Saturday, January 25, 2014

All the Sweetest Winds, They Blow Across the South

One question a few of my beta readers have asked about Tallyho in the Squat is whether or not Bill Gulledge is supposed to be me. While Bill shares some similarities to some details and events in my life, he's not intended to be a younger version of myself. In fact, there are times when I see more of me in Jimbo, particularly with our shared propensity to imbibe too much.

But Bill and I do share the distinction of having smuggled rabbits in 2009 from Somerset to Spartanburg when times got tough. To help make some ends meet for the family, my father hired me to bring back wild cottontails from a supplier in the small Kentucky town. It should be noted that my father is not like Buck Gulledge at all: he's not a millionaire, he's not a redneck, and he's got a firm grasp on his temperament. That, and my father and I have a much more amicable relationship than Bill and Buck.

But my father and Buck shared one similarity: neither could explain what was so special about Kentucky rabbits. Since he paid me to make the trip, however, I did not question the logic.

I made the trip to Kentucky several times that summer, and I did it solo. It would have been nice to have a Jimbo riding shotgun with me, but instead, I had just the radio and my iPod. As Bill laments in the novel, there are spots on I-40 in Tennessee where your radio choices boil down to either the fire and brimstone word of the Lord or Rush Limbaugh. I spent most of the time piping James McMurtry through my iPod tape adapter (great traveling Americana music).

Once in Somerset, I could not sequester myself in the hotel for the whole night. I had to sniff out a good bar, and I found one in Sully's. The watering hole served somewhat as inspiration for Catahoula's Saloon, albeit it lacked the larger, rowdy crowd of the latter. And dance routines by the staff. And a bartender like Rye Cotton. Although one cute bartender delved out free shots of Patron one night ala Rye style.

The people of Somerset are quite friendly, and they were quite inquisitive as well about my business in their small town. Usually after I explained my rabbit smuggling mission, they would smile and say, "Seriously, why are you really here?" A couple of years later, I came up with the sasquatch hunter story that Jimbo lays on Skeezy early in the novel.

To be fair to the town of Somerset, it's not a "shithole" as Rye describes it in the book. It models many small Southern towns: a quaint historical downtown area filled with local flavor, and then a sprawling highway that brings in the newer commercialized feel. On the outskirts, horse pastures are abound and a recreational lake. I often left Somerset disappointed that I could only spend 14 or 15 hours there each trip.

I do not know if any author has ever used the town of Somerset in a novel before. I hope I am the first. Jimbo describes the town as Spartanburg's "younger, looser sister". In reality, I would say Somerset is more like that cousin who lives far away who, given the chance, would be a lot of fun to hang out with if you had the time to travel. Hopefully I can make my way up there again.

No comments:

Post a Comment