Within minutes of Frederick Manfred's death on the first Wednesday of September 1994, the town sirens in Luverne, Minn., cranked to life. It was only the monthly test, but the blare seemed appropriate for a man whose novels drew comparisons to William Faulkner for their deep sense of place.
As his son, Fred Jr., remembered saying, "Well, Dad, they're already celebrating your life."
Still, it's taken until now, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, for Manfred to be truly commemorated. A yearlong series of events begins this month in Rock County, in far southwestern Minnesota, where Manfred set many of his 34 novels.
Rock County's Council for Arts and Humanities has declared 2012 the year of "Manfred: Scribe of Siouxland," his name for the region where Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota come together, which became a geographic muse for much of his writing.
The main events are April 21 in Luverne, when relatives and friends are invited to share reminiscences of the 6-foot-9 novelist during a buffet dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sure to be recapped will be the lengths to which Manfred went to write "Lord Grizzly," about Hugh Glass, a frontier hunter mauled by a bear and left for dead. Manfred crawled 80 miles across the prairie, as Glass had. The novel was a finalist for a National Book Award in 1954.
Other "Buckskin Man Tales" followed, including "Riders of Judgment," "Conquering Horse" and "Scarlet Plume."
Later that night, the action moves to the Historic Palace Theatre, where seven authors will talk about Manfred, but also read from their own work. Daughter Freya Manfred said that shining the spotlight on other artists illustrates how her father influenced and was influenced by drawing, photography, movies, storytelling and more. In addition to Freya, guest authors include Jim Heynen, Scott King, Thomas Pope, John Rezmerski, Joe Paddock and Nancy Paddock.
Other events include a writing contest coordinated by the Rock County Community Library (deadline is April 27), a reading series with options for all ages, the production of 12 bookmarks by Rock County artists depicting Siouxland with quotes from Manfred, an art show and drawing workshops by his grandsons, Rowan and Bly Pope, a writers' series at Blue Mounds State Park and a photo contest.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185