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  • Angela K. Holt

How a Phone Call Caused a Butterfly Effect

On the Northeast corner of 6th and Main in Mound City is a mural with a butterfly and the words Be the Change you want to see in the world on the top wings, and the words Butterfly Effect on the lower wings. I am a believer in the butterfly effect. For those not familiar, it is the idea that a seemingly small, random occurrence can create a large, widespread impact. This has certainly been my experience with the evolution of the Original Jayhawker.

On a July afternoon in 2019, I received a call from Anita Rowe, asking if I’d like to join a meeting in progress across the street from me. I don’t remember the specifics of our brief phone conversation, but I do know she included words such as “history” and “Mound City”. My curiosity piqued, I told my husband that I’d be back “in a few minutes,” and crossed the street to Lynne Lillie’s house. We had just finished moving into our home, and hadn’t met our dear neighbor yet, but entered her home with anticipation and enthusiasm.

I was ushered in and offered a seat around the table, and Anita introduced me to the ladies I didn’t know. I do believe some of life’s greatest ideas and moments happen when people are seated around the table. This meeting is a great example. Sue had a desire to create a film highlighting the history of our town, and this meeting of the minds had gathered to discuss how to go about it. I was hooked, and delighted to have been included in the brainstorming.

Photo by Angela K. Holt

We met several more times over the next few months, hashing out ideas and names and events that needed to be included. I found myself thinking of the project at all times of the day and night. Being involved with the interviewing process was great—I loved hearing Mound Citians tell their stories about our town and our history. I enjoyed, too, the historians we interviewed for the film. As a native in Linn County, and a student of history myself, I was familiar with our shared history, but I was also blown away at how alive our interviewees made our history feel. They made me wish for a time machine, so I could go back in time and walk Main Street during their youth, and see what they could still see.

I write a regular history column for the Linn County News, which centers around the individuals who lived here in Kansas’ infancy, and their genealogies. Some families are easy to follow through the generations, whether they stayed in Linn County or moved to other areas; others are hard to find beyond a single listing in a single census, newspaper article, or death record. Researching “ghosts” is hard, with occasional errors made, but the thrill of the chase can be extremely rewarding.

When Sue asked me in the fall of 2019 if I would write the script for Original Jayhawker, I agreed—with trepidation. I love the history of our county, of the rich history that has woven Mound City into what it is today. I love to write. However. I was also somewhat terrified at this opportunity I was given. I had never written a screenplay before. (Well, except for that one time in high school for our speech class. I wrote a script for the class that was a spoof on the Titanic movie. It was hilariously bad.) I did some research, read other documentary scripts, and when Sue handed me the transcripts from the interviews, I sat on them—as promised—until the week after Christmas. At that point, I read every word of every interview several times. I took notes, highlighted portions of each one, and wrote out ideas and concepts to fill in for the narrator. After about two days of that, I opened up a new document on the computer and got busy. I had the finished project done within the week—including editing and rewriting portions of it. Then, I sat on it for another week or so, scared to death to hand it over. I have such a fear of failure that eats at me often, and this time that fear was monumental. But I did it. I submitted it. Apparently, I did okay.

Since then, I’ve continued to be a part of the creation process of this film. That one phone call from Anita over two years ago has exploded into a great opportunity for me, as well as everyone else who has been a part of the creation of Original Jayhawker. This project has not only expanded my knowledge and love of Mound City, but has created new friendships for me as well.

One more thing: I hate reading what I’ve written after it’s been published. I nitpick every word, see things I could have improved upon. I’m excited and filled with nervous energy to finally hear the words and narratives I wrote and pieced together being said on the screen. I hope others will love and appreciate Original Jayhawker as much as its creators do.

Angela K. Holt

Scriptwriter & Producer

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