Similar to the last book I read, this book is about a boy from my home state of Nebraska who has some calling to violence. The previous book, Once an Eagle, was a fictional story of a soldier who goes to WWI and WWII and struggles with morality during it. This book, however, was the grim and factual recalling of the actual events that happened back in the 1950’s where Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend did not struggle with morality at all as they killed 10 people.
“Hers was really a story of a child in fear of her life for eight terrifying days, a child who believed that not only her own life was in danger but also the lives of her family. She did not know they were dead. if people knew the truth, they would realize that Caril Fugate was no criminal. She was Startkweather’s victim…”
– John McArthur (Caril’s lawyer)
One thing that really struck me about this was the age of Caril Fugate, Charlie’s girlfriend – only 14 years old. It was very hard for me to reconcile that with the events that took place. There are some questions about how much she actually was responsible for — but in any case, she was definitely part of it.
“Nobody but the jury knows how we thrashed out this evidence and tried our best to find her innocent. There was no doubt in our minds as to her guilt.”
– A member of the Jury
The other thing that struck me was imagining how the residents of Lincoln must’ve felt during that week – as there were more and more cases of murder being reported, and they seemed to be pretty random, and they authorities weren’t able to find Starkweather.
“Governor Anderson called about 200 members of the National Guard, and they were cruising the streets with jeeps armed with mounted machine guns. Parents with guns drawn rushed to the schools and took their children home. The city was completely sealed off. A block by block search began… Aircraft were sent up to help look for the Ward’s black Packard.”
Throughout the book the author seems to put some questions in place – who is to blame for someone like this? The parents, the school system, society as a whole? Who knows – maybe everybody, maybe nobody – maybe only Charlie himself. I lean a little that way – but am still uncertain about Caril.
I understand that Sam Damon was a noble man and had a certain calling towards the military. However, the lesson I learned from this is, I think you can be too consumed in your calling – if you aren’t able to find the right balance. I really felt this towards the end of the book – after Sam drug Tommy, his wife, through a career’s length of moving, not very good living conditions, him being gone to war – once Sam finally retired to Monterey, he should’ve kept his word to Tommy and spent the rest of his days with her and stayed busy with woodworking. He should’ve never gone on that last mission.
With that said, Sam was easy to root for – an all American boy who was straight as an arrow morally and from my home state of Nebraska. He’s tough as nails when he needs to be and doesn’t have a lot of emotion – a sort of Rambo character. And just as Rambo had Colonel Trautman, Sam had his own mentor, Colonel Caldwell, to guide him when necessary.
All a good man needed was one opening, one solid chance to show what he could do: if he was any good he’d make it the rest of the way on his own.
I didn’t care much for the antagonist, Courtney Massengale – but I do agree with other readers — I believe he did have some desirable skills and characteristics – albeit some undesirable ones as well.
That’s the whole challenge of life – to act with honor and hope and generosity, no matter what you’ve drawn. You can’t help when or what you were born, you may not be able to help how you die; but you can – and you should – try to pass the days between as a good man.
Throughout the story, Sam shows a good example of how to have heart and pride and loyalty towards your team. He shows good decision making skills and the ability to play the hand his is dealt. During his years in the military he fights in World War I, World War II, and also the beginning of Vietnam. Along the way, he loses his best friend, other good friends — really, all of his friends, and his son, and eventually his wife loses him.
That’s what war is for, isn’t it? …to kill people?
At the end of it, it’s somewhat of a depressing book – it paints a bleak picture of life in the military for both the soldier and the spouse and family. It shows the horrors of war and also the toll that life can have on a man and a married couple.
Most books are longer than they need to be, and this one was no different – clocking in at 1291 pages, it was exhausting getting through it.
Updated: January 6, 2021
“That’s the whole challenge of life – to act with honor and hope and generosity, no whatter what you’ve drawn. You can’t help when or what you were born, you may not be able to help how you die; but you can – and you should – try to pass the days between as a good man.”
– Anton Myrer, Once an Eagle
Growing up as a young, black girl in the racist, early 20th century – during the Great Depression era would’ve been tough. Getting raped by your mother’s husband is obviously devastating. Getting pregnant as a teen as a result of questioning yourself and trying to prove something to yourself is traumatic.
“Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn’t know what I was aware of.”
These are some of the major events shaped Maya Angelou’s childhood, but her story emphasized the good in her life as much as the bad. She had her brother Bailey, who she seemed to have a great relationship with as children. They watched after one another and took of each other throughout their whole childhood.
She had her Momma (grandmother) who was a successful, black, entrepreneur. Momma was innovative when necessary – when customers didn’t have enough money to shop at her store, she allowed customers to trade their welfare provisions for store credit. She then used the welfare provisions to feed her family.
There were also other people who inspired her – Mrs Flowers who gave her cookies, books to read aloud, and poems to recite. She met a good friend, Louise, a girl the same age as her – who allowed Maya learn to be a girl, after years of being a “woman”. A high school teacher at a mostly white school named Miss Kirwin who treated Maya the same as everyone else.
Maya Angelou did have a rough childhood – but it’s an interesting read especially knowing that she came out of it a successful poet, author, and civil rights activist. From everything she went through, she seemed to grow from – even if it took time; sometimes years.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Because it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last month.
“You reach a certain age and you’re not waiting for the man you’re going to become; you better start being the man you want to be.”
– Bruce Springsteen
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
My Rating: 4/5
This book was a little different than I was expecting, but all-in-all it was good. It had a LOT of different topics from evolution to religion to empires to economics to the future and beyond. So many different topics that it’s really hard to sum up and summarize and honestly, it might take awhile to process this book and I may need to revisit it at some point.
I took a LOT of notes while reading this, so I will just jot them down here. Most of them are direct quotes, some are modified quotes, and just a few are my own thoughts:
Part One: The Cognitive Revolution
Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution
Part Three: The Unification of Humankind
Part Four: The Scientific Revolution
Regarding the story of Chris McCandless as told in Into The Wild – I can relate to some degree and I think we all can probably relate a little bit. I think Krakauer says it best when he’s comparing Chris’s story to his own – “I suspect we had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of the soul”. An agitation of the soul. This kid wanted more than the “successful life” of getting a good job and making some decent money. He escaped the American formula that most of us follow and that seems popular for some advice givers to disagree with – to graduate with a degree, get a good job, get married, have kids.
This story, for some reason, reminds me of the Springsteen song Born to Run. Chris needed to take off, experience life to it’s fullest, and take it all in like the guy and the girl in the song. Springsteen wrote Born to Run when he was 24 years old, the same age Chris was during his Alaskan adventure. But by the time Springsteen was in his late 30’s, when he played the song live, he would mention “When I wrote this song I thought I was writing about a guy and a girl who wanted to run and keep on running. But as I got older I asked myself ‘where were they running?’… I guess I realized that you could get out there and get away, but your own individual freedom ends up feeling pretty meaningless when it’s not connected to some sort of community or friends or the world outside. So, I guess that guy and that girl, they were out there looking for connection.”
Chris seemed to come to the same conclusion since one of the last things he wrote in his journal was
“Happiness only real when shared”
I think when we’re younger we have that deep “agitation of the soul” to figure out who we are what it all means – to decide what we care about and what we’re willing to fight for. Age seems to usually provide some clarity on things and now as I’m getting close to my late 30’s I seem to agree with this Tolstoy quote from Family Happiness that is referenced in the book
“… I think I have found what is needed for happiness. A quaint secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and children, perhaps — what more can the heart of a man desire?”
And what’s kind of funny – is a lot of that follows the American formula.
A few other quotes I liked from the book – many are excerpts from other works that were referenced:
Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last month.
“Happiness only real when shared”
– Christopher McCandless
Before reading this book I knew that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. I also knew that they ran a bicycle shop before that. I had probably heard of Kitty Hawk, but I don’t think I could’ve answered whether that was the name of their plane or what exactly it was. Otherwise, I was pretty clueless as to what these two brothers were about… and this was one of the reasons I started reading a lot more a few years back.
These two brothers were pretty weird, but they also had quite some drive about them from the get-go – setting up a printing press in their shed and then after that, starting and growing their bicycle business. So they weren’t dumb and it’s mentioned more than once that they were very hard workers who worked 6 days a week routinely. But they were weird in that they stayed bachelors, lived together, had a joint checking account, and weren’t too interested in other people.
“The Wrights were ‘two of the workingest boys’ ever seen. And when they worked, they worked… they had their whole heart and soul in what they were doing.”
I liked that their dad, Bishop, preferred informal education over the formal education of school. He was a “lifelong lover of books” and “ranked reading as worthy”. As I’ve gotten older and as the world of Google and YouTube has come up – I believe that self teaching far outweighs school already and things will continue that way. Those that can and will put in the effort to teach themselves with the tools available will succeed.
I also liked that their father, a man devoted to God, encouraged his children to read “The Great Agnostic” and wanted his kids to “investigate and conclude for their ownself”. That’s good and probably got the brothers thinking about other things as well.
I thought it was interesting that bicycles, at one point, were proclaimed morally hazardous and voices were raised in protest. It was said that children could be far away from home and not spending enough time with their books. It’s funny how time changes some things.
There were several people at the time trying to figure out flight – including Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison – but these two young brothers thought they could figure it out better. That’s a pretty cool attitude to have.
“In no way did any of this discourage or deter Wilbur and Orville Wright, any more than the fact that they had had no college education, no formal technical training, no experience working with anyone other than themselves, no friends in high places, no financial backers, no government subsidies, and little money of their own. Or the entirely real possibility that at some point… they could be killed.”
They figured out flight methodically – through studying, through experiments, through trying and failing, and getting just a little bit better, incrementally, over many years. They had accidents, boiling water spraying at Wilbur’s body – and they wrecked the airplane – Orville’s wreck in 1908 almost killed him.
“It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.”
I think they were also very smart businessmen. They knew what they had and what it was worth and weren’t willing to settle for less and also made smart partnerships with other smart people. They always seemed to take their time in everything they did. This paid off for them in the long run. They didn’t seem to “celebrate” or let up at all until they knew they had accomplished what they set out to accomplish.
I also thought it was interesting how much “fake news” was back in 1900’s as well – it was mentioned multiple times that newspapers had fabricated stories about the Wright Brothers – both good and bad. It’s funny how some things don’t change.
Wilbur died shortly after the success from typhoid fever, but Orville got to grow old and see the good and bad of their invention. It’s pretty cool that at the time they started thinking about flight, automobiles were not even common – why would they think they could build an airplane? But they did.
Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last month.
“The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster.”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter