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Faith, signs and human nature move Joe Bullock’s pen


When banker Joe Bullock wrote a little book of faith-based fiction, including an angelic twist on his friend and New Mexico State University golf legend, Herb Wimberly, he had no idea the result, “Walking With Herb,” would inspire so many people. He just hoped someone would find something spiritually meaningful in it.

Now, another book, “Carpe Mañana,” that he has penned, is ready to move on to the presses and will be soon hitting the bookstores.

“I want to tell stories that need to be told,” Bullock said. “I particularly want to tell spiritual stories that have a message to them. Like a spiritual vitamin, but with enough humor and action to make the medicine go down easy.”

Bullock said he is not interested in preaching to the choir. Rather he would like to see somebody pick up the book, read it and “kind of absorb a spiritual lesson without even knowing they really did it.”

People have told him “Walking with Herb” did just that. Made into a movie released in March 2020 (derailed quickly by the onset of Covid-19), film creators Ross Marks and Mark Medoff have talked about the spiritual effect the story had on them. Even the stars Kathleen Quinlan and Edward James Olmos say the experience of making it was spiritually uplifting.

The story for “Carpe Mañana” was inspired by experiences Bullock and his wife, Sheila, have had. He said much of the story centers around a clinic and what he calls “the baby trap.”

He said he sees young women who have gotten themselves in a trap with two or more children, all with different fathers. The women are not married and have no financial support and so are trapped in a life of public assistance.

Sheila worked for many years teaching in a combination kindergarten, first and second grade classroom and Joe said she has seen many young women in the unfortunate situation. After that she worked for a local assistance organization as a developmental specialist and would go out in the community to meet with families.

“She became like a surrogate grandmother for every one of these families,” Joe said. “It wasn’t untypical of her to go out and go to a place where they live in a mobile home on the east mesa. There is a 37-year-old grandmother – she’s got two 19- or 20-year-old daughters, each of them has two kids. For some reason, the culture is if you are dating a guy for six months and aren’t pregnant, something is wrong.”

The clinic in the “Carpe Mañana” story is run by a priest, also a celestial type character by the name of Herb, Joe said. At the clinic, young women can work to complete their education and take care of their babies at the same time.

The hero in this book is a retired Marine colonel who retired because of some depression he’s had. Protagonist James Viejo’s wife died. His son, also a Marine, was killed in combat and Viejo is having a difficult time dealing with the guilt of training people to kill and be killed.

Viejo’s dead wife is in an urn he carries with him everywhere he goes. The urn, a music box, plays “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” their favorite song. Some of the chapters in the book are even from her point of view from the urn.

The story includes a move to Albuquerque where Viejo’s granddaughter is in college and wants him to meet an attractive woman, Renee, who is a judge and teaches part time at the law school. He gets involved with the clinic where Renee volunteers and the story moves on from there.

In the book, Renee is a balloonist with her own balloon. She takes Viejo on a ride, and they have an accident, with their lives saved by being caught on a church spire. This becomes a sign for the two about making a difference and putting their all into the clinic.

Joe said there are conflicts in the book, “a little romance, a little kicking some gang members butts and it all resolves in the end.”

A strong believer in signs, Bullock said he met publisher Linda Sterling after sitting next to Sterling’s daughter on a flight and getting acquainted when he spotted her reading a medical manual. (Bullock is the chair of the MountainView Regional Medical Center board.)

“I thought, ‘this is a sign if there ever was one,’” he recalled. “So, I feel like I’m in good hands with somebody who is a little small publishing company and I think will give a real personal interest in the project.”

Not only is Sterling’s company publishing his new book, but it is also reprinting “Walking with Herb.”

The title, “Carpe Mañana,” is a play off the motto, “carpe diem (seize the day),” to mean “Sieze tomorrow,” Joe said.

 “Carpe Mañana” started as a screenplay, he said. But then he felt there was no place to go with a screenplay.

“In a book you tell people, in a screenplay you show people,” he said. “It’s a whole different writing style.”

The “Walking with Herb” movie, because it was released during Covid, did not make a lot of money, but is now streaming on several platforms. It is also screened at charity events, where Joe sometimes gives talks.

Wimberly passed away Dec. 20, 2023, and following his funeral, Joe is grateful for the life of his friend and for having him on the movie set.

“Herb was on the set all the time,” Joe said. “He was a wonderful man who helped hundreds of people. There are not many people like Herb in Hollywood.”

Joe Bullock, Carpe Mañana, Walking With Herb, book of faith-based fiction, spiritual stories