Dream big like Quentin Tarantino, and never give up

I love stories of people who’ve defied impossible odds. It’s these stories — improbable though they are, and nearly impossible to repeat — that have kept me going in some really dark times throughout my life. Especially after my divorce, when I was practically homeless and so far in debt that I should have just declared bankruptcy.

Today, I learned from The Writer’s Almanac that director Quentin Tarantino had quite a battle rising from nothing to eventually stardom.

I only barely read his story, but saw that he was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, That caught my eye, since that’s where I was born.

I’m not a huge fan of Tarantino, but I can’t disagree with his success. So, curious, I read on.

Turns out he has quite a story, which is pretty motivating. The guy dropped out of high school after ninth grade and took some acting classes.

He went on to work as an usher at a theater and rewrite screenplays before he “skipped film school in favor of a job at a big video store in Southern California, where he and his co-workers — all aspiring filmmakers — watched and analyzed movies all day,” according to The Writer’s Almanac.

Here’s the link to how he made it from there, but in short I found it amazing that he came from such nothingness to get to the point where he’s at today.

He didn’t have a fancy degree. No family connections. Just a dream and a ton of grit. So, what are you waiting for? And what’s your pathetic excuse again?

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please accept the greatest gift I can give.

P.P.S. Thanks to all who continue to make my novels a success. I seriously couldn’t have done it with everyone’s support. I’m excited to say that Little Man, and the Dixon County War  has gone as high as No. 16 on the Amazon UK Paid List (see here and here). My second novel, Sold Outhas also done well, also, going as high as No. 81 on the Amazon Paid List for the category of War (see here and here). Learn more about both books here.

Sgt. Alvin York, my childhood hero

I’ve been wanting to start a regular feature called “Hero of the week” and I guess this will be my first.

My idea for this feature is fuzzier than a flimsy flyer stapled to a billboard, but damn if I haven’t learned in life that he who hesitates usually watches the hot broad leave the bar with someone else. So, here be-ith the first one.

Without question, the first hero I wanted to write up was Sgt. Alvin York, of World War I fame.

He was a fellow Tennessee boy, who had nine months of elementary schooling before his father yanked him out so he could hunt and help feed the family.

York helped raise his six younger brothers and two sisters after his father died, but I’m getting sidetracked here. Nobody cares what he did before he carried a rifle.

And it’s with a rifle that he distinguished himself. The man could flat shoot his ass off. And it was with these skills that the uneducated, backwoods mountain man introduced himself to the battle-hardened, German soldiers.

York’s unit entered a shitstorm on Oct. 8 , 1918.  Like so many units before it, York’s superiors ordered the men from Company G, 2d Battalion, 328th Infantry, to advance across open ground toward dug-in Germans, who lay quite safe under the protection of machine guns, parapets, and strands of barbed wire.

York’s unit moved out at 6:10 a.m. and the Krauts mauled them with ease.

“The Germans got us, and they got us right smart,” York said. “They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from…And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.”

York’s platoon alone lost most of its men, including its three NCOs. That’s when York — then a Corporal — faced that moment of truth that would change his life forever.

Only seven men remained from his infantry company and prudence suggested a retreat might make sense. But they don’t breed caution in Tennessee, and proud fathers — no matter how poor — certainly don’t teach their boys to back down. pl. York took charge and led the seven men onward.

He snaked and squirmed and slid forward until he could draw a bead on a particularly deadly machine gun nest.

“As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. I don’t think I missed a shot. It was no time to miss…”

York also had to hit all of his shots when six Germans charged him with bayonets. His rifle empty, York yanked his .45 pistol out and shot down all six Germans. (I like to think he paused and blew smoke from the barrel after this feat, but with so many rounds flying and so much death around him, I’m guessing he didn’t.)

In the end, York and his seven men captured the major machine-gun nest and took four officers and 128 men prisoner, according to military records.

The Army promoted Cpl. York to Sgt. for his bravery and presented him with the Medal of Honor.

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Director Howard Hawks produced a movie about York that featured Gary Cooper. It’s a great flick you should catch sometime if you’ve never seen it.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_C._York, http://www.sgtyorkdiscovery.com/The_York_Story.php, and http://militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=134