The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
The idea for this novel came from a discussion my son, Steve, and I had when we were canoeing and fishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota three years ago. The fish weren’t biting and Steve put up with (and had some great responses) to my “what if ” questions as the foundation for this novel...
The whine of a chain saw assaulted the quiet of the new day as the mists rising from the waters of Link Lake slowly drifted west and the sun’s first rays broke the horizon, illuminating the brilliant autumn colors of the maples and the aspens, the oaks and the birches that clustered on the hillsides around the lake. Three men walked from their truck. One carried a...
1. Ambrose Adler
Driving his team of horses on his way home from one of his infrequent visits to his doctor, Ambrose Adler was thinking that old Doc Stevens was right. The doctor had told him, “Ambrose, you keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll have a heart attack. And that will be it.” He said it without the hint of a smile, so he obviously meant...
2. Marilyn Jones
Marilyn Jones sat in her cramped little office located in the back of the Link Lake Supper Club. A small window to her left allowed her to see the waters of Link Lake, sparkling in the early morning sun. A mirror hung on the opposite wall, where she checked her appearance every time she left the office and entered the spacious dining room. She always wanted to make a...
3. Emily Higgins
Emily Higgins had presided over the Link Lake Historical Society, the oldest organization in the Village of Link Lake, for so many years that people couldn’t remember when she was first elected. Higgins was a short, thin, white- haired woman in her mid- eighties, with a voice that carried to the far corners of any room where she spoke, no matter how large the...
4. Fred and Oscar
said Fred Russo, as he greeted
“And top of the morning to you, Mr. Russo,” said Henrietta, who bowed a bit when she said it. Henrietta O’Malley was pushing sixty, her once red hair was mostly gray, but her green eyes sparkled when she talked. She was proud of her Irish heritage; her grandfather had...
5. Ambrose Adler
Many people in the Link Lake community thought Ambrose Adler was different; some people came right out and said he was strange. One thing that made him different was that he stuttered. His parents had told him that he stuttered from the day he was born, and that they had thought he would grow out of it—that he would eventually learn to speak normally. It...
6. Marilyn and Stony Field
As Marilyn Jones waited for a phone call from La Crosse on this cool April day, she read Stony Field’s newest column, becoming more agitated by the minute.
Fracking for the Future By Stony Field Have you heard about fracking? Neither had I until a couple years ago. Those who support the process see it as the answer to the United States’ energy...
7. Link Lake Historical Society
Thank you all for turning out on this rather chilly April day,” said Emily Higgins as she called the regular monthly meeting of the Link Lake Historical Society to order. “I’m told spring is just around the corner, but I’m wondering what corner it’s hiding behind.” A few groans came from the audience in response to Emily’s rather uncharacteristic attempt at telling a...
8. Cemetery Walk
WWRI, the radio station in Willow River, ran public service announcements about the cemetery walk for a couple weeks. The Ames County Argus ran a long story with several photos in its most recent issue. One of the TV stations in Green Bay sent a reporter and film crew to Link Lake. They interviewed both Emily Higgins, who explained the history of the...
9. Ambrose, Ranger, and Buster
Somewhat in response to his doctor’s admonition to slow down, Ambrose had plowed and planted only five acres of oats this year. In past years he had put in ten acres. Now in May, with the oat crop up and growing, he worked at planting his garden; this time both his dog, Buster, and Ranger, the raccoon, were with him, “helping” him with the job at...
10. Marilyn Jones
On a bright and sunny early May day, Marilyn sat in her office at the supper club, thinking back to when she first began running the place. She remembered so well the day her life changed completely: it was September 25, 1973, and she was a sophomore at Ripon College. As she left the lecture room that Tuesday morning, her roommate, Jesse, met her at the...
11. Economic Development Council
Marilyn walked into the community room at the Link Lake Library with her head high and confidence in her step. “I have good news for you,” she said as she called the regular monthly meeting of the Link Lake Economic Development Council to order. “It’s been a long struggle to bring jobs to Link Lake and put our community on a stronger economic footing,” Marilyn...
12. Ambrose and Gloria
Ambrose Adler sat on his porch with Ranger and Buster, thinking about what might have been. He remembered that summer day when he stopped at the library after making his purchases at the Link Lake Mercantile. He noticed a new assistant librarian working behind the checkout desk. At first he didn’t recognize her, but then he realized that it was Gloria...
13. Historical Society Meeting
More than thirty-five members
of the Link Lake Historical
room when Emily Higgins
out in a loud
voice, “May I have your attention,
In an instant
the room was so
quiet that you could hear a chair squeak.
“Most of you who read the Argus are aware that our Economic Development Council has been in...
14. When Ambrose’s Life Changed
After returning home from the historical society meeting, Ambrose unhitched the team from the wagon, removed the harnesses from his horses, and led them into their stalls in the barn. He put some fresh hay in front of them and then returned to his house. He started the cookstove in the kitchen and brewed a fresh pot of coffee. He was furious with what he had...
15. Ambrose and Stony Field
wrote, “I think you should
How about writing
If you are interested,
will help you.”
By this time, Gloria had advanced to the position of assistant editor at the Los Angeles Journal. “Why don’t you send me three or four sample columns?” she wrote. “I’ll polish them up a bit—if they need...
16. Bank Robbery Reenactment
People from as far away as Milwaukee and Green Bay came to Link Lake to witness the famous bank robbery reenactment that was sponsored by the Link Lake Historical Society. It was held the first Saturday in May each year at Increase Joseph Community Park. People from the community played the parts of those most directly involved in the incident, which without...
17. Village Board Vote
On a vote of five to one, the Link Lake Village Board voted to approve leasing a portion of the village’s Increase Joseph Community Park for the construction of a sand mine. The Alstage Sand Mining Company of La Crosse has signed a twenty-year contract with the village, with a percentage of the profits from the sale of the sand going directly to the village’s...
18. Fred and Oscar
Just read in the Ames County
Argus that the value of our farms has climbed
up a notch,” said Oscar Anderson,
as Fred Russo joined
him at the Eat
Well Café in Link Lake.
“How’s that?” replied Fred as he took his seat.
“Ain’t you been keepin’ up with the news, Fred? Everybody’s talking about sand these days.”
“Well, I got 160 acres of sand, sprinkled with more...
19. Ambrose’s Reaction
when he had been so upset about something.
to his pet raccoon,
which was standing
by the chair where
he was sitting.
“Do you know what, Ranger? Those damn fools on the village board just voted to put a sand mine in our village park. And even worse, the mining company says they’ve got to cut down the Trail Marker...
20. Editor’s Response
Never in my many years of editing
the Ames County
Argus has a column
so many people
to write letters
to this newspaper.
than 200 letters
to the editor
at this newspaper
since the column
was first published,
with more arriving
each day. Most come as e-mails,
Stony Field, the award-winning...
21. Ambrose and Ranger
On this cool June morning,
with dew sparkling
on the hay field that
could see out his kitchen
he sat enjoying
a cup of coffee
issue of the Ames County
stood at his side.
“Well, Ranger,” said Ambrose, “it looks like old Stony Field got people thinking about putting a sand mine in Increase...
22. Karl Adams
Karl Adams arrived at the Appleton airport, rented a car, found Highway 10, and headed west toward Link Lake, some forty miles away. As a consulting mining engineer with offices in Portland, Oregon, he traveled the world, helping mining companies set up new operations. The Alstage Sand Mining Company had hired him to help them set up their mining operation in...
23. Karl at the Eat Well
On his way back to Link Lake from the Ames County Argus, Karl Adams scratched his head. I thought this was going to be an easy one. Wrong again. So the local historical society is involved? Usually it’s some environmental group that takes the lead in opposing a mine—should be easy dealing with a bunch of oldsters with history on their minds. Some of those environmentalists...
24. Karl and Marilyn
at the Eat Well Café, including
down the names Oscar Anderson
and Fred Russo and noting
of their comments
about the upcoming
sand mine, Karl Adams drove
back to his motel. He punched
in the number
for the Link Lake Supper
“Link Lake Supper Club, this...
25. Vegetable Stand
Ambrose Adler smiled to himself when he thought about all the reaction he’d gotten from his recent Stony Field column chastising the Link Lake Village Board. He was hoping that somehow, in a small way, what he had written would change enough minds that the decision to open a sand mine in Increase Joseph Community Park could be overturned. But he also wondered...
26. Karl and Emily
The afternoon following his meeting with Marilyn Jones, Karl Adams drove over to the historical society’s museum and parked his car on the street in front of the museum store. He wanted to learn about the historical society and its activities and he wanted to become acquainted with Emily Higgins, who was obviously, in addition to Marilyn Jones, one of the...
27. Fourth of July
Over the next several days, quietly working with Marilyn Jones and Mayor Jessup, Karl Adams offered suggestions that he hoped would help heal the rift that had developed in the community over the opening of a sand mine in the park. Karl had gotten authorization from the Alstage Sand Mining Company to help finance his ideas “with a reasonable amount...
28. First Protestors
On the day following the “widely successful and great fun” Fourth of July celebration, as someone described it, Marilyn Jones sat in her office at the Link Lake Supper Club. Out her window she could see several volunteers working at cleaning up the debris left over from the big event. A crew from the tent rental company was taking down the tent, and Joe Jensen, her...
29. Free Wi-Fi
Well, Fred, what’d
you think of it?” Fred Russo and Oscar Anderson
at the Eat Well Café.
“Think of what?” asked Fred as he took his place opposite his old friend and waited while Henrietta poured his coffee.
“What everybody is talking about this morning.”
“How am I supposed to know what people are yakking about? I’ve...
30. Supper Club Remodeling
Jones had been thinking
to the Link Lake Supper
Club. Their schedule
of being open from eleven
in the morning
until late in the evening
had been in place for as long as
had owned the supper
with the schedule
and it was working
But when Marilyn saw all the new people...
31. Trail Marker Oak Days
found time to meet secretly
with Karl Adams, Mayor Jessup,
of the village
board to discuss
plans that Karl had
for the sand mine due to begin
After the Fourth of July celebration, Karl had posted on the bulletin board outside the village hall a large map of Increase Joseph...
32. Lake Coffee Bar
The weeks following the highly successful Trail Marker Oak Days were quiet in Link Lake. These August days were mostly clear and warm, with the daytime temperatures reaching the mid-eighties and sometimes low-nineties. An occasional thunderstorm in the evening freshened things up and kept the farmers happy but did not dampen the spirits of the summer...
33. Busy Summer
Ambrose Adler couldn’t remember when he had experienced a busier summer. Sales at his roadside stand had soared—in fact nearly every afternoon he sold out most of the vegetables and fruits he had available. He was thankful for a good growing season. The strawberry and raspberry crop had been outstanding. The sweet corn and new potatoes were excellent, and...
The following Saturday, cars were lined up a half mile down the road, waiting to park in Ambrose Adler’s field and attend the annual Link Lake Historical Society Thresheree, one of the largest events held in Ames County. The Ames County Fair was probably the only event that drew more people, and that was because it ran for four days, while the thresheree was only one...
35. Problem Solved
A lazy summer sun slowly climbed above the horizon, making the waters of Link Lake sparkle. The sun awakened Karl Adams from a deep sleep. When Karl worried about something he didn’t sleep well—and when he started on a new job by a mining company, sleeping was especially difficult. The first couple weeks he was in Link Lake the pro and con factions about...
36. Arrest the Protestors
With breakfast finished, and with an earful of comments about what had recently been transpiring in Link Lake, Karl called Marilyn Jones and arranged to meet with her within the hour. When Karl entered her little office, Marilyn said, “What in hell is going on, Karl? I thought you had everything under control. Do you know how many protestors are up there...
37. Oscar, Fred, and the Protestors
new?” asked Fred Russo as he pulled
out a chair at the Eat Well
and sat down opposite
“Geez, Fred, you been asleep? There’s a bunch of new stuff going on. Things are really poppin’ around here.”
“So what’s happening? Been asleep, only up for couple hours. Good to get your rest, especially when you’re older. I read that in a magazine, think...
38. Don’t Give Up
My contacts in little Link Lake, Wisconsin, have just informed me that the Alstage Sand Mining Company that earlier signed a lease with the Village of Link Lake to mine sand in their village park is now preparing to begin operations. You will recall that one of the sticking points in the entire affair is an old bur oak that has historical significance as it was...
The explosion shook Karl Adams’s bed, rattled the windows in his cabin, and brought him wide awake from a deep sleep where he had been dreaming about old people dancing around the Trail Marker Oak and singing a song that he didn’t recognize. Karl sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes, and wondered if he had really heard an explosion or if that had been a part...
The explosion roused Marilyn Jones from a deep sleep. Not only had the sound startled her awake, but her entire house shook from the shock of the blast. Within a few minutes she heard sirens. She reached for her phone and called the Link Lake Police Department—she knew that Louise Konkel was working the overnight shift as dispatcher. Louise had once worked for...
Emerson Evans made record time driving from La Crosse to Link Lake. He was furious about what had happened at the mining site. How could anyone explain why a million- dollar drilling machine had been destroyed by some overzealous opponent of sand mining? And why had Karl Adams failed so miserably in placating the community, in bringing them around...
42. Emergency Meeting
The day following
the big community
of the Link Lake Historical
“All of you were at the community meeting last night and heard what the Alstage mining people had to say,” she started. “I must say I was shocked at what I heard. I was surprised to learn that Karl Adams works for the mining company. When he first came to town he stopped by the...
43. Cooling Off
After the community meeting, both Emerson Evans and Karl Adams agreed to allow things to cool off a bit before the company resumed preliminary exploratory drilling at the proposed mining site. Evans returned to La Crosse, and Karl stayed on in Link Lake, working with the Ames County Sheriff’s Department to help determine the cause of the explosion. The...
44. Quiet Time
Legions of Stony Field fans wrote hundreds of letters to the Link Lake Economic Development Council, to the Link Lake Village Board, and to the mayor. All pleaded, many insisted, some even threatened—and all had one message. “Reverse your decision. Tell the Alstage Sand Mining Company to get the hell out of Link Lake,” as one writer bluntly put...
45. Karl Adams
Since the big community meeting when everyone learned that Karl Adams worked for the mining company, he ate breakfast every morning at Marilyn Jones’s new Lake Coffee Bar, where he didn’t have to worry about running into any of the locals. The coffee bar customers were mainly bicyclists passing through town and a growing group of Milwaukee and...
46. Dry Weather
The rains in central Wisconsin had stopped in mid-summer, and now the hot August sun dried out the countryside and challenged the corn, soybeans, and vegetable crops that were not irrigated. Anyone who did not have irrigation, and that included small vegetable farmers such as Ambrose Adler, saw their pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers wither, their sweet corn leaves...
Each year, the Link Lake Historical Society held their annual late summer luncheon at the Link Lake Supper Club; this year was to be no exception. Emily would have preferred to hold the meeting elsewhere, but she knew of no other place close by that was as nice as the Link Lake Supper Club and large enough to hold the group. Emily Higgins and the planning committee...
from the high school
club stood in the rain, numb, staring
at the destruction
of the Link
Club. In less than five minutes
they heard the wail of sirens
and soon the two Link Lake fire trucks
by the squad
“Is anyone injured?” yelled Fire Chief Henry Watkins. “Is anyone...
49. Storm Stories
The day after the storm, Marilyn Jones had an insurance adjuster on site, and the following week a construction crew began replacing the roof and repairing the other tornado damage. Village crews plus volunteers soon had the downed trees in the village cut up and hauled away. The power had come on a few hours after the storm and the Village of Link Lake mostly...
50. Another Drilling Machine
The tornado completely missed Increase Joseph Community Park. Now in mid-September, the park began to look as it always did in early autumn, a little tired after a long, eventful summer. The once green grass had turned brown, except for the new grass planted where the explosion had occurred. Village workers kept that patch of new grass watered. There was almost no...
51. Eat Well Café
Fred Russo had already
at his place at the Eat Well for nearly
“Geez, you get lost this morning?” asked Fred, when Oscar arrived, out of breath. He tossed his John Deere cap on the chair next to him.
“No, I did not get lost. But I did have an interesting experience on my...
I believe you all know why we are here,” said Emily Higgins as she called the Link Lake Historical Society meeting to order. She began by sharing the information she had gotten from a variety of sources, including what she had heard from Officer Jimmy Barnes and from Oscar Anderson, who chimed in to elaborate on his story, making it considerably more exciting...
53. Stony and Ambrose
With all the rain that accompanied the tornado, Ambrose’s garden perked up and he once more began selling late-summer crops such as tomatoes, sweet corn, potatoes, broccoli, onions, and more in his roadside stand. He worked in his garden each morning and opened up the stand after his noon nap, around one thirty or so, keeping it open until four in the afternoon. Noah...
When Noah Drake arrived
home that afternoon
and saw his dad working
in the machine
shed, he hurried
out to help him.
“Where have you been?” his dad asked. “There’s work to be done around here. You know I don’t put up with people being late.”
“Sorry, Pa,” Noah said. “I stopped to help Ambrose with his vegetable...
55. Eagle Party
Marilyn Jones couldn’t believe it. She sat quietly for a few moments, trying to make sense of what she had just heard. Could it be true that old Ambrose Adler, who stuttered so badly that no one could understand him and who lived as a subsistence farmer, was the famous environmental writer, the person who had given her Economic Development Council so much...
56. Phone Calls
In her office at the supper club, Marilyn Jones looked up the phone number for the editorial desk of the Los Angeles Journal and gave it to Lucas Drake. “Are you sure you want to make this call, Lucas?” Marilyn asked. “Can you imagine what’s going to happen when the country finds out that Stony Field lives right in the Link Lake...
57. Los Angeles Journal
Do you have a minute?”
as she poked her head in Gloria’s
“Sure, what’s up?”
“Got a strange phone call from a place called Link Lake—I think the caller said it was in Wisconsin. Anyway, this gruff-sounding fellow said he had an important news tip. He said it was about Stony Field, and he wanted to talk with you. I told him you were...
The news that Ambrose Adler was the famous environmental writer Stony Field swept through the Link Lake community faster than a wildfire in California. Before any news had appeared in the media, it seemed everyone in the village and those living nearby knew about it, and every last person was totally amazed. The Eat Well Café discussion was about nothing...
59. Billy Baxter Responds
Billy Baxter waited to act on the Stony Field situation—he wanted to see a confirming story in the Los Angeles Journal, which syndicated the Field column each week, before he would include a story in his paper. Meanwhile he traveled to Link Lake and to the Increase Joseph Community Park to gather updated information about the Alstage Sand Mining Company’s...
60. Overrun with Attention
Holy moley,” said Fred Russo when he pulled
out a chair and sat down
from Oscar Anderson
at the Eat Well. He looked
“This place is packed
to the gills.”
“It sure is, and these aren’t local folks either. I couldn’t find a place to park my pickup, had to walk three blocks. Whole damn Main Street is parked full of cars and vans and buses. I...
61. Karl and Gloria
Why is my mother
to Link Lake? thought
Karl Adams as he drove
10 on his way to the Appleton
of the Los Angeles
the paper send a reporter,
of her stature,
to cover the Stony Field story in Link Lake? What’s
Gloria’s flight was right on time. Karl waited at the baggage claim area...
62. Barn Fire
At 6:00 a.m., both Karl and his mother were awakened to the sound of sirens. Karl had not slept well. His mind was a tangle of thoughts after hearing all that his mother had told him the previous evening. He was trying to accept the idea that Ambrose Adler was his father and that Marilyn Jones was his aunt. It was almost too much for a person to accept at one...
At 3:40 that afternoon,
his last. His doctor
that was triggered
in part from excessive
from the barn fire. He was eighty-two years old.
Both Karl and Gloria were absolutely devastated when they got the news of Ambrose’s death later that afternoon. If only I hadn’t been such a...
64. Memorial Service
Back in the spring, when the doctor told Ambrose his heart wasn’t near as strong as it once was, he had penned a letter to Gloria:
My Dear Gloria,
I’ve just returned from the doctor, who told me my old ticker isn’t up to par, and that I should slow down a bit. You know me; I’m not too keen on slowing down. But nonetheless, I...
65. Trail Marker Oak
The whine of a chain saw assaulted the quiet of the new day as the mists rising from the waters of Link Lake slowly drifted west and the sun’s first rays broke the horizon, illuminating the brilliant autumn colors of the maples and aspens, the oaks and the birches that clustered on the hillsides around the lake. Three men walked from their truck. One carried a chain...
Other Works by the Author
Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014
OCLC Number: 884280073
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County