Please welcome my guest, Stan Hampton, to Fearless Friday. Stan has quite a tale, so sit back and enjoy!
So here we are, Fearless Friday. Fearless Friday.
Well, people tend to like a safe and known routine; most are not likely to do anything that requires a leap of faith to plunge into an unknown even though the rewards may be great. The rewards, by the way, may be riches or simply self-satisfaction.
I have had many Fearless Fridays, but which one do I write about?
The day I was a 19-year old kid sitting in the Army Recruiting office, about to sign paperwork to join the Army? To a kid from Oklahoma, the prospect of serving in the Army somewhere in the world (especially overseas) was a huge unknown.
Or nearing middle age, having tenure and retirement with a Federal agency, only to chuck it all and leave a known, secure routine because my life was not working for me? Well, truthfully, a woman was involved too, but that was another type of Fearless Friday.
Or, in middle age, joining the Army National Guard for the first time? Even a disappointing drudgery of mere existence is at least a known, compared to the unknown.
Or, perhaps when I volunteered to deploy. I volunteered for the Persian Gulf War, but that ended too quickly. Volunteering for Iraq when the war was not going away, well, deploying to a war zone was a giant unknown.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
I choose leaving the security of tenure and retirement.
For 18 years I lived in Colorado Springs, and for 13 of those years I worked for a Federal agency. I had job security, tenure, and retirement, even when the agency started contracting out a lot of activities. But, for 13 of those years a lot of things went wrong; many not of my own choosing, some as a result of choices I made.
You know your situation isn’t working for you when you no longer live, but simply exist from day to day. Sunset becomes nothing more than “I made it through another day.” Sunrise becomes “Here we go again.” In the blackest moments even suicide might be considered a viable option.
But, I chose to leave everything behind. I set a date a year out. In the intervening 11 months my departure seemed like no more than a theoretical possibility. I submitted my resignation. People were disbelieving. Most doubted I would do such a thing. After all, I had made a respectable name for myself at the agency, I had tenure, and retirement. Good jobs like the Federal Civil Service were hard to come by. And I was going to give all that up?
A few people congratulated me and said they admired my courage for plunging into the unknown. I didn’t tell them it was desperation, rather than courage.
On the day of my farewell lunch, I looked at the familiar faces. Good people, people I knew for years and called friends, and respected. I also knew it was highly unlikely I would see any of them again. That is the way I have always been—one chapter ends and I move on, very rarely staying in touch with anyone.
In late December I packed things up—what little I had—gave away many other things, and loaded the U-Haul truck by myself. Late one wintry overcast afternoon, when the wind was blowing in from the Front Range, I locked the door to the house, took one last look at it, and headed out.
I was going to visit a friend and his wife in Wyoming first, then go to Las Vegas—I told very few people where I was going. To most, I simply disappeared.
On my way to Vegas I would stop in Navajo Country to see a woman I had fallen in love with—that is a tumultuous Fearless Friday story all its own.
Then on to Vegas where I hoped to find a job and start my existence, perhaps even life, over again.
But that was the future. That gloomy winter afternoon in Colorado Springs, I lit a cigarette, turned the radio up, and headed out onto the snow swept Interstate. I even—rare for me—dared to hope for the best regarding whatever waited for me in the future.
BLURB: Sometimes even a servant of the gods may become curious and intrigued by other possibilities beyond their assigned role, which threatens to upset everything. Charon the Ferryman witnessed an act of love when a little girl offered him a song bird to pay for her grandfather’s shade to be ferried across the Styx. And the shade of a barbarian woman taught him that there was more than the underworld…
EXCERPT: Strong sunlight faded to a pale shadow of itself as if drained of life to create deep shadows along the sloping floor and the uneven walls of the long cavern entrance. Long, narrow stalactites hung from the cavern roof and stalagmites of various heights and thicknesses angled upward from the floor, resembling the scattered, uneven teeth of a monstrous dragon’s mouth. Flowstone along the widening cavern walls had once oozed onto the cavern floor to form rolling stone waves that became a wide, sandy beach to disappear into the shadows.
The cavern roof arched upward, lost to sight save for the pale tips of hanging stalactites. The scattered stalagmites marched into the rippling surface of dark waters. A thick gray mist coated the water that splashed onto the beach. The mist swirled into strange formations caused by a moaning, chilly wind that swept out of the darkness and up the long tunnel.
From deep within the darkness of the gigantic cavern came the ghostly notes of pipes and the echoing steady rhythmic beat of a drum. Torches along the beach burst into flickering life as their flames danced to the ghostly rhythm of the pipes.
The torchlight revealed pale shades, the spirits, of weeping men, women, and children, who shuffled through the sand along the edge of the waters of the River Styx. The river was one of the dark rivers of Hades, the underworld of the dead. The sunlight filtering into the cavern rippled with the shadows of weeping shades descending the length of the cavern entrance. A gilded figure with torch held high lit the way before them.
The music grew louder. A dark shape, lighter than the darkness, appeared in the distance. The gathering shades milled at the water’s edge and waited as the bow of a boat fitted with a bronze beak sliced through the misty waters. A large red eye rimmed in black decorated each side of the polished wood bow. On both sides of the bow square wooden boxes dangled bronze anchors. Behind that lay a narrow platform from a tall, narrow, wooden walkway rose into the chill air. An angled black bow sail and a large black square sail behind it strained with the moaning wind…
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America.
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