52 Pick-up 2.0, #11, 3/10/2020
Liz King: How did you meet Marcus Red Thunder? And Do you think you/Walt would have had such a spiritual connection to all things in nature and people if it wasn’t for that relationship?
It seems like I’ve known Marcus my whole life, but my wife and I were fortunate enough to have him wander into our store, the Bucking Buffalo Supply Company, back when it was in Sheridan, Wyoming. (With all things Longmire being in Buffalo (28 miles away), we moved the store a few years back.) Marcus came in with some dreamcatchers he’d made, and the craftsmanship was marvelous, so Judy bought all of them. We got to talking and became fast friends almost a quarter of a century ago.
Marcus has had some challenges in his life, but he is pretty indestructible in his positive outlook and sense of humor, something I’ve always admired. Over the years we became closer, and it provided some truly wonderful opportunities such as raising the pole at the Sundance of the Northern Cheyenne. So far as I know, I’m the only white who has ever been given that honor or was at that time. The window he provided me in viewing and being a small part in the culture of those amazing people has been one of the percolating effects that got me to thinking about the plot and characters in my first Longmire novel, The Cold Dish.
I knew I had to have two individuals who would be emblematic of the two main cultures of high plains society. Walt would embody the mainstream, white society, but who would stand for the native, Cheyenne populace? There really wasn’t any question that it had to be someone like Marcus. Then, there were all the other characters that populate my novels—characters that I’m constantly amazed by because they are the literary embodiments of people Marcus has introduced me to.
The groundwork for Henry Standing Bear was laid in the spirituality of my good friend Marcus who through his insights, gives me a sense of the world that up until that time, I didn’t have. The remarkable thing about the Cheyenne is their ability to imbue their entire lives with a belief system that strengthens them in such a positive way.
I knew there was going to be a mysticism that was going to be one of the underpinnings of the novel and that Henry would be responsible for a lot of that. After fifteen novels, I can honestly say that it was a fortunate call and one of the strong suits in the books for me. In my own experiences, I can’t help but feel that there’s a great deal more out there than we’re aware of; things we catch out of the corner of our eyes that we sometimes can’t come to terms with in the empirical data that makes up so much of Walt’s factually-based, investigative intellect—a balance between the piety of religion and the harsh realism of existence.
I think the time Marcus and I have spent outdoors, here in the Rocky Mountains, has informed a lot of the thought processes of the novels, certainly with the consideration that we are all a part of this natural world, and the more we try to escape it with all our technology, the more omnipresent it becomes. We like to think of ourselves as above nature and that it’s something we can control or subjugate… Good luck with that.
If you’re lucky in life you have people who make you smile no matter what kind of mood you’re in, and Marcus is one of those people for me. Consequently, I’m pretty sure that if Henry wasn’t around, we wouldn’t have Walt.
See you on the trail,