My earliest memories are of hunting camps, eating food cooked over a campfire or a Coleman, and sleeping on cots in canvas tents.
Our first home in Montana was a cabin my father built from logs in the Gallatin Canyon on the side of a mountain. I grew up climbing rocks and trees, wading in creeks, catching fish with my hands and daydreaming.
I made up stories from a very young age – often involving cowboys since I was born in Texas and grew up in the Wild West. It was wild back then and all my heroes were Davey Crocketts and Daniel Boons. On vacations we often went to Virginia City, rode in stagecoaches and visited the tombstones of outlaws.
We never lived in town even when we lived closer to civilization. I learned to ice skate, sled, build snowmen, fish and hunt. I learned to shoot.
My father was a contractor so I also grew up around tools and learned to build things. I can make mortar, plane wood, hammer a nail.
I worked my way through college painting houses. Some of the jobs required that I take the boat to work when I lived on Hebgen Lake. I learned to waterski before I learned to swim.
There was a time that I wished I lived like other people. I had cousins in Texas who lived in the suburbs, had sidewalks, rode their bikes and rollerbladed on paved streets, and walked to school. I always rode a bus and in high school that bus trip was 120 miles round trip each day from West Yellowstone, Montana to Ashton, Idaho. While seeing the Tetons was a highlight every weekday, in the winter there was a good half inch of ice on the inside of the bus windows.
I’m glad now that I had the childhood I did. It feeds the stories. I write about the Montana I know, the people, the places, the hardships, the isolation, the storms.
As writers we draw on all of it. So much of who we are ends up in our books. I am my heroes and heroines as well as my villains.
Today I live in a small Montana town where if you drive a half mile out of town, you might not see another soul for miles and miles. In the winter, the roads often close, in the spring some of the roads are impassible because the dirt turns to “gumbo.”
Life isn’t easy in a lot of Montana. Just last week, it was 40 below zero with a chill factor of minus 55 because of the wind. The wind blew the snow over the road, glazing it and making driving dangerous. There were times when we went to get our Christmas tree in the Little Rockies that we could see nothing but a white wall ahead.
This is where I live. So I write what I know.