Gutshot is a mixture of places I visited growing up. Both my mother’s parents are from small towns in Tennessee, and so the architecture and industry of those towns was pretty familiar to me.
Gutshot is most directly inspired by my grandmother’s tiny hometown of Skullbone, Tennessee, which—aside from lacking a textile mill—is geographically very similar to Skullbone.
Quick Skullbone story: Once I visited Skullbone with a girl I was dating at the time, and we stopped at the bridge that leads into town and we were just looking at the river. Suddenly a minivan pulls up and a guy gets out of the car. He’s a big guy with a thick brown beard, and he’s wearing (apparently) nothing but very dirty overalls and brand new sneakers.
Of course, I feel nervous: I’m this scrawny college kid clearly Not From Around Here, and this man has pulled to the side of the road on a bridge, and I’m worried that I’m going to have to protect my girlfriend or something, which is not exactly my specialty.
But the guy doesn’t even seem to look at us. He just goes to the back of the minivan, opens it up, pulls out a very old pair of tennis shoes, walks to the edge of the bridge, stares into the water for a moment, and tosses the shoes into the river.
Only then does he look up at us, standing maybe ten feet away from him. “I moved to Nashville 20 years ago,” he says. “Every year I come back here and toss last year’s shoes into the river, so that they can walk the country even though I can’t anymore.”
Then he gets back in the minivan and drives away.