TRIVIA FROM OLIVIA: The Legend of Sara Jane Road
Gulping down the last drink of coffee, now cold, she motioned to the waitress for more and then scooted across the booth closer to the next table. There were five young guys gathered around the table next to her, all of them vying for the attention of just two pretty girls.
“Bet you guys have been down Sara Jane Road, haven’t you?”
One of the boys, rubbing his obviously full and slightly chubby midsection, smiled cockily. “’Course we have, lady. Everyone’s been down Sara Jane Road.”
Stirring some cream into her coffee, she nodded. “And did you see anything? I mean I’m sure you went down the road with your lights off and all. Did you see her?”
A kid next to him punched him in the arm. “Yeah, Keith, did you see anything.” There was a certain nasty, low tone to his voice.
Keith blushed and Johana recalled there were other reasons one might take a trip down Sara Jane Road. The seclusion near the bridge could provide much desired privacy for a pair of young lovers. Boys¸she thought.
“Aw, c’mon guys. You know what I’m asking about. Tell me about Sara Jane Road. Tell me the legend.”
I have a vague memory of driving Sara Jane Road when I was a teenager. We didn’t turn the headlights off and we didn’t see Sara Jane. Still the legend exists and most of the folks I’ve asked from the “Golden Triangle” recall different versions of the story. The most prominent one was of Sara hanging from the tree having killed herself in grief for losing her baby to the Neches River. Still, there are many variations of the story and its impossible to know if any or none of them are true..
In 2007 the Port Arthur news ran an article about Sara Jane Road and reported that local historian and author W.T. Block’s mother was in fact Sarah Jane Sweeney Block. Mrs. Block, however, never had a child die in the Neches River and in fact lived to be ninety-nine years old.
The inspiration for the characters in Dark Road Winding are rooted in my own family history as well as my husband’s. Grandpa H.M.’s character was written in homage to two very special people. First, my own grandfather, Henry Mel Hardin who departed this earth not long after I graduated high school. Somewhere in my mind Grandpa H.M. looks a lot like my Pawpaw. In the story, H.M. is an ex-con who spent most of his life in the federal penitentiary. That didn’t just come out of nowhere either. My hubby’s grandfather went to prison for counterfeiting and until his junior year of high school my husband didn’t even know he existed! Still, when his grandfather was released back into society, he made his life anew, becoming a true springboard for my husband to get an education and to make something of his life.
The connections don’t end there. The deceased matriarch of Johana Suzanne’s family is Mother Hall and she’s described as a feisty woman who did things her way. I never met my Pawpaw’s mother, a woman fondly referred to as Mother Turner, but I’ve read and heard about her and I imagine she was quite a woman.
The characters and story I’ve told in Dark Road Winding are all entirely my own and a fabrication of my fervent imagination. That said, I’ve tried to pepper the story with spices of my childhood and my family, all to give a flavor for my beloved Southeast Texas roots. I hope you’ve enjoyed.
Calling all Texans! I need your urban legends…
I’ll be looking for a good urban legend for my next book in this series. So, if you’re from Texas, living in Texas, or just know an interesting ghost story that takes place in Texas, I’d love to hear from you. Just comment below and tell me all about your favorite Texas urban legend. Or, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org