One of the best outcomes of publishing The Last Resort has been reconnecting with people who were vitally important to me at various stages of my life. I have exchanged lengthy emails with my dad’s former students, fascinating individuals who loomed large during my childhood. I have visited family members of my dad’s colleagues in far-flung states, including the Denny family who hosted us for my earliest remembered Thanksgivings. I have traveled to Atlanta with my cousins—who fished Salt River with their Uncle Pud—to visit the surviving members of the band of boys who frequented The Last Resort. And I have reached out to an old childhood playmate whose dad unwittingly stepped into the role my own father would have played, taking me to his “camp” on the Kentucky River.
In fact, just when I thought the memory of my parents, who died 50 and 26 years ago, was nearly extinguished, I discovered numerous people, including some I had never met, who still remember their laugh or their intelligence and could share stories I had never heard. That has been remarkable.
I have also made new connections I wish I hadn’t waited so long to forge, primarily with the children of my dad’s sidekick, Bobby Cole. Bob and Julie have provided insight into their family history and the land their family owned, where Bobby and Pud built the cabin. As children, they continued to spend time there, before I was even aware it had ever existed. They have first-hand knowledge of fishing Salt River and wandering along its banks. And, although our paths had never crossed until after their father died in 2013, we have discovered many unexpected points where our personal histories intersected.
This is the real reason to undertake a project like this one. It’s satisfying to produce a book that honors your history and evokes unexpected emotions and memories in its readers. It’s uplifting to see a project come to fruition after a lot of hard work. But the most valuable outcome of the book is that putting it together pushed me to seek out people I love and cherish. If I have learned anything, I hope it is the importance of spending more time in their company.