Posts Tagged With: storytelling

Plain Old Summer

Last year, with our book fresh off the press, Hilda and I enjoyed our own Plank Road Summer. We traveled about from one book event to another, eager to share our story with others.  We felt like real authors, which seems a bit more glamorous than our everyday lives.

This summer, for me, has been exceptionally less glamorous. I had very good intentions, when the school year ended, about getting back to writing (We’re working on the sequel!). But on June 23rd, when I was home alone–no husband, no children–it started to rain.  And hail. And pour. Yard flooded.  Basement leaked.  Tornado sirens wailed.  Power failed.  Sump pump quit.  Basement flooded.  

Went outside to get a neighbor to help start the generator.  Fell and broke my right (writing) arm!  Neighbor arrived. Got generator going.

BUT couldn’t get to hospital because the streets were flooded.  My house was an island with water lapping against it on all sides. Called 911. A firefighter came to my rescue.  Waded a long block through knee deep water to the ambulance.  When I sat down on the gurney and lifted up my feet, my wellies flooded the inside of the ambulance….

Some of you can imagine the rest of my summer–a hot, itchy cast well past my elbow, sorting through sodden masses of possessions, drying out and reconstructing.  And family visiting from Japan and Baltimore in the midst of it. A month later came a second flood, and another family member took an ambulance ride through the flooded streets.

Life is what happens when you’re not writing. It’s the challenges, heartaches, celebrations that form who we are and make up our own story. It’s Plain Old Summer, which isn’t really plain at all.  It’s memories, adventures, emotions, family, neighbors.  It’s the kind of thing you could write a book about. Maybe I will.

Categories: On Writing, Plank Road Summer book | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“They wrestled for it”

“I think they wrestled for it.”  This was one Wisconsin student’s answer when we asked who had the right-of-way to the planks if two wagons were traveling toward one another on a one-lane plank road.

Since the book launch in May, Hilda and I  have spoken to various groups at schools and museums and bookstores.  Last week we were guest speakers at the Graham Public Library in Union Grove, Wisconsin, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of our hometown library.  In  our historical presentation, we spoke about how the stories we’d heard as children had influenced our writing.  Several members of the audience also had stories to share that evening.

The biggest news is that we think we have found the old McEachron tollhouse.  A former neighbor from a mile or so east on the plank road (just past the Rise) said that she had been told that her house was once a tollhouse.  As Hilda and I drove by the the house in question, beyond the tree branches and building additions we saw the unmistakable lines of a tollhouse like the one on the cover of Plank Road Summer.  We suspect that this is indeed “our” tollhouse, moved to that location after the Plank Road era.

One woman recalled that when she taught at Waites Corners School, Edith McEachron would visit and tell stories of the early days in Yorkville.  Potawatomi Indians were present at the birth of one McEachron baby.  When the child was born, the Indians took the baby outside and tossed it to one another, leaving the McEachrons to wonder whether they would get their child back safely.  They did.

One man mentioned that his family home in New York State was on the national registry of Underground Railroad stations.  Every plank road, every community and crossroads, has stories to share–and some are better than fiction.

As to the question of the right-of-way, the more heavily laden wagon stayed on the planks, while the lighter wagon would pull onto the dirt lane.  But I bet that somewhere along those many miles of plank roads, there’s a story of how two men wrestled for the right-of-way.  Let us know, please, if you uncover such a tale.

Categories: History of Plank Roads, Underground Railroad, Yorkville, Wisconsin | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Gift of Story

In a few weeks the entire Demuth family–six siblings and their spouses and eighteen children–will gather in Wisconsin with Mom in the farmhouse on the plank road.  Better than packages, holiday goodies, or Christmas music will be our time together and the stories we tell.

Often we share memories–remember when Cousin Tommy was stationed in Panama and surprised us by calling on Christmas Day? Remember the blizzard when Dad drove the snowmobile to Grandma Elsie’s to keep her furnace running?  Remember when Mom and Dad were away and and we kids–well, Mom doesn’t like to leave the room in case somebody tells a story she hasn’t heard before.

But Mom herself is always good for a story.  We all enjoy a retelling of a Sunday afternoon in the 1960s when Mom went to visit the neighbors.  With Dad in charge, our four-year old brother left the house and rode his tricycle down the highway in search of Mom.  Fortunately, the Packers were playing, so the highway was completely deserted.  God and Vince Lombardi looked after our brother that day.

Family stories explain who we are and help us remember where we have been.   Communities have stories as well. In Plank Road Summer, Mr. Mather tells of a guest putting nails in a feed trough at the Mather Inn.  That bit of local lore is true, according to a letter that Edith McEachron wrote to her nieces and nephews.  Aunt Edith shared that story of the plank road days to help her family remember their heritage and appreciate their community.

As you gather with your family and your community during the coming weeks, may you appreciate the gift of story.    Hilda and I  look forward to sharing with you the families and the community in Plank Road Summer.

Categories: Childhood Memories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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