Sunday, June 16, 2013


My dad passed away several years ago. I don't need a politically-selected day to remember and/or honor him. I think about him almost daily and I hope that I honor him at all times by conducting myself in a way he would approve and be proud of.
Nevertheless, one does think about their father on Father's Day and I may not have gotten around to writing this piece if I hadn't received a nudge by that being the case.
It also was given impetus by the book I'm currently working on.
So let me try to piece all of that together and explain …

It goes back to dad's name. Elwood. Elwood William Dundee. The "Elwood" part doesn't really roll musically off the tongue, does it? Try to name a famous or well-known Elwood … Okay, Elwood Blues from the Blues Brothers. But that's about it, right?
Hmm, there might be a pattern or clue starting to form.
Another clue might be that, in his lifetime, Dad was known by different nicknames such as Al, Tony, and Epse (can't say that one's a helluva lot better, and how it came to be is too convoluted to go into). But then, our family, on both my mother's and father's side, used to be big on nicknames, so maybe that doesn't mean so much after all. I had plenty of my own, as a matter of fact: Buck, Pancho, Dingo, Angus, and Boobie (never mind about that last one – yes, it got applied in high school but not for the reason you might think).
Anyway, to get back on point, it became a sort of running joke in our immediate family – as my brothers and then various grandchildren started being born – if it was a male child there would be talk of naming it after Dad. "Elwood" would be discussed but then, when it came right down to it, nobody ever had the guts to follow through with it, not even as a middle name. As my mother put it when my brother Mike came along: "I just can't do that to a poor little baby." Even Dad chimed in: "For Christ's sake no." Hence there are about a dozen offsprings (starting with both of my brothers, Michael William and Robert William, plus various grandsons  and nephews) who bear the "William" tag. (My own grandson, Dad's first great grandchild, is William Wayne) … But, alas, nary a single Elwood.

Until, that is, (sorry, Dad, here comes a little bit of self-promotion mixed in) a central character in the new book series I am working on with my pal Mel Odom. The over-arcing banner is THE WESTWARD TIDE and it tells the tale (in 30,000-word novella segments) of emigrants crossing the country in the 1840s/1850s on the Oregon and California trails. The first book (or segment, as you will) is done. It's called Trail Justice. I'm working on the second one --- Trail Manhunt --- now. (We wanted to have at least two titles in the hopper so we could kick off the series with a fairly quick one-two punch; future titles will alternate between Mel and me under the house name "Jack Tyree" and we're aiming for the first title to be out by early August.)

But what I want to emphasis in closing is that one of the main recurring characters in these books will be a scout/former mountain man named Elwood Blake. He's a solid, old-fashioned, larger-than-life hero in the mold of John Wayne, Clint Walker … and Elwood Dundee.
So there, finally, is your namesake, Dad. I think you'd like him.
Happy Father's Day.


Peter Brandvold said...

Great essay, Wayne. And I'll be looking for yours and Mel's new series.

Mean Pete B.

jrlindermuth said...

Sounds like the beginning of another good series. I have a cousin married to an Elwood--but he goes always as Woody. I didn't even know he was an Elwood until long after they married.