Many years ago, our father used to take us on this endless driving trips. Not vacations, necessarily, as we never spent enough time in one spot to be considered a tourist. I must have been 3-4 years old when, on the spur of the moment, he decided to drive us to Washington state … AND turn around and drive back. No real purpose for the trip, other than his wanderlust.
Although I wasn’t old enough to remember a lot of the trip–I do recall some–my mother told me years later that what had frustrated her the most was seeing a sign, “The Grand Canyon, One Mile”, but he kept driving without taking even a few minutes of his time to drive the short side route where they could have seen one of the most majestic scenes ever. However, that’s a story for another day.
Of all the fond places I recall seeing during those early years of our trips to Middletown, Ohio, from Fort Payne, Alabama, was a the store called the “Georgia Game Park” in Rising Fawn, Georgia. Now, this was only a twenty minute drive from where we lived, but each time we made the trip to visit our family in Ohio, we stopped at this store, which is now gone, replaced by a huge Pilot truck stop/gas station.
Georgia Game Park was a small store with lots of souvenirs, fireworks, and strange attractions. At the time, they sold jugs of apple cider and from the concession stand, they sold cherry apple cider, which was my favorite and something our father bought us each time we visited.
The most intriguing aspect of this store were the large taxidermy animals on exhibit. A large male lion and a lioness were on display. A six-legged beagle, a five-legged cow, and a two-headed calf were creatures that entertained and puzzled my budding imagination early in life. They had a two-headed pig and other animals as well. These displays fascinated me regardless of how many times we stopped at the store.
But as time changes all things, the aging display animals suffered, too. Taxidermy preserves animals for years, but with so many visitors, the harsh lighting, dust, and folks touching these animals, they slowly deteriorated. One by one, each was removed from the store. Eventually, the store was sold and for many years into the 80s, the only thing that reminded us it had been there was the long dilapidated, pale yellow fence with black peeling paint: Georgia Game Park.
THIS WRITER’S REFLECTIONS:
Memories are interesting for writers, especially early memories. Without realizing it, these events stick in our minds with some eventually popping up in our stories years later. Those animals, in particular, were considered ‘freak attractions’ but simply put, the animals’ deformities were the result of bad genetics. They were nature’s accidental anomalies. Mutations.
This triggered for me, at least, a different slant on what might emerge if genetic engineers purposely meddled with the genetic makeup of animals (or humans) to produce transforming creatures capable of hunting/tracking and were used by the military during war occupations in other countries. It’s an intriguing notion, and quite possibly the reason for how the ‘shifters’ came to be in my Predators of Darkness Series. To be honest, I never made this connection until this morning. Subtle memories play a heavy role in crafting stories. Bits of my past end up in my work. Parts of me are instilled into a lot of my characters, and a lot of the villains in my books have characteristics of bullying people from my past.
I have had college students in my English courses over the years who share their nightmarish memories of what happened to them early in life, how they’re finding it difficult to get past it, and wondering what they can do to escape it. I connect with these folks, not because I’ve suffered as badly as some of them have, but because I’ve lived through darker times in my life with some horrible family ordeals and a hellish first marriage. My advice? Write it out. Destroying the evil traits of those who’ve harmed me on the page was my therapy, which might not work for everyone else. But for me, it saved my life. Kill the evil ON THE PAGE. You don’t go to prison for killing in fictional writing, and you put to rest those haunting demons that disturb the mind.
While not all writers have suffered horrendous ordeals in life, most who write the darker suspenseful novels and short stories have. Some of the best songwriters and book authors dealt with or suffered oppressive early childhoods. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism that alleviates us from those ordeals. For me, I’m drawn to writing because it comforts me, even though the isolation at times can become agonizing. Regardless, I know of nothing else in this world I would rather do for an occupation. I am a writer, a creator of fictional people and worlds, and no other job brings me such satisfaction. This passion is instilled within me. The pattern is there. On days when I’m unable to write, I’m anxious, wondering what I’m missing or what might be written if I were at the keyboard.
Isaac Asimov stated it best: