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


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.

Matisse’s Backs

Matisses Backs

This week we look at Matisse’s Backs, a series of four sculptures designed by the artist which were hosted in the Tate Museum in London at the time of drawing.

Matisse’s Backs

By Warren Cullar

Kitty and I were sitting on a black leather bench in the new Tate Museum in London listening to a tape about Matisse’s bronze sculptures, titled “Four Backs.” It was an awesome experience because I was seeing the majestic backs, drawing them, and listening to an art historian on tape. What a multi-sensory experience!

These larger than life bronze sculptures were produced first in plaster and then, 60 years later, cast in bronze. They were cast when Matisse was 80 though he started them back when he was very young. Each back is a little more abstract as he goes into his later years. As his mind matured, so did his art.

Several days later, we were in England at Stonehenge. My mind superimposed Matisse’s “Four Backs” onto the massive strong pieces of the huge monoliths. My own work in bronze is definitely inspired by these bronze relief sculptures. This is what art is all about: seeing things as they are, but interpreting them in a different way.

Matisse's "Four Backs." Created from left to right in: 1909, 1913, 1916, 1931.

Matisse’s “Four Backs.”
Created from left to right in: 1909, 1913, 1916, 1931.

Jacob’s History Notes:

Matisse was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and another great artist of the time. He was born in 1869 as the eldest son of a prosperous grain merchant. Unsurprisingly, his father was not happy when Matisse decided to pursue a career as an artist.

Personally, I am fascinated by Matisse’s relationship during the world wars. He himself was largely apolitical and avoided controversy, but both his son and daughter fought in the French Resistance, his daughter even being captured and tortured by the Gestapo before escaping. Several of his students were also involved in the war or ended up as casualties during it. I can hardly imagine the hardship he must have gone through seeing friends and family risk their lives. German and Russian forces were not kind to any artwork they came across, and I suspect that Matisse’s silence was partially a result of trying to protect everything he created.

Next week we’ll be looking at some of Warren’s own drawings, inspired by Picasso’s own works.



For the next few weeks we’ll be doing a serious of Sketchbook entries while Warren focuses on being an artist. Jacob has contributed by adding his own history notes when appropriate, providing some background to the images. We hope you enjoy this series of sketches.


By Warren Cullar

Stonehenge is a colossal mystery. This architectural feat was on my list to see since my freshman year in college. Inspired by Professor Sasser who showed us photos of her standing at the base of several of the wonders of the world, I dreamed of someday seeing such places. I finally saw Stonehenge in May of 2001.

Stonehenge is so awesome. It minimizes man. Around 2500 BC, 82 large, rough-hewn bluestone monoliths were moved from southwestern Wales to design an altar or calendar. It confirms the will and determination of mankind. Anything is possible. Each stone weighs about 5 tons and was placed approximately 6 feet apart. To draw Stonehenge from several angles gave me a great deal of pleasure and inspiration. It is austere, magical, mystical, and mysterious.

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, England

Jacob’s History Lesson:

Stonehenge is one of those mysterious sites dating so far back into the mists of time we can’t really be sure when it started. Archaeological evidence suggests it was a burial site as far back as 8000 BC, even before the monument itself was built. The henge itself is a mystery to this day. Theories about its purpose range from the practical – a place of worship, a calendar, or a monument – to the downright outrageous – an alien landing or a relic of Atlantis. We’ll probably never really know why it was built, but we can still marvel how stone-age men with nothing more than flint tools were able to quarry, cut, haul and assemble these enormous stones.

Stonehenge as it might have been at the height of its glory. The stones marked in Blue are all that remains standing today.

Stonehenge as it might have been at the height of its glory. The stones marked in Blue are all that remains standing today.

Next week we’ll be looking at Matisse’s Backs, a collection of sculptures made over Matisse’s lifetime and an inspiration for some of Warren’s sketches.

Introduction to Sketch Book

We’ve posted a lot of excerpts from Warren’s Sketchbook here on An Artist Who Thinks He Can Write. This week we’ve decided to share the introduction with you. Please enjoy.



I draw to see, to explain my visual world, to remember the place, the event. I need to express the feelings I witness. My world is a kaleidoscope of images that stirs my imagination and from this I abstract my drawings. Time stands still when I draw and I am lost in the experience.

In this book, all of the drawings are created with an ink pen. The single ink line has been executed with purpose and intent. There’s no going back, no erasing. This way the viewer is seeing the simple shape, simple statement. The book is a collection of drawings I have selected. They represent a short period of time, with a variety of different types of emotions, events and ideas. They range from line work drawn during holiday travels – to pure whimsical doodles – to value drawings of abstract figures.

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Ship, Flag, Musicians


A band of musicians play aboard a cruise ship.

Warren and Kitty are on a two-week cruise. They are in Southhampton, England boarding the new cruise ship Quantum of the Seas for its maiden voyage. You can read about the Quantum in this article. Jacob has been hauling furniture in the depths of Vermont, where cell service is still something coveted and rare. Next week you can read about his experiences helping his grandmother move out of her home of 40 years.

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Shaman: The Expedition

The following story is an excerpt from the chapter Shaman of Warren’s book My Dad, Napoleon and Me, currently in rewrite.

Location: Venezuela’s Amazonas State, 1991


 Dad: “The quicker you make up your mind, the better you are.”

Mr. Hill: “You have a brain and mind of your own. USE IT, and reach your own decisions.”

The crack of the billiard balls on the green felt tables at Erick’s Billiards was heard over the music, clinking beer bottles and noisy crowd as I pushed open the glass door. I had attempted to play pool when I was in the corps, but there was always some guy wanting to take your money. A soft layer of blue smoke hung below the pool table lights, like artificial smoke in a bad play. I was there on an invitation from a university professor, a strange place to meet for an appointment.

One of my collectors had told me about the expedition because the word was out I went on adventures. Raising my hand to join this adventure was a decision I had made on the barest of facts. The expedition was scheduled to go to Southern Venezuela’s Amazonas State with a group of men and women of science. They were to explore the indigenous people’s encampments along the Orinoco River on the Venezuelan and Colombian border.

The pool hall meeting was called by the professor in charge of leading the expedition. My job would be as the artist: to sketch and paint in watercolor, reproducing the native art that had been painted on ceilings and walls of the sheltered caves in the region thousands of years ago.

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