Tag Archives: Lost on the Prairie

There’s A Mistake In My Novel

My friend John, an amateur naturalist, said some very kind things after reading my novel Lost on the Prairie but he did point out a mistake I had made. In one chapter of the book, a pair of young boys come upon a roost of monarch butterflies. Thousands of them are covering the trees and plants in a wooded area. Joe who is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton First Nation in South Dakota tells my hero Peter that since it is autumn the butterflies are in the midst of their journey migrating south to Mexico.

An artistic rendition of the monarch butterfly scene in my book was done by my cousin Carol Schmidt Schroeder.

Of course, the monarchs are on a journey south to Mexico, but my discerning friend John said no one would have known that in 1907 when my book takes place. The information that monarchs went to Mexico was only made public in 1976 when a Canadian zoologist Frederick Urquhart published an article in National Geographic sharing data from a monarch research project he and his wife Norah Patterson had been working on since their marriage in 1945.

Fred and Norah wanted to know where monarchs went for winter and so they began raising thousands of butterflies in their Toronto home. They experimented with all kinds of tagging methods for the monarchs until they found one that worked.

Fred and Norah Urquhart- photo from an article about them in the University of Toronto Magazine

In 1952 Norah wrote a magazine article asking for volunteers to help them with their project. Initially, twelve responded but by 1971 thousands of butterfly lovers were helping catch, tag, and release hundreds of thousands of monarchs. Nora and Fred began taking field expeditions to follow the data and it led them to the Gulf of Mexico.

A photo of Cathy Brugger appeared on the cover of the August 1976 issue of National Geographic

In 1972 Norah wrote letters to Mexican newspapers asking for help and Ken and Cathy Brugger a pair of amateur naturalists and butterfly lovers took up the search. In 1975 thanks to a tip from some Mexican loggers, they found millions of monarchs carpeting the ground and trees on the Neovolcanic Plateau about 240 miles from Mexico City.

Norah and Fred in Mexico – photo from an article written by their grandson’s wife Fiona McGlynn in Canadian Geographic

In 1976 Norah and Fred now in their sixties traveled to Mexico and hiked 10,000 feet up to the plateau to see the amazing reward of forty years of research they had done. They happened to be standing near a pine branch that crashed from the weight of the butterflies on it and in the cluster of monarchs at their feet, the Urquharts found one that bore one of their tags. It had been tagged in Minnesota before setting out on its trek to Mexico.

In August of 1976, an article about their research and discovery appeared in National Geographic and shared what Fred and Norah had discovered with the world. Since then more than 13 wintering sites for monarchs have been found and are protected as ecological reserves by the government of Mexico.

Fred and Norah with their son Doug after receiving the Order of Canada- photo from an article in Canadian Geographic by Doug’s daughter-in-law Fiona McGlynn

Fred and Norah Urquhart were given the Order of Canada in 1998 for their amazing discovery. Of course, Indigenous people in Mexico had known about the butterfly roosts for thousands of years.

In 2012 a movie called Flight of the Butterflies premiered starring Gordon Pinsent and Patricia Phillips as Fred and Norah.

So how could Joe the young boy in my story have known the butterflies were going to Mexico in 1907 if that fact wasn’t made public till 1976? Well, he probably couldn’t have.

Although I did tons of research for my book and my editor was great at helping me find historical errors we didn’t catch them all. My book has a mistake in it but I am almost glad it does because it led me to do all the research for this post and learn about Fred and Norah Urquhart, two Canadians I’d never heard of before.

I am sure I will find other mistakes as my book reaches a wider audience of discerning readers and I’m excited about what I might learn from those mistakes. Thanks, John for pointing this one out.

Other posts…………

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterflies in Nunavut?

Launching A Book

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Book Jam

I am going to be part of a Manitoba Book Jam tonight. Hosted by Anita Daher the Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada the event highlights our province’s authors. Tonight the Manitoba Book Jam features members of my writers’ group and we will each be promoting one of our books. I am going to be talking about my novel Lost on the Prairie which comes out in the spring of 2021 with Heritage House.

Each author appearing tonight will have five minutes to introduce one of their books and do a reading from it. It was hard to choose which scene from my book to read but I think I’ve finally settled on one. The theme of the evening is kindness so we will focus on the way that theme plays out in our novels and picture books. Special music guest violinist Alan Palmer will provide some beautiful half time music during the book jam.

The show will be available on Zoom. You can find a link to register for the Zoom session here. McNally Robinson Booksellers has donated a gift certificate and there will be a draw for a winner from all the Zoom registrants. The book jam will also be live-streamed on Facebook.

This is the first of what I hope will many public events to promote my book. It’s exciting.

To see other posts about my novel click on the link below………

Lost on the Prairie

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Riding the Roller Coaster

This train station in Omaha was built in 1870.

My novel Lost on the Prairie begins with the main character Peter setting out from Newton Kansas on an immigration journey to Canada. He is travelling by train and the first stop the train makes is in Omaha Nebraska. Peter and his two brothers decide to visit the Krug Amusement Park in Omaha while they wait for the train to continue its journey north.

The Krug Amusement Park was operated by Krug Brewing in Omaha. The company was founded by a German immigrant Fred Krug in 1893. It was a large modern brewery that employed around 500 people. 

The beer pavilion at the Krug Amusement Park in the early 1900s

  In 1902 the Krug family decided to sponsor an amusement park.

The Krug Amusement Park in the early 1900s

In my story, Peter visits the park in 1907 and rides the roller coaster there.   The roller coaster at the Krug Amusement Park called The Big Dipper wasn’t really built till 1917 so I took a little historical licence having Peter ride it in 1907.  

The Krug Amusement Park had a hot air balloon

I know from historical documents about the park that it had a Tunnel of Love, a hot air balloon ride and that dancers performed in the park’s special dance pavilion.  In my novel, Peter sees all those things on his visit to the Krug Amusement Park as well.  

Peter shares his seat on the roller coaster in Omaha with a girl named Annie. And although they only spend a short time together it is certainly memorable.   I won’t tell you why!  I have to leave some things for you to find out when you read my book. 

Other posts about Lost on the Prairie 

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A Novel For Peter

When I was writing my novel Lost on the Prairie I wanted my main character Peter to be inspired by a literary hero. Peter who has been separated on his immigration journey from his parents needs a great deal of courage and determination as he tries to reunite with his family.  I thought it would be great if he had a character in a book to look up to as a role model.

Captains Courageous was published in 1897. This is how the first edition looked. 

My story takes place in 1907 so I needed to choose a book that had been written before that date and I wanted one where the main character was on a journey of some sort.  After checking out several possibilities I settled on Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling and in my novel I had Peter’s older brother Herman read the book aloud to him and his younger brother Alvin. 

In 1937 Captains Courageous was made into a movie starring Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas and a very young Mickey Rooney

The hero of Captains Courageous is a young boy named Harvey.  He is from a very wealthy family and when he falls overboard on an ocean voyage some Portuguese fishermen rescue him. He must serve as a crewman on the fishing boat as it plies the Grand Banks of Newfoundland filling its hold with cod.  Harvey makes friends with the ship captain’s son Dan and has all kinds of adventures at sea before he is reunited with his parents. 

In my book, Peter refers back to incidents from the novel Captains Courageous many times.  Like Harvey Peter almost drowns and is rescued by a man named Arden Little Thunder.  Like Harvey, Peter makes good friends with Arden’s son Joe and has all kinds of adventures on the prairie just as Harvey did at sea.  Like Harvey, Peter is separated from his parents and must draw on strengths he never knew he had to survive and return to his family. 

I hope after finishing my book readers will be inspired to read Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous if they haven’t already done so.  

Of course, I have no idea if my grandfather Peter Schmidt who was the inspiration for the main character in my novel ever read Captains Courageous.  My mother did tell me however that Grandpa loved to read and he subscribed to quite a number of newspapers and magazines which he read devotedly.  I love this photo I have from my aunt that shows my grandfather reading in his home. 

Other blog posts about my novel……..

My Novel’s Elevator Pitch

What an Inspiration

Thank You Mystery Editor

A Published Novel. Can You Believe It? 

 

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