I could’ve been a sheep rancher

When my wife and I moved to Atlanta from North Georgia in 1980, we were having trouble making ends meet. I suggested Montana.

What would I do there, she wondered. I said that I’d hire on at a sheep ranch and/or drive concessionaire busses trucks in Glacier National Park.

She didn’t think either of those jobs sounded like the real me. Plus, she had no intention of living in Montana.

As it turned out, I was writing a book about sheep ranching and had a folder filled with everything one needed to know to get started–or to stay solvent if one had already gotten started. Fortunately, I didn’t become a full-time sheep rancher: the Montana wool business has been in decline for years.

The more one looks into the ranching biz, the more one discovers there’s a lot of down-in-the-muck stuff going on that we never saw on “Fury” or “Bonanza.” I didn’t mention this to my wife.  Plus, Montana’s high range isn’t very hospitable to humans who grew up in the South. My wife already knew this so there was no way I could spin the weather situation.

She didn’t know that ewes, as Bill Stockton tells us, let gravity drop the new-born lambs out on the ground. Or, if that doesn’t work, they spin around and sling them out. This information was not in my wife’s “need to know” classification.

One thing I didn’t know at the beginning was that my wife’s allergic to wool. That much pretty scuttled the sheep rancher “dream.”

Malcolm

Several of my older novels are out of print, but my sheep rancher can still be found in “Mountain Song.” It is the tamest of my sheep books.

Writing about a high-speed chase on a mountain road

Since it’s cold and rainy here in north Georgia, I spent the day writing about a speeding Harley Davidson being chased by a ranger along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun road. In “real life,” that highway is covered by many feel of snow in February that will take many weeks to plough before the summer season begins in June.

Fortunately, the Google Earth views and the Google Maps street views–as discussed here were taken in the summer. So, what I see looks like this photo:

My keyboard almost has no room on my desk due to the stack of paper maps, guidebooks, and place name guides cluttering up my space. If this were a fictional road or some random road in the middle of nowhere, I might get away with a little artistic license. But Glacier National Park has over three million visitors a year and most of them want to see this road from their cars, from a red bus, or from a park shuttle.

So, there’s no room for mistakes. That’s a bit daunting. On the other hand, I hope the fame and beauty of the setting will help draw people to the novel to be called “Weeping Wall.” Here’s what the real weeping wall looks like, compliments of Wikipedia:

 

If you’re westbound in one of the convertible red tour busses, you’re going to get wet. All of that water comes from snowmelt higher up on the Garden Wall. There’s less of a torrent here late in the summer. Weeping Wall will be the third in my “Mountain Journey’s Series,” following The Sun Singer and Sarabande.

The most difficult task hasn’t really been getting the landmarks right. It’s been getting the background from the earlier novels in the series correct–and then some of the characters also appear in my Kindle novels Mountain Song and At Sea. Co-ordinating all these stories was something I never wanted to face–until now. I think I’ve gone nuts.

But, it’s a fun kind of crazy.

Malcolm

I invite you to enjoy my two earlier novels in the series, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.” Both of them are contemporary fantasies set in Glacier National Park, Montana.

 

Giveaway: ‘Mountain Song’

My Montana novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle for three days, February 8 through February 10. Previously called The Seeker, the novel is the first of my two David Ward novels. At Sea is the sequel.

Description

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Background

This novel is set in Glacier National Park Montana where I worked for two summers as a resort hotel employee. It’s also set at a fictional Montana sheep ranch and at a real Florida Panhandle swamp. The characters move around a bit, one might say. The mountain on the cover is named Heavy Shield, previously Mt. Wilbur, and can be seen across Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of the park.

You can find information about all of my books on my website.

–Malcolm

MHS PORTRAIT EXHIBIT SHOWS ECLECTIC SLICE OF MONTANANS

Montana Historical Society News Release

The Montana Historical Society’s newest exhibit, Who Speaks to You? Portraits from the Permanent Collection, includes an eclectic mix of paintings, juxtaposed to encourage visitors to look at portraits in a new way.

Portraits can reveal a lot about people and their times, if you know how to look for clues, notes Amanda Streeter Trum, curator of collections at MHS. Examining objects in the artwork, considering the backdrop, and observing the artist’s color palette reveal important information about the subject of the art.

“Experiencing art is a really personal thing; we all bring our unique experiences and opinions that color the way we may or may not interact with the piece in front of us,” Streeter Trum said. “We hope the exhibit will provide visitors an opportunity to see portraits in a different way or discover a new artistic style they enjoy.”

The exhibit opened Sept. 10, and no opening reception was held due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

It includes about 50 portraits of interesting people and pets whose presence has enriched the lives they touched and, in some cases, the larger state of Montana. The artwork is both traditional as well as abstract, Streeter Trum said.

“So many traditional portraits represent only a certain segment of society, often wealthy white men,” she added. “This is a playful exhibit and we want to show an eclectic mix of people and art.”   

The museum–at 225 North Roberts, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201– is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

I wish I could visit, but Helena is a bit of a drive from North Georgia. I’ve been a member of MHS since the 1980s, and am happy to say its research department has been very helpful in my research for my Montana Novels.

Malcolm

Always slow getting a book started

Do I have writer’s block? No. Once I decide to write a novel, it takes me nearly forever to get started. I’m jealous of those writers who turn out 10000000 books a year. I need time to think, to gather facts about the location, to make sure the magic within the main character is based on relevant tradition.

Jodi Noordmans on Unsplash

Continue reading “Always slow getting a book started”

‘Mountain Song’ free Oct 15-17

My coming of age novel Mountain Song will be free on Kindle October 15-17, proving that good things can happen in 2020. 

Description

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Vistors to Many Glacier Valley in Glacier National Park will recognize many of the settings, including the old hotel. Visitors to Florida’s Tate’s Hell Forest near Carrabelle on the Gulf Coast will recognize the ambiance of this spooky swamp.

Hope you enjoy the story

Malcolm

Found an old friend I hadn’t seen for 50 years

After working as a seasonal employee at Glacier National Park in the early 1960s, I went to Colorado for a summer, went to the Netherlands for a summer, and then ended up in the Navy. So most of us who worked at Glacier’s hotels lost track of each other.

But then, M showed up, having searched for something that brought her to this blog where (I’m guessing) she thought, “I think I know this clown.”

One of Glacier’s iconic red buses before they were all retrofitted with automatic transmission. I dislike automatic transmission but applaud the dual-fuel, propane or gasoline, the buses now use.

She was right. We were hiking partners in Glacier Park because our work schedules synced up so we had the same days off. We’ve slowed down since then, me because of an ankle that won’t work and M because she’s busy yet tries to walk ten miles a week.

It’s been fun reminiscing about the old days and what we’ve done since then and what we’re doing now. We exchanged a few pix, old and new. While I was looking for slides to convert into JPGs to send her, I found a few to upload onto Facebook’s employee and former employee group. Mine are some of the oldest to appear there, not counting historic stuff.

So, I’ve been walking down memory lane and, in the process, and have become a little disoriented since I’m re-reading The Starless Sea.

Malcolm

P.S. I should receive a proof copy of the paperback version of Fate’s Arrows by Saturday. If it looks good, we may be able to release the novel in Kindle and paperback next week.

 

Former Many Glacier Hotel Manager, Ian B. Tippet Dies at 88

Ian B. Tippet, former Many Glacier Hotel manager and a 63-year employee of Glacier Park, Inc. (now named Pursuit) died of natural causes March 9 at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 88. In addition to serving as the innovative and popular manager of Many Glacier Hotel, Tippet was also the concessioner’s head of personnel. His funeral home obituary can be found here.

I apologize for the delay in posting this information. I have been waiting for a news story about Tippet’s passing to appear in a Montana newspaper such as the Hungry Horse News, The Daily Interlake, or the Flathead Beacon. Apparently, none of them seems to know that he died. I presume his former employer doesn’t know it either for they probably would have issued a news release and caught the media’s attention.

My frustration comes from the fact that people in Northwestern Montana who knew Mr. Tippet and/or who knew of his work on behalf of Many Glacier Hotel’s long-time music programs for guests, should be told that a major participant and leader in the Glacier National Park community has died. Yet, I have no official status as a spokesperson so cannot officially contact the press.

Ian B. Tippet hired me as a Many Glacier Hotel bellman in 1963 and 1964. His expertise got Many Glacier Hotel open on schedule in spite of the devastating Montana flood of 1964. I was part of a skeleton staff that arrived early that summer and got swept up in the clean-up effort while the hotel was cut off from the rest of the world due to a washed-out road. I last saw him in Glacier Park in 2013, the 50th anniversary of my arrival as a seasonal employee. We talked for quite a while in spite of his busy schedule at Glacier Park Lodge that year.

We didn’t agree on everything, but I believe he was Many Glacier Hotel’s best manager, both old school service and new-ideas innovative; I doubt we will ever see anyone with his vision and competence again at any of the park’s concessioners–perhaps forever.

–Malcolm

Finally, some news coverage: https://hungryhorsenews.com/news/2020/mar/18/ian-tippet-longtime-glacier-park-figure-dies/

 

 

 

 

 

Montana: Emerging Scholar Article Contest

from Montana The Magazine of Western History

Montana The Magazine of Western History, a publication of the Montana Historical Society, is pleased to announce a contest for the best article on the history of the American West by an emerging scholar. We welcome submissions from graduate students, early-career faculty, and independent scholars. The deadline for submissions is January 5, 2020. 

Prize: The winning manuscript, chosen by members of Montana The Magazine of Western History’s board of editors, will be published in an issue of the magazine, and the author will receive free registration, travel, and accommodations to the 2020 Montana History Conference in Butte, Montana, where they will give a talk on their project.

Published since 1951, Montana The Magazine of Western History showcases the people, places, and events that shaped the state and the West. In addition to scholarly feature articles, the magazine includes book reviews, commentaries on historical events and people, and advertising relevant to the West. For more information about the magazine, visit: https://mhs.mt.gov/pubs/magazine

Submission Guidelines:

Topic: The manuscript must show evidence of original research on significant facets of history or provide a new interpretation of historical events that changes the way we view a particular historical topic. Submissions needn’t deal with Montana history specifically, but must address a topic of historical relevance to the American West.

Length and Formatting:

  • Manuscript should be submitted as a WORD document, 3,500—7,500 words (excluding notes).
  • Please format the entire document in Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins.
  • Place title and author at top of first page, no special formatting. No title page is needed.
  • Do not include any headers or footers, other than page numbers (bottom of page, right).

Citations: Please consult Chicago Manual of Style for formatting. Notes can be footnotes or endnotes, and should be done in WORD using the “Insert Endnote” feature under the “References” tab. Please do not number notes manually or as a separate document, and please change all ibids in notes to full citations. This ensures that no “ibid” gets parted from its parent during editing. After editing, we can change to ibid or an abbreviated citation where needed.

In addition to your manuscript, upload a curriculum vitae or résumé with up-to-date contact information (phone number, email, and mailing address).

I have been a member of the Montana Historical Society for over twenty years and depend on Montana The Magazine of Western History for accurate, well-written, and fully documented articles about Montana’s development. This award-winning magazine is a joy to read. If you enter the competition, best of luck. If you love history and don’t wish to enter the competition, you can subscribe here.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell as written three novels set in Montana, The Sun Singer, Sarabande, and Mountain Song.

 

 

Excerpt from ‘At Sea’

If you were around during the Vietnam War, you’ll probably remember that much of the news coverage dealt with body counts, to show the progress the U.S. was making in ridding the country of the Viet Cong. In my novel At Sea, the protagonist’s grandfather (“Jayee”) keeps his own listing of those from Montana who were killed in the war.

Jayee’s Lists

 

Jayee’s Lists (The Poor Sons of Bitches who Died) lay faded in a low kitchen drawer beneath batteries, broken pencils, expired dog food coupons, forgotten pink birthday candles, gum erasers, and other unsorted miscellany.

Superimposed over the small battlefield of the ranch, where lambs and eagles met largely unrecorded deaths on a rangeland framed by fences, box elders, cottonwoods, and a narrow creek carrying water off the backbone of the earth in years of drought and years of flood, the old man recorded soldiers’ names and souls.

He read the news from Vietnam with morning coffee and evening spirits, and with a fine surveyor’s hand, he tallied the bare bones of body counts between narrowed-ruled lines in lightweight Bluehorse notebooks intended for the wisdom of school.

After dinner, he walked out through the bluebunch wheatgrass and settling sheep to his ancient Studebaker pickup truck. He carried a sharp yellow pencil and a pack of Chesterfields, tools for doing his sums, “calculating Montana” in a cloud of cigarette smoke from “vintage tobaccos grown mild, aged mild, blended mild.”

On the first page of the first book he wrote, Here are the poor sons of bitches who died. On the last page of the last book, he wrote, The dead, dying, and wounded came home frayed, faded, scuffed, stained, or broken.

On the pages in between, he wrote the name of each Montana soldier who was killed or missing in recorded battles far away. Sipping bourbon, smoking like a lotus in a sea of fire, he ordered, numbered, and divided the names by service branch, by casualty year, by meaningful cross-references, by statistically significant tables, by the moon’s phases and the sun’s seasons, and by the cycles of sheep.

Jayee remarked from year to year that the notebooks grew no heavier with use. He saw fit to include the names of the towns where the dead once lived, fathered children, and bought cigarettes. These names he learnt were also lighter than the smoke.

The current of his words between the pale blue lines of each thin page arose in fat, upper case letters that scraped the edges of their narrow channels. They began as a mere trickle from 1961 to 1964 that grew in volume in 1965 before the first spring thaw, to become a cold deluge that crested in 1968, wreaking havoc across the frail floodplain of pastures and pages, carrying the dark, angry names scrawled with blunting pencil, and broken letters, through irregular gray smudges, over erasures that undercut the page deep enough and wide enough to rip away the heart from multiple entries. There was little respite in 1969. After that, the deaths receded and most of the physical blood dried up by 1973.

The pages were dog eared, marked with paperclips already turning to rust, and fading to pale dust behind the list of towns: RICHEY, WHITEFISH, HELENA, CHOTEAU, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, KALISPELL, THOMPSON FALLS, THREE FORKS, STEVENSVILLE, TROUT CREEK, BILLINGS, CHOTEAU HINSDALE, GREAT FALLS, HARDIN, SACO, SIDNEY, HAVRE, HELENA, GREAT FALLS, HELENA, BOZEMAN, BUTTE, DODSON, ARLEE, REEDPOINT, HAVRE, BIG  SANDY  MISSOULA, BILLINGS, WHITLASH, ROUNDUP…

Jayee’s tallies added up like this: USA—169 USAF—16 USMC—59 USN—23 TOT—267

The old man made 267 trips around Montana between 1961 and 1972 that no surveying jobs could account for. He said little to the family about it and they didn’t often ask.

During Jayee’s second trip to Havre in 1966, Mavis, a waitress at the Beanery, noticed a stack of 44-inch white crosses sticking out from beneath a tarp in his truck. On each cross, there was a name. When she suggested that Jayee was stealing them from roadside accident scenes, he said he made them per spec to repay old debts.

Mavis asked Katoya if Jayee was all right and Katoya said: “right enough.” He returned to the restaurant multiple times to prove he was right enough and was sitting there on August 31, 1967, when the 77-year-old Great Northern restaurant served its last bowl of Irish stew and closed its doors for good. When the building was torn down the following February, he pounded “an extra cross” into the rubble where the counter once stood and said it was the best he could do.

Months passed and additional stories surfaced about an old man crisscrossing the state searching for the families of the fallen, and of warm conversations lasting long into the dark hours. Jayee remained solitary and taciturn in the face of public or private praise or blame and traveled from town to town methodically, as though he was marking chaining stations along an endless open traverse.

After each individual’s name, he wrote XD (cross delivered), XR (cross refused), or CNF (could not find).

On October 18, 1974, Jayee died (surrounded by old relatives and the close perfume of vintage tobacco) with a freshly sharpened yellow pencil, with a half-smoked pack of Chesterfields, with lists and spirits close at hand, waiting for closure, he always told those who asked about them.

Reverend Jones stood before the mourners in the small church and read the names of those who wished to remember and to be remembered, and one upon one, they created a great hymn that rose up over the banks of their consciousness and flowed down the rivers of their perception in a crowned deluge.

Copyright © 2010, 2016 by Malcolm R. Campbell