All Posts By

James C. Schaap


Robert D. Ray, 1928-2018

It may well have been one of the best marketing ploys I'd ever come up with--get former Iowa Governor Robert Ray to come out west to Sioux City for a book rollout, a collection of stories about Tai Dam people,…
July 13, 2018

Herman the German

You've probably never heard of Herman the German and likely never stopped to greet him in New Ulm, Minnesota. Then again, you could have driven through town and not seen him at all. You've got to go south and up…
June 29, 2018

Finding the Trail

This summer, see if you can find your way to the Trail. You'll have to hunt to find it, but here and there along the way you’ll find stone markers, set down a century ago to memorialize a highway that…
June 15, 2018

A sort of confession

When Julia Ward Howe sat down to refashion a much beloved Union battle hymn the troops called "John Brown's Body," she created new lyrics and a bold new score that, almost magically, became as deeply imprinted on America's soul as…
June 1, 2018

The Battle of the Spurs

There's something vintage Old Testament about the story, something decidedly like myth. But it happened; and just a bit north of Topeka, atop a hill along the road, a somewhat unkempt highway marker tells part of the story, the part…
May 18, 2018

Only the beginning

A century ago this month, my great-uncle came down with pneumonia. He was on his way to France to fight the Huns, WWI, the "Great War." That illness set him behind the rest of his platoon, but he caught up,…
May 4, 2018


Fifty years after it went out of style, he still wore his hair--great hair, by the way--in a duck tail. Had he let it grow a little longer, he might have passed for Sikh and never worn a turban. He…
April 20, 2018

What I learned on Spring Break, 1968

The night Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, four of us—small-town, small-college, white boys—were following the Gulf's eastern shore on an all-night trek from south Florida to New Orleans. It was spring break, 1968, only a few months from the…
April 6, 2018

The river in winter

The first matter of business when white folks came to the region was roughing out claims so they knew where each of the others was going to put down roots. Once that task was done, some of ye olde pioneers…
March 9, 2018

A Lenten Triptych from York, NE

Mildred Armstrong Kadish, in Little Heathens, her darling memoir of growing up on an Iowa farm during the Depression, claims that her family had only two oil lamps before rural electrification. It's unimaginable to think of how dark their world must…
February 23, 2018