As promised to my readers at Kindle Vella, here are some pictures from my recent visit to the location that inspired the book.
Before reaching Sam’s neighborhood, you pass what used to be a peanut field.
No crops today, and part of it has now been sectioned off with little flags, which makes me think housing may be going in. That’s mind-blowing to me. I doubt the residents are pleased, based on the “get out” vibes I picked up farther inside.
On my childhood visits, I could tell we were nearing Granny’s house when it suddenly got dark in the car. In book two of Sam’s story, this shadowy entry to Sam’s neighborhood is called The Tunnel.
It’s been about 20 years since my last visit, so I should have expected changes. But they still shocked me. Access to the lake has been mostly blocked, there’s hardly any open space, and there’s nowhere to park unless you live there.
But the biggest shock was seeing Curly’s house.
And to be clear, this is the house, not the shack. In reality, there was no shack.
While I was taking these pictures, a man came from the house next door to talk to me. He might have been planning to run me off, but once I told him of my childhood fondness for Curly, we ended up having a good chat. Turns out I’m even related to him by marriage.
Meeting him made the rest of the trip possible, as he allowed us to park in Curly’s yard and walk down to the lake.
If you’re reading Summer, According to Sam, this is how you should picture the first moment of the hunt.
The girls would have gathered right here to study the map when they were about to enter the trail.
I remembered (incorrectly, though vividly) the creepy crawlies we upset on the path when we were kids … as spiders. But this trip revealed that they were actually arachnids.
Daddy longlegs, to be specific, also known as harvestmen. I can’t decide which name is scarier.
While we were walking the trails last week, I pointed out “the plant” to my family, telling them I figured the spider encounter was probably exaggerated in my memory, and therefore, in the book as well.
Then I touched the plant, and several of these critters skittered out.
Definitely creepy. And definitely daddy longlegs. I do think they’re what we upset when we were kids, but these were bigger and fewer than I recall.
Most of my childhood visits were earlier in the year, during summer break, like Millie’s visit in the book. This probably explains the difference in the number and size of the creatures.
Maybe the ones from my youth had recently hatched and were huddling together under the leaves? I would have recognized the full-grown version of them, but seeing a busted nest of baby ones could easily have confused me.
Not Sam, of course. The book will get an edit now. But me? Um, yes. I was running, and not an expert on eight-legged beings.
Exaggerated or not, it’s unsettling to watch them emerge.
I don’t know what the plant is, but it was much taller than I recalled, another possible result of the different time of year. Not to mention the decades that have passed. I remember their leaves overlapping, covering the ground between the trees. It’s also possible this isn’t the correct plant, but where I could see the shorter growth, it looked the way I remembered it.
The lake, though the water level was pretty low, looked about how I remembered it. In the book, it’s where the kids went to “wade” and ended up taking an unauthorized swim. Another scene inspired by actual events.
I can’t say much about this next shot, because I’m not finished publishing the story. But it’s here for later. And it’s just a hint. Farther down the beach, that soil looks a bit different.
The next shot doesn’t really display anything from the book, but when you see a bird catch a fish while you’re carrying a long lens, you take a picture.
I loved this tree, but more than that, I loved walking behind my son, one of the two inspirations for Sam, and my little brother, the inspiration for Kevin.
And this final image shows where the gang carried the canoe down to the lake.
That’s it for this visit. I’m planning to make another trip, and if so, I’ll try to get some shots of Granny’s and Sam’s houses. Tell me in the comments here or on the actual Vella if there’s something you were hoping to see.