Okay, so I cheated on Monday’s post. I’ll admit it. However, I have been out-of-town and couldn’t really come up with a legitimate essay in time. I really am trying to keep committed to my content schedule.
This past weekend, my editor (aka “The Wife”) and I travelled out to the beautiful piney woods of East Texas. There we found great food, excellent scenery, and some inspiration for possible future writing projects.
We started in Pittsburg, Texas. This small town was established in the mid-1800s, once housed a bustling cotton train depot, is the birthplace of the hot link, and serves as the headquarters of Pilgrim’s Pride chicken. The town is also the home of The Ezekiel Airship.
The Ezekiel Airship was designed by a local preacher who was known to be a master mechanic and an inventor. He based the design of his airship on some verses in the book of Ezekiel describing the movement of the chariots of the angels as being “wheels within wheels”. He built a prototype of the flyer with about a 30′ wing span (the full-size would have been twice that). Local legend has it that it did actually fly, though no one can say for certain if it was a “controlled flight”. He was going to present the machine at the 1903 World’s Fair in St. Louis…until a windstorm threw it off of the train car before it ever even left Texas. The Wright brothers’ famous Kitty Hawk flight took place in December of 1903. Whether or not the machine actually could or did fly, I thought this would be an excellent inspiration for a story.
Next we traveled to Jefferson, Texas, a scenic historic town on the Big Cypress river. Jefferson is reputed to be the most haunted town in East Texas. A “ghost walk” is offered where guests see various historic homes with stories to tell of hauntings and other strange happenings. Steven Spielberg is also rumored to have experienced a close encounter with a ghost at the historic Excelsior hotel. Obviously, another good source of story inspiration.
Jefferson is also the home of the Scarlett O’Hardy’s Gone With the Wind Museum. This treasury of memorabilia from both the film and the books is very impressive, housing props, costumes, international copies of the book, and a lot more. It’s also obviously a work of passion for the owner. I wish I could work at something for which I felt as much passion as Bobbie Hardy devotes to her museum.
The next couple of days of travel gave us lots of scenery: the tall pines, the dangling cypress, the boggy bayous. We also saw a replica of the “Old Stone Fort” at Nacogdoches, reputed to be the oldest town in Texas, established in the 1700s by Antonio Gil Y’barbo. It’s sometimes difficult to think of history in context. While the “founding fathers” debated secession from England, we had a town all the way over in Texas dealing with (rightfully) restless natives and the Spanish government. One usually doesn’t think of Texas history beginning until the 1800s.
In Kilgore we visited the “World’s Richest Acre“, a site that, at one time, boasted 1100 oil wells pumping out black gold and fortunes every day during the oil boom of the 30s. We also visited the museum honoring the Rangerettes, the world’s first precision drill team. I got an image of a character, a woman who was once a Rangerette but now older, maybe a little sad, looking back on her days as a proud drill team captain.
East Texas is also the stomping ground of my new favorite writer, Joe R. Lansdale. Throughout the trip I kept bugging my wife with statements like “Oh yeah, he mentions this place in one of the Hap and Leonard books,” or “This is where Hap and Leonard…” or “This place reminds of that short story he wrote where…” For me, seeing the land that inspired such fun stories was fun. My wife often has to patiently wait out my obsessive anecdoting (is that a word?).
Obviously, we made it back home to not-so-nearly-as-scenic North Texas. Now, back to the desk with visions of swamps, quirky characters, flying machines, and ghosts filling my head.