I Do My First Book Signing (And People Actually Show Up…)

I thought I’d share a few photos from the book signing events in Butler following the release of my book, Around Butler. We started with an hour at Southside Cafe, did an hour from 11:30 to 12:30 at the county courthouse on the Butler square, and finished up from 5:00 to 6:00 at the Inn Cafe/Majestic Cellars in the old Pennell Hotel building.


Lucille Lindsay, a long-time family friend, provided some of my best images, and was kind enough to share her memories of her father, Earl Erickson, and his adventures on one of Bates County’s century farms and in the service during WWII.

The photos themselves are courtesy of my mom, Pam Woods, who came with me to Missouri for the signing (which I thought was appropriate, since it is through her family that I’m connected to the area). She came with a digital camera and strict instructions from my dad, apparently, to take a picture every time anyone came within ten feet of me. To those family members and friends who may, at some future date, be subjected to the slide show: my sincerest apologies…


Sheila was in school with my mother back in the day, or so everyone says. Mom’s been trying to place her ever since.

My great-great-grandfather, Balthasar (pronounced Bal-THAY-zer) Durst came over from Alsace in 1854, and arrived in Bates County sometime in the late 1850s. This is quite significant because, due to the eviction of the county’s citizens during the Civil War and the systematic destruction by fire of what they left behind, there aren’t many families accounted for today in  Bates County who were there before the war. In an ironic twist, I did not discover this connection until after the book went to print, having missed it completely during eight months of exhaustive research. As they say, if it had been a snake…


My left side salutes you…

Honorable mention to the one important person who didn’t end up in a photograph: my college roommate Cal Ingram. He was kind enough to drive all the way up from Springfield to attend the signing at the courthouse. How, my friend, you escaped my mother’s trigger-happy eye, I will never know. Ninja skills, I suppose. Or perhaps it was the curse of the Rasta-demon, plaguing you still…


With co-author Brian Phillips at the Inn Cafe. He tried valiantly not to end up in any of Mom’s shots. And failed.


This lovely woman’s claim to fame is a distant relation to Il Duce himself, Mr. Benito Mussolini. I suppose it’s true what they say: you can’t choose your family…


As the day progresses, my signature begins more and more to resemble the results of a minor brain seizure. To all those seeking to forge my John Hancock: grab a pen and stick your finger into an electric socket…

Believe me, I do not indulge in false modesty when I say how genuinely surprised I was that anyone actually came to these events (and that those who did showed no signs of concealing torches or pitchforks about their persons). Let me leave you with this thought: We all have dreams, and in many cases we assume that’s all they will ever be. But I have sat on the other side of that rainbow, and it is real. And if I can do it, so can you.

Good night, and good luck…

Around Butler (Release Date: March 4, 2013)

To all those who followed my adventures in local history over the last year or so, thank you so much. The journey is over, and the finish line is fast approaching. My new book, Around Butler, will be available to purchase on March 4, 2013.


By Vance Woods and Brian Phillips. Images Of America. Arcadia Publishing. $21.99.

Meet the Electric City! From cattle to coal mines, border ruffians to businessmen, and rockets to railroad schemes, the air around Butler, Missouri, has crackled with energy since the settlement’s establishment in 1856. Ravaged by Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers and consumed in 1863 by the flames of General Order No. 11, the settlement rose from the ashes in the late 1860s and 1870s to become a hub of culture and commerce at the western edge of the “Show Me State.” In 1881, the capital of Bates County went electric, becoming one of the first municipalities west of the Mississippi to generate its own power, outstripping Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station in Manhattan by almost a year. A quiet little community with a loud and vibrant history, Butler is the quintessential example of the American small-town experience.

If you find it difficult to leave the back road behind; if you love nothing more than an excellent piece of homemade pie to go with your homespun tales; if you believe, deep inside, that there’s a wide-eyed, small-town kid inside us all–take a trip through the story of Butler with me. Then, if you are touched as much as I have been, perhaps even take a trip through the streets of Butler, and meet the people who call it home. Go to South Side Cafe and ask Randy about his pint-sized ghosts; check out the Suzie-Qs (curly fries, for those who don’t know) at The Flaming Lantern; take a walk around the brick-cobbled square; and stop by Sam’s for one of the best burgers in the world today. Finally, pop your head in at the Bates County Museum and ask Peggy about a man named Eddie and his amazing collection of Butler stuff. You will not regret it.