Fire On The River Pt 1

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Jack Hillerman is tracked down by an eager reporter. Instead of an interview, the reporter is given an opportunity that he will never forget.

Submitted: October 09, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 09, 2016



August 2006.

Winter was fast approaching in Livingston. The air was brutal, with the wind biting hard. The pines were losing their needles rapidly and the roads were closed on I-84 due to heavy winds. The town was bracing for a hard winter. Montana winters were known to be brutal, but this one had the feeling of something special. It didn't matter where you went, everybody was stocking up on supplies.

Jack Hillerman was one of those people. He had made a rare visit into town, gathering up supplies for his ranch. He had recently sold all of his animals and needed to do minor repairs around the property. Fix a few lines of fences and finish putting siding on his shed. Hillerman had made a lot of progress with this project, but knew he was running low on supplies. Once a month Hillerman would make a trip into town and stop at the Ace Hardware for supplies. Then he would go over the Stockman's Bar on Main Street for a Steak and a Beer. He preferred going to the Stockman's. It was his one treat and the one place in town he could find peace and quiet.

Hillerman was an Internationally known author. He was well regarded by fans and industry people. Comparisons to Hemingway and Pynchon always seemed to follow him. Hillerman wrote a lot of best sellers, but the one had stayed with him was one entitled "Othello's Revenge". An adventure tale about people seeking gold in New Mexico, it was the one he wrote when he was in 20 years old in 1966. When it was published, everyone hailed him as the new Hemingway. Hillerman was appreciative of the comparison, but thought of his writing more on par with Orson Welles.

Hillerman was a big man, well over 6 ft 2 inches tall with a barrel chest. He had a thick grey beard and his black hair had shades of gray as well. He had a voice deep and resonant, hints of being soaked with whiskey provided trace of gravel in it as well. Wearing his standard black button up shirt and khaki jeans, Hillerman was leaving the Stockman's when he noticed a car parked next to his Truck.

It was a Toyota Camry. There were two people in the car. The man was wearing a dark black suit and the woman was wearing a blue pant suit. They both had notebooks in their hands and pens ready for writing.


After an incident with a critic in 1983, Hillerman swore off interviews and public appearances regarding his books. Some said the experience soured him on public perception of his work, others say it was that Hillerman didn't care about how those who weren't fans saw or regarded him as a person. His own reason at one time was due to the fact that people wouldn't let his work stand on it's own. There was always that lingering comparison to "Othello's Revenge." Hillerman had enough and decided to go in seclusion.

That was where people started to compare him to J.D Salinger. Hillerman never corrected them but also added the comparison to Thomas Pynchon. Hillerman was a larger than life personality that people wanted to see in person. People would come up to him once in a while and ask for an autograph. He would oblige but drew the line at pictures. Over the years he had done things from throwing cameras and breaking them to punching people in the face a few times.

Hillerman walked over to his truck. The reporters followed him.

"Mr Hillerman, can we ask you a few questions?" The man said.

"I will answer one," Hillerman said. "No comment."

"Sir, please," The woman said.

Hillerman turned to look at her. "Young lady, what in the world would give you the idea to pester an old man?"

"Mr Hillerman, your fans want to know what you are up to. They want to know about their hero." The man said.

Hillerman paused. They were young reporters. This was probably one of their first assignments. Anytime Hillerman was ever asked to do an interview, he would have his publisher send for the reporters questions in a questionaire format. Hillerman was scribble answers and send them to the publishers. It was his way of fufilling his obligations but not having to talk to people.

"What are your names?" Hillerman asked.

"I'm Kyle Wingret. This is Collette Carson."

"How do you do?" Hillerman said.

"Would you care to talk to us, please?" Carson asked.

She is pretty, Hillerman thought.

"I tell you what you can do." Hillerman said. "Send your questions to my publisher in a list format. I fill them out and I promise you I will send them back to you as soon as possible. Good day to you both."

Hillerman got into his truck and pulled out of the parking lot. He noticed the reporters were standing there, heartbroken expressions on their face.

Poor kids, Hillerman thought. They were just doing their jobs. But Hillerman was a man who stuck to his principles. He wasn't gonna talk to reporters what so ever.

Hillerman lived five miles out of town on a 50,000 acre ranch. He had a custom log home built on the property. He bought the land in 1982 and made it his private paradise. He raised horses on the property. Hillerman hired a staff to tend to the animals and the general operation of the ranch. But in the past few years, Hillerman cut back on the operations. There were less animals and with less animals, the less need for staff. He cut back the operation to hire only people too take care of the land. Hillerman was a hands on boss too, working on the fence and making repairs himself.

Hillerman pulled up the driveway to his house. Parking his pickup, he stepped out to look at the driveway. From where his house was, you could see a faint outline of the city limits of Livingston. It was an image that never ceased to amaze Hillerman. 

As Hillerman walked up to the house he could hear a car coming up the driveway. He turned around to see that it was the young male reporter.

"Mr Hillerman, I am sorry for this. I am desperate for a story. Our editor is gonna fire us if we don't get something." Wingret said.

"That is my problem how?" Hillerman asked.

"Sir, I have been a big fan of yours. Not just of your words, but of you yourself. I heard of the things you had done in your life. You supposedly out drank Oliver Reed in the 1980's. You told the president of ABC that if he tried to make one of your books into a movie that you would come down and kick his ass and make sure that the fight was a free event on his network. Or the time you walked into a restaurant in Seattle and gave the owner 20,000 dollars and bought everybody's meal for the whole day. All I wanna do is meet you and possibly get a story from you." Wingret said.

Hillerman thought this over. The kid seemed sincere enough. Hillerman always liked to help people. But he was a reporter. Hillerman was not a big fan of them, even for a short while he was a reporter himself. It left such a sour taste in his mouth.

"Where are you from?" Hillerman asked.

"Lincoln Nebraska," Wingret said.

"What paper are you with?" Hillerman asked.

"The Bozeman Chronicle." Wingret said.

"I tell you what," Hillerman said. "I need some help fixing a fence. I need to add too it. You help me with that and I'll chat with you."

"Deal," Wingret said.

"You have a change of clothes?" Hillerman asked.

"Pair of jeans, and tennis shoes." Wingret said.

"I might have a pair of boots for you. Wait right there." Hillerman said.

"Where can I change my clothes?" Wingret asked.

"I'm going inside. You will have privacy." Hillerman said.

"You mean, right out here?" Wingret said.

"Well there is your car, I mean if you really want privacy. But trust me, I have seen your equipment. Yours is similar to mine. I promise I won't peek." Hillerman said.

Wingret hurried over to his car and started to change his clothes. After 5 minutes Wingret had on a pair of Wranglers and a Blue long sleeve henley shirt. Wingret was lean and in shape, years of cardio kept him in physical condition. 

Hillerman arrived with a pair of boots. 

"I think these will fit you. Try them on." Hillerman said.

Wingret put them on. He walked a few feet from the car and back. 

"These fit." Wingret said.

"Perfect," Hillerman said. "We have a fence to fix. If you are a good worker. I will give you your payment. In the form of the ultimate interview. Perhaps something else."

Wingret followed Hillerman.

Like any good reporter, Wingret wanted to follow the lead.

(To Be Continued.)

© Copyright 2018 Robert Logan. All rights reserved.

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