Wow. My first post as a member of Sweetheart of the West. What an honor to be part of this wonderful group of western authors!
I’ve always been intrigued by the old west, the Cowboys and Indians, the Scouts, and Frontiersmen. When I think of the “west”, I don’t so much think of cowboys riding the range. It’s wagon trains, and men scouting out the mountains that scream “western” to me.
I was born and raised in Germany for the first 12 years of my life, and everything American was just a big thing to us back then. We were always glued to the TV on Saturday evenings, watching Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, etc. When my family moved to the US, I saw my first western movie where the actors spoke English! What?! I thought they all talked German.
|Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand|
My friends and I didn’t play with Barbie dolls. We played with our little cowboy and Indian figures, making up great adventures of red men and white men as friends, working against an evil gang of outlaws. Probably most of that stems from the “western” books I grew up with. A German author by the name of Karl May wrote volumes upon volumes of adventure novels about the American west, with larger than life heroes. His primary heroes weren’t cowboys, though. His characters were scouts and mountain men, and Indians. Old Shatterhand, the man who came to the west as a “greenhorn” fresh from Europe, and became an overnight legend as scout and frontiersman, along with his Apache blood-brother Winnetou, and his Mountain man/scout sidekick Sam Hawkens, kept us turning the pages and glued to the T.V. Other heroes had colorful names such as Old Firehand, and Old Surehand.
The one thing I always remember about Old Shatterhand – he dressed in buckskins. I think that’s where my fascination with the mountain man must have originally come from.
One thing that amazed me about these books and the author - although historically not very accurate, he writes about the American west with such vivid descriptions, it puts the reader into the stories. However, he himself had never been to America when he wrote the books (1890’s).
|Grand Prismatic Spring|
My then-future husband introduced me to camping the summer after our high school graduation. That’s when I discovered Yellowstone National Park, and I was hooked. Who wouldn’t be in awe of the beautiful landscape, thermal features, and the wildlife?
I learned about the park’s history, and about the mountain man and fur trapper. So, when the basic story idea for my debut novel, Yellowstone Heart Song came to me, I could think of no other setting than Yellowstone, and no other hero than a mountain man who carved out his living in the Yellowstone Wilderness of the past.
I hope to share some of the fascinating history of Yellowstone, the fur trappers and mountain men who were, after all, the west’s first trailblazers, in my upcoming posts. For now, let me leave you with a short passage from Yellowstone Heart Song, truly the book of my heart.
For the better part of the morning, Daniel led her through the forest, showing her how to read different tracks, other signs to look out for that an animal had been in the area, where to look for edible roots and plants, and how to watch the skies for changes in the weather. Along with the berries, she filled her backpack with mint, wild onions, licorice, and various other roots and plants.
She had listened attentively as she tried to absorb everything Daniel told her. Some things she already knew, others were completely new to her. The subtle animal signs he picked up on astounded her. Silently, he had pointed out a black bear sow and her twin cubs in the distance, a moose in the thickets that she would have completely overlooked, and countless other smaller animals. He knew which critter made every track they came upon. He read the forest for information as someone in her time would read a newspaper. It was most refreshing to get a glimpse of this wilderness that she loved so much in her time from this man who carved out a living here.
Aimee savored the beauty of her surroundings. Aspen trees grew in abundance. Beaver lodges could be seen all along the streams, and countless otters played in the waters. With the coming of the fur trappers to these mountains within a decade of this time, the beaver would be trapped to near extinction. Wolves would be hunted until none remained, and without this predator, the elk would take over, causing the destruction of the aspen from overgrazing. This was a Yellowstone unfamiliar to her, but it was as nature had intended before the encroachment of man.