Hosted by the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, Roger Quam presented his newest novel The Teacher at a public reading at the Hjemkomst Center on April 13 at 2pm. About thirty-five people attended to hear him read a passage from the book and discuss how he came to develop this story of local trauma into a work of fiction. As did a number of Hawley-area people, Quam grew up hearing about the scandalous shooting of a rural school teacher in front of her class in March of 1913.
A disturbed spurned lover shot the young woman while her terrified students watched in horror. Those sixteen students grew up telling the story to their children and their grandchildren. Quam heard the story and, having a penchant for historical research, tracked down the facts as far as they were known. HCS archivist Mark Peihl sent him newspaper articles that covered the event. Frustrated by the lack of detail, Quam developed a fictional account with a different ending. He does not pretend it is a history; there were too many gaps that he has never been able to fill.
The real teacher lived, carrying one of the bullets inside for the rest of her life. In his fictional account, Quam has the teacher paralyzed and later romantically involved with the doctor who treats her. In real life, she never married. For Quam, his experience with the story carries a valuable lesson: get those important stories recorded. Whether written out or audio or video-recorded, the stories of our past must be preserved in some form. HCS Executive Director Maureen Kelly Jonason states, “It is a prime example of how we fail to realize we are making history every day.”
Quam would love to have a class photo or any stories that anyone may have tucked away in memory. He lives in Sioux Falls and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His books are for sale in the Heritage Shop at the Hjemkomst Center: 218-299-5511, Ext. 6731.