It's all my grandfather's fault.
The summer I was 13, I spent a few weeks with my grandparents. It was great spending time with them, but a little boring, too. Their idea of a thrilling night was one spent watching the news, and when they weren't watching TV, Grandma was doing crossword puzzles and Grandpa was reading westerns.
By the end of the summer I'd read every western in Grandpa's collection and had acquired a love of crosswords and word puzzles that is still with me.
Most of Grandpa's books were Louis L'Amour novels, although Zane Grey was solidly represented. (And, oh my! Grey's Arizona Ames! I'm not so sure that isn't where my fascination with tormented heroes got its start.)
It was L'Amour's books, though, that had the greatest impact on me. He created a world where men and women were equally tough and honorable, a world where the good guys never gave up, no matter what they confronted.
"My feet were raw and bloody, the flesh churned into a bloody mess by running over the broken rock, gravel, and stubble of the desert. My body was worn with hunger, thirst, and exhaustion to a point where I could scarcely walk. But there was that inside me, whatever it was that made me a man, that was a whole long way from being whipped."
Listening to Abba's When All Is Said and Done the other day, one verse struck me as perfect for the sort of people that populated those books.
"It's so strange when you're down and lying on the floor
How you rise, shake your head, get up and ask for more
Clear-headed and open-eyed
With nothing left untried
Standing calmly at the crossroads,no desire to run
There's no hurry any more when all is said and done"
Or, as L'Amour said in The Daybreakers :
"There would be trouble enough, but man is born to trouble, and it is best to meet it when it comes and not lose sleep until it does."
Books: The Daybreakers, Galloway, Louis L'Amour
Arizona Ames, Zane Grey
Music: When All Is Said and Done, ABBA