“…And The Horse You Rode In On” – 52 Pickup, Week 20

Question #21

“I have a question for Craig (unless it’s already been asked and answered). I notice in a lot of the Longmire books, there are detailed references to very specific makes and models of cars (and other vehicles). Is Craig a car enthusiast himself, or is this just the result of exhaustive research?”- Kathleen Coughran

Hi Kathleen,

There are certain technical aspects that creep into the books and hardly any of them cause the kind of controversy as much as weapons and vehicles. There’s a recent review on Amazon where a reader took me to task in Depth Of Winter because one of the characters is carrying an M1 Garand and it’s mentioned that the character’s grandmother fought in the Spanish Civil War and that the rifle wasn’t developed until after that period—it’s never mentioned that that is the rifle she carried in that war… There are a lot of individuals who get a little carried away with the details, but I think a writer has the responsibility to get things right. The vehicles are a passion with me as much as the weapons and I think they add an ambiance to the stories.

I grew up in a family of car enthusiasts in a period when you could work on the things yourself. We didn’t have an enormous amount of money so had to be able to keep the things running or you walked. That upbringing was part of my DNA, as it were, in that most of the equipment I have here at the ranch is what could be referred to as ‘vintage’.

I’ve got a few motorcycles, a few old trucks, and a few old cars that I putter around on and in because they’re of a vintage that I can still understand. There was an old ’67 Mustang that came up for sale over in Oregon that I bought, and my wife rolled her eyes on that one. It looks nice now, sitting in the shop, but I have to admit that like the motorcycles, I don’t get a chance to drive it very much.

The ones I do get to drive tend to be the working vehicles that are four-wheel-drive–after all, it is Wyoming… I’ve got a ’68 Bronco that my granddaughter likes, but then so does Robert Taylor when we do the Longmire Days parade. The organizers like it because we can put Robert in the bed and contain him like a head of livestock…

But the one I probably love and use the most is an old, ’63 three-quarter-ton, four-wheel-drive and if it’s got a straight piece of metal on it, I have no idea where that might be. I bought it from a Christmas tree farm down in Colorado for a thousand bucks when I was writing The Cold Dish, the first book in the Longmire series, and realized that Henry Standing Bear needed a signature vehicle other than Lola, the ’59 Thunderbird (which is another family story). I gave that truck a personality unlike the one I had purchased and named it Rezdawg, a vehicle that breaks-down all the time, periodically taking “rests” alongside the road. This truck became a peculiar facet in Henry’s otherwise very orderly life, something that harkens back to his past, maybe like that Mustang does for me…

—Craig Johnson

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