Preserving Memories with PowerPoint

The Woodland family -ready to travel west

I heard wonderful stories growing up. My father was a great storyteller, and he had a grand heritage to share. His grandfather was one of the first settlers in South Dakota, founding Woodland Township. The Woodland family and the Bailey family traveled in covered wagons to find the ideal spot on which to settle. I heard the stories of how they built their temporary homes of sod, had interesting contacts with the local Sioux, and braved cold South Dakota winter blizzards. Tales were told of the “Jim & Jane” trees, a marker for a favorite picnic and fishing spot on the lake named after his friend. Bailey’s Lake is now a state park and a refuge for waterfowl and wildlife in NE South Dakota. I heard of my great-grandfather, the postmaster, walking 30 miles across the prairie. It took two days for him to retrieve mail – in blizzard weather, a little longer.

The Woodland family outside their first soddie north of Clark, South DakotaThe Woodland family outside their first soddie north of Clark, South Dakota.

The stories intrigued me as a young girl, but when I inherited a box of pictures in early adulthood, I discovered a treasure trove of history and adventure. The stories were true! The covered wagons, the Jim & Jane trees, the soddie – somehow, there were pictures of them all. How? I couldn’t say. Surely not many families could afford the tintype photos; yet, here they were, along with dozens of others . I discovered my ancestors built  the small town creating dress shops, barbershops and optometry. Not only did I find the pictures to be amazing; many of them had names and dates included. Then I found a journal. It completed Dad’s stories.

It is said a historian is present in every family. I decided it was up to me to preserve the memories. I wanted to pass this information down to my grandchildren, for how would they know their great-great-great grandfather sailed by boat from England to the U.S. when he was 14, and then served his country during the Civil War? Wouldn’t they love to know he was the first constable in a little town called Clark in the late 1800’s?

Clark SD - 1883Armed with information and photos, I put together a visual account, illustrating the stories with the pictures. First the story had to be written in chronological order from one generation to the next, starting with my great grandfather. Pictures were then sorted and scanned into JPEG format to be injected into my word document. From there, it was a matter of placing the story into a Power Point presentation. The present product is 135 slides with over 100 photos. It includes poems written by family, secret family recipes and the family tree. The time covers a span of 4 generations (1835-1976) of the Woodland family in South Dakota. It’s an ongoing story that needs to keep going.

Perhaps someday it should become a book. For now, it’s simply our family’s treasure of memories to keep and cherish.

Free Flash Fiction Challenge

Can you write a complete story in 26 Sentences?  Here is your challenge:  Each sentence must begin with a sequential letter of the alphabet. You may take liberty with the X, using words starting with EX. Add your story to the comment section below.  Best stories to be published in a “Quick Reads” anthology. See how creative you can be!


THE TRANSFER man runningAlone, he was forced to make a critical choice. Before leaving, he took one last look at the picture on the shelf, impulsively touched the face behind the glass tracing her face with his finger, then kissed it. Carefully, he removed the photo from its frame, lit a match and burned it to ash; dumped the remains in the trash. Dared not leave any damning evidence behind. Every fiber of his being hated what he knew he must do; it made his skin crawl but there was no turning back now. Focused on his task, he had to hurry before he changed his mind. Garrison opened the briefcase to ensure every item was securely enclosed in the envelope: untouched, unopened. Harsh winds blasted his face as he opened the door; winter had been cruel in more ways than one. It will be over soon, he assured himself. Judge Abernathy is counting on me to make the transfer. Keys in hand, the door closed behind him for the last time. Looking back, he quietly said goodbye to all he had ever known and loved. Maybe some good will come from this yet; if it did, it was long in coming. Neglecting his own safety, he accepted the task of Keeper; his only regret was leaving Kate behind. Only a small window was given: midnight, the twelfth of December. Perhaps that had special meaning – 12-12-12 – but he asked no questions, only arranged a meeting. Quickly, he hid the briefcase beneath a blanket and drove to the appointed spot. Restless, he scanned nervously for any onlookers; didn’t think things would escalate this far. Silently he waited for the contact to show. Twisted guts told him danger was imminent although another quick scan promised he was alone. Under the darkness, at 11:58 p.m., he saw a man approach, hidden beneath a wide-brimmed hat, uncertain in his steps, nervous, searching. Valuable goods retrieved, Garrison hailed the man, then handed the mysterious envelope to the faceless stranger. Whispering he asked, “Should I call the Judge and let him know?” Xerostomia overtook the man and he licked his lips; “No, tell no one… instead…” the man called over his shoulder, “…RUN!” “Yes sir, you can count on me; just glad to be done with it,” Garrison twitched as he watched him disappear in the blackness. Zooming in overhead, the single quiet drone targeted its victim and finished the task. _______________________________

Add your story below:  Deadline: 03/31/2015

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