Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ox Cart Angel in Lake City, MN!

I had a wonderful time in Lake City, Minnesota on December 1st. Much thanks to the Lake City Friends of the Library and the Lake City Historical Society for hosting me.

The shindig was in Lake City’s City Hall – the old part was built in 1899. I gave my presentation in the ball room, which had beautiful woodwork and historical displays all around.

Here’s the “Mystery Woman” that’s part of my presentation (and also the photograph that led me on a genealogy search that sparked the idea of Ox Cart Angel.)

Check out the nice spread! Cookies, crackers, cheese, fruit, coffee, cider...perfect for the day!

Also thanks to the Mississippi Mercantile for their lovely display!

Here’s me signing (again) – that’s my dad standing in the background. My mom and one of my brothers was there, too, which was fun. It’s the first time they've seen me do my thing.

After the event, Don and Alice Schwartz had us over to their beautiful home for lunch. Don’s classical guitar playing added a nice touch to the day!

Another cool thing – both my brother and I saw a white squirrel scampering around the area. The last time we’d seen one was at our grandparents’ Walt and Laura Arnold, who used to live further down the Mississippi in Wabasha. Perhaps they were there with us, too, watching and enjoying the day.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red River Cart Wheels

In an earlier post, I talked about why the wheels of the Red River oxcarts were so squeaky.

In this post, I'd like to tell you a few more cool things about them. Here's a picture of the wheel of an actual Red River oxcart. This particular oxcart is only one of four known to still exist intact. It's located at the Kandiyohi History Center Museum in Willmar, MN.

Notice how it's all made of wood? (The chain you see is just to keep people from climbing on the thing.) I think the band that is holding that hub together may be metal, but originally, it would've been of animal hide. The hide would've been soaked in water, wrapped around the wood, and allowed to dry. When it dries, it shrinks and tightens up. The axle was often made of strong oak, while the rest of the cart was typically pine. However, any wood would do in a pinch.

Now here is what's really unique about the Red River cart's wheels:

See how the spokes and wheel form sort of a bowl shape? It allowed for better movement across the marshy land of the Red River Valley. Again, animal hide would've been used where the metal strip is now circling the wheel rim.

Another thing about this wheel shape is that when the cart and its driver came to a river they had to cross, the wheels could be taken off, wrapped in buffalo hide, and used to float the cart across the river. The two wheels would be placed beneath the cart in order to accomplish this.

I've seen a couple replicas of these Red River carts, and they often get the bowl shape of the wheel wrong. They usually just put on wheels that are almost flat up against the wagon, more like a regular cart.

If you're ever near Willmar, MN, I recommend heading into their museum to see one of the only authentic carts remaining up close and personal!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Swift County, MN Author Talk

Last Thursday I gave an author talk/presentation about the ox cart/Red River trails and Ox Cart Angel at the Swift County Historical Museum. I had a great time, and again, the audience was wonderful. They asked a lot of great questions, and had nice things to say afterward.

On the way up, I passed through Darwin, MN, which apparently is home to the world's largest ball of twine. I didn't stop to see it, but I could feel its twiney presence as I passed. Either that, or I was experiencing some sort of gastronomical distress...

I also stopped in Willmar on the way up and checked out the Kandiyohi County History Museum. I had a really nice surprise when I saw that they had one of only four original Red River Carts still known to exist! Talk about serendipity!

Then it was on to Benson, MN to the Swift County History Museum. I had some time to check out the place before I was due for the talk. What a great museum! They have a bit of everything.

Laura and Pam were the museum's curators, and they were incredibly helpful and nice. They did a lot of work promoting my appearance, for which I am incredibly grateful!

Thanks, Laura and Pam!

There was a nice turnout. I didn't take a picture of the audience, because I thought that would be a little awkward while giving my talk. But here's where they sat. And nearly all the seats were filled!

Now imagine people sitting in them.

It was a nice time.  Much thanks to the people of Benson and the surrounding towns!

The drive home that night was a bit scary, however. It stormed most of the way home. Heavy downpours and the lightening seemed like a strobelight on steroids. The occasional hydroplaning was not much fun, either. But I made it back safe and sound, and all was well.

East Grand Forks Author Talk (pt 2)

The day after my sojourn to Pembina, I drove down to East Grand Forks, Minnesota. They were in the process of celebrating the city's 125th anniversary, and I wish I could've been there for much of the celebrations, because it sounded like a fun time. My talk was at the East Grand Forks Campbell Library, which is a beautiful building. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures! The library used to be located in a different building, but the floods of not too long ago destroyed it. The folks of East Grand Forks came through, however, and donated enough money to build the present building.

Anyhow, the talk went well, and the audience asked a lot of good questions. They even bought some books! So much thanks to the folks of East Grand Forks, and to the librarians and people of the Historical Society there.

The next day I stayed in Crookston, MN. They were holding their annual Ox Cart Days festival the following week, which I couldn't make it to. However, the Polk County Historical Society and Museum bought a number of copies of Ox Cart Angel to sell in their store. If you're in the area they've got a lot of interesting things to look at.

I also took a couple pictures of the Red River Cart and Man statue in Crookston - boasted to be the largest Red River Cart in the world.

Don't knock over the water tower!

It was a wonderful trip!

Okay, now tilt your head to the right (I still can't figure out why I can't get pictures that were originally taken in a portrait format to rotate the correct way when I transport them to the blog.)

Notice the chest hair!

Pembina, ND (E. Grand Forks visit - pt 1)

I gave a presentation on Ox Cart Angel in East Grand Forks, MN on August 11th as part of their 125th anniversary. I went up a day early, however, so that I could drive an hour farther north to take a look at Pembina, North Dakota. Pembina is right in the upper northeast corner of ND - you could almost spit into Canada from there, and then turn around a bit and sneeze into Minnesota.

I've wanted to visit Pembina for a long time, because the earliest ancestors on my mother's maternal side - that we know about - lived there. Also, it's where Ox Cart Angel starts out. The main character's home is Pembina.

I finally made it! Note the Red River cart.

Pembina was once quite a bustling place - a transportation hub for the oxcart trails. My great-great-great-great grandfather - a French Canadian - and his wife - an Ojibwe woman - lived there back in the early 1800s.

Here's where the Red River and Pembina River merge:

My g-g-g-g-grandparents surely saw this same view, although without the bridge in the background. And different trees.

They also probably lived near this spot:

Although now, this is what is there:

I'm thinking the g-g-g-g-grandparents didn't have the jungle gym.

I stopped at the Pembina State Museum, which is a nice place. They have a replica of a Red River cart there:

I went up in the tower, where there's a viewing platform.

The hard part was rapelling back down.

Here's the best view from the tower:


Anyway, it was very cool to see the place. It felt like a connection to my past; like the past had come up to meet me. I left as the sun started to set - the motel there was booked for the night, so I stayed in Drayton, which is a bit south of Pembina. The next day I headed down to East Grand Forks for my presentation at their library. It went well, and the people hosting the event were incredibly nice. I'll talk a little more about that at another time.

Dorset Festival of Authors & Artists

I'm a little behind with my posting!

While Zachary went camping with Grandpa Fred and Grandma Mary, Melissa and Paige accompanied me to Dorset, MN for their annual Festival of Authors and Artists on June 23rd. Dorset is a small town, and pretty much closes down in the winter. They call themselves the Restaurant Capital of the World, due to their high restaurant to person ratio, and maybe that's true, but I think they're being a bit tongue-in-cheek. It's a town with a sense of humor; they elect their mayor by having anyone who wants to enter a drawing - you don't even have to be a resident - and then they draw the name, and voila! New mayor for the year!

The book signing I attended was at Sister Wolf Books, a cute bookstore with a nice selection.

Imagine this actually upright - so that the coffee doesn't spill out and scald me in the picture below.

Here I am talking to a customer.

I didn't sell a whole lot, but the owners of Sister Wolf Books were very nice, and so were the customers. One of the customers even grabbed some cookies for me. Thanks!

After the signing, Paige, Melissa and I explored the town and had dinner. That night we stayed at the Heartland Trail Bed & Breakfast. A fun place, and I highly recommend staying there! The B&B is in what used to be a school building, and each room is now assigned a grade level. We stayed in Grade 2. The owners were great - they also rent out bikes for the Heartland Bike Trail that runs through their backyard. The breakfast they served was delicious!

On the way home, we had to stop at nearby Nevis to take a picture of the World's Largest Tiger Muskie.

Paige & I about to get slapped by the giant tail.

Anyway, it was a fun time!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Author Talk - Swift County Historical Society

I'm giving a talk/reading at the Swift County Historical Society on August 23rd at 7:00pm about Ox Cart Angel. It's located in Benson, Minnesota, so if you're in the area, come on by!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Author Talk - East Grand Forks, MN

I'll be speaking at the Campbell Public Library in East Grand Forks, MN, Saturday, Aug. 11th at 2pm following their ice cream social, as part of the city's 125th anniversary celebration. I'll be talking about 'Ox Cart Angel', genealogy, the ox cart trails, and a mysterious photograph. 

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dorset Festival of Authors and Artists

I will be signing books at Dorset, Minnesota's Festival of Authors and Artists from 4 to 6 pm at Sister Wolf Books. It should be fun! Dorset is a small town just east of Park Rapids. Dorset also calls itself the Restaurant Capital of the World, since - well, I'm not sure why, but I will find out when I get there! I'll post here afterwards with pictures.

Ox Cart Angel in the Rochester Post-Bulletin

There was a nice write-up of Ox Cart Angel and me in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, my hometown paper. Nice to see!

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Ox Cart Angel Gets Nice Write-up in Savage Pacer

Ox Cart Angel received a nice little write-up in our local paper, the Savage Pacer. Always nice to get some local press!

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Monday, May 21, 2012

New Page - Map of the Ox Cart Trail

I'd like to point out the new tab - Map of the Ox Cart Trail. It shows the three main trails, but there were many variations of these. Claire, her father, and Bone Bag used the West Plains Trail for the most part. Go on over and take a peek!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

22nd Annual Midwest Book Awards

Ox Cart Angel won a Midwest Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of 2011 at the 22nd Annual Midwest Book Awards, held in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was exciting to be part of the process and nice to be in such good company.

I attended the award ceremony with my wife, Melissa, and my parents Scott and Colleen Arnold. It started with a reception complete with hors d'oevres and a display of all the finalists.

When it comes to free food, the writing community gets serious!

Just a small part of the display of books.

After the recepton, it was time for the award ceremony. We filed into the auditorium.

Karen Walhof, the Midwest Book Awards Chair, did the presenting:

When a category was announced, they'd show the finalists up on the screen:

Then they would announce the winner. Dorothy Mostad,the president of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association, handed out the certificates and medals. Here I am receiving the award:

Wait - do I look over this way? Or that way?

Mary Ann Grossman, longtime book reviewer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press (she started her career there in 1961!) received the Bell Award, which "honors a person in the publishing community who epitomizes the core values of professional collegiality and generosity with support, knowledge, and wisdom."

It was a wonderful event, and I'm glad I could share it with Melissa, my folks, and you, my readers!

Ox Cart Angel wins Midwest Book Award!

I'm pleased to announce that Ox Cart Angel has won the Midwest Book Award for best YA novel in 2011!

I'll write an entry about the event that took place last night, May 9th, and include more pictures. It was so nice to be included among so many fine writers, publishers and illustrators!

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Midwest Book Awards finalist!

Found out this week that Ox Cart Angel is a finalist in two categories (Young Adult fiction and Historical fiction) for the Midwest Book Awards. They're having the awards ceremony on May 9th in Bloomington, MN. I'll let you know what happens!

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