In the pages of my new book, Stories I’ve Been Told, you’ll meet 25 of my special Texas friends. Most of these personality profiles first appeared in my monthly column in our local paper, The Fayette County Record. Now they’ve morphed into volume one of a new book series.
Being entrusted to tell the personal stories of the people of Fayette County, Texas, is an extraordinary honor. Every person I’ve interviewed is very dear to me.
We met as strangers. Now we are friends.
A wealth of wondrous stories
Readers continually have urged me to put these stories in a book so they won’t get lost. However, I’ve written so many different stories now that they won’t all fit in a single paperback. That’s why I’m starting with the 25 narratives in volume one that I chose at random from my collection.
(If one of your favorite Stories I’ve Been Told columns from The Fayette County Record isn’t listed below, you have something to look forward to in future volumes.)
Stories in volume 1
Meet the ‘stars’ of the first book of Stories I’ve Been Told.
The individuals profiled insist they’re just ordinary people, but they are entirely too modest and humble. The accounts of their lives are memorable and meaningful.
However, it saddens me that not every soul whose story is in volume one lived to see the book published. I hope the memories they shared will be cherished by their loved ones for years to come.
Themes and topics
The memories depicted in the book range from World War II and post-war life; post-Great Depression hard times; faith and community; forging paths; searching for direction; seeking education; making music; family relationships and legends; customs and traditions; and bold entrepreneurs.
Joy and laughter. Tears and hard times. Courage and determination.
The stories share one common trait: They are inspiring!
“Although I read many of these stories in the newspaper, I find them different in book form,” says Carolyn Neely of Ammannsville, Texas. “A great deal is packed into each story, so I’m reading one or two at a time. They are really resonating with me.”
Anne Gafiuk of Calgary, Alberta, adds, “Like the foreword stated: ‘What is most personal is most universal.’ I thought to myself, change out the place names and I could be reading about rural Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba.”
Scholarship recipient’s response
The cost of Stories I’ve Been Told – Volume 1 is $14 per copy. Proceeds from the sale will help to fund scholarships for local students attending Blinn College in Texas. Below is a thank you note that we’ve received.
I want to show my gratitude for the scholarship. Some people may not realize how hard it is for older people to go back to school. It really is hard. With heartfelt thanks.
Cordell Levien whose story, The Ultimate Mail Order Package & Other Tales of Old Round Top, begins on page 99, appreciates the book’s connection to Blinn College. His father, a lifelong proponent of education, was a 1906 graduate of that educational institution!
Sit back and listen
Several years before I began writing my newspaper column, a friend called with an urgent request. Her neighbor, who was in his last days, said he couldn’t rest until his family legend was recorded. Could I come that afternoon and write down the story?
Yes, I could.
I listened to Fritz Finke and returned the following day to review a draft of the story. While I read aloud, he lay on the couch with his eyes closed. When I finished, Fritz slowly nodded his head.
“Be sure you tell other people this story,” said Fritz, who died a few days later. Thus, I am keeping my promise to him.
Where’s that Fayette County community?
Since not all my blog readers reside in Central Texas, here’s a map of Fayette County that shows the small communities you will run across in the book. (Thanks for the use of this map to Fayette County historian Gary E. McKee who produced it with James Kahlden in 1994.)
Meet my book team
When you open a copy of Stories I’ve Been Told – Volume 1, you’re witnessing the power of a team effort. Yes, I researched and wrote the stories. However, it takes diverse talents to take a Word document and a stack of photos to create a professional paperback that’s available online all over the world now and in the future.
My deepest gratitude to Fred King, Shirley Goerlitz, Deborah Kunkel, Stephen Ullstrom and Diane Mueller for your meticulous work, caring attitudes and commitment.
I don’t want to overlook my husband, Emil, who not only revived many old photos but also listened patiently to my running commentary about every story.
What are Bow’s thoughts?
Six months after being abandoned, Bow thinks it’s incredible that he has a forever home and appears on a shiny book cover. My canine pal is very appreciative that photographer Diane Mueller caught his good side.
All joking aside
Compiling these stories has been a rewarding, fun adventure, as well as a serious responsibility. My mission is to weave together an individual’s thoughts and memories into an accurate footnote to history.
Although I trained as a journalist, at this stage of my life I am a storyteller. The difference is that a storyteller collaborates closely with the person interviewed to ensure their narrative is accurate and complete.
I still marvel at my good fortune to conduct such meaningful work that gives me great happiness. I hope you will enjoy reading Stories I’ve Been Told – Volume 1 as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for sharing the experience with me.
For those of you who live in or near Fayette County, you can pick up a copy of my new book at The Fayette County Record or The Schulenburg Sticker newspapers. It’s also available online. Just click on the link below.
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Other posts about Texas:
- Every Day is Memorial Day for Wayne Givens - May 26, 2023
- A Woman Ahead of Her Time - May 5, 2023
- Spring in an Old Texas Cemetery - April 21, 2023
Elaine — You’ve built — and continue to build — an enduring legacy that will long live to enlighten and enrich the lives of those fortunate to be mesmerized by your gifted storytelling ability. –Neal Spelce
Thank you, Neal. I am blessed to have the opportunity to tell people’s stories from their perspectives. Their lives fascinate not only me, but readers far beyond their family and community because the stories resonate with true-life experiences.
Elaine, Thank you for using your gifts to share the stories of these remarkable people! It was my privilege to work with you and have a part in preparing the book for publication. I look forward to the second volume!
Your comment about ‘remarkable people’ is well taken, Deb. I think all of us who worked on the Stories I’ve Been Told – Volume 1 team share that same feeling. The life stories that we showcased are, indeed, remarkable. I’m glad we will be able to publish more of these narratives in future books in the series so they endure. Thank you!
This book is a wonderful read, and your blog is an extraordinary look into its making through your very own voice even including an audio reading. I love both and eagerly look forward to your next volume. Congratulations, Elaine, and thank you!
Glad that reading this book was time well spent for you, Carolyn. We have amazing friends and neighbors in this county!
I enjoyed reading the stories and have since passed your book to my 92 year old mother, awaiting her comments. I am sure she will be able to relate to many of the people as she, too, grew up during the Great Depression.
Anne, I’m looking forward to your mother’s feedback, as well! I think she will be amazed that although farms in Alberta and Texas are far apart on the map, rural life had a lot of commonalities during the Depression, World War II and post-war modernization. This includes country schools, dirt roads, growing and preparing your own food, caring for livestock and, most of all, love of family!
Ordered and awaiting delivery from Amazon! I’m very keen to read this book Elaine. Hopefully the post won’t be too long but I suspect it will be a number of weeks at least. Something to look forward to though.
Janine, how good of you to order a book! Living in Australia, you hold the record for the reader the greatest distance from Fayette County, Texas. All of those who told their stories will marvel that you’re reading about them so far away. Please let us know how long it takes Amazon to make the delivery. We’ll also be looking forward to your comments! Thanks again.
Elaine, you have always been able to get the best out of everyone you’ve interviewed. They don’t have to be famous, or done anything extraordinary, but their stories hit home to everyone who reads them.
By the way, great picture of Shirley!
Thanks, Jan. You’re so right. The life stories of real people are much more interesting than those of celebrities because we can relate to the highs and lows that people like us have experienced. We also see what believe in and how they muster the courage to go on in uncertain and tragic times. My favorite interview question is, “What happened next?”