Everybody Has to be Someplace
There is evidence of human occupation in Saltville over 14,000 years ago, a large settlement during the Woodland Period between 1,500 BC an 1500 AD, with European presence as early as the Spanish in 1567 who traded with the Indians for salt.
So what has this to do with the Civil War? Salt was commercially manufactured here beginning in 1800. The railroad arrived in 1856. Saltville produced and deployed the salt that was necessary for human and animal consumption for all the South. The Confederacy needed to hold on to the salt works; the Union wanted to capture it. Two battles were fought in Saltville over the salt works. The first was a Confederate victory costing the Union ......
One of the reenactors, Doc Eller, who grew up here and is in his 80s now, told me how the salt is removed by pumping water into the ground, dissolving the salt, then pumping the briney water out of the ground to be boiled down in big kettles. (Doc Eller is the perfect Doctor Simpson in my Avery books!) He said when his mother was growing up here, this hilly land was a perfectly flat salt lick that drew an amazing assortment of animals. The reason it’s hilly isn’t that hills have pushed up. It’s because the ground has collapsed. So much salt has been removed over the past 200 years that there’s not much foundation left. He said houses, garages and roads have fallen into giant sink holes where the salt used to be. Geologists say in another 100 years Saltville will be, once again, a shallow inland salt-water lake. There are already two big lakes on either side of the road. One is fresh, one is brine.
“Wow!” I said, “That’s scary.”
“Well, I suppose it is,” he answered. “But, everybody has to be somewhere.”
I thought about that. I’d love to see The Black Hills. But they get serious flooding over there. I hear the plains sunsets are amazing. But they get cyclones, and I don’t have ruby slippers. Northern Michigan is beautifully unspoiled. But who wants to get caught in their blizzards? Glamorous California could rumble and break off into the ocean or bury itself in mud. But people do live in all those places. And all those places have a history. And, they all have folks who’d like to talk about it. As Doc says, “Everybody’s got to be somewhere.” Is there a marketing lesson here? I think so.
No matter what you are selling, if you don’t engage your potential buyer you won’t sell. You want to engage someone? Be interested in their town. Where do people work in this town? If you see something unusual or interesting, mention it; ask questions. A man in another town cheerfully told me the lore of the town water tower after I mentioned its artwork. He talked for an hour thoroughly entertaining me, then he bought two books. Towns and people have stories to tell.
For your own sake, be honest. Don’t try to fake your interest. Be interested. And listen. Laugh with them, not at them. They’ll remember you. You’ll not only sell your product, you’ll learn some interesting stories. Writers can always use more story. Marketers want to sell more product! Learn some geography and history and make some new friends along the way.