Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero:
Tales from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors


Trust does not come easy to me, and I cannot hold hope in my hands. But I know that Spanish moss can blow into the sky and soar a bird in flight, or dive into the sea and surface a dolphin. Holding tight to nothing, I could become anything, could become everything, could even become nothing at all.

“Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero”

“It’s hell living in a tourist trap.”

So says Rita Epiphyte, a young woman born beneath Pedro’s sombrero at South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina. And Rita is not alone.

Tourist Attraction Trauma. It’s a little known affliction, but one the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors (NATAS) is striving to bring to the forefront of American consciousness. Unlike tourists on summer road trips laughing off and leaving behind sombrero towers, jackalopes, and wax statues of the biblical Job, tourist attraction survivors cannot simply walk away. Instead, they wander through the stories of Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero: Tales from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors

If ever there were an inspiration for stories set in tourist attractions ranging from South of the Border to the International UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, it would be a road trip across America, winding from one tourist trap to the next. So it was that, funded by a Faculty Development Grant from Albion College, Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero began.

Within this finished 13-story manuscript are tales both tragic and redeeming, compiled and edited by the fictitious National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors (NATAS) to encourage Tourist Attraction Trauma victims to seek hope and healing at the NATAS Research and Recovery Hospital in Florida, Ohio.

Sometimes help is resisted, as in the case of Ezekiel William White, who was rescued by NATAS from a life of squirrel taxidermy for the Living Bible Museum of Mansfield, Ohio. Other times, help is welcomed. This is true for Dawn Tempers, raised by the ghost of Belle Gunness at Indiana’s LaPorte County Historical Museum. Too often and for too many, like the tourist attraction fatality at Arizona’s “The Thing,” life ends before NATAS can help.

Among the tourist trap survivors NATAS has tried to help:

Arabella Cosa, “The Thing Is” (The Thing?, Dragoon, Arizona): “Once, just once, I would like to keep a friend for more than forty-five minutes. But I live at the home of ‘The THING?’ and people just keep moving on, moving through.”

Bud Blackenberry, “Under the Sign of Sleepytime” (Celestial Seasonings, Boulder Colorado): “I have always imagined that when my mother’s water broke, it was not some bland amniotic fluid that went spilling over her kitchen’s tiled floor, but peppermint tea. Gallons and gallons of steaming hot peppermint tea.”

Vallerie (last name unknown), “The Roswell Diaries” (International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell, New Mexico): “We’re moving. Again. Mom tells me, ‘It’s for the best,’ but that’s what she said when we ended up in Tacoma a year ago. This time Mom says she wants an alien baby and the only way to get one is if she moves us all to Roswell.”

Ezekiel William White, “Taxidermy Tabernacle” (Living Bible Museum, Mansfield, Ohio): “Taxidermy—squirrel resurrection as I like to call it—is my calling, my gift from God. When I was eight, I became the youngest licensed taxidermist in the state of Ohio, using my God-given gift to populate the greatest Bible stories ever with squirrels. I’ve also stuffed my share of ducks to the glory of God and for the good of the Living Bible Museum, but squirrels, squirrels are my true passion.”


“Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero” was the basis on which I was awarded a 2014 Individual Excellence Award in Fiction from the Ohio Arts Council.

“Raised in a Corn Palace” was awarded the 2009 Paul Somers Prize for Creative Prose form the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature and was subsequently published in MidAmerica.

I am actively seeking publication for Born Beneath Pedro’s Sombrero: Tales from the National Association of Tourist Attraction Survivors.