RETIRED PROF WRITES BOOK
ABOUT HIS OLD FRIEND THE PLATTE
Timothy J. Kloberdanz, who claims the Platte River flows in his blood, has written a book about his favorite river. The book is entitled “Once Upon the River Platte” and it recently was published by Clovis House, a new press.
Kloberdanz, 70, is a retired college professor who makes his home in Fargo, North Dakota. He grew up on a farm along the South Platte River in northeastern Colorado. While still in his teens, he traveled the entire lengths of both the South Platte and North Platte Rivers, from their sources deep in the Rocky Mountains, to their eventual merging into a single wide river in western Nebraska.
“As a boy, I often swam or waded in the Platte,” remembers Kloberdanz. “Back then, we kids must have swallowed more than a mouthful or two of river water. Somehow, we survived. Either the river was cleaner then or we were tougher than we are now.”
“My folks were farmers and I helped irrigate many a field with a ditch full of water from the Platte. We also had a big garden and we grew our own watermelons. They must have been about ninety percent river water. The Platte was more than just a river to us. It was life itself.”
“So yes,” asserts Kloberdanz, “The Platte River flows in my blood. And I’m proud of that fact.”
In the summer of 2004, Kloberdanz completed the first draft of his book, “Once Upon the River Platte.” But the project was waylaid for many years due to health problems.
“In 2005, I fell backwards off a high bluff overlooking the Platte. The sixty-foot fall resulted in a case of temporary amnesia. In the years that followed, I experienced vision problems that made it difficult for me to work on my manuscript. At times, I had double and even triple vision. When I was in Nebraska in August 2017 to watch the total solar eclipse, I saw three black suns, not just one. It was an awesome but scary sight. That same year, in September, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. So I later underwent brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Soon after, my vision began to improve. It’s taken fifteen years but the book is done at last.”
“Once Upon the River Platte” is set in the near future but the exact year is not specified. What is certain is that the weather has changed for the worse and it is hot—so hot that folks in the American heartland no longer scoff at government warnings about “lethal heat” and “climatic crisis.” Something is very wrong and everyone knows it.
Along with daily water shortages and record-breaking temperatures, there is a new development. Wild animals are attacking people in Nebraska’s densely populated Platte River Valley. Within only a few weeks, the human death toll begins to soar.
Zephaniah Pike, a federal agent, is sent to Nebraska to investigate. Although his base of operations is in the town of Columbus, Pike spends much of his time pursuing various leads in the area between Grand Island and Fremont, Nebraska.
During a tense first encounter that involves shouting and gunfire, Agent Pike meets Elk, a Native American recluse who lives on the Platte. Pike considers the old Indian’s behavior strange and the recluse soon becomes a prime suspect. Many twists and turns follow in the 335-page book.
Why, many readers may wonder, does Kloberdanz use the “River Platte” in the novel’s title, rather than the more familiar “Platte River”?
“That is explained in the book,” Kloberdanz responds. “Sometimes, a slight difference in the arrangement of a couple of words signals a big change in the way we see something. All of the characters in my book have differing points of view and I also include the perspectives of animals and even the Platte itself. It is all in an effort to help us step outside ourselves and to see things in a new and different light.”
Kloberdanz has authored or co-authored many articles, books, and essays. Last year, he published a novella entitled “One Day on the River Red” that focused on the Red River of the North. While he and his wife Rosalinda live in North Dakota, they often find themselves in Nebraska to work on various writing projects. When they come to Nebraska, one of their first stops is the Platte. There, on the banks of the “Great Flat Water,” they simply pause and look upon the wide, gently-flowing river.
“Seeing the Platte is always like coming home and seeing an old friend,” admits Kloberdanz. “Being able to write a book about my old friend gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. But I know better than to expect any hint of appreciation. The Platte is a fiercely independent river that does its own thing and charts its own course. It’s been doing that for millions of years. Indeed, one of the characters in my book claims ‘God is God. The Platte is the Platte. And that is that.’”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Kloberdanz chuckles.