History — it’s a true story

It's a late Sunday afternoon, March Madness looms and I'm pushing towards a big goal: a 65,000-word draft of the book by this weekend. That will give me a week to polish and almost certainly shorten the manuscript to around 60,000 words before turning it over to my editor.

At the moment, I'm closing in on 60,000 words. Hope to get that tonight after a dinner of corned beef and cabbage -- need to bring out the Irish in this Kraut guy.

It seemed a good time to share some tidbits that likely aren't going to make the book.

To set the theme, I love the term Jim Muri's daughter, Sylvia Saadati, has used to describe her dad almost since our first long-distance phone conversation: raconteur. Webster's defines that as a person who excels in telling anecdotes.

Although I never met Jim Muri, I have evidence to back up that characterization.

One delightful example in front of me is an undated letter, evidently from Montana friends of Jim's named Joe and Ruthie. (The letter is handwritten so I hope I read the names correctly.)

Joe, apparently the letter writer, encouraged Jim to collect his memories for a book, the first copy of which when it was published Joe promised to buy.

"I wish you would get a tape recorder and a bunch of one-hour tapes and start back when your grand pappy swam the Atlantic from Norway. Give all the tales he passed down to the family, all the things that happened year by year in your life in Montana.

"Then culminate the book of your life with Midway and on up to now. You have a story to tell and if you don't it will be lost forever due to everyone being gone that still remembers," Joe said.

Joe's comments segued perfectly into notes I looked at again, based on a July 2015 conversation I had with Jim Muri's son, James, a retiree living in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

James shared what he said his dad told him about five years before he died in February 2013 in Billings, Montana.

"He was sitting down, telling me something about the battle (of Midway).

"I said, are you sure you did that or sure that went that way? He says, oh, yeah, I’m sure."

To which James replied, "Because I thought whatever it was, blah, blah, blah. And he says, 'hell no, it was blah, blah, blah.' And I said, 'Dad, are you really sure about that?'

"He says, 'hell yeah. There’s nobody alive left to argue with me about it.'

"And he did that with a grin on his face. He had a very strange sense of humor. It’s one of those acquired tastes."

To James, Sylvia, the rest of the big Muri tribe, Lonnie Bell and everybody's else: how can I say thank you adequately for all the great stories I've heard on this odyssey? And the reporter in me knows there's essential truth, if not verbatim truth, in those tales about the Montana Marauder Man whose feats at Midway helped a nation knocked to the mat by early Japanese success in World War II get back on its feet.

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