the Wanderling

"In the early years when my dad and stepmother first got married she was quite wealthy. In her new found motherhood role, she noticed my younger brother and myself, along with a bunch of other neighborhood kids, spent an inordinate amount of time 'playing cowboys' --- with cowboy hats, cap-guns, holsters, boots, etc., and in doing so we often ended up in the street. Using her logic, she thought, what could be better than having their own real ranch to play on, especially so, not in the street. So that's what she did, she bought a ranch. A whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with twenty acres set aside on one corner for the ranch house, barn, horse corrals, you name it. Then off we went to ride real horses and shoot real guns, but not so much at each other."


Growing up as I did as a young boy in the milieu of World War II, besides playing Cowboys and Indians on a regular basis all the time, the war was big for me as well. So said, I spent an equally amount of time playing army, and in doing so, not long after the war I was just as well equipped, if not more so, than any American infantryman ever was. Not only did Army surplus stores spring up all over almost overnight, comic book after comic book had one full page after the other promoting all kinds of wild offers, almost all for practically nothing. Using one or the other or both sources I bought or got my hands on every imaginable piece of infantry garb and military gear I could get my hands on, including steel helmets, pistol belts, hand held signaling mirrors, and even lace-up leggings like they used to wear in the Pacific back when the war first broke out. Between all those outdoor activities and just searching for ads if nothing else, I read comic books, lots and lots of comic books.[1]

There was one specific comic book that showed up late in the war that carried a series of stories that combined almost all of my fantasies, Cowboys, Indians, the military and P-40 fighters --- all lumped together around one central character, Tommy Tomahawk.

Tommy Tomahawk, as written, was a college educated Native American fighter pilot who led a highly rough and tumble group of other Native American pilots a la Greg Boyington's Black Sheep squadron, who, using Army Air Corps marked P-40 Tomahawks, albeit painted in the colors of the Flying Tigers, battled furiously in the Pacific Theater and/or southeast Asia against the Japanese onslaught during World War II. As an example of their rough and tumbleness, in the panel below, the apparent CO of the squadron is in the U.S. Army Corps general headquarters in Washington D.C. and is being reprimanded because of the outfit's flouting of rules and non-military like behavior. Notice the use of Flying Tiger looking P-40s:

As you can see in the first page of the story below, when the squadron returns from a mission against the Japanese they are wearing warrior-like war paint and feathers not unlike as seen in the above panel. However, without any reference, comments, or cause for change other than what is found in the above, even before they leave for their next mission, while sitting around drinking coffee the squadron members are all dressed in what appears to be more-or-less olive drab Sheep Dipped fatigues. After that, in most of the stories that follow they continued to wear similar garb, with no insignias, markings, or rank.

Although my early life introductions to Native Americans may have been through what I learned in school about the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving or the events surrounding Captain John Smith and Pocahontas at Jamestown, a good portion, if not all of the most impressionable --- for me anyway --- was garnered from comic books, cowboy western movies and radio via such personages as the Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto or Red Ryder and Little Beaver. They may have been really distant for being the best of role models relative to Native Americans (you have to remember the time period), but included in the mix were the somewhat more impressive dipictions of Tommy Tomahawk and the stories of Firehair. However, it wasn't very long into my young childhood that things began to change from comic books to real life --- except maybe for one major exception:

There was another red haired female comic book character other than Firehair I liked at lot as well, coming into my life at just about the same time as Firehair came along. She just didn't get the same amount of "screen time" as Firehair because unlike Firehair I didn't relate her someplace in my works with my red haired mother --- which in turn brought in all kinds of Oedipus Complex comments, which I, in sort of overkill, followed up with a superfluous unknown need on my part to reply. Nor was I reading about her at that certain moment in time the woman of the couple I was fostered to threw a fit causing me to run away. None of those things. Her stories were published in the comic book Wings on a regular monthly basis and I simply read them and moved along --- except on one occasion in my works where she got caught up in an adventure that involved the Flying Tigers. That story I made a full site on. Who was the red haired woman I speak of. None other than Jane Martin, War Nurse:

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When my uncle was still in his very early 20s --- and long before I was ever born --- after attending a few art schools in the east, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was at the time, if not more so, still a struggling artist and to stretch his limited funds and maintain his health he began fishing, hunting rabbits, and looking into the potential possibility of edible and medicinal plants indigenous to the desert. In doing so he was soon coming in contact with Native Americans. At first they found the white man foraging in the wilderness one day and painting pictures the next day a bit strange and kept their distance, but after awhile they discovered he was neither there to destroy the environment nor to exploit them. A few Indians, and then soon more and more, began to assist him, and in return he helped them with marketing their wares and making their art more commercially viable. He began looking into local plants, soils and rocks to enhance pigments and dyes. Overcoming many deep rooted apprehensions and suspicions he soon became accepted as one with the Earth and eventually many secrets and rituals that would otherwise not have been revealed were shared with him without concern.

One day he was traveling with, as my uncle put it, a "bunch of off the reservation rowdy Indians" in the rough desert terrain somewhere well east of Santa Fe toward the Oklahoma-Texas border. He had gone off on his own foraging for edible plants or possibly an animal or two to throw his share into the community pot when he noticed a man, actually a young boy come-teenager, walking alone and from all appearances, unprepared for the desert environment. After my uncle hailed the boy down and he found out my uncle was gathering indigenous plants seemingly out of nowhere to eat or cook, the boy was besides himself. He was basically starving, or for the most part hadn't really eaten anything substantial in days, and here was this guy out in the middle of the desert finding things that were edible. True, it wasn't like pulling carrots out of a garden, but he was still finding things. My uncle invited the boy to join his friends and share their evening meal, albeit at the time never having said anything at all that his friends were Native Americans --- and a rowdy bunch at that. The boy was not only surprised that they were Native Americans, but what they were having for diner was native fare cooked and made in the wilderness in centuries old traditions --- a meal that after its completion and into the dark turned into a night of revelry, talk, and eventually sleep around the campfire. It was quite clear my uncle was a white-man, but to the boy it was even more clear that he was totally and fully accepted into the group without any inhibitions. That boy, when he grew up, turned out to be Louis L'Amour, the author of over a 100 western novels. The meeting between he and my uncle was at the very early beginning of L'Amour's wandering ways, so many of which found their way into his novels.

In a similar foray into the desert many years later, more specifically 1943 and with World War II not even a year old, my uncle, a civilian and non-combatant, was, as he often did, field searching indigenous plants for potential medicinal, spiritual, and nutritional value, only this time in the then largely uninhabited mountainous and desert-like region of central New Mexico between the New Mexico and Arizona border on the west and the north-to-south flowing Rio Grande on the east.

During his field searching he came across two Asian men, both of which turned out to be Japanese, who were in the process of doing some field research themselves, and had been for weeks --- researching all across Arizona and New Mexico for something my uncle never heard of --- testing the soil for excessive levels radioactivity. As it turned out, both of the men were spies for the Japanese Imperial government nuclear weapons program. They had been left off along the coast of Sonora, Mexico in the Sea of Cortez by a German U-boat. They shot my uncle at a point blank range, took his truck, and left him to die in the desert. However, Native Americans came across the scene with the following results from the source so linked at the bottom of the paragraph:

"Two days later my uncle woke up weak and dazed laying on his back in some sort of makeshift shelter. Rather than being moved the Native Americans had built a shelter around him right where he lay and brought in higher up indigenous help, i.e., spiritual elders, et al, caring for him around the clock. Why he didn't die on the spot is not known. The bullet apparently passed through fairly clean without hitting any vital organs and except for a substantial loss of blood and extreme fatigue mostly because of it, he was, thanks to the Indians interceding immediately both physically and spiritually, OK within reason. So here was my uncle, basically a conscientious objector but still a staunch patriot primarily through his positive experiences as an artist with the WPA, out in the middle of New Mexico thousands of miles away from any World War II hostilities, taking a bullet, shot by a Japanese spy."


Even though I was originally from a small Southern California beach community with probably a zero number of American Indians in the population, by the time I was reading Tommy Tomahawk comic books I was an old hand knowing and being around Native Americans on a mutual interactive level.

With World War II still in progress I was on my way to my grandmother on the west coast from my grandmother on the east coast when, in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night west of Flagstaff, Arizona the train I was on, the No. 3774 Santa Fe Chief derailed killing the fireman and three passengers and injuring 113 passengers along with 13 train employees, including the severely injured engineer. I wasn't hurt, but the people I was traveling with were hospitalized and I was left without any direct adult supervision. My uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, arranged for me to stay with a nearby tribal spiritual elder until I could be picked up and returned to California, re the following from the source so cited:

"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.

"No sooner had I been standing there than in the distance to the east I could see the headlight of a locomotive heading in our same direction. Within seconds the train was parallel to where I was standing and then, almost as though in slow motion the train began coming off the tracks with the engine barely moving on it's side pushing huge mounds of dirt in front of itself and cars slowly going everywhere. Then silence and the passage of time returning to normal. The Native American, holding my hand, walked me over close to the now stillness of the crumpled cars, which by then people were either being helped out of by other passengers or scrambling on their own away from the wreckage. He left me standing a safe distance from the milieu with a small gathering of others accessing their status and searching for loved ones. Turning away from me and the wreckage, he disappeared into the full moon darkness of the desert. The next time I saw him was several hours later in the hospital waiting area after my uncle contacted him."


Not long after that, as found in Alex Apostolides I had spent time in a sweat lodge after being found wandering in the desert all alone. World War II had hardly been over by a year, with me still well under ten years old, that I started traveling around the desert southwest with my uncle and began interacting with Native Americans on a more regular basis. It was during those same early travels, after having visited several of the seven pueblos that made up the Seven Cities of Cibola, that I learned of first hand and actually met Navajo Code Talkers. See also:

Their Life and Times Together


In the chronological order of things, by the time Tommy Tomahawk and his squadron of P-40 Flying Tiger adorned look-alike Tomahawks showed up in the Pacific Theater and/or southeast Asia as the case may be, the AVG, the American Volunteer Group, otherwise known as the Flying Tigers had long since been disbanded and replaced by the 14th Army Air Corps. Just about the same time, that is, the chronological order of things with the Flying Tigers being disbanded and all, another P-40 Flying Tiger type hero showed up, the Lone Tiger. Before Tommy Tomahawk there was another Tomahawk who flew for right and justice. See:

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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.

Footnote [1]

Of course, while the war with the U.S. was still raging in high gear all around the world, everything was being directed toward the use by the troops. It was only after the war that all of that military equipment, much of it brand new and still wrapped or in boxes in the pipeline on its way overseas, was suddenly stopped in transshipment and became surplus, being dumped on the market for pennies on the dollar. It was sometime after that Army Navy surplus stores began popping up all over and soon as well full page Army surplus ads started showing up in comic books issue after issue.

Before then, while we were over our heads fighting for our lives on two or more major war fronts spread all over the globe, although there were comic books with full page ads, what they championed was much different --- albeit, a lot of them war related in some fashion. That's how me being a Junior Air Raid Warden came into the picture. I responded to an ad. My dad was an Air Raid Warden and I wanted to be one too.

The Junior Air Raid Warden Kit I sent for, although not a box top offer like I usually responded to, did fall into a similar or like category, that is, getting it in the first place through a comic book ad. What was different with the Junior Air Raid Warden Kit was that it's application of use was raised to a higher level. Fictional characters like Captain Midnight, while great role models in the fight against the Axis and had all kinds of adventures combating our enemies, some of them based on actual facts, in the end they were still make believe.

While it is true one could argue that the air raid kit I sent for was a "toy," air raids themselves were REAL. The chance of attacks were not fictional, but an actuality. Living on the coast we were constant hostage to the possibility of attack. Christmas day, December 25, 1941, practically within eyesight of my home in the California beach community where I lived, a Japanese submarine, the I-19, took up a position in the narrow channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland just off Point Fermin near San Pedro where my dad worked in the shipyards. Laying in wait at periscope depth in sight of the fully operational military installation of Fort MacArthur, without warning, the I-19 torpedoed the unarmed U.S. freighter SS Absaroka followed then by a nearly clean escape. A clean escape that encompassed going right past by my place just off the coast before turning west to dive into the deep marine channel not far off the Redondo Beach pier. All those Japanese submarines that plied their way up and down the California coast, and there were a bunch of them, were aircraft equipped, capable of launching airplanes on a moments notice, so we had to remain vigilant, not just play.


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