Did You Miss Me??!!

In case anyone noticed, I’ve not been around much this season (meaning Fall) and now the Yuletide has passed seemingly without me. Believe me, I was quite shocked to learn the world would continue without me so well.

At any rate, I’ve been out of circulation since September, only occasionally peaking in on Facebook and other places here and there. It’s hard to believe I’ve missed almost four months of my usual haunts (no pun intended, but I did miss Halloween) and everything went off without a hitch. I also missed Thanksgiving, the Obamacare Roll Out and 99% of the Christmas Season.

I guess what I missed most was the Duck Dynasty Controversy, but fortunately, it is still rolling along. I may yet get to say a few words about it.

I just wanted everyone to know I am back at home, all is well and the best Christmas present of all was being able to spend it in my own home with my family around me… all three kids, their better halves, my better half, mom and dad, nieces and nephews, dogs and cats all making a lot of noise, breaking a lot of toys, drinking a little Christmas Cheer and eating a great deal more. Tis the little things like friends, family and home that make Christmas a grand time of year, whether you be a Duck Dynaster or a complete Scrooge, no one can disagree with the fact that love is the best of all things we enjoy in life.

I want to get back to work soon and do some writing, some Face-booking and goofing off. I’m looking forward to a better year for 2014 and I’m not taking no for an answer.

Happy Merry Holidays, Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving, Halloween or whatever you may call your own!! christmas tree

What About Poetry?

I’ve always been a little squeamish about admitting that I even write poetry. I’ve never published any other than a few I’ve written into my novels. Most of what I’ve written over the years has either been lost or deliberately destroyed for fear of someone reading them and then pointing that finger at me and saying “Ha! Ha!” like that mean little kid on the Simpsons.

So I’ve been writing a few poems and posting them somewhat reluctantly over on my account at Readwave.com.  The reason for this change of heart is simple. I’ve decided to go ahead and win the Nobel Prize before I pass on to the happy hunting grounds and this year’s winner for literature writes short stories, and I learned that poetry is not far off the mark as well.

If you want to take a peek, just click on the link above. There are some short stories over there as well and some of them feature characters from my Red Cross of Gold series.


Life Now and Then ~~ Kenya/Texas

outhouseI read a wonderful piece on Readwave written by Tamsin Emma and wanted to share it with everyone. She writes about going to Kenya when she was nine years old to visit her older sister who was teaching English there. It is a glimpse into another world and it set me to thinking about how my own grandmother lived right here in Texas when I was a small child. The comparisons were not too very different. Please go and have a look at Tamsin’s article and then read on.  http://tinyurl.com/Goats-and-Footballs

When I was very young, from an infant to seven years old, my grandparents lived in a wooden shanty on a small piece of land that lay between a Santa Fe railroad track and a Texas state highway. The highway was probably less than five yards from the porch. Trucks and cars zoomed past 24 hours a day at speeds exceeding sixty miles an hour, sending hot wind in the summer and cold breezes in the winter whipping  right across the front porch where everyone spent at least half the day, depending on the seasons. In the summer, mornings were cooler on the front porch and in the winter, the front porch was warmer in the afternoons. Staying inside was not much fun any time of the year.

Being a child, the east Texas temperature extremes didn’t bother me very much, but what I remember most about the house with no A/C, no fans and no screens on the windows, was the acrid smell of burning sulfur that was used to keep the mosquitoes at bay during the hot, humid months between May and September. I vaguely remember the burning sulfur in old jar lids. It was something called “Bee Brand Insect Powder”. It was nasty.

The walls were single structure in nature (no inner walls, that is) and there was no paint inside or out. The roof was tin and the ceiling was made of tiny boards. The wiring, which was new in the late forties ran exposed over the walls to a few receptacles in the living area, which doubled as Grandma’s bedroom and a single light bulb in each room. The only ‘modern’ luxury items, I should say, was a television set that was bought for my mom’s youngest brother in 1957, a console radio with a wind-up phonograph/radio that played 78 speed records on top and a telephone next door at the store.

Baths were taken in a number 3 metal washtub. Water was heated for the bath on a huge wood-burning stove in the kitchen. The water came from a pitcher pump located near a rough wooden table equipped with a porcelain wash basin. Dinner was started about eight in the morning right after breakfast. The stove stayed fired up most of the day with a pot of coffee hovering over one of the burners. Even though my grandparents were on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, they always had people stopping by for supper and coffee. People with even less than they had were never turned away. Bums from the passing trains were given big ‘cat-head biscuits’ filled with apple butter or sometimes, just plain butter. They might repay the kindness by chopping wood for the stove or the big pot-belly heater in the living area/slash master bedroom.

The heat in the kitchen kept the kids out of it, but not the flies. Since I was a favored grandchild (meaning mom kept me clean and in line), I got to sit on the step down from the tiny dining area that held a long wooden trestle table flanked by wooden benches. and swat the flies as they zoomed around the house. The flies made it necessary to cover all the food, cooked and uncooked, with cloths. There was always a slab of homemade butter and  a pitcher of buttermilk, along with biscuits or cornbread on the table. Grandma churned fresh milk in a crockery churn and made the butter and buttermilk with mom’s help.

The cow lived out in a small pasture near the railroad track where the outhouse and tiny barn shook and shuddered with each passing train. Betsy always had company in the form of a calf or two my grandpa bought at auction to raise for butchering. The pork we  frequently enjoyed came from specially earmarked pigs that ran wild in the woods on the other side of the track. They were hunted down annually in the fall, butchered and put in the huge freezer that took up most of the room in which the dining table stood.  The freezer was always full of meat: pork, beef, venison, chicken, squirrels, ducks and a few things I never identified.

Just outside the back door was the ‘workshed’. A low-slung, scary-looking building that was home to rats and chicken snakes where Grandpa kept his old tractor. It was a walk-behind affair that took a strong set of arms attached to a muscular back just to steer it. Here, too, was housed an ancient push mover my uncle used to cut down the weeds around the front porch.

The house, itself was enclosed inside the fence that surrounded the chicken yard, so we had chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and guineas wandering around under the house, on the back porch and in the barren yard all day, looking for bugs and worms. I loved to help feed the chickens in the mornings (and for some reason, I still love the smell of chicken feed even to this day).  This arrangement supplied an endless supply of fresh eggs, Sunday dinners and holiday meals. I used to follow my grandma and sometimes my mom, around the hen house, holding the big wicker basket while they gathered eggs.

One of the things Tamsin commented on was the homemade soccer ball the Kenyan boys played with. I had a cousin who was an ‘expert’ at making homemade baseballs. I used to watch in utter fascination as he transformed an ordinary rock, bits of cardboard, paper and old rags wrapped with big rubber bands into a baseball. The balls were only useful for maybe one or two games, but it was sufficient fun. Bicycles and little red wagons were out of the question for us. Those were the things dreams were made of and even though my uncle did have one of those fancy kick scooters from Western Auto, underlings, such as I and my cousins, were never allowed to touch it. This did not keep us from worshiping it from afar.

Along with fresh meat, homemade biscuits and cornbread, we always had plenty of fresh or home-canned veggies from grandpa’s garden. Long, summer days were spent picking, shelling, cooking,, and canning a variety of beans, peas and corn. Some of the veggies were seasonal, but I didn’t care for them at the time and thought I should not be forced to work in such a manner since I didn’t eat any of the produce, but the grandparents and mom thought otherwise. Thus I learned much useful information through painful, often tearful, experience.

The outhouse was a particularly interesting experience. It was crude, to say the least, smelly and distinctively unpleasant. The sort of mysterious place that naturally attracts the attention of precocious young children (such as myself). I received many spankings for sneaking off to the outhouse to throw various items down into the cess pit. I cannot fathom why such a thing might have seemed interesting at the time, but who can plumb the depths of the mind of a five-year-old? It was on one of these adventures, when I was around five, that one of the most harrowing of my childhood mishaps occurred. I was standing on the seat inside the outhouse, hiding from my cousins during a rowdy game of hide and go seek, when suddenly I lost my balance and fell into the pit. I only remember screaming as loud as I could and then being pulled out by a pair of strong arms. The next thing I remembered was a tremendous dousing with freezing water and a fierce-faced group of grownups scowling at me as I lay shivering on Grandma’s bed.

I am thankful for one thing above all else from those wonderfully innocent years spent at Grandma’s house and that was the intervention of the very hand of God that kept me from falling head first into that pit!!

I Made the Obits

Synchronicity is alive and well in Texas. Just the other day I received word that my brother-in-law, who is currently suffering from a number of different cancers, only has a few weeks left on earth. He is making preparations for his final departure into the great unknown and has requested that I write his obituary and put it in the local newspaper when the time comes. Of course, I agreed to perform this sad duty for him since there is little else I can actually do under the circumstances other than reflect on the mortal status of our earthly bodies and the hope of eternity for our immortal souls. Being a rather morbidly curious fellow, I have always contemplated the finality of death with no small fascination, wondering what I would do if I knew I only had a few weeks left. This blog is not about that, so I won’t go there.

This blog is about weirdness so I’ll get on with it. Later on, that same day, I was reading the newspaper with my mother and father and thought I would scan the obits and see what the latest trends in writing might be for such things since I haven’t written a real one in about twenty years or so.

I was interested to see that a prominent local doctor’s wife has passed at the venerable age of 92 years. I thought I had some kind of connection with her because her husband had delivered me at his tiny clinic some “few” years ago (or so I thought). I was discussing her passing with my parents, who are both getting on in years themselves and they were reminiscing about their various encounters with the now deceased doctor and his lovely wife over the years. In fact, the doctor’s son had delivered both of my own daughters (small town, you see). At any rate, I read part of the obituary that caught my eye wherein Mrs. Doctor had actually worked in the clinic helping with the young mothers and their new babies providing fresh linens, food and other personal services while pre and post natal. Baby-Vintage

At one point, the obituary read, Mrs. Doctor had delivered a baby all by herself because Mr. Doctor didn’t make it to the clinic in time. It seemed the young mother didn’t follow the accepted norms and had her child much faster than the good doctor anticipated. He was still across the street, apparently eating breakfast when the child arrived.

When I read this paragraph, my mother suddenly sat up straighter in her chair and pointed at me. I was startled by her appearance and thought perhaps she was in pain or something. Then she said “That was you! Mrs. [Doctor] delivered you! The doctor was too late and you wouldn’t wait for him.”

I was quite taken aback to learn this interesting fact after almost 60 years. I always thought I was somehow special and I’ve always been a tad impatient.

So, that, my friends, is how I made it into the obituary column quite unexpectedly and though I really can’t say it makes much difference, it did make me wonder just how much I don’t know about myself!

Memorial Day Post ~ The Beatitudes



Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV, Matt. 6, 1-12)


*Beatitude: Taken from the Latin word beatitudo for blessedness.


Upon reflecting on a recent development that demonstrated what I had long suspected as the truth about a ‘close’ relationship being somewhat lop-sided, I had a sudden epiphany concerning the way most people in Christendom interpret the Beatitudes.

When I look around me, I see so many beautiful things in nature: birds, butterflies, flowers, animals, sunsets, stars at night, waterfalls, etc. Upon further, deeper inspection of these wonders, I discover that they are, without exception either simply trying to survive in a vicious environment bent on destruction or they are indeed the very agents of that destruction.

Many people would consider such a notion as negative or cynical in nature, perhaps even destructive in and of itself, but I disagree. The truth remains the truth: there are two states of being in the universe 1.) The rise 2.) The fall.

All living creatures from humans down to the smallest microbe spend most of their existence, however short or long, struggling for survival. The higher lifeforms enjoy a few short bursts of happiness in the form of play and/or social interaction with each other. The majority of their existence is spent in pain, worry, illness, fear, uncertainty, despair, dreams or denial of the truth by means of so-called ‘positive thinking’.

I am not against ‘positive thinking’, do not misunderstand. I have learned to use ‘positive thinking’ in order to make my own existence more pleasurable than it actually is. There is always hope. I could win the lottery! I could become rich and famous! I could discover the cure for cancer!

These are generally unrealized hopes, but hopes, like dreams, are intangible as well as infinite and just thinking about them, however absurd they may be, can uplift the spirit and make the day a bit brighter if not more humorous. I always encourage everyone I meet to think positive, count their blessings; remember that things could always be worse.

Now what, you may ask does this have to do with the Beatitudes? I believe that like all human beings, Jesus, being a son of God, had a sense of humor. I know that interpretation of His word is always a dangerous pastime and I know that He, Himself, preached to the masses of His time and His sermons contained messages for every level of intellectual development from the mind of a three-year-old child to the mind of Albert Einstein.

At any rate, I was going through the Beatitudes in my head this Memorial Day morning when it suddenly occurred to me that Jesus may have been playing with words of irony when He spoke these famous lines.

For a moment, suspend your own personal beliefs about Jesus for just a moment and think not of His Divine Nature, but of his humanity. Look at the Beatitudes from a different perspective for just a moment and imagine yourself there on the mount with Him.

Consider this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.  (How do we get to Heaven? We must die, of course. The poor in spirit will get theirs in Heaven.)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (So we must be in mourning to be blessed and comforted, of course. How else can we be comforted if we are not already devastated?)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Of course the meek will inherit the earth because it will be dumped on their heads by the strong.)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Righteousness is subject. Whose definition of righteousness should we follow? Christian? Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist? And what will we be filled with? Righteousness? Righteous Indignation at what we perceive as another’s unrighteousness? Who can say?)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Since this is definitely not what happens on earth, this must be referring to what happens in Heaven. Again, we can look for mercy from God, because many times it cannot be found on earth and, in fact, direct observation will show that many good, decent merciful people are given no consideration, no quarter by nature or fellow human beings, but treated to rather inexplicable acts of cruelty and meanness.)

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (This cannot be spoken to and is totally subjective in nature. We can believe it if we are Christians and know that Jesus would never tell a lie, but we also know that we will never see God. Why? Ask yourself: Is your heart perfectly clean? Is your heart pure? Are your thoughts perpetually clean? Even Mother Theresa doubted herself. Only the tiniest infants can be said to have pure hearts and surely they must see God; they just don’t remember it later. And if that is true, then we have ALL seen God. A great paradox.)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Who will call them Sons of God? Those who wanted peace, of course, but the warmongers will call them traitors and cowards. This will not matter in the end for words are just sticks and stones. So, as Hilary Clinton would say ‘What difference does it make?’ what people call you? Now, on the other hand, if it is God, Himself, calling you ‘Son’ or ‘Daughter’, that is something altogether different. One can only hope.)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Once more, the Kingdom of Heaven can be had for one price: death. True enough, we are all going to die, but those of us who are persecuted for our beliefs in what is right and wrong have only persecution awaiting them until death. Not very comforting, unless we are constantly setting our eyes on the afterlife. A noble goal, but hard to achieve and maintain.)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Christians are certainly blessed in this sense. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said this. Of course, if you are a Christian, you already know that Jesus knew what He was talking about. Sometimes, however, Jesus knew what He was talking about, but WE didn’t. It is hard to keep the faith in the face of adversity and walk that thin line between sanity and insanity. Jesus did not approve of the Zealot movements of His time. He had every opportunity to take up arms and become another in a long line of Jewish Messiahs who were suppose to overthrow the enemies of God by force.)

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (This last verse is the ‘Reveal’ or in biblical terms ‘Revelation’. Jesus was talking about death in this sermon. Death and the hope in life after death. He was trying to tell us that life on earth is cruel, is hard, is difficult. He is trying to tell us that life is no picnic and He is trying to tell us that our Hope lies in the spiritual realms after death in the physical world. He is trying to give us hope of escape from this life’s troubles and woes, but He is also telling us how difficult it is to live up to our own expectations of perfection. He is telling us that none of us is worthy and yet, he is telling us that All are worthy. He is telling us that we are All going to Heaven. That we are All Sons and Daughters of God.)

Now you may have forgotten by now the lop-sided relationship I referred to at the beginning of this rambling epistle. And perhaps that is a good thing and I should let it go, but just in case you didn’t forget, I will conclude as I started by talking about that relationship just a bit.

The relationship had been flagging for quite some time and I had been blaming myself because I had been told again and again that I am a self-centered ‘genius’ without little feeling for others unless those ‘others’ were somehow indulging my one-track-minded pursuit of writing. I had been told this so often, I began to believe it. Then reality intervened and I discovered the truth.

The exact opposite was true. The only time my writing became a point of interest was when the relationship seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Suddenly, my writing became important as an ill-disguised attempt to appease me and lull me into the false belief that my life’s work meant something.

After waking to this reality, everything fell into place. I saw that I was not near as interesting or significant as I had been led to believe. And I saw the humor of the situation and how silly I had been to think so in the first place. I saw the vast gulf that lay between myself and what I had perceived as my world. I saw that I really did not belong there at all and I saw all the puzzling clues I had missed before in their true light. I saw my actual position on the ladder of life and I saw that the ladder was not one, but many branching, twisting, turning ladders that not only led upwards, but downwards and even sideways. I saw that I was on a sideways ladder, going neither here nor there and I saw that I had to make a move one way or another before I could even make a meaningful choice.

Being a Libra I tend to work always for balance, trying not to tip the scale too far left or right, trying to conciliate compromise and concede cooperation until everyone is happy, but me.

How, you may ask, if that is so, could I have been thought to be self-centered? Good question.Petra

Today, I am going to try to make myself happy, if I can figure out how to do that. I keep thinking of other people. Wondering what they are doing, how they are feeling, if they need anything, if perhaps I should call them or send them a message or offer to do something for them. These are the things that nag at my mind all the while I am awake. Did I forget someone’s birthday? Did I forget to ask about someone’s health? Did I forget a significant anniversary? Did I do everything I could to make those around me happy? Did I do what was right? Did I say the wrong thing?

How can I make myself happy if all these doubts are racing through my head? If I could gain answers to all these questions, perhaps I would be happy if the answers were positive, but if they were positive, could I trust the source?

So you see, suffering is the nature of life and suffering does not wait for us to call it to ourselves, it is always there, always just around the corner, waiting and lurking, lurking and waiting, waiting, just waiting for us to make the tiniest mistake in judgment or a slight miscalculation.

But the thing is, we must all live until we die and die we must. Meanwhile, we should concern ourselves not with life and death, for those two will concern themselves with us, but how we handle what life has in store for us and how we die so that we may look forward to the peace that awaits us on the other side.


22 Things I Agree With…

In light of the serious nature of the post I made earlier this morning, I’d like to take the opportunity to lighten up before nightfall. I’d rather go to bed smiling than frowning. Someone sent me a list of “truths” known to most adults. I don’t know about the adult part, but maybe it would be more accurate to say this is a list of facts known to most people by the time they are forty years old. I agree with almost every one of them. So for your reading pleasure, here they are:


22 ADULT TRUTHS ******

1. Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times; and still not know what time it is.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I’m pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind-of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blu-Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.

13. I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of a Word document and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with “Miller Lite” than “Kay”.

17. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

18 How many times is it appropriate to say “What?” before you just nod and smile because you still didn’t hear or understand a word they said?

19. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

20. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Jeans? Jeans never get dirty; and you can wear them forever.

21. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket; finding their cell phone; and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey…but I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

22. The first testicular guard, the “Cup,” was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it took only 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.


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OK, so where do they all come from?

I’ve added a new cat on the deck. I’ve lost two that came around every day for feeding time, now there is a new one. Very pretty, grey and white spotted with beautiful green eyes.  He will almost let me touch him, but not quite so I know he has people somewhere. I guess I’m a sucker for cats and most all animals except armadillos, opossums, snakes, alligators, bears and wild hogs.

When we (my cousins, neighbors and various stray kids) were little, we caught an armadillo in a trap in the yard and painted him with graffiti. We put our names on his back and let him go, hoping one day to see him again. We also caught several box tortoises with the same idea in mind. We never saw any of them again.

I’ve seen movies about everything from giant tarantulas to rogue grizzlies killing people. I should be terrified of all forms of life on the planet Earth by now. I’ve even seen giant extra-terrestrial carrots come down and attack people and don’t forget the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Maybe I should add vegetables in the terror groupings.

Last night with the satellite TV on the blink, I watched the original Andromeda Strain. I have seen it several times since it came out in 1973 so I know the story-line like the back of my hand. I remember how this movie affected the 1970’s crowd. They were all terrified of germs and bacteria from outer space. When I watched it last night, I realized I, along with half of America, had missed the entire point of the movie. Biological Warfare. The movie was an anti-biological warfare movie! After all these years, I had to pop myself on the forehead and say “Duh!”. But then I have to forgive myself since I was only a goofy teenager at the time and had no idea what biological warfare was. After that shocking realization, I had to think about how simple my life was back then and how much I would love to be back there even though I absolutely abhor That Seventies Show.

Oh, how I loved the seventies and yet, when I see pictures of the styles and people from that time, I’m appalled. And then, I loved the eighties even more. I still listen to the music, but again, the pictures and movies from that era are appalling. Of course, some of the movies are classics. Who can dismiss Jaws? The Deep? Star Wars? No one, you might think, but then you would be wrong.

I am on the bottom rung of the Baby Boomer generation. We have been running (I should say ruining) the country for years. Anyone can see this by the number of old series and classics that were remade by Baby Boomers unwilling to let go of the ‘glory days’ as Bruce ‘the Boss’ Springstein would say. In the past few years, I have witnessed the transition to the next generation gradually take over with new versions of the Dukes of Hazzard, the Incredible Hulk, Transformers and Batman.

As sad as it seems, this, too, shall pass and we’ll see more remakes and more re-mistakes as the generations progress. Nothing is eternal, not even the pyramids or Zawi Hawass. Someday, when that Green Slime arrives on a Meteor, gets made into Soylent Green by the Blade Runner and we all mutate into the Walking Dead, we’ll be wondering what happened to  Bruce Willis, Charlton Heston and Harrison Ford.