute. When he asked if I was a Ham operator I told him no but had for years sent and received code using a Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set. Rubbing his chin a little and looking up toward the ceiling, the civilian instructor, always looking for alternative ways for recruits training under him to learn Morse code, asked if it would be possible for him to see the signal set. Kissing ass as much as wanting to score points and most especially so, make my life easier while at Fort Gordon, I contacted my brother who had all my stuff in storage to locate the set and send it to me. Which he did.

I gave the set to the instructor and told him he was welcome to it, but if he ever tired of it or it didn't work out like he thought, send it back to my brother. The thing is, when my brother finally found the box the signal set was in, packed away in the bottom of the same box when I put it in storage was a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph, more specifically, a Photo-matic Code-O-Graph. My brother, not sure why the decoder was in the box, after looking it over, just left it there along with the signal set when he mailed it to me.

After receiving the telegraph set along with my Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph in the mail from my brother, there I was, a fully ingrained member of the United States Army with newly earned PFC stripes --- after having gone through both basic training and a good part of AIT as a private slick-sleeve --- and with my very first big military assignment looming over my head, but, just like when I was a kid, running around all over the place carrying a Captain Midnight decoder with me everywhere I went.

A few days later, after seeing my Code-O-Graph, instead of laughing out loud and ridiculing me out of the room, my civilian instructor brought in a small wooden jewelry-like box carefully wrapped in a soft cloth and set it on the table in front of me. When he opened the box, inside, which was lined with soft red felt, was a solid brass circular code instrument looking all the same as a high quality Code-O-Graph that the Army of the Confederates States of America Secret Service used to encrypt messages right on the spot in the field, which could then be sent encrypted using Morse code and the telegraph to another person with a like instrument on the other end.


As good as I may have been with Morse code it didn't just happen overnight or out of the blue one day after falling off the top of a telegraph pole. If you recall from the above, it started when I was still a very young boy and my family was still intact. The girl that lived next door who my mother hired on occasion to babysit my two brothers and me had curmudgeon old grandfather who spent most of his time in a floor to ceiling junk-pile filled workshop inside a dirt floor single car garage in their backyard, a workshop of which, much to the grandfather's chagrin, I would sneak into every chance I got.

It was there, in the grandfather's garage, before I was barely able to read and write that I got my first introduction to Morse code.

Even though there occurred an observable and outstanding lull in things electronically between my uncle and me years later as mentioned previously above, it didn't end it altogether. Up to that time of my young life, albeit slowed a tiny bit because of other interests and the so-called lull, I had been sending and receiving Morse code on and off using wires, stringing the devices further and further apart to continue to expand the distance between devices and since the distances weren't great, wires were the simplest most expedient transmission method of doing so.

One day in the fifth grade or so while living on the ranch I came across a photograph of a World War II jeep that had a battery operated radio that could both send and receive Morse code with no wires for transmission. Well, we had the jeep, so I figured if I could come up with some sort of transmitting device that ran on batteries I could send Morse code from across the farthest reaches of the ranch from the back of the jeep without the need of transmission wires just like in the photograph.

The thing is, at the time, even though my dad was able to buy surplus jeeps, surplus radios were a little beyond my boyhood pocketbook. While it is true that within reason my stepmother saw to it I had almost everything I ever wanted, she didn't live on the ranch per se' and I only saw her intermittently. So, in between visits I began to research if there was some practical way I could build or make what I needed either inexpensively or with stuff I already had laying around. It wasn't long until I came across what is known as a spark gap transmitter. From my research, along with a little adult supervision, I was eventually able to build and operate a successful spark gap transmitting device, easily sending Morse code clear across the ranch to my brothers with a receiver in the barn.


In the series of graphics below, sitting on the box, second row left below the Code-O-Graph, is a J-38 hand key manufactured for the U.S. Army Signal Corps by the Lionel Corporation, the same company known for making toy or model electric trains. Next to it on the top right is the infamous Dot 'N Dash Electric Telegraph Set from my early childhood I loved so much. Below that is a half of a Tom Mix Straight Shooters Telegraph Set. The Tom Mix set was a free box top offer promoted by the Ralston Wheat Cereal Company one or possibly two years before the war. One box top and .10 cents in coin or free with two box tops. The grandfather of my baby sitter, a cereal box top sort of guy, had long since sent for two but never got around to hooking them up. In that he had a matched set, as soon as I was able to convince him to do so we wired the two of them together between each of our places sending code back and forth every second I could get him too.

Next photo is of a Western Union Standard Radio Telegraph Signal Set, the device that played such a major role in my life when it came to learning and sending Morse code during my high school years. Next to it is a leg mounted telegraph key of the type I moved to after entering the military and being sent to the U.S. Army Southeast Signal Corps School. Going to the photo below the leg mounted leg key (notice the government issued olive drab fatigue pants) is a close up of the same type key also mounted on a leg band, a KY-116/U, except not on a leg and quite a bit less shopworn. I don't know if anything that has ever been built, manufactured, or machined, has ever been so beautiful.

Well, if the Maserati 450-S is left out of the equation, then there may be one more thing. Click the KY-116/U image below or HERE to find out what.

Directly under the KY-116/U is a J-48/A hand key in a case. That particular type hand key was primarily designed for an Army Signal Corps SCR-284 field radio set, and as a kid, other than the leg mounted hand key so pictured, my favorite military hand key. The SCR-284 field radio plays a prominent role in my site IN AS A BOY, OUT AS A MAN: The Draft, Active Duty, Active Reserve linked further down the page. Although the J-48/A isn't designated by its own number, the key is mentioned as being in its own little case and shows up all over the place in a number of my works, usually as found in the quote below:

"My uncle took me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in L. A. to pick out a pair of war surplus earphones with a full set of large foam rubber ear pads. Palley's had everything and we used to go there often with me always returning with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and two of my very favorites, an Army Signal Corps J-38 Hand key, one in its own little case, the other with a leg-band, both for sending Morse code and an ESM/1 Emergency Signaling Mirror."

The Code Maker, The Zen Maker

(for larger size click, then click again)



(please click image)


(please click image)











(please click image)


(please click image)




(please click)



(please click)

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.

In an ever continuing theme of my uncle trying to connect the importance of the fine arts and artists back to a more kids level of understanding I remember specifically an instance wherein he practically made me promise if I ever had the chance to see the animated Walt Disney version of Pinocchio, which was originally released in February 1940 during the early rumblings of World War II, that I would. If I saw it when it was released or during it's first re-release in 1945 I don't recall, but while I was in high school it was theatrically re-released a third time and I made a huge point of going to see it. The reason why my uncle, who by the time I reached high school was no longer in the picture having long returned to the Taos Santa Fe area, was so insistent I go see it, even to the point of making me promise, was because in the film the painting of Mona Lisa shows up.

When Pinocchio goes to the almost forbidden amusement park of Pleasure Island it has all the the typical rides and games of a circus midway, a Ferris wheel, all kinds of food and drinks and even attractions typically not found such as a tent devoted to fist fighting, a place where the boys can smoke cigars to their heart's content, as well as a house that is specifically built and designed to destroy the insides top to bottom. On his way to the park Pinocchio meets a boy named Lampwick and it is with Lampwick in the tear-apart-house that the Mona Lisa shows up. In the process of Pinocchio and Lampwick breaking things up in the house Lampwick uses the surface of the Mona Lisa, which already has graffiti scrawled on it, to strike a match to light a cigar as seen in the frame from the movie below:

"At the end of August, 1963, during the Martin Luther King speech, I was a member of a team operating classified transmitting equipment in a AN/GRC 26-D communication van parked along the beltway in Washington D.C. a few miles away from the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the King speech. Somewhere in there, either before or after the King speech, and I don't remember which because at the time I was doing all kinds of travel for the military including even to the point of being sent by the military to Panama, Cay Sal Bank off the north coast of Cuba, and Swan Island located between Cuba and Honduras. Then, along in there, besides all of the previous, for whatever reason, the Army decided they wanted me to participate in other extra-curricular military activities for a couple of weeks out west. They put me, along with a handful of other slovenly GI types, on board an unmarked company C-53 with all the windows covered over on the inside by aluminum foil and masking tape and flew us out on a cross-country middle-of-the-night flight to a place called Pinal Air Park, sometimes called Marana Air Park, near Marana, Arizona."

Don Juan Matus and the Nogales Bus Station Meeting

During the early part of the year 1963 I had moved from Basic Training at Fort Ord, California to being fully ensconced in training and the goings on of the Southeast Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia. However, even though I had only just earned my Private First Class stripes from the slick sleeve I was, because of my ability with Morse code, a near savant as my civilian instructors continued to tell my chain of command officers, before completion of Signal School I was sent on my second TDY military experience, the first being the Cuban Missile Crisis, done by me while I was still in basic. As the above quote attests, speaking of as late in the year as August 1963, I was still spending a good portion of my military time on TDY, doing so practically clear through the end of my enlistment.

My TDY destination from Fort Gordon was the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I was sent to be part of a several week observed study control group working with initially ten, dropped to five, specially selected cadets supposedly versed in the intricacies of Morse code. The idea was to find out what I had that they didn't and once found could it be learned or replicated.

The father of one of the cadets in the group owned a yacht that one weekend he sailed up the Hudson River from some affluent suburb of New York City hoping to spend some time with his son. The son invited several cadet friends and me to hang out with him on the boat, which, being a few notches better than nothing, I did. As what would eventually become usual for me nothing identified me as to my rank or status, so nobody really knew if I was an officer, an enlisted man, or maybe even a civilian. Often, for people who own yachts sometimes things like that matter. For example, the cadet's sister. If she had known I was a lowly private and not one of the group at large she probably wouldn't have even talked to me. Same with the dad. It came out between the father and I that we both knew David J. Halliburton Sr. and both had been on his yacht the Twin Dolphin, both several times. I told the father I knew Halliburton because as a young man he had a serious crush on my stepmother's niece, which is true. Halliburton's family lived right across the street from my stepmother and during the summer her niece would babysit me. In reality though I knew Halliburton later in life because I was a crew member on his yacht, a mere sander of wood. Of course I didn't tell the dad that and he automatically put me higher up on the scale of things. Years later Halliburton did so as well after the connection with my stepmother's niece became clear.

In any case, as it turned out, from February 4, 1963 to March 4, 1963, after having been on exhibit in Washington D.C., but before returning to the Louvre in Paris, and for the only time ever, Leonado Da Vinci's painting the Mona Lisa was in the U.S. and on exhibit at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a period of time that overlapped the exact same time I was at West Point. More than that, it just so happened the father of the cadet had long time philanthropic ties in support the museum and had at his beckon call special VIP passes to see the exhibit. When we got to talking and he thought I was right up there with Halliburton in the scheme of things and I expressed an overwhelming desire to see the Mona Lisa, as soon as he could arrange it and his soon and his son and I could get time off he sent a car up to West Point to pick us. We were whisked into the museum ahead of the hours long crowds and as others were being ushered through after viewing the painting, our neck lanyard identification allowed to stay as long as we wanted.

For a breakdown of each of the individual paintings including the names of the artist and the names of the paintings that appear one after the other floor to ceiling on the walls of the Louvre as painted by Samuel F.B. Morse in his 1831-33 masterpiece Gallery of the Louvre please click the image map below. By doing so you will be taken to a page that has part way down a large full color image of Morse's painting looking all the same as the one I've present farther back up this page, except that it is interactive. By scrolling your cursor over the graphic, any of the individual paintings you select can be clicked through, taken then to a larger image and identification of the painting so selected. From there, if you so choose, you can Google or research any of the ones you may be so interested in. Be advised, however, the creators of the website have left the Mona Lisa out of the click through process which they explain in the accompanying text. I have provided a click through link on the Mona Lisa below that can actually be expanded practically to the full size of the original allowing you to exam it inch by inch and see what the actual painted surface looks like.

(please click image)

(for nearly life size click image then click again)



(please click image -- if you dare)