A Pedouin Life
Stop and Smell the Artichokes
Our first book is written. Front matter, back end, pictures, and dust jacket design have been added. It is a complete package now.
On May the 2nd, 2011, the entire package was send to the interior designer. From here the next steps in the process started. First, the waiting. Next, proofing the design. And finally, off to the printer.
On June the 6th, 2011, we finally went to print! Only weeks, before we'll have the real deal in our hands.
On July the 26th, 2011, we took a sigh of relief and admiration when we pulled the first copy out of the box.
Once again it proofed better to be unaware of the steps that had to be taken from starting to finishing a complete book. Like it was better not to know the exact challenges that were thrown at us on our cross country journey. To start the journey with the end in mind was key.
On July the 31st, 2011, we hit the road with the Blue Collar Book Tour, with Old Blue, our bus.
On this page you'll find a sneak-peek into our book: Chapter 5. You can also satisfy your curiosity by buying your own copy of "A Pedouin Life, Stop and Smell the Artichokes" by clicking on this link.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Our days roll comfortably along into the unknown. Under the mid-August sun we define our Pedouin days by the rhythms of the ride and the landscapes we pass through. They are rhythms that center on waking and sleeping along roadways that began as prehistoric animal and native foot paths. They are rhythms that involve new dietary habits that cater to bicycle travel and the availability of jot-em-down grocery stores. Food in our mountain abode consisted of home canned meats, vegetables, and fruits. Now we are relegated to pre-packaged Vienna sausages, shriveled as well as overpriced fruits, and muffins in shrink wrap. Even our girls question our diet.
The day is clear, hot, and muggy as we cross the high peaks of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. With an elevation of 1,300 feet, this path was once an ancient route used by Native Americans. It moves between modern day Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee. Beneath this asphalt road lay the more primitive paths that hoofed animals and moccasin clad feet once trod. Our muscles ache from the gradual but steady ascent of the past few days since leaving Whitley City, Kentucky.
I readily imagine the ancient voices that still echo through these woods. I share these with the family, “Hey, see that creek bed; it was probably a place where Natives hung out.” In my mirror I can see the girls turning their heads to catch a glimpse.
Cheyenne responds with, “This is kinda like where we found our arrowheads on Buffalo Creek Road. Remember when we found a black and a white arrowhead?”
Amarins says, “Absolutely. Cheyenne, these are the places they hung out and did their daily routines.”
The summer heat and rolling landscapes keep us suspended between peak muscle fatigue and jubilation. Traveling through areas filled with tall red oak trees with leaves of deep green, pointed lobes, and tight grained bark, we find comfort in their familiarity. Cheyenne, Jasmine, and Robin spy trees that they see back home. Cheyenne informs me, “Dad, these trees are like ours in Kentucky!”
Ama chimes in, “We are in the Big South Fork where we share similar geological features.”
I think ain’t that kinda deep for the girls?
Actually, Ama’s shared knowledge is schooling at its finest. On this voyage, the girls are living what textbooks can only attempt to convey with printed text. Instead of studying geological features in the abstract, the girls are experiencing the similarities and differences in the geography of the states we ride through. They notice when landscapes change and when they are familiar. Like the red oak trees from back home, Cheyenne makes inferences as to what that means about this new place. When there is something new, as there is at every stop along the way, as well as in the spaces in between, it opens opportunities for conversation and ultimately potential research at the libraries we frequent along our route.
When I am tired, I get a little cynical. Chugging up these monstrous hills in the heat, I need to focus on pedaling and my brain coasts away as my body struggles to run on autopilot. The chit-chat can wreck my concentration. Then BAM, bike schooling on the roll enters my head! I give in and enter the fray of words. We play games involving “name that tree,” which builds on lessons learned in our mountains and hollers. Stirring my thoughts, I remember sitting between Grandpa’s knees as he squatted next to a spindle with drum brakes of some old car. There is no substitute for hands-on learning. Riding onward, I appreciate this truth on an ever deeper level.
Pedaling and playing, we crest a hilltop of amazing character. The road lies ahead of us like an arrow. There is a dip in it midway, like the sagging back of an old nag. To the south, the land rolls off the road bed and slopes gradually down into the distance. The trees, three to four-foot diameter oaks of various kinds, spread out in a meadow. The grass under the trees seems to have been recently cut; there are faint tractor marks in the leftover legume stubble. West of our bike route the land moves slightly upward and has large patches of open grassy spaces. In the distance, thick woods resume.
Before the swag in the road, we see a sign, “Sunbright.” We had noticed this town on the map, but there’s no evidence of a town to support the signage. The girls are raising questions about it too. It is Amarins’ habit to let the girls participate in ascertaining directions from her maps. The topography lends itself to a town, but time has erased all but an old log cabin that hugs the road’s edge up ahead on the right. Pulling up to the mailbox, I smell fresh cut grass clinging to the sultry summer air. We have been traveling for several hours without a serious break. Past noon and nearly out of water, we decide to stop in Sunbright. There is something mystical about the place, calling us to rest. Thirty feet past the cabin we spy a fine shady spot on a knoll. Between it and the house is a hose bib sticking out of the ground. We stop our ride and talk about what to do.
The girls cheer at the pause. We do not want to trespass even though it seems inviting. I ask them, “Do you see anyone around?”
Amarins points out, “I notice an old man milling around behind the old cabin at the tree line.”
I holler several times, “May we stop and have some water?” He appears not to hear us. After a minute or two we ride a few feet farther and dismount near a grassy knoll on the same side. It looks so inviting that I take a chance he won’t mind if we enjoy some rest, while I get his attention. We climb over a rusty cable blocking the driveway and make our way to the shady hill. As Amarins spreads our Indian blanket and gets the girls situated, I head off toward the man and what looks to be a tool shed off in the distance.
When I approach him, the old fella startles. If I had to put a number on his age, I’d guess him to be in his late eighties. After an awkward greeting on my part, he smiles. I ask him if we can sit a spell and have some water.
He is very agreeable and says, “My name is J.P. Morgan. You have to speak loud ‘cause I’m hard of hearing.”
I invite him to join us and then rush back to the girls and Ama to tell them that we can stay. I grab the empty water bottles from the bike and fill them at the shed where I met J.P. We all nestle down on the blanket and grass. Then he begins to tell us about this place called Sunbright.
He starts: “This old place belongs to me now. In the beginning the Cherokee roamed this hilltop. To the southeast of this cabin here in Sunbright is where the first old log cabin sat, built before the Civil War. When I was a small boy, I remember the stories the owner of this property used to tell me. His name was Mr. Barnes, and on entering the war he walked all the way to Kentucky to join the Union Army. After the war he came back and bought that old place. Somewhere in the late 1890s he built this cabin we are next to and used the old cabin for firewood over many years. After his death, my family came into possession of the place.” It is a narrative that fits into a box, as if he has told it several times before.
I ask him, “Do you know of any Indians that still live in the area?”
“They are all gone now, but I remember hearing stories from my mother about her seeing natives around in these parts when she was a little girl.”
Sitting in this spot, we are fed secondhand stories of Sunbright’s history from an old man’s lips that too, will vanish.
Cheyenne asks, “Can we see the log house?”
“If it is alright with your dad, we can,” he responds.
“Follow J.P. I’ll be behind you girls.”
While Amarins cleans up our picnic area, the girls and I get a tour of the old cabin. Amarins does not share my love of old things, and some quiet, alone time has infinitely more value to her at this moment.
The cabin was a one-room house once, with an attic sleeping area. J.P. takes us in through the kitchen on the back side, which is a later addition to the main ten by fifteen foot living area. It is cool inside, despite the heat and humidity outside. The furniture, of an era not ours, is still in place. The mattresses lie on bare springs. Only a few white, homemade cabinets line the kitchen walls, and a plastic-like material covers empty sofa chairs. No one has lived in the place for about forty years. The old place is like a museum whose only regular visitor is Mr. Morgan. Entering one of the downstairs bedrooms, we find a door to the attic. I’m not surprised that the girls want to go upstairs.
We cautiously climb the rough lumber steps as our host follows us up through a wall of heat. Hanging around the hand-hewn stone chimney where it meets the roof line is an old picture frame and a couple of old fiddles whose handlers are part of the whispers on this hilltop.
“Hey girls, do you see those fiddles up there?” I ask.
”Yeah,” they reply in unison.
Cheyenne says “They look like violins, but why are they cracked?”
“Because they are very old and the attic’s heat has caused them to split,” I answer.
Jasmine inquires, “Can we play them?”
“I don’t think so. We better leave them alone. Hey, look up there!”
Upon seeing loaded wasps nests clinging to the rough cut oak rafters and our gasps for air in the heat of the non-insulated attic area, we make a quick exit.
We walk out the front door, and the girls sit on an old swing that hangs under the porch roof. As they play, my attention is drawn to an area of the porch where a single step leading to the walkway meets one of the main posts. There is the most unique collapsible gate bridging the opening between two posts. I ask Mr. Morgan, “What is that funky metal gate?”
He throws it back into my lap, “What do you think it is?”
I touch it and play with it for a while, then venture a guess, “Is it a gate from an old turn of the century dumb waiter?”
He laughs and says, “No.”
He tells us the story before we jet off, “My dad said it was from an old mid-teens Buick. This being the old road from Knoxville to Nashville, there was early car traffic. One spring a family was on a trip when their car got hung up over there.” He is pointing to the hill we had just climbed about an hour earlier. “They had to get home. So, they left their car and walked to the next town where they caught a wagon to the big city. They never came back for their car. Over the years folks pillaged it for useful items. The luggage area on the rear of the Buick had this as the gate to keep the bags from falling into the road.”
Cheyenne brims over with questions. I see by the way she narrows her eyes and cocks her head that she is processing what she overheard, a talent she has developed well, “Why did they leave their car?”
I venture a guess since she spoke too softly for J.P. to hear, “Since all the roads back then were mostly dirt, it was probably muddy and it got buried in it. They did not have wreckers then the way we have today. It would have taken a team of horses to haul the thing out.”
“Oh,” she responds.
Hanging on this 1890s log cabin porch post is a 1913 to 1918 Buick luggage rack that bears witness to stories, like ours, of folks who have traveled this ancient road system. The girls open and close the gate a bit before I put a stop to it, fearing they will get their little fingers caught in its workings.
We thank J.P. Morgan and bid him farewell. Leaving his hilltop, I wonder how long he’ll still be among us. And like the ancient oral traditions, what was said to Mr. Morgan has now been told to us. The story of this place, however minute, is etched into ours. We too, will repeat it.
This timeline was put in place in December of 2010. The timeline didn't work out as we had planned, but we came a long way nonetheless. For not knowing what we'd get ourselves into, we've done great. We had our first book in our hands on July the 26th, 2011.
For every plan it is important to have a timeline with milestones. The most important part of the timeline is to set the date for the finish line.
Here is our timeline, from writing to publishing:
- December 31st 2010
Writing the first half of the chapters;
Sending first half of chapters to editor.
- January 31st 2011
First half of the chapters edited and ready for proofing;
Writing the second half of the chapters;
Sending second half of the chapters to editor;
Dust jacket designed;
Finding funding for the first printing batch;
Printing House selected.
- February 28th 2011
Second half of the chapters edited and ready for proofing;
Pictures for book selected;
Parts for Appendix ready;
Organizing all the pieces into a flowing manuscript;
Having the manuscript proofed and ready to send to Printing House;
Fulfillment House selected.
- March 31st 2011
First official copy in our hands;
Accepting first copy;
Giving the "okay" to print the first batch.
- April 30th 2011
Setting up sales page for pre-orders.
- May 31st 2011
Arrival of the first batch of:
A Pedouin Life; Stop and Smell the Artichokes.
- June 1st 2011
Let the book-bus-tour begin!