By Bible Bill
The problem with this whole enterprise is that it has slowly been creating its own path. The immediate result of contacting Homer was a flash drive with over 4GB of family history on it. A tremendous wealth of information in such a small place. The immediate problem was sorting through everything that he had meticulously researched, documented and organized. I suppose it would have been helpful to possess an even cursory knowledge of the family tree as I would at least know which Ewoldt I belong to and so know where to begin. Thankfully, I was not in this alone. Ryan and I had set a regular time to meet and brainstorm.
Our first meeting was only mildly productive, but very fruitful. We worked for about five hours, but when you subtract the distractions, ice cream and Facebook rabbit holes we probably only accomplished an hour’s worth of work. Somehow in that hour, we found two other notable family history items, Allan and Frick’s Tap. Allan, Leo’s brother, was shot down over Sicily during WW2 after flying thirty or so missions in as many days. The Fricks and Ewoldts married shortly after the Ewoldts arrived in the United States and they built Frick’s Tap in 1888. Nearly a hundred years later it earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. This was only the beginning of Homer’s research of the family. There was plenty more to dig through, but this was a start. Looking at what we knew we decided maybe this should be about collecting family stories, not only Leo’s. After all, asking who we were was what started this mad adventure, so let’s make it about that. From the start, we never had much of a set plan. We know where we want to wind up and are happy to let the road define itself. Here is the road deciding a course for us.
By Bible Bill
A friend has spent some time thinking on the importance of asking. It’s a simple thing that, he says, has made a world of difference in his life, particularly his marriage. I never doubted him, but I never thought anything of it. It was something he learned that he felt like sharing, hoping it would have a similar impact on my life.
Early on, I was shy about sharing my aspirations to write a book. Not that I should be, but it was a big dream that seemed likely to go nowhere (like most of my relationships), so why say anything? Catching up with a close friend, I said something about writing a book in passing. His response caught me off guard as he said he had two friends in publishing. It took a while for it to sink in. There was a chance that this could be more than an empty wish. Suddenly, this big hairy audacious goal had legs. Armed with a newfound confidence, I started sharing my dream. There was a chance this could grow into something. While it was not exactly asking, it held true to the spirit of what my friend had shared. Ask, get an answer. Share, get feedback. There’s no telling what doors can be opened by simply opening your mouth and sharing life with people.
By Bible Bill
We were writing a book. That much was set. Surprisingly, neither of us had written one before and neither of us knew how to take our idea and turn it into a book. Brainstorming we came up with a plan.
- Research (June)
- Outline (July)
- Write a 30 – 50 page sample (August)
- Figure out how to get the right people to read it (September)
Really, though, it’s no more of a plan than what we started with.
By Bible Bill
It is hard to say how this all started. I’m blaming my brother or giving him the credit for getting me moving. You can decide what you think. His second child was due soon and he said he wished he knew more about the family. I guess having children can make you nostalgic and Homer, the self-appointed family historian, lives in Iowa, a reasonable drive from my apartment in Denver. So doing my part to prepare for Grayson, I reached out to Homer for family records and to schedule a visit to hear any stories he had. That’s when the wheels started turning.
It was far too early in the morning to make life changing decisions, but that’s how it goes. I bumped into Ryan in the lobby and passing hellos quickly turned into a twenty minute conversation about not a whole lot. Somehow we got on the topic of books, which gave me the opportunity to say I thought from the little I knew my grandfather’s life would make a great story. Iowa farm boy turned World War II pilot who crashed in the South Pacific and met cannibals. He later competed in the Senior Olympics. This is what I shared with Ryan as my elevator pitch to showcase my grandfather’s story. From there, it only seemed natural to ask for his help to write it all down. He agreed.
It turns out I don’t know much about my grandfather beyond that. He played cribbage. He went to the Naval Academy. People called him Spike when he was younger. He had a farm. He may have ridden a horse to work. He was married twice but only loved one woman. After he died, we found a box of harmonicas. That is how I learned he played the harmonica. This is what I knew about Leo. It was a start, but not enough to fill a page, let alone a book. So this is the story of me getting to know my grandfather and the ridiculous friendship that inspired the journey.