The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Monday, November 22, 2010

G'night, sleep tight

My son, Jeremy, called this morning with a great story. He's a U.S. Border Patrol agent on the Montana border, right up against Glacier National Park. (Yeah, I know: someone has to live in that beautiful area. Might as well be my kid.)

This story happened a few years back, and was told to him by one of the Glacier N.P. rangers. For obvious reasons, the Park Service didn't want this one spread around, but hey, it's a good story.

Park biologists were doing some bear studies and needed to tranquilize a grizzly. Four guys were supposed to rendezvous at the bear trap. These are big, cage-like affairs where bears can be lured in  with a sheep's head, or some such vittle, and immobilized so the biologists can do their thing.

Well, the first showed up, and there was a royally pissed grizzly inside the cage, according to plan. The biologist waited and waited for the other guys to show - cell phone coverage is poor in those remote areas so there was no way to contact his compadres. Expecting them at any moment, he decided to go ahead and tranquilize the bear and get started.

He shot the tranquilizer into the bear, and waited until it went limp.  He waited around some more, and when the guys still weren't there, decided to just go inside the cage and get started. He did, and took his hair, blood or whatever samples from the unconscious griz.

Well, you know what happened. The wind was stiff and sure enough, the cage door slammed shut, with him inside the bear cage with a still-unconscious grizzly. His trank gun was outside the cage and he Could Not Get Out.

Tranquilizing bears is not rocket science, but there isn't a really good way to know how long they'll be tucked up in the arms of Morpheus before the bear comes to, looks around, and is REALLY irritated. The only thing the guy had was a little penknife. Since he had no idea how long the bear would be unconscious, and no idea when the other guys would arrive to free him from the cage, he figured he'd better kill the grizzly with the penknife.

Apparently, the poor sod hacked and hacked and sawed and cut until he finally killed the unconscious grizzly bear. Meanwhile, he's drenched in blood. Any idea how many gallons a grizzly has?

Well, the other biologists finally showed up and came across this horrific scene. Their buddy is nowhere in sight, and the bear cage is pouring blood. They called and hollered, and finally the poor guy hollered back. When they let him out, he was blood-soaked and pretty traumatized (which is probably as vast an understatement as I have ever written).

Jeremy and I speculated that there was probably an opening for a biologist at Glacier N.P. by the end of that week.

Moral of this story: For heavens sake, don't anesthetize a grizzly bear all by yourself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Borrowed Light

So far, Amazon has the book buried down my list of books. The cover isn't up yet, but I'll see if I can figure out how to upload the tip sheet onto this blog. Yikes, that's about more than my brain can process, but hey, I might manage. It's a gorgeous cover. I'm told it will also be available in Kindle.

Borrowed Light is my first - and absolutely not last - novel with an LDS theme. So, if readers are looking for more than a kiss, some sexual tension, etc., they won't be happy campers. But having said that, it's a book anyone would enjoy, Mormon or not, because a lot of us go through the kind of growing up that Julia does. At some point, we all have to be guided by our own light, and not stand in borrowed light. (And no, I do not shove religion down anyone's throat in this book. I hate stories that do that.)

I got the idea from a marvelous book called Perfection Salad, which I picked up in a used book store in Denton, Texas, years ago. Perfection Salad reads like someone's dissertation, and it's the story of the growth of scientific cooking, which developed around the turn of the 20th century. Think of "home economics," and the use of calibrated measurements, and you'll get the drift. Oh, and "dainty cooks," too.

Julia Darling is a newly minted graduate of Boston's Fannie Farmer School of Cookery. The year in 1909, and she's home again in Salt Lake City, rather unhappily engaged to a fine fellow that everything thinks is perfect for her - except her. Her little sister (!) is getting married that morning in the Salt Lake Temple, and Julia is feeling decidedly OLD. (She's 27)

In that low mood, and on a whim, she answers an ad in the Deseret News titled "Rancher Desperate." Paul Otto, long-time Wyoming rancher, wants a cook who is specifically a grad of Fannie Farmer's school. The story goes from there: At first, Mr. Otto and Julia are chalk and cheese, because they both "assume" more than they know about the other.

The story is set in southeast Wyoming, about 100 miles north of Cheyenne and not too far from the Nebraska border. The terrain is high rolling plains, with the mountains close by. We lived in Torrington, Wyoming, when my husband finished graduate school for the first time. He taught at the community college there, and I worked at Fort Laramie NHS as a ranger.

I joined the Goshen County Historical Society, and admired - from a distance - a fine-looking old rancher named Paul Otto. Thirty-five years ago, for some reason, I decided I would use that name in a western. And now I have. The original Paul Otto was distinguished-looking in that way that only a successful stockman is. When I knew him, he was getting up there in years, but he sat as straight as if he was on horseback. Marvelous memory.

Borrowed Light is a book I've been wanting to write for a long, long time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big box

It's always a nice moment when UPS delivers a box with 48 freebie copies of the latest book. I think The Admiral's Penniless Bride goes on sale in January. Typically, I get such a box a month before it goes on sale, but Harlequin was early with this one. Mabe they want to beat the Christmas rush. It's a good book, and I hope it does well.

Weight Watchers tonight. I lost -.4 pounds, which isn't much, but it wasn't a gain. Part of the value of WW is learning to make wise choices. For example, last night we were near Manti, Utah, at a Chinese restaurant. I was a good girl and ordered steamed vegetables and tofu (our daughter Liz called it toad food when she was a little girl). It was very good, and I even got a good fortune in the cookie. Pluses all around.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A sequel?

I rely on my readers to give me clues. Monday through Friday, I go to water aerobics in the pool in Price, Utah. I call us "Eight - or ten - fluffy women in a pool," with some of us more fluffy than others. There's a lady that I pick up on my way to the pool. She's so neat. VonDell is about my age. She's legally blind, because she was born with a really rare form of cataracts. She can read if the print is big enough, and if she holds the page close enough to her one not-good-but-much-better-than-the-other eye.

One of my Regency novels came out in large print, so I loaned her that, and she enjoyed it. Then I printed out the manuscript of my LDS-themed novel, Borrowed Light, in 18 point type. (That book will be out in February - available on Amazon -- shameless commercial)

She finished it over the weekend and realy liked it. Said she's going to start over and re-read it, which thrilled my writer's heart. She also said she wants a sequel, because there are a lot of characters, in addition to the main characters, who need more "face time," according to VonDell.

I'd never even thought of a sequel to Borrowed Light, but I think she's right. I send my editor and e-mail and asked her what she thinks. Thank you, VonDell!

Right now, I'm working on a three-Christmas-story collection, which is going pretty well. I'll have the first story done by the first week in December, I think. I'm also waiting for my office to be finished. It's a neat room we added on the other side of the porch, and was the summer and early fall's remodeling project. The built-in desk (really basic) just needs a top to it, and I can move into the office. This will be much better than my usual writing places through the years, which have varied from a furnace room, to a kitchen table, to several laundry rooms. Imagine. A room for writing. I doubt my prose will be any more deathless than it already isn't, but it will be nice.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winter's Bone

Last night we watched Winter's Bone, a wonderful indie movie that has done quite well in the public eye. It was filmed in  Taney and Christian Counties in Missouri, and depicts the courageous and desperate struggle of a 17-year-old girl to maintain her family home and continue caring for her two young siblings.

We lived in the Ozarks twice. I wouldn't care to live there now, because I have terrible allergies there, but I remember at least some of those years with real fondness. There is nothing quite as lovely as a Missouri
"holler" on a misty morning in fall, or an early spring morning when the dogwood is beginning to bloom. I'll pass on summer's humidity!

I remember the stalwart people. In particular, I remember a little family in Shannon County, one of America's poorest counties, and the kind of place Winter's Bone was depicting now, where some, at least, have succumbed to cooking meth and creating even more desperate lives.

My errand in Shannon County came about because I was a public relations writer at Cox Medical Centers, in Springfield, Missouri, and I was chasing down a story for our quarterly newsletter. A little girl from Shannon County had been life-flighted to Cox after a freak accident. She had accidentally aspirated into her lungs that tiny nib on the end of a Bic pen which had made her breathing really labored. The local folks couldn't see the problem (it was so small), and she was flown out of her rural surroundings to Cox in Springfield. X-rays revealed the difficulty, and the nib was promptly removed. She survived.

I was to go to Shannon County - about 100 miles away, as I recall - and interview the family. It was grey day in winter, much like the scenery in Winter's Bone. The county is so beautiful, scenery-wise, but desperately poor. This incident happened in 1989, but I doubt Shannon County has changed much. There aren't many jobs, and farming has never really prospered there.

I came to the home, one of a small enclave of what were probably relatives' houses. It was small and tidy, but poor. The house was heated with wood. There was running water, but apparently no sewer system. When I washed my hands in the bathroom, the water flowed into a bucket under the sink.

The mom and siblings - Dad was at work somewhere - treated me so kindly. I heard their story, took some photos, and came away with a good story of how effecient medical practice can reach out into surrounding counties. Mostly I remember the dignity and kindess of the people I interviewed. I suppose most people would consider their life to be quite marginal; they were obviously living on the ragged edge of survival.  They were wealthy in family, though, and it showed. I hope I conveyed some of that in my little story.

The mom in the family had a nice little collection of salt and pepper holders. Since then, I wish I had scoured one of Springfield's antique stores and found another set to add to her collection. I should have.

Since then, too, I've wondered about that little girl - central to the story - and her family. I hope they have done well. I hope life isn't so hard. I hope I always remember how generously they gave of their time and their story. I doubt they remember my visit; I know I won't ever forget it.