Three years ago, Ty and I were traveling back to Sharon Springs, Kansas to make preparations for our wedding. This year, we were making preparations for something entirely different: a book.

The journey really began in March 2015, when I interviewed my grandma and asked her about her life. I wrote her story, my aunt read it to her, and I quickly learned how powerful storytelling can really be.

From there, this idea for a book kept developing in my mind. I knew I wanted to see what others’ experiences were during that time period, and I wanted them to be women. The most frequent question I’ve had is “why not men?” and that’s exactly why it had to be women.

For the next year, I made trips home when I had the time and money, filled out forms for local grant funding, interviewed women, dictated the interviews, told their stories, sent their stories to them for feedback, and when I felt I had the stories, done, I tied them together into a book, designed the interior and the cover, and, voila, Raising the West was born.

I had a goal of both recording history and making it easily accessible, and what time is something more easily accessible than during a county fair? During fair weekend, Wallace County swells in size, people are eager to see what projects others have been working on, and it’s a great time to gather locals and out-of-town relatives.

That’s exactly what we did at the Fort Wallace Museum on Friday. Over a hundred people showed up to celebrate local women and the book they were in, and I really feel that we didn’t just celebrate history–we created it!

The entire room was filled with people, and I had a great time talking with them, answering their questions about the book, and the mingling and signing… I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of signing things, or if it’ll ever become normal! It’s just really cool to think that somewhere, in someone’s house, maybe on a coffee table is a book that I poured my heart and soul into, with my signature on the inside and my name on the cover. Very cool.

At the reception, I saw some of my family, and even some of my old teachers. Can you believe my kindergarten teacher, junior high track coach, and music teacher came to my book signing?!

My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sangster.

My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sangster.

Afterward, the women signed autographs as well. My autographed copy is so precious to me!

These were the women in the book who were able to make it to the reception!

 
 

Back Row (L to R): Cora McNall, Dolores Bussen, Dorothy Bussen, Shirley Bussen, Erma Williams, Goldie Daily
Front row (L to R): Cathryn Walker, Joan Harrison, Louise Pearce, Georgia Pancake, Kelsie Stelting

Then we hung out, signed books, and took pictures. It really was great. I also hung out at a booth during the carnival so I could chat with people about the book. It was nice to catch up with old friends, and also to bond with strangers over a common interest.

Three of the women in the book, Louise Pearce, Dolores Bussen, and Cathryn Walker sign their stories.

Three of the women in the book, Louise Pearce, Dolores Bussen, and Cathryn Walker sign their stories.

 

Overall, it was a great weekend, and I’m so so so grateful to everyone who helped pull it off, my husband especially, who, in addition to being unbelievably cute, is very supportive and grounded. Other people I would like to thank are the women, everyone at the Fort Wallace Museum (Jayne Pearce, Taylor Pearce, Sophy Hackney, Valerie Smith, Shirley Blaesi, and all of the other people there who supported the event), the Wallace County Foundation for the grant which enabled me to print and produce this book, over ten community sponsors, whose combined sponsorship made a big difference, my mother for making 12o cookies (she and Tucker also helped set up the venue), my husband’s family for traveling great distances to attend the event, my family members who did the same, and every person who showed enthusiasm about the project! As you can tell, it’s a long list of thank-you’s and I didn’t even get to everyone, so it’s pretty apparent that there was a large support system for me to lean on! Thank you everyone, I couldn’t have done this without you!

If you would like a copy of the book, they’re available online, at the Fort Wallace Museum, or my rock star sister and mother have a few copies on hand as well.

I can’t wait to see what the next year and project will bring. 

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