When he was a kid, Aaron Smith was more interested in hunting for wild asparagus with his grandmother or catching bullheads in the Tracy area than learning about the history.
Now many years later, Smith takes a look at some of the history that shaped the southwest Minnesota region in his debut novel.
Smith, a first-time novelist from Omaha, Neb. has his book "Crimson Runs on the Prairie," published earlier this year. The book is about the 1862 Shetek settlers.
Aaron Smith’s parents are both Tracy High School graduates and he would spend time in the area. Later in life, he was intrigued by the story of the Shetek settlers and that period of history and wrote a novel “Crimson Runs on the Prairie.”
He will be in Currie Sunday and Tracy Monday doing book signings.
He is doing a reading and book signing at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the End-O-Line Museum in Currie and will also be at the St. Mary's Church craft fair Monday as a part of Tracy's Box Car Days.
Smith's parents are both 1961 Tracy High School graduates, so he was familiar with the area.
"I spent a lot of time up there as a kid," Smith said.
Even after his parents moved to the Twin Cities, Smith said they'd return to Tracy often.
"We were out their on the weekends, going to the A&W," Smith said.
When he sat down to start a book, he had to figure out a subject.
"I had always wanted to write, but then it comes down to what to write about," Smith said.
Smith read about the era, which included books about the Shetek settlers and the Dakota conflict. He also read books by authors who wrote about the prairie, such as Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
"I wanted to write something in the style of those writers," Smith said.
Although the book is considered historical fiction, Smith said his grandparents, Ann and Axel Newberg are featured as characters in the story. He used the name because there are no more boys in the family.
He wanted to take a look at the "broader concept" of the time, not just focusing on the Slaughter Slough. Smith devoted an entire chapter, chapter 13, to the Dakota culture.
"We talk about the missed annuity payments and how it led to Shetek," Smith said.
In his novel, Smith has Axel Newberg repairing the roof of his house. Axel is injured while doing the repairs and has to be taken to New Ulm for medical help. That was before the violence takes place at Shetek.
He includes real life Shetek settlers and real events, such as the sieges at New Ulm and Fort Ridgely and the battle at Wood Lake, in his novel, but Smith said it's not supposed to be a definitive historical account of the Sioux Uprising of 1862.
"I have three storylines going on at the same time and it all comes together at the end," Smith said. In reality, the Newbergs, settled in North Hero Township, Smith said.
Smith said he believes there's a message in "Crimson Runs on the Prairie."
"No matter how dark the circumstances, providence does have a hand in this," Smith said.
Smith said he wrote the book with a fountain pen before transferring it to the computer.
"It took me seven years to write this book," Smith said. His day job is with ConAgra Foods in Omaha. "This was more of a labor of love for me."
Smith did float the book to a couple of agents and publishers.
"I decided to publish it on my own and see what happens," Smith said. "The folks who have read it like how it ended up."
There are copies of the book in the Tracy and Slayton public libraries, he said.
"It seems to be checked out quite frequently," Smith said.
And there is the possibility he may bring the characters back for another novel, Smith said.
"I left it open enough at the end (of the book) if I choose to continue it,' Smith said.