Uncategorized | August 01, 2005

In October 2002, Tom Montag left a career in the printing industry to devote himself full-time over five years to a project he calls “Vagabond in the Middle: An Expedition Into the Heart of the Middle West.” In the nearly three years since, Montag has been traveling what he considers to be the Middle West (certainly there is debate about the exact boundaries) in an attempt to define what it means to be Midwestern. Montag has selected one “focus community” in each of twelve states: Eaton, Ohio; Fowler, Indiana; L’Anse, Michigan; Ripon, Wisconsin; Vandalia, Illinois; Maysville, Missouri; Emmetsburg, Iowa; Alexandria, Minnesota; Rugby, North Dakota; Redfield, South Dakota; West Point, Nebraska; and Smith Center, Kansas.

Montag describes his process as follows: “I will attempt to: (1) understand the history of each community from both the written sources and by way of oral history; (2) understand the current situation of each community by analyzing the content of each community’s newspaper over a five year period; (3) understand the character of each community’s residents by way of a written survey, formal interviews, and informal conversation; and (4) spend several weeks to several months in each community, observing the life and rhythms of each place. This last I call ‘poking about.’ William Least Heat Moon might call it ‘deep history.’ Vagabond will always be about the true stories of our lives, here; the effort will be a sustained expedition.”