Jack D. Hunter's Blog

May 26, 2007

I’m a writer and aviation artist by trade.  I’m also among the few surviving relics of the generation that went from Model T Fords to space shots and sired Baby Boomers along the way.  So I accept unequivocally my share of the responsibility for bringing about this incredible and altogether weird world we inhabit today.

For most of the past 50 years, there have been people — quite a few of them Boomers, actually — who, disdaining “writer” as gauche, refer to me as an “author.”  Some of the more fulsome even call me “a famous author.”  But such puffery was aptly punctured some years ago by one of my son’s high school classmates, who grumped one day, “If your dad is supposed to be such a famous author, how the hell come he’s living in a nowhere little burg like this?”

You know what?  Today, in my 80s, I still get asked that question by my neighbors.  And you know what else?  It makes me smile, because it invariably takes me back to the day a whole lifetime ago, when I discovered my metier.

The kid’s conception of authors and fame obviously came very close to mine in those days.  To me, book authors were preternatural creatures who inhabited an alternate, metaphysical universe and whose magic filled library shelves.  When ectoplasmic and caught unaware by cameras, they seemed to favor tweed jackets, crumpled Irish hats and briar pipes clenched upside down in their bearded, grimly set jaws.  If they were female, they were forever gazing soulfully out tall windows, their aesthetic chins delicately braced by bejeweled fingers.  By every inference, the whole lot was a superior species not of this world.  So never in my seemingly endless knickers-and-knee-socks years could I imagine being in the presence of one of these gods.  Nor would one ever deign to visit, let alone live in, a tatty little town like mine.

The joke was on me.

One day after school, my pal Sax Graham and I were sitting up in the old apple tree on the lot next to his house, jawing about this and that, and we got to talking about our parents.  I asked Sax what kind of work his daddy did.

“He writes books.”

“G’wan.”

“S’true.”

“You mean like book books?  Like library books?”

“Yeah.”

“Where’s he do this?”

“In the sun room.  He’s got a typewriter and desk and stuff right there in the sun room.  He’s writing a book on parachutes right now.  How they work.  Who makes them.  And like that.”

“Can I get his books at the library?”

“Sure.  There are three of them there.”

“G’wan.”

“S’true.”

And that’s when I made the great discovery:  books are written by people.  Sax’s daddy didn’t have a beard.  He smoked cigarettes, not a pipe.  And I never saw him in tweeds and crumpled Irish hats.  He wore regular hats and pants and shirts with rolled-up sleeves.  He strongly resembled Humphrey Bogart.  He had an easy grin, and always called me “Sport.”  He was just a pal’s Old Man, and when Sax showed me his work place I saw a cheery room with lots of French doors overlooking the shady back garden of his modest little house.  The room — it was really a solarium — smelled of paper and ink and glue and tobacco and that wonderful, special aroma given off by a wall of packed bookshelves.

Something primal moved in my gut, because I recall that with my discovery came some kind of envy, and with the envy, a boyish precognition:  I was a people, and people write books, and someday I’d be living the way Sax’s Old Man lived.

And, by golly, look at what happened to me.



Copyright © 2007 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.