Hello everyone. It is so much different now that my manuscript is complete. It is now more like work. I was never this busy while writing the novel. It didn't seem like work when all I had to do was enter Daniel's world and be with all those characters. Now it is drudgery. I know what people mean now when I read that it takes a lot of work to get a book to market. I am learning a lot about all this and I know that I still haven't scratched the surface concerning what I need to understand. I need a break so I am going to sit back a spell and do the fun part again. The following "About The Author" will be included in the final pages of the finished novel.
This is not my autobiography, and I won't bore the reader with a long tale of my life. Perhaps someday I will write a memoir of my own, but for now, I wish to share my journey with White Bird.
Around 1966 or so our family decided for various reasons to relocate. Mom took us boys (Kenny, Ricky and me) on a trip to the mountains of west-central Idaho in search of a new place to live. My love affair with that region began there, particularly with the town of Riggins Idaho. Unfortunately, to this day I have no photographs of this quaint little place. I will make sure to get some on my future trips.
Memory is a tricky thing, mainly trying to recall from a boy of 8. I'll just tell it like it is, engraved in mind forever. It was late evening, and we were in a small town known as White Bird. We had left Riggins behind us over an hour ago. I already knew that my choice for a new home was back there. The town of Riggins is in a spot were the ridges along the Salmon River canyon close together a bit tighter. There is barely room for the highway and a couple of side streets on the west. The river runs along the east side. There is a bridge across to the ridges where the road seems to disappear into them. I do not remember exploring that. Riggins is a community, tightly hemmed in by mountains. It is a picturesque place, and I fell in love with it.
White Bird did not have accommodations, so we decided to head to the nearest town of size. Grangeville was only about 35 miles ahead, and we thought we could still get there early enough to find a motel. It was getting dark as we began our ascent up to the south rim, known as White Bird Pass. I did not know it then, but this piece of US Hwy 95 was notorious for being the most dangerous north-south highway in the country. The switchbacks are pronounced; often turning so quickly while rising that you were directly above the part you traveled minutes before. It was raining and getting dark. Mom was getting very nervous while driving that road and it was scaring me a bit. Kenny was outwardly calm; even volunteering to drive, although he was only 12 or 13 at the time. We made it in the end just fine, but this experience stayed with me.
In late spring of 1976, a friend and I traveled up to Canada for the first time. Our destination was Banff National forest, and I wanted to go across that stretch of highway along the way. I found out that a new road went straight up over White Bird Hill, bypassing the town of White Bird. We passed it all quickly. I did see a winding road several times off to the east and knew it was old White Bird Hill. Believing the old way to be closed, we decided to keep on with the trip north. I can still remember the ache in my gut that this piece of my life now seemed to be gone. But the memory stayed on.
The 1990's. A decade of learning the art of camping. It turns out that my most peaceful moments are spent around a campfire,out in the wilderness. I love campfires. In the late 80's my little sister, Valerie (Hello sis. I know you will read this), had recently graduated college and was working a performance in the very authentic, old west town of Virginia City, Montana. It was a big event and you were captivating, sis. A large group of the family attended and, knowing the little town did not have accommodations, I borrowed Uncle Cork's camping gear so some of us could camp out as an option. Valerie was staying in a home with many of her co-actors, though she assured all of us she would fit us in. I think it was my brother-in-law ( also named Kenny), his two sons (my nephews Jonny and Joe), and my son and daughter (Eric and Robyn), who elected to camp that first night, along with my nephew Jason who was with us for the first time. W camped along a small river by the highway a few miles before town. Kenny and I built my first campfire. There had been others, long ago in my past, but I was a child then and adults were in charge. Someday I will tell you stories about those early mountain trips, and how much trouble a boy of six through ten can get up to in the high country.
We camped two more nights along a dirt road leading into the back country from Virginia City. The campers on these nights consisted of Sandra, Robyn, Eric, Joe, Jonny, Jason and me. The second night I had a big campfire and everybody came up for a hot dog and marshmallow roast. Valerie brought along many of her fellow performers and we had a very good time.
Short years later (again, memory is often a fleeting thing) we camped along the Payette river during a two week family excursion. Mom, Sandra, Robyn, Eric, Joe and I, were all there along with Jason and his girl friend, Wendy. Best memory of that time was the little hike I took up the mountain the next day with my daughter Robyn, and my nephew Joe. We did not make it far enough north for me to re-acquaint myself with Riggins and White Bird. I still did not forget. We did have a second campfire at a lake reservoir near Caldwell.
A few years later, I visited mom by myself and we took a short trip overnight, this time electing to head up through Shoshone and over Galena summit and through Stanley. We camped that night along the Wood River in a very out of the way place. The next day I did a little fire along the Payette for a lunch of roasted hot dogs. Once again I did not get up north to my earliest and fondest memories. I think I was afraid that since the old White Bird pass was closed, I would once again feel the bitter disappointment that I experienced the year I discovered that it was gone.
Life goes on and years pass, but my heart and mind kept going back to White Bird. I confided this nugget of an idea that was forming in my head about writing a novel based around this area, with my wife, Sandra. We decided to take a trip there and stay at the White Bird Summit Lodge so I could reacquaint myself with the area. We took the express highway up to the lodge, this time stopping at the pullout overlooking the old road and White Bird Canyon. The proprietor at the lodge informed us that the old highway was still open to travel. The first morning I traveled Old White Bird Pass for just the second time in my life. It was nowhere near as scary as it had been in my mind. One evening we had a few beers down in the town of White Bird at the Silver Dollar Saloon. I spoke to many people there about my idea for doing a novel based around their town. Everybody seemed very keen on the idea.
At a supper hosted by the lodge owners, I met a lady that was a member of White Bird Chamber of Commerce and the local librarian as well. I promised her a copy of the finished novel for the library. I hope it is not too late to fulfill that promise. My attempts at starting the novel were infinitesimal. I just wasn't quite ready to put my thoughts to paper and had no true direction.
We took day trips in the region, just looking for old mountain roads to explore. Our first attempt was a road we thought would take us over the mountain from the Salmon River to the Snake River. We took a right when we should have taken a left. After about ten miles of uphill mountain roads we stopped an oncoming logger and asked how far it was to the Snake. He told us that this road only went up and was primarily a logging road. The next day we did travel the correct road across to Pittsburgh Landing on the Snake River. On our final excursion, we went to revisit Riggins and discovered a turnoff called Seven Devils road that looked interesting. How fortunate I am that we traveled up that road, discovering the majesty of the Seven Devils Mountains for the first time.
Forest Road 517 twists and winds for 16 miles as it rises over 6000 feet to the Windy Saddle parking lot. To date this is the most interesting road I have traveled. From Windy Saddle you can go a quarter of a mile to the right where the road ends at the Seven Devils Campground. The road to the left goes steeply up the mountain ledge for about a mile, ending at the parking lot for those who want to hike up the trail a short bit to visit the Heaven's Gate Ranger Station Lookout. This piece of road is not recommended for low profile vehicles. Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended. My wife and I drove it in a rented car and it was an interesting piece of road. On the way down I had to pull over to the very edge of the road to allow horses and a large pickup to pass on their way up, This road is very difficult for two way traffic and you have to plan carefully where to meet oncoming vehicles. We were so close to the edge you could not get out the passenger side without falling of the mountain. I still take that road every time I go up there to camp. We did not stay overnight but took the little road into the campground to check it out. It is a primitive campground and the tiny road circles around 10 camping spots. I knew that I would come back here someday.
I did make it back in 2010, 2012, and 2014. This is without peer the grandest place I could ever imagine. Each time I went back there, the goal was to somehow climb to the top of those peaks. In 2010, My son, Eric and my nephew, Jason came along. Each time I got a little closer to those peaks. The Tower of Babel is the most prominent peak and the most difficult to climb. Someday I hope to make it to the top. It turns out that Jason shares my avid interest in hiking, climbing and camping up there. We hope to make it back there again in the summer of 2019. I know I have to get back to that region to promote my novel.
I went there in my imagination last year as I wrote of Daniel's Spirit Walk. He, of course started his path way back at Pittsburgh Landing, traveling trails that really exist from the Snake River, all the way to the peaks where the Spirit of "Great Eagle" waited. The journey was truly spiritual for Both Daniel and me.
Every trip I took back to this area, I learned a bit more of the history behind. I brought home quite a bit of literature that described the area and it's inhabitants. This is how I became acquainted with the grand and often tragic history of the Nez Perce People. Their history and ancient beliefs should never be forgotten. I hope that my novel expresses well the utmost respect I have for this greatest of Native American Tribes. I know that it was their history in this area that became the turning point in my ideas for the direction I wanted " White Bird to take.
Chief White Bird and his tribe lived in the Salmon River valley near the bottom of White Bird Canyon. His people lived there for thousands of years until the "White Man" told them they must move onto a much shrunken reservation along the Clearwater River near Lewiston. Choosing instead to keep their freedom they attempted to escape to Canada after a very short and successful battle with the US Cavalry on White Bird Pass. The town of White Bird is built on the spot where their settlement used to be. Today the population is 93 with 95% being white and the rest Hispanic. There are no Nez Perce living in White Bird today.
I purchased all the literature on the Nimipu, ( that is the name they call themselves and it roughly translates to "The People"), at a little museum and tourist information on US 95, just inside their reservation. I once talked to a modern day "Medicine Man" of the Nimipu, and he was a very interesting person to converse with.
Alas' I am well known as a master at procrastination and it took me until 2018 to finally decide that I needed to get this done. I worried that maybe I was not cut out to be a storyteller, so I decided to do a practice run with my short story "Rusty's Tail. It was fairly amateurish in the writing, editing and publishing, but it accomplished much for me. I learned a little about how to express myself with the written word. I also knew, finally, that I could finish something and put it out to the public. I finished that tale in April of 2018 and jumped into the world of White Bird.
I left Idaho behind at the age of 12. The writing of this novel has been a huge step on my long journey home.