All Posts By

James C. Schaap

Essay

A sort of confession

When Julia Ward Howe sat down to refashion a much beloved Union battle hymn the troops called "John Brown's Body," she created new lyrics and a bold new score that, almost magically, became as deeply imprinted on America's soul as…
Essay

The Battle of the Spurs

There's something vintage Old Testament about the story, something decidedly like myth. But it happened; and just a bit north of Topeka, atop a hill along the road, a somewhat unkempt highway marker tells part of the story, the part…
Essay

Only the beginning

A century ago this month, my great-uncle came down with pneumonia. He was on his way to France to fight the Huns, WWI, the "Great War." That illness set him behind the rest of his platoon, but he caught up,…
Essay

Phil

Fifty years after it went out of style, he still wore his hair--great hair, by the way--in a duck tail. Had he let it grow a little longer, he might have passed for Sikh and never worn a turban. He…
Essay

What I learned on Spring Break, 1968

The night Dr. Martin Luther King was shot, four of us—small-town, small-college, white boys—were following the Gulf's eastern shore on an all-night trek from south Florida to New Orleans. It was spring break, 1968, only a few months from the…
Essay

The river in winter

The first matter of business when white folks came to the region was roughing out claims so they knew where each of the others was going to put down roots. Once that task was done, some of ye olde pioneers…
Essay

A Lenten Triptych from York, NE

Mildred Armstrong Kadish, in Little Heathens, her darling memoir of growing up on an Iowa farm during the Depression, claims that her family had only two oil lamps before rural electrification. It's unimaginable to think of how dark their world must…
Essay

Local Sodbuster Makes Good

When James Fenimore Cooper complained about the novel he was reading, his wife told him to put up or shut up, to just go ahead and write a better one himself. That tiff launched Cooper’s career, a novelist sometimes considered…