By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
CANTON, Mo. -- Dan Steinbeck and his family have always shared their favorite stories with each other.
Now, Steinbeck hopes to share his family's wacky tales with the community.
Before Steinbeck's father, David, died in 2005, he had started writing down fragments of the family's history. After his death, Steinbeck took over compiling the stories, snippets and funny sayings that had accumulated in the family's dialogue for generations.
In December, these stories finally took print form in Steinbeck's "Nuts, Squirrels and Knotholes in the Family Tree."
"Every family gets (itself) into weird situations at times," Steinbeck said. "There's enough of these -- between all of us in the family, that we remember -- (that) we got a book."
The book touches extended parts of the Steinbeck family, including his mother's family, his father's family and various in-laws scattered throughout Northeast Missouri and West Central Illinois.
The stories are true and require little embellishment, he said.
Jennifer Pegler, Steinbeck's sister, appears in the plotlines of several stories. She recalled a family trip to Disneyland where nothing went right. While she was much too young to remember leaving her Mickey Mouse ears behind and sending the whole family back to look for them, those memories lived on in family folklore. Now they're preserved in print.
"One thing my dad stressed on us quite a while ago was always trying to find humor in things," Pegler said. "And I think that's what a lot of this book is."
Steinbeck's mother, JoAnn, has read her son's book three times. She said she'll pick it up on occasion and revisit sections as she thinks of them. She's not certain the accounts will interest anyone outside of the family, but she treasures having her own memories preserved in the pages.
JoAnn Steinbeck urges all families to collect their treasured tales.
"Whether you make it into a book or not, write these little stories down," she said. "Because it's all history."
The Steinbecks have a rich history in the area. The author said most of the stories from five generations of his family happened within 150 miles of Canton. He speculates people in the community may recognize some of the circumstances in the stories.
"Our family is not an isolationist family," Dan Steinbeck said. "We're out and among our community."
Steinbeck currently works as an advertising coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention's journal. He is former editor of the Press-News Journal in Canton. He also is a pastor at Southern Baptist Fellowship Church in Wayland, Mo.
In case someone might not want to digest the entire book in one sitting, the short, concise stories make for easy reads, Steinbeck said. While the author doesn't expect the book to top literary charts, he does anticipate it will make the reader laugh and smile.
"Most find that it's a laugh in a world that's sometimes not for a lot (of) smiles," he said.
FROM THE BOOK
We had a small Cub Cadet riding lawn mower on the farm. Gradually, we three kids learned to drive it. Until then, Dad did the mowing.
We had a small pond, which probably wasn't eight feet deep. The reason we had the pond in the first place was Dad thought the farmstead needed a pond, although it was not used for any known agriculture or aesthetic purpose nor positioned where anyone could see its beauty. In later years, we let it dry up.
The Cub Cadet had recently come back from the repair shop. Dad was mowing the pond bank and his foot slipped off the clutch. The tires spun on the evening-moist grass, and the tractor rolled backwards into the pond. Dad jumped off and wasn't hurt. The tractor was partially submerged.
Dad called Stow Implement, the company that had repaired the tractor, and owner Bob Stow chuckled when he winched it out with his truck. The tractor was taken to Stow's for the needed dewatering.
Bob had a great sense of humor. The next week, the ad he placed for his business in our newspaper said: "Our tractors are unsinkable!"