Two major pieces of wisdom from Bob Lee Swagger and Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter crafts some of the best books out there, and he easily ranks among my favorite authors.

I studied his novels extensively as I undertook the more mature phase of my writing career in my early twenties, and I’m now re-reading “Point of Impact” for at least the fourth or fifth time.

Quick sidenote: For those who don’t know, Hunter created Bob Lee Swagger for Point of Impact, as well as the books that follow in the series. And Swagger, aka “Bob the Nailer,” remains one of the best and most iconic characters you’ll find anywhere.

Here are two major pieces of wisdom from the great Marine Sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, that I just unearthed. Please note, in both scenes he’s describing a trophy buck that lives up above him, and that he’s named Old Tim.

First piece of wisdom: Strive to be tough

“Old Tim, scarred and beat up, with many an adventure behind him. Tim would be alone, too: Tim didn’t have a harem, and didn’t need one anymore. One year Tim had had a prong of antler shot off by some lucky city dick from Little Rock and looked out of balance for a whole season. Tim had limped another whole year because Sam Vincent, not as spry as once he’d been, had held sloppy and put a .45-70 softpoint — too much gun, but Sam loved that old Winchester — into his haunches, and only bled him bad enough to kill any normal buck.

“Tim was tough, Bob knew, and that was the kindest word he had for anybody, living or dead.”

Second piece of wisdom: Live in the present

“Bob loved their magic. When he had hunted men, there was no magic. Men were stupid. They farted and yakked and gave themselves away miles before they moved into the killing zone.

“But the deer, particularly the old Ouachita stags, appeared like ghosts, simply exploding out of brushy nothingness, as if they were superior visitors from another planet. And they were superior, in their way, Bob knew: their senses were so razor keen, everything focused on the next two minutes. That was their secret. They didn’t think about the last two minutes, which had ceased entirely to exist in the second after they were experienced, had evaporated entirely. They only thought about the next two minutes. No past, no real future. There was only now.”

One final endnote. For those who hate the thought of Bob Lee Swagger killing this fine deer, fear not. Bob only shoots it with a plastic bullet designed to stun the deer. And each year, he hunts it, shoots it in the spine with this plastic bullet, and then in the few minutes that it’s immobile, he saws off its antlers.

Bob doesn’t believe in killing, and he hates the thought that scores of hunters ascend into the mountains to kill this trophy buck. So his act of hunting and removing its trophy rack is one of mercy.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

16 thoughts on “Two major pieces of wisdom from Bob Lee Swagger and Stephen Hunter

  1. Hello Stan, Agree in all points. I read Point of Impact along time ago and still reread the same paperback copy, which is getting very dog eared to say the least. You don’t do bad yourself, Jarhead and yes I’ve earned the right. Parris Island 1971 1st RTB Platn. 182 USMC Aug71 – July 75 MOS 2531 Fld Radio Operator Highest Rank; Cpl EAS; LCpl Present Job; Dynamics Positioning Operator Instructor You keep writing, I’ll keep reading. Once, Always, Forever!! OOOOOOORRRRRRRRAAAAHHHH!!!!! Bob Cason, Jr.


    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one with a dog-eared copy, Bob! Some of my books have duct tape on their covers, but as I’ve marked them up, they become more precious to me.

      I consider my beat-up books worth far more than brand new ones, because if I’m wanting to scan one or recall a scene or note I’ve written… Well, then that marked-up copy is practically priceless in my eyes!

      And I really appreciate the kind words about my writing! Most folks who’ve read and enjoyed Stephen Hunter find me a pretty good fit.

      Thanks again for the comment, Bob! Love crossing paths with fellow Devil Dogs.

      Semper Fi, and make sure you comment more! I need all the help I can get to keep me between the lines and out of the ditch. lol


      P.S. Your comment posted your email address in the “from” position, so I’m going to remove that so you don’t get spammed to death. If you intended to leave it there, just let me know. (Some want it there in case folks they served with cross their path.)


  2. Can’t recall if I’ve read this one (old age creeping in :-P) but even if I have, it would be worth a re-read. Have liked everything I’ve read by Stephen Hunter, particularly The 47th Samurai.


  3. Stan – just read that again last month and will do so again. Hunter’s books are always worth another read. Those ‘wisdom’ points you list bring good rules to live by.
    Most fans (of you and Hunter) probably know who the role model was for the series, but not sure if this obituary is that well known:
    Semper Fi Bro. We’ve walked in some giant footsteps.


    1. I had never seen that!!!

      Wow. What an amazing, well-written piece of work. And he deserved nothing less.

      I’ll bet almost no one has seen it so I may post a link to it in a separate blog post here in a day or two. Thanks for the heads up on it!!

      Semper Fi,

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hunter served in the ‘Old Guard’ back in the late 60’s, and has a particular reverence for combat Veterans.
        In his newspaper days, he worked with Bob Timberg one of the Corps’ great ones who wrote “The Nightingale’s Song” (required reading for students of the War in Vietnam).


  4. Live in the present. That is such a good piece of advice. My mind is so often scurrying off into the future or the past, so annoying. And I’m most at peace and happy when just immersed in an activity so am fully engaged in the present. We’re all living and learning, right? 🙂

    Some deer live in my parent’s woods and we once found huge antlers on the ground (I guess the buck had shed them??) so beautiful. My parents put them on a big table they have.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Live in the present.”
      That is such good advice.
      Too often we sit around regretting something done, or worrying about something that ‘might’ happen in the future.

      Live in the present…love it!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wise words by both of you, Letizia and OG!

    And, Letizia, I’ve read that you can help yourself live in the present by taking several deep breaths and noticing the room. The details of the room. The event or activity you’re at. And thinking, “This may be my last chance to do this or be with this person.”

    And so you breath in deeply, smile, and think of nothing else but that present moment. (Sometimes, I can get this to really work. Sometimes not… It depends on what’s eating at me or what I’m worried about.)


  6. I have enjoyed Hunter’s books as well, and Bob Lee is one of my favorite fictional characters. One of the things about him that appeals to me, and to a lot of other people I’m sure, is that he’s a rural guy and so am I. Raised and still living in small-town Wisconsin (actually living out in the country the past 24 years now), those of us with rural roots can identify with Bob a lot more easily than city folks can. It’s a simpler way of life and the bull—t that flies out of Washington and back and forth between the coasts tends to fly right over our heads. When we are snidely referred to as living in “flyover country” by the intellectual elites, we understand, but we kind of like that because we let their you-know-what just keep right on going. And while it does, those of us in the small towns and rural areas keep doing the work that keeps the country strong and fed.


    1. That’s so true, David, about the rural aspect attracting so many fans of Swagger. I hadn’t ever put that connection together, but it make sense.

      Plus, there’s the whole underdog aspect. Bob the Nailer is just one of the best characters ever created, bar none…


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