Last April, I spent a week in my hometown, Pinedale, Wyoming, helping my dad organize photo albums and memorabilia for his business’ 50thanniversary open house. The business, which began in 1961 as a small engine repair shop and has since evolved into one of the most successful Polaris dealerships and recreational vehicle retailers in the country, had endured a wild rollercoaster of ups and downs, successes and failures. I knew this, but as I worked with photos on a folding table set up in the retail showroom, an entirely deeper, more meaningful picture began to take shape before my eyes.
Here were photos of my short, chubby grandfather, grinning next to a horde of fresh beaver skins. (He and my dad trapped animals in the mountains and sold hides and furs to stay afloat in the early days.) Here was my dad, still with his moustache and young, serious face, standing on a mountain top with my mom and the snowmobiles with which they had climbed to that scenery. Here was my dad in a hospital bed, his leg in traction after a snowmobile wreck on a drag race track nearly killed him. And there I was, in the crooked notch of a mountain pass, my hair gauzy and flat from the helmet I’d been wearing, the champion of yet another mountain thanks to my dad’s patient prodding.
Stories were beginning to emerge as I pieced photos together. Some of the stories I knew – or was even a part of – but many stories I didn’t know. Customers walked into the shop for oil, belts, snowmobile repairs, snow boots – and saw me at work at my little makeshift station. They paid me many visits.
“I remember that,” they would begin, or, “I recognize that mountain.” And more stories would tumble out.
I realized then that I was sitting on a goldmine.
A goldmine of a history yet to be preserved, of stories so hair-raising, ridiculous, tear-jerking and triumphant that to lose them … well, would be one of the biggest shames of small-town history.
I realized something very quickly: I was the one to ensure that these memories, this history, was somehow preserved. Soon my dad would be selling the business – the business that had been in the family for 50 years. I was no mechanic. Talking repairs and small engine parts were not and never would be me. The business would be leaving the family.
This, I realized, could be my contribution to keeping the legacy alive.
I am a cautious person with most things in life, weighing every decision with painful analysis before I make any move.
With this, I jumped in without thinking twice. I snatched my dad’s extensive list of customers. I wrote letters. I made phone calls. I set up a Web site. I booked interviews.
I set the ball rolling on what would be one of the most important projects of my life.
Bucky’s: Stories and Memories from 50 Years in Business is the history – that compilation of stories and memories that customers, friends and family members have shared with me – that resulted. It will be published in June. It is my free-fall into the world of storytelling and history preserving, my way of giving back to the place and people that constituted my family’s bread and butter as I was growing up.
More information on the project, as well as a link to order a copy of the book, is at www.buckysstory.com.
And now? I hope this is only the beginning of carving out my niche as a writer. Soon I will be hosting a FREE “Telling Your Life Stories” workshop in Orange County, CA (where I now live). My hope is to help people dig up and share their own life stories, with audiences who would give their eye-teeth to hear them.
If you’re interested in working with me, let me know. I am preparing here to open big doors.