Chapter Two – “The Book”

 From a Dime to a Millionaire

A Memoir

Conservative Disciplined Thinking Equals Prosperity


The Book

Location: The City Dump Abilene, Texas 1960

My nostrils flared as I tried not to breathe the acrid stench of the smoldering heaps of garbage. I turned into the wind to catch my breath and shake off the smell that was surging through my lungs. My hammer clawed at another nail and the sound of rust scraping against dry wood screamed for a quick moment. The nail free wood was tossed onto the pile. My gloves smelled of rotten garbage. Removing my gloves, I looked at my fingers; one was blooded where a nail had caught me. My finger throbbed to the touch but I could work one more hour, the last hour. Each added 75 cents to my meager bank account, all I would have when I left home in three months.

Bending down, to re-tied my bootlace holding my hurt finger out of the way, I noticed  the ground: no soil, only garbage being ground into gray ooze, the vomit of civilization, thrown away dregs of life. Coffee grounds and a half-eaten slice of pizza were crushed into the blades of an electric fan; the heaps of garbage were belching traces of smoke. The stench sometimes churned my stomach. My back ached as I bent down and pulled out another scrap board and extracted the rusty nails. I was eighteen.

The boss’s would send the battered truck at 4:30 pm. I would then load the used lumber from my day of pulling nails and follow the truck out the dump gate. Day three ended and I had finished cleaning a mountain of old lumber to be used in the construction of new homes.

Washing up for supper literally meant taking a hot bath to wash away the foul, disgusting odor. With clean clothes and the day’s work bathed from my body, I devoured with canine savagery Mother’s tenderized beef cutlet, mashed potatoes and canned green beans. After supper I went to the bedroom my brother and I shared. I lay down on my half-bed, feeling the knobby green bedspread as my body relaxed into the softness of the mattress. My thoughts drifted to the late winter day when Dad announced a decision that changed my life.

That morning the left hand bottom compartment door of the old stove banged loudly when opened, but the aroma of cinnamon toast on a cold morning from the bottom broiler made that sound seem heavenly. Our family’s kitchen was right out of a 1950 Sears and Roebuck catalog. The wall color was a pale green with a white refrigerator and a big old white porcelain four burner gas stove. The centerpiece of this room featured the yellow glass topped table with curved chrome legs that matched the four chairs with upholstery of abstract patterns in green plastic. The family’s gathering place also had a Formica cabinet counter and a linoleum floor pattern of squiggles and confetti. Two ceramic wall lamps of painted fruit hung on opposite sides of the kitchen, one a foot above my head, and they were always on including the large ceiling light. The kitchen was as bright as an operating room and as clean.

Each family member sat at the table in their place. Since I was five years old my younger brother Charles and I sat opposite of each other and I was to my father’s right. My mother sat to my right. When dad wanted the attention of Charles or me, he would reach across the table and grasp our forearm and look us straight in the eye and tell us what he wanted us to hear. Dad was a man of honest means who lived life by the golden rule. He provided for his family while believing in spiritual service to humanity. His hard work and conservative life style created a family of two devoted parents and two sons. Love was dished out like ice cream and looking back I want to lick the spoon of those memories. His pleasant nature, strong work ethic and spiritual values created in me a desire to be like him. His action that morning was no different except dad grasped my left forearm more strongly than ever before, his look burned right through me and what he said took my breath away.

”Son, your mother and I love you very much and after you graduate this spring from high school, you are always welcome here. I am breaking your plate at my table”

I didn’t have to ask what that meant, I knew, I felt the blood rush to my head and somewhere inside a little voice screamed in panic, what am I going to do? I was in a tidal wave of thoughts rolling over me and I was in the undertow. I remembered from dad’s stories about the use of the term ”breaking your plate”, it simply meant, I did not have a place at the family table as it had been, I was loved but I was now considered a man and it was up to me to make my way in the world; I was on my own.

Dad told me to finish up and we would discuss my options as we started our work day. Breakfast was over, chores were done and I was working with my dad as was the routine every Saturday in our seasonal evaporative air conditioner business. If my memory serves me right, somewhere between the kitchen talk to the shop talk, the conversation focused on finding a college, perhaps Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, where I was born. Maybe I could find a job washing dishes at a restaurant owned by the Medlock’s. The reality of dad’s announcement was dramatically starting to take effect. I felt like a jackrabbit scared up by a dog, running in any direction, confused and alone.

In late May I graduated from high school and worked for my Father. Other part time jobs were made available to me. My goal was to make as much money as possible before the fateful day when I would leave. I felt as if I had always worked, it was what one did. At twPaint Scraperelve I was doing jobs like mowing the grass with a push mower that would rattle and grind the grass in the whirling blades. By my thirteenth birthday I had a job sweeping up the shop, stocking the shelves, and pulling the bales of shredded Aspen apart for my mother to make evaporative air conditioner pads.  That Christmas vacation Mother and I got jobs scraping windows in an old warehouse in the numbing cold. I was dressed with one of my mother’s scarfs wrapped around my head, my red fuzzy ear muffs on top, a couple of sweaters and my old coat, not my school coat. A wealthy looking older man dressed in a dark blue suit carrying a cardboard box and a paper sack opened the door to his newly purchased warehouse. I followed my mother and the owner inside to the small office. He shut the door, turned on the florescent light that hung from the ceiling at a slant and made an electrical buzzing sound. He placed his arm load on an old kitchen table that had been used for mixing paint. A quick slit from a yellow handle pocket knife cut the tape on the box of a new electric heater. He plugged it in. From the paper sack he produced two new paint scrapers and a box of one hundred single edge razor blades. He and mother talked.

I decided to explore the place; I found a couple of rickety wooden chairs that I pushed under the paint splattered table. Now we had a place to take a break and eat our lunch. Hopefully the heater would warm the dingy tiny office by the time we needed to warm up and eat our sandwiches. I walked into the warehouse where we were going to scrape windows. The building reeked of loneliness, a foreboding big empty place. The eerie light penetrating the dust and paint splattered windows was dull and lifeless. There were three rows of windows, dozens upon dozens resting on red brick colored blocks. The floor was cracked and broken concrete from fifty years of use. Cold and mostly silent except for the low cooing of a scattering of pigeons roosting on the high dust covered metal beams. Nothing was in the warehouse except empty cardboard boxes in a jumbled pile with a thick coating of fine powered dust looking like cinnamon. The truck size sliding metal door at the back had an invasion of Greenbrier vines that had found an opening, grown in and died in a dull brown thorny tangle. The man in the suit left. Mother showed me how to thread a razor blade into my scraper.  We started in the corner. I used a two step ladder to reach the bottom windows. Mother would scrape the top two rows. I asked my mother how much we were going to make. I can still remember her voice as she said loudly, “One thin dime a window.” I was proud to work, I felt grown up. Those dimes we earned afforded us Christmas that year. When I was growing up, we weren’t poor. We just didn’t have anything extra. We made do. I remember wearing “hand-me-down” clothes and talking about how much things cost.

As I grew I was given more responsibility and I was allowed to open my first bank account. Up until that time I worked for an allowance now I would have a paycheck earning seventy-five cents an hour. I wanted a car when I turned sixteen.  By my fifteenth summer I was doing “man’s work” such as air conditioning service, odd jobs. Two workers, my Dad and I were building our new shop across the alley from our home. Dad put me to work shoveling concrete and sand into a cement mixer. The mixer’s gears gnawed at the cogs as the rotating bucket swallowed every shovel full. I kept the cement rotating drum going all day into the night. We had to finish the I-beam before the cement set up. I helped put the roof on after school the next week. I was proud of my Dad and his ability to work so strongly.

At eighteen I had calloused hands, lying on my bed staring at the ceiling, weary from my days of pullingThe Book nails at the dump. I heard my father call me from the living room. My father was a fair man and must have recognized my anxiety about being on my own. Even before I entered the room, he said, “Son, I have a book for you.” He handed me a brick colored book with embossed lettering. Before I could read the title, he looked me straight in the eye and said. “Warren, if you study this book, and learn the secret within until it becomes a part of your life, you will be successful.” With that he turned the book around so I could read the cover in gold letters, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I appreciated the gift and his enthusiasm, but I didn’t open the book until much later when I was on the ledge of despair hanging on with my fingernails.

Word count 1,896


Chapter One – “A Saved Book”

From a Dime to a Millionaire

A Memoir 

Conservative Disciplined Thinking Equals Prosperity


 Chapter One: A Saved Book

Location: Gallery/Studio     Bertram, Texas 1976

The asphalt parking lot was sticky hot, causing ones shoes to snap in the soft areas where tar had filled in cracks. August, three p.m. the hottest part of the day, as I rolled a week’s load of groceries to our waiting oven we called a car. In the back of our Pacer I pulled a well used Styrofoam cooler to the edge of the trunk, opened a bag of ice and dumped the contents. A handful of chunky cold on my neck cause a sigh of relief. Donna started the car. All the cold items were carefully packed and a thick blanket was thrown over the remainder of our purchases for the hour long trip home. The humidity was so intent my shirt was sticking to my skin as if a cow had licked me. Donna’s completion glowed, she complained that her bra was soaking wet. Sweat ran into my eyes forcing me to clean my glasses. Our bubble shaped vehicle slowly cooled to a bearable tolerance level and became cooler as a line of clouds rushed to cover the northern sky. Our silver orb hugged the road as the wind grew bolder josh-ling us on our otherwise smooth ride. I rolled down the window; one could feel the cool temperature and smell in the air. I said to Donna “We’re in for a storm.” She nodded in agreement pointing in the direction of our home to a distant white anvil cloud climbing to its leveling off altitude of 40 or 50 thousand feet. My fingers fiddled with the knobs wanting to get an update on the weather.  Radio reception was giving us only cursory reports of hail and lighting to our north.

We turned at Seward Junction heading west, only nine miles from home. The storm seemed to be moving away from the direction of our house. We had only moved to the area two months before and had not experienced any storms but we needed an emergency to-do list when we got home. The moment our tires hit the gravel of our drive we would unload the groceries first, grab some snacks, a gallon of water, flashlight, and put on heavy jackets, gloves and boots. The safest place would be the narrow hall of the studio not the house, too many windows. We would take our supplies, blankets/ pillows and make a safe place of the studio where all our furniture was stored during our remodel.

Only three miles to home, the sky was growing darker. Rain drops the size of fried eggs plopped on our windshield as we pulled up close next to the long porch. “You get inside I’ll bring the sacks to the kitchen.” Only a couple of steps from under the raised back of the car to the porch but the rain drops felt like being hit with water balloons. I raced to the kitchen, and then drove the car into the garage. Light hail pelted my steps back to the house. The rain ceased. We covered ourselves with a blanket carrying our emergency supplies to the studio moving like a Chinese dragon. In the hall way between the two restrooms we made our pallet with blankets, pillows and a small mattress that was in the studio. I tested the flashlight, dead batteries. Donna was intently trying to find a weather report but only static filled the air. I looked out the west window and discovered that the anvil cloud had swallowed the entire county under its canopy. Our trees that had been bending and twisting against the approaching storm when we drove up were now only gently swaying in a stiff breeze. We wanted that to be all there was to our storm, a little wind, hail and a welcomed summer shower.

A clap of distant, rolling thunder announced the summer season of tornado-making thunderstorms. We were just now getting ready for the storm. I remembered from my past when folks stood in their front yards pointing at the boiling clouds before scurrying like mice to hide. The wind had stopped suddenly, my view was obstructed by the giant tree on the west side of the studio and I couldn’t see to the north at all. I needed a look. The afternoon sky filled with even darker cloud cover creating the feeling of sundown. Walking briskly behind the studio toward the north I wanted to check on the approaching weather. Our two hundred year old guardian live oaks blocked my view until I had walked into a clearing that allowed me to see through the trees. The sky looked like globs of gray green boiling clouds hanging dangerously low, starting to swirl in a wide slow circle. I realized I was in the eye of the storm. Boom an explosion so powerful I jumped straight up clawing at the air quickly turning toward the violent sound in time to see a shower of Fourth of July sparklers descending from the transformer at the highway. The wind carried the smell of burning electrical rubber. Our lights went out. Immediately the swirling wind with millions of pieces of hay and handfuls of gravel were being thrown at me. I squinted at the ground. I was scared. I could hear the flopping sheet metal being torn from the roof of our house sounding like a continuous car crash. I headed for the back of the studio that offered some shelter.  My hands covered my eyes looking out between my fingers; I used my left elbow to feel the wall on my way around to the front. I groped for the door handle as my life depended upon finding safety instantly. The screen door whipped into the side of my head as I pushed opened the jammed wooden door. The next blast of the storm sent me head first, sprawling across the linoleum floor to the sound of breaking glass. The explosion of glass fell like tinkling wind chimes, descending with musical consistency, as the glass and I hit the floor simultaneously. I was stunned for a long minute, then yelling to my wonderful wife of 4 years. “Donna, are you alright?” She screamed, “I’m ok!”

I looked to see where the window had been. The instant cold wind from the hailstorm made me shiver like a wet cold dog. Now the hail was coming down exploding onto the metal roof like dozens of shotguns going off in the attic. The flimsy curtains were blowing almost horizontally. I was petrified with fear. Something inside of me took over. Jumping to my feet, stumbling across the maze of chairs and tables, I rushed to push a bookcase in front of the blown out window to block the wind and rain. I needed to move the heavy bookcase only four or five feet. It would give protection. I gave it a push, nothing. I put my shoulder to the end of the book case, position my leg against the wall and pushed with all of my strength. Finally the bookcase was in place. The soggy curtains hung limp as the rain ran down the back and sides of the antique bookcase, my precious books soaking up the storm. The light outside was inky blue, pierced by lightning strikes that illuminated the pitch black interior of the surrealistic scene.

My heart was beating wildly, my breath was short.  My temple was hurt and oozing. I felt my neck. Thick and sticky blood was trickling down my T-shirt. I tasted the end of my finger, blood. The next lightning burst illuminated the floor. I bent down to pick up a hand full of melting hail stones holding the ice to my throbbing temple. When the next flash came, I saw my books and reached out to pull one off the middle shelf.  Quickly it went under my shirt protectively. Donna was screaming for me. IBertram Tornado quickly answered her and slowly started moving in her direction. Working through the tangle of furniture and debris was awkward, slowly moving in the blackness toward the hall where we had made our barricade.  Donna grabbed for me in the dark she was in hysterics, screaming in my ear,  “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.” I pulled my head around so her screaming was not so violent in my ear drum. The pounding of the hail storm was deaf ting, I pulled her to the floor onto the mattress and hugged her tightly until she relaxed and quit screaming.

The grinding storm raged on above us. We prayed for our lives. After an hour the storm silently ceased and the rumble of storm moved away growing more faint. What remained was only a light rain pelting the metal roof. We felt as if we had awakened from a nightmare. We held each other and whispered like kids playing “fort” under the dining room table. We exchanged words of love and thanked God we were alive. The whispering continued until exhaustion and warmth took over. My temple had quit bleeding but I had a mountain of a headache.

The cocoon of blankets and mattress in the narrow hallway became cramped. When I turned over, Donna asked me what was sharp. I said, “It’s my book, the only one I saved last night.” I pulled it from under my T-shirt and laid it next to the dead flashlight. I heard her sleepily mumble something about, “Really, must have been special, to have saved that book….” I whispered, “That book changed my life.”

Dad: “Son, if you study this book and learn the secret, you will have a successful life.”

Napoleon Hill: “This book contains the secret, after having been put to a practical test by thousands of people, in almost every walk of life.”

Word count 1,704

Writing in a New Direction

I have a new direction concerning my blog. I spent over two years full time writing my creative non-fiction book and I thought I was ready to have the book formatted to Kindle. I hired Danielle Hartman Acee, of The Author’s Assistant to do that work. She told me the honest truth, I did not have a book, I had three books. I had to agree. So we start in a different direction.

My new mission is to write about three subjects, addressing a different audience with each book.

1st Book:  From a Dime to a Millionaire

                Conservative Disciplined Thinking to Prosperity

2nd Book: My Travel Adventures

                          A Memoir

3rd Book: My Spiritual Journey

            Inspirations from My Spirit Guide

The Journey of a Sketch – “Base Romance”

Last week we put the image of “Base Romance”, a sketch from the book, Sketch Book published in 2004 with 70 sketches and the stories associated with each sketch. This week Warren shares some of his insights concerning the drawing of “Base Romance” and images of art works created from the same idea.

The Journey of a Sketch

“Base Romance” was drawn 1/10/2001 with an ink pen. I don’t remember the exact experience that triggered the idea. My best guess? The drawing was created on a cruise ship in a jazz bar, watching a couple sharing a glass of wine before dinner. A string quartet was playing quiet jazz. I was listening, observing the patrons and enjoying my glass of Merlot. I was also drawing, always drawing.

Perhaps it was my third or fourth cruise since our marriage on Valentine’s Day 1999. I had to be talked into my first cruise, but after one week in the Caribbean I was captivated by the entire experience. My idea of traveling before I was married to Kitty was joining expeditions as an artist. I would carry a back pack, with a sketch book, board a plane and arrive in some remote part of the world. The food was strange, water undrinkable and the natives were more than restless. Accommodations were a hammock strung under a thatched hut complete with bugs. It seemed the weather was always hot or rainy, or both.

This ust’a be “adventure artist” sipped his wine, remembering a dig in a cave on an archaeological expedition on Easter Island, looking for the remains of the early Rapa Nui people. Or in the jungles of Northern Brazil for a month, on a ethnomusicologist team to film a documentary of a folk festival among the natives of Northern Brazil. The music there was made with boa skin drums, rattles and vocals. I am dressed in my tuxedo, relaxing in the comfort of “my” cruise ship, and drawing. A gentleman in a bow-tie and not dressed in a loin cloth and carrying blow-gun, asked me if I would like another glass of Merlot.

A year after I drew the “Base Romance” sketch, I transferred the drawing to fit a  copper plate and produced a soft ground etching in black printing ink, finished in watercolor. A couple of years later, I used the same idea painting a 60” x 40’’ canvas in acrylic. I liked the painting and decided to hold off putting it up for sale. In my sculpture studio in 2005, I created a clay relief of the same motif, made a mold and the piece was cast in bronze and aluminum. A year ago the Pecan Street Association asked me to use one of my paintings for their spring poster. “Base Romance” was chosen, so the journey of the sketch of “Base Romance” goes on.

Base Romance Painting


 Base Romance Sculpture

Relief Sculpture

 Base Romance Poster


 Thanks for reading; I would appreciate your comments.  Warren

Base Romance

Base_Romance - Drawing

“Base Romance” from Sketch Book

By Warren Cullar

The bass instrument, the moon, and vino all contribute to the night’s romance. It’s a composition of textures and two people blending together. The abstract textures and shapes merge to become one.

Whimsical Jester

“Whimsical Jester” – From Sketch Book by Warren Cullar

Whimsical Jester

We buy hats for the holidays.  For Christmas 2000, we wore jester hats. I drew this character in remembrance of that year and played with the textures that lines and dots can bring. He brings good humor and brightens a dreary world with outlandish colors and design with no apparent balance. The jester is into the silliness of serving a cat.

Art needn’t be serious, but colorful and full of delightful surprises.

Bridge Deck Aft

Phone Camera 6 058

This week Warren shares his creative vision of the island of Ibiza and one of his fellow cruise passengers. Please enjoy this fascinatingly insightful piece.

Bridge Deck Aft

By Waren Cullar

One of the delights of cruising is island hopping in the Mediterranean. We docked at the pristine island of Ibiza, east of Spain. It is renowned for its ancient port, consistent, perfect climate, crystal, white sandy beaches, and the vibes of its cosmopolitan nightlife. It’s referred to as paradise between the blue sky and sea.

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Artist, Model, and Studio

Artist, Model, Studio

This week Warren shares a sketch of himself and his wife Kitty.

Artist, Model, Studio

By Warren Cullar

This drawing is from time immemorial. Every artist at one time paints his model and studio. Picasso is probably the most famous. This is me painting, and my gorgeous model is my wife, Kitty, with her flowing hair and curvaceous body. I’ve employed a very abstract, Picassoesque, approach. Whimsy is added to this drawing with hearts on the wallpaper, flowers on the shirt, and the ever-present cat, “Pickup,” which appears in many of my drawings.

There are three paintings from which to enjoy. This is a three for one, so the eye never tires of enjoying the many facets of this sketch.

Jacob’s History Note:

Curiously, self-portraiture was not common in Europe before the renaissance. Most portraits were of clients rather than the artist himself. Even when self-portraiture started gaining popularity, the artist was often a single character in a larger scene, rather than the subject of the painting.

Self portrait has a longer history in the East, where “scholar portraits” depicting the artist painting or writing contemplatively at a desk, were a traditional genre.

Next week it’s back to travel sketches. Warren will be sharing a sketch drawn near the island of Ibiza, Spain.


Tangier, Morocco

Tangier, Morocco

This week we’ll look at Tangier, Morocco, a sun-stained city on the northwest tip of Africa.

Tangier, Morocco

By Warren Cullar

Tangier is a city with its own foreign mystique. By day, it’s a busy, lively city of merchants selling wares and beggars everywhere. By night, it requires visitors to be street-smart as it can be unsafe, but if you’re relaxed, it can be quite intriguing.

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Crowd the Page with Genius

Crowd the Page

The following Sketch Book entry was drawn in Barcelona, Spain in 2000.

Crowd the Page with Genius

By Warren Cullar

Half way in route up the hill to the Gaudi Museum in Barcelona, Spain, we stopped to enjoy a beer and a sandwich Spanish Style, which was “jamon” on bread with a tomato smeared quickly across the bread. We delighted in the hint of tomato and listened to rock and roll as I finished four sketches of Picasso’s work we had seen in a museum housing his early works. Then inspired by Picasso, I drew four of my own pieces. Picasso created prolifically throughout his 92 years, and from his work came rare genius.

If you create, and you create volumes, mountains of art, then every once in a while, you create a masterpiece. The point is to wake up and create.

Jacob’s History Note:

Jamon is a type of cured ham usually made in Spain.

Next week we’ll be taking a look at Tangier, Morocco.