CAMDEN — Two miles north of the Village of Camden lived a young boy with a spectacular imagination. He lived with his family along U.S. 127, and was born in Hamilton on Aug. 5, 1960. He attended the Preble Shawnee School District, and spent his free time exploring the wooded underbrush along Paint Creek in an area known locally as “Devil’s Backbone.”
George Caudill was known by friends and family to have a vivid imagination, an imagination he exercised with fictional stories about the woods and limestone walls which engulfed old Ohio 725, which due to its unique shape, earned it the notorious name, Devil’s Backbone.
Though blessed with a creative mind, Caudill suffered from severe dyslexia, a condition which inhibits the ability to read, write, and in severe causes, can even interfere with numerical interpretation. Dyslexia was a condition not well known in the 70s, having been called, “word-blindness” since 1870. Unfortunately, Caudill’s teachers simply deemed him a “slow learner.”
Caudill was assigned to special education classes and given extra reading assignments in the hopes it would strengthen his weakness. There was little to no improvement. However, Caudill was obsessed with the stories he created, which would one day give him the inspiration he needed to excel.
Through middle school Caudill fell in love with music, and under the guidance and friendship of the school custodian, Bobby Worley, began to gain some confidence in himself. He began playing the drums and writing his own music.
In high school not much changed for Caudill, still taking special education classes, and still being considered a less than capable student. “I always felt inadequate and ashamed of my performance; mostly receiving Ds on my grade card,” Caudill said, adding that one teacher even suggested to his parents that he was “mentally challenged.”
Before Caudill’s senior year was finished, two teachers in particular came to his rescue. Susan Little and Beverly Garrett saw the creative spark in Caudill and suggested he play the part of Charlie Davenport in the school play “Annie Get Your Gun,” which Caudill adored. He found that he was able to express his abilities through creation, be it acting, drama, music, and later, writing.
After graduating from Preble Shawnee High School in 1978, Caudill started his own business and bought his first home at 19 years of age. However, after taking significant losses in the 1981 recession, Caudill lost everything he had worked for. But from that ruin, he decided to dive head first into what had brought him joy throughout his childhood — creativity.
Caudill made his way into promoting music, arranging bands and performers at a number of different venues around Ohio, including the band he used to play for — and his friend Bobby Worley.
Caudill found success in business, opening several restaurants and a series of copy stores, which he later sold for profit. He even helped build a couple of bands. But he still was not satisfied. Caudill later met Lisa, who became his wife and the mother of his son, Bryan. It was with Lisa that Caudill moved to Las Vegas, and found the courage to pursue the one goal that had intimidated him. Writing.
Caudill finally wrote the story he had been dreaming of since his youth, “Devil’s Backbone: The Invisible Walls of Seven Mile,” an audiobook series inspired by the area of the same name, which so many Camden residents hold close to their heart.
Caudill took inspiration from the late Robin Williams and did his best to assemble a cast of individuals who found themselves in financially desperate situations, giving them a chance to voice-act for his story and earn some money.
Caudill credits his wife, Lisa, and business partners for the realization of his authoring career, which has only just begun. Despite the challenges provided by dyslexia and a difficult educational experience, Caudill overcame the literary hurdles to tell the story inspired by his hometown.
“Being raised in Preble County makes me proud. My roots are constantly tugging at me. Once a 16-year-old busboy at The Antiquity House Inn on Barron Street in Eaton, and then at 17 a gas station attendant at O’dells Sohio gas station in Camden. It was the most humbling memories of my fetching ups in the fabulous area called Preble County,” Caudill said.
“Preble County, as I remember it and how I tell the story to this day, is this entire area in the most wholesome type of living anyone can imagine. I remember the fresh air, mushroom hunting, horseback riding, the privilege of playing little league baseball. The friendly neighbors that were always willing to lend a hand at the drop of a hat.
“The fair and the festivals, and oh how I couldn’t wait for the Camden carnival as a kid, still warms my heart — as I can still smell the aroma of each of these events that is embedded in my heart.”
Caudill concluded by saying, “To this day it is nothing for me to pick up the phone for a friendly reminiscing conversation with people such as Debbie Brandenburg who cares deeply about her roots in Preble County.”
Caudill plans to make a special trip to revisit Devil’s Backbone, now that it has officially been opened as The Herbert and Patricia Wagers Memorial Park.
Reach Nathan Hoskins at 937-683-4057 and follow on Twitter @NathanHoskins13.