On Monday, Merical stood in front of a group of Milam Elementary students with the final product of his labor, his book “The Journey of Fallen Rock.”
“It started on a family trip to visit our grandmother in West Virginia,” Merical said. “I was 18 and my brother was 4, and he was crying so my dad said, ‘Bill, tell your little brother a story so he’ll be quiet.’ Right then we turned a corner and saw a sign that said ‘Watch for Fallen Rock,’ and I asked my brother if he’d heard of Fallen Rock. He said ‘No,’ and I told him Fallen Rock was an Indian who traveled around and took care of animals.”
The story was born right then and there. It tells the tale of two Native American princes – one named Fallen Rock – whose father, an aging chief, bids them to complete six tasks to determine which son would take his place.
For decades, the story remained unwritten. Merical said every time he saw a road sign, he would think of Fallen Rock, fleshing out the story’s details a little more each time.
“When I became a grandfather, I wanted to write it down so my daughters could read it to their kids,” he said. “I sat down for two hours one Saturday, and it grew from there.”
Merical soon became obsessed and quit his job to promote the book. Now he travels everywhere from Montana to New York, but mostly enjoys his home. With the help of local businesses, more than 1,400 copies of “The Journey of Fallen Rock” have been provided to Tupelo and Lee County sixth-graders in the past two years.
Barbara Rhodes, librarian at Milam, said the book integrated seamlessly into the students’ lessons.
“It’s great to see kids turning pages, but it’s also a great geography lesson since the book talks about each state. November is Native American Heritage Month, so ‘The Journey of Fallen Rock’ leads them to other books on Native Americans,” she said.
Though “The Journey of Fallen Rock” is very important to Merical, the story is not the most important part of the book.
“Being a good person is more important than they will ever realize, and I want the book to encourage them towards that,” he said.