My Books and Short Stories

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                                                             SHORT STORIES ABOUT VETERANS
The Dry-Land Farmer, excerpts

By Milt Mays

Should’ve stayed in the Navy. Shit happens, though.

Like that morning

The Hawaiian sea breeze cools my face, the sun warms my back and, son of a bitch, two aces! Life doesn’t get much better.

Air raid sirens crack the peace.

“Another dumbass drill,” Earl says, sitting cross-legged and staring at his cards. He’s our complainer. Gotta have one.

I stand tall and crane my neck. Planes fly in low, too low, with those terrible red circles on the sides. “Jesus!” I yell. “This ain’t no drill, boys. Those are Japs!”
Torpedoes and bombs, screams and explosions, wailing sirens, smoke and blood—it scares me, scares me dumb and deaf. My head gets quiet and I run to the forecastle. No time to haul in a football field of starboard anchor chain. The winch is slow. The links are gigantic. They snake up from the bowels of the ship, wrap around the windlass, straighten to the bow and disappear down the hawsepipe: dark tunnel to Davy Jones’ Locker. The chain quivers with hundreds of tons of ship, like Hercules reining Cerberus. Hades waits.

I remember there’s another way. Blow out a breath and run to no man’s land, this side of the hawsepipe. Find the detachable link—the weakest link. Pull the pin, the chain will slip free and we can get the hell out. It’s there. But it’s rusted. I pull at the link but it won’t budge.
More bombs explode. Hurry! I should get help but there’s no time. Or maybe I’m just plain stupid.

A farmer has tried his whole life to do the right thing, including at Pearl Harbor, where he was an unsung hero. Despite hardships, he hung on to the land and the farm, and it saved him and his family, though one terrible accident may take all that away and give up one more farm to fracking. Unless he can finish one more harvest.

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The Drive-in Hole

By Milt Mays

Two things a man needs when he crosses into late fall: love and a good hobby. I guess there’s three. Warmth. You get that inside with the first two, but outside warmth becomes more important as the first days of winter approach. Guess that’s why I’ve moved my late fall fishing closer to summer. It gives me two out of three.

The oars creak, the September sun warms my shoulder, and I sit in the front seat of the wooden drift boat Scott made, changing my fly for the next hole on the Bighorn. In the first casts on the last hole, my shoulder reminded me of thousands in the past. Time also taught me it’s time for a hopper.

My turn for the oars will come, but not now. Scott knows it. He’s probably smiling at the back of my head, knowing my craving for the crash of a big brown on a hopper, and knowing my love of this particular hole on this particular river. Scott rows expertly, the sun-flash of the wooden oars slurping in and out of flowing water. He rows so smoothly that movement is imperceptible. We slide into the perfect angle of drift, allowing the powerful river as wide as a football field to take us right where the fish lay. I am lucky Scott is my friend. …

To read the rest, click on cover and order.

The Water Holds No Scars











Thanksgiving with Riley

By Milt Mays

He turns off the alarm with his good hand, the left one, and catches himself turning towards her, but squelches the initial instinct to give her a morning kiss. Maybe some day. Months after he returned, neither of them could figure out the best sleeping arrangements. But after a year now, it’s second nature to sleep on the right side of the bed. He can roll over, turn off the alarm and leave without her ever seeing his face.

“Wh …” She clears the rough sleep from her throat. “What are you doing? Why did the alarm go off?”

He sits on the side of the bed, his back to her, scrunching the toes of his right foot in the carpet. Oh, man. That shag feels good between the toes. Then the left leg interrupts. The sore spot on the center of the stump needs a closer look, but he’ll do that once he’s in the bathroom.

“Riley, it’s only six.” She sounds sexy, gravel in there and timbered low, serious. “Why’re you getting up so early?” …

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Ten ways I’ve found to slow down time, other than fishing.

1. Watch my grandson play

playing at the pool

playing at the pool

2. Hold a purring cat close to my cheek


3. Look into the eyes of my Labrador retriever.
I love you

I love you

4. Make a silly face
If you make a funny face you'll feel better

If you make a funny face you’ll feel better

5. Hike in the Rocky Mountains


6. Watch a rainbow
rainbow over Cameron Pass

rainbow over Cameron Pass

7. Listen to a stream
Ah, spring

Ah, spring

8. Sing a favorite song
Probably John Denver, or Jimmy Buffet

Probably John Denver, or Jimmy Buffet

9. Tie a fly for a friend
tying at the Bighorn

tying at the Bighorn

10. Row the drift boat and watch a friend catch a fish.


Okay, so some of them INVOLVE fishing. Can you blame me?
What are your favorite ways to slow time? Share them with me. With us. There are lots more, I’m sure.


What is Freedom Worth? To You! Christmas 2015

This is an old post, but worth revisiting every now and then. Merry Christmas to all those who serve.

On a Chris Hayes Memorial Day video, a mother who was just told her only son was lost in the war asked the Marine casualty assistant officer, “Was it worth it?” He replied, “I can’t answer that for you.”

Why didn’t he just say yes? Because he knows that mother would filet him and serve him up as grilled dumbshit to every mom with a kid in the service. If he said no, his boss would fire him on the spot; have a nice retirement, and oh, by the way, you remember that UCMJ article that says you can’t oppose the President? You got some ‘splaining to do, Georgy. I hear they have good books in Fort Leavenworth.

So, this is just a friendly blog and you can answer the question without the above. Just leave a name no one will know, and an email no one can trace. Yeah. Blogs are so private.

Okay, I’ll be the first. Freedom is worth Death for thousands and Suffering for those millions that survive–every damn day. Not good enough? How about, freedom is worth the complete annihilation of two Japanese cities, making them unliveable for, what was it for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, twenty years, twenty thousand years?

That’s taking it too far, you say. How about close to home. What is MY freedom worth: the ability to walk my dog in a pleasant neighborhood; ride my bike for hours at a time every day if I like, drive to a nice campground and catch fish on a clean river? If I gave those up, no big deal.

What about the freedom to talk to you about problems in our government, or discuss with my neighbor about how unfair the schools are to handicapped children, or publish a book that takes a political shot at the President, or a member of Congress? Hmmm. I still think I could live without those.

Then there is the freedom to sleep at night, or walk the streets without someone from our now non-free government, kidnapping me or my kid, and torturing us because they heard a rumor from the fanatical kid down the block that I didn’t like what a Congressman said on TV. Yeah. Me neither. Not big on torture. I think freedom as The Constitution outlines might be worth that, all by itself.

I thought this video might show you that we are not the only ones in the world that value freedom. But at what price?

So where does this slippery slope begin, and where does it end? The real question is, shouldn’t we all have to suffer some to have freedom, not just the soldiers and their families?  Yes. And we do, every time we pay taxes. Right? Oh, yeah. That’s real suffering, spending a couple of hours on Turbo Tax figuring out how you can get a refund. Surely we suffer more than that. Hmmm.

What if every time we were at war we were not allowed to use any electricity after 8 p.m.? That would save a lot of money, make us realize every day we wanted to get rid of war, and make each of us suffer some.  Any other suggestions?

Here’s the other problem, though. In order to have freedom we have to convince those bullies around the world that want a piece of the USA to NOT be aggressive about it. Or we have to fight back.There’s no school principal to settle our differences. We have to do it. Just the Pres, his diplomats, and our army against theirs.That’s it. And sometimes their army shoots at our army and there you have it: war. How do you keep them from shooting? How do you avoid shooting back?

What about Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Did someone shoot at us? No, other than almost 3,000 people killed at 9/11. Did we have to shoot, or could we still have pretty much the same freedoms we had before 9/11 today, without those wars? Seems to me the terrorists still got us terrified enough to invent Homeland Security, and search everyone going on a plane ride like you were entering San Quentin. Okay. Worse.

Did killing all those Iraqis, Afghans, along with a few kids and other innocents, and, oh by the way, our best and brightest hearing Taps from six feet under, did that get rid of that terror? I don’t think so.Then again, did it prevent the terrorist from having more 9/11’s? Hmmm. Hard questions.

I’d love to hear some answers from anyone.


Are there Miracles Anymore? Quick and Easy may not get it.

Do you have a miracle in your life?

You don’t have to look far. Even the mirror will do. But, you can go to your local hospital nursery, or talk to any new parent. Human beings are born every day. If you don’t believe that’s a miracle, just think about it.

Somehow two random people in a world of seven billion find love and create a new person. If the mom is in Iran or Syria or other hot spot where wars revolve around oil ( Wiki List of Ongoing military conflicts ), to have that great little miracle she must simply avoid starvation or getting shot.

She could be having fun gardening in the good old USA, in Colorado, and smoke from a drought-induced forest fire invades her back yard for days causing coughing attacks that lead her to premature labor. Maybe she lives in New Orleans and is swept away by the next hurricane, or develops typhoid fever from poor water supply.

These could all be due to energy problems, global warming. Or not. What do you think? The next link may take a long time to review, but keep it. Lots of good stuff.  Main Arguments Pro and Con Global Warming

Okay, here’s a story for you:

About a mile away on my farm, an oil company fracked a well. No big deal, right? Hey, I own the mineral rights on that land. In fact, if I didn’t get the money from the oil company for fracking, my pregnant wife would be eating rice and ham, and we would have to forget going to the doctor since I couldn’t afford health insurance anymore. I heard that contamination of the water supply by fracking is very rare, so why not? My wife can get that great medical care, she can eat good nutritious foods, and we’re on our way to a healthy baby boy, or so says the ultrasound. And, to top it all off, how great can it be that I’m doing the patriotic thing for my country, making us energy independent. Right?

Joe, my neighbor invited us over for spaghetti last night. That’s not what the MF wanted, though. He flicked his Bic lighter and the water flamed on from his faucet. He’s blaming me and my fracking well. Hmm. Could the water be contaminated from fracking?

Is fracking good or bad for you?

Okay, so forget about babies for a minute. I am, by virtue of my middle class USA standing, in the top 1%, economically, of human beings in the world. My son graduated from high school. He’s done well. He’s used those one-hundred billion neurons in his brain to rank him in the top 10% of the top 1% of humans in the world. I wanted him to go to college, but he wanted to serve his country. Why not? He goes to Iraq. I’m a very proud parent. He goes to Afghanistan.

Then today someone knocked on my door in full dress uniform and had an envelope in their hand. Yeah.

Yes, miracles occur every day. A human is born, creates a painting, writes a song, or maybe despite being raised by his mother after his worthless African father runs off, he becomes President. And he’s got a weird name like Obama and he’s black. Or maybe a baby boy I loved my whole life goes off to war, and doesn’t come back. Don’t guess that last one was a miracle.

For some reason we ignore all those daily miracles by doing stupid things to preserve quick and easy energy for the USA. We have become a nation of quick and easy—news, money, food, energy. Has this translated to lives of the few in the military we risk for the quick and easy comforts of many?

Are we willing to modify our comforts to make sure those human lives are not put at risk?

Would we be willing to give up two hours a day of lights, or instead of driving to work all by myself carpool with three other people at work?

Power is in numbers. If only a few do it, nada. If millions do it then we may no longer use so much oil every day, need so much coal for energy, and perhaps, just perhaps we could become energy independent. We would not need to frack our country to death.

Should we continue to kill thousands of human miracles every year to maintain our quick and easy comforts or should we do a few simple things to keep us from having wars over oil?


Robin Williams: The Unknown Man


What do we really know about someone? I know he was funny—God, funnier than anyone I’d ever seen. His funny words were like bullets from a machine gun, and each bullet a different size and shape, though each one hit a target. Bull’s-eye. Laugh riot.

Perhaps that word, ammo, is more appropriate than you think. Were his quips and jibes and rants that had us in stitches really thrown at a world as bullets to protect him from himself? To murder foul spirits that haunted him every minute? If only he could get enough laughs everything would be okay. If only he could make someone feel joy, perhaps he would feel it, too.

Robin Williams was a man who lived in each moment, so quick he had a comeback for every phrase uttered a mere second before. His mind seemed to be on a different time frame, living in 80 frames a second rather than us lowly humans at our 60 frames, even faster than dogs at 70 frames. Watching TV was probably harder for him than for dogs!
dogs watching tv

People call him a comic genius. That order of words seems wrong to me. I would call him a genius of comedy. Comedy: the other side of the mask of tragedy. The Greeks got it right, only too well. What is comedy but poking fun at tragedy, and getting us to do that one thing that relieves the stress of tragedy more than anything else: laugh. It might start as a giggle, then expand when you realize just how funny the joke is. If you laugh hard enough and loud enough, you forget the pain and others join in. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you. So his genius, his total and ultimate incredible genius of comedy, was turning a tragedy he saw in everything, every second of every waking minute, into something to laugh about. In the end, perhaps the darkness overcame him. A dark shroud covers his body and you hear a tiny cutting, and a pink tongue pokes through the shroud and his voice sings, “Nah-nee-nah-nee-boo-boo!”
einstein tongue out
Oops! My bad. That was another genius.

Genius, I think, is tragic in itself. It is so close to perfection, yet so bounded by being human, that perfection seems further away at every attempt. So there has to be a balance to genius, or it gradually eats away at the person, the brain killing the heart. How the hell can a blob of gray, quivering crap kill a muscle that beats the hell out of blood for decades? Sounds like a movie—Stephen Hawking vs. Arnold!
stephenhawking Arnold picture
How can you balance genius? Here’s my advice to every genius, having seen a few in my profession and noticed how fragile they are. Forgive yourself. Be patient and forgiving of your failures. Perfection is not possible, but you get closer than anyone. Pat yourself on the back every time you think you missed that bull’s-eye, because your attempts make us all strive harder, and makes each moment on this earth a better place.

If you find a genius in your midst (maybe one of those two dudes, or dudettes, walking into a bar!), talk to them, have a beer with them, take them fishing, give them raspberries on their belly, and love them. Never, ever forget each moment. Because in the end, that’s all that counts.

Two Dudes in a Bar

Two Dudes in a Bar

Robin, I never knew you, yet through the wonders of TV and movies I did. Now, to staunch my tears today, I will have to watch you again and again to cheer up. Thanks for making the world a better place, making me want to be a better person, and making me laugh.

Milt Mays