Friday, July 27, 2007

I slept with the bobcat, twice

After a long day of driving and scouting locations and as Pete put the boys to bed, I went to sack out for the night in the basement guest bedroom of the Fromm house. I could hardly wait to go to sleep. Just as I was about to crawl into the covers, I saw it for the first time. There, hanging on the wall in the guest bedroom bordered by 60's wood paneling, was the legendary Bobcat. Here was the creature that confronted Pete and did it's best to try to hurt him. The scene laid out in Indian Creek Chornicles is fascinating and becomes a turning point, of sorts, in the story for Pete. Touching the fur of the animal and seeing the skull perched on top of the file cabinet brought some sort of proof to me that Pete actually was there in Indian Creek.

Long before John Krakauer's "Into the Wild" there was Pete Fromm's "Indian Creek Chronicles." This is Pete's story about a winter alone in the Bitterroot Selway Wilderness. Pete set off on the solo adventure, but it wasn't a race or a dare and it wasn't "extreme", really. His whole adventure and existence, for that 7 months of winter, was to watch over a million or two Salmon eggs to enusre their safety from predetors and ice build up on their cold watery home in the creek.

Idaho Fish and Game hired Pete to spend the winter in the wilderness to dote over the eggs they optimistically placed in hopes they'd hatch and make it to the ocean and then to return to populate the ravaged rivers of Idaho. The challenge for Pete was that the eggs took all of 10, maybe 15 minutes a day to attend to. He was left with entire days to fill with anything else, he just couldn't go anywhere beyond where he could walk because he was snowed in with frigid temperatures. He had a 10' x 12' canvas tent to call home and a gangly pup to keep him company. Unlike Krakauer's book, Pete's singular existense, away from the world, was successful and ended happily. Pete didn't die, although at times, he made some decisions that lead him to the edge.

It seems like those skills Pete learned out there translate to his work ethic in writing. He attacks writing with a dedication that is impressive, to say the least. He's weathered through the hard years of being a writer and continues to create interesting and valuable work. He has monk-like tendancies when he retreats into his work, but when he comes out, he turns into a 15 year old and falls in with his boys and plays and explores side by side with them.

Last October, I went to Montana to shoot location photos for my grant proposal. I was going to stay in some flea-bag motel during the trip and try really hard not to impose on Pete. I wanted him along for the ride, of course, but I didn't want to tax him. Afterall, he'd was giving me so much by allowing me to make his story into a film. I didn't want to make more of an impact, but Rose and Pete insisted I stay with them and make it a home base for my scouting trip. I immediately felt at home. The easy going nature of the whole family made it comfortable.

The boys, Matt and with Pete looking on.

Pete had warned me about Rose and how I better not get out of line with her or I'd be had. At first, I thought he was joking, but I wasn't sure. He made her out to be some sort of a task-master. What I found was a wonderful woman that easily navigated a chaotic household full of boys, orcs, midevil knights, wringraiths, trolls and wizards (depending on which day it is). I quickly saw how she managed to keep it all together around there and actually enjoy the sense of wonderment that the boys (including Pete) brought to every discovery and invention. Rose is intelligent, funny and pretty much a smart-ass, but I guess you'd have to be to keep up with Pete. I think she just barely tolerated me and that's because I helped her gang up on Pete when we were making fun of him. Clearly, Pete was pulling my leg about Rose and I've quickly found out that he is pretty much always pulling my leg some how.

This spring, Doug, the cinematographer, Brian, the producer and I all crammed into the Fromm basement for a few nights when we went out to scout locations again. Doug quickly recognized the prize on the wall: the bobcat. He had read the tales of the demise of the old cat and knew instantly what we had hanging there on the wall. He took photos to prove it and to share with his father in law. The father in law has become a huge fan of Pete's and was excited to see the bobcat still hanging around. We're trying to slowly pay Pete back for Dry Rain by getting family and friends to buy his books. I think we are up to at least 30 books sold, so far!

Doug's photo of the Bobcat Skull.

More on Indian Creek Chronicles

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