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Old center, Split, Croatia, June 22, 2021
Jet is the gateway to the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma, a popular outdoor recreation area and national wildlife refuge. Jet, population 210, with an auxiliary Air Force base nearby, remembers its past in its community museum.
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Howard Pease wasn’t the greatest writer in the world, but he was read widely, and he filled my childish head with dreams of the sea and tales of intrigue.
I grew up in St. Joseph, MO, in the South End, where we had a small Carnegie library that looked pretty much like all the libraries the robber baron Carnegie built so he could ease his conscience for the demeaning way he treated his workers. But that’s another subject.
Our Carnegie library, though small, held an unbelievable number of books on its two floors. My brothers and sisters and I went there frequently as we were all readers and our family couldn’t afford to buy books.
Once when my older brother, 12 years older than I, was home visiting, he walked with me the fifteen or so blocks to the library. I was about 10, and my brother took an interest in what I read, which then was mostly science books about animals and space. He said I ought to read more fiction. He gave me two authors’ names to read, one who wrote a series of books on the Civil War. I don’t remember his name now, though I read a number of his books, but I do remember the other’s name, Howard Pease. I read every book of his that the library had on its shelves.
Pease wrote a series about a young man, Joseph “Tod” Moran, working on tramp freighters in between World Wars I and II. Tod found himself in all kinds of adventures and often times intrigue on the ships. Tod improved his position, working from entry level to first mate.
I read years later when I learned more about Pease that he spent a few years working on ships to get ideas for his novels, of which he wrote 22, not all Tod Moran mysteries. But Pease was not a sailor professionally. He was a writer, deciding in the sixth grade that would be his vocation. He grew up in Stockton, CA, and attended Stanford University, and by his mid-twenties, he was a published writer.
I know Pease had an influence on me because when I took a career aptitude test in high school, the counselor told me that the results revealed I was fitted for working in the merchant marine.
Pease had much more famous admirers than I. Writers Philip Roth (best known for Portnoy’s Complaint), Russell Freedman (children’s writer of an award-winning Lincoln book) and E. L. Doctorow (historian and novelist) said Pease’s writings made deep impressions on them.
Pease’s influence went beyond his writings, though, because all the time he was writing, he was a high school English teacher and he also served as an elementary school principal for a number of years.
Pease’s books were not for everyone. He wrote basically for young boys, and critics will complain his writing could be stereotypical. But Pease knew how to tell a story full of adventure.
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Carolina chickadee, Cottonwood Creek Wetland Development Area, Mannford, OK, April 28