Over the years, I would periodically write short stories about things that happened to me. Also, I had to write some reports for various classes I took over a long period of time, and some of my professors thought that some of them were pretty good. Then later on, I developed a habit of writing out my thoughts when I was struggling with an issue in my mind and couldn’t quite organize my ideas to really understand what I was thinking. I just kind of kept all this stuff around because I am a packrat.
As I grew older, I realized that my life – and I suspected other peoples’ lives as well – fell into three phases. When you are young, you do a lot of things and everything is new and is an adventure. I wrote about a few of these things so I wouldn’t forget them. Then you hit the mid-to-late 20s and reality sets in: there is a wife, kids, a job that takes a big chunk out of your day and gives only a few days of vacation, a mortgage, a car payment or two, a water heater that quits working right around Christmas – you know the routine. At that point, your adventures are mostly in your mind, because you don’t have the time or money to actually do them! You begin to think about the wider world and some of its problems as well. In my case I wrote down some of the things I was thinking about or was concerned about during this phase. Finally, you hit your mid-to-late 50s: the kids are gone, the mortgage is gone, you have a lot of vacation days built up and you are approaching the end of your career. You have a more little time and money to pursue some adventures once again, so you work on your bucket list of things you want to do while there is still time. I wrote some stories about a few of these as well.
But what really caused me to put “Tales of the Midwest” together was that when my brother, Bob, passed away, I inherited a cardboard box of what I though was a bunch of his junk. As I was rummaging through it, I came upon 8 or 10 short stories that he had written over the years. I realized he had many of the same thoughts I had, had passed through many of the same stages of life I had, and had in fact written about some of the very same events and adventures that I had written about when we were kids! Some of his stuff was pretty good. I decided they were too good for nobody to ever see again, so I put his stories and my stories and articles together, organized them around the three phases of our lives, and created the anthology that eventually would be named “Tales of the Midwest: Growing Up and Growing Old in Rural Small-town, U.S.A.”