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Tales of Happiness and Heartbreak on the Prairie
by Alan Quale
Eric Anderson and his boyhood friends find adventure, and danger, in unexpected places. They seek refuge from a winter storm in a cave they share with hibernating rattlesnakes; they run for their lives through a railroad tunnel, chased by the world’s slowest freight train; and they enjoy lazy summer afternoons riding their horses and swimming in Lonesome Lagoon. The prairie offers Eric and his friends the freedom to go anywhere and do almost anything, a freedom seldom found anywhere else.
It’s through these experiences that Eric also learns the lessons of life on the Great Plains as he takes a closer look at himself, his family and how the prairie shapes those who live there.
To most people, the prairie might look like the most peaceful place on earth, with its rolling grassland and grain fields stretching to the horizon. But Eric discovers that the prairie is also home to hidden threats and extremes, which can bring happiness and heartbreak in a single day.
In the end, the prairie spirit still tugs at Eric’s heart, but he can’t help but wonder whether he still belongs there.
Cover photo of the Little Missouri River in North Dakota
by Gerald Blank www.gblankimagery.com
220 pages, 5.25" 8"
Published by: Robertson Publishing (RP)
Loved it! ~ Lanette
Just got the book, read it all, couldn't put it down for hours until I finished it. Loved it!! Wow, you really captured the whole prairie lifestyle. I highly recommend it to everyone. Thanks and great job!
Highly recommended! ~Reeta
In this tender story of a boy growing up in a small prairie town in North Dakota, the prairie is a character in its own right. As anyone who grew up on the prairie knows, it can be unforgiving, fickle and extreme. It is also beautiful, invigorating and teeming with life. As Eric learns, it seeps into your bones and remains with you forever.
It is here, on the prairie, that we follow Eric as he learns about life, his family, the people who populated the land, and finally himself. From the first scene when he tumbles down a large hill with prickly consequences to the final, touching scene in a small prairie cemetery, we are captured by his story of adventure, love and loss. We learn about his sturdy grandparents who left the green mountains of Norway and settled on the prairie where, as his grandmother said, there was no place to hide. We see the subtle tension between a father and a son and the gentle love between a mother and her child. And we experience the freedom of the wide-open prairie and the dangers it holds. In the end, the prairie truly is Eric's, as it is for many who lived there. It is "My Dakota."
This is what America is all about ~Jim Grodnik
Anyone with childhood memories of his own can relate to "My Dakota." These stories of a boy growing up in a small North Dakota prairie town are sometimes poignant, sometimes funny and enjoyable reading from beginning to end. Highly recommended.
A Great Bit of Americana, ~Lynn
Alan Quale does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of this small North Dakota village and the ethos of a tiny farming and ranching community in the 1950's. He nails the relationships and the way young people create their own adventures in the most unlikely places. The reader is drawn into Eric Anderson's world and is able to vicariously experience the Great Plains paradox of inhospitable environment and hospitable people who settled there and built hundreds of small towns like Alexander. A fun read!
Hard to put down, ~Carol B. Sims
This book was hard to put down! I felt claustrophobic as Eric explored caves, was terrified as he outran the "galloping goose" and felt sad as he experienced loss. It's the best book I've read about growing up in a small town in North Dakota.
Don't Miss this book! ~ Rebecca Tomal
This Author expresses life on the plains immediately and everyone that has spent time on the Midwestern plains will identify with the story that could have been a part of their lives. The close Friendships we develop as young people remain with us for a lifetime, even when paths may not cross again. Young Eric shows a deep understanding of himself and others that carried you right with him, even when you didn't particularly want to be in some of those tight situations. A very enjoyable book, and I plan to read it again soon and probably soon after that. I hope Alan Quale will continue to write as I'm certain his first novel will be read by many people now and for years to come. Thanks for sharing, Alan Quale.
~ Copyright Material ~
Like many families in the postwar era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Anderson family was on the move, searching for their niche in America.
While many families soon settled down in one spot, the Andersons kept moving. It seemed as though they just couldn’t find a suitable place to live.
In many ways, the Andersons were a family without a home.
Then they came to Alexander. The town looked much like the others on the prairie, a small settlement with a main street lined with businesses, and dusty side streets with rows of homes.
But Alexander was unlike other prairie towns because of the land around it. There were tall hills and buttes crowned with sandstone. The landscape gave a different feel to the place, and that had a certain appeal for the Andersons.
None of them said it out loud, but this was the place. It was time for the prairie nomads to settle down.
~ Copyright Material ~
Eric’s first glimpse of Alexander, North Dakota, was from the rear seat of a 1948 Ford Coupe. His mother, Inga, was driving as they crossed the top of a large hill on Highway 85. The summit was crowned by scattered sandstone boulders and thinning prairie grass, dominating the landscape for miles around, with rolling prairie stretching in all directions below it.
“There it is,” his mother said, one hand on the steering wheel and the other pointing at the windshield.
“Where?” Eric asked. At eight years old, Eric had to raise himself from his seat to get a better view.
“It’s down there,” his mother said. “Can’t you see the grain elevators?”
“No. Where are they?”
Inga didn’t answer; she put both hands on the wheel, following the highway down the hill.
The highway made a long downhill curve before leveling off again. Then it crossed over a final hill, and the town suddenly appeared below. The highway sliced through the middle of Alexander, and they could see the elevator buildings up ahead on the far side of town, where the land rose up again, forming a tall butte crowned with more sandstone boulders. On the side of the butte was a large letter “A” made of rocks that were painted white.
As they drove into town, Eric and his mother were silent, wondering what it would be like living there. It was a familiar feeling for them; they were accustomed to moving from one small town to the next. Eric’s father, Justin Anderson, managed grain elevators throughout North Dakota and Montana, buying grain from farmers and ranchers.
Every year or two, the company that owned the elevators would transfer Justin to a new elevator, which was usually plagued by fiscal mismanagement or other pitfalls of the grain business. Justin became the company’s troubleshooter, and the Andersons became prairie nomads, moving frequently.
The towns they lived in were always small. Justin called them “spots on the road,” and they were scattered throughout the prairie in western North Dakota and eastern Montana.
So far, they’d lived in Opheim, Appam, Brockway, Rawson, Lone Tree and Trenton.
Their stay in Lone Tree was notably brief. They were awakened by shouts outside their house in the middle of the night. The elevator had somehow caught fire. Flames were already spreading up the exterior walls as they joined a crowd of onlookers. Within minutes the flames reached the top of the 100-foot structure, which exploded in a giant ball of burning timber and grain . . .
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Alan Quale was born and raised on the Great Plains.
A journalism graduate from the University of North Dakota,
he embarked on a newspaper career, working as a reporter and editor, and later as a technical editor.
Contact Alan at: email@example.com
John Horgan: Growing up on the prairie not always a picnic
By John Horgan, San Mateo County Times Posted: 08/29/2011
Alan Quale has lived in San Mateo for decades. He worked as a reporter and editor at this newspaper for many years, leaving in 1996 to take up a new career with an information technology research firm in Silicon Valley.
Now retired, he has returned, in a sense, to his boyhood roots, which are far from the modern comforts of Bay Area suburbia. Quale is a child of the Great Plains. He grew up in small prairie towns in Montana and North Dakota.
He has written a book about youthful experiences in that rugged environment. "My Dakota -- Tales of Happiness and Heartbreak on the Prairie" is a novel but it is based, in large measure, on the writer's own vivid memories of a much more innocent and hardscrabble time long before the advent of cellphones, Twitter and reality TV.
One of the main fictional characters, Eric, appears to be a thinly disguised version of Quale himself.
For those of us who have little knowledge of America's vast heartland, the author provides a helpful and informative look at some of the history of this unforgiving and often harsh region as well.
Quale's first literary effort is a good read. It's for sale in paperback at Barnes & Noble and at Books Inc. in downtown Burlingame. It's also available online at Amazon.com. Check it out.
My Dakota: Former Alexander resident publishes first novel
By Nick Smith
Adventure, youth and the lessons of life.
These are the topics one-time McKenzie County resident Alan Quale covers in his first novel, "My Dakota" released in May.
Quale spent his childhood in Rawson and later in Alexander, graduating from Alexander High School in 1966. "I tried to capture the feeling of what it was like in the 1950s to grow up in these little towns on the North Dakota prairie," Quale said.
The story of "My Dakota" follows the childhood adventures of Eric Anderson as he and his friends look for fun and adventure on the prairie.
"I tried to touch on how the prairie impacts the people who lived there," Quale said.
Among the adventures that unfold are taking shelter from a winter storm in a cave containing hibernating rattlesnakes, riding horses and swimming in Lonesome Lagoon and being chased through a tunnel by an oncoming freight train.
"A lot of the stories and ideas are based on real-life experiences," Quale said.
He said the train story was based on when he and some friends explored the Cartwright railroad tunnel.
A slow, waddling train they nicknamed "the Goose" came at them while in the tunnel, prompting a hasty retreat.
Although, Quale said, it was actually going so slow that "he could have walked and been fine."
WRITING THE STORY
Quale said the idea for "My Dakota" came to him during a high school reunion about five years ago.
Following graduation from the University of North Dakota in 1966 he'd spent 40 years as a journalist.
Quale spent many of his years on the west coast near San Francisco, working as a technical editor at a high-tech company.
"When I retired they asked me what I was going to do. I said 'I'm going to write the great American novel'. A year later I emailed everyone saying 'I wrote it,'" Quale said with a laugh.
Quale said after 40 years of writing for others, he thought it would be fun to try writing for himself in retirement.
After "My Dakota" was published, he began promoting it and sending copies to family and friends.
Upon publication he found himself curious what people back in North Dakota would think of his attempt at portraying the area.
"It's gotten a positive response," Quale said.
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