Long-time readers of Material Handling & Logistics probably remember when it was Material Handling Management and its chief editor was Clyde Witt. And before that, in the days when trade magazines had multiple editors on the same staff, Clyde and I reported to Bernie Knill, who was chief editor when that job title actually meant you were chief among all those editors under you. Bernie had more years invested in material handling than Clyde and I combined at that time. Who knew you could make a decades-long career out of writing about material handling?
Clyde retired from writing about material handling six years ago to spend more time watching birds and teasing fish. Now, as I write this, on my desk is a book with Clyde’s face staring at me from its back cover. The author’s note next to his picture says it all: “After forty years as a journalist, Clyde Witt flunked retirement and turned to fiction writing.” I think Clyde wrote that.
I’m in the middle of reading his first novel, “Lost in the Tall Grass” (published by The Write Place, www.thewriteplace.biz) about an Indiana teenager who runs away from home and hops westbound freight trains while dreaming of becoming a cowboy. The timeframe is shortly before the outbreak of World War I—a time in this young man’s life when cowboys are disappearing and soldiers are introducing a generation of young men to the stark realities of a newly industrialized and militarized civilization.
Clyde writes in colors. The reader is immersed in word paintings while inhabiting the skin of the book's hero--Rusty Starke, a boy risking his life to reach a dream. Although there isn’t a wooden pallet or a forklift to be found on this journey, I can see Clyde relied on his accumulated knowledge of transportation and logistics to make this journey authentic. I just hope the part where Rusty gets beaten up by a yard bull—a railroad security thug who makes sport of punishing freightcar hoppers—wasn’t taken from experience.
Anyway, with Labor Day coming and a long weekend ahead, I can’t wait to finish Clyde’s book and find out if Rusty ever gets his dream job—like his author did.