Category Archives: Introductions

Ransom Roots

I chose Ransom Man as the name of my blog because my family is rooted in the prairie lands of Ransom County, N.D., where I was born and where both of my parents grew up and where their families of Norwegian and Swedish stock were among the early pioneers.

Home base was Fort Ransom, a village that sprang up on the Sheyenne River near the site of a former army post (18671-72) named for Civil War Union Major Gen. Thomas Edward Greenfield Ransom, who died of dysentery (that’s the shits) in 1864 while chasing Gen. John Bell Hood’s rebel forces near Rome, Ga.

My dad moved us to the Puget Sound area of  Washington state when I was a twerp, but I feel tied to Fort Ransom through visits and extensive genealogy research.

Ten Things to Know About Fort Ransom

  • Scorching summers.
  • Sub-zero winters.
  • Mosquitoes the size of humming birds.  (When the University of North Dakota gets around to changing its Fighting Sioux nickname,  it might well consider Herc’n Bloodsuckers in recognition of the  insect.)
  • My uncle told me you could put a canoe in the Sheyenne and paddle all the way to Hudson’s Bay.
  • Great place to shoot gophers.  (Buffalo are gone, but deer and antelope still play there.)
  • My cousin Virgil’s place on Bear’s Den Hill near the ruins of the old fort  includes a spring-fed natural amphitheater steeped in antiquity as a probable vision quest site for Native American people, and a nearby “Writing Rock” features cup marks in an astrological arrangement similar to the oldest cup marks found anywhere in North America.
  • Mooring stones like those used by the Vikings were found in the vicinity, proving absolutely that Norse might’ve made it there (no doubt fighting the current all the from Hudson’s Bay).
  • Lefse, lutefisk and my mother’s ring cakes were all perfected there; also home of the Internet venture Youbetchatube.
  • There’s still a tavern in town, but the venerable Fort Ransom Cafe is no more. (So, if you go, you might want to pack your own lunch. But don’t worry about coffee; there’ll be a pot anywhere you go, and the Writing Rock contains the oldest cup marks . . . )
  • If you’re from there, too, we’re almost certainly related.

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Group Therapy

I joined a local writers’ group a few months ago, and this blog is the result.

I was seeking support and inspiration to refocus on my novel, which I hadn’t looked at for more than a year. Blogging, I was told, is essential for all writers in this multi-platform world of e-books and social media.  Also heard that I need to brand. Just hope I don’t hurt myself, as I did with the wood-burning tool that my older brother told me not to mess with. Wood burning looked easy enough. Hard, though, for a kid who liked to hold pencils near his mouth while thinking.

Like I need another distraction to take typing time away from my story of teen pals, preachers, prostitutes and river pirates in the 1880s Pacific Northwest.

Well, turns out I do! At least I’m typing and sharing regularly. And as I’ve always told myself, all that I lack as a writer is a body of work.  If you write, you are by definition a writer.  Never mind whether you’re a good, decent or poor writer.  That’s for the critics to decide.  Just be the writer.

I have no answer for writer’s block, except to say that real writers by nature are compelled to write. Now, thanks to blogging, anyone can easily share their work or thoughts  and get feedback. That’s also why I enjoy my  circle of friends in Writers Kickstart. We write to amuse ourselves and to share tips about being (gasp!) published. It’s all very supportive and constructive. My colleagues  are extremely talented and passionate about their work.  We’ve got sci-fi fanciers,  world builders, humanists, poets,  darksiders and spiritualists.  Some of it’s raw. Often it’s humorous.  Always it’s entertaining. If you filmed us, the soundtrack could include bagpipes playing “It’s Long Way to the Top . . . ”

I spent 33 years as a newspaper journalist and figured I could easily make up better stories than the ones bound by truth.  Turns out, that’s not the case.  I enjoy history and read much more nonfiction that fiction. Among the journalists I’ve most admired are news commentator  Eric Sevareid and sports columnist Art Thiel.  Two fiction writers that I particularly enjoy are Garrison Keillor and Chuck Palahniuk.

When I’m dry of fresh ransom notes, I intend to post an occasional prompt that I’ve written and shared as an exercise for one of our bi-weekly Writers Kickstart meetings. Each meeting, someone suggests a topic and we write about it in 500 words or less. You can write strictly on topic, or vaguely on topic, or ignore the prompt and write something entirely unrelated.  Rules are like prison bars for anyone seeking escape; the bendable the better. I lean toward memoirs as I try to embrace the adage to “write about something you know.”

The current prompt from Writers Kickstart is to take a favorite fictional character and write about them, putting them in a new scene, new story or any sort of new light. I’m thinking “Fishing with Boo Radley.”  That will have nothing to do with my novel, although fishing provides a good backdrop for character study. Got a guy named Melville branded.

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I’ve got you where you’re vulnerable

OK, now that I have your attention, here’s how it’s going to work.

I know shit — you can read that either way — and I’m going to write about what I know and wonder about. We’ll have regular communication, and you’ll be safe as long as you keep reading and responding. Ignore me at your own risk.

You may discuss my ransom notes with family and friends, but do not call the authorities. I won’t have anyone policing me or telling me what I should or shouldn’t think, what I should or shouldn’t write about.

Do not be offended by occasional profanity, or we’ll have problems.

If you have no spiritual side, you’d best buckle up, because I’m likely to hit you upside the head.

If you have no compassion or sentimentality, I feel sorry for you.

If you have no sense of humor or humility, you’d best find some. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you have no business laughing at anyone else.

Now then, I’ve got you by the balls, unless, of course, you’re a eunuch or have only one testicle, in which case I’ve got you by the shorts, unless you go commando, in which case I know your hole cards in Texas Hold ‘Em. If you’re a woman, you might read that I’ve got you by the short hairs, unless you shave down there, in which case I’ve hidden one of your shoes.

More of what I know and wonder about will be revealed in future communications.

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