A Sense of Place — A Guest Post by Heidi M. Thomas

We are delighted to welcome guest blogger, Heidi M. Thomas. Heidi grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana, writing stories and riding horses. From one small piece of information about her grandmother has come three novels and one soon-to-be-released non-fiction book about old-time rodeo cowgirls, Cowgirl Up! Heidi’s first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, won an EPIC award and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the WILLA Literary Award. She is a freelance editor, teaches community classes in memoir and beginning fiction writing in north-central Arizona where she also enjoys hiking the Granite Dells.

A Sense of Place    

Heidi M. Thomas

Heidi M. Thomas

Montana is my inspiration—for my books and many other things in my life. The “Big Sky” stretches from horizon to horizon like a great blue dome. Its sunsets are unequaled, with streaks of orange and gold painting the edges. In spring, green-tinged hills roll through the landscape, buttered with bright yellow wildflowers. White-faced reddish-brown calves frolic through the meadow pastures, happy to be alive.

Spring in Montana often comes late, after a long, snow-filled winter that seems to last forever. After four or five months of isolation, cabin-fever, and bone-numbing cold, spring is the new awakening, a new beginning, a season of hope.

As the saying goes, “You can take the girl out of Montana, but you can’t take the Montana out of the girl.”

Montana is the setting for my “Dreams” trilogy based on my grandmother who rode in rodeos during the 1920s: Cowgirl Dreams, Follow the Dream, and the newest novel, Dare to Dream. 

When I began researching the first book in 1999, I wanted to find the ranch where my grandparents had lived when they were married in 1923. The only thing I knew was that it was the “old Davis Place under the rims” near Sunburst. After being referred from one “old-timer” to another, I finally located a cousin who could tell me exactly where it was.

Imagine my surprise and awe to find the house still standing, although in bad repair, and being used as a cattle shelter. I spent about an hour there, taking pictures and imagining what the newlyweds must have felt like, living in this beautiful place “under the rims.” This is the backdrop for Cowgirl Dreams, where the dreams began.

Follow the Dream continues with the rodeo and ranching dream, but as the terrible drought of the “dirty thirties” progressed, Nettie and Jake (based on my grandparents) moved more than 20 times and finally trailed their herd of horses 400 miles from Cut Bank, Montana to Salmon, Idaho to find grass. 

Dare to Dream travels on to the 1940s when Nettie, Jake, and Neil are settled on a ranch near Ingomar, Montana. The town was established in 1908 as a station stop on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Although the land around Ingomar attracted numerous homesteaders during the decade following the railroad’s completion, the region proved to be far too arid and inhospitable for intensive agricultural use, and the town declined. The railroad through the area was abandoned in 1980, and only a handful of people remain in Ingomar today.

Synopsis: Nettie has recovered from the loss of her friend Marie Gibson in a freak rodeo accident and is ready to ride again. To her dismay, the male-dominated Rodeo Association of America enforces its rule barring women from riding rough stock and denies her the chance to ride. Her fury at the discrimination can’t change things for women—yet.

Dare to Dream is available from the author’s website http://www.heidimthomas.com, on Amazon, and from the publisher, Globe-Pequot/Twodot Press http://www.globepequot.com/dare_to_dream-9780762797004, along with her re-published first two novels, Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream.

3 book covers

Our thanks to Heidi for her excellent post, and thanks to our readers for stopping by today.

Deborah — for the MT.WW crew.

Excerpt of Torture by Intention

Marlette Bess

It was a cold dark in mid-November Sunday night as Gorman Singh was driving his taxi looking for fares.  When there were two figures under a streetlight the taller figure Gorman thought to be a man waved for him down. He normally wouldn’t stop in the warehouse district but it was a frigid night. Gorman pulled to the curb the man opened the door and shoved in a person who crumpled into the backseat and tossed in a twenty-dollar bill. He closed the door ran off into a darken alley. Gorman was somewhat perplexed, but when he looked in the backseat to see a collapsed woman. She didn’t response when he yelled at her. He reached to the back; but didn’t touch her as she fell over exposing her badly bruised upper thigh. He radioed in for the location of the nearest hospital. He drove fast down the deserted streets with the cold pressing against the car as it was also pressing against his heart.

Gorman had only been in America for two years and didn’t want trouble from the police. In India police weren’t always friendly. As he pulled into the emergency bay he opened his door calling for help. The attendants dragged the limp body out of the backseat. Gorman quickly pocketed the twenty-dollar bill that had fallen on the floor as he took his time to wipe down the backseat with disinfectant that he kept in the trunk.

A patrol car had been watching the whole situation and Gorman knew the police would soon be over for an interrogation. To his surprise the police officer only asked a few questions, but he knew nothing. He was soon driving to his amazement; it was only nine early into his night shift and would have to work hard tonight. It was so cold that only the desperate or the party animals would be out on a night like this. Gorman wasn’t interested in whom he had taken to the hospital learning early on just to keep his nose out of things that didn’t involve him. He just wanted to make money for all the people who were counting on him.

In the hospital Jane Doe was wheeled to a cubical. The nurse checked her vitals and waited for the doctor to come back from dinner break. This hospital would soon be sending her off to a trauma center, it was their responsibility to make sure she was stable then transfers her to another hospital that took uninsured patients. The nurse simply took her blood pressure and checked her heart without removing her coat. Figuring she was just another party girl who had had too much to drink or too many drugs. She covered her with a blanket and left her alone in the room. They didn’t have many ER patients in this upscale medical center. Physicians Hospital handled mostly private pay patients. The emergency room was kept open only with federal funds. Basically they didn’t do much, but keep them alive for someone else to deal with.


By Nan McKenzie

A patriotic song always makes me weep with emotion. “Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…” by the word light, my throat is closing and tears are working their way down my cheeks. By, “o’er the land of the free andflag the home of the brave”, I’m done for.

In July, I have many opportunities to weep in public and in private, because our nation seems to begin all over again in July, loudly celebrating, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. I’m unashamedly, proudly American, thankful every day to have been born here, live here, will die here. I love the patriotic parades, the red, white and blue colors everywhere, the fireworks, speeches. I often wear a combination of red, white and blue, sometimes for a week at a time, different clothes and different combinations of the colors, just to honor those who came before, who sacrificed, before.

I imagine what it was like for the colonists, chafing under the yoke of an uncaring monarch who lived thousands of miles away. I think about the firebrands who forced their fiery words on others, who bullied and inspired, cajoled and threatened, creating freedom, liberty, where there was none. I think of how that war of independence was divinely inspired and guided, how the tiny colonial states became a war engine of great force, pushing back, fighting back, repelling the huge disciplined armies clothed in bright red. I thank those ragtag warriors, am truly grateful for what they did, what they saw and changed. And I’ve always believed that those red-coated armies knew they fought for tyranny, injustice, and their hearts just weren’t in that war.

July seems to race along, mid-summer passing with hardly a shout. Time for a few more uplifting songs, some outdoor concerts, more celebration. The heat of July, the thunderstorms, will go, but somewhere living inside me are the tears, waiting to be cried with great emotion for my perfect good fortune to be an American!


A Taste of Summer — from the Food Lovers’ Village

By Leslie Budewitz

hucklberry mousseIf Montana had an official fruit, it would be the huckleberry, a wild mountain relative of the blueberry. Yes, other states claim them, too. But ours are the Real Thing. I know, because the last time I went picking, in the mountains above town known as the Jewel Basin, I was happily filling my little bucket with the deep purple jewels when the sounds of leaves and fruit being torn from branches told me a bear had the same idea. And if a bear wants something, you know it’s good—and you let her have it!

CrimeRib_CV.inddSo what’s the taste of the perfect evening in Montana? Well, to Erin Murphy, the protagonist of my Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana, it’s Huckleberry Chocolate Mousse served at Chez Max. The second in the series, Crime Rib, came out earlier this month from Berkley Prime Crime, part of Penguin Books. (Read an excerpt and find bookseller links on my website.)

The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries are set in a small town in NW Montana where good food reigns supreme. Erin Murphy runs a specialty regional foods market, known as the Merc, and right next door are Le Panier, the bakery, and Chez Max, a bistro, run by Max and Wendy Fontaine. Wendy’s a local girl, but Max hails from Provence. His bistro serves traditional French country food, with a Montana accent. So naturally, he’s given the classic chocolate mousse a bit of local flavor!


4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons huckleberry syrup
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
pinch of sat
1-/12 teaspoons sugar

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, in the microwave, or in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the huckleberry syrup. Transfer to a bowl large enough for all the ingredients.

Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate, one at a time.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until they start to form peaks. (A stand mixer is perfect, if you have one.) Continue to beat and gradually add the sugar. Beat until the whites are shiny and hold medium-firm peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, spoon about a quarter of the whites into the chocolate and fold until almost smooth. (This lightens the chocolate and makes it easier to blend in the rest.) Spoon the rest of the whites into the chocolate and fold in carefully. Don’t overwork the mixture—you want to leave the bubbles in the mousse for lightness, and streaks are fine.

Spoon mousse into individual serving dishes and chill, covered. Garnish with whipped cream, mint, and huckleberries, if you’d like—and if you’re lucky enough to snare a few from the bear. Or if you’re feeling particularly French, leave it in the bowl and serve your guests tableside.

(The Wild Huckleberry syrups and preserves from Eva Gates, in Bigfork, Montana—the model for Jewel Bay, are particularly tasty. Www.evagates.com )

New Birth

Marie F Martin_edited-1 (2)

Marie F Martin

July, the month of celebrating the birth of our nation. Think of that. Ponder it.

This July a new baby will join my family on or near the 23rd. A new birth is exciting. The prep for a little one to enter and be cared for is all encompassing. The tiny person will take over his or hers whole household.

Two births

Two births

As I ponder this new birth and the birth of our nation, they seem akin in that our ancestors fought and gave all to the creation of a government, bill of rights and constitution. They acted with the same need as the young parents in my family, who have created a nest where there are rules, struggles and compromises. The parents work together to ensure all is well for their children.

I think that was what our founding fathers planned for our country.