Still writing books after 50 years

Jerry Apps
The Wisconsin Historical Society will be publishing a 50th-anniversary edition of Jerry Apps' first book The Land Still Lives that he released in 1970.

In 1966, I began writing a weekly column (Outdoor Notebook), for the Waushara Argus in Wautoma. It was in 1966 that we also acquired Roshara, the farm we have now. My columns were mostly about happenings on our farm, which had been abandoned in the 1950s after the farmhouse burned.

Always looking for new ideas, I began wondering if a collection of these columns might make a book. In 1969, I showed them to Bob Gard, a rural folklorist for the College of Agriculture in Madison.

Bob, a Kansas farm boy, showed some interest in what I had been writing. But he said, “Why don’t you develop a story-line using your columns as ideas?” And that’s what I did. I even used an old willow tree as a character in the book. The book is mostly about how our young family, we had three little kids at the time, was adjusting to the kind of rural living that Ruth and I both experienced as kids.

I titled the book The Land Still Lives. Bob Gard introduced me to Senator Gaylord Nelson, whom he thought would be interested in my book because of its environmental theme. Senator Nelson agreed to write an introduction to the book, which was published in 1970.

A couple years ago, Kate Thompson, my editor at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, asked me about publishing a 50th-anniversary edition of the book. How could I say no? It is now available, with an added epilogue that I wrote to bring the story up-to-date.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Who would believe that the Old Timer would still be writing books after 50 years?

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to