Authorship comes from years of living
Born and raised in a family they say was too poor for books, who would have ever guessed that Bennie Burk and his sisters, Arlean Rosemore and Yvonne Bush, would become authors of multiple books?
They were three of nine biological siblings and four foster children raised on a busy farm near Moose Lake. For multiple reasons, reading was never much of a priority.
“We never had time (to read),” Burk said.
“We were very poor,” Rosemore said. “We were never encouraged to read.”
Sometimes authorship is born from life in general.
“Our grandfather was a magnificent storyteller. Our dad was full of baloney all the time, so the storytelling was there, but getting it into writing was a different deal,” Rosemore said.
Since their humble beginnings Rosemore, Burk and Bush all had something in common. They all had stories to tell. Unlike their storyteller parents and grandparents, they decided to share their stories in book form.
“We probably just had something interesting to offer to people. A lot of people in three lifetimes wouldn’t experience some of the things I experienced in 10-20 years,” Burk said.
Rosemore’s writing began not just with her own experiences, but as an homage to important relationships in her life. Her first book was called “A Small Town is like a Large Family,” and she had it published in 2010.
“It started out that in the late ‘50s and ‘60s I found funerals were so cold. I started writing eulogies for funerals and would get up and recite them. It just made the funerals more personable and helped the grieving families,” Rosemore said. “I then became more well known, so people asked me to write things for retirement parties and birthdays. So, it’s a collection of those writings and some of my own thoughts. It was a tribute to those people who were very important to myself and my children’s lives. I had told them that their loved ones wouldn’t be forgotten so I put them in a book. They are immortalized now.”
Rosemore was almost a published author before a high school graduate.
“I started work on the book, then I had already talked to the publisher. I said, ‘I think a writer should graduate from high school.’ They said, ‘What are you talking about? Get this book done.’ So I took off a few months and went back to school, got my GED and came back and continued work on the book,” Rosemore said. “I think I’m the oldest one to graduate from Pequot Lakes School.”
Rosemore didn’t stop with one book, either.
“Someone said the first book is serious and sad, so I thought, ‘Shoot, I can do funny,’” she said.
Her second, lighter-hearted book is simply called “Whimsical Witticisms” and it came out in 2013.
While Rosemore was busy sharing wit and condolences, Burk was a true-to-life ice road trucker.
“When I got old enough I worked with my father on the steam ships for about a year just to get to know him. When I came home they had soil bank and they paid most farms not to grow crops. I was home a week and my mom said, ‘Bennie, what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to drive north as far as the road goes.’ It was just kind of an instant thought. Two weeks later, off I went,” Burk said.
When he first began, some of the north most roads weren’t even constructed yet, but Burk helped change that. He not only drove on the roads in Alaska, he helped build them. He spent the next 23 years operating heavy machinery and driving trucks in Alaska up and down mountain roads and across frozen water.
“It was easier to drive on the ice to go out to these places than it was to build a road,” Burk said.
Burk didn’t turn his own story into a book until 2013, when he was encouraged by his sister and younger brother.
Burk said. “I’m a heavy equipment operator and truck driver. I haul unusually heavy loads. We did a lot of unusual things. I wanted to preserve it for my grandchildren.”
Burk told his stories into a tape recorder. Rosemore and Burk’s daughter transcribed them and put them all together into Burk’s first book, “The Alaskan Haul Road.”
The end result is a very partial selection of his 23 years in the frozen up north, but it would not be the last. The audio recordings they transcribed for the book have also been turned into a collection of compact disks for sale. They include many stories that were not printed.
Burk and Rosemore intend to publish even more books. Rosemore is a master quilter who intends to write a quilting book and a book about people and the things associated with them, like an antique cradle that rocked many generations of her family, a table with more than 100 years of family dinners, and a jacket that travels with her wherever she goes and belongs to her brother with MS.
Of course, Burk’s book would include more of his amazing adventures.
“I think we could probably go three or four more (books). Who knows, as long as you want to listen,” Burk said.
Rosemore and Burk were preceded in their authorship by their sister, Bush. Though they have more books in their future, sadly, Bush’s authorship came to an end when she passed away in September 2013. She would have been 80 in 2014.
Like her siblings, Bush had a lot of stories. She worked with child protective services for 20 years in Arizona. Like Burk, those experiences were her muse, and they inspired her books, “Beyond Tears” and “Bonding Attachment.”
Burk, Bush and Rosemore lived inspired and inspirational lives, and thanks to their decision to publish those stories rather than just chew the fat over the dinner table or coffee, their stories will be available for generations to come.
TRAVIS GRIMLER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.