Category: Nebraska

COUNTDOWN: One Day to Remember How It Rained

ast The flood at Naponee, where my mother was born four years later

ONE Family Story Woven In

Darkwater Creek, Nebraska is the setting for my novels, a fictional town along the Republican River in Nebraska, in Franklin County, my parents’ home.

The house on my grandparents’ farm was first located on the Republican River bottom, and it flooded in 1935. The man who owned the house then crawled into the attic to escape the floodwaters. He scrawled his will on the attic rafters, then hacked an escape through either a roof or an attic window, we’re not sure which. A man passing in a rowboat rescued him.

After the flood, the house was moved up to its current higher and drier location, and my grandparents bought the farm in the 1950s. When my grandparents remodeled the house, they found that homeowner’s writing, his last will and testament on the attic rafter. It was one of those stories about the house our family would talk about.

When I found that same story recounted in a published flood narrative during my research, and I was able to match up the name from the story with the former owner of our family home, history came alive for me. Family history lives if we breathe into it our interest and our intention. Remember with me in my novels, and revisit your own history when you can. In remembering you’ll find your place in a story, one worth sharing with the next generation.

BTW, If you haven’t already, you might begin with Seven Kinds of Rain: River Saga Book One. Then you’ll be ready for Remember How It Rained: River Saga Book Two.

 

*photo by Webber from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

COUNTDOWN: Three Days to Remember How It Rained

Floodwaters in Alma, Nebraska

THREE separate references to earlier (pre-1935) Republican River floods . . .

 

. . . from Native lore and local retelling, as recorded by Follansbee and Spiegel in 1937:

“For the Republican River, as for many other western streams, there is the usual Indian tradition of a higher flood before the days of the white man. Engineers, in the course of their investigations of the flood of May and June of 1935, found three separate references to such flood. An old Indian in the vicinity of Benkelman made the statement that 40 years before he was born there was a great flood 2 feet higher than that of 1935. As he was about 70 years old, this would date the legendary flood as approximately 1826. A resident near Cambridge stated that when his father settled the Republican River bottoms would be flooded out, as he had seen, while a boy, the waters ‘extending from bluff to bluff.’ At Red Cloud several residents stated that one of Chief Red Cloud’s relatives who lived nearby was authority for the statement that more than 100 years ago a flood covering the bottoms “from bluff to bluff” had occurred. These statements are consistent and apparently had partial historic confirmation. At the time of this earlier flood there were no white settlers in the Republican River Basin, and the only white travelers were fur traders on the way from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains and points beyond. Search through the available writings of these travelers fails to reveal any reference to such a flood. It is therefore necessary to rely on inferential evidence from localities where whites had settled.”

(Follansbee and Spiegel, 1937, pg 50.)

*photo by Webber from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

COUNTDOWN: Four Days to Remember How It Rained

Flood-twisted railroad tracks

FOUR 1935 Republican River Valley Flood statistics1

  1. 110 people died in the flood, some whose bodies were never recovered.
  2. 20,593 head of livestock were lost.
  3. The force of the water destroyed nearly 275,000 of farmland acres and washed out 171 miles of railroad track.
  4. Eight fatalities resulted from four distinct tornado paths on May 31, in the McCook region of Republican River Valley, as the flood’s storm system moved eastward. The tornadoes rated from F2 to F4 on the Fujita scale.2

*photo by Webber, from noaa.gov, courtesy Joe Torrey

I’d Rather Forget the Whole Thing

It’s Easier That Way, Right?

We’ve all said it. I’d rather forget the whole thing. And it’s true. Given the choice, we’d rather leave behind the unfortunate twists, the impulsive decisions, and the sad endings. We’d toss the old newspapers, Photoshop the mugshots, and rip those ambiguous, embarrassing relatives from the family album.

We tell ourselves, let it go. Nobody wants to see that side of who we are. That might be Too Much Information. Worse, people will gossip, laugh or judge. It’s tempting to retouch or select our pictures, maybe even our entire history, to show only our best, public selves. All ballet and balance, no banana-peel slips or pratfalls. No driving off the bridge. But nobody can hold that pose or balance for long.

The truth is, everybody falls.

Individuals. Families. Cultures. Nations. Although painful, a fall can be more telling, more significant in forming character, than the bounce that preceded it. As individuals, as neighbors, as citizens and as cultures, we have fallen and will continue to fall. Sometimes we lie to cover what we’ve done, to avoid consequences, or to look better than we are. Sometimes we twist things around, bragging about our shameful actions. We record them and put them on Facebook or Twitter (those places where nothing is forgotten). We lose our capacity to see ourselves honestly, in our broken, hilarious, fragile, destructive humanity.

At our worst, we’ve also lied, blotted records, torn out pages, violated others and cultivated ongoing disasters that might yet be averted. A false self-esteem that insists it’s never fallen, has never done wrong, and then blames the victim is the core of narcissism.

How to Be a Real Hero (not that guy)

When seen through a lens of humility, the history of our falls becomes the essence of our heroic journeys. We fall, but we can get up conscientiously. We can ask what happened. We can show remorse, learn from errors, listen to others, acknowledge harm, resolve to do better, and ultimately, initiate durable reconciliation. Maybe even build a better world.

But It’s So . . . Embarrassing.

Falls and failures are by nature unpleasant things we’d rather forget. We are (knowingly or unknowingly) guilty of ongoing indifference, racism, unjustified violence, even acts of terrorism and racial extermination. These are not mere incidents, but ingrained habits. We’d rather omit the ugliness, but if we find and acknowledge our place in our (his)tory, we claim the power to write a new chapter and a better ending. We earn a shot at being truly great.

Let’s remember together, doing the research to fill in the blanks. Let’s read and write stories that bring overshadowed facts into the light. There are funny parts we can remember, too, and golden, everyday moments we should cherish.

Durable, Everyday Things

Remember our ancestors and how they lived. Let their voices and ongoing presence inspire us. Admire the toughness and sacrifices of those who came before. Celebrate the myths, question their origins and open up history to diverse narratives and voices. Let’s examine our stories with humility and courage, and then resolve to make amends. Let’s earn a truly heroic tale to tell our children.

Sometimes You Need to Go Home Again

Find your place in a story. It’s my mantra, my trademark, my storytelling obsession, to lead readers into history to find something new, something worth keeping, and better yet, something worth changing. Remember How It Rained, River Saga Book Two will take my readers back to the American Great Plains in a time of economic depression and drought, the 1930s. It was a desperate, dirty, thirsty, hungry time that shaped our families and our nation. Bootleggers, sharecroppers, gangsters, wayward women, abandoned children, stingy relatives, child labor, bare-knuckle fights and time served . . . and that’s just my family. In ways your family may not even be ready to admit, the Great Depression probably shaped you, too.

In Remember How It Rained, Maggie, Jack and Kuruk are still reeling from what they suffered as children. They must decide to either keep running or dare to return and remember. Facing the truth of the past and taking action can be terrifying, but remembering is where justice begins.

So, dear readers, Remember How it Rained is coming January 27, 2017. If you’d be so kind as to share this post, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I’ll be celebrating the novel’s release with a book club that’s grown near and dear to my heart, The Book Babes of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. People talking about books . . . what a great way to remember who we are.

What better way to find your place in a story™?

 

(Thanks to http://publicdomainarchive.com/public-domain-images-1920′s-vintage-mugshots-nswpd-special-photographs/ for images in this post.)

 

 

Get Ready to Remember How It Rained

It’s Almost Time to Remember How It Rained

January is coming and it’s almost time to . . . Remember How It Rained.

I’ve been hard at work to bring back Margaret Rose, Jack Hollingwood and Kuruk Sky Seeing to my readers, who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about Seven Kinds of Rain.

As a result, Seven Kinds of Rain‘s sequel is coming down the tracks, to be available for purchase January 27, 2017. Mark your calendar, please, for

Remember How It Rained, River Saga Book Two.

rhr-72dpi-front-cover-website

Remembering, where justice begins

Divided in childhood but children no more, Margaret Rose, Jack and Kuruk answer the echoes of childhood loves, memories and voices. Power is shifting in Darkwater Creek, old crimes cry out for justice and Nebraska’s deadliest floodwaters gather in the west.

Book Two of the River Saga, Remember How It Rained continues Seven Kinds of Rain’s voices of innocence, corruption, courage and justice on the Great Plains.

It sings of running away and coming home to find love, truth and justice in the places and people who won’t let you go.

If you haven’t yet read Seven Kinds of Rain, look for it here. At the time of this writing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are offering crazy-good prices to set you up for the next book, if you or a friend aren’t ready. At these prices, Seven Kinds of Rain is a great Christmas gift, and with the sequel coming on so fast, the timing is right!

 

A New Kind of Rain

A Change in the Weather

You could say it’s a new kind of rain. Or seven kinds, to be clear.

Imagining, researching, crafting and editing. Three years of cultivating Seven Kinds of Rain are about to bear fruit. That’s a long time to wait for a crop, but so it goes with writing novels. Seven Kinds of Rain, River Saga Book One is available for purchase this Friday, July 1.

I’ve read about and walked through the environment and history of my beloved Nebraska and Kansas Republican River Valley. I’ve developed, challenged, and deepened my characters. The result? Seven Kinds of Rain is a story about the early 20th-Century Great Plains, about marginalized people who struggle to survive. It’s also about how, by reconsidering history, we can make the world a better place today.

http://klynwurth.net/book/seven-kinds-of-rain-river-saga-book-one/

What About that Bird? And Is That a Tornado?

Now, a little background for the cover design. The magpie represents not only actual birds who appear in the story, but also Magpie, a significant and powerful figure in Pawnee culture and legends. Magpie also becomes the nickname for a character, Margaret Rose. The window and wall where Magpie perches represent an inside view of the riverside treehouse where the three children gather. The storm clouds in the distance and the descending tornado signify the importance of rain and weather disasters in the characters’ interests, in the plot and in Great Plains history. As for the title, I’ll leave you to read the book to find out what that means. I can’t tell you everything!

Writing Brings Change

Since my first novel’s publication in 2013, I’ve become more deeply committed to this writing life. I’ve met people who’ve read The Darkwater Liar’s Account, and they’ve overwhelmed me with their love and support. I’ve made countless friends through Women Writing the West, strong writers who’ve improved my writing and galvanized my commitment to telling stories of the Great Plains and the American West. You can learn more about that here.

Available Now, for Your Imagination

Book marketing is harder than writing, and much less fun. The shameless self-promotion involved is embarrassing at times, and I’m no social media whiz. Yet, I’d like to invite you, gentle reader, to take a chance on my novel, Seven Kinds of Rain, River Saga Book One. And then, if you like it, recommend it to a friend or leave a brief review online (amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or Goodreads.). The number of words doesn’t matter…as in so many things, it’s just showing up that counts.

You can preorder Seven Kinds of Rain now online (CreateSpace, Amazon or Barnes and Noble), if you like to shop that way. It’s also available through Ingram’s bookstore distribution service, if you prefer to shop at your local bookstore on or after July 1, which I strongly encourage you to do. I love bookstores. I need bookstores, and so do you. So please spend money there whenever you can.

But Wait…There’s More Coming!

I hope you’ll read and enjoy Margaret Rose, Jack and Kuruk. They’ve become some of my favorite people, so much so that I had to give them another book to live in, along with more changes in the weather. You’ll read more about them in Seven Kinds of Rain‘s sequel, for now mysteriously subtitled Book Two of the River Saga. I’ll announce that novel’s full title later. I’m hard at work on the sequel’s rewrite (meaning the full story’s on paper, undergoing quality reconstruction.) I intend to publish River Saga Book Two in January of 2017, so you won’t have long to wait for more of the same characters you’ll come to know in Seven Kinds of Rain.

For those of you who are already ordering, reading and reviewing Seven Kinds of Rain, thank you for your interest and kind comments. I treasure you, my readers. I hope my writing will be some of your best summer reading.

With words of gratitude and love,

Kelly

Nebraska, 1900: Where Are the Pawnee?

Sculpture near Naponee Nebraska

Driven From Home

In my upcoming novel, Seven Kinds of Rain, one of my main characters is Kuruk, a Kitkehahki Pawnee character born in Oklahoma around 1904. As a child, he runs away from different Indian schools to finally establish a tenuous existence in the heart of his ancestral homeland. Yet, in the early 1900s there were few, if any, Pawnee tribal members living in that part of Nebraska. For my writing, I set out, into libraries and on a trip through the Republican River Valley of Kansas and Nebraska to more deeply understand this change.

Looking back to Nebraska in 1900, where are the Pawnee?

For the following information, I draw heavily and cite page numbers from David Wishart’s powerful book, An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. I encourage you to consult it for more information on the course of Indian tribal histories in Nebraska. It was one of my most useful resources for understanding the devastations of regional history, and gave me insight to the injustices visited on Plains Indian tribes in the 1800s and 1900s.

The Pawnee’s Chaui, Skiri and Kitkehahki bands traditionally inhabited much of the region the U.S. divided into Nebraska and Kansas.

Pawnee territory map

They made their homes, circular, domed riverbank earth lodges, and raised some crops, living off native plants and hunting native animals.

model of Pawnee earth lodge

model of Pawnee earth lodge at Pawnee Historical Museum

They seasonally migrated west for buffalo hunts, utilizing portable hide-covered dwellings.

Pawnee Family Summer Home

I learned about Kitkehahki Pawnee band plains life, as it flourished in the 1700s and early 1800s, at the Pawnee Indian Museum near Republic, Kansas, where I saw this and other Pawnee portraits by George Catlin.

George Catlin painting of Man Chief, a Kitkehahki (Republican) Pawnee

George Catlin painting of Man Chief, a Kitkehahki (Republican) Pawnee

A series of government-engineered cessions of Pawnee lands during the 1800s (most of which occurred against a backdrop of tribal starvation and decimation by disease) drove the Pawnee into smaller and smaller spaces. By 1844, the meager Pawnee annuities expired, and in 1848, they lost rights to all lands south of the Platte River. (Wishart, 66) By 1858, all four Nebraska Indian societies had sold the last of their tribal lands, apart from small reservations. (69) Neglect by reservation agencies, conflicts with White settlers, and repeated intertribal conflicts further weakened the Pawnee, making Nebraska reservation life near the Loup River at best unstable, and at worst, untenable. (132)

An 1857 treaty required all Pawnee children between the ages of seven and eighteen to attend school. (179) The continuity of Pawnee culture was even more completely disrupted, as was that off all Indian tribes, by the American government’s Indian School policies of the 19th and 20th Centuries. One such Indian Industrial School was located at Genoa, Nebraska, and while some Genoa and other Indian school students reported being pleased with their American education and acculturation, for many others, their separation from family and the attempts at assimilation they suffered were devastating, sending trauma down through generations of Native families.

Genoa Indian Industrial School

Genoa Indian Industrial School photo from usgennet.org

After the Kansas-Nebraska act, and by the 1870s, the Pawnee in Nebraska suffered from White settlement and theft of Pawnee land and resources, including timber, along the Loup and Platte rivers. By 1873-1875, the Pawnee were squeezed out and relocated to Oklahoma Indian Territory. (188)

Nebraska, 1900: Where are the Pawnee?

On their allotted reservation lands in Oklahoma, the Pawnee and other Plains Indian tribes came together to embrace change, wrestling with the government for decades and adapting to survive legislated deprivations and broken promises. Some of the young people became outwardly modern, educated in White ways, even as their elders preserved traditions, as in this photo.

Pawnee father and son, 1912

Pawnee father and son, 1912

Long removed from their ancestral lands, the Pawnee have re-established a presence on their sacred land near the Loup River, an interesting development I’ll address in a later post. Both on and off the reservation, the Pawnee flourish and their population is on the rise. But in the early 1900s, a Pawnee character in Nebraska would seem to have been unlikely. Yet, from my authorial standpoint, one seemed necessary, to expose and explore the injustices of history.

So Kuruk Sky Seeing came to be. I hope I have done him some justice, by showing his dispossession, his fragility, and his tenacity in the place he insisted on calling home, against a world that insists he doesn’t belong off the reservation.

 

*All page numbers (in parentheses) refer to: Wishart, David J. An Unspeakable Sadness: the Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. Lincoln, Neb.: U of Nebraska, 1994.