Just to conclude this thread. It did turn out to be the starter. It's amazing how much noise and banging a bad starter cab make.
I took it to Auto Zone and they swapped it out. Removing the starter was a PITA. My bug basically is a bug body on a S10 frame. It didn't help my hard trans cooler and hard fuel lines run right under it.
But with little room to work it's the only place they can go. I just pray I don't have to replace another any time soon. Next time, I'm just pulling the engine to make it easier.
I also installed a brace, which had to be modified. I have a 3970010 block and a stock starter. The bracew was off by about a full inch.
It was a big enough pain getting it in such a tight space much less to find it was too long.
Once the new starter was in, shimmed, torqued to spec, and braced, it started up just fine.
Thanks for all the help.