Dakota Circle: Excursions on the True Plains
By Tom Isern
Published by Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State
University Libraries, Fargo, ND, 2000, 195 pages, hardcover.
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to present
Tom Isern's book, Dakota Circle: Excursions on the True Plains.
Chapter 5, " Und Auch der Belzenickel," shares the story
of the Christkindl which means "Christ Child," which was
a tradition at Christmas for the Germans from Russia community in
North Dakota. Isern also reflects about attending the dedication
of the homestead of bandleader Lawrence Welk, located near Strasburg,
ND. Isern writes: "We were looking into German-Russian culture-of
the Black Sea Catholic German variety, not Mennonite or Volga German,
such as I knew in Kansas...What most impressed my group, though,
was the beautiful St. Peter and Paul Church of Strasburg. Father
Leonard Eckroth was cordial, and the ladies of the German-Russian
Heritage Society served coffee and kuchen in the basement. But it
was the ornamentation of the church, even more than the hospitality
of its parishioners, that was stunning."
Chapter 12, "Every One a Greenhead," tells the story
of Ernie Zahn, Velva, ND, who grew up in western Kansas. Isern writes:
"Ernie was born in 1915 to a German-Russian farm family in
Dickey County, North Dakota, the twelfth of thirteen children, and
his father died when he was just three. So he and his brothers did
all sorts of things to make a little money and carry the family
John E. Miller, Professor of History, South Dakota State University,
and author of Looking for History on Highway 14, writes:
"The author has great hopes for the Great Plains, because despite
a history of human and environmental tragedy, eventually the land
has its way with people, space becomes place, and viable, even elegant
patterns of culture emerge. People stand more squarely on their
own feet, they speak for themselves, they build structures that
back up their words, and they relate to one another in the fashion
of a community. This is a work in progress." Confident in the
regional future, historian and traveler Tom Isern is free to explore
the delights of regional life -- from fiberglass pheasants to Montana
caviar -- and to invite readers of Dakota Circle along for
some excursions on the true plains."
"The author wears his erudition lightly, serving up his nuggets
of information and insight in conversational style. This is a page
turner. I'd compare, what the author has done to work by Kathleen
Norris, Ian Frazier, and William Least Heat Moon. It ranks favorably
alongside any one of them. It informs us about our regional culture
and does it in an engaging way. It is uniquely readable."
Tom Isern, professor of History at North Dakota State University,
has lived his entire life on the Great Plains of North America.
Because his mid-life crisis began early at age nineteen, he has
a long time thinking about what it means to live and work on the
plains. He has written or co-authored five previous books about
life on the plains and since 1983, he has co-authored the weekly
newspaper column, "Plains Folk." During the same year
for publication of Dakota Circle, he was named NDSU's Fargo
Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Professor.
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