About the Author
Author & Adventurer
Robert Ross was raised in Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California. After earning degrees in both History and Business, he began an advertising career working at major agencies in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Over the years he developed campaigns for clients across a broad spectrum of industries and in all phases of media. His foray into other creative endeavors has been an ongoing process. He has two books to his credit — Red Hand: American by Blood and Journey Within: A Tale of Astral Travel — as well as a short catalog of country tunes.
A Recent Q&A with Bob
∙∙Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
I grew up in Los Angeles and, like all of us, reading and writing was a big part of our education. I remember my first attempt at creative writing was in high school and, without an original thought at the time since it was a spontaneous exercise by the prof, I grabbed a plot line from a story we had all read some months before, and was promptly chastised by my classmates for doing such. My teacher said as much later, but did tell me I had put the words together well, so I was encouraged. My earliest influences, meaning to me who I enjoyed reading earliest and liked, were Hemingway, Salinger, Eugene Burdick, Kerouac.
∙∙Why do you write?
I write because I like to eat, at least eat reasonably. I’m basically talking about my advertising writing now, which I have done for the past 35+ years. I write books because I enjoy the experience: coming up with a storyline, then seeing where it takes me and sticking with it. It’s like running a marathon. It’s not going to go quickly, because there is a process. A writer must be committed for the duration. But at the finish, the reward is there.
∙∙Briefly discuss your new book Red Hand.
I was a history major in college so that is where my interests lie. As for a brief summary of the contents, I will now plagiarize from the back cover. Beginning in the 1870′s, Red Hand is a vivid and moving tale of a half white, half Sioux boy whose white father was killed when he was an infant. It is only after he becomes a young man that he resolves to go on a quest in search of his white heritage. His travels take him half way across the eastern U.S. — to a penitentiary in Florida, the Bowery in New York, the Ohio valley as well as spiritual journeys of introspection until his peace of mind is resolved, at last, a century later.
∙∙Who is Red Hand?
To expand a bit about who exactly Red Hand is, I would say he a seeker of knowledge, spiritual in nature, a person of great integrity, strength, empathy and forgiveness. Most of all, maybe, a survivor.
∙∙What makes Red Hand stand out from other historical fiction books that are on the bookshelves?
I think just the subject matter itself. Historical fiction is pretty broad. If someone likes that period of American history from the 1870’s to the 1970’s, involving Native Americans, sports, action, adventure and a bit of romance here and there, this just may be the book for them.
∙∙Did you do any research for Red Hand?
Whatever I write I do research along the way using encyclopedias that are chronological. For Red Hand, I also have a small collection of books on Native Americans and, from those, got a feel for their spirituality and respect for nature.
∙∙You are a multi-published author- What do you know now as an author that you did not know when you published your first novel?
Basically, the process doesn’t get any easier. A writer has to invest the time to accomplish what he/she set out to accomplish. However, as I mentioned before, the reward more than justifies the process.
∙∙If Hollywood called today and asked you to cast the film version of Red Hand, who would you cast and why?
That would be a pleasant dilemma. My first thought was Keanu Reeves. I think his looks do well to support the idea of a half white, half Native American main character. But since Hollywood is so good with make-up and CGI, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, etc. etc. would work.
∙∙What do you hope to achieve with Red Hand?
I hope to have a decent amount of people get their hands on it. I think they’ll enjoy the read, then recommend it to their friends. If, as the previous question asks, Hollywood takes an interest, that would be cake.
∙∙What was the last book you read?
The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth.
∙∙What is next?
A promotional flyer for a hand sanitizer called SkinWear that kills germs for up to 8 hours. Remember? Food, my friend.
∙∙Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
Golf, which teaches one self-discipline and patience. Riding a motorcycle, which keeps most of the cobwebs off the brain. Reading, which allows experiencing from time to time a phrase turned in a completely original manner.
Journey Within Synopsis
The author, Robert Ross, has stated the idea for Journey Within evolved from a close friend’s similar experience. A chance encounter on a European holiday; a short two weeks of bliss; then a rebirth of those same romantic highs some two decades later, realized once again by mere chance.
Yes, Journey Within is a story of love recaptured, as two people find themselves together, again, on an exotic island, reliving a summer romance of near perfection that happened nineteen years earlier. The reunion is bittersweet, however. Their emotional highs and lows are revealed by the elusiveness of years lost, and the intrusion of the proverbial third party — another woman who, at times, seems an increasingly attractive fit to Mike, the main character, in his more familiar world.
Choosing, ultimately, to walk away from the woman of his dreams, Mike becomes as devastated and dumbfounded by his actions as she. He realizes he must find meaning to his madness… reasons why, and thus is catapulted on a spiritual adventure, a succession of lives that prove to be only chapters in an long journey through the ages, one that will lead him hopefully to growth, discovery, insight, understanding. His journey is not an easy one; not a pure linear progression of enlightenment, because as the book contends, what the spirit can remember over millennia, the mind, within the confines of its various life forms, may not recall.
So the questions persist. Is Mike merely dreaming? Can his present angst have been rooted in some distant time, long ago? Is he just your everyday, garden-variety flake incapable of a lasting relationship? A case probably can be made for any of them.
Now, pointing one last time to the glass jar that held the head of the famous bandito Duncan said, “I guess he didn’t live happily ever after.”
“No, it doesn’t look as though he did, my boy, but let me tell you a secret. The real Jaoquin might have, because that is not him.”
“That’s right, that is not the head of Jaoquin Murrieta. I should know. I rode with him.”
— Mike, a.k.a. Malcolm, in 1896
“What about God? Do you believe in Him,” he asked before thinking about his question. That’s a big one, a personal one. It probably isn’t right to ask that question of someone you’ve only casually engaged in conversation, in a movie theater no less. But what the hell, everyone has an opinion about God (Buddha… Allah… Yahweh… a Presence), so he pressed on, “So what about God?”
“Yes, I believe in Him,” she answered, “in a manner of speaking.”
She’d been right, Mike smiled, thinking back, remembering her gentleness. Even if you eliminated everything — the world, the galaxies, the universe, all the unknowns — what would remain? Nothing? He paused, then continued… And what is that?… What is nothing? An absolute void?… An all-pervasive blackness? But isn’t a void, isn’t blackness something? Certainly a void by definition asserts that something surely exists, if only in concept. And blackness is the absence of color, thereby disproving its nothingness by being what color isn’t. So what is left?… What else?… What could possibly exist beyond all of the unknowns? Could it be something the human mind cannot fully comprehend? Like a primal force?… An unimaginable power? Like God? “Shit yes, it could,” he laughed loudly. I can’t even figure out who the hell I am, much less presume to deny that God could possibly exist! Then, for the zillionth time, he swirled his trusty companion and closest friend around the inside of his drinking glass, staring blankly into the beyond, his mind wandering to that special island that had reached out to him, calling him back after so, so many years.
The coming weekend was welcome. Driving to the beach to see Carole again for more than one night brought memories of happier times. They had always been good together if the subject of kids didn’t enter the conversation. But he knew it would tiptoe into their flowered world once again this weekend, not leaving until it stomped a few more mums and calla lilies.
“I have two kids,” he reminded her, “and you love them almost as much as I do, and they love you almost as much as their mother… so?” So she wasn’t buying it and never would. And she was right. Carole was twelve years younger. She wanted her own kids, her own brood. Once two, now three. Definite brood territory. And definitely territory Mike had no business re-entering. With a girl starting her sophomore year in high school and a boy only two years behind, both in private schools, the economics of starting another family was definitely ulcerous. This is not to say bringing a human being into the world should be based purely on the almighty buck, particularly when he or she is a fat little butterball that smells of talcum and looks a lot like you. But holy Toledo, they ain’t cheap! You want to feed them, clothe them, educate them, house them like you think you should… “Right?” he said to Carole. “Am I right?” But they were at an impasse, and had been for some time. The brood concept and she were Siamese, inseparable, which made it only a matter of time before the permanent break, the final letting go, and Mike knew it.
The sky was gray and blustery on the drive back to L.A. as details of the next few days raced through his head. Gotta check on the Mexico thing — if it looks good, get a creative team working on some concepts, but first get some money from Luis. Gotta check in with Mark about his piece of business. Gotta call Clem and tell her, no, ask her to cover a couple of other potentials (since both would mean a few bucks for her, she shouldn’t mind, but you never know, so check).
RAAAANGG!! Mike always put the phone near him in the early afternoon. It was about the time she would call, considering the eight hours difference and her habit of working late, eating late.
He’d met Dierry nineteen years earlier on an island off the coast of Spain. It was a chance meeting. She was with a group of girlfriends hitchhiking to the beach when Mike and four asshole buddies from college rode by on their motorcycles. He caught a glimpse of her as they passed, and in an instant, stopped, kicked Rob off the back of his bike, turned, and picked her up. It was pure impulse. He motioned for the rest of the guys to get the others, and to this day Mike was quite certain he was driven by some unexplained force to stop. He’d had opportunities before, but somehow, this time, it was right to stop. Even more, he felt he must.
They spent the afternoon soaking up the heat of a midsummer’s day, chatting playfully, flirting, sparring, hoping for a significant sign from a targeted “other,” something that offered more than an arms-length friendliness. It — the day, the group, the feeling — was good, but only Dierry and Mike developed a relationship of any permanence, one that would prove to overstep the bounds of an acceptable holiday romance. As the afternoon sun set over the edge of the bay, she spelled her name out for him — her full name — etching each letter into the wet sand with a slim, brown finger. Finally, very slowly, she looked up, her eyes smiling into his. And the image of her, them, lost together on an island faraway, was at once undeniable, and indelible.
They were there nearly two weeks. While the others drifted in and out of their collective lives, Dierry and Mike shared the days together, only desiring more of one another. They swam and sunned the hours into twilight, then would meet in town for a drink before finding their way to some hideaway’s darkened corner. They grew closer with each touch, each thought of the other. There were occasions when a companion dragged one or the other off to bid them hello, sunbathe, snorkel, share a drink or idle conversation with some imposter, but then later, that first glimpse between the two would bring back a sense of overwhelming warmth, yet always accompanied by a sharp chill, as if a harbinger. This puzzled Mike. He feared the worst, but would not allow it to intrude upon his more perfect world. He shut the thought from his mind, stiff-arming reality like he would some grotesque pursuer. Now, only life mattered. Only today mattered, the two of them using every precious second they could find to be together, to be one together.
The final day arrived, its swiftness crashing in on them. Mike was to leave for Valencia with the boys. The five of them checked out of paradise, strapped bedrolls to the rear of their bikes, and rode over to say good-bye… up the winding, cobblestone streets to the tiny, perfumed apartment in the center of town. As they pulled up, Karri waved from the balcony overlooking the harbor, then came down to greet them. Dierry wasn’t there. She had gone to market. Suddenly, Mike felt alone, infinitely alone. Those few moments he had counted on seeing her left him empty and abandoned, and he walked slowly into the tiny apartment discomposed, wandering away from the happy group to the balcony outside, alone with his thoughts. He didn’t know what he would say to Dierry when she returned, how to resolve their last few hours together. His mind searched for an answer, a solution, some meaning to it all… their perfect week… the remainder of their lives. He saw her approaching, walking up the narrow cobblestone street with white adobe and red tile all around. She was beautiful, the kind that comes to a woman naturally. She held two sacks of groceries, carrying them as if it was her daily trip to market bringing home the evening meal — for them. As he watched, he saw his life with her on the island, the two of them living simply, happily. It was reality and fantasy, and he was living it… had been living it for the past week, and he asked himself, why couldn’t it continue? Why? He wanted… he demanded… to know why.
Mike rushed into the street and they caught each other’s eyes. Dierry ran to him, “Mike, oh Mike, I didn’t think you would be here so soon… I would have been here… I would have stayed.” He told her not to worry and they kissed, and in that moment they realized what was happening, and they didn’t know how to stop it. Their lives were eight thousand miles apart across an ocean, but they would find a solution, a way around the cruelty. He would come to Brussels. Yes! He would stay with her for another week, in her own home, off the island, away from its allure. His boss would understand, he assured her; he would have to. So they promised, and he pledged to see her in Brussels in two days. Nothing could prevent it. As they sat together in the small cafe by the wharf and sipped their wine, he thought he would feel better about their parting. It was a strange feeling, one of sweetness as they recalled the past two weeks, but sweet only if he denied the emptiness accompanying it. Maybe it was that they were merely putting off the only real cruelty, the kind that comes when one realizes there is no hope, only some mask of reality worn upside down turning the tragic faces of two lives into some comic facade. No matter. He was going to Brussels. He could not, not go. So they held each other tightly for what would have to last for the next two days, then waved good-bye forever as the boat pulled away from the dock.
Mike had a dream last night. He was driving in the city and suddenly found himself stopped in front of railroad tracks while lights flashed a warning that a train was coming. He was second in line, but before the train had passed, the car in front of him bolted across the tracks. For some reason, the barrier wasn’t down, so he nudged his car up to the tracks to get a better look at how far away the train was. Without seeing it near, he started to cross. As he attempted to accelerate, the car suddenly felt as if it was in neutral. The motor was revving, but he wasn’t moving. He realized then he wasn’t looking out of the windshield anymore. He was seated backwards looking across the seat back out the rear window. Somehow, he had placed the car in a gear below reverse, apparently the equivalent of neutral. As he sat gunning the engine, he could see the train approaching. Closer…closer it came. It was almost upon him. Then, in an instant, like a quick cut in a film, he was off the tracks and safely on the other side, gliding down a slight grade. Suddenly the car gained speed. He was still seated backwards and losing control. He had to do something! He jerked the wheel sharply making a complete 180-degree turn. It was so sharp, so violent, the car spun underneath him, but he somehow managed to stay in the driver’s seat. Now, finally, looking out of the windshield once again and firmly in control of the car, Mike fell back into the deep sleep of darkness.
The plane flight to the island was tedious as the memories of nineteen years raced through his mind. The only redemption to two airlines and three layovers was that Dierry and he — the two time-travelers willing to jump into the deep end of the looking glass — were to arrive at their final destination a mere five minutes apart. Mike had landed on time, but as he stood waiting to go through customs, he was still unconvinced two small Caribbean airlines (particularly theirs) could arrive promptly when scheduled. The chances, he thought, were about as good as those he had had picking up the phone two months earlier and, after nineteen years, calling information in Brussels, asking for a Dierry Thoreaux, getting a number, and in the next minute hearing her voice brightly on the other end, “Hello, this is Dierry.” He had thought of her over the years… keeping her in a special place within… keeping the fantasy alive. But what motivated him to call, finally, was still a mystery, something Mike already concluded he would never truly understand.
Her life had been much like his, save marriage and children. She had two long, apparently loving, relationships — the first of them four years, the other seven. She was instinctually monogamous, trusting, and giving, although she could at times cast away a lover like so much emotional baggage. Only recently did her work (more appropriately, her career) take a turn for the better. She’d modeled, had been a nurse, had worked in film production, had even apprenticed for a chef (of some repute). Finally, a friend loaned her enough money to open a shop near the Grand Place. Her friend had noticed two things about Dierry: she had an eye for color and style, and she was drifting. If she became successful in business — at something she truly enjoyed — he felt direction for the rest of her life would follow. Over the past four years, “Thor” had become one of Brussels finer boutiques for fabrics and women’s and children’s apparel. Her success had been written up in the local press so often that she dismissed it now as “— much too boring.”
Mike was holding out his passport to the official when he heard more engines. Another plane had landed. There…over there…Dierry was getting off the little Air Liat, two-engine prop (there is a God!). She looked the same as she had in the pictures they had exchanged since November — tall, thin, light hair shoulder length…beautiful. The years had been kind. But nineteen of them had passed and now the two were about to enter into a nine-day vacation together, alone, on yet another island. Mike had high hopes, mixed with extreme curiosity, along with a generous amount of insecurity about just exactly how might be the most appropriate way to approach their first meeting — whether to shake hands politely, kiss her as he would a dear friend, simply say hello, or offer some well rehearsed, innocuous greeting one makes to an old acquaintance. As she was getting her baggage, waiting her turn to go through customs, he picked his third option, walked up behind her and said simply, “Hello, Dierry.”
She turned, smiling widely, “Oh, Mike…,” and kissed him on the cheek. It felt good… very good… better than he had hoped. He felt like this new start, this first instant, these first few seconds that would set the tone for the next nine days had gone better than hoped for…making all the hours talking by phone, all the planning, all the letters, all of it well spent. That first instant’s answer was a resounding…Yes! She does look terrific! He did the right thing! Now he only prayed the feeling was returned.
“What if she shits on you,” whispered Mike’s alter ego, the little anti-Christ that hides deep in all of us (he hoped) and suggests from time to time that we should spit in someone’s face, or drive off a cliff, or reflect upon some wild dreamscape that comes from somewhere deep inside. Mike was hoping now, praying that everyone had these same pseudo-psychotic flashes of life’s underbelly that defied any relation to social order, and he smiled wryly over the vision of his former boss in the middle of a new business presentation, naked, with a miniature billboard attached to his equally miniature dick that read, “My Ideas Are Only As Exciting As This!”
Then just as quickly as it came, the little devil crawled back to its secret place within, and reality returned. Ah, blessed reality. It always has to spoil things, doesn’t it. Spoil things? Ruin it all? Not so. Not this time. Reality means spending the next nine days on an island with a dream, a fantasy… a storybook, fairy tale lover lost for nineteen years!
Nineteen years. Shit, Mike thought, in that time he had moved from Seattle to San Francisco to New York, experienced an entirely new life, one that was exciting, yet at the same time lacking the final piece to make it all seem right. When he finally moved to L.A., married, and had a family, he thought he’d reached his appointed place in life. His true identity. He felt content. But the contentment slowly gave way to complacency, then ultimately to the realization of an obvious mistake. He was stuck with a silver-spooned, inert recluse, choking in a marriage that was perceived by all (except the two atop the cake) to be perfect. The end came after an eighteen-month slow boil that led to separation, then ultimately to a two-year simmer deoxygenating into divorce. When they separated, the two children were very young, not yet four and two. That was the only good thing about it — the fact that they had kids, that they were still young, and that the estranged bedmates didn’t try to save the marriage for them. If that had happened, Mike was sure he would be locked away by now. But things worked out; they all survived; the kids are great, and he’s not in a padded cell somewhere in the fetal position drooling on himself. Hey, it is a wonderful life! Particularly the reality of it.
When they arrived at the hotel, Dierry and Mike were greeted with a surprise, and a problem. She had no room. He had one; it was confirmed. Hers wasn’t. Her confirmation was never received, and there were no other rooms available. Worse, they had not devised a “plan B.” They simply stood there, presented all too soon with the inevitable… can we?… should we?… Now?! They fidgeted, looked at one another, and smiled… stupidly. After an awkward silence they once again asked as politely as possible, “We would like to be accommodated as originally confirmed…,” because there was no way, not now, not yet, that either of them could comfortably move into one room with the other. It was entirely too premature. Maybe in a few days, if the promise of how they felt about this risky business developed absolutely perfectly. Right now? No.
The desk clerk saw their concern, understood immediately, and at once began searching for the elusive extra room, shuffling papers, walking briskly to and fro from the front desk to the back office and back again, when one of the maids standing nearby stated gingerly, “Why don’ you take da one room, it’s cozier.” Her name was Fannie and she was to become very close to them. They would see her watching, yet without intruding. She simply liked them. After Dierry had told her their story, Fannie could not keep from fluttering about. She was constantly smiling and winking at them, encouraging them, praying they would discover the proper ending to a true fairy tale romance, which was, of course, simply living happily together. She was at once their housekeeper, their friend, their confidant, and the two listened quite attentively to everything Fannie had to tell them over the course of their stay. Everything, that is, except for Fannie’s unabashed first notion. They got the two rooms.
The days passed slowly that first weekend, however the two welcomed the languid hours, staking out a table, taking to the task of reacquaintance while the rain that danced upon the faded, blue umbrella overhead dampened all but their spirits. On the third day however, they were feeling housebound. They needed to escape, to flee the little hotel, and the eyes of, by now, every employee who had heard the tale of their special guests, which was of course everyone. By mid-afternoon the weather was clearing, so they readied themselves for a trip to town. Fannie told them they could take the bus that passed right in front of the hotel. “Jus wave it down and the two of you jump in,” she had said. “It’s only one E.C. — ‘bout forty cents U.S.”
Mike and Dierry stood in a light rain looking up the empty road as it snaked around a bend disappearing into the mist, and they waited, and looked, and waited. At last a van approached, brightly colored, filled with people, exploding with a kind of frenetic reggae music. One of the locals standing nearby motioned, “Dats it, dats da bus, go ahead an’ wave it down, mon.” They waved and it screeched to a halt, the driver gesturing them aboard and indicating there was plenty of room. They plopped in the back just as he sped off with music blaring, children bouncing up and down on mothers’ laps, people waving out of windows to friends along the roadside, everyone having quite a good time riding the bus.
“Ya goin’ to da concert tonight,” Faith asked them when they returned from town. She sat at the front desk and always smiled a wide grin to them through the gap between her two front teeth. She said everyone was going to be there to see — ”da hottes’, bes’ jukin’ kaddas ban’ anywhere. Dey be playin’ in da socca fiel’, an’ if you ain’t goin’, you ain’t nobody tonight.”
Deciding they were certainly not nobodies, the hotel’s two special guests quickly took up the gauntlet. Dierry bought tickets, and precisely one hour later, as instructed, they waited in the lobby in jeans, sweatshirts, jackets, and old shoes. Soon it began to rain, then pour. After a short bus ride to a muddy field with Faith, a girlfriend, and some of the stage crew, Dierry and Mike jumped ankle deep into the muck and shuffled in with the crowd. A row of food and drink stands made of plankboard, driftwood, pieces of tin and scrap metal, nailed together here and there with colorful, homemade signs advertising a variety of fare, greeted them to their right. They found shelter under one of the overhangs, ordering Guinness between legs of grilled chicken dipped in brown mustard. With two more bottles of the dark, rich ale for dessert, Mike and Dierry found a comfortable railing and waited for — da hottes’ kaddas ban’ aroun’ to heat up. They didn’t wait long. When the lights dimmed, the crowd began to cheer. Then from a tented stage, slowly building through the wet, veiled darkness came a blend of drums, guitars, horns, synthesizer, and song capturing all within the frenzy, carrying them into the night. And there, in the eye of the storm stood the two time-travelers, screaming with three thousand locals — dancing, jumping, laughing with each beat of the music — going back, back to where they had been nineteen long years before, back into another world, another life.
“Let’s get mobile,” Mike announced after three days of confinement on the bus. They needed their own set of wheels, so he rented a little red moped to fly them to town, to the jungle, to lunch, to the falls, to the beach. They discovered a small restaurant on the second floor of an old hotel, where they would sit for hours washing down chicken Creole, mounds of vegetables and boiled yams with Red Stripe. They wandered a bay where the French and British had fought nearly two hundred years earlier. At the very top, on the point, stood a cannon weathered with time. It was hard to imagine this serene place erupting with smoke and gunfire as Mike shot Dierry with her Nikon in the afternoon light, as she lay across the huge weapon of war still at its battlement pointing to the entrance of the bay. There are some things that last, he thought. Maybe iron and steel are in fact stronger, more resilient, than the human spirit — or what the spirit can survive.
The end of the week came abruptly, like a bartender’s last call rudely interrupting two people in a darkened corner drunk with the moment. Fannie saw them. They were sitting on the porch in front of their room, Dierry cozied into Mike’s lap watching the sun drawing its final shade of darkness. As she approached, Mike could almost make out the thoughts racing through her mind… how she might suggest, ever so delicately, a continuance, a stay for the two lovers’ long-lost but now recaptured romance. Out of character Fannie blurted out, “It don’ matta if one o’ you live way ova’ here and one way ova’ dere… Love is what matta, chile… You pick up an’ go… You be wid da man you love.”
Fannie had it right. She was the source of all knowledge in these matters. Only thirty-six years of age, she’d already given birth to five children by three men. Her eldest was a young man of twenty, in college on the island, her youngest a girl of nine. If Fannie didn’t know what love and life was all about, no one did. So Mike and Dierry talked and dreamed and lied to each other again, unwittingly.
He was basking in the glow of their fantasy, a magical bubble he’d re-invented and now dwelled within, and he invited Dierry to join him. However, as bubbles are, it was fragile — one that in time would surely burst. But before it did, before the two fell back to earth careening into their separate lives in separate worlds, Mike would make their bubble bigger still.
“In his middle age, Mike wonders if life is just too long for permanent relationships…
He divorced when his children were four and two respectively. Now teens, they seem adjusted, but he questions what is happening in his love life. He sees Carole, much younger than he is, but she wants more than he can give. Mike’s thoughts wander back to Dierry, his ‘dream girl’ from his salad days when he believed that there was more to life than his experiences have since found.
A weary Mike recalls the memory of an elderly woman who insisted he had an old soul filled with past lives. That elderly woman ‘escorts’ Mike on a journey along an astral plane into the past lives he lived and the women he loved crossing the ocean to Ancient Gaul and later existence. However, these flawed relationships seem to reverberate the problems of present day Mike.
This is a great look at human relationships including harmony within oneself via superb vignettes that are part of a powerful story line that takes the reader on a journey of the mind. Robert Ross allows the audience to believe what we want as he never sets in concrete whether the astral trip is a genuine time travel trek or whether Mike even lived those previous lives.
Regardless of which theory the reader accepts, fans will agree that JOURNEY WITHIN: A TALE OF ASTRAL TRAVEL is a triumphant one sitting reading experience along the cerebral yet entertaining plane.”
– Harriet Klausner, Blether Book Review
“JOURNEY WITHIN IS A NOVEL THAT’S WORTH THE TRIP – Past and present collide in this introspective, first novel, JOURNEY WITHIN, by Robert Ross. Surely a romantic himself, Ross takes his readers on an astral voyage through the eyes of his main character.
As the book opens, we find Mike riding an emotional roller coaster as he struggles to make sense of his overwhelming desire to rekindle a love affair of nearly twenty years ago. During a summer in Europe with his college buddies, Mike met Dierry. After a whirlwind romance, their bittersweet departures left a void for Mike. Just as in real life, time slipped away, as the two of them drifted into the confines of an ordinary world: careers, lovers, marriage, children, and divorce. So why now, does he feel that he must see Dierry again? As the sweet memories continue to haunt him, he acts on his emotions. As if it were meant to happen, Mike finds himself in the arms of Dierry in the sensual environs of the Caribbean. But afterward, as he wrestles with these re-ignited feelings, the book catapults the reader into a series of complex and fascinating adventures in time travel.
Ross hits the mark as he capably describes the evolution of Mike’s pursuit of self-discovery. Not so much a historical voyage, though the periods described are lush in detail, instead the underlying thread of reincarnation lets the reader explore a more subconscious and ethereal kind of journey through time.
As Ross juxtaposes the past with the present, the reader is offered the rare opportunity to investigate what drives his main character and even us to search for our true identity. After a final encounter with his astral mother, our character’s spiritual transformation comes to an end, and a newly rejuvenated Mike feels better equipped to meet the future, happier and more content than ever before in his life.
With a pizzazz for historical accuracy, a gentle and respectful treatment of women, and the imaginative and dreamy prose, Ross has succeeded in weaving a sometimes unsettling, but thought-provoking and intriguing first novel.”
– Patti Pocsik, Green Meadows Reviews
Red Hand Synopsis
As the warriors rode into camp covered with the blood of the 7th Cavalry, the Sioux princess held her new born high into the air. He would be a witness to this victory; he would remember his legacy. She would call him Red Hand.
Beginning in the 1870′s, Red Hand is a vivid and moving tale of a half white, half Sioux boy whose white father was killed when he was an infant. It is only after he becomes a young man that he resolves to go on a quest in search of his white heritage. His travels take him half way across the Eastern U.S.A. to a penitentiary in Florida, the Bowery in New York, the Ohio valley as well as spiritual journeys of introspection until his peace of mind is resolved, at last, a century later.
“The buffalo that once roamed these lands, their number too many to count, are all gone…The plains that were once open, too far to cross on a string of good ponies, have shriveled up under the iron horse…The fertile land given to us by the Great Spirit, plentiful for all, has been fenced off and plowed under…And you wonder why we fight.”
— A Cheyenne Dog Soldier
The dampness of the dawn belied a day soon to be filled with an early summer’s heat when the pony soldiers broke camp. Seven hundred strong had ridden west from Fort Lincoln to this wilderness on the Rosebud, and now it was time… time for the men and horses to break their feed, time for the bugler to blow his trumpet, time for boots and saddles.
Crook had been beaten, driven into an embarrassing retreat by Crazy Horse only one week before, not more than a mile from this very spot, pondered the general. The man sat resolute on a rock facing east gazing across the river, a few stray locks of hair blowing lazily in the wind, his coffee long cold. How could that have happened? Crazy Horse must pay, he demanded of himself. Of course, there had been broken promises with Red Cloud, Spotted Tail and the rest. But who were they? What have they and their people done to make this magnificence a better place to live?… roam its endless expanse breeding like rabbits, killing game only for food and necessities, and each other for the vainglorious adornment of a few eagle feathers? Well, my short red bastard friends, it is your time no longer. You have outlived your preeminance over the land. I, Long Hair, shall see to that. And presently, I imagine.
“Yi yi yi yi yi yi…” they came, thousands of them, firing rifles, wielding lances and battle hatchets as the men of the 7th scattered over the low hills just south of the river. Moments before the smoke from many fires rising from the treetops a half-mile off had warned the bluecoats, but still they rode down Medicine Tail Coulee into this place where death greeted them, each man tall in the saddle like the general at the lead. Without hesitation the Indians kicked their ponies, racing to confront the bluecoats. These were not old men, women and children huddling in fear as they had at the Washita. These were young men, braves, painted for battle. They met the soldiers head on, forcing them to abandon ranks and form small groups behind their fallen mounts. Sioux and Cheyenne and Arapaho rode through the forthright as well as the faint of heart, bloodying them with lances, shooting the dead and the dying, hacking them to pieces. Scalps were taken, bodies mutilated by the squaws of the village who delighted in their plunder until there was but one survivor, Comanche, the large bay who stood alone beside the body of Captain Keough as the life poured from his master glowing crimson in the sun.
Some claimed they had been the one who killed Long Hair, but no one knew for certain. The fight had been a frenzy, a gorging, a wild bloodletting that seemed much too swift to those who remembered the bluecoat tune called Garryowen, the killing song of the pony soldier trumpets. But now it was done. The 7th Cavalry was destroyed, and Long Hair, the boy general who had meted out his share of cruelty and death to the redman of the western plains, was dead.
As the warriors rode back across the river with trophies dripping from their lances, the wailing of Comanche for his fallen master rode with them, melting into the cries of new life coming from the Indian camp. It was a child crying for his mother’s milk, crying instinctively for that which sustains life while the rich purple hue of the placenta still covered him. Rather than give him her breast, his mother held him high in the air to witness those returning victoriously from battle, to paint them into his mind so somewhere deep within his spirit he would always know his legacy. The child turned silent, focusing on the picture before him — men and horses crowding into one another with weapons raised, firing rifles, kicking up dust all around, becoming one together drunk with the moment. It was then the young Sioux princess chose to name her son. She would call him Red Hand, for the blood of the soldiers still on the hands of so many.
The days when the Sioux and Cheyenne lived as one with the earth, when their lodgepoles stretched across a thousand miles of plains and their only enemy was hunger… the better days, had long since passed when Red Hand rode into camp from an afternoon herding strays with the other boys. He was big for his age, eager since he first sat astride a pony to grow up and go with the men. It was not as before, however, nor would it ever be again. Not long after the Little Bighorn, the Indian Nations were broken by yet another army of bluecoats. Sitting Bull escaped to Canada while most of the other chiefs took their tribes to the white man’s reservations. At least there they would not starve, or freeze to death as many had before hunting in the bitter cold of winter for game no longer plentiful enough to fill their bellies.
The boy entered the tipi, placing the buffalo hide back over the small entrance, and warmed his hands by the fire. He picked up some jerky before asking his mother yet again to repeat the story. It was one she recounted with difficulty, for it was the story of the only man she had ever loved… the man she still waited for, longed for.
“Please, mother?” He looked at her with his blue eyes, blue like the summer sky, like his father’s eyes, and she relented as she would always.
“All right, my child. But only this last time, for you must know it by heart.”
“This last time then, mother.”
The fire warmed the distance between them, the flames licking at the hunk of venison on the spit, and Willow That Weeps began her tale. “It was a cool morning, the earth once again beginning to blossom when he rode into camp, a day I will keep in my heart long after I have left this earth…”
“Whadya think, John, wanna go on in? Looks quiet enough.”
“It’s all right with me. I could use some people aroun’ me fer a change.”
The two rode out of the treeline down a grassy slope into the valley below. Closer to the encampment they counted more than fifty tipis huddled along the river bank, enough to hold four times that number of men, women and children, but no matter. The Indians John Connor and his partner Ethan MacCall had encountered during three years of trapping were often sullen and suspicious, some dangerous, others unpredictable. The Pawnee, who would just as soon take your hair as look at you, they had learned to avoid. The Sioux, as these were, were generally friendly and accepted the white trappers, even traded with them, for they saw that these whites lived mostly as they did — wandering the great plains, taking only what was needed to sustain life, using the sky above as their blanket for a night’s rest.
When Ethan and John were within sight of the camp, some of the young men rode out to greet them. One recognized the two from a year ago along the Shoshone taking beaver pelts down to Slatton’s Post, and he raised a hand inviting them in.
Most everyone turned out to see the white men now. Although it was nothing new, whites visiting their lodges didn’t happen everyday, and there was a curiosity about them still. These two seemed more like their own kind than the others who’d come. These were young men with keen eyes, well outfitted for hunting these hills. As they rode among the people with the labor of many months strapped to their mules, the scent of the skins filled the air causing the dogs to fuss.
“This way,” their escort told them, and they continued towards one of the larger lodges in the middle of camp. A tall man, his hair adorned with eagle feathers, stepped from the entrance. They would learn later his name was Two Bears, that he was a chief among the people. Dismounting now, the eyes of the two trappers turned to Two Bears’ family who followed him from the lodge. A boy of about sixteen, not yet as tall as his father, stood to his right, eyeing the two like game not often encountered. A woman, striking for one who lived the life of a squaw as all Indian women do, stood at his other side gazing at John and Ethan, her kind eyes giving her away. Then she appeared and joined her family. She of the raven black hair, and of still darker eyes that pierced the very soul of John Connor, bidding every muscle of his body to ache for her touch. For her part, she too was fixed upon him, her eyes smiling at his, this white stranger dressed in buckskins, with broad shoulders and sky blue eyes and as kind a face as she had ever seen… as kind, she would allow, as her own father’s.
“What brings you here,” Two Bears asked them.
“We been huntin’ these hills fer many months,” John answered, “away from the company o’ others when we saw yer smoke. We missed the warm fires of our Sioux brothers since we las’ stayed with Red Cloud an’ his people on the Tongue. It was in our minds ta visit yer village, ta talk trade, an’ sit once agin with those which we share this earth.”
Two Bears stared at the two white trappers for some moments longer, looking beyond the surface of what was plain to all, looking instead inside, to where the truth of their words lie, and he welcomed them.
“It is good you have come.” Gesturing to the beaver pelts on their pack mules, “you have hunted well. The Sioux have always been willing to share what our Mother the Earth provides. Come, we will talk.”
The men entered the lodge first — Two Bears, his son, Running Wolf, then John and Ethan, finally the wife of Two Bears, Star Rising, and she, she whose blue-black, velvet eyes again glanced to John, lingering forever before taking her place on the opposite side of the lodge with her mother and two other women of the tribe. She, whose softness continued to reach out to John, a softness as soothing and gentle as the sound of her name, Willow.
The conversation among the men touched on the bounty of the land, the coming summer and, hopefully, the promise of good hunting before autumn came and winter set in in earnest. Running Wolf, who was nearing his seventeenth year and so was allowed to sit and talk with the men, asked the whites how many of their kind were on Sioux land. Two Bears admonished him some for being direct, but John and Ethan were not put off by the boy’s eagerness.
“There’s a smatterin’ of us in these parts,” Ethan said. “John an’ me come up from Colorado Territory goin’ on three years now, so we don’t really know ‘xactly how many white folks there might be. Not too many I reckon.”
“Do you travel far?” Two Bears asked them.
“Down to the Powder on our way south,” John replied as his eyes darted quickly towards the girl, and not for the first time. “Good fishin’ on our way ta trade, an’ a chance fer a few more skins to boot.”
“Will you come this way again?”
“I reckon we like the country an’ the trappin’ well enough. What we need is a few days res’ fer Ethan’s horse. Seems he picked up a nettle an’ we cain’t git the dern thing out. He’s been hobblin’ real bad. We’d be obliged.”
“You can make camp along the river. We will look at your horse in the morning.”
The two men sat over a fire that evening warming their bones after they’d hobbled the horses and pack animals a ways downstream. John had scavenged some kindling while Ethan’d cut a few strips off a flank of elk they’d shot the week before. With the coffee and dried biscuits, they sat eating in silence
staring at the lodges of their hosts. The moonlit night offered a backdrop of varying shades of blue, purple and orange while the smoke from many fires climbed skyward through the scene, the pony herd breaking the stillness now and again after catching the scent of a stray coyote.
“Ya think that chief’ll be able ta do anythin’ more fer old Soldier, John? That nettle’s in deep.”
“Don’ know, but he looks like the kind that won’t give up on somethin’. Strikin’ son of a gun… he an’ his whole family. An’ no lack o’ gray matter neither… his English is dern good.” John wasn’t ready to admit just yet being smitten by the chief’s daughter. He was merely asking for Ethan to pick up his thought and engage further conversation about the girl, hoping to gain Ethan’s opinion without having to ask it directly, but silence remained. No matter, he thought gazing back at the Indian camp, attempting to pick out the lodge of the chief, and of her, tomorrow will come soon enough. As he and Ethan hunkered down for the night in front of a still smoldering fire, he found he couldn’t wait.
The ducks woke the two men early next morning with their squawking in the marsh at the river’s edge. John, scratching himself awake, got up first and started a fire, giving Ethan a nudge with his boot.
“Gonna git the rest o’ them biscuits out whil’ I make the coffee, pard’?… or ya gonna lay there an’ sleep like the King of Siam hisself ‘til one o’ yer harem props ya up on a pilla an’ serves ya roasted pig, with the dang apple an’ all?”
“I hear ya, I hear ya,” and Ethan slowly crawled from under his blankets in his longjohns and socks trying to sidestep the pricklers as he made his way towards a thick scrub of oak muttering something about first draining his pecker. John watched him hop along, only seeing the top of Ethan’s head now from behind the oak as the man stood motionless for what seemed like an hour. Jeez, that boy could pee, thought John. He’s like some damn camel er something, just saves it up fer days then lets ‘er fly. As John smiled he also thought a man couldn’t have a finer partner, one who knew the mountains and its peculiarities as well as any white man he ever knew, and one who wouldn’t turn tail when trouble came calling.
“Any more biscuits?” John asked as the two sat sipping their coffee, hands cradling tin mugs.
“No biscuits, jes more o’ the elk, an’ not a whol’ lot ‘o that neither. We gonna have to scare up some meat b‘for we ride down to Slatton’s. With ‘at Sharps yer carryin’, pard’, that shouldn’t be no trouble.”
John’s thoughts wandered back to the girl with the raven hair and sweet, soft name as his eyes strained to catch a glimpse of her among the many in the Indian village now up and about. From this distance, the people were no more than the size of insects — women gathering up firewood and kids, men heading to a thicket to relieve their night’s swelling — and John strained all the harder, attempting to find her until he noticed three figures in the distance growing steadily larger walking his way. Nearer, he saw they were Two Bears, Running Wolf and a third, older member of the tribe he and Ethan had not yet met.
Within twenty yards of John’s and Ethan’s makeshift camp, Two Bears raised his hand in greeting. The two hunters replied as the five men now faced each other, and Two Bears spoke first.
“This is Santin, an elder of our tribe, one who works with herbs and roots and the moss from the riverbeds. He has cured many of our horses from going lame. He will look at your horse, Ethan McCall, and take the sickness from him.”
The old man moved easily from the group to the horses. The others followed, watching him as he approached the animals. He placed a hand on Soldier’s forehead who snuffled, shaking his head slightly. Santin waited some seconds, then placed his hand again on his forehead, all the while speaking to him, gentling him before slowly lifting his left foreleg to inspect the soreness Ethan noticed had grown. It was starting to fester. Santin moved away and muttered a few words to Two Bears before heading back towards the Indian camp.
“What is it?” Ethan asked.
“Santin will gather what is necessary and return soon,” the chief told them. “There is little time.”
Ethan was taken aback by Two Bears’ remarks. He knew Soldier’s limp was getting worse, but neither he nor John were doctor enough to have been aware just how perilous the situation was. Without asking the chief more, knowing he’d get little information, Ethan stayed close to Soldier holding him as the horse nuzzled his master.
The sun was near its apex and the old Santin had not returned. Two Bears and Running Wolf had remained, however, and after some time shuffling about with their two guests, making small talk about the game in these parts and the presence of the buffalo, John invited them to sit by the fire, its flames still licking, throwing off heat. Ethan declined without any apparent offense to Two Bears, choosing to remain with Soldier, all the while keepin’ a keen eye peeled for Santin. As John settled in with his guests across the charred cottonwood and lingering flames, he reflected… you’re never certain with Indians, even peaceful tribes, if you might offend them by doing or saying the wrong thing simply out of ignorance of their ways. But then he thought, these Sioux have been nothing but friendly, and if he had his way right then and there, Two Bears might be a whole lot closer to him than a mere acquaintance. So he went on with his question.
“Two Bears, how long have you and yer people camped along the Bighorn?”
“For my father’s and his father’s lifetimes. We have survived the winters and the wrath of our enemies for as long as I can remember, but now the whites seem to be everywhere, swarming over the land like the tall grass in Spring. And the bluecoats follow, killing off those with whom they would make treaties. I do not think my son will live as my father did. Our way is changing.”
“We can live together, you and I, we proved such these past three years… me and Ethan huntin’ these parts, you and yer people invitin’ us to share yer fire.”
“This is true, but you are only two men who live as we do… off the land, taking only that which is needed, then moving on to allow the earth to replenish herself. It is not the way of the others who would grab up the land and fence it off for only their use. That is the way which will ruin us… first fencing off the Indian, then corraling us as the whites do their own animals, as they have done to the tribes across the great river to the east.”
“I can’t argue that. But it is the way of the world… people needin’ to stretch their boundaries, to breathe easier. It’s been the way since the beginning. I jes hope you and I can live together peaceably.” Then John collected himself, sitting up straighter, wanting to look every bit the man he considered himself to be after surviving three years in the wild with only his rifle and his wits, and he added, “and I’ve got a reason for sayin’ such.”
It was not the Indian way to respond to a statement left unfinished. So Two Bears looked at John Connor, waiting, staring into the eyes of the white man he would soon call son.
“I…,” John continued now, searching for the words, “I wish ta court yer daughter… that is, with yer permission… an’ her’s, Two Bears.”
The chief looked deeper now into the blue eyes of John Connor and discovered to his surprise he did not see a white man before him, but simply a man, one who carried himself with the strength and bearing of his own people. However, Two Bears hesitated before answering, examining John closer, looking for the tiniest flaw of character, the smallest trace of weakness, but found only resolve.
“I will speak with her,” the chief stated matter-of-factly, showing no emotion, the words hanging in the air until Ethan hailed them all with, “he’s comin’!”
When Santin arrived they found the old medicine man had just two items with him — a pouch of hide with an odor so strong John and Ethan picked it up from ten paces, and a sliver of a stone knife sharpened to a fine edge. He walked straight on to Soldier, only nodding to Two Bears as he passed, and soothed the horse as he had earlier. Setting the poultice down, Santin picked up Soldier’s foreleg in the same motion and began poking about with the knife until he found the spot he was looking for. To Ethan’s astonishment, Soldier allowed Santin to whittle away, slicing at the oozing gob of puss and gore as it dribbled down onto the old man’s shaggy leggings. Just a slight whinny and shaking of the head was all anyone heard or saw out of the animal until Santin let out a triumphant, “Heya!…” holding up a thorn as long as your small finger. Without letting go of Soldier’s hoof, he stooped to pick up the godawful smelling poultice, untieing the top of the pouch. He placed Soldier’s hoof inside, then retied the pouch to the animal’s leg, but not so tight as to rankle him.
Santin joined the others now and, once again, spoke only with Two Bears before walking back to the Indian camp.
“Keep the pouch on the horse to draw the poison out,” Two Bears relayed to Ethan and John. “Santin will come every day with fresh herbs. He will say when the horse is cured.”
Two days passed, then three, with Santin coming every morning to change the dressing on Soldier’s hoof with more of the herbs. Even though Ethan had kept the horse hobbled, he wasn’t going anywhere. The animal seemed to understand the old Indian was doing him some good, and simply waited after sunup everyday for Santin to arrive. Then Soldier would comply with his wishes as a good patient might with an attending physician.
After the fourth day, and still without word from the old man about the health of the horse, John told Ethan he’d better go shoot some meat quick, or else the two of them were going to be worse off than Soldier in a couple days. They’d run out of the elk, and the fresh biscuits Ethan had cooked up weren’t far behind. Without waiting, John packed up his bedroll and enough ammunition to keep him occupied for the better part of a week, and rode west, disappearing with the setting sun over the hills in the distance. What he didn’t see as he headed out was the silent gaze of Willow from a small stand of trees on the edge of camp, her face only a silhouette within the twilight, watching him for as long as she was able, then longer still in her own mind’s eye, dwelling on what it would be like to feel his touch, the warmth of his breath, the sweetness of a caress.
—As darkness fell he found a gully no more than ten feet wide stretching a few miles north along a riverbank when he decided to bed down. The moon was bright, the stars dancing about, with some shooters from time to time to entertain him as he drifted off into his world of the Indian girl he’d only just met. But knowing the first light of dawn would bring the business of finding fresh meat, he put away his thoughts of Willow, nodding off for what remained of the night.
The following day the air was crisp with patches of white clouds hanging harmlessly overhead when he eased Stoney down a bank into a gully. Instantly he heard what he thought were birds in a thicket off to his left. He kept moving at the same pace, only glancing in the direction of the thicket, making no sudden move, riding deliberately, waiting until he was farther into the gully to dismount and come back on foot to surprise them. He kept on and as he did he heard their rustling again before he turned down a dry creekbed some seventy-five yards along, then doubled that distance before reining in Stoney. He dismounted and grabbed his Sharps along with a few extra rounds and headed back down the creekbed. When he reached the gully, he was crouched low to the ground, making his way carefully back to the brush where he first heard the sound. Thirty yards away, he stopped. No movement from him now, barely a breath… an intruder only slightly curious to the watchful eyes of the creatures who called this land their own.
It was another three minutes before he heard another sound from the brush just ahead, but this time there was no mistaking it. The cracking of branches told John it was bigger game, and he welcomed the thought of bringing down some meat this early on the trail. Don’t rush, he thought… don’t run it off, least ways not in the wrong direction. He looked at the ground around him. There were small twigs and branches about, and pieces of broken granite. This offered what he was looking for… a decent size ‘throwin’ rock.’ He picked one out, cradled it in his palm for some seconds, then let it go. With it still in flight he set up on one knee, brought his rifle into position and cocked the hammer, staring intently at the brush before him. The missile crashed into the thicket … then another split second… then a moment later, the buck was breaking from the heavy brush running straight at him. There was no time to think… no time, just react. He rode the sight of his Sharps and fired. The buck had moved so quickly the bullet struck him flank high, buckling his forelegs, bringing him down head over hooves. John exhaled, wiping the sweat from his brow as he watched the animal struggle to right his body without success, yet he struggled.
Some minutes later with the life pouring from him, his breath shortening, barely moving, the buck’s eyes followed the hunter as he circled around behind, slowly, carefully. He could see the hunter pulling something from his belt… what was it? But by then John had slit the animal’s jugular, trussing him up and bleeding him before rigging a sling for the trek back.
“Red Hand is a compelling and fascinating story of a young man’s journey through life as he confronts violence, prejudice, social injustice and love. The story line will move you as Red Hand’s courage and determination is unparalleled. Ross has captured the aura of a Native American and brought him to life in Red Hand.”
– Art Adkins, Award Winning Author of The Oasis Project
“Ross has done a wonderful job painting lush landscapes for his characters. Red Hand has an epic feel. Intimate and expansive, this American story takes you from the plains to the jungles to the grit of the city. There’s a wonderful organic earthiness to these characters; I can see the dirt under their nails.”
– A.L. “Skip” Mahaffey, Author of Adventures With My Father
“An exciting, well written compilation of true grit and wild, wild west characters that make you forget about your cell phone and computer!”
– Dean J. Kropp, Author of A Bone to Pick
“Around every corner- a stranger’s gun, a woman’s smile, sudden death, a glass of whiskey, an ounce of wisdom. Red Hand’s journey is set on a Western canvas that stretches across 100 years of American history. Rich in character, rapid in pace, Ross’s authentic dialogue is pure blood and poetry.”
– Brian Neary, Author of Hawk
“An action western with a modern twist. Robert Ross has tried something different, and he pulls it off. I recommend it!”
– Bill Crider, Winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel
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Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyways.
– John Wayne