ST. MARYS — A three-year labor of love for a St. Marys native recently turned into his first published book.
“Harney Peak Revealed,” which hit bookshelves and online retailers, traces the historical importance of one of South Dakota’s hidden treasures. The book, penned by Bradley Saum — a 1985 graduate of Memorial High School — took several different shapes before the author settled on its format.
“I’ve been interested in writing a book for more than 20 years, but it never became a priority of mine,” Saum told The Evening Leader. “During the last three years, I put a focus on it and made it a personal goal and went after it.”
Saum’s interest in the Black Hills — home to Harney Peak — took root while working at Custer State Park in the Black Hills during summer breaks in college. Harney Peak, which is the highest point in the Black Hills, is located in the same area as the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Black Elk Wilderness Area.
“I started about 50 different books, I think, before I found the format,” Saum said.
“I actually wanted to write more of a story, a novel concept, with characters and still tell a nonfiction story about Harney Peak. There are just so many neat things about it so I tried many, many different concepts and went down several paths until this one emerged.”
What emerged was a book sprinkled with historical tidbits and personal insight. Each chapter highlights a certain historical event or fact associated with Harney Peak.
“The more research I did about the mountain, the more interesting facts that surfaced,” Saum said. “Through that process, I developed it into smaller chapters, revealing information to people. Each chapter could really be a book.”
The book, which also includes photographs taken by Saum, touts Harney Peak as one of nature’s last wild settings.
“Harney Peak is a fascinating place,” Saum said. “It requires a 4 mile hike to each the summit and it is not accessible by roadway. It is truly in a wilderness area ... It makes the area so much more interesting and I think it raises its appreciation being that you have to hike in 4 miles and out 4 miles. It’s a place you have to work a bit to get to.”
Reflecting on his book, Saum identified two highlights as ones he would always remember.
“One is when I figured out the format and looked at it and said, ‘This will actually work,’” Saum said. “The other was when that first copy came to me. That was really a neat experience to have the first draft copy come, then to proof it and then when that final copy came back.”
For Saum, his love of writing and photography can be traced back to his days walking the halls of Memorial High School. While a Roughrider, Saum contributed to the high school newspaper and yearbook.
“John Andreoni and Burton Andrews really influenced me in high school,” Saum said. “They really planted the seed, which let to this project.”
Saum also gave some advice to any aspiring writers in the area.
“I think people can do anything they want, you just can’t give up,” Saum said. “There’s an opportunity to do whatever you are passionate about and follow that ... Regarding writing, it’s just to get started — that’s what worked for me.”
“Harney Peak Revealed” is available in paperback at HarneyPeakRevealed.com and through most bookstores, including Amazon.com, BN.com and BooksAMillion.com. More information also can be found by liking Harney Peak on Facebook and following it on Twitter at the Twitter handle @HarneyPeakSD.
Saum is the son of Anna Mae and the late William Saum of St. Marys. He currently lives in Versailles, Ky.