With grandson, Hayes, at the Tuscaloosa airshow, 2018
(With grandson, Hayes Cockrell)
I had two and one half careers, maybe more depending on how you scrutinize it. I retired from the United States Air Force Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel and pilot. My second career was at United Airlines, finishing there as a Boeing 767 captain. While serving in the Air National Guard and USAF Reserve I used my geology degree from the University of Alabama to explore for oil and gas. (At 13 years, that would be the half career). At one brief, very busy point in my life, I was juggling all three at once. These experiences proved to be fertile grounds for writing and story telling.
Inspired by the great aviation authors, Ernest Gann, Richard Bach, Antoine de Saint-Exupery and others of that tribe, I began writing in 1993 about my experience flying in the Persian Gulf War. That led to the publication of my first book, Tail of the Storm. Short pieces followed that garnered three awards. About that time I became a newspaper writer doing local community interest pieces. Then came a string of magazine articles, mostly about aviation. In the late 90s I wrote a history of the oil and gas industry in the southern states, which resulted in Drilling Ahead: The Quest for Oil in the Deep South. While researching for that book I ran across a fascinating true story that led to my first novel, The Restless Earth. I'm still tilling the literary soils.