An Appalachian Trail Short Story

Here’s a revised version of a short story I wrote while hiking the AT. I thought perhaps it would offer a little diversion from the usual noise of the online world.

The End of the Trail

Originally published December 2014 after I completed the 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail. Five millions steps I will remember my whole life.

I wrote this as I hiked the trail.  The main character, trail name Spirit, is based on an interesting hiker we met in the Smoky Mountains.  I hope you enjoy it.  As always, all comments, criticisms, or thoughts are welcome.  Without readers, there would be no reason to write.

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Spirit of the Trail
Magic on the Appalachian Trail

By Joe “Miracle” Broadmeadow 

NOBO 2014 Appalachian Trail March 26, 2014-September 3, 2014


 Kieran Murphy waited a long time for this day to arrive.

His wife, suffering through endless discussions on why and how he would do this, supported him. Their daughter, grown and independent, encouraged him.

The time was now.

March 15th would be his last day on the job. Two days later, he would begin his journey; thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Two thousand one hundred eighty-five miles, following a footpath from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine.

Kieran loved being a police officer. But it was time to go. Leave before he became one of those, bitter, distrustful, burned-out shells of a human. The job can eat you up inside.

Not him, he was making sure of that. One more shift, eight short hours, he was out the door, retired, and on his way.

He would spend tonight sorting his equipment, rechecking his pack, and going over the resupply drops with his wife. They would cook a big dinner; enjoy one last meal at a real table, then get to bed early.

His flight left at 8:00AM. He would be at the hostel by 2:00 and at the trailhead first thing the next morning. It was all coming together.

After roll call, he delivered the roster copies to dispatch and the Officer in Charge. Stopping to speak to the Patrol Commander, he headed out to his cruiser for one last tour of the city.

On the way to his car, several of the brass shook his hand. “Lucky bastard.” Kieran just smiled. He knew they would never leave.

Once in the car, he headed for Dunkin and the first of his many coffees. Medium regular in hand, he headed south on the Wampanoag Trail to loop through Riverside.

As he reached the Barrington Line, a call came out for a suspicious vehicle in the lot of the Mobile station at Mink Road. Kieran turned around and headed to the gas station.

He was the first unit on the scene. Getting out of the car, he walked toward the clerk standing outside the door.

“Hey,” a voice called from near the pumps, “how are you?” Kieran turned to look and felt a headache coming on. “Not enough caffeine yet,” he thought.

His head pounded as he became aware of other units arriving on the scene.

He noticed Lieutenant Williams standing next to him.

“Listen, Kieran, we got this. You go hike. We got this.”

Kieran was not one to leave early, but if the L T said go, why not?

The next day was a blur, and then he was on the plane. His daughter kept saying, “Please come back to us, please.”

He told her not to worry, a quick walk in the woods, and he would be back.

The flight seemed over even before he realized it. The excitement building, the adrenaline rushing through his veins, could it be happening?

In a flash, Kieran stood on the peak of Springer Mountain, the beginning of the Appalachian Trail.

“And so it begins,” he said aloud, “my long walk home, there and back again.”

“And where might home be?” a voice replied, startling Kieran.

“Oh, sorry,” Kieran said, “I thought I was alone up here.” He watched as the old man came out of the trail and leaned next to the stone marking the peak.

The man looked to be in his sixties, but Kieran suspected he was older. With a Hemingway beard and wild, uncontrolled head of hair, he was a cross between the writer and Albert Einstein.

He carried an old external frame pack, various pieces of equipment attached in no discernible pattern, covered with American and Canadian flags.

“My boy, on the trail, you are never alone,” the man answered. “You may walk alone, camp alone, but you won’t be alone.”

Kieran nodded, wondering how he could extract himself from this conversation and head out.

“Spirit,” the old man said as if in introduction, reaching out his hand, “my name is Spirit, and yours?”

“Spirit, that’s your name?” surprised by the old man’s firm grip.

“Trail name, don’t you have one?” The man leaned on his hiking stick, watching him.

Kieran had read about trail names, but gave little thought about it, “No, not yet. I mean, I hadn’t thought it necessary.”

“Well, it’s not a rule,” the old man smiled, “but it is a tradition out here. Why don’t we let the trail decide? It has a way of doing that.”

Kieran thought a moment, “Okay, I guess. My real name is Kieran, Kieran Murphy.”

“I knew you were Irish, good to have a companion Celt on the trail. My name, in the real world, is Alan Mackenzie. However, I prefer Spirit out here. Adds an air of mystery, don’t you think?”

Kieran hoisted his pack and adjusted his walking poles. “I think I’ll head out. Are you on a day hike?”

“No,” the old man replied, “I am walking home just like you. Mind if I tag along?”

Kieran could see no reason to refuse the request, so he resigned himself to having an unplanned companion. By the looks of him, he didn’t think Spirit would make a mile.

“I don’t want to slow you down, though. First few days on the trail, I plan to take it slow. Build up my trail legs.”

“Not to worry, I’ll scout ahead and find the good spots to camp. Been on the trail a few times now, so I know it well.”

Kieran headed out, followed by the old man. Within the first half-hour, the “old” man had put several hundred yards between himself and Kieran. As he struggled up even the smallest rise, he would come upon the old guy sitting on a rock or log waiting for him.

Not a sign of fatigue or weariness.

It would take time before he got his trail legs.

Over the next few days, as Kieran discovered just how strenuous hiking the AT could be, he came to appreciate the man’s familiarity with the trail.

He knew all the water sources, flat camping areas, and good shelters.

When Kieran would struggle with the effort, Spirit would offer encouragement, “Not to worry, it never gets easy, but it gets easier. You are doing well. Take it slow; the miles will come when they will. Let the trail teach you. Stay with me, son, and you’ll make it.”

As their daily mileage increased, Kieran became more comfortable and confident.

A month into the trail, hiking through the Smoky Mountains, they stopped to admire a striking view. Standing on the slab of rock, looking down into the valley and surrounding hillsides, Kieran took out his camera and shot pictures.

As he looked down to put his camera away, he stumbled and fell toward the edge of the slide. Spirit reached out and caught him by the side strap of his backpack.

“Hang on there, kid. No taking shortcuts off the trail.”

“Jesus, that was close. Thanks, you gave me a second chance,” trying to hide the fear in his eyes.

“Jesus has nothing to do with this. Why do people invoke such nonsense? Clumsiness and inattention, on your part, and quick reaction by me saved the day.” Beaming, “Hmm, second chance, I like that. I think we have found you a trail name, Second chance. What do you think?”

“I suppose it will do, not magical, but let’s hope I don’t need a third or fourth chance,” Kieran replied.

“Like I said, my boy, stay with me, and you’ll make it,” turning to the trail and disappearing into the woods.

The speed Spirit could hike amazed Kieran. The old man would vanish into the woods. Sometimes, Kieran would come upon him sitting on a rock as if he had been there for hours. Other times, he would not see him all day until he got to a shelter or campsite.

The old man was in his environment on the trail.

Hiking the trail is a life-changing experience; it gives one time to think a great deal. You realize what matters in this world. Walking along, Kieran came to appreciate all he had in his life, and he resolved to show it more to those most responsible.

He regretted the time away from family and friends, despite their unwavering encouragement. Time was the limiting factor in life. Once gone, never reclaimed.

He would waste no more time.

They made good progress on the trail. Hiking in Virginia, they came to McAfee’s Knob, one of the most photographed spots on the trail.

Sitting on the edge of the knob, Kieran had Spirit take his picture. “You want me to take one of you?” taking his camera from the old man.

“No thanks, I prefer to just keep images in my mind.”

“But how about sending something to a friend or your family?” Kieran asked.

“They know what I look like, and they know why I spend my time out here. No need for anything else.”

Kieran thought about the man’s reply, then moved on. As he started toward the trail, he stumbled and went down. Spirit was there again, grabbing his arm, preventing the fall.

“You’ve got to stop trying to toss yourself off mountains, my boy.”

“I thought I was… I thought it was over.” His heart racing, the acrid taste of adrenaline in his mouth, Keiran tried to calm himself.

“Look, Second Chance, there are parts of this trail where you’ll only have your determination to continue. We’ll get through this; I promise you’ll make it.” Smiling, he headed back down the trail.

Kieran sat on the rock, overlooking the three thousand feet fall he had avoided, thanks to Spirit. How am I ever gonna make it another fifteen hundred miles?”

Every night, in camp, Spirit would take out a worn leather notebook and write. Some nights for a few moments, other times for an hour or more.

“What are you working on, the great American novel?” Kieran asked.

“No,” Spirit answered, putting the book down for a moment, “I write about the people on the trail and the things we experience.”

“I suppose you write about saving my life two or three times over?” Kieran smiled.

Spirit looked at him, pausing a moment, “Who’s to say you’re not saving my life? We all get something from each other, some good and some bad.”

Soon, they reached into Pennsylvania. Everyone who has hiked the trail will tell you it is a love-hate relationship with Pennsylvania.

The southern part of the state, up to Duncannon, is beautiful, rolling hills. Oft times hiking through cornfields and wildflowers.

After Duncannon, the rocks turn it into one of the seven circles of Hell. Big rocks, little rocks, sharp rocks, slippery rocks, rocks that move, rocks that slide. Northern Pennsylvania is where hiking shoes go to die.

Climbing over one of the pointless ups and downs, or PUDS as the hikers call them, Kieran reached up to pull himself over a large boulder. He felt something move.

Pulling his hand back and screaming, he tried to peer over the rock’s edge.

Spirit peered down from a rock cliff a few yards ahead. “Try a different route around that rock. I think the Timber Rattlesnake prefers to be left alone.”

“Rattlesnake?” Kieran replied, “Jesus Christ, I grabbed a rattlesnake?” making his way around the boulder, clearing it by 30 yards.

“I would suggest you look first before you reach blindly above you. It may not kill you, but it won’t help you either.” Spirit answered, laughing.

“How the hell am I going to do this without dying?” Kieran said.

“One step at a time, son. One step at a time. Follow my path, I have done this before, and I haven’t lost anyone, yet.”

Walking into Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Kieran looked forward to a real meal and a beer. “Where do you want to eat first?” he asked.

“I’ll just stay at the next trailhead,” Spirit replied. “I prefer to stay on the trail when I’m out here. It’s where I am most content.”

Kieran hesitated a moment, “You sure, I think I need a real meal.”

“Go, no one’s stopping you. When you are ready, come back here and meet me. I have some repairs to do on my equipment. I’ll take my zero-day out here. Go.”

Kieran shrugged his shoulders, turned, and headed toward the town. As he got to the road, he tried his hand at hitching a ride. The first car stopped for him.

“Need a ride to town?” the driver asked.

“That’d be great,” Kieran said.

“How long you been on the trail?”

“About, ah, two months. Kinda hard to remember,” Kieran laughed in reply.

“I know what you mean. Hiked it back in the ’60s when I got back from ‘Nam. Different trail then,” steering the car back onto the road. “Helped me get my head on straight. You got a place to stay?”

“Nah, thought I’d go to the hostel,” Kieran said.

“We got a room at our place; my wife loves to feed hikers. Waddya’ say?”

“Trail magic, I love trail magic. Thanks, I’ll take you up on it.”

The trail magic rest accomplished its purpose. Kieran headed back onto the trail. Spirit sat on a rock about a hundred yards in.

“Been waiting long?” Kieran laughed.

“Nope, I knew you’d make it back. Ready to finish this thing?”

“We have some ways to go yet, don’t we?” Kieran replied.

“We do but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, can’t you?” picking up his pack and walking stick. “Why don’t you take the lead for a bit? Think you’re up to it?”

“Follow the white blazes, right?” Kieran said, heading up the trail.

“All there is to it.” Spirit smiled.

The climb out of Palmerton, while not the most difficult on the trail, is still challenging. Kieran struggled to lift himself, and the weight of the pack, over the many scrambles up the steep climb.

Pausing after hard climbs over large boulders, he tried to sit on a flat rock facing outward. Placing his pack on the rock, he pulled his water bottle from the side of the pack. Losing his grip, the pack rolled over, picked up speed, and tumbled several hundred yards down the rockslide, stopping just before the edge.

“Son-of-a-bitch. Now what?” Kieran said.

Spirit sat on the rock next to him. “Well, it seems you have two choices. Quit, or climb down over there, get your gear, and keep going. Your call.”

Kieran looked at the pack and the steep rocky way down to it. “I don’t know. Looks dangerous.”

Spirit leaned back, closed his eyes, and remained quiet.

Glancing at the old man, Kieran took another appraisal of the route down and descended. It was a combination of lowering himself, sliding on the loose gravel, and clinging for dear life, but he made it to the pack.

Looking up, he could not see the old man. He must have continued on. He thought.

Grabbing his pack, he examined it, looking for any damage or missing gear. The backpack was in good shape. Pulling the pack back on, he climbed again.

“Try this way,” a voice came from behind him, startling him.

“What the…?” Kieran said, finding Spirit standing behind and below him.

“Nice form on the way down, but I suggest you follow my lead. I have done this before, remember.”

Kieran adjusted the straps, cinched the weight-bearing belt, and fell in behind Spirit.

Now I know where he gets his name, Kieran thought, he is like a ghost appearing out of nothing.

The two hiked in silence for twelve more miles, stopping for water and a snack. As they approached a small rise in the trail, Kieran said, “You want to continue to the next shelter, or find a spot to camp?”

Spirit stopped, took out his map, and studied it for a moment. “The water sources around here are not too reliable. The next shelter has a good spring. Let’s shoot for that. The weather looks good, only another four miles.” Placing the map back, he drank from his water bottle, “You up for that?”

“Sounds good to me.”

Kieran was lost in thought over the next hour and a half until they reached the blue-blazed side trail to the shelter. Checking his own map, he groaned. “Man, it’s almost a half-mile to the shelter off the main trail.” Peering down the side trail, “Looks like it’s down all the way, which means climbing back up in the morning.”

“Part of the joy, my boy. We have little choice. We are both low on water, and the next reliable source is six more miles. I have been to this shelter, it’s almost brand new. A better caliber of mice live in the new ones,” smiling at his own humor. “Onward my boy, or downward as it were.”

After setting up their sleeping bags, Kieran walked to the spring and filled both water bags. Returning gave him a good look at the shelter. It was only a year old. The distance from the main trail left it lightly used. There was a covered front platform with a picnic table, plenty of space to cook, and there were few signs of mice.

“It is a nice one,” he said.

Spirit smiled, “Often, it pays to take a little detour. The rest here will be a good one. I would imagine down here, surrounded by these ridges, it would block out most of the moonlight. Should be a nice, dark, restful sleep.”

Finished with their favorite dinner, Mac & Cheese, both crawled in their sleeping bags as the last of the light disappeared over the hills, plunging them into almost total blackness.

Off in the distance, an unfamiliar bird sang, the sound barely audible. Melodic and soothing, Kieran drifted off.

“Whippoorwill.”

“What?” Kieran lifted himself on his elbows, turning toward the sound of Spirit’s voice.

“That is the sound of the Whippoorwill. The sound is its name, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill.” The voice of his invisible hiking compatriot continued.

“It is nice.” Pulling the bag tighter around himself and burying his head in his makeshift pillow.

“Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill.” The song now coming from atop the shelter.

“How long with this go on?” Kieran asked. His voice muffled by the sleeping bag pulled over his head.

“Until he is satisfied he has warned off any other males from his territory… “

“Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill.”

“Or until sunrise. Whichever comes first.”

“Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill.”

“No, I am not.”

“Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill, Whippoorwill.”

Enduring the song for most of the night, Kieran managed a few hours’ sleep. “Please tell me the Whippoorwill is an uncommon species of bird,” Kieran said, packing his backpack.

Spirit smiled. “Let’s just say they are not the most common,” handing Kieran the shelter logbook. “Did you sign it?”

The logbooks are in almost every shelter along the trail. They serve as an informal method of keeping track of those that stayed at the shelter and to see the progress of others you have met on the trail.

Kieran opened the book and flipped through the pages. He saw several hikers he had met on the trail listed, Hydro, Mary Poppins, Two-sticks, Racewalker, Miracle, Redbeard, Reboot, and a few others. Not all the names were familiar, but it was nice to see many were still on the trail.

Turning to the last page, looking for a blank one to add his name, he burst out laughing.

Spirit looked at him. “Something funny?”

“You know how people sometimes put quotes or messages next to their names?”

Spirit nodded.

“Look at this one,” handing him the book.

In beautiful, cursive handwriting, someone had written,

Will someone please kill the Whippoorwill!

“A true AT hiker if ever I knew one,” Spirit said, tossing the book onto the sleeping platform and hoisting his back.

Over the next few weeks, Kieran saw less and less of Spirit during the day. Coming upon the old man sitting on a log, Kieran asked, “Is there something wrong?”

“On the contrary, my boy, something is right. You have learned along the way here. Do the rest of this on your own.”

“But aren’t you going to finish? Aren’t you going to Katahdin?”

“Listen, Second Chance, I’ve been to Katahdin many times. The end of the trail is not what matters to me; it is what I do on the way. The people I meet, the lives I encounter. It is why I am out here.”

Kieran took off his pack and sat next to the old man. “So, you think I can handle this?”

Spirit looked at Kieran. “I never doubted you’d get there. I knew from the start. I can always tell when I meet them. Those that will make it, and those that will not. Sometimes, it takes a few falls before you realize it has always been your choice to finish or quit.”

Spirit stood up, using Kieran’s shoulder to brace himself, leaving his hand on Kieran’s shoulder for a moment. “Go finish this. Your wife and your daughter need you to come home.”

Slinging on his backpack, he headed south on the trail, disappearing into the trees.

Kieran crossed over the border from New Hampshire to Maine, arriving soon at the Mahoosuc Notch. AT hikers recall the notch one of two ways, the hardest mile or the most fun, depending on their idea of fun, or level of fear.

Climbing over the boulders, descending the steep declines, squeezing through narrow passages by the end of the notch, Kieran still was not sure.

Those who hike the AT, consider New Hampshire and Maine the most challenging section on the trail. The final portion, known as the 100-mile wilderness, ends just before Katahdin.

Kieran looked forward to hiking this. It would be the culmination of his dreams. As he entered the wilderness, the fatigue and cumulative effect of the long journey sank in.

He struggled to do 10 miles a day, this after routinely hiking 18 to 20. He fought doubts; His daily routine became more and more difficult. Yet, he struggled on.

10 days into the wilderness, he caught an inspiring vision, his first view of Katahdin, a lone giant rising in the distance out the green Maine woods.

At that moment, he knew. All doubt erased. He knew he would stand on that peak.

Four days later, he crossed the Tableland on the Hunt trail about a mile before the summit. He could see the small figures of people standing on the peak.

He could see the famous sign marking the end of the Appalachian Trail.

He was just about there.

He heard his daughter’s voice. “Come on, Dad, you promised you’d come back…”

I must be hallucinating, he thought. Dehydrated or something. He sat on a rock, pulled out his water bottle, closed his eyes, and drank, feeling the water relieve his fatigue.

The light blinded him as he opened his eyes. He could not focus. Trying to stand, his legs wouldn’t move.

He felt a hand take him in a warm caress. Voices, loud voices, frantic movement, just shadows in his clouded vision.

Then, he saw his wife’s face. She was crying and smiling.

What is going on…?

“Shot? What do you mean I was shot?” he heard himself say. Nothing made sense.

“I was on Katahdin; I was almost to the top….”

Yet, here he was, in a hospital, hooked up to a thousand wires and lines.

“Shot, how is this possible?”

His wife and daughter were on either side, nurses swirling around him. He could make out uniform officers standing just outside the door peering in as the nurses tried to push them away.

A doctor came in and explained he had been in a coma. He had suffered a head wound, and they had induced a coma to help control the swelling. They had reversed the coma hoping for just this result.

They expected a full recovery.

“But I was hiking. I was there. I saw things on the trail. It was real,” Kieran said to his wife.

“We read to you, your daughter, me, and a bunch of officers from many departments. We read stories of hiking to you. We wanted to help you come back, to give you a reason to come back,” breaking into a gentle sob.

The weeks passed, and the doctors decided Kieran could go home. As he sat on the end of the bed, waiting for the attendant with the wheelchair, his wife and daughter walked in with one nurse.

“Ready to go?”

“What do you think?” Kieran replied, jumping off the bed.

“Whoa there, big fella. Wait for the wheelchair,” the nurse scolded, smiling at his determination.

The attendant arrived, loaded Kieran into the chair, and headed to the elevator. They came off the elevator, greeted by several uniform officers applauding. Kieran smiled, his wife and daughter had tears in their eyes.

“Your escort awaits, Sergeant,” Captain William Barlow announced.

The attendant started toward the exit, passing by a large glass display case., Kieran noticed something. “Hang on a minute, what’s that?” pointing to the display.

“It’s a bunch of stuff from a hospital benefactor. He was a world traveler.” The attendant answered. “The wing of the hospital you stayed in is named for him, Alan MacKensie.”

Kieran looked at the attendant, then back at the leather-bound notebook.

“I saw that book. He had it on the trail. Alan MacKensie was his name.” Kieran said to his wife. “But it wasn’t real, was it. I must have imagined it.”

The nurse came running over to him, handing Kieran a small envelope. “This came this morning. I almost forgot to give it to you.”

Kieran took it, looking at the symbol of the Appalachian Trail, conjoined letters A T, embossed on the envelope.

“Aren’t you going to open it?” his wife asked.

“When I get home, I just want to get out of here,” placing the envelope in his pocket.

“Dad, open it,” his daughter said.

Kieran smiled and took the envelope out. Tearing open the flap, he pulled out a small note card. The same A T letters adorned the front of the note.

As he opened the card, tears welled up in his eyes.

“What’s it say, Dad?” His daughter put her arm around his shoulder, leaning in to read the note.

Second Chance,
I told you. I knew you would make it…

Spirit

Another Day

(A re-posting of a favorite of mine. We are once again enjoying some time in Aruba. While the weather at home is improving, it has a ways to go to match the Caribbean breezes and warm ocean waves.

We are once again staying right near the Cormorant Tree (not it’s name, but it seems so with the crowd of birds.) Since I last wrote about them in 2015, some of those birds have passed on, others remain, and new ones have come to be.

The comforting rhythm of nature continues.)

My wife and I are spending some time in Aruba, escaping the single digit temperatures, snow, and ice of New England.

On our first day here, we went to the store and bought hotdogs.
Yes, hotdogs.
We have been craving a nice, well-done, burned skin hotdog on the grill for weeks. Talking about it as we watched the snow fall and wind chill dip lower and lower.

There is nothing that says warm summer evening like a well-burned hotdog. The crinkled skin nestled in the crispy onions, bathed in relish and mustard, embraced by a soft roll.

Nirvana.

As the sun set, I cooked the hotdogs and sipped a beer. I watched as a tree in the middle of a lagoon fill with Cormorants, those birds that swim underwater in their daily search for food.

Against the waning sun, purple red, orange yellow skies, watching them circle and land on the branches caught my eye. Like most of these type birds, the bodies appear heavier than they are, the seemingly fragile, thin branches easily supporting their deceptively light weight.

I’ve watched this phenomenon a couple of times now. (Once we had our hotdog fix, we moved on to Italian sausages!)

The daily gathering of the birds repeats each evening.

As each new wave of birds return, they join in a chorus of noises that sounds like a combination beer burp and growl.

At first I thought it a challenge or threat;
My branch, my branch
Get off, go away
And then I realized, it is a welcome home
Glad to see you, my friend
We’ve lived another day

Choices: You Make’em You Own ’em

Choices: You Make’em You Own ’em

The Jerry Tillinghast Story

 

Now available at the pre-release price of $2.99 for Kindle, the long-awaited story of Jerry Tillinghast as only he could tell it. Click here for the Amazon link. Order it before the price jumps on release date and stay tuned for more formats and deals as they become available. Sign up for my email list and win one of five signed first edition print copies and the ebook version. Click here for the signup form.

CHOICES_Cover_Jerry_Tillinghast_Story-2018.07.27 (002)

Jerry Tillinghast talks about his life and the choices he made.
Battling alongside his brothers on the streets of Providence.
Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, fighting in Vietnam, and becoming a victim of the politics of that war.
His return to Providence an angry young man and his choice to hang with the wiseguys.
His reputation as a “feared mob enforcer” and the effect on his family.
Meeting Raymond L.S. Patriarca and how he came to embrace him as a father figure.
His brushes with the law and the two most infamous cases he is
forever linked to;

 

 

Bonded Vault and the George Basmajian Homicide

Silent no more…

Check out my website for my other books and exciting news on book signings and upcoming appearances.

www.authorjoebroadmeadow.com

 

Deja Vu All over Again

Reposted from October 2015 and likely to be reposted again and again and again, usque ad mortem accipit nos (see, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Needham, I did pay attention.)

Guns, Laws, and Common Sense: Not Mutually Exclusive. 

Once again we face the horror of a school shooting. The politics of these issues need be stripped away so we can devise a solution.  Time is of the essence since lives are at risk.

One idea which might demonstrate a clear intent to set aside partisan bickering and seek a solution would be for all elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike, to refuse to accept donations from the NRA, related PACs, or any lobbying group associated with the firearm industry. Much like the issue over automobile safety liability championed by Ralph Nader and the automakers buying support in Congress through campaign contributions to stop Nader’s efforts we need to isolate these vested interests in arriving at a practical solution.

“Those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

In light of the recent spike in mass shootings, the usual hysteria from both sides of the issue ensued. We have those that propose to eliminate all firearms. They lack any realistic proposal or plan for accomplishing such purpose, We have those that choose an unsupported interpretation of the Second Amendment that prohibits ANY laws that restrict or control private, non-militia related possession of weapons regardless of the nature of those weapons.

What we don’t have is rational discourse or commitment to do more than chant slogans or repeat tired and meaningless historical failures. The pattern is familiar. Incident, outrage, prayers, virulent accusations back and forth, search for rational motivation to irrational behavior, relapse into forgetfulness.

The cycle of response to such incidents is the classic process of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Except we replace acceptance with resignation to the insolubility of the issue because it is not simple.

One of the things I find most frustrating about opinions in this country is the lack of foundation upon which most people base their argument. I am willing to bet many of the staunchest supporters of the right to own firearms have never read the Second Amendment. I bet the same holds true for those that hold the opposite opinion.

They chant slogans and rhetoric without any fundamental understanding of the complexities involved.

For those of you so inclined to explore issues with a sense of logic and fullness of examination, I invite you to read a dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens (a Republican appointee by President Ford) in the case DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.

Take the time to read the case, but here are some selected quotes

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

“The view of the Amendment we took in Miller (Miller, 307 U. S., at 178. )—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption”

“Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. See Lewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55, 65–66, n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.”

“With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view. “The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia—civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion. “The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators.” Miller, 307 U. S., at 178–179.

What is clear is that the Second Amendment does not prohibit the states from enacting legislation to impose controls on the private, i.e. non-militia related, possession and use of firearms.

Now let me be clear, I do not oppose private ownership of firearms. I am not opposed to hunting, not opposed to recreational shooting but I think we all must acknowledge the risk that firearms pose to society.

Which leads us to access to firearms. If the NRA is so strongly supportive of the so-called “right” to bear arms, why would they be opposed to stringent regulations regarding purchasing and carrying these same weapons?

If the claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is true, then let’s ensure those “people” that obtain firearms do so honestly, are qualified to do so, and maintain that qualification. The goal being equal protection for everyone.

Here are my modest suggestions for dealing with the issues.

  1. Background checks for all firearms purchases
  2. Automatic relinquishment of all firearms upon conviction for any felony or possessing a firearm while intoxicated with a lifetime ban on ownership.
  3. Mandatory licensing of all persons owning firearms with annual renewals (we require hairdressers to renew their license more often than a gun permit)
  4. Seven-day waiting periods for any purchase (pistol, long gun, or shotgun)
  5. Minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years for any criminal act committed while in possession of a firearm, 20 years for the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime. (Perfect opportunity to empty the prisons of non-violent drug offenders and replace them with gun violators)
  6. Mandatory drug screening for all firearms licenses
  7. Mandatory liability insurance for all gun owners.
  8. Remove the product liability protections of weapons manufacturers to come in line with all product liability law. This is a biggie.  See  Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act PLCAA is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903.
    This prohibits gun manufacturers and dealers from liability. We can sue companies for making soap look like candy, or food service companies for serving scalding coffee, but not weapon manufacturers for producing an inherently dangerous and easily misused product.  It strains credulity.

The other argument is that those that commit these acts suffer from mental disabilities. While this is certainly an aspect of the case, most of those charged with these crimes ultimately stand trial. They may have exhibited irrational behavior but it does not rise to the level of diminished capacity or being unfit to stand trial. A character flaw is not a defense to criminal behavior.

Take all of the tax revenue from the sale of firearms, ammunition, licenses, or any firearm related items and direct it toward access to mental health treatment. Sounds like the proverbial win-win to me.

Here is another rather interesting read, http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

The article dispels certain misconceptions about weapons and the dangers posed and underscore others. Remember knowledge is power, some would prefer to keep us in the dark. Don’t let that happen.

This is a dangerous world. It would seem to me that the American people, if they truly believe this to be the greatest country on the Earth, are wise enough to recognize we have a problem in this country and an obligation to deal with it. Isn’t it enough that a parent worries about things that can happen to a child without adding sending them off to school involving a calculated risk?

There are many smart people in this country, unfortunately very few run for office. We need to encourage intelligent dialog to deal with the problem of gun violence, not useless pandering to a select few.

Some would suggest that arming everyone is the solution. I think about that whenever I see images from other countries with everyone firing AK-47’s in the air and driving Toyota pickup trucks with anti-aircraft weapons.

I do not want to live in an America that is nothing more than an armed camp. The idea that we can eliminate all risk is silly, life is full of uncertainty; the idea that we cannot find a realistic solution to such a serious problem is nonsense. All it takes is for all of us to pay attention, understand the truth, and demand that those in position to find solutions do so or face finding a new place to live and a new job away from Washington DC.

Just a Dog…

(A repost from 2 years ago.  People die all the time and I rarely think of them, but Max I remember quite often with a smile and a tear)

He was just a dog…

His official AKC registered name is Maximus Gluteus but we knew him as Max.

He died the other day, taken all too soon in an unexpected way. He seemed as full of life on his last day as when we first saw him a mere nine years ago.

Max arrived at the cargo facility at Logan airport from his birth state of Kansas. Wrapped in a kennel big enough for a Pitbull, he looked like an undersized rat.

We had found him online and brought him to be a companion for our other Yorkie, Ralph.

He exceeded all expectations becoming not just a companion to Ralph, but a true member of the family.

This memorial is not meant to be sad, although the sadness has enveloped us since he passed away, but to celebrate all he gave of his life to brighten ours.

He was just a dog…

He brought a joy of living to wherever he was. His life was full of experiences and fun.

He traveled on planes, becoming a Florida dog for a time

He climbed hills in Connecticut and mountains in New Hampshire

He chased seagulls on the beach, squirrels in the backyard, and hunted any creature that dare invade HIS home. Make no mistake, wherever he lived was his home.

He had a sense of humor.

A door accidentally left open gave him the chance the snatch an onion from the closet. Eating what he wanted and leaving the rest for my daughter to find when she returned from work.

Several days later, he pretended there was something in the same closet. Scratching and pawing at the door. My daughter opened it, expecting to find a mouse. Max dashed in, grabbed another onion and hightailed it under a table, out of reach. Enjoying his snack.

He never cared much for toys, unlike Ralph who hoarded them. Max did take delight occasionally taking one of Ralph’s toys and running away with it. He would find a place in the sun, put the toy down at his paws, and dare Ralph to try to take it back.

Made Ralph crazy.

Max had his faults. He had no social skills with other dogs. He would attack anything. It was more fury and show then teeth but it could be embarrassing.

This also showed he had no fear. He was a five-pound bundle of fur, barely the size of a rabbit, with the heart of a lion.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can picture Max as a lion. Poised on rock, mane flying in the breeze, roaring to scare everything around him.

Max would love that.

He was just a dog…whose passing made me cry. Yet knowing him, laughing at him, or just holding and petting him made every tear worth it.

I will miss him as long as I live. The sadness of his passing will fade, his memory and joy for life will not.

He was just a dog…Max

 

My Mom and Her Determination

Here’s a reposting of a piece I wrote some time ago. It’s the time of the year…

It has been almost 8 years since my mother died. Thoughts, sights, and sounds remind me of her almost daily.

Words she often turned into her own askew versions. Her penchant for reading EVERY street sign whenever she was in the car. Twinkies she hid in the freezer in violation of her diet. The one constant reminder is my white hair, undeniable genetic evidence that part of her remains with me.

These are memories of a special woman.

Each year, on a particular date, there is a poignant reminder of something she did for me.

I suspect she had similar traditions with my brother and sisters; she was that kind of a mom.

She had a way to make you feel special.

Nevertheless, this one was between us.

As many of you know from my writings, I do not share the faith that my mother did. She had absolute confidence in her beliefs. Despite all the things she experienced, the joys and the sorrows, she never once doubted them.

She made a valiant effort to share her faith. If there is any blame to go around for her failed attempt to instill that in me, the fault is mine.

What is the annual event that triggers such a memory?

St. Joseph’s day.

Every year, I would get a card from my mother. It came in the mail. It was not a text, an email, or a phone call. It would arrive in the days just before the 19th, more evidence of her careful consideration and purpose.

She took the time to select, address, and mail a card. Through a simple gesture, she preserved the dying art of thoughtfulness.

The card celebrated the Saint’s day of my (sort of) namesake. Her thoughtful gesture had a dual purpose, serving as a subtle reminder of her faith. I used to chuckle whenever I opened the card. Amused by my mother’s determination, yet touched by such a simple, caring act.

She never gave up.

Since her passing, I miss the card every year and her every day.

Mom, while you may not have succeeded in making me a Saint there is a good chance you made me less of a sinner.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day.

A Change of Hate

March 1966, Dalat, South Vietnam.

Green Beret First Lieutenant Harrison Bennett stalks his latest target, an elusive Viet Cong Colonel. After weeks of hunting, the man’s face fills the rifle scope.

A deep breath, a partial exhale, a tap from the observer confirming the target.

The trigger squeeze and rifle recoil meld into the muscle memory of training, the pink mist replaces the man’s face, and it is done….

March 2016, Providence, Rhode Island.

Attorney-at-Law Harrison “Hawk” Bennett sits at his desk going over his morning schedule. His phone rings….

His world is about to change forever.

Walking into the reception area, his memories go into overdrive. His eyes see what his mind cannot accept.

A saffron-robed Buddhist monk stands and smiles. A face he last saw seconds before he ended its life stares back at him. A specter from his nightmare lives.

“It has been a long time, Lieutenant Bennett, and a long way from our time in Dalat.”

“I thought you were dead, Colonel. They gave me a medal for killing you.”

Bennett finds himself thrust into a world of treason, double-cross, and a justice department bent on vengeance. Those he once fought alongside have become the enemy.

Forced to choose between his dedication to the law and the memories of the dead and dying in the jungles of Vietnam, Hawk faces his greatest challenge; defending a man he believed he killed from a government gone rabid over protecting its secrets.

Cover for Createspace

A Change of Hate: A Harrison “Hawk” Bennett Novel. The latest work by Joe Broadmeadow coming soon to Kindle and print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Check out my other books at https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

 

Silenced Justice by Joe Broadmeadow @JBroadmeadow reviewed for #RBRT Corruption & Organised Crime #SundayBlogShare

Check out the latest editorial review of my novel, Silenced Justice

Author: Joe Broadmeadow Published: July 2015 by JEBWizard Publishing Category: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller Lieutenant Josh Williams is back in this latest thriller from Joe Broadmeadow, Silenced Ju…

Source: Silenced Justice by Joe Broadmeadow @JBroadmeadow reviewed for #RBRT Corruption & Organised Crime #SundayBlogShare

Rationality is Overrated: Time for America to Face Her Problems

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Perhaps it is time for the vitriol of hate and fear to win.

Perhaps it is time we obliterate an entire group of people based on their common religion.

Perhaps it is time us to consider a policy of irrationality. Focus our anger not on finding a solution, but eliminating the need for one.

After all,

It is Muslims that are killing Americans.

It is Muslims that are trying to destroy our culture.

It is Muslims who wish to enslave us in the violence and intolerance of Sharia.

Perhaps it is time we stopped worrying about the innocence of most Muslims.

Perhaps we should use our overwhelming military power and take them all out as a way to insure we get the guilty.

I fear there are those reading this who mistook my satire as something worth serious consideration. A frightening prospect but we see evidence of such irrationality every day in this country.

Just look at the Presidential campaign.

Now comes the part they will ignore because it is hard and might force them to think.

Is it possible we bear some of the blame for the terror visited upon Orlando? Is it possible the blood of those victims are on our hands as well?

It is clear that we are unwilling to do the right thing. Unwilling to confront the scourge of violence that plagues this country.

What happened in Orlando is a tragedy. In far too many cities in this country, it’s called Saturday night.

Those that see one side of the issue see guns as the problem. We need to control the guns, they scream. But they offer no real solution. No answer to how to deal with the 300 million firearms in private hands. Do they blame the car when a drunk driver runs over a group of children?

Those that cherish their guns wrap themselves in the Second Amendment. They scream, I have a right to protect myself. I have a right to own as many guns as I like. The problem is not guns, it is criminals. Lots of I, I, I’s there.

Do they offer even a nod to OUR interest in preventing these incidents? Do they show a willingness to be part of the solution instead of being a roadblock to even considering one? They look at Sandy Hook and Orlando, hold up their copy of the Second Amendment, and say this is more important than those lives.

They argue that if every law abiding American that wanted to carry a gun did, we’d all be safer. Now there’s a comforting thought. Think of some of the idiots you meet on a daily basis and imagine them in a firefight in a school, or theater, mall, or the desk next to yours.

Imagine good old Harry, waiting to pick up his grandkids, whipping out his trusty .45 and taking on a crazed gunman in an elementary school. Within just a few short years, we’d need fewer schools.

It would raise the effect of friendly fire to a whole new level.

If that is their idea of a rational solution to preventing these incidents they’re more delusional than even I imagine. It would make as much sense to make everyone wear ballistic vests.

In the aftermath of these things, we follow a familiar pattern.

It was only a matter of time before the right-wing lunacy put the blame for this on Obama. Somehow his policies created an environment where this would happen. After all, he is a secret Muslim. I mean, come on, Barrack Hussein?

And it was only a matter of time before the left began their worn and useless chant for gun control.

They yell and scream. Hold hands. Pray. Make speeches about the tragedy of guns.

Which accomplishes nothing.

There’s a brain tumor eating away the mind of this country. We are one candidate away from palliative care.

The nut who purchased this weapon is, according to the media, on an FBI Watchlist. One which would prevent him from flying.

We have a system in place to stop someone we suspect of terroristic leanings from flying. We recognize our overwhelming interest in airline security.

Sounds logical. I fly quite often and I support such policies.

We can stop them from doing something that requires a certain amount of skill and planning. We can stop them from doing something that is hard to do.

Why not expand that list to the purchase of firearms, which is easy to do? I’ll tell you why. Because the NRA opposes it.

They think the government cannot be trusted to do such things fairly. They contend it might prevent an innocent person from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

How do they do this? They control the cowards in Congress addicted to the gun lobby money. They manipulate them into killing such legislation and killing Americans in the process.

They stop the government from having an effective tool against these incidents.

The same incompetent government they blame for these incidents. Which government is it they fear most?

They spin the story and blame the President. They whip those who would have a difficult time finding a foreign country on a map into a frenzy.

They then focus them on anything other than the actual problem.

Their solution is simple. It is more important that I have my gun. They would prefer we eliminate an entire group of people rather than risk a few extra steps in buying a gun.

The nut who pulled that trigger was an American citizen. He exercised his Second Amendment rights so precious to so many.

Think of it this way, if the Orlando gunman had been denied his Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm, the NRA would support him in his case to right that wrong. Let that bounce around your brain for a bit.

On the other hand, he is the wrong flavor American. His parents are from Afghanistan. What do you expect, they would argue?

So, perhaps it is time for their Final Solution. If we are unwilling to balance responsible gun ownership against preventing tragedy, it leaves us little choice.

Perhaps it is time we embrace the words of Arnaud Amalric, Papal Legate and Cistercian abbot.

A man of the Christian God. That might offer comfort to those who do not understand Islam.

His words brought solace to those seeking vengeance against that which they feared. He spoke these words before the massacre at Beziers. Where one faith confronted a difference they perceived as a threat.

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”

“Kill them all, God will recognize his own”

This is a country that once decided to put a man on the moon, built the technology to do it, and did it. How is it we cannot find the courage and conviction to protect our people?

The real tragedy here is that as a nation we have forgotten the great things we are capable of accomplishing.

Encouraged by a zealot on a crusade of intolerance, we chant slogans illustrating our ignorance. We ignore the foundation of fairness and justice upon which this country was built.

The blood of the victims of gun violence is on all our hands. Until we regain our rationality and work toward a real solution, more will come.

Diluting the Joy of Memory

There was a time when having one’s picture taken required planning and someone with skill. After staging the subject and composing the shot, one sat still as the photographer took the picture.

Depending on the location the group broke up, waited for the flash effect to fade, then waited for the picture to be developed. Viewing the image required patience. It could be days or even weeks before one saw the results.

I often go for long walks in Cumberland. Along Mendon Road, I pass a faded sign for Rowbottom studios. Mr. Rowbottom was the official school photographer throughout my grammar school days. If you look up patience in the dictionary I would bet his picture is there.

I have vague memories of being forced to wear nice clothes, meaning ones without patches on the knees from our schoolyard basketball games, sometimes even a dreaded tie on the day set for school pictures.

All day in my least comfortable clothes waiting to be summoned for my turn to follow the instructions on where and how to sit, to smile, to “hold that pose” until Mr. Rowbottom was satisfied with the result.

Several weeks later, an envelope would be passed out in school containing the pictures. They thrilled my mother, I looked and shrugged. “Yeah, they’re nice. Can I go play baseball now?”

I wish I had been more appreciative for her. The joy of those captured moments of a young boy all too soon grown is a precious thing.

It’s all different today. More pictures are taken in one day today than in perhaps all of the time between the first photograph and the invention of digital imaging. There are probably more pictures of cats taken in one day than there were of all the students at Ashton School all those years ago.

My daughter has more pictures of her dogs than the population of North America.

The joy of those photographs diluted by technology. No one waits for a picture to appear anymore. No kid has to sit through a session with a skilled photographer to capture the stages of their lives. Today, every moment is memorialized; robbing it of its uniqueness.

No one has to remember what went on. They merely flick through some screens and there it is.

A friend posted a picture on-line the other day. You see, I appreciate that some technology is useful. Here’s the picture,

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This is one of the few pictures taken that day. Some parents may have shot pictures during the game but I’ve never seen them. The picture captures a moment in each of those lives frozen in time. 1968 Cumberland-Lincoln Boys Club Champion Tigers in Cumberland Rhode Island.

There’s no video, no Facebook page, no online archive of thousands of images of each moment of that day. Just this single image of seventeen proud and happy boys celebrating a memorable summer day.

The picture helps me remember that day. Remember those moments of a more innocent time. It reminds me to refresh those memories every once in a while. Anything more than that dilutes the magic.