Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts

28 January 2022

One-Horse Town


 This week, I'm working on a short story, the first in a while that isn't intended for a specific market. Remember that old cliche with the woman tied to a railroad track as the 3:15 to Yuma bears down on her? It's a staple of westerns, but I thought about what that might actually entail if it really happened in 2022. It helps that, on the two days I go into the office, I drive through a quaint little village called Glendale, which is bisected by a major CSX line. Yes, I'm a dork. I watch the trains. So, I fictionalized the village and needed a name.

Do you know how hard names are to come up with? It took me years, literally, to come up with Monticello for Holland Bay. And like a lot of my small town stories, this one takes place in the fictitious constellation of suburbs around Monticello. But it needs a name.

I considered Fernwood and discarded it. Fernwood, for those of you of a certain age, served as the setting for two shows, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood 2night. Based on a clip from the latter, in which Tom Waits is shanghaied into performing "The Piano Has Been Drinking," I deduced Fernwood existed somewhere along the Ohio Turnpike., which crosses the northern part of the state. Well, Monticello sits to the north, and Fernwood gets a passing mention in both Holland Bay and several short stories that need to come back out of the vault. 

But Fernwood came off as a bit too cutesy. I then considered Willowbrook, a town that not only gets mentioned in passing but features in a short story about a burglar dressed as Santa getting all Grinch on a trailer park on Christmas Eve. In some ways, Willowbrook is based on Lodi, the far-flung exurb of Cleveland where I grew up. (Yes, we all got sick of WMMS playing Creedence's "Lodi" long after Creedence had faded from airplay. Boy, did we get sick of it. It was still playing when the Sex Pistols flamed out and Bruce Springsteen became the king of rock and roll.) And it doesn't really fit the mold for a fictionalized Glendale.

So...

Lift a town from a previous fictional work, one not named Fernwood. Well, Sherwood Anderson wrote about Winesburg, a town based on the very real Clyde, Ohio (which is now, apparently, a suburb of Monticello. Thanks, Sherwood!) Only...

For six months in 1991, I lived ten minutes from a town called Winesburg. In the heart of Ohio's Amish Country. Not quite what I was looking for. It started looking like an homage to another Ohio writer wouldn't work. 

Okay, what about history? Monticello's location in my fictional Ohio sits at the very edge of the historical Connecticut Western Reserve. If you've been to Cleveland or any of the surrounding towns and counties, you see Western Reserve plastered all over the place. It's one of those names like Northcoast that define the region. But I looked more toward Connecticut, which somehow managed to make Northeast Ohio part of the state early on. Virginia and Pennsylvania did that, too, but Pennsylvania borders Ohio, and West Virginia and Kentucky used to be part of Virginia.

A lot of towns in Ohio derive their names from towns in Connecticut. I could have gone with any of the New England states. There's a Boston Township near Cleveland, and settlers from Worcester, MA, came to north central Ohio and decided the English city that gave their hometown its name was spelled stupidly. So they spelled is Wooster. There are only two possible pronunciations. (Mind you, the 1800s was the golden age of simplified spelling.)

But I stuck with good old CT. I avoided Mystic. Too obvious and too close to Dennis Lehane's Mystic River (still my favorite crime novel ever.) But there's a Hartford. There's a Bridgeport. There's a Windsor. All in Ohio. Some are large towns. Others barely a speck on the map - a gas station, a church, and a scattering of houses all in a space shorter than my street in suburban Cincinnati.

One town in CT did not have a town in Ohio: Stoneport. So, in the Celloverse (Can I coin that, or do I need a fan base to do that for me?), settlers from Stoneport, CT came to the Monticello area in the early 1800s to found a town named for their point of origin. So, now I had a town name. Now I could get on with the business of one of Stoneport's uniformed officers finding a woman tied to the track at 3 AM with an Amtrack train bearing down on her.

What? That's not a thing?