“Man, despite refinements, and adjustments, remains a creature of earth, and no human being is closer to the elements, to nature, than the farmer.” – Frederick Manfred
I first met Manfred – born on an Iowa farm on Jan. 6, 1912 – when I was a journalism student, fresh off a farm myself, and working as a weekend sportswriter at the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader. Manfred had also been a sportswriter and was in the midst of a writing career that would produce 22 novels – including the award-winning Lord Grizzly and Scarlet Plume – half-a-dozen nonfiction books; and hundreds of articles and essays. He exuded a love of writing that was contagious.
Manfred was a towering figure in the writing world, literally and figuratively (he stood about 6-foot-9). He was testing the waters on what would become a fairly long Writer In Residence stint at The University of South Dakota by making a few guest appearances at other colleges, including my own alma mater, South Dakota State University.
He spoke to a group of aspiring writers, and I stayed afterward to ask him questions about his early years in sportswriting – for the Minneapolis Journal – and about our shared experience of being “the oldest brother” in families of all boys. I was the oldest of seven and he was the oldest of six. I expected a few minutes; maybe a cursory “howdy” and then a “see ya, kid, stop bothering me” response. Instead, he sat down (probably so we’d be at eye level with each other, since I am only 5-foot-9), and talked to me for another hour about writing sports and about “Keeping my options open to other writing styles.”
And, he showed me being famous didn’t mean being aloof; sharing with the next generation was as important as what you did for your own career. It was a Writer’s Moment that shaped my life.
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