It must be some 26 years since I left the Clearwater County area of Idaho and when I have managed to get back there for short visits, it is a struggle to see all the family…, let alone catch up with all the old friends. Facebook has been quite a tool for connecting with some of those long lost friends. There has been some pleasant surprises along the way…, and such was the case a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered that an old friend was a published author.
It was the first summer I had hired on for Potlatch Corporation when I was put on a crew with Gary Bond. I don’t recall the name of our bucker or the old rigging slinger, but I remember Gary. He was the timber faller and I was running a rubber tired skidder. I wasn’t much more than a kid at the time, probably 22 years old and just out of the Army long enough to get some long hair growing. Gary was nearly ten years my senior and I could tell by the way he looked at me that he had his doubts whether this young hippie was going to be able to cut it. That was the summer of 1974…, and since he accepted my friend request in 2013…, I must have passed the test.
We never got to work on the same logging crew together again, but I heard tell of some of his adventures; a trip to South or Central American on a search for buried treasures, his late night decision to steal the glory of a rather pompous fellow timber cutter who had discover a record size tree on his strip, and we had quite an adventure together about ten years after that. It involved an early morning trip to scout some timber owned by a farmer that Gary knew. The night before, we got one of those foot and a half of wet, soggy, spring snows. We couldn’t see much from the pickup on the road…, but the look and thought of trugging through a half a mile of farmers field through deep snow to get to the edge of the timber gave us both a chill. So we killed the chill with a couple of hot buttered rums at a little roadhouse on the Clearwater River…, at about ten o’clock in the morning…, then proceeded to “work” our way back through Orofino, Greer, Weippe and Pierce in much the same manner. I’d like to tell you all about it…, but it’s been a long time and the memory is a little hazy…, so I will tell you about his book instead.
“Mountain Mayhem” is Gary’s first book and takes place in the mountains and meadows and along the creeks and rivers of north-central Idaho and east-central Montana. The country that I grew up in and lived in for the first 35 years of my life. The same country that Lewis and Clark nearly starved to death in, trying to cross the Bitterroot Mountains over Lolo Pass. The Nez Perce Indians rescued Lewis and Clark when they staggered out of those mountains in 1805 onto the Weippe Prairie. The Nez Perce used the Lolo Pass to cross the Bitterroot Mountains to hunt buffalo for many years before and nearly every year after Lewis and Clark passed through. Until 1877…, when they crossed that pass for the last time…, in an effort to elude the pursuing US Cavalry.
Gary masterfully weaves the story of the Nez Perce plight into his first novel about Amos Blair, his dog Heck and his Nez Perce friend John Two Bears. Amos “...was an imposing man, not for his size as he was just a little above average in that department. It was a combination of things that set him aside from other men, his confident bearing his lean hard body, his piercing gaze and the intangibles that declare him to be a man to be reckoned with and commanded respect.” Yeah..., a description that I would gladly use to describe Gary himself. Amos has lived the life of mountain man trapper, buffalo hunter, prospector…, but he realizes that those days aren’t so far from over. How Amos deals with the changes taking place in the wild country he has known is a fast paced story that takes place in the space of about a year. The descriptions of the county Amos traveled through brought back many fond memories..., especially Fort Fizzle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Fizzle_(Montana) in Montana, where the Nez Perce tribe with some 200 warriors, 750 women and children and 2000 horses craftily out foxed a contingent of volunteer militia set up to intercept their flight. My Dad and I had stopped to read the historic marker when we were working in the area in 1972. Gary tells the story in a straight forward style, no fancy literary devices or plot devises…, just great story telling…, by a great guy.
Many thanks Gary..., for taking me on another thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining adventure. It has been FAR too long !!!
Right on partner…, write on.