"No matter what, don't ever sell the family's Louisiana land, son. There's one thing they'll never make more of and that's land."
I can still hear my father-in-law's voice in his final days on Earth as he offered these parting words of wisdom to my husband.
But four years or so ago, a decade after Ralph's death, David's cash-strapped mother called him up and said she had a buyer for that forty acres of scrub land. She needed all three children to sign a document releasing their shares of the property. ASAP.
While David voiced his concern and reminded his mother of his father's parting words, as a good son, he couldn't deny his mother's request--not when he knew she needed the money. And at that time, he couldn't scrape together the funds to buy the property from her outright. So, against his better judgment, he signed on the dotted line, and the property that had been in the Downs family for over 100 years belonged to some faceless land developer.
Last week, David got a call from his 2nd cousin in Louisiana. Ol' Cuz wanted to know if we'd heard about what all was goin' on down there on the family property. "Folks down here in these parts are becomin' overnight millionaires--like those Beverly Hillbillies," he spouted. "We're sittin' on top of the largest natural gas reserve in the hist'ry of the world some say. I know y'all sold off your property, but you might want to double-check to see if you kept any mineral rights. Worth lookin' into. They've already started drillin' on the land you used to own."
If you use your powers of deductive reasoning and realize that I'm still here, blogging away. . .still chained to my desk and slaving for Barbour, you will realize that we're on the outside of that overnight-millionaire window looking in. Not a dime of those millions in gas profits will find its way to our family's pockets. We'll forever be kicking ourselves for not following Dad's parting advice.
One of a writer's chief goals is to plop your story's main character/s into a conflict of monumental proportions and see how they respond or react. If my family's true-life story were your fiction plot instead, where would your characters go from here? What if the son had refused to sign over his share of the land four years ago? How would that impact his family relationships? Then? Now? What if he had scrounged together the money and bought out the rest of the family's shares? Would the others expect him to "share the wealth" now?
The old adage proves itself once again--truth is stranger than fiction. And more painful. Maybe that's why I spend most of my waking hours in the fiction world. :-)