26 Pickup—The Half Ton
You have often said that people in real life end up in your stories. Who was your inspiration for the character Geo Stewart in Junkyard Dogs? That is perhaps the most-read story in my collection. I love laughing out loud. And also, did the chimney, roof, rope to the car and somebody being dragged from the back end of the car really happen to someone you know?
-Ingrid De Groot Mannisto
In short, yes…
I can’t give you all the details, but like a lot of the outrageous tales in my books, the story is true. I remember when I first heard it, I knew I had to put it in a book, but the challenge then became where? I figured if I put that story in the middle of a novel it would stop the book dead, so it had to be either the beginning or the end.
I like writing a variety of books from the dreadfully serious to the overtly comedic and even though Junkyard Dogs dealt with some dark issues, it was essentially funny. When you’re a writer like I am, I think you have to signal what type of book the reader is going to be dealing with, so I decided to plop the story like a centerpiece right there in the beginning.
To protect the guilty, I can’t tell you exactly where the story came from, but I can tell you the person I drew from to develop the character of Geo Stewart.
When I first bought the property that would become my ranch, the only other going concern other than the Ucross Foundation and the guest ranch was Sonny George’s Junkyard which sat right at the apex of Ucross, population 25.
A thorn in the side of the more affluent neighbors, a battle went on for decades where everyone tried to get Sonny’s junkyard out of there, but he held fast. Most folks don’t know it, but Sonny’s father had had a junkyard in the larger town of Buffalo until the founding fathers thought that maybe that wasn’t what they wanted tourists to see as soon as the pulled off the highway. They bought a beautiful piece of land out at the confluence of Clear and Piney Creeks in the shadow of the snow-peaked, Bighorn Mountains—perfect place for a junkyard, right?
Well, the junkyard and Sonny stayed there for the better part of a century, including a couple of decades at the beginning of my residency here. Sonny was something of a character, but I got along with him fine. So fine, in fact, that when the local sheriff needed to get Sonny into the emergency room after he fell off of one of his stacks of cars, he enlisted my help.
After a little finagling, we got Sonny into the hospital, and they whisked him away but after a few moments the attending physician came back out and said that that was the first time that had happened. We asked him what it was, and he informed us that Sonny’s hair had grown through his long underwear.
I remember the sheriff saying. “Way more than we needed to know, doc.”
And all I could think was—how can I get that in a book?
See you on the trail,