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Paynesville Press - July 28, 2004

Prairie Boy writes book about childhood

By Kayla Welle

Ken Bjerke used to tell his daughters stories of his childhood, and finally one day they asked him to give them a written account of his childhood so they, too, could share it with their kids.

Ken Bjerke That is exactly what Bjerke did. Over a two-year period, Bjerke recorded his favorite memories and lessons of growing up, in a 65-page book.

Bjerke's book, Prairie Boy, is a written account of his favorite childhood stories and lessons. In Prairie Boy, Bjerke recalls emotional triumphs and moments of laughter that filled his childhood.

When he looks at his book now, Bjerke said a big part of it is a comparison of the way things were when he was growing up in the 1930s and the way things are now. "It's my way of preserving my childhood and lifestyle," he said.

Though Bjerke has had a lot of experience in the writing world, as he worked at a newspaper for 42 years and has written special occasion poems for many people, his intentions were never to write a book. His original plan was to simply jot down some momentous occasions in his life.

Ken and his dad At first, Bjerke admits that he was apprehensive about writing. He took a class offered by another Paynesville author, Bob Cushman. Bjerke said that Cushman encouraged him to go further with his writing. "That was one push I received to write the book," Bjerke said.

Ken Bjerke wrote about his favorite childhood memories from growing up in the 1930s. Here he is pictured with his dad.

It took Bjerke about two years to write Prairie Boy. He said that he worked on it most during the winter when he and his wife Nelda spent time in Arizona. When he started writing, Bjerke was surprised at how fast the book came together. "It was just page after page," he said.

While selling books is extremely rewarding, Bjerke said, the media coverage that he is getting from it is even more satisfying. Newspapers from his hometown area have written articles about his book. He said that he is amazed at how interested people are because he wrote a book. Bjerke was born and raised in Clark County, S.D. He attended eight years of schooling at two different country schools. He then attended high school at a christian boarding school in Canton, S.D.

In 1948, he met his eventual wife Nelda Stump. Through influences of his father-in-law, Ken said, he was hired at the press room of the Duluth Herald as a newspaper printing pressman. He worked there for 42 years before retiring.

After he retired, Bjerke and his wife decided they wanted to live in a scenic, rural area. "Paynesville more than qualifies," he said. They have lived in Paynesville for 11 years.

Aside from writing, Ken also enjoys tending his garden, which includes ten different fruits and various vegetables and flowers, pheasant hunting, and canning. To promote his book, Bjerke will be doing book signings in Clark, S.D., in Watertown, Minn., and at the James Street Coffee Company in Paynesville on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Copies of Bjerke's book can be purchased at the coffee shop and at Corner Drug, Paynesville Press, and Secondhand Sue's for $7.50.

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