It only took five years or so, but Volume II of my little history of La Farge is finally finished. The book is printed and is available to the public. After completing the book at the beginning of October, I gave the text to my publishing guru, Chuck Hatfield, who formatted the book, made a really spiffy cover and added all the photos, maps and other inserts. Chuck also contacted printing companies that he has used in the past and took bids to print my book. We settled on TPS Printing for the job and Chuck e-mailed them a copy of my book. TPS ran a quick proof copy of the book and sent it back to me for a look over.
At this point in the process, I was a little ambivalent about the process as I kept remembering things I should have included in the history. I realized that everything cannot be included in such a history, but leaving parts of the story out of the telling is difficult. As I looked over the proof copy, I also felt there were lots of places that the story could have been better written. Regardless of my ambivalence, the proof was approved and the printing process initiated.
Volume II is over 420-pages in length. It covers the goings-on in La Farge from the 1960’s until the present. The longest chapter in the book focuses on the 1970’s - a period that I title “Dynamic Times”. The 1980’s and ‘90’s also are covered in some depth as I tried to focus on a couple of developments that make La Farge rather different than most small towns in western Wisconsin. Those, of course, were CROPP coming to town in 1989 and the creation of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve about a decade later.
I tried a different format with my “Chapter Notes” in Volume II. In the earlier book on La Farge’s history that I wrote, I put the “Chapter Notes” in a separate section at the end of the book. I had “borrowed” this technique from author Lynne Heasley, when I read her book about the Kickapoo Valley, A Thousand Pieces of Paradise. Lynne had used the chapter notes in her book to flesh out the story even more and to add some personal comments as well outside of the main text.
As the length of Volume II became greater and the number of “Chapter Notes” stretched into the dozens for some chapters, I thought I should put the notes at the end of each chapter instead of all being placed at the end of the text. I felt the notes and the personal asides contained within them would be easier to access if they were at the end of each chapter. As a reader of Volume II, you’ll have to let me know how you like the change. I’m sure Lynne Heasley will be OK with it and even might copy my style in return.
In another similarity with my first La Farge history book, I have also included a number of “Local History Notebook” columns in Volume II. Since I write about a lot of divisiveness in the community in Volume II, I tried to pick out some of my columns that show how the people of La Farge came together during that time as well. Successful athletic teams at LHS were often a source of that coming together, so I copied a few of my columns about some of those teams and included them as part of the story. In addition, I included “Notebooks” on the building of the first medical clinic in La Farge, the history of Calhoon Park, “The People Remember” oral history project on the dam project, gas station memories, pool hall memories, and several more. By the time that we added those twenty-five “Notebooks” with photos, the book had stretched out to over 420 pages.
The editing of Volume II was a bittersweet process for me. My good friend, Paula Muller Howard had edited the first volume of the La Farge history for me. As I completed each chapter of that book, I would send Paula the finished product. She would read through it, making edits and providing comments for me to look at along the way. That process worked really well as Paula had a real talent for editing. We had started the process again for Volume II and Paula had edited the first three chapters for me. Several other chapters were written, but I had been tardy in passing them onto her to look at. With Paula’s passing, the editing process at which she excelled was lost. I’m sure her absence shows in the latter part of Volume II.
I conclude Volume II of my La Farge history with another of my little “Walks Down Main Street” that I often use to close out the year when writing my newspaper column. There are actually several Main Street walks in Volume II as I like using the devise to show what was happening in the village at a particular time in history.
The last walk was actually first written in 2013-2014 as that was when I had hoped to finish up Volume II. But for a variety of reasons (that I chronicle in the beginning of the new book), that last little walk kept getting extended, first into 2015, then 2016, and finally 2017. Even though the walk ends up chronicling about a half of a decade in La Farge’s most recent history, it also shows some of the dynamics that show how the changes occurred. This is how I introduce that last walk down Main Street at the end of Volume II.
So as we arrive at the end of our story about this little Kickapoo River town, we might ask the question – what position is La Farge in? If we climbed up to the top of Fort Wales or Spring Mountain with our camera phones and took a snapshot or a panorama scan – what would we see? Or if we climbed into an airplane and departed one of the air strips in Hillsboro or Viroqua, and then swooped down over the village and photographed it from above (Which has been done so many times as the Kickapoo floods ravished the town from 1935 right up through the devastating 2008 flood. Does anyone fly above La Farge and photograph it when there isn’t a flood? Of course they do, but we don’t tend to see those photos.), what would we see now? How would the La Farge of 2017 compare to that view of La Farge in the early 20th century taken from Fort Wales? (By the way, that photo was the cover of the Volume I book.) Would you recognize the La Farge of 2017 in a photo taken from an airplane if you compared it to the 1935 aerial photo of the flooded village that was the front page of the Milwaukee Sentinel?
And sometimes, even now,
When I’m lonely and beat.
I drift back in time and I find my feet
Down on Mainstreet.
Verse from the song “Mainstreet”
By Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band (1977)
If you would like me to send you a copy of the new Volume II, send me a $25 check (covers all packaging and postage) to P.O. Box 202, La Farge, WI 54639. Make sure to include your address if it is different than what is on your check.