Monthly Archives: March 2017

Wingspread Ezine for March, 2017

Spreading your wings in a perplexing world
March, 2017                                                        James Hurd      


  • New blog article: “Al, My Pachuco Friend”
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes


New blog article: Al, My Pachuco Friend

I met Al Lopez only once after high school—in jail.

Growing up in Orange, California in the 1950s, I saw Mexican kids walking to Holy Family Catholic School, and wondered why they wore blue and white uniforms. I knew that other, poorer Mexican kids went to Kilefer Elementary—“the Mexican school”—over by the Orange Packing House….       Read more here:

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 Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Arthur Conan Doyle. (The Complete Sherlock Holmes, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “A Study in Scarlet,” “The Sign of the Four”). Perhaps the best known English mystery writer ever. Several movie adaptations have appeared, including many with the famous Holmes character, Basil Rathbone.

Word of the Month:   Lyrical: expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative or beautiful way.

Quiz of the Month: Compare these two sentences:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace.

Question: What is the formal name of the last comma in the second sentence, and when should you use it?

Answer to last week’s quiz: “Mark Twain” is a pen name. His birth name is Samuel L. Clemens

Tip of the Month: A writer must tighten every piece she writes. Try reducing your piece by 20 percent. Try eliminating all the adverbs. Eliminate all but one adjective that modifies a noun. Try to reduce or eliminate backstory. Shorten description. The narrative’s the thing—focus on telling your story.

 For lovers of English:

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is “UP.”

  • It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
  • At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
  • Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
  • We call UP our friends.
  • And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
  • We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has special meaning.

  • People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
  • To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
  • A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
  • We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

Book and Film Reviews

Celtic Daily Prayer. A prayer book, but with a Celtic flair. (Think Holy Island, St. Patrick, 6th and 7th century Celtic monks, writers, and missionaries.) Daily readings and scripture. I’ve used it for 15 years. HarperCollins. 2002.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. One of those classic Russian journeys through 19th century psyches. This one’s about three brothers, their father, and their loves and hates for each other. Betrayal, jealousy, murder, romance, and general mayhem. 700 small-print pages. Don’t plan on a one-night reading. 1957 Signet Classic.

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 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying:

 Quotable quotes about music

♠   We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.  Decca Recording Co., rejecting the Beatles, 1962

♠    There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man, and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem.   George Bernard Shaw

♠   Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.  Igor Stravinsky

♠   Mr. Wagner has beautiful musical moments but bad quarters of an hour.   Gioacchino Rossini

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Al, my Pacucho Friend

I met Al Lopez only once after high school—in jail.

Growing up in Orange, California in the 1950s, I saw Mexican kids walking to Holy Family Catholic School, and wondered why they wore blue and white uniforms. I knew that other, poorer Mexican kids went to Kilefer Elementary—“the Mexican school,” over by the Orange Packing House.

When I entered Orange Intermediate (middle school), the playground was a vast, dusty tarmac that stretched from the chain link fence along Sycamore Ave. to the bicycle stands and woodshop near Olive Street on the south side. To the west lay a dirty lot that served for track and field practice. I remember running the track with burning lungs, gulping in dust and smog.

On the playground, Anglos and Mexicans mostly clumped in separate groups. I knew the Mexicans were Catholics because they had religious medals hanging on their silver neck chains. A few of these were my friends, and I would notice that their homes where more humble than mine. It never occurred to me to ask if they were documented, but I heard some people calling them “wetbacks” (referring to swimming across the Rio Grande).

This was the era of the butch cut and flattop, but the Mexicans’ greased jet-black hair fell down to their collars, their baggy pants hanging in loose folds over black shoes. The politically-correct word “Chicano” hadn’t come along yet, so behind their backs, we called them Pachucos (as in El Pachuco tuxedos), Chongos (referring to a male wearing a hair bun), Cholos (a man of Mexican descent), Chingos [censored], or just Mexicans. I learned a few Spanish words (hombre, grande), and several bastardized words—savvy (from sabe; to know), calaboose (from calabozo; jail), sankero (from zanjero; irrigation ditch worker), and a few dirty words —ca**jo, hijo de la ch**ada, and the exquisite p**ejo (referring to the more private parts of a bull cow). At the time, though, I didn’t know what these meant.

Students weren’t supposed to leave the playground during the school day, but along Sycamore Street stood a tiny Mexican take-out that sold tamales, access by a breach in the school’s chain link fence. Both Anglos and Mexicans would sneak across to buy a couple of tamales for lunch. I can still taste the pork in the moist cornmeal.

And then there was Al Lopez. Al, who came to our school in the middle of the year, a slightly-built kid who talked only occasionally, talked in broken English. Sometimes in class, Mr. Hardesty would playfully throw an eraser at him. One day when Al was absent, Mr. Hardesty told us, “Al has an IQ of about 70.” I guess he was trying to solicit our compassion. Once I sarcastically called Al a “brain.” He almost hit me. He and I competed for the forward position on the basketball team. I shot the ball better, but he had a ferocious dribble, and could penetrate the defense. I won the position, but later he replaced me.

The summer after I graduated, I met Al—in jail. Orange Evangelical Free Church had organized a “jail team,” and we were singing and speaking to a group of faceless men. One of them called me over and said, “Hey! Al here knows you.” It was Al Lopez! He explained he was jailed for driving without a license. Today, I lament I didn’t pay the $30 to bail him out. I guess my pride hindered me—against all available evidence, I thought I was better than other people, and was silently critical of him for being in jail.


Recently I returned to California for our 50th high school reunion. As I sat down next to my friend César, I looked around for Al so I could apologize for how I treated him.

“Where’s Al?”

“Oh. He died several years ago.”

At that moment I realized I’d lost my chance with Al Lopez, only one of thousands of recently-arrived Mexican kids who, in the 1950s, were struggling to make their way in the Anglo world of Southern California.