the Wanderling

"The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. After looking into it my dad discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda."



(for complete comic book please scroll down the page)

When I was a young boy growing up my grandfather worked in some capacity for the railroad. Just at the start of World War II they moved him from the Pacific Northwest to the Southern California area, relocating and settling in not far from where we lived. However, because of the war effort and the sudden large influx of people into Southern California related to that effort, housing was quickly becoming more and more difficult to come by. So said, at least in the short term, my grandfather and grandmother, as long as the railroad was willing to pay for it, stayed in a hotel. And the railroad was willing thanks to Uncle Sam. No sooner had my grandfather moved to Southern California than the government assigned him to participate in a high level top secret military operation out of Needles that involved German fighter planes hidden in the desert not far from the railroad's mainline near Indio and Brawley and the American spy and actress Rochelle Hudson.(see)

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As for the hotel, from what I can remember, it was my first experience of any significance dealing in any fashion with a hotel. There were bellhops, people who asked if there was anything they could get you, and what was called a hospitality suite. The hospitality suite had all kinds of stuff just for the taking. Donuts, fruit, drinks. It also had big plush chairs and couches as well as newspapers and all kinds of magazines.

One of the magazines was Life dated March 30, 1942, Vol. 12, No. 13, long linked on my Flying Tigers page. Of course I didn't remember the date or volume number at the time, but I do remember the issue. My older brother found a copy of the Life magazine in the hospitality suite of the hotel and inside was a lengthy predominantly photographic article about the Flying Tigers. I didn't specifically know what the Flying Tigers were at the time, but I remember him running all around yelling to my dad, "Flying Tigers, Flying Tigers," then a big fuss made all over him and the article. The point? The exact same picture of a shark-nosed P-40 with fly boys in a jeep in front of it appeared in that war time Life article, and is the same picture I use as the opening graphic at the top of this page.(see)

My older brother running all around all excited waving the article yelling, "Flying Tigers, Flying Tigers," with my mom and dad and younger brother all there along with my grandparents was probably the first time I ever heard the words Flying Tigers uttered or ever saw a picture of a jeep. Little did I know those happy semi easy going family days were numbered. With my brothers and I still young kids, after a quickly established but months and months long lingering illness, our mother died and the family disintegrated, dispersed to the four winds, with my father heavy into alcohol.

Several years later my dad got his act together and remarried. The woman he married, my new Stepmother, was a woman my dad had known long before I was even born. She had never been married nor had she ever had any kids of her own, but she was however, quite wealthy. In her new found role of motherhood 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. Seeing and liking the way we were intuitively or haveing learned in some fashion incorporating the precepts of the Cowboy Code of Conduct into our play and using her logic, thinking the Code was something that should be extended into real life, 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, bought a ranch.


That ranch, actually the first of two, was located in the high desert of the Mojave, encompassing a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten acres set aside in one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had my stepmother bought the ranch than my brothers and I, basically all city born and raised, moved in, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses, mend fences like ranch owners were always doing in movies, and shovel horse manure like has to be done in real life. We also did other really neat important things too like shoot guns and hop freight trains, especially the huge 4-8-8-2 cab forwards that stopped for water at a tower along the tracks near the ranch.[1]

As for guns, the ranch house had a number of them, some on the walls and above the doors like as a lever action 30-30 Winchester, a shotgun or two, a couple of .22 rifles, and a pride of my stepmother's, a very rare antique 1847 black powder percussion revolver called a Colt Walker which was usually kept in a case. Every once in a while I would take the 4.5 pound Colt from the case and run around playing cowboys with it, sometimes even mixing genres by wielding the colt in one hand and a Buck Rogers Disintegrator in the other. In that the Colt was a black powder revolver and since nobody knew how to load it and everybody was afraid to, it was never loaded, although in later years the Colt was sent to a gunsmith for some reason or the other and while there the gunsmith let me fire three rounds through it.

Nearly as quick as we moved onto the ranch than my dad, who along with my stepmother remained living in the city, started to look around for tractors and all kinds of farming and ranch equipment, causing the local dealers to drool at the mouth over the prospect of a new rube. What they didn't know was that my dad was a long way from being a rube. He was an old time desert hand, knowing what was in it and how to handle it, having in his youth, lived and prospected for gold all over the eastern side of the High Sierras as well as the California, Nevada, and Arizona deserts.

Instead of any traditional farm or ranch equipment to speak of, and as pretty and beautiful and shiny the bright green and yellow John Deere tractors and combines looked on the showroom floor, my dad decided on other things. A hand-operated concrete block making machine and a four wheel drive World War II jeep. My dad went crazy making concrete blocks, he made so many until he tired of it we even had a concrete block outhouse somewhere out on the property. In the meantime, even though none of us kids were old enough to drive the jeep legitimately on any of the paved roads around or near the ranch, on the dirt roads and the scrub brush desert lands surrounding the ranch, as well as on the ranch itself, we drove it constantly all the time all over the place.

Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier.


For us, we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing sonic booms.[2]

Although a lot of people think it is a lot of shoveling of a lot of horse manure, my dad actually bought the jeep after answering an ad similar to the one below. The ad offered surplus jeeps for $278.00. There were literally hundreds of scams around right after the war saying you could buy surplus jeeps from $50.00 and up and that's what most of them were, scams. However, after really looking into it he discovered he could actually purchase a brand new, or at least never used, World War II Jeep for $225.00 cash right off the docks in San Francisco, which in reality turned out to be not docks in San Francisco, but across the bay in the naval ship yards at Vallejo or Alameda. I know because I went with him.

I still remember showing up, just a kid, with my dad and brothers. The whole dockyard, shipyard area turned out to be a huge labyrinth of buildings, cranes, railroad tracks, and narrow roadways squeezed between navy-gray single level and multi-story structures with up high, painted over glass windows, some broken, some propped open on an angle. Throughout the whole of World War II my dad worked in the construction and repair of Liberty ships on Terminal Island in the Long Beach, San Pedro area and one thing he knew was dock and piers of shipyards. He took us through the maze as though he had been there a million times.[3]

On the docks or the land adjacent to the docks between the buildings and the open bay were literally hundreds and hundreds of jeeps lined up row after row along with other rows with all kinds of other military hardware and equipment. The jeeps themselves had been taken right off the factory assembly line to the docks months before for transshipment to the South Pacific just as the war ended and when I was there with my dad as a kid, all of them were still just sitting there gathering dust and getting flat tires. Others weren't even assembled, still in boxes or crates, tires and everything.

Except for one thing other than learning a new word and having it added to my vocabulary, i.e., cosmoline, which I overheard and never experienced, saw, or touched, I don't recall anything specifically about the logistics of how or what my dad had to do to get the jeep. I don't recall how long it took, how much paperwork he had to shuffle, or how the jeep was prepared so we could drive it home, only that it was and we did --- drive it home, that is. The one thing I do remember is that the man who sold my dad the jeep told him he couldn't pick it up until the next day because of some longshoreman rule. Like I said, my dad worked in the shipyards on Terminal Island and knowing the ins-and-outs brought two longshoremen with him and the man who sold my dad the jeep gave it to him. The two longshoremen were provided by a longtime old friend of my stepmother named Johnny Roselli and when the man in charge of the jeeps heard about it from the longshoremen I guess he thought letting my dad take the jeep was most likely the most expedient thing to do.

As it was, it was a good thing that the two longshoremen were there that day because not only did my dad buy a jeep he also bought a World War II Army ambulance. With both a jeep and an ambulance a problem arose on how to get two vehicles back to the ranch. The problem was solved when my dad hired one of the longshoremen to drive it to the ranch. Actually both of them went and how or what route the took or how much my dad paid them I never learned. I do remember my dad and my brothers and I had a big argument as to which of the two vehicles we would use. My dad wanted to drive the ambulance saying since it was enclosed it would be much more comfortable than the open air jeep. All us kids wanted to use the jeep, of which we eventually took. My dad threw all kinds of extra jeep stuff like tops, side curtains, tools, tires and things into the back of the ambulance and off the two longshoremen went.

During the heat of the summer my dad wasn't about to drive down California's central valley on Highway 99 nor did he want to go east clear across the state and over the Sierras to use the 395, although once to either highway it would have been the most direct route to the ranch. Instead he chose to drive down the California coastline on Highway 1 --- and what a trip it was no matter what highway we would have used. A jeep, no top, my dad and three kids, no real back seats and all before seat belt days. At first the jeep wouldn't go over 45 miles an hour. When we stopped to get gas for the first time and with my dad complaining, the attendant, who had been in the Army and knew about jeeps said it was because of a "governor," a device or some such thing the Army put on vehicles to ensure they weren't driven too fast. The attendant took a screwdriver, fiddled with a few things, and the next thing we knew the jeep could do over 60! A couple of days later after camping along the way we were back at the ranch. Parked along the road outside the gate, with no longshoremen anywhere to be found, was the Army ambulance.[4]

Not everybody who reads my works catches on to the idea that when I write about me and my stepmother in conjunction with a ranch she owned, that there were actually two very separate and distinct ranches and ranch experiences. Some readers, not realizing it, have a tendency run or blend the two times and ranches together, which is easy enough to do. Except for me being the only constant between the two and maybe my stepmother, each of the two experiences actually involved completely different ranches, sets of people, and times

The first ranch experience revolved or centered around me as a young basically grade school kid along with my older and younger brothers and several other kids my stepmother more-or-less supported or took care of in some fashion, all living on a ranch she bought just for that purpose. Neither she nor my dad lived or stayed on the ranch, staying in the city, i.e., Los Angeles, and mostly coming up on the weekends if at all, on a semi-regular basis. Even then the two of them didn't stay at the ranch per se.' They stayed at a place several miles away from the ranch she designed and built that she named the "Stone House," built in what was called a Palm Springs style, complete with a swimming pool and all.

The second ranch experience found me just entering my teen years and starting my first year in high school. I didn't live on that second ranch, only spending the summers there during my high school years. My stepmother, after having just returned from a two year absence living and traveling in Mexico and South America, then divorcing my dad after she got back, bought what was a deserted, pretty much failed run down former attempt at a dude ranch. One year later, during my first full summer there, what she called a 'ranch' --- even though as a ranch it was a little on the sparse side in what I would call standard ranch fare --- had been completely rebuilt and refurbished with a rather long fully stocked bar, food service facilities, swimming pool, a dance hall with a stage and live entertainment, along with rodeos and boxing matches on rotating weekends. It also had at least two dozen one-armed-bandit slot machines in a secret hidden room, plus like I always love to say, an ever present flock of Hostesses.

The above purchasing of the jeep occurred during my my first ranch experience when I was around eight to ten years old. During that two year plus period I actually lived on the ranch full time and went to school while living there --- the fourth or fifth grade, possibly both or parts thereof, maybe even some of the sixth. When the onslaught or the heat of the summer came on full force, for the most part, all us kids spent it camping out and living off the land in the High Sierras, which is most aptly described in Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a man I met on one of our excursions deep into the mountains. The whole of that first ranch experience fell apart when my dad and stepmother left for South America for two years, with the ranch being sold right out of underneath us and my brothers and I separated and farmed out to live with foster couples and restarting new schools However, even though my dad and stepmother divorced and left the country for two years and my brothers and I went our separate ways during that same period, the exact same jeep my dad bought off the docks in San Francisco stuck around and actually showed up on the new ranch my stepmother bought for my second ranch experience.

It was during the first ranch experience that I came across a photograph of a war time jeep that had a battery operated radio that could both send and receive with no wires for transmission. Since everything was so far apart on the ranch and we had the jeep, I figured if I could come up with some sort of transmitting device that ran on batteries, and/or better yet, the jeep battery, I could send Morse code from across the farthest reaches of the ranch from the back of the jeep just like in the photograph. So I did. I researched and searched around until I came across a device called a spark gap transmitter that would do the job, i.e., transmit, that was cheap and that I could build myself. See:


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Any young kid growing up who had a jeep in their childhood, especially one of the early World War II jeeps, more than likely have a million stories to tell. I have a few myself, some minor, some humorous, some inconsequential, others of major proportions and forever unforgettable. From a young boy searching for gold to fighting fires through to my adolescent years racing locomotives across raw desert land as fast as the jeep would go, I've had a bit of both or all.

On the humorous side, one night a bunch of us kids took the jeep out into the desert to camp out overnight. Military jeeps didn't have keys, but instead a switch. In that the jeep was always parked out in the open and easily accessible to nearly anyone my dad had it fitted with a key. My older brother, who did most of the driving put the key into an empty can for the night when we hit the sack. The next morning the key was gone. In the middle of the night a pack rat had switched what he thought was an equal exchange in the can for the keys. We searched all over in the rocks and boulders eventually finding his abode. Inside we found the keys. Unfortunately we had to tear a major portion of his house apart to get them. On another jeep trip we were again sleeping out overnight and someone saw the reflections of eyes from the fire on some animals in the rocks. Thinking they might be mountain lions or some such thing all of us kids stayed up all night watching and hoping we wouldn't get eaten. The next morning when the sun came up the animals turned out to be a bunch of sheep that had come down from higher up and seeing we were blocking their way to go any farther they just holed up for the night.

Even though my first cousin and older brother were three years older than the next kid in our group, me, neither were anywhere near being old enough to have a drivers license. However, that didn't stop either of them from using the jeep as though they did. If the timing was right they would take the jeep and cut across the open desert land between the ranch and town in such a way that we could practically make it all the way without ever using any formal roads. At least to the fringes of town. I say "we" because my older brother and cousin always took the rest of us kids as cover in case they got caught, my uncle invariably being easier on the group compared to just the two of them alone.

One of my best friends in school at the time, although it wasn't as reciprocal at the level as I would have liked, was a girl named Ann Welch, who just happened to be not only the smartest kid, but the best looking girl in the whole school as well. Her father owned and ran the only drive-in restaurant in town, matter of fact, the only drive-in for miles around, Welch's Drive In. When we could get away with it and able to put enough money together to make it worthwhile, all of us kids would pile into the jeep and cut out across the desert, parking in the drive-in by sneaking through the scrub brush the back way. I always liked to go because it gave me a chance to see Ann in a non-school environment and look a little like a rebel by flaunting the rules.

I don't recall specifically if it was Ann or her father or both who claimed they were related to George S. Welch, a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, of which the air base wasn't that far from the ranch. George S. Welch just happened to be one of the two P-40 pilots that got off the ground during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the other being Kenneth M. Taylor. Between the two of them on the morning of the attack they took out six to eight Japanese planes. I was continually after the father and daughter to meet George, but it never happened. He was killed testing a plane at Muroc Dry Lake a couple years after I was there.


Some distance from the ranch, on the north face of the mountains south of us, was a year around fresh water creek called Little Rock Creek that fed into a man-made concrete-dammed lake called the Little Rock Reservoir. Sometimes on really hot days we would take the jeep and go over there just to splash around in the water to cool off. Not far from the dam was the remains of an old adobe structure originally dating back to the 1860s or before that was at onetime called the Garcia Adobe. As the story went, what was left of the adobe after it was abandoned and fell into a certain disrepair it was destroyed by treasure hunters. Apparently back in the old days there was a semi-notorious highwayman who operated in the general area by the name of Llargo. One day there was a fairly good size gold shipment going by stagecoach to San Francisco from Los Angels and Llargo, who had taken up residence in the adobe, held up the stage, got the gold, and made a clean getaway --- for a short time. He was killed in an attempted capture, but the gold was never found. Most people figured he hid it in or around the adobe and since then, over the years, a stream of treasure hunters have torn the place apart and dug holes all around the surrounding area.

One day my dad showed up at the ranch with an Army surplus mine detector saying he wanted to trace out some waterlines. Us kids, eyeing the possibility of another use, decided to take the detector over to the adobe and search for the gold. My uncle, liking the idea went along. While we were searching we noticed fire trucks heading up toward the top of the mountains and not long after that we could see smoke and then fire along the ridge line. Although the fire was still some distance away my uncle suggested we should probably get out while we could. Before we had a chance firefighters or forest rangers stopped us and requested the use of the jeep and recruited my uncle and the two older boys to fight along the fire line, taking me and the rest of the kids up to the main operations base. I guess they thought the whole thing would be over in a matter of hours. Instead it took three days before in was under control enough for us to leave. In the meantime me, my younger brother and the other kids joined in serving food, cleaning equipment, and generally did whatever we were asked. On the third day I was serving chow and my uncle, brother, and cousin came through the line and none of us could believe each others eyes. They were all dirty and ragged and so tired they could hardly stand up. Eventually the jeep was returned and we made it back to the ranch. As it was, we never found any gold and I'm not sure what happened to the mine detector.[5]

My next encounter with the jeep takes place several years later, just before my second ranch experience wherein I start staying on the my stepmother's new ranch during the summers while in high school. Two are on the more intense side and involved not only the jeep but the ranch foreman, locomotives, and railroad trains as well. The first is a little more mellow, but it sets the stage for the experiences that come and starts during the summer just prior to entering the ninth grade.

In those waning months of summer just before high school found me having run away from the home of the foster couple I was living with in an attempt to find my stepmother --- who I learned had just returned from two years in Mexico and South America, and was in the process of buying a new ranch somewhere in the high desert. Although, no doubt I ran away from home for any number of reasons, none of which I remember specifically, the straw that broke the camel's back was basically because of the following as found in the source so cited:

"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 yelling at me to get over it, my mother was dead and long gone, and she was my mother now. It couldn't have hurt more if someone had jammed an icepick into the base of my skull."

FIREHAIR: Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier

Even though my stepmother was totally impressed with the fact that I ran away just to be with her, in that she had just divorced my dad, she felt it would be best we get in touch with him --- since she had no legal authority over me --- and see what we should do next. Unwilling to talk with my grandmother she called the woman of the foster couple I ran away from, who she knew and was friends with, hoping to find out if I should be returned to her or to locate my father, telling the woman that I was in good care and everything was OK. The woman of the couple was in no way interested telling my stepmother in so many words just to keep me. In turn my stepmother contacted my uncle to see if he had any idea where my dad was. He didn't, but told her if she could find no other solution and she could get me to Santa Fe he would deal with situation until everything could be hammered out. With that, having no success locating my dad for whatever reason, rather than sticking me on some grungy multi-day multi-state across-the-desert bus ride to my uncle's, and knowing me the way she did and not really sure I wouldn't just get off on my own somewhere along the way, she arranged for the same former World War II P-47 pilot that flew my uncle and me to Sacramento a few years before to fly me to Santa Fe, ensuring, she hoped, I would be less likely to get out mid-trip.

A few days later Leo, the ranch foreman, shook me awake during the early morning hours just before sunrise, throwing me and what few things I could gather together into the jeep and taking me west out across the desert. He told me that for reasons unknown, the pick up spot had been changed from a friend's ranch who had an airfield to a basically abandoned old wartime double 'X' airstrip called Victory Field located out in the middle of the desert about halfway between Willow Springs and Quartz Hill just on the eastside of 90th Street West. We arrived about a half hour early giving me enough time to wander around some of the weed covered landing strip and through a couple of dilapidated dome-like structures that were at onetime somehow related to the airstrip operations before it was abandoned. The plane set down, Leo handed the pilot what looked like a couple hundred bucks, and shortly after that I was on my way to Santa Fe in the back seat of a World War II era North American AT-6.

Every now and then while I was in high school, especially so the last two years after getting a drivers licence and my own a car, I would go up to my stepmother's just for the heck of it. Sometimes I might stay only for the weekend, other times, say like spring vacation or something, maybe longer. There was always big going on's on the weekends, plus the ever present bevy of hostesses. One day, and the first time ever, I asked a high school buddy along. We borrowed his dad's pick-up with a camper installed on the back called a Telescopic Tuk-A-Way, a pretty much fully equipped camper with a stove, sink, table, lights, bunks, and fridge. It was built in such a way that the height could be adjusted up or down using a crank. While driving the top could be kept in the lower position, the same height at the truck cab. When in use as a camper it could be cranked up making all kinds of head room and interior space. After borrowing the pick-up camper the two of us headed out toward my stepmother's place in the high desert, borrowing the ranch jeep. We removed the front driveshaft for easier towing, hooked up the jeep to the back of the truck, and without staying overnight, took off. Our destination? Lovelock, Nevada, 80 or 90 miles east of Carson City located about 350 miles north of the ranch. Why Lovelock? Because of something I heard from my dad:

"(My dad) was always reading pulp western and science fiction magazines and in the process came across a story one day that said located way out in the middle of the desert wasteland near Lovelock, Nevada, there existed an ancient cave that had at onetime within it's cavern depths the skeletal remains of giant humans, red haired humans of a huge size, eight or ten foot tall or more. He said the women would have been twice as tall as my mother at 4 foot 11 inches who also had red hair. We, the near to graduating and deeply educated super-bright intellectual powerhouses that my buddy and I were, after hearing the story, like someone driven to see the world's largest ball of yarn, decided we couldn't live quietly the rest of our lives if we didn't go see the caves and its contents ourselves. So, with no real clue as to what we were doing, off we went, using the camper for comfort and the jeep to traverse the wasteland to find red haired skeletons twice the height of my red haired mother."(see)

In Carson City one morning having breakfast a woman sat down at our booth telling us she worked for a local brothel. She said in her line of work she met all kinds of people and in the process of that work knew a man who could show us the artifacts we were interested in. In the middle of the night, after meeting in some bar, we took the jeep to an abandoned miner's shack on the side of some remote desert mountain. There, while being shown the artifacts, the woman grabbed what I would consider one of the more important ones and took off in the jeep with me right behind her. While being pursued we suddenly screeched to a stop and she switched to a dirt bike, escaping out across the desert leaving me sitting there like I was an accomplice. Before I had a chance to do anything somebody took a shot at me yelling for me to lay face down in the dirt. When I did I had sand and rocks kicked in my face, with the kicker's heavy boot making hard contact against the side of my head as I turned away as best I could. Re the following from the source so cited:

"Sometime later, after being out, I groggily came to, sitting up with the blazing hot sun burning down on me, all my clothes gone, dried blood matted in my hair on the side of my head. After a quick search there was no sign of my clothes. I figured he must have gone through every stitch of them searching for the keys, but why he didn't just discard them somewhere close by I have no clue. Bloodied head or not I was glad he didn't just up and shoot me, or worse yet as I viewed it, in that I was still alive, find me amorously attractive in my unconscious and nude state. I dug around for the keys, started the jeep and headed in the direction I thought the main road should be, sitting all the while on a super hot sun heated drivers seat with my bare butt."


All because my dad was always reading pulp western and science fiction magazines, that along with the deeply educated super-bright intellectual powerhouses that my buddy and I were of course.(see)

The next two jeep experiences are, like the last one, a little on the intense side. Like the above, both took place during the second ranch experience, but besides the jeep and the ranch foreman also involved locomotives and railroad trains as well. The other difference is that during both of the two I am actually living on the ranch for the whole summer, where the one involving the AT-6 I had just run away and my stepmother hadn't even fully established herself with her new ranch, having only just returned from South America and divorcing my dad. The Red-Haired Giant experience she and her ranch were well established, but I was just going up to visit her on-and-off during the school year.

Sometime approaching the very last day of June 1944 when I was around six years old or so, I was put on a passenger train in Pennsylvania headed toward Chicago, traveling with who I do not know. If it was or was not the same couple described in The Last American Darshan who took me to India without approval of my family after my mother died and then, upon their return to the U.S., just dumping me off in Pennsylvania at my grandmother's on my father's side unannounced has never been determined.

In Chicago I boarded the premier all Pullman first class passenger train to Los Angeles, the Number 19 Santa Fe Chief. Toward midnight of July 3, 1944, between Flagstaff, Arizona and Williams, on a high speed downhill run and behind schedule, the Chief's locomotive, 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, bearing the Santa Fe identification #3774, derailing and sliding in the dirt on it's side off the tracks for nearly the length of two football fields 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, with me being one of the passengers escaping unharmed.

Almost three years to the day we were back at the site of the wreck on our way to visit the grave site of Billy the Kid, located near Fort Sumner. Although we weren't traveling in a jeep the trip was impacted big time by a military convoy escorted by Jeeps. The night before reaching the grave, without even making a fire, we curled up in our sleeping bags on the desert floor under the stars. The next day after breaking camp close to daybreak we were about to turn onto a main highway from some side road not far from Fort Sumner we were stopped by a military convoy. The following relates the events of that morning from the source so cited:

"The convoy itself was headed north or northeast and composed of several flatbed trucks carrying large crates, some covered with tarps some not, escorted by jeeps and followed in the rear by a huge tow truck. My uncle made his turn and eventually caught and passed the convoy, continuing on our trip without incident. However, the event was highly memorable for me as a nearly ten year old boy. The year before I had witnessed the Hughes flying boat being moved in a similar fashion and just the sight of all the army trucks trundling along out in the middle of the desert was exciting, but passing them, smelling the diesel, hearing all the noise, seeing all the wheels, and having the drivers salute or give a wave going by was unforgettable."

The Roswell Ray Gun

During a good portion of my childhood years, and especially so the years following the wreck, my uncle, under the auspices of my stepmother, more-or-less oversaw me in a guardianship position. By the time I reached the start of my high school years, with no thanks to my dad who basically sent him packing because he didn't like the fact that my uncle and I were going to Europe to meet Picasso, and no matter because of my uncle I met Albert Einstein, he was still out of the picture, being superseded in his role by either foster parents or my grandmother. However, when my stepmother had been in the picture, she and my uncle had formed a fabulous working relationship. It was my stepmother that put together the package that ensured my uncle was my guardian. It was she that picked up the tab on all of our adventures. And it was she that pulled all the strings getting us out of any misadventures we were always finding ourselves in.

In any case, out of the picture or not, nine years later, in July of 1953, my uncle, who was now living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, knowing I was staying on the ranch for the summer, called my stepmother to tell her he had been in Las Vegas, New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe, a few hours before sunset, and saw what he called a highly unusual set of circumstances. What he saw was a steam locomotive, and not diesel during a time when most of the steam locomotives had been sidelined, go through town headed west pulling a special Boy Scout train on its way to Santa Ana, California for the Boy Scout Jamboree. What made what he saw so unusual was not only that the locomotive doing the pulling was steam and most people would have figured it would have been put out of business, but it was nothing less than the #3774, the exact same locomotive that had been pulling the train I was on when it crashed. He didn't know if it was going to be the motive power all the way through to the Los Angeles area or not, but even if not it should be going at least to Barstow and possibly down into the Cajon Pass sometime the next day, roughly 15 hours or so from the time of his phone call.

My stepmother, knowing how important the #3774 was in my life, immediately dispatched both the ranch foreman and me in the jeep out across the desert toward Barstow to try and catch it. We reached Barstow before the train, so we headed out on Route 66 to try and intercept the train as far east as we could and follow it back. Which we did. Cutting across the desert in the jeep from 66 to the AT&SF mainline, then racing the locomotive parallel side-by-side the best we could using the barely discernible rock strewn and no bridges service road along side the tracks into Barstow is a ride I'll never forget.

The locomotive, just like my uncle said, was #3774. If it went any further west than Barstow is not clear, however, an expert we talked to said no Class 3765s, of which the #3774 was, went through the Cajon Pass in 1953 at any time, including on the Boy Scout specials. It seems that Barstow was as far as it got.



Most of the military personnel that showed up at my ex-stepmother's ranch were fly boys from nearby Edwards Air Force Base. However, a number of Navy personnel showed up from China Lake on a regular basis, and a number of those were old navy buddies of the ranch foreman. There were always wide open goings-on in the bar and dance hall on Saturday nights, especially during the summer, and Sunday morning would almost always find a bunch of GIs laying around nurturing hangovers. Although I was there during the summer as the son of the owner it was not like I was a prince. My ex-stepmother had a whole series of jobs for me to do around the place to "earn my keep" as she would often tell me. One of those jobs, besides shoveling horse manure and cow dung after the once-a-month or more weekend rodeos, was to help the swamper that cleaned up the place following the Saturday night bashes by gathering up and rinsing tons of old beer bottles (usually stuffed with cigarette butts put out in stale beer), emptying and washing ashtrays, wiping down tables and chairs, hoeing out the restrooms and barf and sweeping the dance hall floor and stage with oiled sawdust.

Invariably on those Sunday mornings the ranch foreman Leo, the ex-sailor that he was, besides being a Pacific Fleet boxing champion, would hold court with a number of Navy guys sobering up over coffee and having a little breakfast.

On one of those Sunday mornings, a number of those sailors that had been stationed in San Diego at one time or the other brought up the fact that a weird and little-known railroad sometimes called the Southern Pacific's San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway and sometimes called by other names had shut down passenger service after years and years of running the service. The railroad used to run passengers into Mexico from San Diego and clear over to the desert near El Centro and back that a lot of San Diego based sailors had used going into and out of Mexico from San Diego. Leo and his buddies came up with this big idea that turned out to be probably my biggest jeep adventure of all time. One of the sailors said he had seen where a jeep could be adapted to run on railroad tracks so we should take the ranch jeep down there, fix it to ride on the rails, and drive it into Mexico and the U.S. One of the other guys piped in saying that during the war, at least during the early part of the war, 1942 or so, when he was stationed in San Diego, the Army had regular patrols along the railway looking for saboteurs and that he had met a soldier that said that's exactly what they did, fixed up jeeps so they could run on the rails. Everybody figured, what the heck, if the Army could do, so could the Navy and most likely, even better.

The next thing I knew a bunch of sailors with Leo driving and me tagging along headed south toward the Mexican border. According to Leo we would be crossing the border into Mexico at Tecate about 20 miles south east of San Diego. Leo said he knew we could pick up the railroad tracks in an isolated area a short distance east out of town. Everybody was jumping up and down all for it like a bunch of drunken sailors --- of which they were. Leo figured the only way we could get away with it was for the whole thing to be done on the QT, especially me not saying one word to my stepmother. Not worried my stepmother would stop it, but not wanting to be blocked from going I most dutifully complied. Once we decided to go and head for Tecate the whole thing was approached it like a secret mission.

Somebody in the group contacted a buddy that was quickly able to track down an old dockside warehouse where the Army had stashed, dumped, got rid of, or simply thrown their old jeep-rail adaptation equipment, the guy telling Leo that as far as he was able to tell all of it still looked to be in pretty damn good shape. The buddy said there was no need for any money to exchange hands for the equipment and parts needed to adapt the jeep to be driven on railroad tracks IF he and a couple of friends could join in, which was agreeable by all.

By the time we reached Tecate the guy along with a few buddies and a one time World War II former Army technical sergeant who had done a lot of installations of the same equipment on jeeps during the war, were waiting, having crossed into Mexico at San Yasidro. In a dirt field on a little spur line behind a brewery not far from the border the men went to work, and not too long after that both jeeps, thanks to the technical sergeant, were on the tracks and ready to go. Jeep cans for both vehicles were filled with water and gas. Sometime before midnight on the night of a full moon one of the men switched the spur so the jeeps could drive onto the mainline and off our two jeep caravan headed east toward the U.S. and the town of Campo, the technical sergeant opting to stay back after saying there was to much crazy Navy for him.

So there we were heading down the tracks with no technical sergeant, a two-car jeep train with Leo and me in the lead jeep with the headlights on, the other jeep taking up the rear with no headlights on so in the dark they wouldn't shine all over us. Traveling in good sections at over 40 miles per hour we went through Jacumba, crossed over the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge and got off the tracks near Ocotillo. A short time after that the guys had all the ride on railroad tracks stuff off the jeeps with both of them back in good order. After breakfast in El Centro we went our separate ways, with Leo, me, and the sailors we came down with headed north through Cochella Valley back toward the ranch. As far as I know nobody knew we did it nor nobody saw us. At least it has never been reported as such.

















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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]


Clear across the ranch from the main entrance gate, the full length of the property at that end had a fence that ran from one side to the other, edgeding right up along the Southern Pacific Railroad's mainline. A short distance north up along the tracks from the far corner was a major watering stop and siding that the freight locomotives, both northbound and southbound, invariably stopped at to take on water or get out of the way of the streamliners. Not a whole lot of time passed between the time we arrived on the ranch and we started showing up along the siding and watering stop to watch the giant 4-8-8-2 steam locomotives called cab forwards take on water.

On one of those days my older brother and cousin climbed into an empty gondola car unobserved, and in a classic Sullivan brothers "Hey, fellas, wait for me!" moments, my little brother and I climbed in as well. The train started to move and right away it was going so fast there was nothing we could do but stay in the gondola. An hour or so later we were in the switch yards in Mojave. We had only just pulled into the switch yard than we were "discovered." After a bunch of hem-hawing back-and-forth between a bunch of low level railroad crew members afraid of being busted we were put on a southbound train, with me and my older brother riding up front in a cab forward, my younger brother and cousin in the caboose, all of us getting off at the water stop near the ranch.

All over the world steam locomotives had the engineer's cab behind the boiler, primarily so the fireman could shovel coal from the tender to the firebox. In the early days of steam, for the most part that was that way was all over the world. From the swamp like jungles of Africa to the high mountains of the Andes in South America. From the Sahara Desert to the grassland covered prairies of the Great Plains in North America, the cabs were always in the rear. Only one place did the railroad depend on and use cabs in the front on a regular basis, California. It came to be because of the easy access to oil and the lack of coal and wood out west. In that oil was a liquid it could be pumped from the tender to the firebox.

And so it was the Southern Pacific line, using a double set of rails that led up out of Los Angeles right past the ranch, then through the Tehachapi Loop into the Central Valley and over the High Sierras --- and even then the time frame window of use was getting ever shorter because of the oncoming diesel-electrics. As a young boy, not knowing about such things, thinking cab forwards would go on forever, I just took them in as a matter of fact regular part of my everyday childhood. Little did I know, walking along the 16 articulated 63 inch drive wheels, watching the workers with huge oil cans, steam coming out in all kinds of places, water being taken on from wooden tanks, that for me as a boy, it was an end to an era.


Footnote [2]



"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive."

In the late 1940s, and especially so following the end of the war, the U.S. Army Air Force, with no real competition other than themselves, began putting a tremendous amount of extra time, money, and effort into breaking the sound barrier. To accomplish that end they focused all of their time and expenditure on one single pilot, Chuck Yeager, and one single aircraft, the Bell X-1, a rocket-powered supersonic research airplane built by the Bell Aircraft Corporation. At the same time, although the Bell X-1 was a noble craft as was the attempt to break the barrier, there were those who felt that planes that were actually more akin to the fighters being developed, i.e., jets, was where the strength of the efforts should placed. Dropping a plane that couldn't take off on it's own from the belly of a high altitude B-29 and carrying only enough fuel for a three minute flight didn't quite fit the picture for some. Thus entered North American Aviation's jet-powered XP-86, a prototype of the F-86 Sabre and their pilot George S. Welch. Although not officially sanctioned by the powers that be like the Bell X-1, for North American and Welch it didn't matter.

By the time Welch was a test pilot attempting to break the sound barrier he had become a civilian. In the spring of 1944 while still in the service, North American Aviation approached him to be a company test pilot. Welch, a three-times over fighter pilot ace, increasingly concerned with the lingering effects from the malaria he contacted in the South Pacific during the war and how it might adversely impact upward mobility in the military, especially as a pilot, plus with potential peacetime on the horizon, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Forces and accepted the job.

As a civilian Welch wasn't able to avail himself of the officer's quarters on the base. Instead he stayed at Pancho Barnes' Fly Inn. The Fly Inn, built and owned by Barnes, eventually came to known throughout the latter part of World War II and for several years afterwards as the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a dude ranch built near Muroc Dry Lake right on the edge of Edwards Air Force Base in the high desert of the Mojave.

Her place featured a motel with quite a number of rooms and several suites, an abundance of riding horses and thoroughbreds, a restaurant that served up fabulous western-style meals and breakfasts to die for, three landing strips, a dance hall, gambling den, an ever present bevy of hostesses, and a world-famous bar which catered to military personnel from the nearby air base along with all of her Hollywood friends. The ranch became famous for it's all night parties and high-flying lifestyle of her guests.

Welch and the North American team knew that the official National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) equipment was being used to officially track Yeager and the X-1 and them only. There wasn't a chance of getting use of the equipment before Yeager and their crew did their thing and held the official record. Welch was on his own.

Welch had become quite close to, some say even excessively over enamored with, one of Pancho's hostesses who went by the name of Millie Palmer, taking her into his confidence. He told her that on a certain day at a certain time he was going to break the sound barrier and wanted her to go outside and listen for the sound, documenting where she was, what she saw, heard, felt and time, telling her not to mention a word to anybody. Sure enough, just as Welch said would happen and what time it would happen, did. Re the following:

"Prior to heading back to North American to brief the engineers, George telephoned Millie Palmer. Excitedly, Millie related that a terribly loud ba-boom had nearly blown her out of bed. The time was noted and it corresponded to George's dive. 'Pancho,' Millie related, 'is really pissed. You know how she feels about Yeager.' Apparently, Pancho claimed the boom was a result of mining operations going on 30 miles away to the north. Of course, no one had previously heard any mining explosions, nor could that account for rattling windows only on the east facing side of the Fly Inn. Welch chuckled and swore Millie to secrecy."

The following is how Al Blackburn, a test pilot himself, writes about the same scenario in his book ACES HIGH: The Race For Mach 1 (1999). Although a test pilot with North American Aviation like Welch, he wasn't there during the attempts to break the sound barrier not joining the company until 1954, around the same time Welch died. Blackburn writes:

"Such was the aphrodisiacal lore told with a shrug at Pancho's and Patmar's and other watering holes from Hollywood to the beach communities of Los Angeles. So it was with George Welch, frequently constrained to overnight in the the desert to meet an early-morning flight schedule, whiled away the evening at Pancho's. Not given to garrulity, more often than not he sought out the solo company of Millie Palmer, one of the lovelier specimens who found temporary refuge at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. It was Millie that George confided on an early autumn evening that she should be listening for his historic boom, and returned for for a subsequent tete-a-tete to learn that she had indeed been nearly blasted out of her bed by the ba-boom of the sonic shock wave emanating from his supersonic Sabrejet."

As for running off to engage in tete-a-tete's with more lovelier specimens after just breaking the sound barrier for the first time, a few paragraphs later, as found at the same source as the first quote above as sourced for both below, the following shows up:

"(As soon as Welch landed) he was informed that his wife Jan had gone into labor with their first child. Welch flew the company plane up to Los Angeles, but arrived after his son had been born. That evening, Jan phoned her family to announce the birth of Giles, and of course, tell them about George breaking the sound barrier. Years later, Jan's brother Jimmy would recall that he could not determine if Jan was more excited about her new baby, or her husband's supersonic adventure."(source)

Seven years after his attempt to break the sound barrier, on Columbus Day, October 12, 1954, Welch's F-100A-1-NA Super Sabre disintegrated during a 7g pullout at Mach 1.55 over Muroc Dry Lake. He was still in the ejection seat when found. Critically injured, he was evacuated by helicopter to the Air Base hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Welch left a wife and two children. Millie Palmer would be well into her 90's if still alive. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Footnote [3]

I would be hard pressed to say I hung around docks or wharfs or shipyards a whole lot. I had however, been in and around docks and shipyards on-and-off starting at a very young age because my father built and repaired Liberty ships on Terminal Island for the California Shipbuilding Corporation during World War II. Terminal Island is one of those "questionable if its water" surrounded plot of land wedged between San Pedro on the west and the city of Long Beach on the east. Although nowadays Terminal Island is more or less a smooth running part of the bigger Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach complex, during the war years, not just Terminal Island but the whole area from one end to the other was a smoky, oily, hodge-podge of overlapping docks, piers, barges, wharfs, and buildings, covered from one end to the other with cranes, railroad tracks and ships --- some of them even floating or seaworthy. So too, the cities of San Pedro on the west and Long Beach on the east that bordered up against the ports and shipyards were big time mostly Navy military towns with an almost anything goes attitude, with excessively over-inebriated sailors, G.I.s, and seamen staggering between one bar to the next all day and all night. I mean, what's not to love?

When I reached my early 20s I worked on a marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire oil heir David Halliburton Sr.. The skipper went to his childhood home located practically right on top of Terminal Island to live out his final days after he found out he had cancer and I would go by regularly to see him up until his death. While working on Halliburton's marlin boat the Twin Dolphin, in that the skipper had life-long deep connections in the area and knew the ins-and-outs of the harbor and shipyards intimately, although the boat was moored in Marina Del Rey, when parts were needed such as bilge pumps and such things he used to send me down into the bowels of the L.A. Harbor/Wilmington area to backstreet boat and ship repair shops to retrieve them. So too, I had gone down to the Federal prison on Terminal Island to visit the aforementioned Johnny Roselli, who had been transferred there just before his release on parole.

One day on a rare day off my dad had some job related business he had to attend too that required a special trip to Terminal Island to deal with. In those days gas rationing was nationwide and you just didn't go driving around for the heck of it. As a treat to my brothers and me, even though a good part of Terminal Island was under tight security and off limits, my dad tied his work related trip into taking the three of us kids to spend the remaining part of the day and into the night at a huge waterfront amusement park not much farther away in Long Beach called The Pike.

Throughout the war years the Pike was a wide-open Terry and the Pirates boardwalk like place with all kinds of rides, games, and a humungous roller coaster. No sooner had we arrived than my dad, who had been a one-time "carny" or barker, began meeting up with old friends, basically forgetting my brothers and I and why we were there.

Without permission or my dad noticing I slipped away, taking in all the glowing actions of the rides, games, and booths. It wasn't long before I passed a heavily made-up yet strikingly beautiful woman sitting on a stool along the midway who looked all the same as being a Hollywood version of a gypsy. She was basically staring straight ahead not really focusing on any of the goings on. After I passed I turned back to look at her over my shoulder and without moving her head I could see she had followed me with her eyes. As soon as we made eye contact she redirected her gaze. Then a man in well worn oversize brown suit with a vest and the jacket unbuttoned put his hand on my shoulder bending over to my height looking straight into my eyes. I tried to break loose from his grip but he just held tighter. "Like your fortune told, boy," he asked, adding that it would cost twenty five cents. Just then my dad stepped up with a couple of his new found friends and the man let loose, backing away saying he was just trying to make a living.

The woman dressed like a gypsy said to wait. The man looked at my dad to see if was OK to proceed, receiving a nod of approval. The man turned and asked if I had anything of value and I did, at least to me I did, something I carried with me everywhere I went as a kid, a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph. With his back to the woman he took the decoder into his hand and put it to his forehead and asked a couple of simple questions then turned and handed the decoder to the woman. Before she could answer, as soon as her fingers touched the badge she slumped over and fell off the stool to the ground, the decoder falling to the ground as well, just beyond the reach of her outstretched arm.

The man in the brown suit assured my dad the woman falling off the stool wasn't part of the act as they tried to revive her. With the assist of another man who stepped forward from the crowd the woman was soon back on her stool albeit somewhat disheveled. During the assist the man from the crowd had also picked up the decoder. The woman softly requested the man, who by now was talking to my dad as they seemed to know each other from the shipyards, to hand her the decoder, which he did. While just barely touching her performer-like bright red lips to my forehead in a kiss-like manner the medium placed the decoder in the palm of my hand and gently folded my fingers closed over the top. Then, using each of her hands and fingers from both, she formed little circles putting them to her face around her eyes creating finger goggles, mimicking all the same as those worn by Captain Midnight in photos that came with the badge. Bringing both hands down from her face she put one hand on mine still holding the decoder while using her other hand to place the hand of the man that assisted her on top of them all and, speaking to me, said, "From man to boy to man, your future and past is already marked by what is held together here in our hands."




Footnote [4]


This whole page has to do in some fashion with the jeep my dad bought that ended up on the ranches of my stepmother and I interacted with as a young boy. There is, however, one story that involves the Army ambulance my dad bought, from the source so linked, that goes like:

My mother died while I was a very young age. Most of my childhood following her death was spent living with people other than my father. I did, however, starting around age ten years or so spend time with him once in awhile on weekend trips and parts of a couple of summer vacations. Those trips usually circulated around fishing, camping and gold prospecting in his favorite haunts along the eastside of the Sierras and into the desert in and around Death Valley. To facilitate his trips, as long as I could remember he always owned four-wheel drive vehicles. On one of the trips he picked me up in a World War II army ambulance he fixed up like a camper. We were headed north up the 14 from Los Angeles toward the 395 and got as far as Red Rock Canyon when the front U-joint on the rear-drive drive shaft came loose allowing the it to drop to the highway and bending the shaft beyond use. Any other time it would not have been a problem because he could have driven just using the front wheels. However, on this trip, for highway driving, he had removed the front drive shaft. When he went to get it out of the back of the truck he discovered he somehow left it in Los Angeles. He decided to hitchhike back to L.A. and pick up the shaft, but, figuring traveling with a kid might present a hindrance, he left me for a few days at the rather rustic mining camp of a friend of his by the name of Walter Bickel.

Typically he would have stopped in Cantil, a small town just to the east of Red Rock Canyon where the truck broke down, to see a good friend of my stepmother's by the name of Pancho Barnes. However, my dad and stepmother were going into, getting or just got a divorce and he did not want to explain it all to Barnes.

Bickel, who just happened to live in a place called Last Chance Canyon right next to Red Rock Canyon, and my dad went way, way back. They were both born in the same year, 1905, and in the same month less that two weeks apart. They met in the goldfields very early on. My dad made it a habit to stop by and see Bickel on a regular basis during his forays into the desert, but, even though my dad and I did not travel all that much together, and I wasn't with him at the time, it was my second visit to the camp.

In an essay written by the past Curator of the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California, the following is found:

"Last Chance Canyon was not the first experience Walt had with mining, but 'it was the first place I panned enough gold to think there might be more.' He prospected for gold and silver all over the upper Mojave Desert, from Jawbone Canyon to Owens Lake and into Nevada and Arizona. He originally saw the Last Chance Canyon area in 1927 while on the way to Nevada with a friend. It apparently made an impression because, in 1933, when he met a man in Mojave who had a mine in Last Chance Canyon, Walt and a friend had enough interest to go with him to see his mine." (source)

The 1927 friend was my father, not so sure about the 1933 friend. Bickel married in 1928 and my dad in 1931. Both started families shortly thereafter interfering with the close contact they had previously. See:


Footnote [5]

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Around the same time as the fire I had in my possession a paperback book I carried around with all the time called the "Daisy Handbook No. 2" published by the Daisy Manufacturing Company, the same makers of the famous cowboy style Red Ryder 1000 shot lever action carbine and the Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol. The handbook was printed in a booklet format of 128 pages plus an eight page catalog in the center with the covers measuring 5.25" x 4.5". The handbook, except for the smaller size, was similar to a comic book as to content except in black and white instead of color and the page format, rather than having the typical comic book height higher than the width rectangle shape, was for the most part, nearly square.

The contents of the handbook had a number of sections on famous people as well as a number of comic book characters. The book played an important role in my life because one of the stories circulated around Leonardo Da Vinci and his flying machine titled "500 Year's Too Soon" of which was a major influence on me building my own flying machine. Another story in the handbook was about a comic book character called Robotman appearing in a story titled "The Robotman Detector." The detector in the story was a World War II surplus mine detector and how it was used by a number of nefarious characters to try and located lost buried treasure, in this case, stolen loot. When I read the Robotman story and my dad showed up with a surplus mine detector, I put two and two together and off my brothers and I went to find the stolen stagecoach gold said to be buried in or around the Garcia Adobe.


Like I say in the main text above, I'm not sure what happened to that particular metal detector. However, years later, when I went off in search of a time capsule I had buried out in the middle of the desert east of the Colorado River as found in "The Mystic Aztec Sun God," I did have call to replace it and did so with a model like the one depicted below.



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On December 31, 1941, the IV Interceptor Command reported that several enemy planes were believed to have landed and been hidden near the inland desert communities of Indio and Brawley in the Imperial Valley of California. They also reported that five messages in Japanese code were being sent daily between Brawley and Mexico City via short wave radio. At 12:32 PM in the afternoon of December 31, 1941, the Federal Bureau of Investigation relayed the following message:

"There is a plan for air and sea attack against San Diego, San Pedro and San Francisco, to take place about dawn either New Year's Day or the following Sunday. It is possible the attack will be made against San Diego and San Pedro first. Expecting cooperation from aliens ashore. The air attack will be by German airmen from across the border where planes are now under cover, taking off before dawn and coming over flying high. If air forces are alert, this can be broken up before they reach their objectives. Am sending you this information for want of better channels to advise."

Harbor Defenses of Los Angeles During World War II

By the spring of 1942, General George S. Patton Jr. had moved into the Indio and Brawley area and put into place a desert training center for his tanks and armored equipment. In doing so, as an unanticipated side effect, it also hindered any further potential attacks from the desert or Mexico by the Axis powers similar to or like the planned aerial attack on Southern California by German pilots as cited above, that was by the way, stopped in it's tracks by actress-spy Rochelle Hudson and her Naval officer husband, he posing as a civilian. Together the two were doing espionage work primarily in Mexico posing as a vacationing couple in order to detect on the QT if there was any German or Japanese activity there. When they uncovered a supply of high octane aviation fuel stashed by German agents in Baja California and destroyed it, without the necessary fuel to implement the attack, the Germans had no other choice than abandoned the idea. For more see:



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Near the end of April or early May of 1942, U.S. Military Intelligence learned the Japanese had put to sea the small but fast Japanese 5th Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Hosagaya Boshiro and consisting of two light carriers and a seaplane carrier at its core, along with support ships; two strike forces, and his flagship group, comprising a heavy cruiser and two destroyers, protecting supply ships --- configured in what appeared to be a potential invasion force. By June 3, 1942 Patton was convinced the fleet's final destination was to invade Mexico by landing on the beaches of Baja California, then move north into California. Patton positioned almost his full compliment of officers and men, albeit not yet anywhere near fully trained, within striking distance right on top of the border to move south within minutes to meet any invading Japanese force. The suspected Japanese invasion fleet eventually landed on Kiska Island in the Aleutian Chain on June 6, 1942.(see)


In August of 1942 Patton and his armored command was sent to North Africa and the Desert Training Center was renamed the California-Arizona Maneuver Area (CAMA). After the Allied victory in North Africa under the banner of Operation Torch the need for desert-trained units declined and in May 1944, CAMA was closed leaving the whole of the desert area to the Colorado River and beyond basically empty of troops.

When Patton left the desert training area he and his staff was of course, to ensure that all operable or inoperable tanks, half-tracks and other assorted armored equipment was accounted for as well as gathered up and returned to their proper places. As it was, no sooner had Patton gone than stories of armored equipment left all over the desert began to show up, some of it simply bulldozed into the ground. When stuff actually started to show up the Army investigated and did find equipment left all over the training area. They went to work gathering up everything they could find and made arrangements for the railroad to ship all heavy equipment it to where it had to go once gathered up. That's where my grandfather came in. He set into place the plan moving the equipment to where it had to go from a central gathering place assessible to the railroad. All stories of buried tanks and other armored equipment were denied, authorities saying they were patently untrue.







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The above photo, used as the opening photo at the top of the page, showing several men dressed in khaki military-like garb sitting in a jeep in front of a Flying Tiger adorned P-40, as mentioned in the text is from an article published in Life Magazine dated March 30, 1942, Vol. 12, No. 13. I cite the same article in my page on Flying Tigers. Further down the page are click through links to three different versions of the Life magazine article.

It just so happens the man sitting in the jeep on the shotgun side is one Jack Newkirk, known as Scarsdale Jack, a top ace for the American Volunteer Group, or the A.V.G. as the Flying Tigers were so officially designated. Newkirk was killed in action. The following quote is found in the Jack Newkirk link below. Notice the cover date of the Life magazine and the date below regarding Newkirk:

"On March 24, 1942 two groups of A.V.G. pilots, one from the 1st Squadron and another composed of pilots of the 2nd Squadron, took off toward Chiang Mai with a plan for one group to hit the Japanese held Chiang Mai airfield while the other group was to attack a smaller field at Lampang. Jack Newkirk's group flew south looking for Japanese aircraft at Lampang and finding it empty began hitting nearby targets of opportunity. Although there is some dispute as to what actually happened, it is said Newkirk, while coming in low began strafing a column of Japanese armored vehicles and was hit by groundfire. His P-40, in a possible attempt at a hard landing hit the ground at a high rate of speed, ripping off a wing. All reports indicate he was killed instantly."







In the years before high school, not unlike any number of young boys growing up, I held an inordinate amount of comic book heroes and super heroes in high esteem. While most of my peers seemed to lean heavily toward Superman and Batman, at the top of my list was Captain Midnight, followed more-or-less a couple of rungs down by Captain Marvel. There was, however, another comic book hero right up there with my favorites that fell into the heroine bracket. Her character centered around a woman 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.

In several places, usually in relation to Firehair and right here in the above text as a matter of fact, I write that 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. In conjunction with Firehair, as a young boy I always held a certain affinity towards her character because I liked to believe that 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. I have repeated the same or similar like statements in a number of places scattered throughout the web, almost always related back to Firehair in some fashion. For those who may be so interested, below are five of the most notable examples:

There was another red haired female comic book character other than Firehair that showed up in my life that I liked a whole heck of a lot as well. She just never got the "screen time" like Firehair because unlike Firehair I didn't relate her to my mother, which in turn brought in all the Oedipus Complex comments, followed then by a superfluous need to reply. Nor was I reading about her at anytime that 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 monthly and I simply read them and moved along --- except for 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 headed woman I speak of. None other than Jane Martin, War Nurse. Like, was she hot or what:

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The classifieds and other ads that appeared in any number of publications from Popular Mechanics to Boys Life to a variety of comic books offering "Jeeps for $50.00" or any other unrealistic low amount were for the most part scams. They may not have been out-and-out purebred lies, but were worded in such a way to trick or deceive the person sending in the money for the information that they, through the firm or outfit presenting the offer, could in fact from that source purchase a jeep. Such was not the case. If you read the ads carefully they are only offering information about other sources that sell military surplus items for the government. Where some of them may have sold surplus items jeeps were not among them. Although jeeps were often depicted amongst the graphics, most information in the ads that were jeep specific was in a special little bordered off section. That is not to say surplus jeeps were not available for extremely low prices, it is just that the popular media ads were not the source directly making the jeeps available. The color ad above left calls itself "Government Reprint Services" and offers a catalog for $4.00. The catalog is either the actual printed free and sent out by the U.S. Printing Office free or a copied reprint by the firm. In either case it is being sold for $4.00 and only informs the prospective buyer where, when, and how to obtain the jeeps. They themselves, don't sell them.


The GOVERNMENT SURPLUS ad column below, and that you clicked through to get here, originally appeared in the August 1968 issue of "Popular Mechanics Magazine," after having been published similarly in one form or the other over-and-over year-after-year for over 40 years since the end of the war. To see a copy of the full page it appeared in click HERE. To see a whole complete online issue of the August 1968 Popular Mechanics and how the ad "fit" in the book in context click HERE. Scroll down to the Classified Advertisement section around page 45 or so. The pages are clickable to larger sizes for better viewing.


"(My father) seemed to spend an extraordinary amount of free time or late into the night reading pulp science fiction books like Amazing Stories or paperback novels of the old west, of which the ones about the old west were almost exclusively by L'Amour or Luke Short. I had perused lightly through books by both authors from time to time out of piles of books my dad had strewn around his place, and because he had insisted --- saying it related to my own experiences lost in the Mojave desert as a young boy --- I even read 'Mojave Crossing.'"


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1942 UFO OVER LOS ANGELES------------------------BUCK ROGERS: HIS ORIGIN


The Bootstrap Paradox is a time-travel paradox wherein an object or information can exist without ever seeming to have been created. The object or piece of information in the future is taken back in time where, through the normal passage of time from the past to the future, it is retrieved to become the very object or piece of information that was brought back in the beginning.

The term originates from the expression "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and was used to describe the time-travel paradox in Robert A. Heinlein's short story, written under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald, titled "By His Bootstraps" that was originally published in the October 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction as shown above.