The Voice: Summer 2003
Student writers join professionals to publish book of stories
By: Jane Versteeg
Everybodys got a story.
Now youll have the chance to read them. A published author, a half-dozen
Dordt College writers, and a professional photographer have joined forces to put together
a book that tells the stories of people who have or are still
making their mark on Sioux County history.
Under the leadership of author and Dordt College English Professor James Schaap, six
Dordt students are seeking out the stories of Sioux Countians who have interesting
backgrounds, personalities, jobs, or hobbies. When completed, Sioux County Folks will be compiled
into a book for publication.
The kind of book were assembling will be very helpful in terms of
having people understand the area and its own history, commented Dr. Schaap. I
think were really making a contribution to a whole landscape here. Schaap added
that each story will go beyond portraying a person, also painting the unique
characteristics of Sioux County and assembling them together in a patchwork quilt that
shows what life in Sioux County is really like. While focusing on individuals,
stories pan out to share details about the landscape surrounding themdetails like the
highest geographic point in Sioux County, the source of the hand-painted signs on
Highway 75, how the cottonwood on B-40 survived, and the fact that hogs
outnumber people here by at least twenty to one.
Several character essays have already been completed, but the group of authors is
still accepting suggestions for people whose stories would make interesting additions to the
Their goal is to find stories from all of Sioux County, town and
rural, young and old, male and female. Quoting the letter of introduction shes
been sending, Kristi Mulder from Orange City urges potential interviewees, We really do
hope that you will consider this opportunity. We think the book itself will
do a service to the people of Sioux County. Mulder has found that
theres much more diversity here than many realize, and says the book will
span Dutch and German and Irish people, Catholic and Reformed, and many others.
I have really come to realize how much the book might be
able to affect Sioux County as a whole, said Leah Eekhoff, a Hull
native who has already interviewed both an 80-year-old man and a teenage girl.
I think it could be a way in which people learn more about
other people living in their community as well as respect them more
small-town area, many people have the idea that nobody important comes from Sioux
County. But these stories show that there are many people that are so
valuable to the community and have done things that affect how we live
in it today.
Among the Sioux County people already interviewed and written about are a retired
historian from Hospers, a midwife in Sioux Center, a hog producer at Lebanon,
an Abe Lincoln look-alike in Orange City, and a cake decorator in Maurice.
Other chapters will feature a quadriplegic college student, the long-time director of a
high school band, a third-generation Irish-American lawyer, and a professional house-mover.
I was nervous at first that people would think that I was being
nosy, commented Andrew De Young. Turns out, most people like to share their
stories with me. A sophomore English major from Bloomington, Minnesota, De Young said
the writers priority is to celebrate this community and the different kinds of
people that make the community what it is. But also, theres something inherently
good, I think, about telling stories. When you tell a story, what youre
doing is taking events from life and trying to find out how theyre
significant. Its hard work sometimes, taking the elements of someones life and arranging
them into a story, but we go to all the trouble because we
believe that life, in the little details and the big events, is meaningful.
Offering another perspective is Stephanie Bickford, a Maine native with ancestors who were
lobstermen. I see this as an opportunity for me as an outsider, as
well as natives who dont know their neighbors, to see just how unique
and special their little corner of the world is.
They set quiet examples every day of the worth of life, said Bickford
after interviewing a quadriplegic, a midwife, and one of eleven adopted children. I
wanted to seek out people who dont usually get recognized. They have each
blessed me far more than I could do them justice on paper. Bickford
said shes also had the chance to see how real people interact with
faceless programs, such as the medical system, insurance, ethics, and social work systems.
Contributors to the book are Dr. James Schaap, Jenna Lassen, and Kathy Harmelink,
Sioux Center; Kristi Mulder, Orange City; Leah Eekhoff, Hull; Andrew De Young, Bloomington,
Minnesota; Anne Vogel, Luverne, Minnesota; Stephanie Bickford, Maine; and Doug Burg, photographer, Orange