Waiting for book launch

What’s an author to do while waiting for the release of his/her next book?

Well, this southwestern Montana-based author is awaiting electronic proofs of “Midway Bravery” from Ingram Spark so he can give the green light to publishing the hardback version next week. And that will pave the way for launch events later this summer, likely in the Montana cities of Billings, Bozeman and, most importantly, in Miles City. The latter is crucial because that’s the de facto hometown of Jim Muri, whose life story is chronicled in the book.

While keeping on eye on the progress of the book and thinking about effective marketing is crucial, my Job 1 remains being primary caregiver for my wife, Carolyn. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in late March and has since undergone surgery plus a six-week regimen of radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

We’ll know more later in June, after some more scans, whether the treatment checked the growth of any cancerous cells remaining after surgery on one tumor, near my wife’s occipital lobe. We also anxiously await the oncologists’ findings on whether radiation has shrunk the other tumor, located in her brain stem where the risk of serious complications ruled out surgery.

We both needed to get out of Dodge, as the old saying goes. So we took a drive this afternoon to a place close by that I’ve long wanted to visit but somehow never did: Pony, Montana. It would be incorrect to call Pony a ghost town but let’s say it’s a shadow of its former self when it was a thriving gold mining town with about 5,000 residents at the turn of the previous century. By the 1920s, the mines shut down. The town has shrunk to a few permanent residents.

Before we left, I asked Carolyn, a native of Clyde Park (on the other side of the Bridger Range from where we live) if she had been to Pony. Yes, she said. And that prompted her to tell me we should look for ponies in Pony. Just kidding. According to a Wikipedia article, the town got its name from a miner nicknamed “Pony” because of his small size; his real name was Tecumseh Smith.

Not much was going on when we finally arrived in town. There were a few people chatting outside the bar, and I counted perhaps three or four vehicles driving through town at that time besides us.

As we drove towards Pony, I couldn’t help recalling when I first heard about the place. That was in the late 1970s when I was a sportswriter at the Billings Gazette and an avid bicycle tourist.

For at least a couple years, both times in July, after getting off work late on Saturday night and getting a bit of sleep, I loaded my bicycle and gear on my car and headed to the intersection of I-90 with the highway to Helena (U.S. 287), west of Three Forks.

I parked the car at the truck stop south of the freeway, which has gone through several name changes since. Then I took off in mid-day heat, headed towards Ennis, then over a big ridge into Virginia City where I stayed overnight. The next day, I resumed my travel and looped through Twin Bridges to Whitehall, then got on the freeway and really worked my legs getting over the Whitehall hill before returning to the start of my loop outside Three Forks.

On at least one of those weekend tours, someone in a late 1950s Chevy station wagon recognized me. The man was traveling at a leisurely pace down the highway. When he rolled down the window to say hi and offer me a drink of water, I recognized him. It was Jim Dutcher, longtime activities director for the Billings public high schools (Billings Senior and Billings West then; Billings Skyview didn’t exist).

As I recall, Jim had a cabin or some kind of getaway in Pony. He’d go there in the summer to relax and maybe do some fishing.

Jim is gone now, but the fine memories of a time past remain.

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