By Lisa Schmidt
It all started because my darn sheep kept getting out.
Graham Ranch sheep do not like dry, crunchy grass in May and June. They were sure the grass “just over there” was succulent and green.
Sheep are notorious for slipping through four strands of barbed wire so each morning I trailed them to one of our pastures that has a woven wire perimeter fence. Mine was a pathetic attempt to keep them within our borders.
They started by crawling under the woven wire.
It is not difficult to find the spot where a flock of ewes and lambs crawl under. Every morning, I lowered the woven wire down to the ground on each post, tied a pole or another heavy object to the wire and searched along the fence for any other spots they might test tomorrow.
Every day, they created a new hole.
I used most of May to lower all of the woven wire on that stretch of fence.
By June, the sheep started jumping between the woven wire and the two strands of barbed wire above it.
Each June morning, I twisted wire – and sometimes baling twine so the fence looked pretty – between the woven wire and the barbed wire. Then I looked for the next potential holes.
While pounding fencing staples into posts can stretch your muscles and encourage you to breathe in the fresh air, it is not particularly intellectually stimulating.
I had time to think. A lot of time.
About this time, Great Falls Tribune reporter Phil Drake and I were brainstorming some kind of authors’ fair or writers’ festival. Great Falls Public Library public relations coordinator Jude Smith wanted to host several local authors at the library. That sounded good so we began to think about the details.
Just about the time we chose Oct. 17 as the date of our fete, I stopped in to visit with Alyssa Kimball, the book manager at Hastings Entertainment.
She had scheduled a regional authors’ fair for Oct. 17.
I went home to pound more staples into posts.
Thinking about books was far more interesting than thinking about sheep.
The lightbulb went off after I set the seventh new metal post into the rocky ground: We should cooperate instead of compete with one another.
Phil Drake introduced me to the owner of Great Falls’ latest new, used and vintage book store, Cassiopeia Books. Andrew loves to host authors, too.
More posts and staples became a part of the Graham Ranch landscape while I thought more about how to let readers know about so many mostly-introverted local authors.
As we shored up the corral fence one day, my son, Will, suggested a trifecta of book signings, with authors speaking about their books at the Great Falls library and Cassiopeia.
All we needed were door prizes.
Jim and Jody at Dimitris said they would offer a dinner for two for the door prize winner and an author. Tara and Jason Beam at the Roadhouse Diner said they would do the same thing for lunch. Hastings threw in a $50 gift card. Many other local businesses contributed gift cards, too. Every author contributed at least one book.
We were on a roll.
The Great Falls Tribune, Signature Montana, Montana Public Radio and KSEN radio agreed to publicize our party.
I still have another 20 miles of fence to fix, but Celebrate the Book will host 23 north-central authors on October 17th.
Six authors, including yours truly, will speak and sign books at the Great Falls Public Library from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Eleven more authors will sign books at Hastings from 1 until 3 p.m.
Even six more authors will speak and sign books at Cassiopeia Books from 3 until 5 p.m.
People who visit all three locations during those hours will be eligible for the door prizes.
The drawing will be held at Cassiopeia Books at 5 p.m. that Saturday.
Stop by to see all of us. I hope you find a book you like.
A neighbor caught my attention a couple of years ago when he said “You know, Lisa, if you would fix your fence, you wouldn’t have anything to write about.”
He had a good point.
But I wouldn’t have as many ideas either.
Lisa Schmidt and her husband, Steve Hutton, raise grassfed beef and lamb at the Graham Ranch near Conrad.
She has two children; Will, 17, and Abigail, 8.
She can be reached at L.Schmidt@a-land-of-grass-ranch.com