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Jailhouse Stories

Memories of a Small-Town Sheriff

2002
Author:

Neil Haugerud

Jailhouse Stories

The unforgettable stories of a county sheriff

In the 1950s and 1960s, Neil Haugerud served as sheriff of Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota. He lived with his wife and their four small children in the same building that housed the county jail. In Jailhouse Stories, Haugerud describes what it was like to live next to a prison, where jailbirds and jailbreaks were part of family life. These are the reminiscences of a real-life Andy Griffith character, a man dedicated to maintaining order in rural America during both peaceful and turbulent days.

So why, on the dust jacket does Garrison Keillor compare the 70-year-old southern Minnesota farmer to the great writer Anton Chekov? Why does mystery writer Tami Hoag make noises about Haugerud’s work resembling ‘Garrison Keillor in Twin Peaks’? Initially, I read those blurbs with some amusement and a chopper wagon load of disbelief. But then I read Neil Haugerud’s Jailhouse Stories to find that Keillor and Hoag have not been overgenerous in their praise for this slice of Upper Midwestern past that is written with incredible grace by a guy who, judging from his picture, would be much more at home castrating a surly bull calf or wrestling a drunk into a small-town jail cell than putting pen to paper. But that hasn’t kept Haugerud from crafting wonderful vignettes about serving as sheriff in the days when sheriffs and their families lived in the jail with the inmates in small towns like Preston, Minnesota, where Haugerud was elected sheriff in 1958 at age 28.

Dave Wood

In the 1950s and 1960s, Neil Haugerud served as sheriff of Fillmore County in southeastern Minnesota. In Jailhouse Stories, Haugerud describes what it was like to live next to a prison, where jailbirds and jailbreaks were part of family life. We meet colorful people on both sides of the law, whose problems range from the ordinary to the offbeat to the downright bizarre. In the end, Haugerud emerges with his faith in human nature intact.

Jailhouse Stories

Neil Haugerud (1930-2012) was sheriff of Fillmore County from 1959 to 1967 and a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977. He was a resident of Preston, Minnesota.

Jailhouse Stories

So why, on the dust jacket does Garrison Keillor compare the 70-year-old southern Minnesota farmer to the great writer Anton Chekov? Why does mystery writer Tami Hoag make noises about Haugerud’s work resembling ‘Garrison Keillor in Twin Peaks’? Initially, I read those blurbs with some amusement and a chopper wagon load of disbelief. But then I read Neil Haugerud’s Jailhouse Stories to find that Keillor and Hoag have not been overgenerous in their praise for this slice of Upper Midwestern past that is written with incredible grace by a guy who, judging from his picture, would be much more at home castrating a surly bull calf or wrestling a drunk into a small-town jail cell than putting pen to paper. But that hasn’t kept Haugerud from crafting wonderful vignettes about serving as sheriff in the days when sheriffs and their families lived in the jail with the inmates in small towns like Preston, Minnesota, where Haugerud was elected sheriff in 1958 at age 28.

Dave Wood

If Chekhov had been sheriff of Fillmore County, he would have written it all down too, like this. Neil Haugerud is a man of prodigious memory and elegant style, and his Jailhouse Stories is worth anyone’s time. The self-propelled airplane, the buttermilk lady, the Doc Nehring stories, the Fraser boys—Mr. Haugerud has led a good rich life.

Garrison Keillor

Jailhouse Stories is funny, touching, and wonderfully odd in an Andy Griffith-meets-Garrison Keillor-in-Twin Peaks kind of way. This truly is what small-town life in the Midwest is all about.

Tami Hoag, author of Ashes to Ashes

Neil Haugerud’s Jailhouse Stories is an intimate look at the travails visiting small-town folks in the Midwest in the fifties and sixties. As both on-the-scene cop and jailer, Haugerud was granted an unusually deep and clear perch from which to observe his fellow citizens. Through his eyes we are treated to the most secret foibles of that most elusive of species, the human animal. The author shares with us a fascinating unfolding human drama, which he observes with unblinking affection. The reader is treated, in the finest tradition of the storyteller, to a fly on the wall’s view of humans in the sort of disarray that gives cops special insights into human nature.

Tony Bouza, author and former Minneapolis Chief of Police

The tale of Neil Haugerud’s career as a sheriff in rural Minnesota is a story as good as Chicken Every Sunday or The Egg and I. Told with humor, warmth, and no condescension, Jailhouse Stories shows what it’s really like to walk these rural mean streets. I loved the stories, I relished the humor, and I admired his down-to-earth wisdom.

Mary Logue, author of Halfway Home

I highly recommend Neil Haugerud’s delightful book, Jailhouse Stories. Like his hero and mentor, Dr. Nehring, the Fillmore County Coroner, Neil is a superb storyteller. I knew Neil Haugerud when he was a State Representative in the 1970s. Neil was, without question, the greatest storyteller in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Recalling colorful stories from his days as a small-town sheriff, Neil Haugerud has written a book that is both humorous and enlightening. This is a book about rural Minnesota and rural people at its funniest and best. Please order a copy of Jailhouse Stories now.

Jon Wefald, President, Kansas State University

If what resonates with you is the quirkiness of small-town life, try Jailhouse Stories.

Eden Prairie News

As the sheriff of Fillmore county, Minnesota, for nearly 10 years (1959-1967), author Haugerud learned how to tell a funny, tough, ornery, or ironic story. So it’s a quiet book of reminiscences, simply written but not without action. Between the frequent guests in the drunk tank and the sizable Mrs. Culbertson, who keeps ‘breaking into the German Lutheran church and playing the pipe organ for hours on end,’ Haugerud surprises us with tales of criminals threatening to murder him, wife-stabbers needing apprehension, and professional safe crackers luring him out in the dead of night. As much as we learn about the clannish habits of the mysterious ‘Big Woods’ people, Haugerud’s cherished Thursday night poker game, local bass fishing, and farming habits along the countryside, the most endearing stories describe the building that houses the sheriff’s office and jail cells on one side and the sheriff’s growing family on the other.

Pat Holt, in Holt Uncensored

Haugerud is Minnesota’s Andy Taylor—his 38 short chapters are populated with small-town eccentrics: the Grandma Moses type who couldn’t speak to her son-in-law without swearing a blue streak, the drunk who rode a horse into a bar. The woman who broke into the German Lutheran church to play the pipe organ for hours on end. But, in the woods and hills of one of Minnesota’s loveliest counties, it wasn’t all Andy of Mayberry. Haugerud dealt with heartbreak, tragedy and violence in the lives of his constituents.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Peace officer and state legislator Neil Haugerud is a skillful raconteur in Jailhouse Stories.

Mpls.St. Paul Magazine

Sheriff Haugerud takes us on a ride-along to meet the misfits, drunks, and poverty-stricken families who populate the rural Midwest. Surprisingly, he emerges with his faith in human nature intact. ‘People make a lot of mistakes,’ he writes. ‘But in my view there are very few bad people.’

Minnesota Monthly

At times humorous and nostalgic, at other times touching and sad, Jailhouse Stories reads like timeless postcards from another era.

Rochester Post Bulletin

In an era of quick-fixes and a pervasive attitude of ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’, Neil shows us with humor, tolerance and compassion that people are human and that they do make mistakes. His stories tend to remind us that we’re only here once, so let’s give each other a second chance.

Fillmore County Journal

Jailhouse Stories is a charming yarn about the nine years Haugerud served as sheriff of Minnesota’s Fillmore County, living with his wife and four small children in the sheriff’s residence/jailhouse. It is an odd experience, told gently, with the lighter stories (the chronic drunk-tank visitor who helps with yard work; the batty old woman who breaks into churches to play the pipe organ) interspersed with the dark (murder, suicide, incest).

City Pages

Jailhouse Stories may have readers eager to stop at Haugerud’s farm, wanting to pump him for a few more tales.

Minnesota Library Association Social Responsibilities Round Table Newsletter

These stories are funny and sad, heartwarming, and humane. Here is an unforgettable compendium of the trials, tribulations and pleasures of rural law enforcement in a time now gone—but these wonderful stories and these enduring memories have now been recorded for the benefit of nostalgic present-day readers, and for those future generations wanting to know what it was like in past days.

Midwest Book Review