Time for serendipity during journeys is always good. Sometimes one experiences some of the best things during serendipitous, spur-of-the-moment stops along the way. Such unexpected occasions are especially important for writers. Such was my experience during a recent trek my wife, youngest daughter, her husband, and I took to the Southwest.
No cars sat in the parking lot in front of the plastered-and-whitewashed visitor’s center, which sat forlornly on the flat prairie. A sign on the door read, “Closed.” Disappointed, we nevertheless got out of the car to stretch and explore the various structures scattered widely across the otherwise bare grassland.
Fort Reno was a cavalry base responsible for training and housing troops during the “pacification” of Indians, preserving the subsequent Indian Territory for the Indians against white squatters, and enforcing the rules for several land rushes. It was home to several units of the “Buffalo Soldiers,” black cavalrymen who were so named by Native Americans out of respect for their skills.
Among the famous personages later associated with Fort Reno were Will Rogers, who attended horse shows on the base and whose homespun philosophical statements I often quote in my writings, and Amelia Earhart, who flew an experimental forerunner of the helicopter at the base airfield. But the name that most startled me was that of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of the famed Afrika Korps.
That Fort Reno affords ample fodder for writers’ story mills is evidenced by a novel about Kunze’s murder, Extreme Justice by Vince Greene. A nonfiction book about Fort Reno’s and other bases’ involvement in the housing of POWs is Behind Barbed Wire: WW II POW Camps in Oklahoma by various authors. I, too, am cogitating what use I might find among the various facts and features I witnessed during my serendipitous stop at Fort Reno.
If you are a writer, never underestimate the value of interruptions to your schedule, detours along your trek, or unplanned stops as you proceed on your itinerary. Sometimes your best ideas will come from such serendipitous byways along your writing journey.