Greetings and Salutations, everyone! We are growing ever closer to the spookiest time of year, quickly chased by the merriest time of year. In other words, I am absolutely in my element! I have been immersing myself in all things horror for the last few weeks, as opposed to the rest of the year when I immerse myself in all things horror. It’s very exclusive. As I near another busy time of year, filled with events and signings and all manner of awesome opportunities to meet you all, I have to tell you about the most recent one.
On October 9th I was honored to do a discussion and reading in my beloved hometown of Tazewell, Va. Being from said small town, the Appalachian tradition of ‘coming home’ took on a new meaning for this event. The Tazewell Historical Society asked me to do the event, which was held in the recently revamped and reopened Tazewell Train Station, formerly known as ‘the old depot.’
The old depot had been abandoned, just sitting in its historic spot, going back to the earth for years, decades even. Fading, dirty bricks, boarded windows and doors, vines crawling up the sides with reckless abandon, the building was exactly something that would inspire this little horror lover’s heart (and there may or may not be something in the works based on this). The coolest thing about this is the fact that I lived less than a quarter mile away from the building. I passed it every time I was going home, every time I left to go anywhere. It was always a figure of history that loomed on the edge of my vision, and instilled curiosity consistently. I may or may not have tried various times to take a peek inside the building, with never a spark of luck, so this was an even more interesting opportunity.
Needless to say when I was asked if I would be interested in doing a presentation on Appalachian Myth and Legend, along with a reading of some of my work, I leapt on the chance. The fact that it was going to be held in the depot building was just icing on the cake.
To prepare for the event I examined much of what I already knew of myth and wives’ tales that exist in Tazewell. There are a fair number of those, but one that has always interested me is that of Devil’s Slide Cave, otherwise known as Higginbotham #1. Supposedly farmers that live and work near this cave, which rests just off the road at the foot of a mountain, have heard moans and cries of unknown origin coming from within. Animals that get too near the cave are said to die soon after or simply disappear. A group of spelunkers and cave mappers went into the cave and reported a sinkhole not far from the entrance. Once they made their way down they went several miles in (I’ve heard they may have spent as much as two days within, but I’m not sure of that part). Eventually they found another dropoff and began hearing the sounds they had been told about. They lowered themselves down to the full extent of their equipment and reported that they couldn’t quite reach the bottom, although they could see it. The group claimed to have seen a set of heavy iron doors at the bottom of the hole, through which the sounds of Hell itself could be heard and a great heat could be felt. I’ve heard the tale several times throughout my life, but I have never gotten to explore the cave, as it is on private land.
Being a lover of all things lore and myth, I made the connection here with the Devil’s Looking Glass in Erwin, Tn. and several other evil seeming legends, of which there are no shortage. The group of people that showed up to listen and converse with me were fantastic, and it was honestly an amazing event. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine how I could be so blessed to be able to experience that thing of wonder, the Appalachian Homecoming. Getting to present some of my work and my research, an object of my passion, that close to where I spent some of my most formative years – in a home that was and is still passed down through my family I might add – is nothing short of a blessing that I am ever so thankful for.
That, I think, is something we all sort of hope for. To be able to return to our origin with our story strapped to our back, not in an act of desperation, but an act of triumph. To be able to return home and say “look at what I’ve done. I’m here because I WANT to be here, not because I have to be.” It is a feeling of success and achievement that I hope I can always keep with me. Having a passion for the arts is by no means an easy journey, and it does not often come with the sort of instant gratification the world is growing more and more used to, but this truly makes me feel like I am on the right path. I have had my ups and downs lately with my work, especially while striving to revamp my website, up my market presence, and make myself more widely known. Sometimes it seems like I’m just pounding my fists against a brick wall, hoping against all odds to bring it down. On the bad days, it seems this is a futile attempt, but on the good days, every now and then, one or two of those bricks come tumbling down. These last few weeks, those bricks are tumbling, and I can’t be more thankful for that.
I know, of course, that every journey is one of ups and downs. As happy and successful as I feel this week, I may end up feeling just as unsuccesseful next week, but the key and point of this post, is that sense of failure, that ever-present nag that is imposter syndrome, is false. Your journey is always successful as long as you don’t give up on yourself. You have to push through the bad days, the low times, the negative commentary, and realize that these are merely speedbumps. Tests. They are nothing more than life’s way of making sure you don’t get moving too fast or flying too high before you slow down and take a tumble. Your time of ultimate achievement, your moment in the spotlight, will absolutely come. But no amount hemming and hawing, whining and crying, forcing and threatening will make it happen. It will happen when you have overcome those obstacles and truly have everything you need to embrace the big finish.
So, my advice, as always, is to keep going. Push through the pain, the bad days, the sadness. Never let a road block cause you to come to a full stop. Turn the wheel and seek out a different path. Have faith in yourself and your journey. Fight your way through the hard days and enjoy every moment of the good ones. Most importantly, remember those good feelings and use them to keep you motivated through the bad. One day, you too may have that storybook ‘homecoming’ and it will be a moment you can definitely be proud of.
If you need anyone to talk to or motivate you through those hard times, I am always available as well. You can find me on social media, use the contact page on the site, comment on a post, or use any other method you can to reach out to me and I’ll be happy to help any way I can. Also, my amazing wife filmed my presentation at the depot and I have since uploaded it to Youtube. You can watch it here, if you’re interested. Have a great rest of the week, everyone. I look forward to hearing from you!