HJ/EDHerald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch, Nov. 14, 2005

Telling it like it was: Wright County songs and stories

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Even with 30 years of storytelling under his belt, Bob Gasch of Cokato has found a unique way to bring 150 years of Wright County history to life at a one-time special program.

“It’s taking facts and figures and turning them into something we can relate to,” Gasch said.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, Gasch will be presenting Wright County history, along with the Madsen Family Singers, at the “Wright County Stories and Songs” program taking place at the Wright County Historical Society in Buffalo at 7 p.m.

The event is part of a year-long commemoration in honor of Wright County’s sesquicentennial.

Gasch will focus on connecting different pieces from the history of the county, including the time before the pioneers arrived, a smelly solution to drafts produced by log cabins, and the reason behind why some Wright County roads are so curvy.

One focal point of the stories will be how the lifestyles have changed from a time when all children slept in the same bed, to today, when children often have separate rooms.

Standing before an audience and recounting 150 years of history would seem like a daunting task to most, but Gasch finds excitement and energy in the past that he loves to share.

“It’s an ongoing, never-ending process, like a hobby,” Gasch said. “Some guys play golf, I dig around for stories.”

In fact, for Gasch, gearing up to relate Wright County history was not a problem.

“I’ve had a great interest in western metro history for a long time,” Gasch said, who grew up on Lake Minnetonka.

Gasch uses not only his knowledge of the past, but also of the present, to relate his tales.

“I didn’t have to research everything,” Gasch said. “For example, to tell you how to live in a log cabin is something I do every day.”

Gasch and his family live in a 1860 log cabin, so he has first-hand experience in some of the problems the pioneers faced.

During his career as a storyteller, Gasch frequently visits schools and libraries, and also devotes some of his time to community organizations and historical societies.

Most of his stories are geared toward the elementary and middle school students, families, and senior citizens. Gasch offers a variety of stories which schools can pick from.

Then, he sits back and watches the story unfold in his audiences’ minds.

“It’s fun to see the people use their imagination. If I do a good job of telling the story, you are picturing it in your head, and I can see that on people’s faces,” Gasch said.

Although storytelling is his passion, Gasch also enjoys listening to others tell their tales.

“The time I have the most fun is when I leave a part of the story time open for the audience members to tell their stories,” he said.

Gasch has heard numerous stories about town pranks and adventures, but will never forget one audience member’s story.

During the audience portion of one program, a man told how he and three of his friends made their get-away after graduating high school.

The youngsters bought an old car and drove out to California.

“All four of these guys piled in this car, each with $20 in their pockets, and drove to California. Their mothers were worried sick about them,” Gasch recalled, with a chuckle.

For him, stories like these are what make history interesting.

Gasch’s son, Conner, agrees. The kindergartner sometimes travels with his dad and helps him tell stories. When he’s not working, Conner makes sure his dad gets all the practice he needs, whether it is a bed-time story or simply a way to pass the time in the car.

“It’s more dynamic than facts and figures. These are historical stories for families, these are lifestyle stories,” Gasch said.

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