What am I going to do with the rest of my life?

Edenhurst, once the Baxley home, in Fauquier County, Va.
Edenhurst, once the Baxley home, in Fauquier County, Va.

It’s done. It’s gone. I sent my manuscript to the History Press on Friday.

With that delivery, I met the second of two February deadlines.  The first was for the photographs. This one was for the book itself. Actually the book is still just an email attachment, a Word document of 51 pages, 32,000 words, done in 10-point, Times New Roman type, single-spaced. With luck, it will be a real book this summer.

Today I think back to December 2001, when I sent an email to Henry Baxley Jr. of Warrenton. Baxley and his parents were key characters in the story I wanted to tell, and I asked if he would talk with me. He agreed, and we met in a restaurant in Marshall. Later we drove to Africa Mountain and then to Edenhurst in Markham, where he lived as a baby. It was at Edenhurst that a farmhand employed by his family snuck into the house in the middle of the night and attacked his parents. Henry Jr. was not harmed and has no memory of the event. The current owner of the house, Dorothy Showers, was kind enough to show us the upstairs bedroom where the attack occurred. Showers also told us a story that Henry’s grandfather told her, how the attacker left behind a pistol on the landing.

That visit was the beginning of my work on this book, and the attack became its opening scene. The story has been my companion for more than 14 years. So now what do I do? Or as Merle Haggard sings, “I can smoke and I can drink. I’ll probably be alright ’till morning. But what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

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