About The Word Hunter-Rick DeStefanis

Mississippi Author/Writer Rick DeStefanis writes below about the motivation behind his award winning Vietnam War Stories.

Rick DeStefanis, The Word Hunter

Rick DeStefanis, The Word Hunter

A military veteran and former paratrooper who served with the 82nd Airborne Division from 1970 to 1972, Rick brings a wide variety of life experiences to his writing. While his Southern Fiction, such as his novel Tallahatchie, is qualified by his lifelong residence in the South, it is his military training and expertise that informs his Vietnam War Series. These novels include Melody Hill, the award-winning novel The Gomorrah Principle, Raeford’s MVP and the latest, the 2018 Best Indie Book Award winner for Literary/Mainstream Fiction, The Valley of the Purple Hearts. An avid outdoorsman, Rick lives in rural Mississippi with his wife Janet, five cats and three dogs. And when he’s not photographing wildlife, he writes. Learn more at his Amazon Author Page.

Rick DeStefanis Writes About The Word Hunter and Vietnam War Stories

I grew up in the South, and though I write fiction, my stories are true reflections of my experiences and the people I know. Writing southern fiction without denying the truth requires care inasmuch as it can easily offend neighbors and friends. Southern writers seldom cross that line with cheap exhibitionism, while mimics from other parts of the country do so with relish in cliché-filled creations that come off like a Hollywood actor imitating a Southern accent. When I laugh and cry, it is not at or about my fellow southerners, but with them. We are a proud people, and because we speak slowly and appreciate a less chaotic lifestyle does not mean we are not intelligent or self-driven.

I served as a paratrooper in the military, and although I am not a combat veteran, I know the Vietnam era and have many personal friends who served in that war. After jump school at Fort Benning I was separated from most of my classmates and friends who went either to the 173rd Airborne Brigade or the 101st Airborne in the Republic of Vietnam while I was ordered to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. Paratroop Drop 82nd Airborne scan0014

Upon their return, many of my buddies rejoined me at Fort Bragg where I had gone through extensive and continuous training while they had stared the beast in the eye for a year. Most of them would talk about their experiences only after a few glasses of bourbon, but none would speak about them to anyone outside the military. And when I offered to write their stories as nonfiction accounts, each one to a man refused. They did not want to relive those horrific experiences and also because they were humble heroes who had left behind some of our buddies in those mountainous jungles. The “fiction” I write is closely based on the stories these men shared with me in bars around Fayetteville, North Carolina and during reunions years afterward.

With these men in mind, as well as all veterans who have given of themselves for their country, I attempt to produce the best Vietnam War Stories possible. And as with my southern fiction, when I write Vietnam War fiction, it is with the knowledge that I am telling the stories of these men with an unvarnished truth that reflects their experiences. These combat veterans have earned that along with my unfailing respect.

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Part Two: Wyoming and Montana Road Trip-Grizzly, Bison and Moose

Grizzly, Bison and Moose…IT’S NOT A PETTING ZOO PEOPLE!!

He is not a Grizzly, but this is how a Bison looked after a bunch of European tourists bailed out of their vehicle and ran to within 15 yards of him where they began taking selfies–I kid you not!! Janet and I were on the opposite side of the highway (The Bear Tooth Highway north of Yellowstone) photographing him with a telephoto lens. Occasional snowflakes were darting about (the real ones) when these snowflakes began posing for their photos.

A Very Agitated Tetonka

They seemed to think this giant beast was as docile as a cow and they remained otherwise oblivious to the signs of agitation he was exhibiting. Thankfully, before he could decide if he wanted to gore a few of them, they loaded up and left. This was how he appeared shortly afterward. Anyone who knows wildlife can look at this critter and tell he was definitely at the limit of his patience.

 

Then there was the big grizzly out in the Shoshone River Valley west of Cody, Wyoming. He was on the opposite side of the river, about a hundred yards off the highway, guarding the remains of an apparent kill. Several people had stopped to take photos, and everyone remained on the highway near their vehicles–at least until the crowd grew. Then, as you might have figured, the 3% crowd showed up. That’s the ones lacking common sense. Two women and a man left the roadside and walked down closer to the river with their cell phone cameras. They approached to within fifty yards of the big Griz as many of us on the highway could only mutter “Oh $h%t!”

Big Grizzly, Shoshone River Valley

As you can see from my photo, he became focused on them. Grizzlies don’t look it, but they are agile as cats and incredibly fast. He could have sprinted across the river and reached them in as little as three or four seconds. Thankfully, they got their photos and returned to the shoulder of the road without incident. A few minutes later the bear left his kill and came down to the river, about 80 yards away, where he got a drink of water.

Griz Getting a Drink From the Shoshone River

 

The three most aggressive animals in this part of the country (and the ones responsible for the majority of attacks on humans) are the Grizzly, the Moose, and the Bison. Because they have often become accustomed to the presence of humans they do not run away and often appear deceptively at ease, which leads tourists to believe they are docile and relatively harmless. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and any of the three can kill a human in seconds.

We caught this bull moose crossing a sage flat early one morning near Moose Junction (go figure) in the Grand Teton National Park. Thankfully, none of the 3% crowd were around.

Moose, Teton National Park

Again, my 400mm telephoto lens brings him in close, while Janet and I remain nearly a hundred yards away.

I will leave you with the shot below, as a means of explaining how we get these photographs. During our travels, we ran into more than a few tourists who said, “We’ve seen very few animals. Where are you seeing them?” A few questions usually reveal they have risen a little after sunrise, had a nice breakfast at the restaurant and arrived at the park sometime around mid-morning–the time when most critters are bedding down for the day. As the photo below reveals and I explained to the tourists, “It’s not a matter of ‘where,’ but a matter of ‘when.’ You must get up before dawn if you want to see more wildlife.”  By the way: My next blog will announce the publication of my next book: Rawlins, No Longer Young, a historical western. https://rickdestefanis.com/rawlins-historical-fiction-western-book/

Tetons Before Sunrise

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