I've been reading a book for pleasure. Now
that may not be earth-shattering news, but
quite often I don't take the time to read
something 'just for fun.' It's more because I
'need to' for a book review, or maybe it is a
writer who has been recommended whose work I
haven't read before, or a subject area I need
to research. (You might be surprised at how
much of that gets done.)
So anyway, I received this book and thought I'd
check it out. It's fiction, about fly fishing
('tho not everything I read is) and I have to
admit here I have a strange way of 'checking
books out'. I don't start at the beginning.
My mother had an even stranger method, in my
opinion anyway. She always read the last chapter
first. She was an avid reader, but I thought the
idea of reading the last chapter first was really
I don't read the first chapter first because I
believe the current crop of book editors are not
really editors in the old sense of the word, but
are more concerned with the possible after marketing
of the book. Not to the book reader, but to those
who would buy the rights for television or film use.
In theory, an author of a book has about three chapters
to 'set up the book.' Over the rest of the book the
author can add other characters, locations, twists
and turns, but the major character(s) and 'feel' of
the book are set in the early chapters. In television
and film the writers don't have the luxury of time.
It works against them. Surprise endings leave the
viewer feeling cheated.
Anyway, that's why I don't read the first
chapter first. I don't think it is usually
the author's intent, but more the editor's
recommendation for marketing purposes. Many
authors have written a whole book just to get
in one chapter which contained what they really
wanted to say.
So where do I start - I open the book, somewhere
in the middle and thumb back to the first page
of the chapter I just came to. I read that chapter
and if I like it, I read the rest of the book.
If I don't like that chapter, I set it aside.
I usually don't say anything to my husband JC,
he can read it if he likes, or not.
What I find interesting on this particular book
is I think I lived there. Well almost. The
Montana town written about is really bigger
than our little town, but close enough to swap
out names for the most part. Montana people
are Montana people. Most are not 'native' - the
ones who are belong to tribes. That said, the
ones who have lived there for their whole lives
are part of a do-it-yourself society where you
may not love your neighbor, and you wouldn't
save him from a skunk, but you sure would save
him from a bear.
We lived about eight miles east of Wilsall,
Montana on a flat ridge, called a 'bench' below
the Crazy Mountains and Grasshopper Glacier,
which is about 40 miles from Bozeman by the
back road. Wilsall, when we lived there, had
two bars, two churches, one grocery store, one
hardware, a Cenex which was also the gas station,
a farm tractor and liquor store combined, and a
post office. One of the bars had food. Sort of.
It was also known to have live horses inside on
the 4th of July when the rodeo was in town.
To say that Wilsall was 'laid back' is probably
an understatement. There was a town dog. I don't
think it belonged to anyone. It slept during
the day in the middle of the crossroad of the
main street. It was large and white. And well
fed. Everyone drove around it.
In the winter people didn't usually travel too
far because bad roads, unpredictable snow storms
and getting stranded in bitter cold. New Year's
Eve one year we did make it the 8 miles down to
the Wilsall Bar which had live music and dancing.
The music was western/country - what else, and
really pretty good. Sometime before the stroke
of midnight the lead guitarist sort of slid off
the stage onto the dance floor. He never missed
a beat, before he totally passed out, dead drunk.
A volunteer from the crowd gently removed the
guitar from the fallen musicians hands and filled
his shoes for the rest of the night. Typical
neighborly act. Someone tucked a coat under
his head so he could sleep comfortably.
Cattle were still branded the old fashioned way.
Rounded up, run through squeeze chutes for shots,
ear tagged, branded and the steers neutered.
Neighbors were expected to help - and did.
When it was your turn, the neighbors turned
out for that one too. The 'women' served a
good hot lunch and the work was shared. I
don't think outsiders know that way of life
still exists. It isn't just in movies and
books. It is real. As we were told when
we first moved up into the 'high country'
"Up here, we all get along."
If there was a problem, everyone was expected
to help. There simply was no question about that.
I got a phone call one fall from a neighbor
who asked if I could come and drive a wheat
truck for him for the day. I had never driven
a wheat truck, didn't have a clue. No problem
Elton said, I'll show you what you have to do.
This was a BIG truck. More gears than I'd ever
seen. Drive it from the storage bins to the
field where the wheat was being harvested, wait
for the box to be filled, drive it back to Ringling
to the bins, there was a man there who hooked up
a suction device to get the wheat out, and then
drive it back to the field, find the harvester
and do it all over again. It didn't kill me
and I helped out.
Another phone call another day asking if we
could help out on a round up. We did. A
couple of weeks later a stock truck showed
up with a load of wonderful Texas river rock
I had admired for a fireplace JC and I were
rebuilding in our old house. It was the way
of life. Since we weren't ranchers with either
wheat or cattle, we were viewed as a soft touch
I'm sure - no one took advantage of us, but
they locals knew we would help out if asked.
One day we were coming back from somewhere and
we were flagged down. And ordered to go up that
road NOW. We did. We had on dress clothes,
not the usual jeans. No matter. We ended up
spending the next 6 hours fighting a fire until
the real fire crew could show up. And yes, they
really can do that. About a month later we each got
a check in the mail! For our fire fighting service.
Surprising what reading a couple chapters in
Travers Corners can dredge up.
Almost like being there, again. While I haven't read
the rest of the books in the series, I probably
will dig those out and read them as well. I am
struck by the real feeling the author captured
about a particular area of Montana which we really
loved. ~ DLB
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