Monday, July 14, 2008

Life in Montana

I just finished a wonderful book"Tough Trip Through Paradise, 1878-1879" by Andrew Garcia,Univ of Idaho Press.Garcia lived in Montana till his death in 1942 and during the two years the book is about wrote a thousand pages or more about later in life.A Bennett H. Stein edited the pages down to a little over 400 pages and the book first came out in 1966.It's a fascinating and unvarnished true life story of life in Montana.Garcia was 23 at the time and bought furs and other things from the Indian tribes and interacted with them.He married a Nez Perce girl who had been taken in by another tribe after her family was killed and she was badly injured in the Battle of Big Hole.Garcia does not try and try to paint a romantic picture of his life but the result is true life and in parts his writing is beautiful for such a common man.He pulls no punches and there are good and bad on both sides between the whites and Indians he encounters but his life amongst the tribes of the area is the most fascinating part.The book does jump around a bit but that doesn't take away from the real life tale.I read another first person narrative of a white man living with the Blackfeet in Montana during roughly the same time period several years ago and I enjoyed that also but Garcia's book is a classic.There aren't that many first person narratives out there of the waning days of the western tribes and from the Indian side hardly a thing as their history was mostly oral rather than written so I keep searching for more of these.Garcia during his life kept the manuscript mostly out of sight because he feared a publisher or Hollywood would tinker with it and change the story as he wrote it.For a simple man he was wise.In fact I found one article on line that claims that"Little Big Man" was cribbed from the Garcia book after it came out.A friend who is a writer and a novelist in Montana just wrote an article about Garcia she submitted to Montana Life so I want to ask her if there is anything to the "Little Big Man" story.

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