Bill Kittridge RIP

Just received word that Bill Kittridge died –

He was a mentor to than one of my friends at the University of Montana.

He grew up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon memorialized in his book, “Owning it All”. Then he became a professor for many years at the University of Montana, Missoula where he mentored more people in the west than anyone before or since, writers as diverse as Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass to Gary Nabhan, and Robert Michael Pyle. 

I think it will be no insult to his memory to say he will be remembered best as a mentor and teacher. His writing was good, but his mentoring was unparalleled and is exemplified by the collection “The Last Best Place“.

Gary Nabhan wrote in “Twenty-Five Authors Pay Tribute to William Kittredge’s Passing.”

Bill Kittredge will remain among the giants of fiction and nonfiction writing in American West, up there with McCarthy, Hugo, Welch, Silko, McGuane, Austin, Ehrlich, Cather, and Harrison in our pantheon of poetic voices from rural America’s scrappy, roughed-up, and wildly imaginative towns and ranches. But anyone who conversed, traveled, ate, or drank with Bill no doubt remembers his unswerving warmth, hilarious humor, poignant commentaries, and deep commitment to make life in the boonies more memorable, compassionate, morally fierce, and ultimately, culturally richer. He gifted us a New Story for the West, one most of us are still trying to live up to, and in. In the last three decades of his life, he also took on the voice of a prophet and sage, as stunning in his place-based pronouncements as Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, Charles Wilkinson, Terry Williams, John Nichols, Annick Smith or Winona LaDuke. He made you feel deeply comfortable, but he also challenged us to think beyond the horizon of our own messy lives to forge a West that would be more inclusive, reflective, and refreshing. The twinkle in his merry eyes will never die, but will arch over us like a meteor of hope.

He will be missed.

Steve

Joseph Paul Summers Brown 2021 RIP

Joe Brown

I just received word that Joe Brown died; he was 90. I did not know him well, but I knew him and enjoyed him.

He was the often-unsung BEST of all the cowboy writers, certainly of the border writers. He could throw a rope and tell a story. He bought ranches on both sides of the Rio Grande – sometime in cash (gold coins!) He was down and out and sometimes got moving money. With the last, he once bought an airplane that he used to clip the radio mast off a whore house of a Madam, who had offended him, on the border.

When I first met him, he told me a long-winded story about he and old cowboy from Magdalena, Fred Martin, had paused at a whorehouse on the boarder, when they were smuggling cattle across in WWII. He said, the girls called him in, because “the old son-of-a-bitch wouldn’t take off his boots.” I told this story to his great granddaughter, she said, “that’s so grandpa, that’s so cute.”

He wrote the best boarder novel ever, “Forests of the Night”, about a cattle-killing jaguar, its English is fascinating, written entirely in Spanish syntax. It’s a chilling novel besides.

In my opinion he wrote the best working cowboy novel, “The Outfit.”

Jim Harrison said of him, “JPS Brown is the great restorer of the great American quest.

That will stand.

Steve

Goddess

The goddess has been here about six months now, but we met her several years ago at Jim and Phoebe Caldwell’s – she stood above our bed there, when we visited, for two week. By then I was in love with her. She is imposing, a vaguely disapproving look on her face – and two immense hounds, resembling the cross between stock protection dogs and tazis used to kill wolves in Asia. One of them is looking right at you.

They are obviously the hounds of Diana, so who could she be but the goddess? Or so I thought, until Penelope gently told me she had another name, “Mail oder Brides come with Baggage.”

That will do, too.

Steve

Malpai News

Anyone who read this blog is familiar with the Malpai Borderland Group.

Anyone who receives their mailer got shocking news. While their program continues to work fairly well north of the border, there’s a real threat from the south. The new Great Wall promoted by Trump and his friends. Their Great Wall might as well be designed to decrease wildlife diversity and end the kind of policies that have made the Borderland Group so successful. It is a little ridiculous to cut off the flow of animals to the south. Under such policies such creatures like water glens’ jaguar, would never find their way to the US. If this goes on the very rational for the Borderlands existence will vanish.

Steve

Still fighting my way back.

Hi,

We’ve made a lot of progress, completed a few articles, and am working with my assistant Tess to finish my second Book of Books – but the blog is aloost defeating me. The changes in my voices’ pitch and volume throughout the day are simly too much for the dictation programs I’ve tried so far. The can’t understand what I’m saying consistently enough to make it anything but frustrating.

I will keep trying.

Thank you for all the support I’ve received from friends and blog readers. Bear with me while I find a way back to posting regularly.

Steve

Steve at work at table with computer
Steve at work in better times

New – a Donate Button & more…

I’m not proud. I’ve spent my whole life as a writer and now, at 71 with Parkinson’s it is tougher to get the words on paper.

I’ve added the donate button and have linked (well, Tess* is linking) my books, and books I’ve reviewed to Amazon, where I will be getting a small amount for each purchase you make. (Tess calls this having multiple income streams.) Apparently I have to let you know the following…

“As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.”

If you love my writing, help me make more of it!

– Steve

*Tess is the fingers I was able to hire with your donations, thank you.

Return, Version ?

I am coming back. My reasons are many and various; i STILL CAN’T TYPE, but Jim Caldwell is trying to design me custom software, and it seems I can’t wait; I am bursting with news and ideas. In the added isolation of the virus, I get bored since I don’t yet have a typist for my next two books; I need to talk about them to keep them alive, at least the ideas in them. Mainly there are too many things going on for me to stay away.

Be patient with me because I intend to start slowly. I need to go to the doctor’s in Albuquerque tomorrow so I’ll likely not post anything. But I am determined to build this site up again.

And special to Wally Soroka who just got in touch. For years I had a picture of you in a sailboat named Querencia reading my Querencia on the deck. it disappeared and I’d like a replacement. My snail mail is PO Box 709, Magdalena, NM 87825. I’m sure you remember the night of the great alpine slide race down Mount Tom. Since then, my partner at the Peregrine site, John Tobin, has both become a Massachusetts game warden and retired from the department. God we were tough when we were young, and thought we were immortal.

Very Various pics plus survivalist Jack Mormons

Pure fun for a change. First, a recovered photo ca 67 of Mike Conca, my oldest friend — have known him since 54, and still enjoy his company.

What were we doing?? We were going to the Lime Rock Sports Car Race in Connecticut in my new and beloved Morris Minor Shooting Brake, which I bought from E Kidder Meade at Harvard. It went about 40 mph but it didn’t bother me. You could lift up its front end and move it into a parking space. I loved it more than any car I’ve ever had before a drunk in a Mercury squashed it like a bug. Someone had just offered me $1000 for it and I had only paid $250. It looked like the world’s smallest ’48 Woody. One day a guy with a Woody came out and said “I didn’t know mine was pregnant.”

Mike is a naturalist who studied Roseate and arctic terns with Jeremy Hatch for a few years on the Cape. He is still a naturalist in his retirement, doing a study on local Barred owls. When we lived together in the 70s the owls used to come up the hills and sit in the windows, making horrendous noise. The reason HP Lovecraft had so many of his stories near the January Hills— The Dunwicn Horror, The Color out of Space— is that it is a spooky place., It was near the town of Shutesbury where he lived with me and still lives with his third wife Mary Lou,

Peter Bowen – Obituary by David McCumber

Montana novelist remembered as ‘a writer’s writer’

  • By DAVID McCUMBER Lee Enterprises
  • Apr 11, 2020
Bowen photo
Michael Gallacher
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Peter Bowen, a novelist who found acclaim and literary success writing about the Montana he loved, died Wednesday after a fall at his home in Livingston. He was 74.

Bowen was best-known for a series of 15 mystery novels set in the fictional Eastern Montana town of Toussaint, and featuring a Métis brand inspector named Gabriel Du Pré.

He also wrote a four-book series of historical novels set in Montana in the 19th and early 20th century that blended history and humor in a way that delighted readers and critics alike. They featured a fictionalized version of the real-life Western character Luther Sage “Yellowstone” Kelly, a soldier, frontiersman, hunter and scout.

Bowen was a writer’s writer, respected for his wordsmithing — and his irreverence and sardonic humor. For a time, he wrote columns for Forbes FYI magazine under the name “Coyote Jack.”

The writer Christopher Buckley, a pretty good hand at comic novels himself, was the editor at the magazine who commissioned the columns from Bowen, and he said he knew he had a winner when he read the first line of the first column: “Sorry to be late in answering. I sprained my wrist on a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Indeed, the column became one of the magazine’s most popular features.

Buckley considered Bowen one of his very best friends, even though they met in person only once during a correspondence that dated from 1982 to a couple of days before Bowen’s death.

Buckley said he has more than 1,000 letters from Bowen, and someday he would like to compile their correspondence and publish it.

“He was an American original,” Buckley said, “and a dear friend. I always learned something with everything he sent me. There was always a story. His well of stories was deeper than the Marianas Trench.”

Peter Bowen was born May 22, 1945 in Athens, Georgia, and was adopted immediately after his birth by Keith and Marie Bowen. Keith Bowen was an educator and in the first years of Peter’s life they lived in Colorado and Indiana while Keith Bowen obtained his doctorate. Then, when Peter was 10, the family moved to Bozeman, where his father became a professor — and wrestling coach — at Montana State College. His mother was one of the earliest volunteers at the Museum of the Rockies.

Bowen said in a self-written biographical sketch that his paper route ended at a Bozeman bar called The Oaks, where he would linger and listen to the stories being told by old cowboys. “”They were men in their eighties and nineties,” Bowen said, “and some had ridden up in the cattle drives from Texas in the 1870s. … That gave me the habit of eavesdropping in bars. You can hear whole novels in an afternoon.”

Clearly the romance of the West had an effect, and he loved the out of doors, riding his bicycle to favorite fishing and hunting haunts. A few days before Bowen was supposed to start junior high school, he took a rifle he had illegally purchased — he was only 12, after all — and decamped to a hideout in the Bridgers, high above town, stopping at the post office on the way to drop off a letter to his parents.

He stayed up there for weeks. His mother helped get supplies to him, but finally went to the sheriff and asked whether they should mount a rescue effort to bring him down. “No, it’ll snow soon, and he’ll come down,” the sheriff supposedly told her. And it did, and he did.

Eventually, he went to The University of Michigan, which he attended “without much effect on either of us,” Bowen said.

There he discovered the folk-music world at a coffee house on campus, which he ended up managing for a time, bringing in acts like Tom Rush, Doc Watson and a young Joni Mitchell. He also fell in love with south-side Chicago blues.

Like his character Yellowstone Kelly, Bowen himself was good at more than one thing. He learned the construction trade to put food in his mouth, and those skills would later serve him well as he fell in love with woodworking. He also would work as a cowboy, a folksinger and a fishing guide while he practiced the craft of writing.

A big, gruff, shaggy man, he loved many dogs and a very few people. For years he lived by this river or that in Montana, writing and fishing and enjoying his solitude.

When the first and second Du Pre novels, “Coyote Wind” and “Specimen Song” came out, they were greeted with critical fanfare — including a memorable New York Times rave review headlined “Thoreau in Montana.” The series continued to collect readers and praiseful reviews over the next two and a half decades.

Even though reclusive, he was always a great correspondent, and his few friends, like Buckley, heard from him frequently.

One of those people he cared for and kept in touch with was Christine Whiteside, whom he met back in the ’60s at the Ann Arbor coffee house. More than half a century later, Bowen and Christine Whiteside were married in 2013, and made their home in Livingston.

Bowen wrote several other novels, including one, “Buffalo Star,” a fictional account of Daniel Boone’s wanderings in Montana. Rick Ardinger, Limberlost Press editor and publisher, read the manuscript years ago and only recently discovered it had not been published. He said Limberlost plans to do so in 2021-22.

Ardinger said Bowen was “as wild and compelling and engaging as a historical character” from one of his novels. “Montana and the West were in his blood, a river of history that poured out best over a hammering typewriter,” he added.

A 16th and final Du Pre novel is also completed, pending finishing touches from Whiteside, who also served as Bowen’s editor in recent years. At least three other Montana historical novels await discovery by publishers, including Water Rose, a love story and thriller set in the Prohibition era.

Bowen was working on a memoir at the time of his death. “I am at sixty thousand words and with a clear path to the end, and if I can avoid getting ill I will be done before May,” he wrote a friend a week ago. Whiteside said that the part he has written will be treasured by family members. “But no one can finish it, because they were Peter’s stories, and only he knew them.”

Bowen is survived by his wife; a younger brother, Bill; two nieces, Alison Guan of Palo Alto and Natalie Brookshire of San Francisco; and his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Bedford of Seattle.

Whiteside said that depending on the pandemic, she expect that Bowen’s friends and family will gather this summer in Livingston for a memorial.

DAVID MCCUMBER

None of this quite conveys either the savage loyalty that Peter showed to his friends, his love for Montana (a year he spent in Cambridge with his wife, the love of his life, convinced him they must live in Montana- it is amusing to imagine him in Harvard Square); and his whole wonderful contradictory character. I have written a memoir of him, “Of Peter Bowen and Gabriel Du Pre”,and will try to get it in here. If not It was available in his website for a while, and will also appear in my second book of books if I ever finish it. We also dedicated books to each other,I dedicated Tiger Country, partially inspired by his Wolf No Wolf, to him; he dedicated Solus, wIth its Kazakh theme, to Libby and me, “Eagle Dreamers.”

Russell Chatham also died back in November.

Although he was already eighty and in assisted living, he was not expecting to die. That morning he told photographer Steven Collector that he had plans for future paintings.

He was an artist first, a fisherman, and a gourmand. He loved painting, fishing and women, perhaps in that order. When he attended Libby and my wedding (he had introduced us) he came to us blubbering about the beauty of the ceremony and said that if he had had a ceremony like that (it was just a simple church of England liturgy) he never would have gotten divorced. Libby said to him “Yes you would have Russ. You love all women too much.” He was a man of strong appetites and opinions.

STILL STAGGERING, STILL WRITING, AND STILL HAWKING

Writing goes well, if slowly. I’m walking badly, sleeping worse, and not typing. I need some light guns- maybe one of those pseudo- Italian Turkish autoloaders in .410 — I don’t do heavy any more. On the other hand, I’m flying a goofy Harris hawk and have acquired several new, old guns.

Libby needs new knees, and is having trouble hearing me. And Ataika has died of cancer at 17. Life at seventy in the time of the Plague…