About MeI was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but I spent a lot of time when I was a little boy at our family farm down in the rolling hills of the Ozarks. My great-grandfather, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother all lived in the main farmhouse, which is pictured to the left. In that same picture, my great-grandparents are in their dune buggy. Later on, this same picture will also help explain my love for fast vehicles.
The family farm was the hub of our family, and we all met there just as often as we could. We were a very large family — I had dozens of cousins I saw all the time — and I remember always feeling safe and loved. My favorite things to do at the farm were hiking through the hills and pretending I was Daniel Boone, swimming at the cold, spring-fed river (and taking a bath in the river on Saturday nights!), and listening to my elders telling the funniest stories to each other every night when we’d all gather on the front porch after supper to enjoy the cool evening air.
My mom also read stories to me every night when I went to bed, and I’m sure that’s why I could read and write before I started going to school. Once I started writing, I never stopped. Writing did, however, get me in big trouble in 5th grade. A kid in our class who was a bully threw up his lunch in the hallway one day after recess. He then tried to jump over it to show off — and he slipped and fell right in! Well, I wrote a story about that, in great detail, and passed the story around the school. When the bully found out about it, he chased me all over the neighborhood every day after school for a whole week. He finally gave up when he found out I was a lot faster runner than he was, but I looked over my shoulder on my way home for a long time after that. I loved writing stories, especially those about famous people. Whenever I finished reading a book, I’d then write one more chapter to tell what happened to the people in the story. That was great fun for me.
While growing up, I loved more than just reading and writing. My heroes were the St. Louis Cardinals, and my friends and I played baseball practically every day after school. My dad was the coach of my first baseball team. At first, even though I loved to play, I was just terrible. I kept getting hit by the ball! I’d be shocked if I didn’t hold the all-time record for being hit by the pitch in Little League. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that we found out I couldn’t see the ball because I needed glasses, and that is why I was always being hit. Once I got glasses, a whole new world opened up for me — and I could finally see the ball! However, I hated wearing my glasses. They were big and black, and I thought they made me look like a robot.
I absolutely loved going to school. Math, English, History, and recess were my favorite subjects. I didn’t like spelling at all. I’ve never been a good speller…to this day. My family moved around a lot, so I ended up going to two different junior highs and three high schools. I didn’t mind, though, because I got to meet and got to know new friends every time I changed schools. When I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Missouri-Columbia. I wanted to become a lawyer. However, during my sophomore year I got to teach a small lab section of a big lecture class, and that experience changed my life forever. I enjoyed teaching so much I switched my major to teaching. And, because I loved reading and writing so much, I decided to be an English teacher. I’ve been teaching ever since.
Today I have many hobbies that I enjoy when I am not teaching and writing. I love to travel and see new places. I have been to Europe, South and Central America, Canada, and islands all across the Caribbean. However, there are many places, especially here in the U.S., that I’d still like to see. Here are some pictures of my favorite places.
I also love to ride motorcycles, especially fast ones. I started racing motorcycles when I was a teenager. I’m still not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow I have ended up with over twenty motorcycles. My garages and outbuildings are now full of them. I ride every chance I get, but the riding season is very short here in northern Iowa because of all the snow and ice we get.
My favorite activity of all, however, is hiking and climbing in the mountains. I especially love hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest in Tennessee. There I’ve made it to the top of Rainbow Falls, Grotto Falls, and the Ramsay Cascades. My favorite hike there was to the top of Mt. LeConte, a sixteen mile round trip journey up and down a rugged mountain path.
I also write every chance I get. As a matter of fact, I often write while driving (not safe!) and watching TV. One time I even wrote a chapter in a grocery store; I just pulled my shopping cart over by the bananas and wrote until I was finished. No matter where I go, I always have paper with me just in case an idea comes to mind. Years ago I started writing textbooks and am proud of the work I did in that area. However, my heart is now in nonfiction writing, and that is where it will stay.
I’ll be adding more information about my early life and my writings in my blog, so please check there often.
Bye for now. —JSC