Last Goodbye

Photo By Dexter K. Oliver: “Last Goodbye” is the final installation in a series of what the late, great Dutch Salmon of High Lonesome Books in Silver City, New Mexico called rare and collectible books.

Local author makes it an even dozen books

By Dexter K. Oliver

Something for everyone, that’s a tough goal to strive for in a single book. This one is a combination of fact, fiction, humor, pathos, poetry, religion, and politics so maybe it comes close.

Writers have an unspoken contract with their readers: to enlighten or entertain them to the best of the author’s ability. The responses may be laughter, the gnashing of teeth, solace, or anger but most importantly the written words should make the audience of one think. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter as long as the thoughts on the page stimulate the synapses in the brain to snap, crackle, and pop.

Plato, the old Greek mentored by Socrates and called the “father of Western philosophy” once said of the subject: “Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

Reading books is a healthy form of escape from daily pressures. It has comfort associations such as a warm bed, reminds us of the universal nature of problems, and allows us to identify with characters and situations. Re-reading permits one to get behind the “what” was written to better savor the emotions behind the words. Print books have been found to better convey information than when it’s read on Kindle, they are yours for life, and they are reminders of one’s intellectual journey.

My day job, once I had put the zookeeper, factory, restaurant scullery, military, and construction gigs behind me, dealt with wildlife in wildlands settings. That meant both sides of the fence: threatened and endangered species field biologist on one hand and hunter/furbearer trapper on the other. That was all a lot of fun and put beans on the table but didn’t scratch the creative itch that mediocre guitar playing and singing couldn’t reach. Writing filled the bill.

I wore a lot of hats in this field and wrote magazine articles, newspaper columns, essays, book reviews, opinions, editorials, poetry, and songs, as well as printing books of nonfiction, a short story collection, and novels. The money from the magazine articles paid for the cottage industry of self-publishing my own books which also allowed me the creative opportunity to design the covers. That alone is a satisfying advantage over what is done at publishing houses on the east or west coast.

My books showed up in public libraries and stores in Ajo, Tucson, Portal, Benson, Green Valley, Safford, Duncan, Clifton, Blue, and Silver City, New Mexico. They are also in the University of Arizona, Pima Community College, and Eastern Arizona Community College libraries. My preferred method of selling them was at farmers’ markets or arts and crafts gatherings, one on one with potential readers, in those same places as well as Bisbee, Glenwood, and Hatchita. Covid-19, unfortunately, curtailed that. Book readings or signings in front of a crowd was never my cup of tea.

This current book has something old and something new.

The first item to pop up on a Google search for “Dexter K. Oliver” will be a website called Muck Rack that lists dozens of my news articles and op/eds from The Copper Era, the Eastern Arizona Courier, The Gila Herald website, and the Arizona Range News (it should also have mentioned the Hidalgo County Herald). I included some of my favorites in the book as well as a look at the writing game in general, for anyone who wants to try their hand at it. Opinions and editorials are good ways to start, they can be a venue of self-advocacy that adds to community well-being and gives voice to any citizen. Newspaper editors want to hear from you.

I also incorporated an extended look at the Macho B jaguar debacle, the worst self-inflicted black eye the Arizona Game and Fish Department (in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) ever gave itself. And that is saying a lot. A glance at some local political shenanigans that were too hot a topic for the papers to print and a lengthy treatise on American gun violence that was sent to members of the U.S. Congress.

A long and deep dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly parallel tracks of the evolution of man (that homicidal, inventive, and amorous naked ape) and Western religion are examined. It had to be abbreviated and distilled by necessity and design, but it is a good jumping-off point for further research. That last one has often been a bone of contention. This is nothing new; a book reviewer for a Tucson paper once made a note of my “usual asperity” in much of my writing. Well, a delicate approach when speaking truth to power is usually ineffective. A machete can do the job better than a scalpel.

New songs and a complete bibliography of my books and by-lines wrap up both the book and my writing for public consumption “career” which first started back in 1980.

The title came about not so much from my personal health – although a heart aneurysm, leaking valves, and a previous heart attack have made my own future a bit sketchy – but from an overall view of the world. Democracy on the ropes, zoonotic diseases causing pandemics, undeniable climate change, overpopulation, and dwindling natural resources are all challenges to our species, Homo sapiens. Yet there are still many walking among us who see the accumulation of money and power at any expense as their highest aspiration. It must be an odd feeling, going through life with blinders on like a horse pulling a carriage in 19th century London.

My own legacy is an odd one, perhaps: Some dust-collecting reports on threatened and endangered species of wildlife buried in government files, bobcat fur coats on wealthy women around the world, and a shelf full of books. It takes at least a modicum of courage to play guitar and sing your songs to a group of strangers (especially when they’re consuming alcohol) and the same goes for placing a book of yours into the hands of unknown individuals. One doesn’t want to end up like Salman Rushdie when the knives come out.

The book, Last Goodbye, may be seen at the Country Chic/Duncan Visitor’s Center, the Duncan Public Library, and the Simpson Hotel in Duncan. Autographed copies may be purchased directly from the author, P.O. Box 716, Duncan, AZ, 85534. The cost is $15 for the book, $9 priority, or $5 book rate S&H.