SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He has served in the Army National Guard since October 2004, and holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ever since Stan kindly accepted my invitation to appear on my blog, I’ve really been looking forward to learning some more about his life and writing. And so I’m delighted to be able to say good to meet you, Stan, and thanks for coming!
Where do you live, Stan? I live in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where is your favorite place in the world? I have to say the Little Bighorn Battlefield in southern Montana (for those who may not recognize it, this is the battlefield where George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry were wiped out by Native American warriors in June, 1876). I’ve been there numerous times. Many years ago when it was allowed, I walked across the battlefield and down to Deep Ravine where cavalrymen from Company E were said to have been found after the battle. I don’t know why, but when I am at the Little Bighorn I have such a feeling of peace.
Being a writer is a great job. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? I can’t really say. There have been a few jobs I have not cared for yet the money, as limited as it sometimes was, paid the bills. Maybe it was when I worked for a company here in Las Vegas that supplied colored glass panels for slot machines. A part of that job was measuring incoming glass shipments on the loading dock to ensure they were cut to specifications. The Las Vegas summer heat could sometimes reach 115 degrees—little did I know that years later such a day would feel like a warm, enjoyable spring day compared to summer days in northern Kuwait/southern Iraq.
What book do you wish you’d written? I haven’t written it yet, but I wish I had the resources to walk down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to photograph the Trail and write about it. I am sure it is far different from what it was like during the Vietnam War. It might be that “civilization” has caught up with it, especially since the Vietnamese government (I once heard) was looking at developing some portions of the Trail to support a tourism industry.
What’s your happiest memory? The birth of my children. It may sound like a cliché, but the birth of a child is a wonderful miracle. There is nothing comparable to hearing that first cry and see that tiny life with eyes squeezed shut, clenched fists and curled toes, as if slightly irate (I’m sure the delivery room is kind of chilly compared to the safe warmth that the baby just left). Or maybe it is when I am writing or painting and one of my grandchildren stands on tip-toes to watch me—and wants to join in. Or maybe it is when one of my grandchildren just smiles at me and gives me a big hug.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them? I’ve answered this question before, and it varies. But this time, I would say Publius Quinctilius Varus, the commander of the three Roman legions destroyed in the Battle of the Teutoburger Wald in 9 AD. Though there were certainly survivors, as some ancient histories indicate through somewhat detailed descriptions of the battle, I would still like to meet him and ask, “Tell me what happened, in detail, during those three days of battle.”
What would your superpower be, if you could choose one? Ahhhh, flying like Superman? Except, you see, I’m afraid of heights. I mean, to feel the wind in your face as you hurtle through the air all by yourself—without being within the confines of an aircraft? I would have to keep my eyes closed, but as long as I didn’t plow into a jetliner or scare an Air Force radar operator who would scramble interceptors with air-to-air missiles, I suppose I could peek at the ground from time to time keep my bearings. Thus, if I could fly, I could reach Paris, the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna in Libya, or the Himalayas (!!) without spending a bundle of money on airplane tickets!
If you won twenty million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Establish education trust funds for my grandchildren; buy a little piece of land in the Rocky Mountains (tiny Christmas tree farm) and build a home to call my own; invest some in land, stocks and bonds; give to a couple of favorite charities; and take all of my kids, their spouses or significant others, and grandchildren, on vacation to Ireland and England, and then all of us take a train from Paris to Venice, Italy for a week or so. The rest I would save for monthly distribution so that I can live comfortably.
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? There is no one lesson. The first is not to harbor hatred and anger—it only hurts you and no one else. Second, do not give up on whatever you are engaged in until it is readily apparent that you are not going to prevail. Third, life, even with its many challenges, is too short not to enjoy—enjoy life because one moment you are a 20 year old kid arriving in the middle of the night to begin Army Basic Combat Training, and the next you are almost 60 years old and you are wondering how many sunrises you have left in this world.
And finally, please tell us about your latest book, where we can find it, and where we can find your blog/website.
First, I do not have a blog or website—yet. Second, my first story from MuseItUp Publishing is titled Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot, and it was published in June 2012. In sum, it is about a soldier, a gunner on a gun truck, at a convoy support center in northern Kuwait. Every day members of his unit escort supply convoys from Kuwait into Iraq. As he prepares to go on a mission word comes from the north that a gunner from his unit has been killed by an IED while on a convoy mission. It sets him to wondering about the “lucky charms” that many soldiers carry, and he realizes he doesn’t have one. Nor does he know what a lucky charm for him would be. Little does he know that the answer may be just around the corner…
Here is an extract:
Sergeant Jerry Stanton, an M4 Carbine slung across his chest, glanced at the dark form that trudged alongside him in the hot, early morning darkness. It was all the darker for the dust storm howling across the small camp, a dusty and sandy convoy support center, CSC, a mile south of the Iraqi border. He placed his hand over the tall styrofoam coffee cup from the messhall that was open at all hours to serve those about to head out on a mission. He felt the itchy dust filtering down his back, along his arms, and coating his fingers.
In spite of his short time deployed to Kuwait, he had learned that dust storms were worse than sand storms; they were hot and itchy while the sand storms stung exposed skin and chilled the air. Breakfast was good but tasted flat, more due to the question of whether their mission would be a go or no-go because of the storm that roared out of the midnight darkness hours before.
“People like a happy ending,” the soldier repeated. He was a gunner from another gun truck as the squat, venerable M1114 HMMWVs, which were never meant to be combat vehicles, were called. He held up a rabbit foot that spun frantically in the wind and added, “I like a happy ending. Especially now.” They rounded the corner of a small building, actually a renovated mobile home trailer with a covered wooden porch lit by a bare electric bulb. The gunner pointed to a small black flag, suspended from a log overhang, flapping furiously in the wind.
“Oh shit.” Jerry sighed as a cold chill raced through him.
“It’s been there for an hour or so,” the soldier said as he enclosed the rabbit’s foot within both hands and brought it up to his lips as if to kiss it. He glanced at Jerry. “I’m not superstitious, but still, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a lucky charm. You know?”
“Yeah.” Jerry nodded as he watched the twisting flag. “I know.”
The soldier looked once more at the black flag and then walked toward the shower and restroom trailers beyond which were the air-conditioned sleeping tents they called home…
Thanks so much for coming today and telling us about your book, Stan. It’s really been great to meet you. And if you ever do realise your dream of getting to England, I hope you won’t forget to come and visit us in Yorkshire.
Did you enjoy Stan’s interview as much as I did? Do you have any comments or questions for him? If so, please leave a comment. He’d love to hear from you!