I drove up to the Flying J truck stop yesterday to meet with my friend from Omaha. On the drive home, I took the backroads, down the Platte River road through the Gretna Fish Hatchery, down to Louisville, and on down to Church Road. As I drove past the Hatchery, I glanced out toward the river and was amazed to see not one Bald Eagle, but SEVEN perched on stumps along the middle sandbar.
I took it as an omen, a sign of better days to come. I once had to drive back and forth to Elkhorn during my days as a Nebraska Storyteller for the Arts Council. And each winter day I drove there to perform for three separate schools, I spotted seven red-tailed hawks hovering next to I-80. I counted them every day to make sure I had the count right. And seven appeared to be the magic number each time. It inspired me to write a story, and Lionstone was born.
I don’t know what those seven hawks symbolized or if they pertained to an omen or not, but during that next year I did publish 4,000 copies of Scratchin’ on the Eight Ball and The Kid, the Cop and the Con. And I did manage to sell the majority of those books that year by speaking in all the Middle and High schools in Lincoln. It was a great year for book sales, and I was able to pay back the Havelock Business Association for their investment in the printing of these books, $7,000 in six weeks seemed like a small miracle to me.
So, that next year, after having much success with the book sales, my friend and fellow-author, Gary Gablehouse, President of the Board at Camp Kitaki and CEO of Fairfield Research, approached me about pitching my anti-drug program, Kastleland, to the video industry. My three Gifted students and I wrote the script, took a 1,000 kid survey, had a psychologist anayalize our script, and then sent the script to an agent in Arizona. The day it arrived, lighting struck the guy’s fax machine and we had to send the script a second time. Gary joked and said, “Whoa, you’re always saying God is on your side, what was the purpose of him striking Bill’s fax machine?”
I told Gary, “Oh, that is an omen, and the company that picks up our game will have a lighting bolt on their letterhead or as an emblem for their company.”
Amazing as that seemed, we submitted the game script to Electronic Arts, the biggest in the industry. It passed the muster of 4 major gatekeepers there, and their proposal came back with them offering us $85,000 for the rights, 5% on the backend of four different formats, Nintendo, Playstation, IBM and Apple. My three students started talking about investing their money in a college fund, and I, too, talked about writing full-time after we sold the game. The Journal Star picked up the story and we had a full-page story about the sale of the game, Kastleland to EA. It was a big deal, and I thought about those seven hawks I had spotted the year before.
But then, the game script went before the 5th Gatekeeper at EA, and he shot it down. Yes, after all the talk, our balloon went bust. During those next two years, we continued to submit the game to 12 other companies, even to Sound Source, who had a lightning bolt on their letterhead! But alas, the game was eventually rejected by all the companies and the game script went into a drawer in my den, and has stayed there ever since.
So SEVEN BALD EAGLES? Perhaps a good omen, perhaps just seven eagles on their long journey through the Nebraska flyway. Nevertheless, it was an impressive sight and perhaps that it is all it was meant to be, that I happened to driving along those backroads and I happened to glance out toward the frozen river. Maybe nothing more than a nice sight to carry with me on my way down the road.