About My Life as a Writer

Born 1946.

Raised on family farm in northern Montana.

Education: One-room school grades 1-8; graduated from Inverness High School; certificate of auto mechanics, Northern Montana College; BA in Journalism, University of Montana 1973.

Work experience: Newspapers in Wyoming, Australia, California, Montana, Florida and Colorado. Worked as reporter, photographer, copy editor, layout editor, managing editor, editor and publisher. Also was part owner of local daily newspaper.

Hobbies: Writing, photography.

Liesure activity: Riding bicycles, including week-long tours in Colorado and Europe.

Married to Susan and the father of Ashley.

 

Now for the details:

I was born in 1946 in Havre, Montana, in north-central Montana. It is a regional commercial and educational community almost dead center on U.S. Highway 2 as it flows through the state. U.S. Highway 2 is the northernmost transcontinental U.S. Highway.

Also on this route is one of the nation's first transcontinental railroads, started as the Great Northern Railway. The Great Northern was the only transcontinental railway not supported by the U.S goverment by land grants. James Hill, a Chicago entrepreneur, started the GN in the late 1800s and by the early 1900s, was promoting free homesteading land along his rail route.

My grandmother, Etta Smalley, came to Montana in 1910 to homestead 20 miles north of the Great Northern line near a town called Inverness. She later married my grandfather William Bangs and the family has lived on the farm since. My brother Tom, still farms the same land our grandmother homesteaded in 1910. I have two sisters and four brothers.

The countryside around Inverness and Havre is full of wheat fields carved into long strips or hugh blocks of cultivated land. The grain fields are cut if a few places by creeks and rivers that meander through flat land. There are few mountains, just a small range to the south of Havre and the Sweet Grass Hills about 20 miles northeast of Inverness. Inverness was small, dusty, and, when I was growing, consisted of about four grain elevators, three churches, a grocery store, a gas station, a bar-hotel, a school with classrooms for grades 1-12, and about two dozen homes.

Some farm families had homes in town, but our family lived on the farm and I and most of my siblings attended a one-room school for the first eight grades about two miles north of the farm. After grade school we went to town to atttend high school.

It was a good life, if simple. We didn't have a lot of money but we always found something to engage our minds. We used our imagination to build forts and armies in the tree patch during the summer and snow caves and igloos in the winter. We rode horses and roamed over the hills and played on the cutbanks overlooking the Big Sage Creek that snaked through one of our pastures. The weather was tough, hot and windy in the summer and very cold and windy in the winter.

When I graduated from Inverness High School I attended Northern Montana College in Havre, studying auto mechanics and liberal arts for three years before transferring to the University of Montana where I entered the journalism program in the fall of 1968.

It was there that I met Susan, who would later beome my wife. She still is and I am a very lucky and better off with her love and support.

In the summer 1970 I was drafted and sent to Vietnam. I was processed out of the Army in January of 1972 and returned to the University to finish my degree. I graduated in 1973 and took my first job in Gillette, Wyoming. After about a year Susan and I returned to UM and entered graduate school. After a year we had the opportunity to go to work in Australia. Susan was accepted in a teacher recruitment program and we moved to Australia in the fall of 1975 where she taught in a suburban Melbourne school. I worked on a suburban newspaper based in Northcote, a Melbourne suburb.

After two years in Australia, we returned and after newspaper jobs in California, Wyoming and Montana, we landed in Denver where I worked for the Rocky Mountain News from 1981 to 1986. We have lived in the Denver area ever since.

The remainder of my newspaper career consisted of a short stint on a newspaper in Jacksonville, Fla., and then more than 16 years on newspapers in Castle Rock, a bedroom community about 30 miles south of Denver.

I retired from journalism in 2004 after starting up and running for two years a local daily newspaper in Castle Rock. The last five years of my working career was as a computer techician at a local bank in Castle Rock.

In 2005, I began writing Forsaken and had the first draft completed by June. After several sporadic rewrites and evaluations by critics, I returned in earnest to Forsaken in August of 2010, after I retired.

I began the final rewrites, editing and publishing efforts in January of 2011 and the novel was published in late July of 2011.

Sweetgrass Hill in northern Montana