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.


More old photos: shooting with Father B

This one is pure fun: with Father Anderson Bakewell SJ, shooting his latest acquisition from Champlin Arms, a scoped drilling in 16 X 16 over 7 X 57 JRS, the rimmed version of the 7 X 57, at the Magdalena range in, I think, 1988. Not quite as cool as his .416 Rigby. A Brit officer buddy got that one for him for $75 after a Himalayan foothills sloth bear, the only one in Rowland Ward’s top ten guided by “self”, damn- near ate his leg when he shot it for mauling his parishioners; he allegedly brought it to Andy in the hospital saying “use a real caliber!” (At the bottom, a similar smaller Rigby owned by Jonathan Hanson).

I have written about my old Explorers Club mentor and drinking companion before* and will again, and I believe someone is planning a biography. Briefly: high society (Audubon’s wife was a relative); science (seven species of snakes bore his name for a while, and some still do); big game hunter (more pics to come; his last record was a huge mountain lion he took on a horseback hunt on the Jicarilla Apache res, with a longbow, at I think 72; its skin adorned the floor of his Santa Fe house); mountaineering legend (six Andean first ascents, and pioneered the Everest route with Tilman; “more, and worse”)…

After shooting we drove to the Spur in his vintage Mustang with the Northwest Territory license plates in the shape of a polar bear to drink tequila shots; the full salt and lime ritual. Old Mildred Grayson, the mother of then- bar owner Steve Grayson (and grandmother of occasional Q contributor Phil) was also from “Missoura” and could never get over the idea that “that handsome gentleman” tossing back the Cuervo was also a Jesuit priest…

*on his Santa Fe fridge, a sign; “we don’t serve women here– bring your own.”