Military Life

Huachuca Drones into the Atomic Cloud - Huachuca Book 3

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Huachuca Drones into the Atomic Cloud moves from young Frank Warner’s home in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, to the Nevada Test Site, and back again to the fort in 1962.

Frank’s father, a master sergeant who is developing drones for the Army, takes a group of Fort Huachuca soldiers to Nevada to fly three drones through the radioactive cloud of an atomic bomb test.

Back at school in the fort, Frank uses classroom excitement over John Glenn’s Mercury space flight to distract his fourth-grade teacher from grading the homework he has failed to complete. The trick works one day. Soon Frank is in big trouble.

In winter, Mom’s late-night dishwashing keeps the Warners' water running when all the neighbors’ pipes freeze. Months later, in Little League baseball, Frank steps up to the plate for a chance at final-inning heroics.

Huachuca Drones is the third installment of the five-part Huachuca Books series, which adapts episodes from Frank Warner’s 2021 memoir, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat.

Ride West to Fort Huachuca - Huachuca Book 1

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Ride West to Fort Huachuca begins in a burning airplane. It’s late 1960, and after two years in Heidelberg, Germany, Master Sergeant Tom Warner and family are flying back to America.

The story is told by Frank, one of four sons of the sergeant and Georgiana Warner. The family’s journey is the first episode of the heartwarming and often funny coming-of-age story of a boy discovering the desert, finding new friends and settling into a new home.

It’s the autobiography of an Army brat, a soldier’s son who already has lived in four Army posts. He must adapt quickly to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and he must be ready to move again at any time.

Interwoven into the adventures are reminders of American life in the early 1960s: Elvis Presley’s return from the Army, Eisenhower’s last months as president, Kennedy’s election, TV Westerns, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

Frank’s father, part of the Signal Corps, has been ordered to Fort Huachuca to experiment with the Army’s flying drones in the desert’s open spaces. An engine fire interrupts the Warners’ plane flight from Germany. Once they reach the States, they take a car out Route 66 to Arizona.

Within six months, Frank and his brothers change schools four times. Carl, Mark, George, and he are forced to adjust and learn the new rules of unfamiliar classrooms full of unfamiliar faces. Frank soon makes friends with Flavio Garcia and Terry Cook.

Frank and his brothers explore the desert. They visit nearby Tombstone. They build tumbleweed forts. And when they hear the legend of lost gold in Huachuca Canyon, they hike the canyon and keep their eyes open for treasure.

Ride West to Fort Huachuca is the first installment of the five-part Huachuca Books series, which adapts episodes from Frank Warner’s 2021 memoir, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat.

The New Girl Chases Dust Devils - Huachuca Book 4

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A new face joins Frank’s circle of fifth-grade friends in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Emily is the new girl in class. The first time Frank sees her, she’s running after a swirling cloud called a dust devil. As it turns out, Emily dances and spells well too.

The New Girl Chases Dust Devils also follows other unusual events in Frank’s life. His three-year-old brother George crashes the family car. Frank's best friend Flavio has a heart operation that leaves a big scar. Classmate Diane reveals the pain that prejudice inflicts.

At Tombstone’s annual Helldorado celebration, Frank and his older brother Carl play trumpets in Mr. Brown’s marching band. They march past the OK Corral before judges decide which band to name best of the parade.

And in early 1963, just as Frank feels settled into the best place he’s ever lived, the Army orders Frank’s father to go to Vietnam, and the whole family soon may have to leave Fort Huachuca.

The New Girl Chases Dust Devils is the fourth installment of the five-part Huachuca Books series, which adapts episodes from Frank Warner’s 2021 memoir, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat.

The Big Dig for Canyon Gold - Huachuca Book 5

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For two years, young Frank Warner has heard about the lost gold in Huachuca Canyon, Arizona. Now, in early 1963, a serious project begins to dig up the treasure. The whole story is in The Big Dig for Canyon Gold.

Army Private Robert Jones, who says he saw stacks of gold bars in an underground cave back in 1941, sends in an earth-moving team. The crew gets help from Silas Newton, who claims to have special gold-detecting tools from a crashed flying saucer.

Also in The Big Dig for Canyon Gold, actor Gregory Peck comes to Fort Huachuca to make a motion picture. Frank visits the movie set outside the post hospital, where he watches the film crew drop a dummy from a water tower. The scene is for the movie Captain Newman, M.D.

In a letter, Frank asks President Kennedy to cancel the Army’s orders to send Frank’s father to Vietnam. The orders would take Sergeant Warner away for a year and force the rest of the family to move East. Awaiting Kennedy’s reply, Frank says goodbye to Flavio, Emily, Terry, Skeeter, and his other friends.

The Big Dig for Canyon Gold is the final installment of the five-part Huachuca Books series, which adapts episodes from Frank Warner’s 2021 memoir, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat.

Huachuca Books available now! Five compact books from Tumbleweed Forts days

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The five books of the Huachuca Books series are episodes excerpted and adapted for younger readers from Frank Warner’s 2021 memoir, Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat.

Most of the stories are about growing up in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where Frank’s soldier father was sent to experiment with drones in the early 1960s.

The Huachuca Books are (1) Ride West to Fort Huachuca, (2) Water Rescue at the Desert Oasis, (3) Huachuca Drones into the Atomic Cloud, (4) The New Girl Chases Dust Devils, and (5) The Big Dig for Canyon Gold. The titles identify each book’s most important episode. Every book stands on its own, but each also connects to the others by following the same family and friends over several years.

Each book is about 130 pages long, with the slightly larger 14-point type helpful to many younger readers – and others. If you’d like all the stories of the Huachuca Books in one book, your might try the original Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat. Tumbleweed Forts is about 400 pages, with the relatively common 12-point type size.

All the books soon will be available at the Sierra Vista Public Library. They’re also for sale at Each Huachuca Book is just under $10. Tumbleweed Forts, with all the stories, is $16.99.

Ride West to Fort Huachuca

Water Rescue at the Desert Oasis

Huachuca Drones into the Atomic Cloud

The New Girl Chases Dust Devils

The Big Dig for Canyon Gold

* * *

Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat

The Huachuca Books are about the many happy surprises a boy can find in a desert fort full of life. The stories also reveal how an Army brat clings to a sense of home when his address keeps changing and his father is ordered away.

Fort Huachuca was the fifth Army post of Frank’s childhood, and the first post he never wanted to leave. Here at age ten, he was best friends with Flavio, who saved his life from deep waters and helped him hunt for Huachuca Canyon gold. Here too, Frank took a liking to Emily, a captain’s daughter who chased dust devils and spelled well.

As his father tested drones and his mother kept the family together, Frank discovered that the friendships and vastness of Fort Huachuca made it the perfect playground. Then in 1963, when his father received orders for Vietnam and told the family it was time to move again, Frank was so alarmed that he wrote President Kennedy to ask that the orders be canceled.

If you’ve read Tumbleweed Forts, you’ve already read the stories in the new Huachuca Books. But if you know a youngster or even an oldster who’d like the stories in a shorter form, you might recommend the Huachuca Books.

John Glenn over Fort Huachuca, February 20, 1962

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The rocket was ready now. Steam was bubbling down its stainless steel shell as the fuel tanks warmed up.

“That Atlas is big,” Carl said. “It’s a lot bigger than the rocket they used for Shepard and Grissom.”

“The old rocket was the Redstone,” Dad said.

“I knew that,” said Carl.

Mercury Control counted down the last seconds to John Glenn’s blastoff. “T minus ten seconds, counting, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero, ignition. Liftoff!”

We watched the Atlas rise, accelerating into space on a big, bright flame. About a minute in, Cronkite sounded thrilled on TV. “It looks like a good flight so far. Oh, go, baby!” We watched the television picture until there was nothing to see but a white dot atop a thin trail of smoke.

“Pilot John Glenn is reporting all systems go,” said the voice of Mercury Control.

“He’s doing fine,” Dad said.

Mom had our lunches lined up on the dining room table. Dad took his first. He gave Mom a kiss and ran out to his ride, one of his carpool buddies.

“All right, Carl, Frankie, Mark, grab your lunches and go,” Mom said. “You’re almost late now.” We moved toward the lunch boxes but looked back at the TV. “The door is open, out you go,” Mom said. “Three, two, one, gone!”

We rushed off on our bikes, and we weren’t alone. It seemed all of Colonel Johnston’s students were rushing to school at the same time – late. Everyone had seen the launch at home. Now it was a space race to the bicycle racks.

* * *

Mrs. Van Houten looked sleepy. She had been up most of the night. This morning, she brought in a Zenith clock radio and put it on her desk. The radio was tuned to a country and western music station, which interrupted its regular programs for news reports on John Glenn. 

This was the first time I ever heard a regular plug-in radio in class. Once in a while, classmates brought little transistor radios to school, but their radios were never turned on indoors.

Mrs. Van Houten stood next to the classroom globe to show us where Glenn was. He was out there circling the real globe. He crossed Africa and was over the Indian Ocean.

“Right now it’s nighttime there,” Mrs. Van Houten said. “Listen! They just said John Glenn can see the lights of Perth. That’s a city in Australia. That’s on the other side of the world from us.”

As the space capsule continued across the Pacific Ocean, the news announcer talked about the dangers of space flight, and we all wondered what the astronaut was thinking. The newsman said Glenn was passing over Baja California.

“That’s western Mexico, right here on the globe, just south of Arizona,” Mrs. Van Houten said.

The classroom buzzed with wows, oohs, and ahhs.

I looked out the window to the deep blue sky. It was clear, but there was no sign of the space capsule 160 miles up. Only ten minutes later, about 9:30, the newsman reported that Glenn was back over Florida. “John Glenn has become the first American to orbit the Earth,” the newsman said.

“He’s all the way around!” Mrs. Van Houten said, giving the globe a spin. “And he’s still going.”

We clapped and cheered as our teacher took her seat.

“Okay, we have to get back to our lessons,” she said, turning off the radio. “Let’s all pull out our reading books.”

While Glenn continued his flight, we took turns reading a short story about a family who got lost on a snowy mountain but found a safe way home. Then we went over new vocabulary words and wrote sentences with them. The lesson went until 11:45, when Mrs. Van Houten let us go to lunch.

“Be sure you’re back here by 12:15,” she said. “We’ll check how John Glenn is doing.”

When we returned, Mrs. Van Houten’s radio was on, and I noticed something else on her desk. Her blue folder. She was correcting the arithmetic homework. She had done two or three of the papers and held a red pen over the next sheet on the pile.

This could be a problem, I thought.

“John Glenn is about to come down from outer space,” Mrs. Van Houten told us as we went to our desks. “They say he’s over California, and he’s supposed to splash down near Florida in less than a half hour.”

I took a long look at the pile of unchecked homework. The first paper was flat, and I saw the name. It was Terry Cook’s worksheet. Most of the other worksheets looked fairly flat too. But the second paper, the one under Terry’s, had lots of fold marks. I knew it. Those were the folds I made yesterday, before I slipped the paper in my pocket. That second paper was mine. I was one page away from trouble.

Mrs. Van Houten looked at the top worksheet and breezed through Terry’s first five questions, the multiple choices. As the radio newsman continued his updates on John Glenn’s flight, Mrs. Van Houten made a red check mark next to an answer. One wrong. She moved on to the twenty arithmetic problems. She was closing in on my homework. This could be embarrassing, I thought. What if she showed the whole class that I answered only five of the twenty-five questions?

I raised my hand. “Mrs. Van Houten, if John Glenn was over California a minute ago, wouldn’t he be over us in Arizona right now?”

“Well, Frankie, I don’t know. That could be.”

“How would we figure that out?” I asked.

She put down her red pen.

“That’s a good question, Frankie. Why don’t we all figure that out together?”

She walked to the blackboard. “This is a little tricky,” she said, turning down the radio. “But you heard the newsman say Glenn is moving at 17,500 miles an hour. We’ll start with that.” She wrote the number on the board. “Now, how far is it from California to Fort Huachuca? Look at our wall map of Arizona. Get up and look if you want to. The scale of miles, the line at the bottom of the map, shows you how far 100 miles is.”

We all got up and looked. Flavio used his forearm to measure out 100 miles and found the California border three forearms to the west. “It’s about 300 miles to California, maybe a little less,” he said.

“Very good, Flavio,” Mrs. Van Houten said. She wrote “300 miles” on the board and asked us to take our seats. “Now, the question is, if you’re going 17,500 miles an hour, how long does it take to go 300 miles?”

“I have the answer!” Terry said. “It would take John Glenn about one minute to fly from  eastern California to Fort Huachuca.”

“You figured that out fast,” I told Terry. I had hoped it would take longer, to keep Mrs. Van Houten away from the homework.

“How did you come up with that answer?” Mrs. Van Houten asked, and she walked to Terry’s desk to see what she did with the numbers.

“I sort of guessed,” Terry said. “I thought, if John Glenn is going 17,500 miles an hour, how far is he going per minute? Then I did this.”

“Oh, yes, yes, I see,” Mrs. Van Houten said, looking over the calculations. “Okay, let me ask the rest of the class. Can any of you tell me how Terry figured out how many miles per minute John Glenn is going?”

We thought for a moment.

“Frankie, how about you?” Mrs. Van Houten asked. “If the capsule is going 17,500 miles an hour, how would you find out how fast it’s going per minute?”

“I know!” I said. It just dawned on me.

“Show us,” Mrs. Van Houten said.

I went to the blackboard and picked up a stick of chalk. “There are sixty minutes in an hour, so if you want to know how fast John Glenn is going per minute, you divide 17,500 miles by sixty.”

I divided it on the board. The answer: 291 miles per minute. “That’s close to 300 miles, and that’s how far California is from here,” I said. “That means John Glenn got to us in one minute.”

Mrs. Van Houten smiled. “Sometimes my students surprise me.”

As I took my seat, she sat down and turned the radio up again. She picked up the red pen at the homework pile. But the newsman’s voice changed. He was suddenly extra serious and talking about John Glenn’s retro-rockets. 

“Glenn’s original plan was to jettison the retro-rocket pack immediately before re-entry,” the newsman said. “But Mercury Control now has ordered Glenn to keep the rocket pack attached even after he fires the retros. These retro-rockets sit on the capsule’s curved heat shield. We’re not certain why he’s been told to keep them on the heat shield or how this will affect his re-entry. We do know that Glenn must come down heat shield first, at a precise angle, or the capsule will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.”

“This doesn’t sound good,” Mrs. Van Houten said. She put down the pen.

The heat shield does its job best if the retro-rockets are gone during re-entry, the newsman said. He said he had scientists with him, and even they didn’t know how risky it was to leave the rocket pack attached to the heat shield.

Mrs. Van Houten looked down. She picked up the pen.

Before the newsman had time to find out more about the heat shield, he reported that John Glenn was seconds away from his scheduled splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. “Glenn should be down just about now,” the newsman said. “We are awaiting word from NASA.”

Mrs. Van Houten listened closely. The whole class listened with her.

“There we have it,” the newsman announced. “Mercury Control says it can confirm that Friendship Seven has splashed down and Navy helicopters are searching for Glenn and his capsule in the waters off the Bahamas.”

Mrs. Van Houten looked relieved for a moment, but the worry returned to her face. Again she put down the pen.

“Is John Glenn all right?” she asked quietly.

The newsman did not say. For fifteen minutes, he talked about Glenn’s three orbits, the heat shield and the splashdown, but he steered away from comments on Glenn’s health because, the newsman admitted, he had no information on it.

Just after 1 o’clock, the newsman said a helicopter crew had found the capsule and a Navy ship was closing in with a special crane to lift the spacecraft from the water.

“How is he?” Mrs. Van Houten asked, knowing the radio newsman could not hear her. “Is he alive?”

The answer was not yet there.

“Glenn’s capsule has been hoisted to the deck of the destroyer Noa,” the newsman said. “We are told the crew is preparing to open the capsule. No word yet on Glenn’s condition.”

“Oh my,” said Mrs. Van Houten.

The newsman was quiet for a moment but came back excited.

“Mercury Control has just informed us that John Glenn is aboard the destroyer Noa, and he is alive and well. I repeat, John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth, is alive and well, and he will soon be on his way home.”

We all applauded and shouted with joy.

“Isn’t that something?” Mrs. Van Houten said. She looked happy but almost exhausted. She picked up the arithmetic homework pile, tucked it into her blue folder and got up to teach. Today’s afternoon lesson was on the moon.

* * *

The next morning, Mrs. Van Houten started the school day with an announcement.

“Boys and girls, I just want to remind you that when I give you homework, you must turn it in on time, and you must answer every question to the best of your ability.”

She seemed to be looking at everyone except me. But she was talking about me, and I was in big trouble.

Frank Warner

(From Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat)

Colonel Johnston School from the air, Fort Huachuca 1960

A aerial Warner house and Col Johnston photo and labels
By Frank Warner

I’ve been looking for old photographs of Colonel Johnston School in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Now a fellow Army brat has sent me a picture his father took from the sky.

David Penman of Grand Forks, North Dakota, says his father, Staff Sgt. Keith Penman, snapped this photograph from an airplane that flew out of Libby Air Field, probably in 1960.

The picture shows Colonel Johnston School, which I attended from 1961 to 1963, on the far left of the frame. On the right side of the photo is my old neighborhood, called Wherry.

This school and this neighborhood figure prominently in my book, “Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat,” a story of Fort Huachuca life in the early 1960s.

It turns out that, in the two and a half years I lived there, David Penman lived just 15 houses east of my house. I lived at 159 Hughes Street. David was at 189 Hughes Street.

We lived there at the same time, but did not know each other, principally because we weren’t the same age. I’m four years older than David.

We tried to figure out how neither of us met the other’s brothers or sisters, when six of us went to Colonel Johnston School at the same time. (The other two were too young for school.)

When we checked out our birth dates, we discovered none of us was born the same year.

Here are our birth years:

Carl Warner, 1951.

Frank Warner, 1952.

Mark Warner, 1954.

Theresa Penman, 1955.

David Penman, 1956.

Laura Penman, 1958.

George Warner, 1959.

Kathy Penman, 1963.

That’s eight Army brats, fairly close in age, and yet not one of them would share the same school grade.

My family left Fort Huachuca in 1963, when my father was sent to Vietnam. The Penmans lived in Fort Huachuca twice. They were there from late 1959 to 1965, and then, after Sgt. Penman’s two tours in Vietnam, they returned to Fort Huachuca from 1969 to 1970, living this time on Dorsey Street.

For the sake of remembering our Arizona days, it helps to see Sgt. Penman’s photograph. It clarifies how simple the Colonel Johnston School building was: the offices, cafeteria and multipurpose room toward the front, classrooms for kindergarten to sixth grade at the rear.

When I visited Fort Huachuca in June 2022, my old neighborhood was gone. Around 2001, the Wherry houses were bulldozed and replaced by much more graceful-looking homes. Streets were rearranged too. Hughes Street doesn’t even exist where Warners’ quarters and Penmans’ quarters were. It's White Street.

The old Colonel Johnston School has been closed about 20 years, replaced by a bigger, modern building. The old school is no longer used for classes, but it still stands. In June of this year, it was being converted into a maintenance building for all the fort’s schools.

I’m glad the old building was kept. It's just where you see it in Sgt. Penman's picture. It isn’t fancy-looking and never was, but for the brats who learned lessons and made friends there, that old school holds a mountain of memories.

Mr. Archie Brown, the music man of Fort Huachuca schools

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Photo: Mr. Archie Brown (at right in white) and his well-dressed Fort Huachuca Accommodation School Band

More than 50 years ago, a Navy veteran from Kansas taught hundreds of soldiers’ children in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, how to play musical instruments.

His students still remember following Archie H. Brown through the streets of Tombstone and Sierra Vista, playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” for the Fort Huachuca schools marching band.

The late Mr. Brown, who was born 99 years ago today, cheerfully brought youngsters together to play the most beautiful melodies and harmonies.

He made music fun, but he also made us work.

“Practice makes perfect,” Mr. Brown said again and again. To drive home the point, he gave us “PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT” posters to put up in our bedrooms. And we practiced.

In the Navy Band. Mr. Brown’s musical career began in July 1942, when he joined the U.S. Navy Band. Seaman 2nd Class Archie Brown was in Europe in June 1943 when he heard his father, Robert Brown, had died back home of a heart attack. According to his family, the news devastated him.

Immediately after World War II, the sailor met his wife-to-be, Vernelle Langley, at a dance in Virginia Beach, Va. They married in March 1947 despite knowing Seaman Brown would be away with the Navy for the next 10 months. 

Re-entering civilian life, Mr. Brown made a home with Vernelle in South Boston, Va., where he taught music at Halifax County High School.

His teaching style there was so impressive that a local minister in 1955 suggested the South Boston Junior Chamber of Commerce name him “Man of the Year.”

“More than a band leader, more than a teacher, Mr. Brown is a friend and helper to the young people of our county who seek an introduction to the wonderful world of music,” the Rev. Hugh B. Carter wrote.

No record is available on who became Man of the Year, but Carter’s words are notable because, later, many who joined Mr. Brown’s Fort Huachuca bands felt the same way.

Virginia and Kansas. While Mr. Brown lived in Virginia, he used the GI Bill to subsidize his studies at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. After two years, he transferred to the University of Kansas. Taking summer courses at KU, he earned his bachelor’s degree in music in 1952 and his master’s in 1956.

When one of his three children developed asthma, Mr. Brown decided in 1957 to move the whole family to the dry air of Fort Huachuca. Here, Mr. Brown taught music at all of the post schools and formed a large marching band, which met regularly at General Myer School. He also taught summer school music classes.

His band competed each year at Helldorado Days in Tombstone, the Rodeo Parades in Tucson, the Sierra Vista Parades, and the Armed Forces Day events in Fort Huachuca. The band earned many awards for its lively music, deft footwork and flashy uniforms.

The Browns lived in the dusty West Apache neighborhood of Fort Huachuca during their first years in Arizona. In early 1960, they moved into Sierra Vista, which became their permanent home.

Five little Browns. Mr. and Mrs. Brown added two sons to the two sons and a daughter they’d brought from Virginia. Now there were Connie, Jerry, Danny, Archie L., and Jimmy.

Mrs. Brown worked for the civil service in Fort Huachuca, first in procurement and later at Greely Hall. She also helped persuade public officials to start a special education program in Sierra Vista for children with learning disabilities.

Arizona was a long way from Mr. Brown’s roots. He grew up in the middle class family of Robert and Cora Blanche Brown of Iola, Kansas.

His father operated a small grocery store, and several other small businesses before it. Archie Brown was the youngest of five sons. The others were Laverne, Lorraine, Robert and Beryl.

Mr. Brown showed musical promise in high school, both as a singer and a tuba player. He used his musical talents in church and further refined them in the Navy and at college.

Lots of Tchaicovsky. In Arizona, his house was always full of music.

“We listened to a lot of classical music, especially Tchaikovsky,” his daughter Connie said. “We also heard a lot of John Philip Sousa and some Perry Como, like ‘Round and Round,’ but most of it was classical music like ‘The 1812 Overture.’”

Mr. Brown’s favorite instrument was the trumpet, but he could play almost any musical device. He considered the violin and the French horn the most difficult instruments.

As a father, Mr. Brown gave his children their choice of instruments. He taught Connie the clarinet at age 6, Jerry the trumpet, Danny the saxophone, Archie L. the cornet, and Jimmy the drums.

The younger Archie also sang for the Buena High School Show Band, and for several southern Arizona rock’n’roll bands.

Mr. Brown also was active in the Sierra Vista Rotary Club and in First Christian Church of Sierra Vista, where he served as choir director and an elder. He and Mrs. Brown were involved in Gideons International and the Gideon Auxiliary.

Troubles in the 1970s. The late 1960s and 1970s were difficult for the Browns. Mrs. Brown was diagnosed with cancer and began radiation treatments. Heart problems forced Mr. Brown to undergo several operations. Son Jerry died in a Colorado car accident in 1973, and a granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia in 1976 and died in 1977.

It soon was time for Mr. Brown to retire, and fortunately he and Mrs. Brown enjoyed retirement together into the 21st century. He died in December 2005. She passed away in September 2010.

Archie Homer Brown’s music lessons haven't been abandoned. His students have handed that “Practice makes perfect” motto to younger musicians.

Today, somewhere in America songwriters turn out powerful new tunes, saxophones make sweet jazz, and piccolos play “The Stars and Stripes Forever” because Mr. Brown was here.

He hasn’t waved a director’s baton in a Fort Huachuca classroom in more than 40 years, but he’s not gone and forgotten. In the spirit of hard work and pure fun, Mr. Brown still makes music.

* * *

(Thanks especially to Connie Brown Hays, Mr. Brown’s daughter, for providing so much of the information in this story. Connie lives in Hereford, Arizona, just south of Fort Huachuca. As for her brothers, Danny also lives in Hereford, Archie L. in Tucson, and Jimmy in Phoenix.)

What is an Army brat? Where does the term come from?

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Photo: Army brats normally wear civilian clothes, but here in Fort Huachuca of 1963 is my brother George, for the fun of it, wearing a small Army uniform that his three older brothers wore before him.

An Army brat is the child of a soldier. Usually, the term is applied to those children who have moved more than once, sometimes overseas, because the Army has ordered their fathers or mothers from one post to another.

“Army brat” is a respectful title, as are the similar designations for children of the other military branches, Navy brats, Air Force brats, Marine brats, and Coast Guard brats. Navy brats and Marine brats also are called Navy juniors and Marine juniors.

The word “brat” goes back at least 1,000 years, when it was applied to a blanket or clothing for an infant or toddler. By the 1500s, “brat” simply meant a child. By itself, the word can have humorous, even insulting meanings. In a scolding tone of voice, “brat” implies a child is annoying, selfish and nasty.

Term of endearment. But for children of the military, “brat” is a term of endearment that recognizes the blessings and hardships, the bonds and separations, the introductions and farewells of their nomadic lives. An Army brat’s childhood involves repeatedly leaving old friends and homes, so the “brat” title also refers to the ability to adjust to losses, and to adapt to new people and places with resilience and a smile.

Some say the term “brat,” as applied to children of the armed forces, dates to around 1920. It was then that Britain officially used the term British Regiment Attached Traveler (BRAT) to identify any soldier’s family member – a spouse or child – who was permitted to go overseas with the soldier. The word also may have been a contraction for “barrack rats,” a term used in the 1700s to describe children allowed to live with soldiers in a barracks.

The term doesn’t appear to have been commonly used in the United States until just before World War II. An April 4, 1938, article in The Lincoln (Nebraska) Star mentions a short trip taken by “Army brats,” two daughters and two sons of officers stationed at Fort Omaha, Nebraska.

No offense. The Columbus, Indiana, Republic on March 30, 1939, reported that “One of the 43 boys and girls in the Edinburgh [Indiana] senior class is an army brat, which is a term Army people apply to their own children and others of Army parentage indiscriminately and not meaning any offense. She’s Sophia, 15-year-old daughter of Capt. George Middleton. He’s been in the Regular Army about 20 years and of course has been moved around a lot, so Sophia’s gone to school several places, including three years in the Hawaiian Islands. She a bright little girl, and will be the youngest student ever to graduate from Edinburgh High School.”

Brat general. Lt. General Hugh A. Drum, who served the U.S. First Army in both world wars, was known as “the Army brat” well into his adulthood because he was born in Fort Brady, Michigan, and grew up in various other Army posts with his father, Capt. John Drum. Capt. Drum was killed in the Spanish-American War in the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill, Cuba. President McKinley responded by giving 18-year-old Hugh Drum an immediate lieutenant’s commission, no West Point needed. Hugh Drum went on to fight in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines in 1899, and eventually became a general, active in the Army until 1943.

A Brat’s Opinion. In spring of 1940, Catherine Unger of Fort Knox, Kentucky, sent a poem written by her daughter, Bette, to The Louisville Courier-Journal, which published it. Bette’s father was Army Col. Charles H. Unger.

Bette’s poem was called “A Brat’s Opinion”:

I was born to the boom of a cannon,
And a drum’s loud rat-a-tat-tat;
No, I’m not a German immigrant,
I’m just an Army brat!

I’ve packed my little suitcase
All over the U.S.A.:
Will probably never settle down
’Til after judgment day.

I’ve left good friends a-plenty,
At every “port of call”;
But we really never say goodbye,
’Cause the world is awfully small.

For Army brats today, that description still seems to fit.

Frank Warner

In ‘Tumbleweed Forts’ book, hear the voice of an Army brat

A aaa Huachucas from Reservoir s GOOD IMG_8779 A

What is “the voice” in the book Tumbleweed Forts: Adventures of an Army Brat?

Elizabeth Wrozek, curator of the Henry Hauser Museum in Sierra Vista, asked that great question in the June 15th discussion and book-signing at the museum. My simple answer: The boy is narrating the story as it happens. He knows only what he’s seen and heard, and he’s not going to tell you any more until he knows it.

WROZEK: A thing that I’m impressed with is the voice that you use in the story. Now you’ve been a news reporter, and you’ve worked as an editor, so you know quite a bit about that. But when you’re reading the book, and you’re a grown man who’s looking back on his childhood and writing from that child’s perspective, the voice in it is so well done, and you forget you’re actually reading the words of a grown man.

WARNER: Elizabeth, you caught something there. A few editors I know have read the book and mentioned the point that you’re bringing up, the voice. There are very few books written from the voice of the child. It’s usually someone, an adult’s voice, describing the child. Huckleberry Finn is one of the exceptions. It’s in Huck Finn’s voice. He’s got that dialect, the Missouri dialect, the Southern dialect. I don’t use a dialect in my book because I spoke pretty ordinary American English as a boy. My mother was terrific with words, reciting poetry all the time, and my father was a good writer himself.

So I hope my voice is very plain and clear in the book, and it is from the perspective of a boy, initially seven years old and growing to 12 by the end of the story. I tried to keep to that. I said to myself, this is going to be the boy talking – me, but only how I felt then, and I wouldn’t describe anything I didn’t know at the time, or anything I wouldn’t know within a few days. If I found out something important 10 days later, I might mention that for perspective, but you’re finding out, in the book, what I’m learning as I learn it.

First-person limited. The first-person pronoun “I” tells the reader that the story is coming from the main character’s point of view. From a “first-person omniscient” perspective, an author could choose to describe all sorts of things the main character couldn’t know. But I don’t do that in Tumbleweed Forts. My book is from a “first-person limited” voice.

In my book, if the main character doesn’t know whether he’ll get in trouble for not doing his homework, or whether the steam-shovelers will find gold in Huachuca Canyon, the reader doesn’t find out either -- not until the character finds out.

To me, the first-person limited voice seems the best way to keep the reader thinking from the youngster’s perspective. The reader is in the boy’s shoes, and imagines how the boy is responding to every new adventure, acting with no knowledge of what happens next.

The in-the-moment voice is intended to build some exciting tension and give the reader a few extra surprises. I hope it works.

Frank Warner

Photo: Huachuca Canyon as seen from Reservoir Hill in Fort Huachuca, Arizona

Growing up in Fort Huachuca, I saw no javelinas

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I heard about them. My father hunted them. But the javelinas, wild pigs of the Huachucas, never crossed my path when I lived in Fort Huachuca in the 1960s.

So I was surprised June 16th this year when, in a visit to the fort, I saw this javelina bothering a food caterer’s van during a colonel’s farewell ceremony on Brown Parade Field.

It was about 7:20 in the morning, the sun already bright, when the two-foot-tall spiked critter showed up at the south end of the field.

As I made my way from the flagpole toward the gazebo, the javelina approached the food van, and caterer Colleen repeatedly yelled, “Shoo!”

I moved in a zigzag toward the animal, to avoid spooking it. The javelina trotted away a yard or two at a time, and then disappeared across Grierson Avenue, Colonels Row.

Several experts later said it is unusual for a javelina to approach humans alone. They also guessed that this javelina’s family was nearby, but out of sight.

I was happy to see just one.

Frank Warner