Thursday, March 30, 2017

JUST FISHIN’ (Part 2 of 2 Parts)

Last week, we met the little town of Left Bank’s gang of six-year-olds: Charlie Schmidt, Harley Jenkins, Dickie Duggar, Jackie Sousa (the only girl), Willie Williams, and John Kuppernick. Only a third of the way through summer vacation, they’re already bored. Part 2 of our story takes place on the little dock down at the river where the group usually hangs out after chores are done. Charlie’s got his nose out of joint because Harley claims he’s fishing even though everyone knows there are no fish in this part of the river. Charlie called for a vote on whether Harley’s fishing or just wasting time. He didn’t get a vote; he got arguments. Let’s Pick up the action.
Courtesy of
Nobody was sleepy now. We were all on our feet, wide awake and ready to boil over.
DickieDu tried to put some rational reason into the thing. “What does it matter, anyway?”
I was having none of it. “It’s all about being right.” I started for Harley, who was still sitting on his post, back to me.
DickieDu stepped in front of me. I pushed him. He pushed me back. I popped him on the cheek. He slugged me back. Then we were all over one another, grappling and getting in a few insincere punches. I accidentally got him on the nose, and he started bleeding.
During the pause that followed I saw Willie and John rolling around on the dock with Willie knuckling John’s ear. I didn’t understand that one because they both agreed with me. Jackie finished tending DickieDu’s nosebleed and cast a baleful look in my direction. I backed away as she advanced on me. I caught a glimpse of Harley as I retreated to the edge of the dock. He looked peaceful and unperturbed just like a fisherman doing what he was supposed to do. Fishin’.
I halted and watched with trepidation as Jackie walked up to me. I’m taller than she is, so her nose was about on a level with my chin. I watched in something akin to terror as she slowly put a hand to my chest… and pushed.
I hit the water with a squeal. The day might be muggy, but the water was cold and the current was tugging at me. I started making for the landing when something bit me. I let out a yelp and frantically splashed around looking for a water moccasin or something equally deadly.
“I got something!” I heard Harley shout. Then my butt caught fire as he started jerking on the line.
Splashing and yelling for him to stop finally got his attention. Five pairs of eyes peered down from the dock as I fought my way against the current to the landing. After a couple of false starts, Harley understood he had to pace me along the dock in order for me to reach dry land.
Me’n my soaked pants and one sneaker—the other was floating down the river—made it to dry land, and I cautiously walked up onto the dock, wincing once in a while when Harley inadvertently—I think—drew the line too taut. They put me face down on the deck, and the five of them went about discussing my butt. It was hooked, they all agreed. DickieDu tried to pull it out, but I screamed for him to stop.
“That hook’s barbed,” Jackie said. “We need to cut off his pants and see how bad it is. Who has a knife?”
“Nooo!” I said… yelped… screamed. I didn’t want Jackie staring at my bare butt.
“Then we’ll just have to push the hook out through the flesh so we can clip off the barb and draw it out.”
“Stop!” It was a scream this time. Pure and simple. “Don’t touch me! Somebody go get my mom!”
I don’t know how long I lay there, hurting and mortified as more and more townspeople showed up, drawn by that invisible, inaudible call of someone in distress. I hid my eyes with my hands and stopped looking.
My mother’s voice, when she arrived, didn’t provide the comfort I’d expected. Her “Charlie, what have you done now?” seemed a bit harsh. I left the explaining to the others, refusing to participate until someone suggested calling Doc Merton down here. Then I objected. He’d cut off my pants and give half the town a good look at Charles Blake Schmidt’s bare butt firmly snagged by Harley’s fishhook.
I ended up limping three blocks to the doctor’s office with Harley trailing along behind with his fishing pole. I don’t know why someone didn’t cut the line and free me of the tether, but they didn’t.
After Dr. Merton hemmed and hawed for an ungodly amount of time, I felt another bite as he shot me with something to deaden my right buttock. Then he adopted Jackie’s suggestion and shoved the barb through the flesh so he could cut it off and remove the remainder of the steel hook. Anesthesia or not… I felt it.
Thank goodness it was still summer vacation so I didn’t have to face down the entire school. Even so, lots of kids showed up to see how I was doing and snigger behind their hands My butt throbbed from all the stares it was getting. Felt like everybody could see through my PJs to the real thing. I got a whole bunch of cards, most of them all right—you know, “get well soon,” that kind of thing. But a couple had crude pictures of a bare butt skewered by a gigantic fishhook. Someone even left a big rhinestone pin in the shape of a fishhook. The jokester didn’t even have the guts to sign his—or her—name to the box it came in. Loretta Sue Hogg, who fancied herself a poet, wrote a verse about “Charlie Schmidt, the Boy with the Barbed Butt.”
But the unkindest cut of all came a couple of weeks later when I heard Harley Jenkins telling some girls, “I was just fishin’. And guess what I caught?”

Was it worth waiting on? Let me know at the email address below.

Once again, I’ll leave the links to me and my writing plus the DSP Publications buy links I included last week. I can use the plug for The Bisti Business.

Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thanks for being readers.

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

JUST FISHIN’ (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

After a book promotion last week, let’s return to a short story for this post. Actually, we’ll do the first half of a bit of nonsense based on an incident from my long ago Oklahoma past. Hope you enjoy.
Courtesy of
We were probably the little town of Left Bank’s only gang. Six ten-year-olds capable of getting into trouble without really trying. We terrorized our fourth-grade teacher and didn't even know it, which was probably a good thing. The not knowing, I mean. I remember that the preacher in my church used to flinch when he caught sight of me sitting with my family in his front pew.
Mostly, we were just about having fun—especially when school shut down in May for three whole glorious months. After chores, we congregated on the dock down at the river landing. The dock is what we called the plank platform set on thick posts jutting out into the river right beside the landing. This is where women used to climb into boats after their men floated their dingys or canoes off trailers or hauled them out of pickup beds. Hardly anybody used it anymore, so it pretty well belonged to us.
I remember it was a lazy summer morning about a month into school vacation when that initial feeling of liberation was pretty well replaced by “what are we gonna do today?” We were all lying around on the dock, semi-comatose from the heat and the smell of hollyhocks and the rhythmic thud of a motor somewhere upstream.  Nobody was doing nothing except for Harley Jenkins. He was plopped on top of one of the anchoring posts that came up through the planking just high enough for a ten-year-old to sit on. Dressed in his usual bib overalls without shirt or shoes or socks but topped by a straw hat with a ragged brim, he put me in mind of Huckleberry Finn. I wasn’t sure who that was, but that’s who he reminded me of, anyway. He held a hickory branch with a cord tied to the end of it that drooped down into the water. I invited sarcasm by asking what he was doing.
“Just fishin’.”
“You’re not fishing. You’re wasting time.”
Willie Williams supplied the missing sarcasm. “Like you ain’t?”
“I’m resting. Laying on my back resting.”
“Lying. Not laying. You lay eggs. You lie on your back.” Despite his cornpone appearance, Harley was the class brain.
“How you know I’m not laying eggs?”
“Any eggs you lay, Charlie Schmidt—” put in Dickie Duggars. “—we’d smell them.”
“Aw, go eat your own eggs, DickieDu.” Feeling snide, I gave his name a twist before turning my attention back to Harley. “There aren’t any fish down there. Nobody’s caught a fish off this dock in twenty dozen blue moons.”
“And how long is that?” asked John Kuppernick. He sounded half-asleep—either coming or going.
“A blessed long time,” I snapped. “So you’re not fishing. You’re wasting time. Like the rest of us.”
Jackie Sousa butted in. She was the only girl in our little clique. “I’m not wasting time. I’m resting up for whatever’s coming.”
If it was up to me, she wouldn’t be here, but she was stronger than I was, so I didn’t put up much of a fuss about it. She could put any of us away at arm wrestling.
“I say you’re doing nothing,” I spit the words at Harley.
“And I say I’m just fishin’.” His calm, unruffled voice sent my dander rising.
“What do you do when you’re fishing?” I demanded. “You get a pole and a line and a hook—”
“That’s what I did,” he said in his unflappable manner.
Drove me crazy. “And you bait the hook.”
“Did that. Earthworm.”
“And you put it in the water where there’s some fish!
“Exactly. So I’m fishing.”
“Wasting time,” I yelled.
“Fishin’,” he said.
“Not if there’s no fish down there!” That came out in a screech.
“Doesn’t matter. I did what I was supposed to do, so that means I’m fishin’.”
“Let’s vote on it. Hands up if you agree with me.”
            I didn’t get hands, I got arguments. Willie and John ended up agreeing with me while DickieDu and Jackie came down on Harley’s side. Harley didn’t do anything except sit there jiggling his line up and down every once in a while, like he was really fishing.

Oh, my word! Can you see what's coming? I hope the first half of the story snagged your interest.

Think I’ll leave the links to me and my writing plus the DSP Publications buy links I included last week. I can use the advertising for The Bisti Business.
Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thanks for being readers.

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Car Plunges 650 feet into the Rio Grande Gorge--At least in Don Travis’s novel THE BISTI BUSINESS

Cover Art by Maria Fanning
 THE BISTI BUSINESS, the second in my BJ Vinson Mystery Series, is due for release by DSP Publications on March 21, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to talk about it a little.

BJ knows the Napa Valley wine mogul is trouble, but he agrees to search for the homophobe’s son and his male companion, who are missing after a tour of New Mexico’s wine country. Who better to look for a gay heir than a gay PI, right? That’s how he finds himself chasing all over the state for the two college men’s bright orange Porsche Boxter. Almost immediately, he finds clues someone else is searching for the two lovers, as well. The book is due for release by DSP Publications on March 21.

Because I love my adopted New Mexico, my books play out in various places across the state. THE BISTI BUSINESS centers around the Four Corners Area and takes its name from the Bisti/De Na Zin Wilderness, where a ghastly murder takes place. My first in the series, THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT was released in November of last year, and the third, THE CITY OF ROCKS, is scheduled for July 19, 2017. The fourth, THE LOVELY PINES, is now in its third (and hopefully final) draft.

For a glimpse of the book, let’s look at a dramatic scene from Chapter 5. Alerted that the orange Porsche he is searching for has been spotted in Taos, BJ has just arrived at the Taos Airport in a chartered Cessna piloted by Jim Gray, a friend. He is met at the airport by Officer Gilbert Delfino. The Alfano mentioned is BJ’s California client. We pick up at that point.

Jim radioed the tower well before touching down at the small municipal airport, and Officer Delfino met the plane, as promised. He turned out to be a police officer with more than a touch of the local blood. Standing five foot six in his boots with coarse black hair not quite long enough to wear in the traditional bun but shaggier than most lawmen, he projected a calm competence as we shook hands. It would not be wise to provoke this man. His hatchet face wore an air of serious determination, an impression reinforced by his extraordinarily broad shoulders and deep chest.
“Mr. Vinson, we might have a problem,” he said. “The sheriff’s people couldn’t find the Porsche in El Segundo, but a unit spotted it on the road. There’s a cruiser on its tail right now.”
“Do you know where it is at the moment?”
Not far to the west of us, as a matter of fact.” He motioned with his chin. “Headed for Agua Amargo… or in that direction, anyway.”
“That’ll take them over the gorge, right?”
“They’ll cross over in a few minutes.”
“Maybe they’re just going sightseeing. You know, stand on the bridge and toss rocks into the gorge like all tourists do.”
His lips pulled into a frown. “Maybe, but somehow I doubt it.”
“I expect they’re out of your jurisdiction by now.”
“The town and the county have a reciprocal arrangement, so I have permission for us to join the chase. If it gets too bad, I expect we’ll have to call in Tom Duggin. He’s the state police trooper up here.”
“Well,” I said, “let’s get going, unless you think the Cessna might make a good spotter for the sheriff’s people.”
He eyed the machine with evident interest. “Can’t hurt.”
He raised the sheriff’s department on his cruiser’s radio while I prepped Jim. Within minutes, we took off with the Taos policeman occupying the right hand seat while I crammed my carcass into the baggage storage cavity behind the two men. Delfino would have fit much more comfortably in the small space, but he knew the territory, and I didn’t. He was of more value as a spotter in the front.
The countryside east of the airport is relatively flat and open, so automobile traffic was clearly visible. Almost immediately we saw a county car, lights flashing, on the road ahead of us. Leading the sheriff’s cruiser by almost a mile was a blur of color that was undoubtedly Orlando Alfano’s orange Boxter. Both vehicles had already crossed the gorge.
“These guys aren’t fugitives, are they?” Delfino asked. “I thought we were just locating them for a family matter.”
“That’s right,” I said.
“So why’re they running?”
“I don’t know. Have two Anglo guys from California had any trouble around Taos in the last few days?”
“There’s no record of Alfano or Norville in the area, period. I checked every motel in the vicinity after the Albuquerque police called. If they were here, they didn’t leave any tracks.”
“Then how did Alfano’s car get here?” I asked.
“I don’t know, but there it is right down there. Uh-oh,” Delfino said, “It turned off the road. Hope our guys see it.”
“They’re still back around the curve. They won’t see the maneuver unless the dust gives the Porsche away.”
Delfino asked Jim if he could buzz the cruiser and try to alert them.
“I can do better than that if you know the county frequency.” Jim reached for his radio dial.
Within seconds, Delfino was talking to his compadres. By that time, they had passed the point where the Porsche had left the main road. Before the cruiser could reverse direction, the orange car regained the highway, heading back toward Taos.
“You want me to distract them?” Jim asked.
Delfino shook his head. “No, they don’t realize we’re a spotter. Let’s let this play out.”
“Here they come.” I nodded at the county car now in hot pursuit. “But I doubt they have the muscle to overtake the Porsche.”
“Maybe not, but we can keep them in sight from up here,” Delfino replied.
The occupants of the fleeing car were obviously aware of the posse on their tail. The vehicle hugged the ground as it took off like it had been goosed in the rear by a hotshot. The erratic way the car raced down the road made me question if an experienced driver was at the wheel.
“We got him now.”
Delfino pointed ahead of us. The Porsche rapidly approached the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge where a second sheriff’s vehicle sat in the middle of the span, blocking the fugitives’ escape. Even from this distance, we saw officers herding tourists off of the walkways and observation platforms of the bridge.
“Christ!” the pilot muttered. “Those guys better slow down.”
Delfino grabbed the radio mike and shouted warnings to the sheriffs’ deputies. Belatedly, the Porsche tried to stop, but it was traveling too fast. Skidding sideways, the car almost went over. Then it left the roadway short of the bridge, careening through a vacant rest area and sideswiping a stone picnic shelter. Now totally out of control, the Porsche crashed through the fenced area at the brink of the gorge. We let out a collective groan as it hurtled out into space.
Jim banked over the canyon to watch the automobile take flight. It free-fell a couple hundred feet before striking the side of the gorge, tearing out a sizeable chunk of the wall. From our perspective, it looked as if the car dropped in slow motion, tumbling over and over before smashing into the bottom of the gorge. There was no dramatic explosion, merely an awful finality as the machine appeared to disintegrate like a toy automobile smashed beneath a child’s heel.
Delfino and the pilot crossed themselves and muttered a Hail Mary, bringing home the awful, tragic reality of the last few moments. This was no movie stunt. Someone had just died.
Oh, hell! What would I tell Alfano?

I hope that snippet of the book proved interesting. Here are some links to me and my writing and some DSP Publications buy links:

Facebook: dontravis
Twitter: @dontravis3

As always, thanks for being readers.

New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IT'S BEEN A WILD RIDE, A Memoir (A Re-post)

I ran across something the other day that made me think of a post published some time back. After a search, I found the post in question dated May 3, 2013. After re-reading the piece, I decided to republish it, perhaps to give you some insight into my psyche. Only the timeline of my mother death was changed to make it currently accurate.

By the way, I was the infant who was the subject of the piece.


In his heart, he knew it was a stillbirth.

The bright October sun streamed through the tall windows of a second-story apartment, sharpening the smell of blood and sweat and afterbirth in the little bedroom. The physician hoisted a newborn by its ankles to deliver a series of slaps to the tiny rump. Nothing. No reaction at all.

Although the baby was small—only five pounds—the delivery had been difficult, complicated by the mother's severe toxemia. The small town family doctor delivered another loud smack. Harder this time. Still no response. He laid the still form on the bed and swabbed its mouth with gloved fingers. No obstruction there.

As the clock ticked away precious seconds, he motioned the midwife assistant forward, and together they labored over the inert child. Nothing worked. After placing his stethoscope to the still chest one final time, the man glanced at the exhausted mother lying on the bed. Her pretty features sagged from illness and exhaustion.

Judging her more or less out of it, he swiped his damp brow with a forearm and turned to the anxious father perched on a windowsill on the far side of the room.

“I’m sorry, Travis, but it’s not unexpected given Birdie's condition. She’s the one we have to worry about now.”

The father stood and pressed thumbs into the corners of his eyes. His shoulders slumped. “Was it a boy?”

“Yes. You have to be strong now…for your wife’s sake.” He sighed from weariness and sorrow. “I know you were hoping your son would grow up to be a first baseman, but—”


They whirled at the sound of an angry wail and saw the midwife holding the baby. As they watched in astonishment, she calmly removed her finger from its little rectum and handed the squalling child to the doctor.


I'd heard that story all my life but didn't really accept it as anything other than family legend—until I met Mrs. Ward decades later. She was the midwife in that little Oklahoma drama.
My father did not get the first baseman he wanted from that child. What he got, instead...was me. My mother recovered from her illness and lived to bear a daughter and twin sons. She passed away peacefully almost six summers ago.

I have speculated many times over the course of my life on the psychological implications of drawing my first breath in that manner. You see, I’m often accused of being anal-retentive.

Dear Readers: Now you know the basis of most of the problems in my life. I entered this world contrary to usual customs, and have lived my life that way ever since. Please forgive me for doing a re-post, but I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Feel free to contact me at


New posts are published each Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dark Dream

Not much response to my short story last week. Let’s see if I have any better reaction to this one.

Courtesy of
The light of day snatched me out of my dark dream. I am not a prophet. I don’t see into the future. Nonetheless, the same dream three nights in succession bothered me in a vague, ill-formed way.
Lying there with the dawning day stretching before me, my mind struggled to recreate the reverie. But it had no form or function. Merely the impression of a dark place. An alley perhaps. With dim lights overhead. And a dark—masked?—figure disappearing around a corner. Nothing really frightening about it. Nonetheless, the recollection sent a shiver through my body and propelled me out of bed and into my daily routine.
My breakfast, oatmeal—lightly sugared—with dry toast and a single piece of bacon washed down with black coffee, occupied the physical me while I considered the day’s schedule. Simple enough. Drafting work at my employer's architectural firm followed by a date with Wendy, my airline hostess girlfriend, who was here one day and in Hong Kong or wherever the next. But tonight, she would be here for a cozy evening of nuzzling and cooing.
I made it through the day thanks to an interesting office high rise one of our younger partners designed. The project required some innovative drafting, so it held my interest until quitting time. That’s when the telephone ruined what was left of my day.
“Hi, hon.” Wendy’s sugary, sexy voice lifted me up before slamming me down. “Sorry to tell you this, but we’re held up at O’Hare International. Weather. I won’t make it home tonight.”
With my stomach somewhere down around my knees, I assured her that was all right. Everything we planned to do tonight could be put off until tomorrow. I hoped my voice didn’t mirror my real thoughts. Why don’t you quit that freaking job?
My evening destroyed, I wandered two blocks down the street to Murphy’s Irish Bar. With nary a single drop of Celtic blood, I usually enjoyed the atmosphere—even when the bartender addressed me as a bloody Brit. A table of other youngbloods from my firm beckoned, and the company lifted my spirits until they began to peel off one by one—this one going home to his wife and kids, that one heading out to meet his fiancée, another to hook up with his boyfriend—until I was alone at the table with no one to go meet.
Pissed off and out of sorts, I did the logical thing and switched to the hard stuff to put my problems behind me. I didn’t get stinking drunk, but my blood alcohol chemistry likely legally qualified for that condition—without the modifier. Before reaching the stinking point, I had the presence of mind to quit, only to confront a difficult, complex problem: Take a taxi home or walk two blocks to my car and drive the mile to my apartment building? Dawdling to puzzle over that dilemma provoked my waitress into asking if I was all right. That innocent, caring act prompted me to put aside my quandary. The walk back to the car would clear my head enough to safely drive myself home. My decision made, I stopped by the men’s room and then left the bar by the more convenient rear exit.
The portal no sooner closed behind me than I halted and backed against the cold, metal exterior. Goosebumps ran down my back. My breath came in ragged gasps. This was my dream! Black night. A dark alley with only a weak light over the doorway behind me with a tad more spilling out of a window two floors up. I held my breath and listened to the silence. Nothing. Not even traffic. A bug buzzing around the dim bulb right over my head, that was all. I wanted to go back, but the latch wouldn’t open from the outside. I was stuck. Stuck in my dream.
My lungs ached, making me realize I was still holding my breath. A gasp brought the rancid odor of rotting food from the dumpster halfway down the alley. The taste of my last bourbon and water rose in my throat to curl my tongue. I pushed my palms against the door to propel me forward. Get out of here. Fast.
No more than half a dozen steps down the alley, the sound of the door opening froze me in mid-step. I whirled to see a broad man—one of my fellow patrons no doubt—exit in a swift, sure stride. I tried to yell for him to hold the door, but my voice box refused to work. The heavy door slammed closed once again, the click of the latch clearly audible.
“’Scuse me,” the man said as he breezed by, apparently unaffected by any recurring dreams. I picked up my pace and followed him down the alley, preferring company to solitude.
As he came abreast of the dumpster—with me three paces behind him—he stopped and grunted. “What the hell you want?”
Was he talking to me?
Then I heard a rough voice. “Hand over your money.”
The big man lunged forward. “Get outa my way, you little bastard!”
Still uncertain about what was happening, I heard a loud pop. And then a second. The big man grunted again—a different sound this time--and staggered a couple of steps before flopping onto his belly. When he went down, he revealed a dark figure standing there. Although I couldn’t see his face, his body language expressed as much surprise at me as I was in terror of him. He held out his hand, making what it held gleam in the uncertain light from the upstairs window. A gun.
“Lousy luck, guy You seen too much.”
The thing in his hand spit fire, and something slammed me in the chest so hard I banged against the dumpster, making more noise than his pistol had. Shocked from the blow of the projectile, the surprise of what occurred, and the horror of my dream, I clung to the side of that reeking metal container as the dark man disappeared around the corner. Had he been masked? Who cared?
Slipping soundlessly to the ground, I struggled for breath as the blackness of my dream—this dream, this nightmare—washed over me.

I’d be interested in your reaction to the story at dontravis

As always, thanks for being readers. There wouldn’t be writers without them.


Next post: 6:00 a.m. on Thursday.

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