I am a giddy fangirl. Boy howdy, did I have fun last week in Choteau, Montana. I'll have even more fun if I get an answer to a fan letter I left with Rose at the Elk Country Grill.
Word of explanation - Choteau, Montana, is a small town (1,788 inhabitants) on Highway 287, which roughly parallels the Rocky Mountain Front Range. The view is simply not to be believed, except there it is and I love it. We were on our way to visit son Jeremy on the border and stopped for lunch in Choteau at the Elk Country Grill.
Whenever possible, which is nearly always, I avoid chain restaurants when I travel, or anywhere else, for that matter. The Elk Country Grill fit the bill - no atmosphere, old chairs and tables, handmade quilts lining the walls, and an elk bugling call that lets the servers know when the food is ready in the kitchen. How great is that? The service was fast, and the roast-beefy-potatoey soup definitely did not come out of a can. Rose gets my vote as a superlative maker of pies. Her crust was as good as mine, and mine is quite good. (No, I have never served Humble Pie. Can you tell?)
Anyway, I was chatting with Rose at the register and happened to mention that I like driving through Choteau because it was the home of A.B. Guthrie, probably my favorite writer of the West. He's well-known for The Way West (Pulitzer liked it to the tune of a prize), The Big Sky, The Last Valley, These Thousand Hills, and my personal favorite, ARFIVE. ARFIVE is a brand, and it's the story of the ranching settlement of Montana. I've been known to open the book to favorite passages and read them aloud to an appreciative audience (moi).
I expressed my admiration of AB Guthrie to Rose, and she said, "His daughter Helen comes in here quite often, and she loves to talke about her dad."
Oh gosh, I was so excited. Rose said that Helen was out of town right now, but expected back soon. I said I was going to be back through Choteau in October, on my way to a booksigning in Cardston, Alberta. Would Rose mind if I wrote Helen Guthrie a letter and left it at the Elk Country Grill for Helen, when she returned?
Rose didn't mind a bit. During my visit with Jeremy, I composed a letter to Helen Guthrie, telling her when I would be through Choteau again, and asking if I could take her out to dinner and listen to some Bud Guthrie stories. I left the letter with Rose on my way back home, and am hoping I hear from Helen Guthrie, who (according to Rose) is 78 or so and quite lively.
Oh, gee. I should be finishing Chapter 17 in The Double Cross, my New Mexico mystery, but don't you know I'm going to pull out ARFIVE and reread that section where well-seasoned rancher Mort Ewing goes to Missoula for his ward's college graduation. Such good writing.
Canada was fun, too, for lots of reasons. One reason was that I got to meet Lane Cook, mighty hunter/rancher/Subway owner, in Waterton Park. He's a compact, handsome fellow with killer dimples, and apparently a very good team roper. Lane and his wife and young daughters live on a ranch near Cardston with his parents.
Last spring, the elder Cook was in the chicken house when he heard a sound overhead in a crawlspace. Varmints can accumulate in sheltered places during an Alberta winter, and he wondered what was passing through the Cook ranch and decided to stay awhile. He would have whistled up the family dogs, but they were nowhere in sight. He pulled up the trapdoor and found himself staring at a highly irritated, too-close-for-comfort mountain lion. No joke.
I asked Lane just how close that lion was to his father and Lane said, "Dad told me, 'I could smell his breath and count all his teeth.'"
The way Lane tells it, his father didn't know he could run that fast. He shouted to Lane to get his gun, and Lane shot the cougar. Shaken, the two ranchers started looking for their dogs. They found one of them in that crawlspace over the chicken house, where the mountain lion had been trying to bury it and save it for a late night snack. The other dog, merely a pup, had managed to squeeze himself through the cat flap and was cowering inside the house. He's probably still inside the house.
Lane skinned the mountain lion, went through a mound of paperwork, and is having the pelt turned into a rug. Jeremy knows the Cooks really well. He asked Lane if his daughter, who usually carries a BB gun when she goes to feed her own animals, had her firepower "upgraded." Lane just grinned. "I gave her a 22."
Tough people. Most folks never get that close to a mountain lion and live to joke about it.
I know the most interesting people. I plan to use that story in the book I'm working on right now.
P.S. My very first Signet Regency, Summer Campaign, is now out on ebook. I've seen the ARCs (advanced readers copies) for My Loving Vigil Keeping. You'd think it was my first novel, with all the thrill that gave me.