One of the exciting current Chapman Center projects centers on publication of a book on famous rancher Pat Sauble and his life in rural Kansas. In addition to being the Assistant Editor of the Online Journal of Rural Research and Policy, Brad Galka also works as a research technician with the Chapman Center for Rural Studies, researching and digitizing materials for projects. Galka, along with other Chapman Center students and staff, spends hours transcribing interviews, digitizing, identifying, and organizing thousands of photos and memorabilia, working directly with Sauble to make sure things are recorded accurately.
What is your favorite part of the Sauble project?
My favorite part about the Sauble project has got to be Pat himself. He is such a cool guy to talk to and hang around with. He has led such an interesting life and going over to his house and seeing all of his memorabilia makes the connections with all his stories real.
Is there a favorite story of yours from the interviews?
My favorite story is probably about Pat’s grandfather’s neighbor Mr. Parrell. Apparently Parrell had a running feud with all of his neighbors living across the county line. Mr. Parrell (who Pat describes as an ornery Frenchman who nobody liked) used to lure his neighbors’ livestock across the county line onto his property and then, once they were on his land, Mr. Parrell would essentially kidnap the stray cows and horses and lock them in his pens until their owners paid the ransom to get them out. This engendered no warm feelings toward Mr. Parrell to be sure.
One day a young ranch hand named Charlie Sayer went with his boss to free some kidnapped cows. Charlie’s boss and Mr. Parrell got into a wrestling match over the fee Parrell was charging to free the animals and Charlie ended up shooting Mr. Parrell! Mr. Parrell died of gangrene and Charlie went on the run for a little while to Oklahoma. When he come back a few weeks later though Charlie was acquitted of the killing by a jury of his peers. According to Pat, all his neighbors thought Parrell had it coming!
What are some challenges to organizing and prioritizing such a vast amount of research and material? How do you even begin?
Much of the challenge comes in verifying the details of the stories that Pat tells us and finding good photographs to illustrate them. Pat has a lot of photographs but most of them rely on his ability to remember who is in the photos and what the context is for us to be able to make use of them. Other things like financial records, journal entries, and letters pose their own difficulties in just being able to read them. A lot of the material comes from the early twentieth century or even the nineteenth century so it takes a very keen eye!
You must feel very close and invested in this project. Explain your connection to the project:
I have been working on this project in some way or another for about two years now. Other than the Going Home exhibit that we put on at the Discovery Center this was the first project I worked on for the Chapman Center. By now I have spent hundreds of hours listening to Pat’s voice on audio and video recordings transcribing his stories and then more hours on top of that talking with the man himself. I am eager for this to come to a successful conclusion – for Pat’s sake as well as ours – but I probably will miss it a bit once it is over!
Is preparing this material for publication anything like organizing the Going Home collection or a similar collection at a museum? Explain the similarities or differences for someone who doesn’t know anything about it.
For the Going Home project I worked on artifact acquisition for the museum exhibit and on writing labels to help tell a story through physical objects. I also spent many hours transcribing oral interviews with individuals about their home town histories. Many aspects, then, are the same yet, with the Sauble project being a book, they are also pretty different. It is great when your experience overlaps with various projects but learning new skills is very important and can be fun as well. Working with the Chapman Center and the Online Journal of Rural Research and Policy has given me many such useful experiences and new skills.