My parents are awesome people. I know I’ve talked about them in this blog before, but really, you can’t ever say enough about a cool set of parents. One of the things I love about my mom and dad is that they really know the kinds of stuff I’m into, and whenever they can they try to encourage my interests.
Case in point: a few years ago they went on vacation in West Virginia and visited The Museum of Appalachia. While they were there they bought me a book about a man named Asa Jackson who lived back in the 1800’s during the time of the Civil War. Why was Asa Jackson so special?
Only because he built possibly one of the impossibly cool pieces of machinery ever. I am refering of course to the Asa Jackson perpetual motion wheel.
Now that picture may not mean much to you, but to me it’s well nigh awe inspiring. See, I had something of an obsession with building a perpetual motion machine as a kid. I’d spend hours with magnets popsicle sticks and bits of string, trying to find some magical combination that would prove all those fuddy duddy physicists with their fancy laws of Thermodynamics wrong. I’d be famous. I’d have my name lauded abroad by thousands. My machine would bring free energy to the world (Well, almost free. After all, what’s free energy if you can’t get rich off of it?)
It might surprise you to find out that this did not in fact occur.
But my own obsession with perpetual motion made me uniquely qualified to appreciate Mr. Jackson’s passion to find some method of breaking those ever-so-inconvenient laws of nature and writing his name in the history books.
And for what it’s worth, Asa Jackson’s perpetual motion wheel, functional or not, is a work of pure genius. Imagine building something like that out of nothing but wood, with simple hand tools and only a rudementary knowledge of mechanical design.
But more than anything, when I look at that wheel, when I think about Mr. Jackson and his passion to live the impossible dream I think, What fantastic fodder for a story.
Can you imagine it? I mean from a human perspective can you see how perfect it is? One hillbilly in the backwoods of West Virginia obsessing over a machine of unbelievable complexity. What must have his family thought of his strange passion? Did he neglect them to spend time with his monstrous machine? Did they suffer for his madness? Or did they join in the delusion, pouring themselves into the success of a doomed enterprise?
This is the stuff great stories are made of, and every time I think about Asa Jackson, I wonder where all these yahoos get off asking writers where they get their story ideas.
I want to shout at them: They’re all over the place people! You just stepped in one. Look! You got its inky gooey guts all over your shoe. And it’s still moving it’s little segmented legs. At least have the decency to put it out of its misery you murderer!
Bottom line: Asa Jackson was crazy awesome as well as awesome crazy.
Bottom line #2: Story ideas are everywhere.
Bottom line #3: My parents are crazy awesome, but not awesome crazy (or any other kind of crazy for that matter.)