The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

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Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Larry Meiller talks with Wisconsin author and storyteller Jerry Apps about his latest novel, “The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County.”

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  • Wisconsin Writer Says His Books Owe A Lot To Historical Societies

    It might seem like a talented writer can capture the feel of a place with ease, but in reality, skillful fiction often involves a lot of painstaking research. And for one Wisconsin author whose work often depicts rural and small-town life, there’s a resource that has time and time again provided him with a goldmine of material: local historical societies.

    Jerry Apps is a Wisconsin storyteller and the author of more than 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction. His most recent novel, “The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County,” is the latest in a series that takes place in the fictional Wisconsin town of Link Lake.

    While the communities and characters that Apps creates largely come from his imagination, they’re also grounded in local history, something that Apps says he often learns about through historical societies.

    “They are a real treasure indeed,” he said. “In the last 25 years I have visited many, many of them.”

    The societies, and the people who work and volunteer there, have not only been a resource for Apps’ research: They’ve also become part of his stories. In his latest book, the Link Lake Historical Society takes the lead in saving a historic tree that could be destroyed due to frac sand mine development.

    Apps had never featured a historical society or its members in a book before, but in “The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County,” he wanted to give them recognition for the work that they do. He said that he wanted the readers to see that “indeed, local historical societies, although sometimes dismissed as a bunch of old people sitting around reminiscing about a day that will never be like that again, (have) more to contribute than that — much more.”

    In the book, Emily Higgins is the 80-something-year-old head of the historical society, and represents a very special kind of small-town resident.

    “She is so typical of a volunteer who is absolutely passionate about the importance of history,” said Apps.

    Apps said that in the book, the character has many lines that are indicative of how she feels about the importance of local history, such as: “When we forget our histories, we forget who we are,” and, “When a community, no matter what its size, forgets its history, it forgets what it is.”

    Wisconsin, for its part, has one of the most respected and comprehensive collections of North American history. Besides the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, there are also nearly 400 local affiliates of the state institution, including museums, archives, and historic preservation organizations. There’s at least one affiliate listing for each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

    The Society maintains a directory of those groups, which can be searched online and is also available as a download.There is also a Web page devoted to Wisconsin county and local history on the society’s website.

    Editor’s Note: For those involved in local history endeavors, the 2014 Local History and Historic Preservation Conference will be held Oct. 24 to Oct. 25 in Elkhart Lake. More information is available here.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Jerry Apps Guest

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