I often wonder how stuff gets places. At the moment I have a big mystery with an album of old photos I bought many years ago that links California, Arizona, Illinois, Scotland, New Zealand, the Bahamas, and Guyana.
Nothing so wandering today, just a lesser-known work by John Steinbeck:
first published in 1961.
The cover is the original American hardback edition, the fifteenth printing of August 1963. I found it, in all places, in a second-hand bookshop in the village of Grange-over-Sands, in Cumbria, England. I can only guess how it got there, but the dedication must give a clue:
‘… from across the sea.’ Did Joan and Henry give or receive the book? Either way, it was clearly a gift that united people in two countries far apart over fifty years ago.
Charley was Steinbeck’s ‘old French gentleman poodle.’ Together they had a great trans-continental adventure in Rocinante, a converted pick-up truck, driving across most of the states of the USA.
In my edition, Steinbeck hits Montana on page 142 and the love he declares there for the state (see title of this post) lasts only a few pages before Charley and some local bears succeed in scaring each other in Yellowstone and they head out West to Idaho. Here’s some of what he says about Montana:
Montana is a great splash of grandeur. The scale is huge but not overpowering. The land is rich with grass and color, and the mountains are the kind I would create if mountains were ever put on my agenda … The calm of the mountains and the rolling grasslands had got into the inhabitants … the towns were places to live in rather than nervous hives. People had time to pause in their occupations to undertake the passing art of neighborliness.
Steinbeck mentions Billings, where he bought a hat, Livingston a jacket, Butte a Remington bolt-action 222, and Custer where he visited the site of the battle of Little Big Horn.
Montana has a spell on me. It is grandeur and warmth. If Montana had a seacoast, or I could live away from the sea, I would instantly move there and petition for admission. Of all the states it is my favorite and my love.
Steinbeck and Charley’s progress through the West, featuring the bears of Yellowstone National Park