Keith Ratzlaff

recorded in Pella, IA

 

Keith Ratzlaff

I’m Keith Ratzlaff, I live in Pella Iowa. I’ve lived in Pella for 25 years and I’ve taught at Central College for 25 years. And so the two places are kind of—I’m here, obviously, because of the college. My father knew all about Pella, Iowa before I’d ever moved here. He sold equipment manufactured by Vermeer. They used to build these big irrigation sprinklers. That’s how I worked my way through college was putting these up in farmers’ fields in southern South Dakota, most of them. But I had never been to Pella ‘til I pulled in here in the moving van and we stopped at a motel to stay overnight before we could move our stuff in and I walked in and I signed my name at the Dutch Mill Inn and the guy looked at me, and I’d never been here before, and he says, “Oh, you must be Randy’s brother.” And I was Randy’s brother—he knew my brother from some of the stuff that my dad had done. I almost got in the truck and drove away. Just because, that’s one of the things that I think that, then, I liked least about little towns. I grew up in a little town of 750 in the middle of Nebraska, really small.


The Knox Writers’ House

Seven hundred and fifty?


Ratzlaff

Seven Hundred and fifty. So everybody knew each other’s business and that was one of the reasons you wanted to get out of them. It’s also one of the reasons to live in a place ‘cause people do know who you are. I’m somewhat removed in Pella—I don’t have any kids, so I don’t have to fight the school system (which everybody says is really great), I don’t go to church, which doesn’t make me not a person of faith, it means I’m not of either…a not reformed church. So not having to actually fight those two battles, Pella’s a pretty easy place to live in. And it also means I’m kindof removed from matters to a lot of people in town, and that’s their kids and their church. And I guess I could change that if I wanted to.  So I’ve lived in small towns most of my life, except for three years I lived in London, England, which I still remember better—the three years I was there I remember almost every moment of it, pretty vividly, in ways that I don’t remember my growing up in small-town Nebraska or Iowa.


KWH

What were you doing in England? Were you traveling or…


Ratzlaff

No, one of the reasons we came to Central College was because at that point , faculty could still –we’ve got a number of international campuses, and faculty used to take a year or two and go off and run these places. And that was one of reasons we came here, because we wanted to do that.


KWH

Yeah.


Ratzlaff

And so we got to do it.

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