NORFOLK, Neb. – A chronicler of life on the northern Great Plains will be featured during the final Visiting Writers Series event of the fall semester at Northeast Community College.
Jerry Wilson will read from his work during a presentation on Wed., Dec. 8, at 4 p.m., in Union Coffee in Northeast’s Union 73 on the Norfolk campus.
Wilson was born in western Oklahoma, near the homesteads two of his great grandfathers claimed in the 1892 Land Run into Cheyenne Arapaho country. His family worked a small marginal farm in a neighborhood of “hard-up blacks and whites.” In 1957, he witnessed the great Cimarron River flood that took his settler grandparents’ lives. From those experiences, from his ancestors’ stories and from historical research grew his novel Across the Cimarron.
As a young man Wilson worked as a farmhand, handyman, gas station attendant, oil field “flunkey,” carpenter, a preacher, and served two Vietnam-era years in the U.S. Army. From those years evolved his collection of short stories, Blackjacks and Blue Devils.
Wilson has traveled widely in Mexico, his “second country” for over 50 years. When he learned that the 2009 global swine flu epidemic likely began in massive hog confinements at the foot of Mexico’s highest glacial peak, he headed south again. His novel Eden to Orizaba revolves around the lives of immigrants, and the forces that send them north and south across the Rio Grande.
Having lived most of his life near the Pan American Highway, US Highway 81, Wilson explored the 5,000 miles from Winnipeg, Canada, through Norfolk, and to the Darien Gap in southern Panama, stopping in every city and town and listening to whomever he met. A socio-historical travel book that emerged his journeys he called American Artery: A Pan American Journey.
Thirty-nine years ago, Wilson and his wife, Norma, constructed a geo-solar house on a Missouri River bluff in South Dakota, where they raised two children, restored native prairie and still live today. His eco – memoir, Waiting for Coyote’s Call, shares a quarter century of working with and learning from nature in the bluff’s prairies and woods.
Wilson taught college-level literature and writing for a quarter century, then served as managing editor of South Dakota Magazine and contributing editor of Nebraska Life. Now, he mostly works, observes and writes at his home place, the setting of his second environmental memoir, Seasons of the Coyote: A Year on Prairie Bluff.