Being married to Willie Morris was never dull. I never knew who might turn up at our house. One day he announced, "An old friend from California is coming to Jackson for the wedding of someone who goes on his mule-packing treks with him. He'll be staying with us for a few days. Great guy. You'll like him."
Coaches, writers, literature professors, university administrators, football players, political junkies—these were standard fare. But a mule packer? This was a stretch, even for Willie.
The mule packer came—Bill Wyman was his name—and, damn, if he didn't turn out also to be a literature professor, coach, football player, university administrator and great guy!
And a writer! Mainly, he was a writer. He was working on a new novel about, well, yes, a mule packer. Who was it—Hemingway—who said, "You don't choose your subject; it chooses you."
Willie and I were among the first to read the manuscript, and we were captivated.
"Finish this," Willie instructed in his editor-voice. "This book needs to be published."
Eight years later, Wyman's novel's "High Country" has just come out, and the early reviews are glowing. Take this one by Bill Chace:
"First rate novel, one that uses color, language, and tough reality of the high country of Montana and California to tell a story that moves us beyond those things to remind us once again of the hopes of the young, the dangers of the world, and the surprises of love. Wyman ... grounds the book in realistic detail (animals, weathers, geography, the way things actually look and feel, and the way people wind up talking to each other in times of trust and need) and then takes a long step back to view everything he has created with a sensibility that evokes Thomas Hardy, Hemingway, and Wallace Stegner."
Bill Wyman will be in Jackson Monday, Oct. 3, to read from and sign copies of his "High Country" at the Lemuria.com building, next door to Banner Hall, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To celebrate the publication of this evocative new book, I'll be serving brawny beverages on the deck, and I invite one and all to join us. High Spirits will abound. I hope to see you there.