29 January 2023

A Strange Story


(Skip this blog post if you plan on reading Campbell’s Boy and/or weird, woo-woo style connections are not your thing.)

My recently released second novel, Campbell’s Boy, includes a scene that I was on the fence about keeping in. Fiction has to pass the “believability test” and I knew this scene might be problematic on that note for some. But I wanted it in…so I kept it in.

Since publication, I have kept fingers crossed behind my back. I may be called out on it in reviews but so far, so good.

Then this happened…

I immerse myself in tangled doings related to family research on the regular. I recently was down the rabbit hole of a tangential ancestor related by marriage who might be able to connect me to information I needed---yeah, already I might be losing you here but stick with me.

I am seeking confirmation about my given middle name which was passed down from my grandfather to my father to me. It is most probable that it came down from an in-law with that name serving as surname. I am connected via DNA with one of that in-law’s descendants. The family was notable as early settlers in Virginia and therefore show up in records and books.

This in-law’s grandfather, in fact, was written up with some colorful stories associated with him. As I said, I just recently researched this out and had never read about this man, Samuel Kendall, or his life. But yet this has close similarities to the scene I wrote in Campbell’s Boy. It is purportedly a real life scenario even if it reads like fiction.

This excerpt is taken from: History and genealogy, Kendalls, Cunninghams, Snodgrasses, illustrated, by Norman Festus Kendall. Grafton, W. Va.: Grafton Sentinel Pub. Co., 1942.

The section marked in black reads as follows:

"Samuel Kendall, 2nd, was a man over 6 feet in height, weighed over 200 pounds, rather dark in complexion, raven black hair, tenor voice, loved all kinds of sports. He loved fine horses, especially race horses: his main hobby was hunting, as a rifleman, his marksmanship was seldom equaled. While resting on a log on upper Dent's Run creek, with his gun on his shoulder, with a pocket mirror in his hand, picking a brier out of his face, he was made conscious that an animal was creeping up behind him, and shifting his mirror he discovered that it was a large panther, preparing to leap on him, and without moving, he shifted the mirror back in line with the sights on his gun, firing it, he drove the bullet into the brain of the animal, killing it. Later in life he wounded a large deer which charged him and in a hand to hand struggle, it crushed his right shoulder. In the fight, Kendall cut the deer's throat with his hunting knife and held on to it until it died..."

I’ll be blunt. People who are involved in genealogy can be weird---I include myself in that category and fly that freaky flag without apology. But this connection really threw me as a step beyond weird. Some kind of collective unconsciousness maybe. It is also confirmation to me that the scene in my novel is meant to be whether it is questioned or not.

Stories from the past provide me with inspiration. Stories in historic newspapers, in books and in old records. And I am here to tell you that history is never, ever boring.

(Oh, and by the way, that middle name of mine? That’s also my penname.)