A few weeks ago, I ventured out of my North Dakota metropolis to the tiny town of Spiritwood, North Dakota. I’d been invited to be part of a “Discover North Dakota Day,” and as the author of a children’s book about North Dakota, was asked to be part of the festivities.
|All of the day’s events took place in this old school house|
The very last page of my book, P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet, says, “Z is for Zap, tiny city, you can zip there from Hazen in minutes. And just like the rest of our towns, it’s got friendliness flowing within it.” Such was the case of my time in Spiritwood, a tiny place that the visit coordinator warned I might miss if I blinked.
|I loved the shiny hardwood floors of this old school!|
But I didn’t miss it, and in fact, count the day among my most successful of my author visits since my book was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2005. The staff was generous, the kids adorable and welcoming. They’d been arranged in groups of K-5, and though I wasn’t sure how that would work with mixed ages, the older kids seemed to keep the younger ones in line (or the other way around, perhaps), and all were very attentive and gracious.
|Remember the old chalk boards??? (My sis and I as prairie girls on poster)|
At an introductory event in the gym, a woman named Connie Gullickson who had gone to the old school where the event took place from 1946-1954 talked about riding to school either by horse (bareback) or in the scoop bucket of her father’s tractor.
She also mentioned things like how there was no flushing system in the bathrooms, so the kids had to take turns swirling around the waste in the toilet bowl. (One boy said, “I’d like that job. That would be fun!”) And some days, she really did walk to school, ten miles each way! (No lying.) She still remembers the quiet interior, the “tick-tock” of the clock on the wall, and how the students carried their cold lunches to school in lunch buckets. “The girls always wore dresses, so when we had to wear snowsuits over them, they got awfully wrinkled,” she recounted.
I loved hearing her talk of the “olden days” and the kids seemed mesmerized. They also gathered for a couple of songs about North Dakota, including a hymn written by James W. Foley and composed by Dr. C.S. Putnam, and a newer song that I’d never heard before but seemed to be a perfect match for my book. It’s called “Rockin’ Dakota” by Kittyko, and goes through all the state treasures. One verse goes like this:
It definitely was a day to treasure, and I can’t help but feel grateful for all of the adventures I’ve experienced in my life as a writer, including those in tiny towns like Spiritwood. I appreciate them all, big and small!
|A coat room identical to one I remember from sixth grade|
Q4U: Where has your life as a writer taken you lately, either in person or in your imagination?