CAMDEN — Lloyd Wheatley of Camden doesn’t remember her name, but one remarkable summer school teacher changed his life forever by making learning relevant and meaningful. “We spent the summer doing research on black Americans we’d never even heard of,” he said. “I was hooked.”
He became not only a lover of history, but a lover of learning.
After graduating from high school, Mr. Wheatley joined the Air Force where he went into law enforcement. He obtained an associate degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in business, and finally, a master’s degree in human resource management and finance. Then he went to work at Playtex Manufacturing (now Edgewell Personal Care) in Dover.
When a company downsizing left him without a job in 1996, Mr. Wheatley took a step into the scary world of self-employment and opened the doors of his own limousine company (Limousine Unlimited, LLC in Felton). He also began thinking about writing a novel.
“I had seen some Buffalo Soldier Civil War re-enactors on a television broadcast and it really intrigued me,” Mr. Wheatley said. He took a voice recorder with him in the limo to record his story ideas on the long rides home from airport runs.
The result, in 1999, was the publication of the first of three short novels about a fictional U.S. Marshal named Blain Hawk. Set in the Old West, the stories were inspired by real black and American Indian U.S. marshals during the reconstruction period after the Civil War.
“These marshals were the only law and order in the entire Indian/Oklahoma Territory,” Mr. Wheatley explained.
“Because Texas was the last state to abolish slavery, black men escaped north into the Indian Territory.”
In that notoriously wild part of the Wild West, some of them took the oath of U.S. marshal to help tame it. One of the most legendary figures among them was a black man named Bass Reeves, who many believe was the basis for the radio and television character, the Lone Ranger.
“Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal” reveals the characteristic struggles of cultural esteem and triumphs over lawlessness and adversity these marshals were likely to have faced. As Hawk tracks his lawless villain through the Old West, Reeves and others make cameo appearances, their names in italics to differentiate them from the fictional characters.
The literary work does not shy away from the violence, racism and even issues of women’s equality that existed during the time, making it an authentic, yet entertaining representation of history.
As such, in the fall of 2016, Blain Hawk found his way onto the campus of Delaware State University. The novel, recently recompiled and published in one volume, was used in the Mass Communications program to provide students with familiarity of historical and cultural events that shaped literature. Mr. Wheatley went along, of course, and frequently returns as a guest speaker.
And rumor has it that Blain Hawk might soon be riding onto the silver screen, as his contemporary, the Lone Ranger has already done. Mr. Wheatley is certainly prepared for that possibility. A screenplay and script are already completed.
“Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal” is available online only at www.newhorizonpub.com/apps/webstore.
Dee Marvin Emeigh is a freelance writer living in Milford.