From birds to Bar-B-Q Days, the saga that Dale Albrecht weaves with his latest book, ‘The Wooden Fence’, attempts to encapsulate all that is Belle Plaine.
‘The Wooden Fence’, which is written as creative non-fiction, chronicles the life and times of Albrecht, including his family who has a rich history in circus performing and the friends with whom he got in trouble as a teenager growing up in the area.
Told mostly from the first person point of view, Albrecht’s tale highlights what the author has chosen to romantically immortalize through a densely woven string of reflections and stories.
Included are stories detailing accounts of his brother Mike’s falconry, his family’s performing past and, most personally, tales of his own teenage angst.
“I always wanted to be Pony Boy from ‘The Outsiders’,” Albrecht said. “I hung around the troublemakers; I liked to have fun in a small town.”
Despite owning the moniker “troublemakers”, Albrecht’s childhood friends weren’t all that bad.
“Growing up in Belle Plaine was magical. I not only had magical parents and grandparents, but the people I grew up with were some of the best people in my life,” Albrecht said. “Any of the shenanigans that we did is long gone in that period and that’s where it’s going to stay - back there.”
Many of the memories and events presented are done quite vaguely, but others are impossible to forget.
In one portion of ‘The Wooden Fence’, Albrecht recounts an instance in which his older brother, Mike, took a hard fall in the forest, damaging his feet and ankles.
Ironically, less than a month ago, Mike underwent a full ankle replacement due to complications from that very fall.
The title ‘The Wooden Fence’ is derived from a fence that marked the entrance to the Albrecht boys’ favorite spot growing up - the pine grove - the area of wooded glen surrounding Robert Creek on the southern portion of Belle Plaine.
During his time there, Mike Albrecht honed his falconry skills and ultimately became one of the first licensed falconers in the state.
The pine grove was where Mike found most of his birds, and the book also contains numerous photos from the family’s vast cache. Because he needed more birds, Mike decided to hire his brother, Dale, for help.
Fearless, due to his family’s daredevil background with the circus, Dale never hesitated to climb trees to fetch birds for his brother. All was going well until one scary instance, which is documented in the book.
From stories about the Albrecht patriarch and circus legend, Leo, to accounts of Dale Albrecht’s time in the Navy, the personal stories about triumph, fear and rebellion make the book more complex than its surface might suggest. But for Dale Albrecht, the book is as much a biography about his family as it is a historical account of Belle Plaine.
“There’s a lot of detail. I do a lot of flashbacks. Just that period of time growing up in a small town like Belle Plaine was something special.”
The book, which carries themes about the whimsy of youth as well as a childhood lost, is available for purchase in color or black and white at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1074336054 and
Dale Albrecht is also the author of ‘Tales of a Small Town Circus Legend’. He currently lives in Maine.