Sustained by peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and a coffee thermos refilled by “North Dakota nice,” James Puppe spent 14 years driving 113,000 miles across the state to chronicle the stories of a fading generation of North Dakotans.

From Abercrombie to Zeeland, he visited every town on his North Dakota road map, a tattered paper tenuously held together by Scotch tape.

While the physical journey took him from the Red River Valley to the Badlands, the personal journey took him into people’s homes, and seated him at their kitchen tables, with a coffee cup steaming in front of him. And he talked. And he learned to listen. And in the stillness, he heard voices relate strife, sorrow, pride and joy. He heard laughter and sighs. Regret and contentment.

Then, Puppe compiled those kitchen conversations – 617 stories – into his 638-page book, “Dakota Attitude. Interviews from Every Town in North Dakota.”

“It resonated in my mind when someone said that we know more about the soil of North Dakota than what we know about the people. I thought there was a silence out there about the people and what they’re all about,” Puppe says. “I wanted to find out what their dreams were when they were younger and what were their virtues and their experiences in life and what brought them back to where they are today and what advice, if any, could they give to us.”

James Puppe, above and at right, interviews Pauline Roll, of Heil in Grant County, who relates giving birth to 21 children in 21 years. She is one of the subjects in Puppe’s book, “Dakota Attitude. Interviews from Every Town in North Dakota.” PHOTOS BY JAMES PUPPE