Published in the Iola Register on Jan. 16, 2012.

Colony native, author: Iola like heaven

By BOB JOHNSON bob@iolaregister.com

Max Yoho has a streak of self-deprecation.

“I don’t mind being a liar,” he said Saturday afternoon during a visit to promote his latest book, “Me and Aunt Izzy,” at Iola Public Library.

“But,” added Yoho, who lives in Topeka, “it’s hard to maintain your reputation as a liar when the Legislature is in session.”

It’s doubtful if Yoho has a mean bone in his 77-year-old body. He can be good-naturedly abrasive, though, in writing and storytelling to make a point or capture attention.

YOHO GREW to age 10 in Colony and much of what he writes — six books to date — is influenced by his time there. Except for a book of poetry, the stories mainly are told through observations of a 10- to 12-year-old boy.

A coy smile is the answer to whether the stories are autobiographical.

Among Yoho’s fondest memories of Colony are when neighbors gathered to listen to his grandfather play the fiddle, talk and sip lemonade — a Norman Rockwell childhood.

His father worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, which led the family to Atchison in 1944. Yoho then took on a Huck Finn existence, exploring the banks of the Missouri River, looking for arrowheads and collecting Civil War artifacts.

Another move had Yoho being graduated from Topeka High School in 1949. While attending classes at Washburn University, he wrote feature stories for the school newspaper. He also developed an appetite for books.

His work-a-day life was in a machine shop. Writing never surfaced more than in a cursory way until his first wife died in 1988 and Yoho found himself home alone and caregiver to the family cat.

That prompted a battery of poems, several directed at the cat, which eventually were published in “Felicia, These Fish Are Delicious.” The title, Yoho allowed Saturday, really had nothing to do with the poems, but rather “a title I thought I’d like to use if I ever published a book.”

AFTER RETIRING in 1992 Yoho realized he was becoming a housewife, “learning to cook, do laundry, and even pick up after myself.” 

Yoho then wrote, “The Revival,” which won the 2002 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Award from the Kansas Authors Club. Next out was his collection of poems, selected as one of the “Ten Best Reads” of 2004 by book reviewer Nancy Mehl of the Wichita Eagle.

He departed from a preteen boy as storyteller in “With the Wisdom of Owls” in 2010 — used a toddler instead — but was back in step with “Me and Aunt Izzy” last year.

Yoho’s books are published through a company he and second wife Coral started, Dancing Goat Press of Topeka.

“The Revival” had been accepted by a publisher, but bankruptcy stopped the process and the Yohos were able to retrieve all rights. 

“The manuscript sat around for quite a while before we decided to try publishing ourselves,” Yoho said, with Carol doing much of the legwork leading up to actual printing.

He and Carol had been friends for 40 years and were married in 1996. She is a graphic artist, website designer and photographer.

YOHO ALSO is a storyteller, an aside that intrigued a dozen people who attended his presentation here Saturday.

“Being in Iola is like coming home,” he quipped, from having spent his formative years in Colony. “There are a lot of good memories from coming to Iola, a big city with lights, when I was a kid. 

“But not all the memories are good. One trip to Iola was to have a broken arm set and another for whooping cough vaccination,” a bittersweet experience. “If I didn’t scream when I got the shot, I was promised a trip to the ice cream parlor (Glencliff Creamery, 1 S. Jefferson Ave.) for black walnut ice cream.”

He also was feisty as a boy.

“I was never bored as a boy in Colony and I’m not going to tell some of the things I did,” Yoho said. “I’m not sure the statute of limitations has ran out. It was a waste of time being good all the time.”

Other times he was on good behavior.

“It was like getting ready to go to Heaven when Iola, with black walnut ice cream, was just 12 miles away,” Yoho said.

OTHER THAN those mentioned, Yoho’s books are  “Tales of Comanche County” and “The Moon Butter Route,” currently out of print but with another edition due out soon.

His books are available at the Iola Public Library. They also may be purchased at Watermark Books, Wichita, Town Crier Bookstore, Emporia, Washburn University Bookstore, Topeka, and from several Internet sites, including Amazon.com.