Question #40, 2/12/19
“Question: where does the name of Walt’s town, Durant, originate from? And I’m curious to know what your thoughts were on the representation of Durant, WY by way of Las Vegas, NM in the series?”
When I was doing ride-alongs with Larry Kirkpatrick here in Johnson County, I would send him the chapters of the first Longmire novel, The Cold Dish and he’d respond. I remember he told me I had a mistake after reading the first chapter, and I asked him what it was, and he said, “You’ve got Walt taking a left on Fetterman and then the next left is Aspen Street and that’s not right.” It was about then that I decided that I wasn’t going to put up with that crap for the rest of my life—hello fictional county and county seat.
There are a lot of people who want to argue about everything, and I thought this might be a way to nullify that a bit. I’m not the first author to use the trick, some of the big ones being Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County or Agatha Christie’s Brackhampton, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone or George Eliot’s Middlemarch. As my good friend Curt Wendelboe said, “Hey, I’m not writing a documentary here.”
Absaroka was easy in that it’s one of the names the Crow tribe use for themselves –“Children of the Long-Beak Bird”, with about five pronunciations of which I chose the most mispronounced, because it was more likely to be the one white settlers would choose—or so says my buddy Marcus Red Thunder (the model for Henry Standing Bear).
The county seat was a little tougher, and it was tempting to use a version of the town I was modeling the place after, Buffalo, with a name like Antelope or Moose Junction but that all seemed so contrived and predictable that I thought perhaps an historic name might be better. It was about then that I remembered promising an old rodeo buddy that I’d use the name of his town in a book if I ever got around to writing one and he was from Durant, Oklahoma.
I later discovered that that Durant was named after Union Pacific railroad tycoon Thomas C. “Doc” Durant who was something of a scoundrel, which I figure I’ll get into someday.
After the production company settled on New Mexico for Longmire for financial and climatic reasons, I was fortunate enough to be down in Las Vegas for the filming of the pilot and still remember them lowering the New Mexico flags in the square and raising Wyoming ones—it was like we’d won the Battle of Colorado. Interestingly enough the town of Las Vegas was settled and built around the same time as Buffalo and Sheridan, the towns I use as models for my work, and the architecture and building materials are remarkably similar. It was a particularly sleepy little town but since the filming of Longmire it’s kind of been discovered by numerous film companies, which is nice.
I think the producers did a remarkable job finding locations that looked a lot like Wyoming, but there’s always going to be something that gives it away, whether it’s a nonindigenous cactus or one too many adobe buildings. But as I said, they did a remarkable job, and the New Mexico folks were a delight to work with; still, Wyoming is Wyoming.
It’s always struck me as funny that ever since the first book, Walt threatens to move to Hatch, New Mexico, and that’s kind of close to where we ended up filming… Maybe Walt got his wish after all. The mayor of Hatch wrote me one time inviting me down for a library event if I should ever choose, and I may have to take him up on it some winter.
See you on the trail,