Real JHF Stuff


Yes it really did look like that at the old rented adobe once.

Strange Days

I’ve been every one of these at least a little, some a lot.

• cartoonist
• musician
• teacher
• photographer
• sculptor
• bronze caster
• painter
• songwriter
• office manager
• web columnist
print columnist
• online news editor
• website designer
• blogger
• author

Just a partial list. You don’t see “Solo Demolisher of Old Colonial Buildings to Salvage Glazed Header Bricks for Restoration Projects,” do you? Or helping Jim Kellough invent light shows for Shiva’s Headband in Austin, Texas with 16 mm projectors, film clips, mirrors, and hunks of colored glass.

A Few Cool Things So Far

Kent County Courthouse, Chestertown, MD. Photo by Austin Walmsley.

• The greatest thing I’ve ever done was marry the love of my life, Kathleen Jane Mills, on January 16, 1981 and live with her for over 40 years. How does anyone top that? There’s so much to tell. You could start here and here. Once summer we drove her ’65 VW from MD to Des Moines to Laredo (TX), Saltillo, and San Miguel de Allende with my white German shepherd, Lady the Wonder Dog. It was epic. She and I also went to Europe on sabbatical twice, six weeks at a time. In ’99, ready for a new adventure, we gave up everything in MD to move to northern New Mexico on faith and winged the whole damn thing. She was fearless, beautiful, and classier than I was at my very best. I miss her more than words can say yet life goes on.

• Among a great many concerts, shows, and gigs I’ve managed to catch over the years, Kathy and I saw the Sex Pistols play at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas on their only American tour. There were at least three bad opening bands and the Sex Pistols came on well after midnight. Indescribable mayhem and glory. Beyond loud. The throbbing heart of what was going on in real time. I count us so blessed.

• When I was 10 or 11 years old in Germany, I invented and built a Jetex-powered flying wing from the wreckage of another model airplane and the little Jetex rocket motor. It was cool and radical and flew so beautifully and no one saw! I felt so triumphant that it didn’t matter, not even later when the old man only grunted at my news. In all this time I hadn’t realized until I typed this now that in that moment I was launched. It was kill the ogre time.

• I was on campus at U.T.-Austin on the day Charles Whitman, the Tower sniper, did his evil deeds. I saw people get shot and crumple on the ground, watched the police carry Whitman’s body out into the light covered by a bloody sheet. The groundskeeping crews hosed congealed blood off the stairs outside the Tower (administration & libraries).It looked like black cherry jello.

• I met Ansel Adams in the wilderness in 1962. No, really. Olympic National Park. I was a participant in the Student Conservation Program. My group encountered him on a narrow switchback high in the forest. I didn’t know who he was but afterwards our adult leader Jack Dolstad (sp.?) told us, “That was a very famous photographer” but I never caught the name. 10 or 15 years ago I figured it out. After watching a PBS documentary on Adams, I was sure that’s who it was. I even have a very underexposed slide of Adams adjusting the saddle on a horse or mule. It’s him, all right. Same posture, wearing two hats at once (!). Pretty shy.

• When I was in high school in Abilene, I used to deliver the Dallas Morning News at 4:00 a.m. One morning I fell asleep at the wheel, crashed the ’58 VW, and needed stitches in my eyelid. My parents were deeply affected, my mother especially, and my father apologized for pushing me to take the job. It was one of the few times they were truly solicitous and nice to me. I didn’t need the work of course so this had been to moralize me. I was a high school genius with a future. Everything has its place, though, even driving too fast in West Texas. Abilene was good for that. Also churches, dust storms, and no beer.

• In MD in the ’80s I led a very short-lived but amazing band called the Zoo Pilots. We had great fun playing my original songs and put one big local show that I recorded to get material to send to music publishers. Nowadays you’d call it “indie rock” I guess. A Pacifica station in San Francisco played the gig tape at 3:00 in the morning once. I dropped one off in London, mailed them everywhere.

• About 10 years ago (?) I played rhythm guitar with Los Changos del Mar, “New Mexico’s only extraterrestrial, psycho-surf-punk, spy-billy, harem conjunto.” In all respects a fantastic experience that also got me out of the house a few times. The musical skills and comradeship of my bandmates lifted me then and does today. In the last couple years I’ve started playing again for real.

Can’t Believe I Put This Here

Abilene, TX

• Courses in small bronze casting and mold-making at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

• Studio art courses (drawing, painting, printmaking, design) at Washington College, Chestertown, MD.

• Master’s degree in Germanic Literature from the University of Texas at Austin.

• Bachelor’s degree, same. Hook ’em!

• Graduated high school in Massapequa, L.I., New York. Other high schools in Abilene, TX and Chestertown, MD.

• Junior high school in Abilene, TX but three different ones because we moved so much.

Remember All This or Forget It

Nothing is ever finished. Past and future are illusions. What we have is Now and I’m so glad. – JHF



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