My research into Stout, IA experienced a moment of serendipity this summer. One day while waiting for some car repair work to be completed at the Honda shop, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was with me in the waiting room for a similar reason. She noticed the book I was reading — Midnight Assassin — which was about the Hossack murders in Iowa that took place around 1900. This opened the door for a conversation about my interest and research into the Andreessen’s story. After a while of conversation about what I’ve discovered during my quest so far, she revealed that she was on her way to have lunch with a few friends, one of whom had grown up in the Stout area. After hearing of my story and (as often is the case) asking if I was working on a book, she said she would ask her friend if she had any recollections or information about the place or event. Feeling elated, but also cautiously guarding my optimism about receiving new information, I shared my name, email and phone number with her and we said our good-byes.
A week or so later when I was in Louisville, KY for the AP English Language and Composition Exam scoring session, I received a voice mail from a kind woman explaining that she was the friend of the woman at the car dealership and would be interested in speaking with me about her knowledge of the area. I could hardly believe it! What a call to receive! Unfortunately, I was unable to return her call for a few days because of my work in KY, but as soon as I got home, I called and held my breath to see where the conversation would go.
In short, it was a lovely conversation. She filled me in on a lot of the details about the community, the settlers, the religious factions, how people interacted with one another in that time, and so forth. She provided a few additional names for me to contact, but sadly, they didn’t provide any new leads as the folks were in their eighties and not too interested in speaking on the phone to an unfamiliar woman asking questions about an event that happened over 80 years ago.
Though I was disappointed to not get anywhere after this wonderful second conversation, I was more than joyful about the serendipitous meeting at the dealership and the nice woman’s consideration to pass along my information to her friend. Even more, I was touched by the second woman’s call which gave me a better picture of the town and its people.
My thoughts return to Stout and the journey continues.