Today after work, I stopped by Old Salem Cemetery in Jackson, Tennessee to check in on an old friend. I’m sure it sounds weird–maybe even a bit morbid–but I make a point now and then to visit one of the oldest cemeteries in Madison County and walk to the graves of Adam Huntsman and his three wives.
Writers sometimes become attached to their subjects; for me, it’s the peg-legged politician most famous for defeating David Crockett for Congress in 1835, a loss that sent the fabled frontiersman to Texas and Disney glory. He led an interesting life as a frontier lawyer and public servant with an eccentric personality and a wit for political satire. He was a bachelor for the first thirty-five years of his life, yet spent the last twenty-eight years with three different wives!
For many years, their graves were neglected and forgotten. Teenagers used the cemetery as a place to party, littering the ground with beer bottles and trash, and using tombstones for target practice and broken ones for traction to get their vehicles out of the mud.
Thankfully, Old Salem Cemetery is once again treated with dignity and respect. For the past fourteen years, it has been maintained by Malcolm Wilcox and the John B. Ingram Camp 219 chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Focusing on its role in a minor battle between Union forces and the Confederate cavalry of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on December 19, 1862, they have turned it into a modest tourist attraction for Civil War buffs. The grass is now mowed and the grounds cleaned of any debris. There is a metal barricade that keeps anyone from driving close to the cemetery.
A tip of the hat to Mr. Wilcox and the men of Camp 219: thank you for taking care of this part of local history. I’m sure Mr. Huntsman would be pleased.
The biggest challenge for me to write is not so much finding the right words as finding the time to do it. Or, more specifically, the quiet time.
I’m married and have two children, 10 and 8 years old. There’s always something going on in the house: cleaning, cooking, laundry, honey-do lists, kids arguing and fighting, large crashing noises above my head that shake my drop-ceiling. The kids gravitate anywhere I am, especially my office when I’m writing. (I write this after both kids come inside to see what I’m doing.)
Don’t get me wrong: I love my children; they mean the world to me. I love spending time with them, asking them how their days at school went, sitting in my recliner watching a movie with them, my son on one side and my daughter on the other. But bless their hearts, they sure can interrupt a train (or more) of thoughts!
I’m not a full-time writer. As much as I’d love to do it, I can’t make my living at it. So I have to steal writing time when I can, often after the kids have gone to bed. Of course by that time, I’m so mentally drained and worn out that I’m incapable of writing very much. I end up answering emails, catching up on a book I’m reading, or simply going to bed. And so the cycle goes, night after night. Needless to say, my thoughts and ideas aren’t getting down on paper as much as I’d like.
I’d love to hear from other writers for their thoughts on finding quality time to write.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted to this blog. I’ve been writing the last three months, but the topics have been political in nature.
Now that the late unpleasantness is over, I hope to return to a few book projects I have in the works. Two projects in particular–a history of the Kitty League (minor league baseball) and a new biography of Adam Huntsman–have my attention. The latter will build on a previous biography I published in 1996 entitled The Peg-Legged Politician. I’ve learned a lot more in the past twelve years about the life of this eccentric but fascinating character. I hope to share it with readers who are interested in David Crockett, frontier politics in the Age of Jackson, and Tennessee history in general next year.
My book project on Ken Boyer is still in the research phase. Other writing assignments include a project with SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) for a book on the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. I will write short biography on outfielder Mike Shannon.