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Wiltz: Writing a book has its rewards, challenges

As mentioned in the past, I'm in the process of writing a book I've called A Dakota Rod and Nimrod. As the title reveals, it is primarily a collection of hunting- and fishing-related stories. The book is comprised of three sections: The Dakota Scene, Beyond Dakota Borders, and People and Places.

I've written my outdoor column for about 44 years and it all began with The Burke Gazette. Compiling the most interesting efforts into a single volume has been a challenging task. It already has me thinking about a second book.

A few of the related adventures would make worthwhile material for a South Dakota History class. I feel good about this as I once taught South Dakota History at Tripp-Delmont High School. At that time, the late, and I'll say great Russ Morrell had heard about the curriculum I had assembled, and encouraged me to write a South Dakota History text. I didn't get it done, but I'm at least touching some subject matter.

As late as the 1970s, rabbit hunts were a part of all but forgotten South Dakota life. Who remembers Ward Hoffman's ride through the dam at Pickstown? How about the trials and tribulations of a Great Depression sheriff as told by The Lake Andes Wave? Can you imagine 200 vehicles surrounding the Lake Andes courthouse? Lines at dawn hoping for a courtroom seat? A courtroom that reeked of homemade fried chicken? See what I mean?

Lisa, our middle daughter and a noted authority on autism, has already co-authored three books. Her assistance has been invaluable. Everything, including submission of the entire book, has been done on the computer. Beyond keyboarding columns that preceded the computer era, I'm a technological disaster. Without both Lisa and and my wife Betsy, this project would have been far too demanding.

I've begun to realize that I've done one thing right. On most every hunting, fishing, or camping trip, I had a camera along. This goes all the way back to 1950s Canada fishing trips and photos snapped with an old Kodak using size 616 black & white film. If you ever fished with me, I may have photos including those Parkston High School faculty trips of the 1960s. Don't be afraid to ask.

When the manuscript was submitted about five weeks ago, I felt a terrific sense of relief. It was premature. The publisher let us know immediately that for every living person mentioned in the book, I needed a signed and notarized waiver granting me permission to include them. Gathering these documents has been a monumental task. Some of these people are in foreign lands. I no longer know where some of these people live, or whether they are dead or alive.

I do have some options. I can change their names, or I can omit them from the book. I can also use a pen name for myself as author, but I'm not going to do that. I did, very briefly, think about pen names ... something outdoorsy. Mark Trail? Dakota Buck? Shotgun Jones? I don't think so.

Regarding those outfitters in the Territories, Africa, Argentina, or New Zealand, I Googled their current websites and emailed letters to them that explained my situation. We attached copies of their respective stories along with the waiver form. I heard from an African outfitter before I finished the letters.

One publisher concern has been particularly interesting. The publisher had taken the time to assemble passages from the entire book that were deemed as potential lawsuit material. Key words were highlighted. One of the highlighted words was "affair." To some people, an affair might be a series of illicit rendezvous with someone else's spouse. In my goose hunt story, some of the hunters had been up quite late, and some had imbibed in moderate to excess libations. My sentence read, "The trip home was a quiet affair." I'm staying with the word "affair."

One particular word was highlighted perhaps 20 times. That word was "kill." Apparently "kill" is no longer politically correct. Keep in mind that many entries were hunting stories. In picking through my vocabulary for "kill" synonyms, I could use the overworked politically correct term "harvest," but I'm going to leave this word to farmers.

How about these synonyms? Slay, dispatch, terminate, smoke, liquidate, erase, snuff out, obliterate, hammer? You know what? I'll continue to kill most of my game. The next time I try writing a book, I'll go with fiction.

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks is supposed to release the remainder of the 10,000 rainbow trout released last week at Fort Randall. We'll talk about those trout, and their South Dakota cousins, next week.