Pickup Trucks, Gumbo, Baby Animals and Oil Wells: Dunn County Writers Share Seasonal Stories

Folks from Richardton, Halliday, Killdeer, Dunn Center, Dickinson and Watford City gathered in the main room of the Dunn County Historical Museum in Dunn Center on Jan. 4 to help celebrate the release of A Pen for All Seasons.

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By Jennifer Strange

For the DC Herald

The Dunn County Writers’ second annual booklet consists of 37 poems and essays by 11 writers. The pieces were generated during the group’s monthly workshops and are organized into four sections: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

Emcee and DCW Board Member Colette “Koko” Gjermundson of Marshall welcomed the audience with a humorous tale of her race against time— thanks to a chronic flat tire and incompetent mechanics—to make it to the reading.

“I was in Bismarck thinking how nice it might be to live in a city,” said Gjermundson. “But after the last two days, I was so glad to be driving west, into a beautiful sunset, back home to Dunn County.

Each writer was introduced before taking to the podium. Ruth Granfor of Dunn Center read an essay about her cousin renovating a 1935 Chevrolet pickup and driving it in the 4th of July Parade. Julee Gartner of rural Killdeer shared a story about getting stuck in the gumbo during calving season. Patricia Bailey of Dunn Center confessed her love of sandals and bare feet. Denise Sandvick of Killdeer looked back on her widowed mother’s herculean efforts to get seven children supplied for school every September. Sarah Medrano of Killdeer read a spiritual poem and invoked the springtime flowers of Texas, her home state. Terry Moore and Jennifer Strange, both of Killdeer, shared reflections of living and working in the Bakken Oil Patch and Gjermundson gave new life to a childhood memory of playing in the snow.

Shirley Oja of rural Dunn Center said the group’s mission to capture and chronicle the voices of rural North Dakota is worthwhile. “If we don’t have these stories and memories written down, how do our kids and nieces and nephews find out about them after we’re gone?” she asked.

Daniel Stenberg is a sixth-generation North Dakotan and personal historian who owns Dakota Prairie Media, a video memoir business in Watford City.

“I’ve never been here before and I’ve always wanted to see the museum,” said Stenberg, who also serves as director of the McKenzie County Heritage Park and Pioneer Museum.

Stenberg looked around the building with admiration. He also perused the Dunn County Writers’ previous publishing projects and events: the 2014 booklet, Winter Whispers: Holidays Past, Present, Future; “Going Gonzo: Dunn County Writers Spill Oil Patch Stories”; “The Bakken Blooms: Hope & Renewal”; “Dunn County Writers Light up the Holidays with Christmas Glimmers”; and the blue ribbon-winning 2015 Dunn County Fair entry, “Meditations on Killdeer Mountain: July 28, 1864.”

What stood out to Stenberg was the power of print.

“It’s really valuable to have those conversations over a cup of coffee, to tell the stories,” he said. “But once that conversation is over, the words are, too. I see how important it is to publish things.”

Oja said the booklet just might inspire her to put pen to paper.

“I am totally impressed by the talent this group of writers has,” said Oja. “It makes me want to try writing. All the readings were thought-provoking, each in its own way.”

A refreshment table offered treats as unique as the writers: chocolate-dipped pretzels and European delicacies, red velvet cake balls, cinnamon cookies topped with chocolate chip cheesecake and chopped walnuts, gluten-free chocolate chip bars, shortbread, sugar cookies and “poor man’s turtles”— a square pretzel topped with a chocolate-dipped caramel and pecan. Cranberry-orange punch, decaf coffee and bottled water were also offered.

“The museum is a perfect place for a reading like this,” said Paulette Haldeman of Dickinson, who was part of DCW’s 2014 booklet. “The stories and poems were all so vivid. Keep writing!”

A Pen for All Seasons is available for purchase at the High Plains Cultural Center in Killdeer.

Dunn County Writers meets the first Monday of every month, 6-8 p.m., at the Dunn County Historical Museum in Dunn Center. Members of all genres and experience levels are welcome. For more information: 541.944.4131 or dunncountywriters@hotmail.com.

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