White Lightening Will Make You Smile

Which way will he turn?


Mountain mist



I been lacking in my post and I apologize to you. I been battling an old foe for the past few months—self-confidence. I am in the process of publishing my third full-length novel. This one was my first manuscript and has taken a great deal of work to bring it to publishing standards. I always fear for my children—my books—but this one is special. I’ll write more about it later. Oh, look! A picture of the front cover is on the left side of your screen.

I traveled to north Thailand with my wife, daughter and a friend to see the Long-Neck women of the Karen hilltribe. We drove through the beautiful mountains, around impossible curves with new wondrous scenes beyond every turn.

Mist covered rivers and slopes gave a primordial feel that we were traveling back in time. Bright clear sunshine and giant Teak trees casting dark shadowed gates across the road as if we were passing from realm to realm. There was silence in the car as we beheld the beauty of this trail into the mountains.

And of course I had to watch for the manic drivers coming from the opposite directions who gave no care as to which was actually their side of the road—Most invigorating.

We traveled off the main road near the village of Mea Hong Song that is nestled in a high mountain valley surrounded by majestic mountains. I drove up a small road high into the mountains just to see where the road led and saw a small turn off which I took. My wife wasn’t too happy about being in the middle of nowhere and very close to the border with Burma (Myanmar). What…, me worried? — I wanted to know.

I drove into a family complex of five houses. There were small contoured rice patties and small vegetable plots and it seemed peaceful enough. A few people came out to stare at us and I got out to speak with them. My wife locked the doors after my exit.

In my simple Thai—I actually have a country twang to my accent, which the farmers like—I asked if we could look around and see how they lived. Usually when I speak Thai to someone for the first time, the Thai’s look at me as if I were an alien from another world. Actually, I get that wherever I go. They’re just not use to a white guy speaking their language. I spoke to an older lady who had several children standing close by and she spoke and smiled and motioned for us to join them.

Mountain Slope

I think what really helped was not my language skills but my daughter’s friend, Roger, who is a giant of a man. Around six feet three inches tall, a strong body and a former Marine, Roger is impressive. The villagers were around five feet tall and were taken by this gentle giant.

I watched a young girl dipping out a mixture from a container and there was a familiar smell to it. I watched her carry the bucket over to a round iron pot that sat over an open fire and pour the mash in. I looked at the bamboo tubes that extended out about ten feet and saw liquid dripping from the end. It hit me with a smile. They were making Moonshine, White Lightening. I had never seen a Moonshine Still quite like this one but there was no doubt what it was. Many years ago, before my time, some of my family made and distributed White Lightening in the rolling hills of North Carolina. Ever hear of Thunder Road?

This was a different kind of Lightening—made from rice—so naturally I had to give it a go. Yep, 100% grain alcohol. These kind folks let us explore and ask question and made us feel at home.

Roger, the giant, found a tiny man chopping wood and took over the chores. Roger was raised on a farm and knew what real work was. He was a star!

Of all the friendly people I meet in Thailand my fondest memories are the people of northern Thailand. I asked one lady why everyone was so friendly and she told me that there were many people from Burma, Laos, the different hilltribes and of course Thais all living together. It was a must to be friendly.

As usual, for me, my hard drive with my older pictures is in one place and I am in another. I will find them and add them at a later date. I blame it on the Moonshine, lol.

I still plan on adding more pages to my blog for short stories, interviews and information about my books but like one of my favorite sayings goes: “I might not be good but at least I’m slow.”

Sea Salt- Good for the Soul

Sea Salt

I’m about to let you into one of my many secret rooms—in my head. I think everyone has these special little places that bring back memories of joy or serenity or fear or even contentment when the door is opened. They may not mean much to others but for you they bring on potent somatesthesias.

There’s a strip of road that runs along a deserted beach a few hours south of Bangkok that captured me and won’t let go. To either side of this road are shallow expanses where sea salt is made. I first came across it in the extreme heat of the day and was the only soul traveling. The entire area had square sections of pure white separated by low berms of darker sand. A few of the squares were filled with conical snow-white mounds, all in an orderly fashion.

I don’t know why but I had to stop and learn what they were. Perhaps it was the pure whiteness or the order or was it the unearthly quality of their appearance. No one was around so I returned to my little house but the vision stayed with me for the rest of the day and night.

 I woke before sunrise and my motorcycle called to me telling it was time to go. I watched the sun rise out of the sea to bath the land with fluid color. The sky was a washed-out blue that only dawn can create.

As I approached this alien section I saw beings appear in long lines. I came to this apparition to find workers lining up and walking onto the field of white with long staffs on their shoulders and a basket attached to either end of the staff.

The Path

The early morning air was cool but with a hint of the brutal heat to come. I stopped and asked an old man what they were doing and he said gathering sea salt. All the people were burnt nearly black, bare foot or wearing rubber flip-flops. They would approach one of the small mounds and a man filled both baskets and they would lift the burden to their shoulder and start the long trek back to the roadway.

Over and over they completed the circuit and each man and woman would look at me and smile as they passed. I could see the hard labor of their strong bodies and the serene look on their faces.

At around 9 in the morning the field was once again flat and not as white as the surrounding fields. The people loaded themselves and equipment on to motorbike and left. I returned day after day to watch the process and the people.

The little squares of land were actually ponds that would be filled with seawater. As the water evaporated more water was added and then overnight a pure white film would form on the surface like a primordial work of art. The process continued until the crust became thick and then the water would be drained and over the days more water would be added and then squeezed out by the very people who I first saw. Their skin burnt dark but their smiles never removed.

The People

It’s a bit hard to understand but in Thailand—as in many tropical countries—dark skin is not desirable—indicating the poorest of the working class, but these people seem to have no care of what others might think.

I’m not sure what it is about the scenes I have described: the work, the scent of the salt, the people or perhaps it was the fresh new day just beginning but each time I think of my trip I think of it as a passage to contentment. Does that make sense to anyone else? 

As you can see my secret compartments are filled with strange bits and pieces. One day I may share more.

If ever you want to look into the frailties, fears and hopes of a writer I suggest my book, In Search of a Soul. Much too much of me slipped out. Or try Tyler Hill’s Decision for a look into the writers’ heart.

Once again I hope you enjoyed my little story. In this new year I will add some short stories—fiction—and book reviews and maybe even interviews with some most interesting people—you the readers and writers. I do look forward to that! If I can figure out how to add pages, lol.