I’m excited to announce the release of a new novel, “Into a Fickle Wind,” Book II in my Deacon Wells
Series. If you’ve read “Search for Yesterday” and “Refuse,” you have doubtless been waiting for the next installment in this epic adventure series. In conjunction with this release, I wanted to explain my
dedication in the opening pages of “Refuse”—who are these people and why should you care? If you’ll
indulge me for a few moments, I’ll give you a glimpse into my life… and heart.
The people who hold a permanent place in my heart and memory are those who have lifted me, or
whom I’ve seen dedicate their lives to lifting and serving those around them.
I have often heard these words spoken from the lips of people who spend much of their time and
resources in service and charity work: “I’m not really a religious person,” yet they are engaged in what James, from the New Testament, defines as “pure religion.” Whether their philanthropic activities literally include “visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction” isn’t the point, since we can easily stretch James’ sentiment to include all acts of benevolence… anywhere or for anyone.
If we take this definition of religion to be true, neither the church we attend or theology we ascribe to
determines how religious we are, but rather the code we live by and what motivates our actions. Good
people are good. They do good things and affect the world in positive ways. Good people accept,
tolerate and embrace others, along with their conditions, looking outward in hopes of encouraging,
supporting and lifting—rather than looking inward, hoping to garner a self-serving outcome.
The hardest thing for me about the recent Covid Pandemic was the social toll it took on us. The
brother/sister/neighborhood portion of our humanity. At first it was physically denied, with the
expectation that it might last 10 to 14 days, but days became weeks, and weeks turned into months,
then years. For many, social distancing is an ongoing thing.
I don’t enjoy being rubbed up against or trapped between hygienically deficient bodies any more than
the next person, so in some instances, the space between us can be a real blessing, but to me it’s not
about the distance. It’s about our mindset, the walls and boundaries… the social limits we set for
ourselves and for others. The “space thing” has hijacked our thinking to the extent that we seldom
consider anything beyond maintaining it. It’s uncomfortable to knock on a neighbor’s door, because
what if they don’t invite us in? Was it wrong or intrusive of us to being neighborly?
I was greeted just today by a potential client wearing a mask in her own home. Instantly I felt guilty and wondered if she thought me inconsiderate for not being masked myself. Should I enter, or should I
reschedule? The entire time I spent there was uncomfortable.
The other day while visiting a local Mexican grill, I noticed that not only the other twenty or so people in line were standing six feet apart, but I was too! And I was doing it without even knowing. When I
realized it, I suddenly became conscious of everybody, especially those closest to me. Instantly I was
worrying if I moved too close to the person in front of me they’d somehow feel violated, or perhaps they
were feeling that way about their proximity to me. Whatever it was, I wasn’t a fan. Maybe what we all
need is to go to a stadium event, so we can feel the rush and energy of a crowd again, erase the
subconscious fear dictating our thoughts and actions.
Whatever it takes for us to start closing the gap between us, if not physically, at least metaphorically, I
hope it happens sooner than later.
Now that I’ve finished that rant, I’m going to share a few thoughts and memories from the more positive end of our current and past social spectrum and how it relates to my writing.
While writing “Search for Yesterday,” and subsequently, the Deacon Wells Series, I found myself
unconsciously devoting much emotional energy and reverence to the memory and legacy of various
personal role models. Some of my characters are inspired solely by single individuals, while others
possess the combined attributes of two or more remarkable examples in my life. Ben and Millie Halladay from “Search for Yesterday” were such characters inspired by more than one individual, as was the character of Seymour Grey in “Refuse.”
The characters of Jackie and Coy Harrison, also of “Search for Yesterday,” were written into the story to, as accurately as possible, highlight, immortalize and pay tribute to two of the most profoundly
influential people I am privileged to have known.
For the purpose of this newsletter entry, and with the blessing of their oldest daughter Tammy, I want
to take a moment and introduce readers to Jacqueline Evelyn Maxon and McCoy Williams,
(affectionately known as Jackie and Coy) in life as well as in my portrayal of “the Harrisons.”
When I was only three or four years old, our family moved into a tiny farm home on the flats of Milford, Utah. At the time, Jackie and Coy Williams, with their three children, lived about a quarter of a mile up the graveled lane from us. We may as well have been next door neighbors for the way we were treated. Jackie was the head nurse of the local hospital, while Coy operated a farm. Alfalfa hay, grains of different kinds, Hereford cattle, an old sorrel mare named Mary with the most pronounced withers I’ve ever seen, three car-chasing dogs, a two-acre garden, milk cows, laying hens… the works. If it was farming, I think Coy had at least a toe dipped in it. We were invited to share their garden, milk, eggs, and pretty much anything else the Williams’ had, and we did.
My parents were hard workers and didn’t believe in just taking, so we worked, and worked and worked, alongside and for Coy and Jackie. At the time it felt like slavery, but as I grew older and wiser, I learned that the Williams’ didn’t only share with us, or just the things we could see, they gave generously to others in need as well… most often in secret. My parents knew, I later found out, but they never let on. When the deer hunt came, Coy always had a bunch of meat he had no place to put. At Christmas, he always accidentally cut two trees, and when, during an economic crunch, Dad’s teaching salary was cut in half, money showed up in envelopes on our door. Even before us kids were old enough to really work in the garden, bushel baskets of fresh produce made it to our doorstep, and for some reason, Coy’s pig pens couldn’t hold pigs, but he believed ours could, so in trade for pork and feed for our other animals, us keeping his pigs at our place was the only solution for his problem… for six years!
Jackie was vibrant, beautiful and motherly to a fabulous fault. When she hugged me, it was like being
wrapped in heaven’s blanket. I think I remember her singing a lot—whether it was good singing or not, doesn’t matter—but humming or singing quietly while she worked seems to stick in my memory. She gave me Spaghetti-O’s too, something my parent’s either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, afford.
On one occasion she became my savior, when while my parents were gone, I chopped my thumb off
with a hatchet. Unbeknownst to her, while she was dropping my brother off from cub scouts, my sister
was frantically wrapping my thumb with strips torn from bed linens to stop the pulsing stream of blood. Our bathroom floor and walls were literally covered in red, and we had been losing the battle for a while by the time my brother entered and saw the carnage. Immediately he ran for help, but before he
opened the door to leave, Jackie was coming, already hurrying up the porch steps. Within seconds, she
stopped the bleeding and had me in her car in route to the hospital, where rather than pass me on to
her staff, she cared for me personally. Later, when my parents asked her why she had come into the
house rather than continue home, she answered, something to the effect, “I heard a voice telling me to
go in, so I did.” I love my Jackie and am sure she’s caring for and comforting sad and needy angels
somewhere in Heaven.
Coy was quiet, but wise, incapable of yelling, but I don’t think he would have even if he could. He had
kind eyes, a foggy voice and gentle hands, but those hands were gentle because he willed them to be,
not because they weren’t leather tough and steel strong. And his eyes, warm and most often smiling?
They could also let me know when I was in trouble. I gained my love of work watching him as much as
from my own father, who was no slouch. My hope to someday become quietly and gently wise is born
of the profound respect and admiration Coy Williams inspired by the way he lived.
As I said, Jackie and Coy Williams weren’t a blessing only to me and my family; they spread their diverse net of kindness and philanthropy wide, such that they are still remembered as pillars of human kindness by all who knew them.
Foster and or adoptive parents and hosts to dozens of children and teens, including four exchange
students, Jackie and Coy Williams dedicated their lives to the service of anyone who came to them,
loving, caring for and lifting wherever there was need until they left us. If you were privileged to know them, you loved and were loved by them.
Thank you, Jackie and Coy, and anyone who lives or lived their lives like you, for being the example of
what “Pure Religion” really is.
Quinn O. Heder