Hey, thanks for stopping by. It’s good to see someone other than Danley around here for a change. Oh, sorry, my name is Garth Wainwright. You may have met me in THE TIPPING POINT. I played a fairly major role in that one.
Danley tells me that I’ll be featured in the sequel, INSIDE MOVES, but talk is cheap and you know how these writers are. They’re like landmen; they’ll sit for hours and tell ya just how good it’s going to be! Anyway, you didn’t come all this way to hear about him.
Pretty soon we’ll have Lacey Kinkaid over here to introduce herself to you. Maybe we’ll get some of the other folks from the novel to say a few words about who they are and how they got tangled up in this fiction thing; those that Danley hasn’t killed off yet. Let me give you some background.
Garth Wainwright Bio
Okay, I guess the place to start is the beginning, right? In my case, that would be January 20, 1938 in Carlisle, Indiana. That was a Thursday and while I’m not into astrology, my mom, Grace Wainwright was. She loved to recite that rhyme, “Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace.” You know the one. Every birthday I remember, mom would sing that thing, with particular emphasis on, “Thursday’s child has far to go …” Boy, did that ever turn out to be true! Anyway, as my mom would remind me, I was born under the astrological sun sign of Aquarius, with all that that means to true believers, of which I most assuredly am not. Carlisle Indiana is a small town. When I say small, I’m talking about 1,600 souls the town serves in the whole area. Another significant ‘38 event was that the US Census Bureau designated Carlisle as the USA’s center of population. Saying I’m from Midwest is acceptable, but you can’t tell people that you are from the Center. That doesn’t make any sense and Midwesterners pride themselves on being sensible. That and a twang in my speech are Midwest things brought from Carlisle.
She was only 15 when Grace married Gary Wainwright. My dad was 18 at the time of their wedding in rural Indiana. Her father, Rufus Shirey, was a Kentucky farmer. Gary was a farm implement mechanic and kept Rufus’s plows and reapers working. That is how he met my mom. Rufus didn’t approve of Grace dating at the young age of 14 and forbad her having anything whatsoever to do with Gary Wainwright. They say love is blind and my folks did what other kids did in that time and place under those circumstances; they left Kentucky and eloped to Indiana. I don’t know how they came to settle down in Carlisle, but I do know that mom and dad never saw or spoke to Rufus again as long as they lived. Neither did I. Carlisle is an old town with old people and old ideas. That is how I think of it now, but I didn’t mind any of that back then. I did well in school; got good grades, without busting a gut to work for them. I liked school, so it was easy or as they say in Carlisle, like water off a duck’s back. Carlisle is also full of old clichés. I remember the 5th grade really well. I was nine and had skipped the 4th grade. Everyone should skip the 4th grade! What I remember most clearly about that year, though, is that my dad didn’t come home from work one night. In fact, he never came back, ever again. He just walked away, leaving his wife and kid to fend for themselves. We had not a word from him since. Mom was dissolute; it almost destroyed her. I was mad. I had a nine-year-old hatred for that man that I never lost. Sometime later, mom heard he’d run off to California with the waitress at the Carlisle Cafe and had been killed there, in a construction accident. We got his old Army insurance and Social Security benefits that helped to keep us going. Mom went to work. waitressing at the (wait for it) Carlisle Café. She heard that there was an opening. She told everyone that came into the café about my being Senior Class President and Valedictorian. I like to make things better, if I can, and being a leader in school provided that opportunity. I guess folks noticed and heaped those honors on me in a kind of recognition for the work. Mom was very proud of me and making her happy gave me so much pleasure. I’m sure that it was because of my mom that I learned to love Libra women.
Carlisle is farm country. The land is as flat as a pool table, but Carlisle didn’t have any of those in the ‘50s, when my high school mates and I might have enjoyed a bit of pool play, but we didn’t grow up isolated and dumb. Carlisle had a movie house that showed us what the real world was like. I have fond memories of watching James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. That film, and Dean, had a long lasting effect on me. I’m reminded of his character, sometimes, when things don’t go my way and I get a bit cranky. It wasn’t long after that that we got a TV and the whole world came to Carlisle. I lost my sainted mom the summer after high school graduation, in ‘55. She never told me about her diagnosis of breast cancer. The disease took her out of my life too quickly, but then, there never is a right time to lose your mom. Before mom got so sick she couldn’t waitress anymore, I enrolled at Ivy Tech Jr. College to prepare for a career in agriculture. I didn’t know what part of that revered Midwest occupation I was going to focus on, but I figured an area of interest would soon be revealed from my reading and studies. Truth be told, it never did show up and I didn’t care. I was seventeen, without either of my folks and no place to call home. Why should I worry about a career when the future is so far away? They gave me an after school fry cooking job at the Café. I also did the prep work and clean-up before school started, so that got me through financially. I rented the apartment over the garage of my friend Pete Baker’s family. The rent was cheap and I know they gave me a break because they felt sorry for me. I appreciated their kindness, but I don’t ever want anyone to think about me that way. But that’s not the reason I mentioned Pete and his family.
Linda Baker and I started dating around the end of my first year at Ivy Tech. She was wonderful and resembled my mom, so much, in the way she thought and acted. There must be some truth to astrology, since Linda had many of mom’s characteristics. I was in love with my Libra Linda and felt, for the first time, that I could share my life with someone. We became the committed couple in Carlisle and most of the town recognized that we were both so happy. I graduated from Ivy Tech with an AA (Anything Agricultural?) and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. We discussed marriage, but I wanted to know which work world wanted me and to be established before taking on that responsibility. I did get several suggestions from friends, but none of them seemed right for me. I wanted to feel the fire in my belly about a career choice. Finally, I took a job that Linda’s dad heard about. I became an Ag Analyst for a large farm co-op. There wasn’t even a hint of belly fire for this work, but it did pay the bills. That fire in the belly thing would elude me for many more years. When I turned eighteen, and was now ‘legal,’ Linda and I got married. The Bakers threw a big wedding celebration at the brand new Holiday Inn out on the highway. It was a grand affair, considering that this was Carlisle. The newly minted Wainwrights honeymooned in the motel for the weekend, as both of us had to be at work on Monday. Short and sweet would soon become our marriage mantra.
A few days after New Year’s Day-1957, I read in the paper that President Eisenhower asked Congress to send troops to the Middle East. I told Linda that I wanted to enlist in the Army. The only two things my father ever got right was marrying my mom, and joining the Army, during WWII. Not that I intended to follow in his footsteps, but I already had done one and it seemed to me enlisting was a good number two. Linda thought I should join the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Council. Could there be another two organization more diametrically opposed? Many Libra’s are liberal and Linda was typical of her tribe. I had nothing against the mission of SCLC, but I had zero interest in being a part of a startup group of African-American civil rights organizers. Like all good marriages must, we compromised. We eliminated the Army and the SCLC. I was fortunate to have the support and sponsorship of Senator Richard Lugar who arranges for me to take the entrance exams for the United States Naval Academy. I became a Midshipman in the fall semester of 1957, soon to turn twenty-years-old. Linda didn’t follow me to Annapolis Maryland, preferring to keep her job in Carlisle and stay close to her family. (I thought I was her family!) Four years later, I graduated as a Navy Ensign. I believed that my school experiences were finished, but the Navy had other plans. They sent me to one special training school after another, which demanded my time and attention for the next fourteen months.
I remember being so excited about my first duty station. The excitement was only slightly diminished when I received divorce papers from Linda. The marriage never had a real chance and that is my fault. I wasn’t there for Linda, what with work and school, then Annapolis and more school, it was more of a non-union than a marriage, and neither of us was disappointed in the conclusion. Life goes on. My naval life blossomed after the divorce. Eventually, I no longer felt that I’d deserted Linda in Indiana while I played at sailoring with an all-encompassing passion. That first duty station I was anticipating turned out to be Vietnam. Now most people think that sailors are stationed aboard a ship of the line. Usually, that is the case, but Nam was unique in many ways, some still not known to the public. I won’t drag out the history of the US involvement in Southeast Asia here, but I arrived there shortly after Viet Minh guerrillas killed two American advisors in Bien Hoa, just as President Kennedy was sending in 100 Special Forces. I was one of them. Some of that special training I underwent stateside put me in the early involvement of Seal activities in Vietnam.
Me and the Kennedys
The irony is that two of my military events coincided with both of the tragic Kennedy assassinations.
My first battle injury occurred on November 22, 1963, the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza. A decade and a half later, I would share the story with Lacey Kinkaid. “What Kennedy family? You mean the Hyannis Port Kennedys?” “Yes, JFK and his little brother, RFK, but I don’t want to mislead you. My connection is not of a personal nature, at least not as far as they’re concerned. They know nothing about me and the connection is very one-sided.
In ’61, fresh out of Annapolis with my shiny new Ensign bar, I caught the short straw and did my first tour in Nam. I was still there’63. That was when I got shot in the leg, ironically, on the same day that JFK was assassinated, November 22.” “Oh, my God, how odd is that? So, what happened to your leg?” “When I came on duty that night, I was briefed about this sailor that had beaten a guard and escaped the brig. He was being held for court-martial on a charge of attempted murder of a crewman on board his ship. Anyway, I took a Shore Patrol squad and we soon learned the escapee was hiding in a warehouse out on a deserted wharf. The two SP’s and I split up to search for him. The convict found me first. The big ape jumped me from behind.” “Was he armed?” “Kinda, he carried a broken beer bottle that ended up in my leg. Merritt heard me yell and came running. What he saw was the guy wrestling my gun from me, so he fired—but hit me in the leg.”
“That’s incredible, you were so unlucky to get stabbed and shot. That could have been fatal! What happened to the convict?” “Yeah, well I was luckier than he was. The slug that hit my leg…it first passed through his chest. It was fatal but luckily, not for me … He died in that warehouse on the day Kennedy died in Dallas.” “But you said you had a connection to RFK, as well. What is that?”