At the end of last week, I traveled to Iowa to talk about the book. I’m very grateful to my family for allowing me to abandon them for three days, and to my institution, Trinity Christian College, for funding the trip. Highlights in the form of a top ten list (not in any strict order):
10 – Book talk at Coralville Public Library, Thursday night, September 19. Unfortunately, a storm had gone through a half hour before I was scheduled to talk and taken out the power to the entire neighborhood. I did the talk under an emergency light and had a good time discussing the book with people afterwards. I also sold a few books. The signs advertising the talk had said “Enjoy a Pioneer Evening with John Fry.” All we needed were some kerosene lamps. Thanks to Laura Crossett of CPL for setting things up.
9 – Dinner with Karen Mason, Matt Schaeffer, and Laura Crossett before the CPL event. Karen is the curator of the Iowa Women’s Archives. Matt (her husband) is an archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa. Laura is Adult Services Coordinator at Coralville Public Library. We ate at a neat restaurant in Coralville called Vesta. I had the Iowa Elk stroganoff; I didn’t know they raised Elk in Iowa before this.
8 – Visiting with Jeff Cox and Jacki Rand, professors in the History Department at the University of Iowa. I graduated from the U of I with a Ph. D. in History in 2002. I hadn’t seen Jeff or Jacki for at least five years. It was nice to catch up on what they’ve been doing.
7 – “Life after Schaeffer Hall” sponsored by the Graduate History Society of the University of Iowa on September 20. This event brought me back to speak with current graduate students about what I had been doing for the last eleven years. Had an excellent talk with those who came. Thanks to Angela Keysor and Stephen Vlastos for providing this opportunity.
6 – Staying with Greg and Nancy Skubal at their farm near Ainsworth, Iowa. It was great to see their kids, catch up with them and with Rob and Dorcas Jarrard, and to just be in the country for a while. They also gave me a box full of tomatoes for my wife and I to turn into sauce.
5 – Stopping in Pella, Iowa, on my way to Des Moines on Saturday morning, September 21. I got to have coffee with two Trinity Christian College alumni, Collin Barnes and Stephen Henderson. They both teach at Pella Christian Middle School. Stephen now has his master’s degree in history and is teaching a course at Des Moines Area Community College. He and his wife have two kids and Collin’s wife is expecting their first in a couple months. It was great to see two Trinity history majors doing so well.
4 – Meeting Mary Vander Leest at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines on Saturday afternoon. Mary is the granddaughter of Luther and Ethel Caster, who were neighbors of the Smiths in Wyoming. Luther and Ethel had seven kids, so there are a lot of Caster relatives spread across the country. A number have contacted me to say that they’ve enjoyed the book and they’re spreading the word about it. Mary lives about an hour from Des Moines and she came down to hear me speak and have me sign some copies.
3 – Book Talk at Beaverdale Books. Got to see two friends from the church my family attended when I taught at Simpson College in central Iowa. It was a small group, but we had a good talk together. Beaverdale sold some books and I signed them. Thanks to Alice Meyer for allowing me to come.
2 – Iowa Public Radio interview on “Talk of Iowa” with Charity Nebbe, Thursday morning at 10:00. This was actually recorded on Tuesday afternoon when I was still in Chicago. Karen Mason and I got an hour to talk about Almost Pioneers and the Iowa Women’s Archives. Thanks to Charity and Dennis Reese for making things easy on us radio newbies.
1 – Book talk at the Iowa Women’s Archives in the Main Library at the University of Iowa, Friday morning. Several dozen people came: some from the history department, some from among the staff of the library, and some from the community. I got some excellent questions from the audience and sold and signed more books. Thanks to Karen and her staff for making me feel so welcome.
I get to go to Wyoming next month. It’s a real treat.