Disclaimer: This post contains small spoilers, non-plot related, for the second book in my Baldwin series titled Freedom’s Song. Freedom’s Treasure is the first in that series, and you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all other digital and paperback sellers. Freedom’s Song will be released in the late spring of 2017.
It is a sad day for me, my friends. Though not unexpected, Jack Price has passed away. You won’t know Jack, not yet anyway, but I did. I loved him as an uncle and he will always have a very special place in my heart.
Many of you have read my posts or heard me talk about Baldwin. I love that town. It’s in Michigan, and played a very large part in creating the person that I am today.
My grandparents bought property on a private lake outside of Baldwin in the late 1960’s. They hand built an A-frame with the plans in their heads, and leftover building supplies from wherever they could find them.
They were quite fortunate in their neighbors. Lord knows we can’t always choose who will be living next door to us, even if it is a vacation home. Jack and Nancy became close enough that we considered them family. My grandfather’s name wasn’t actually Jack, though that was a nickname, so they were the two jacks in one crazy deck of cards.
I only saw them in the summers, but that was enough for me. My memories are fuzzy, but the feelings aren’t. They were surrogate grandparents, and not just in the “we’ll give you cookies” kind of way.
They taught me so much. Their relationship with my grandparents taught me what community actually means. It went far beyond borrowing a cup of sugar. If someone’s power or water went out, it was to the neighbors they went to be welcomed with a cold beer, a warm smile, and a spot next to the fire.
Need help re-shingling a roof? Jack was there with a hammer and nails and ready to go.
We didn’t have a phone in our cabin, but they did. They strung a line over so we had access on theirs. We used to pick it up and have chats with Nancy while she was making lunch, whilst ignoring the dial tone. This was back when phones were still plugged into walls, and cell phones weren’t even a concept in science fiction movies.
Nancy was a surrogate grandmother, but Jack? Jack was an insane grandfatherly type.
The man was creative as hell, and a genius with his hands. He was a wood carver, nay, sculptor. He carved a life-sized Charlie Chaplin, a life-sized version of his wife as a saloon girl with a derringer in her thigh holster, a life-sized cigar store Indian (yes, I know that’s not correct anymore), and even Abraham Lincoln in his chair like the memorial.
Jack took years and years to build a small western town on their property. It included a saloon, general store, and many, many other buildings. Here is a video I took several years ago, though my memory of what some of the buildings contained is fuzzy.
It may seem insane to post this on the Internet, but the local news featured the place at one point so it’s easily discoverable.
Jack and Jack had matching dune buggies we used to race around the dirt roads of Baldwin to hit garage sales. We were looking for antique items for the town, and any other items we’d enjoy at our own cabin.
He was handy with a joke, usually dirty and thus over my head at a young age, and had a handshake and a smile for everyone. He’d canoe with us, and hang out around a bonfire and tell stories. He was patient with a young child babbling her made up stories at him, and kind, and generous, and funny, and all of the things that I want everyone to be.
When it came time to write Freedom’s Treasure I went to Baldwin for the location. The charm, the wit of the town, has always stuck with me. I believe most of that is because of Jack and Nancy.
I used my grandparent’s cabin as part of the inspiration, and simply had to use Jack and Nancy’s place as well. It was only fitting. They had a fairy tale cottage with wooden dwarfs, after all. Isn’t that romantic as all get out?
At one point I needed a name for who I thought would be a throwaway character. I went with Colby Price as an homage to one of my favorite couples. I needed a name for another character, one who wasn’t a throwaway though I didn’t have big plans for her. I went with Nancy. Another homage.
Well, that came back on me. When it came time to write the sequel, I decided Jack and Nancy deserved to have their story told. Okay, it’s not actually their story. I don’t know how the actual couple met, or when, or anything really, but I thought they would be okay with me putting my own spin on it. I’ve written it with nothing but love.
But wait, say the people who’ve read Freedom’s Treasure, his name is Colby, not Jack.
Yes, I reply, and here comes the one small spoiler I’m willing to give to you today. Colby’s name isn’t actually Colby. Surprise! In Freedom’s Song we discover that his name is Jack but everyone calls him Colby because in high school he ate a one pound block of Colby Jack cheese on a dare. Because yes, nicknames come about in some of the most ridiculous ways.
Jack would have laughed his ass off over that, and then tousled my hair and called me a pain in the butt, but totally with affection.
In the Baldwin series his family owns and operates the hardware store, which seemed appropriate to me since he was so good with his hands. I even mention his Charlie Chaplin who remains at his home at one of the local bars.
Though Jack and Nancy are elderly now, it came as a surprise to hear of his passing. Unfortunately it came too late for me to make the visit and give Nancy my personal condolences.
Sadly the people I consider the Old Guard of that private lake are passing on rather quickly. I suppose it is up to us, the next generations, to keep that generous, bawdy spirit alive.
Get to it, people.