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.

stories ive told texans
stories Ive told texans2

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.

Jo Lynn Petras and her brother Dennis Petras are all smiles because the memories of their hardworking mother, Millie, will live on. That story, Where There’s a Will There’s a Way, starts on page 141.

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!

Cordell says he holds this book over his heart.

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.

I’m going to read you Fritz’s story, so sit back and enjoy!

Where’s that Fayette County community?

Communities in Fayette County, Texas.

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.

Graphic designer Fred
Editor Shirley
Indexer Stephen
Proofreader Deb
Photographer Diane

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.

Sorry, Jumper the cat, no cover photo of you in this book.

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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Elaine Thomas
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