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From the Introduction
This is a short collection of family stories written by my great-aunt Clara (Foltz) Heberle, my dad Don Martin, and me.
Most of the stories feature Clara’s parents, Bill and Edythe Foltz, who lived from 1881 to 1968 and from 1879 to 1974, respectively. My dad’s mom, Clara’s sister Mae, also makes an appearance in a few of the stories.
My great-grandparents were responsible, hardworking people of German heritage. They lived in the small town of Henderson, Minnesota, in a house that my great-grandpa built. As a young child, I was both intimidated and intrigued by my great-grandparents, with their dark clothing, old-fashioned ways, and odd little house that seemed to be missing most of its rooms. (More on the missing rooms in my story.) Visiting my German great-grandparents was a vastly different experience than spending time with my mom’s gregarious Irish relatives, who liked to laugh and talk and sing and drink, celebrating all of life’s milestones, whether happy or sorrowful, with a party or large gathering of some sort. “Bloody Town,” my contribution to this book, is a memoir of visiting my great-grandparents as a child. I wrote the story when I was a teenager, or possibly in my early twenties.
Bootleggers, Bloody Town, and Deep Creek: True Childhood Stories had its origins in my second book, Spirits Out of Time, a collection of true family ghost stories and mystical or odd experiences. I was using some genealogy books written by my dad’s brother, Larry Martin, as a source for new stories and to fact-check the details of some of the stories I’d heard while growing up. It was through Larry’s genealogy books that I first became acquainted with the marvelous humor and generous-spirited forthrightness of my great-aunt Clara, who had contributed several stories and vignettes to Larry’s genealogy project. I had called my dad to ask about the story of the night in 1894 when my great- grandparents Bill Foltz and Edythe Wigand first met, and he said, “Why don’t you call Aunt Clara and ask her? She’d be able to tell you more than I can.” That was the beginning of my discovery of Great-Aunt Clara’s treasury of stories, as well as a wonderful relationship with Clara and her daughter Mary, both of whom I’d met only once or twice in my life.
Each book I’ve written has its own story and path. Spirits Out of Time came about when I experienced an unexpected and worrisome level of problems with the sequel to my first book, House of Spirits and Whispers. At the time, I thought the house spirits were interfering with my writing process, although I didn’t know why. I had a fast- approaching deadline to meet and proposed to my publisher that I write a book of true family ghost stories instead of the sequel they had contracted. My publisher agreed to the switch, and that’s how Spirits Out of Time came to be. My uncle Larry, one of three family members to whom I dedicated the book, passed away shortly after Spirits Out of Time was published. I was very happy Larry had the chance to get a copy of the book and see his genealogy research shared with a new audience. In retrospect, I wonder if it wasn’t house spirits at all, but rather family spirits that redirected my writing.
This book is like the child of Spirits Out of Time. It, too, leapfrogged to the front of the line over three unfinished books about the spirits in my house. I have learned that it’s easier to respect and work with the flow of things, rather than fight it, and this book is the result. I have been hoping for a dream message or visit from my great-grandparents or my grandma Mae giving their blessing to this project, but I haven’t experienced that — at least, not yet.
This has been a fun project. I’m proud to come from a line of great storytellers and people who met life’s hardships with determination and humor. These stories are true accounts, to the best of our recollection. I hope you enjoy reading them.