Origin of The Fiddler’s Gun

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Contrary to popular belief (trust me, I’ve polled it), I did not sit down one day and think, “Ah hah!  I shall write an adventure novel of the Revolutionary War and my heroine shall be named Phinea Button!”

The real story, if you choose to believe it, is that some years ago I decided to try something different for Christmas.  Simply buying gifts and handing them out wrapped in plaid paper had grown too ordinary.  That’s when I thought, “Ah hah!  I shall build treasure chests and treasure_mapfill them with gifts and bury them!”

I swear to you that is the truth.

So I started building treasure chests in September of that year and as I finished them I did my gift shopping and filled one for each of the families of my siblings and parents (four in all).  I even tracked down some nifty old handmade padlocks to lock them up with.

My parents live on a farm of some four or five acres and my plan was to bury each chest in a different spot on the farm and then draw a map that led to each one.  The chest-building turned out to be the easy part of this diabolical plan.  The hard part was drawing the maps.  I hand drew each one with a calligraphy pen using all sorts of local landmarks, and folklore, and inside humor to make them unique and then in the corner of each map I reserved a spot for a small poem of sorts that would eventually lead to the buried treasure.

In October and November that year I snuck home four times with a chest in tow and carried it out into the woods to inter it.  Each chest lay near a landmark that could only be identified by following the clues on the map.  One was an odd copse of trees, one was a pair of trees with a rope tied around them, I forget what the third was but for the fourth, I decided to make the ‘landmark’ an old grave marker (a tribute to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly).

Back in my woodshop, I hammered together a cross out of two crude boards and then sat back to consider what name I ought to carve into it.  It had to sound antiquated and I wanted it to have a distinctly American quality.  I considered names like Cletus, and Hank, and Buddy but my mind finally came to rest on Phineas Button.  I set to work carving it out and when I finished sat back to admire my work.

That’s when I saw my mistake.  Like a bad tattoo artist, I’d been concentrating so hard on the actual work that I hadn’t seen the misspelling right in front of me.  I’d left the ‘S’ off of the end of Phineas.  Thus was Phinea born.

At first I was angry with myself and irritated at the prospect of having to make a new marker.   But the more I thought about it, the more I thought the name was an interesting one.  The omission of the ‘S’ transformed it and made it feminine and I began to wonder why a woman would have such a name, and who she might have been, and why there was a treasure chest laid in her grave instead of a body.

The story grew from there.  All the maps and clues to the buried Christmas chests eventually referred to the vague and long-dead persons of Peter LaMee and “Fin” Button.

That Christmas morning when all the presents had been handed out I stood up and admitted to my family that I’d been too poor to buy anyone gifts.   Luckily though, I had discovered four strange maps, each accompanied by a strange old skeleton key and I offered them as gifts instead.

The treasure hunt that ensued is one of my favorite Christmas memories.  But even after the holidays had come and gone and the world returned to the sedentary cycle of work and sleep, Phinea wouldn’t leave me alone.  The characters and events of her life became more and more real to me until eventually a New Year’s resolution pact between my brother and I compelled me to set her story down in writing.

Though that all happened years ago, each time I visit my parent’s farm I still sneak out into the woods to stand by the old grave marker and smile.  Little did I know at the time that the treasure chest filled with Christmas presents that we pulled out of her grave was the smallest of the gifts Phinea had to give.

Check out the website for more information on the book.

TheFiddlersGun.com

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he’s the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


11 Comments

  1. Chris Slaten

    Lord of Cheese,
    That might be the coolest Christmas gift idea that I have heard. How much digging did they have to do?

    The Fiddler’s Gun is a promising title. When will we be able to get our hands on a copy?

  2. Benjamin Wolaver

    This is the best real life intro to a book I’ve probably ever read. And congrats on a super cool concept… can’t wait to read it…

  3. Aaron Roughton

    Like Chris said, the buried treasure Christmas is quite possibly the most awesomest thing ever. (I would steal it this Christmas if it didn’t mean tearing up the yard at the parsonage my parents live in.) And it just goes to show how creation leads to more creation. You weren’t trying to write a book. But once the wheels got going they never stopped. Thanks a lot for sharing this Pete.

  4. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Pete,

    That is just the best and most beautiful Christmas gift idea I have ever heard. To put all that time and thought into something and pull it off just thrills me. I may rip you off for my children’s sake next Christmas And I’m with Benjamin – I can’t wait to read the book.

  5. Eric Peters

    I can’t wait for The Fiddler’s Gun, the first REAL Rabbit Room Press publication.

  6. Tony Heringer

    Lord of Cheese? I like it. Like the others (not the ones on Lost, the folks here) I’m in awe of this idea. I wouldn’t try it here in GA due to the soil being akin to concrete.

    Also, will this be your introduction to the book? Sounds like a good one for what promises to be a fun story.

  7. Robert Treskillard

    Pete,

    That is an amazing story.

    I do calligraphy now and then, and I often make the same mistake … leaving out a letter because I was not paying attention. Very easy to do.

    But to think that a novel came out of a spelling mistake! Ha!

    Do you have any photos of those chests or maps? That would be fun to see.

    -Robert

  8. Peter B

    Like everyone else said, wow; what an amazing idea (and effort) for Christmas, and what a cool story of the story.

    Completely unrelated: two weeks ago I drove my family from Dallas to Disney World, and along the way (on the Turnpike, maybe?) we saw the sign for the Florida Sheriff’s Boys’ Ranch. It was neat to find something familiar — however tenuous the link — in a foreign land.

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