This edition of OWC RADiO comes to you during the height of the COVID-19 virus quarantines. At times like this, we are able to spend more time with family, tackle projects around the house, cook, garden, play music or sing, check social media. Many of us are reading more and one of the most popular genres is classical Western fiction.
Host, Cirina Catania, catches up with John Moore, an award-winning journalist, popular best-selling novelist, photographer, cowboy, rancher, and minister.
Although on the surface this might be considered a departure from our “regular” programming, which is normally about tech and the creativity that drives it, this interview is about courage, perseverance, and honesty. All qualities that make us better storytellers. And since that is our end goal, we share this conversation with you.
A third-generation Montana rancher and cowboy, John’s work is noted for his authenticity and vivid descriptions of life in the Western United States.
John grew up on a cattle ranch but left it to pursue life on the road during the “hippie” era. What he learned and what he brought back shortly before his father died, resonates with millions of readers who want to know more about life.
He is a storyteller, who keeps history, tall tales and true stories of ranchers and cowboys alive.
Some of his most known books include The Breaking of Ezra Riley, The Land of Empty Houses and Looking for Lynne, which won the silver medal in the 2015 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction.
John was recently inducted into the 2019 class of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage, a nod shared with Pulitzer Prize winner Dorothy Johnson (“A Man Called Horse”), Pulitzer Prize winner A.B. Guthrie Junior and Norman McLean (“A River Runs Through It”) among others.
It’s been a bumpy road with lots of trail dust, but the inspiration gets us off our straight and narrow. Who knows what will come in the future?
Listen in and get inspired by John’s courage, perseverance and authenticity.
Write to us at OWCRADiO@catania.us or comment below.
For more information about our amazing sponsor, Other World Computing, go to MacSales.com or OWCDigital.com, where you’ll find hardware and software solutions and tutorial videos that will get you up and running in no time.
For more about our host, filmmaker, tech maven and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.
If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and tell all your friends about us! We love our listeners. And, if you have ideas for segments, write to OWCRadio@catania.us. Cirina is always up for new ideas!
In This Episode
- 00:57 – Cirina introduces John Moore, an award-winning journalist, popular best-selling novelist, photographer, cowboy, rancher, and minister.
- 06:00 – John tells a story of when he was 17 and their local newspaper offered him a job as a photographer and reporter. He ended up working there for 3 years.
- 11:22 – John shares how he managed to finish his novel using a Kaypro computer working with Christian publishing houses.
- 18:36 – John talks about his book The Breaking of Ezra Riley. He shares he felt like writing the ending was a gift to him given how close he was to the deadline.
- 24:23 – John shares a tough and interesting story on his journey to publishing the book, Take the Reins.
- 30:22 – Cirina shares the inspiration and reason behind inviting John to be her guest.
- 35:54 – John talks about the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage inductee.
- 42:24 – John shares that having a strong sense of community is one of the reasons why he likes staying in the rural parts of Eastern Montana.
- 49:24 – John shares how he had his books published online and being sold on Amazon.
- 56:21 – Follow John Moore’s Facebook page to check out and be inspired by his books.
As I record this, much of the world is in quarantine. Our creative spirits cannot be locked up. However, I’m witnessing so much that is wonderful. Humanity prevails, and there’s good all around us. People spend time with their families, cooking, gardening, playing games, exercising, laughing, playing music, and singing. As difficult as these times are, there’s a cultural and social shift happening that will change the way we live forever.Our creative spirits may be challenged amidst the global quarantine. However, we're also witnessing so much that is wonderful. Humanity still prevails, and there's good all around us. Click To Tweet
You’re tuned into OWC Radio, and before we begin, I wanted to take a moment and give you some background on why I chose this next guest. Thanks to our sponsor, OWC. We talk each week and celebrate the creative consciousness. This week, we’re doing the same, but in a slightly different way. The bestselling novelist and writer John Moore does not consider himself conversant with what you and I might call high-tech. Since we’re all storytellers, however, I wanted to bring John on to talk about his journey. It’s been a long and difficult one, but it’s a triumphant one. We can all learn from this and be inspired by it. I hope you will find it enlightening. So on that note, let’s listen to my conversation with John.
This is Cirina Catania with OWC Radio John Moore, a recent inductee into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame, a novelist, a third-generation cattle rancher, by the way, a poet, an excellent photographer, and a minister is on the line with me. John, how are you?
I’m good, Cirina. Thanks for having me.
It’s great. I’m looking over there at my bookcase, and I have several of your books. For those of you who don’t know, some of John’s novels include The Breaking of Ezra Riley, The Land of Empty Houses, Looking for Lynne, Bitter Roots, The Limits of Mercy, Leaving the Land, and Take the Reins. Those are the ones that are on my bookshelf.
Well, good. I’m glad to hear it.
Now John, you’re a very humble, quiet person. But I do want you to share your life with us if you don’t mind. I think you’re an amazing example of somebody who has been through the ups and downs and comes out the other end and is doing some good in the world. Personally, I’m interested in your story and have been for a long time. I’ve spent a lot of time in rural America with ranchers, farmers, and people I call the heartland of our country. And you are definitely one of those. Can you tell the people listening, where you were born and what life was like for you when you were growing up?
Well, I was born here in Miles City, Montana. 1952. I live in a prairie in Badlands, which has its own beauty and is much more sparsely populated. Western Montana is a true cowboy country. In Lonesome Dove, Miles City was the fictional setting for the death of Gus McCrae. So we’re a historical cow town. I grew up on a cattle ranch, and I guess the unique part of that was that my father had a small ranch, and he was in business with his brothers, who were all bachelors. So I grew up next to five bachelor uncles as well as my own family. And my father and I are actually pretty proud of this, I wear it as a certain badge of distinction that he only went through the fifth grade. He was born in 1909, he was in his mid-40s by the time I came along. And back then, when times were tough- and I’ve done a lot of writing on Western history from up until about the 1940s. It was not uncommon for a child to leave school early and go to work to help support the family or simply to support himself. And my father left after the fifth grade and went to work for a large horse operation as the horse wrangler. And pretty much then, his whole life revolved around horses. He was one of the only men I’m told to ride the duration of the time that the C.B.C were in existence. At that time, the largest horse operation, probably in the world, ran about 63,000 heads. And it was a very wild, tough time. I mean, this is where the toughest of the tough are. So my parents lost one child early, a son, and my father desperately wanted another. And he ended up having four girls and me, I kind of had a certain cross to bear because of that.
I think it makes you a better husband to Debra. Right?
Well, it does. Anyway, it wasn’t an easy time. And of course, the dirty 30s, the depression, everything was so severe. The drought was so severe. My father grew up in that and part of that makes up my first novel, The Breaking of Ezra Riley. At the age of 17, I helped the family gather cattle one day when my mother came with lunch and said the local newspaper had called. I was offered a job as a full-time photographer and reporter. I wasn’t even a high school senior yet, and I worked there for three years, under just some great tutelage, old school on the job training. When I was 19, I was offered a position. I was offered a job at Denver Post, and I turned it down. I just did not see myself going into a big city and just going that route. Instead, this was the hippie era. I hitchhiked 12,000 miles all together throughout the United States and Canada. I just put myself out there and had a multitude of adventures and misadventures, but that was really my education. So by the time I seriously looked at college, I’d already had three years in a newsroom and 12,000 miles of hitchhiking. I walked into a dormitory and looked around and thought there is no way in the world. I did go to school for a while at a prestigious experimental college back when you contracted for grades, and you contracted for your class. Everything was kind of anti-establishment. The faculty was excellent. It was just one of those real kinds of hippie-dippie kinds of things that I went for a while.Life is a multitude of adventures and misadventures, but that's our education. Click To Tweet
I wasn’t married by then and actually just kind of fell into a bad period as a writer, as a journalist. I applied for a job in a newspaper in Nevada, and I stopped in to meet the editor. He looked at my resume, and he says, “Man, you’re plenty qualified, but while you’ve been out on the road, Watergate has happened,” he says, “Now all these radicals, I didn’t know what they wanted to do. They’ve suddenly decided they want to be Woodward and Bernstein, and they have flooded the J schools.” He says, “I’ve got job applications just piling up from recent grads of journalism schools.” So eventually, I tell people I was drafted by poverty into the Air Force. I had a feeling that my father was going to pass away. I was living in Albuquerque then, and I thought I needed to get closer to the ranch. So I took guaranteed days to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is in Great Falls, Montana. And I worked part-time for The Great Falls paper. And I really pioneered true journalism coverage of rodeo because rodeo had never really been covered like a sport. It was more like a little cultural event that was covered by people who knew nothing about cowboys or horses. And then my father did pass away, and I ended up getting a hardship discharge and returning to the ranch in 1979. I’ve been here for 40 years, and I’ve always written. I just never quit. I published a book of poetry, self-published it, back in ’73, I think. I did a history of the bucking horse in ’82. And then I had a real powerful epiphany in a little crackerjack box movie theater in Billings, Montana.
My wife and I were watching the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek movie. At one point, the famous editor Maxwell Perkins, comes to see Rawlings there in Florida and tells her that the gothic novels she is sending him are not worth reading but the letters that she’s writing about the people and where she’s living, are just exquisite. And she needs to write what she knows. And when that actor spoke those words, all I can say is God came to me and who I was commissioned to write. And I started my first novel, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I hired a professional editor, and I got about 120 pages into it. And then I switched more into my own story, and all of a sudden, she calls me and says, “Man, now you’re writing literature.” So I scrapped the first 120 pages. And she tried her hardest, and I had 30 rejections from the major publishing houses in the United States. I had been published in the Reader’s Digest one day. One of the editors there gave the manuscript to a woman visiting his office. And Lion, UK, the British publishing company, was opening an office in the United States, and they contracted me to publish it. They wanted me to add 50,000 words, which I did in an unheated old bunkhouse on a Kaypro computer.
I managed to get it done, and it won some awards and got some notice. And really, I started getting published by Christian publishing houses at that time, writing about the West. It was really popular to tear down writers moving to Montana to advertise themselves as Montana writers. They just live here for a short time and maybe work on a ranch for a couple of months and then write a book about it. It was just really trendy to be a Montana writer, but I was the real thing. And I don’t think the secular publishing houses in New York as much as they liked my work weren’t ready for the real thing. They wanted kind of an urbane look at life in Montana. And then the Christian publishing houses, I was too realistic, and they weren’t used to that. Let alone literary because I wasn’t just your typical commercial writer. So I ended up in that market there in a period of just doing a number of books and also doing an article of a New York Times Magazine that was syndicated, went worldwide, and two editions, so they’re college textbook on prose.
And at the same time just never really finding traction. Then ranch situations and life took me out of publishing for a little while. And then when I came back, I found it really difficult, people forget about you quickly, technology changes very quickly. And so I concentrated on magazine work for a while, and magazines started dying one after the other. But I’ve just never quit, whether it was columns or been more recently, online. I’ve published six novels, several nonfiction books, and I don’t know how many newspaper and magazine articles probably, well over maybe 1500 I don’t know. And through it all, I guess what I’ve tried to do is stay authentic and never sell out. I’m noted for realism. And at this point, I’m not going to change that.
One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today, too, is to try to help all the creatives out there, me included sometimes. You just have moments where you wonder what path you’re really on and why you’re doing it, and then the force be with you, right? It all comes back, and you just keep going, and that’s what you’ve always done. You’ve just kept going, and it’s hard when you have someone telling you “no.” When you know that this is what you want to do. And you know how you want to do it, but you have to make a living, so how do you handle those moments? What goes into your head? What goes into your mind when somebody says no and you know they’re wrong, or maybe not that they’re wrong, but you feel like they’re wrong, right? I mean, what do you think about it?
Well, in my case, I get down to where there’s nothing left but my faith. I mean, I feel ground down to dust. And you can scream at God all you want to in those times, but you just have to feel that you are called to write. You’re happiest when you’re writing, and you have a vision. And the main thing is you’re not going to compromise the vision. If I die without being well known or not reaching some of my goals or whatever, then so be it. But I’m not going to sell out, and I’ve had the opportunities, certainly had the opportunities. I’m not going to do it because a man is no better than his reputation, as far as your proven character of who you really are. I have an advantage over a lot of writers and over a lot of people and truly live a sense of place. Some writers have the gift for writing about a sense of place, but more and more in this mobile society, almost no one lives where they were raised.
I’ve certainly had my share of adversity locally because of my goals and some of my aspirations, but at the same time, you get that local support as long as you’re authentic and you’re representing the people fairly. And I think that’s what I’ve disliked about so many writers who deal with the West and they move in here from somewhere else they write down to the people. I know they consider them all just hicks, clods, and stupid. And they try and portray themselves working on a ranch for summer and all of a sudden they’re cowboys. Well, I was born and bred into it, and I totally rejected it for a while, and then found that it’s in my blood and I’m just happy as a horseback. And for me, like it or not, I’m a bit of a spokesman for the rural community.
I didn’t set out to be that, but it sort of evolved. Just having to deal with the misinformation, dealing with everything that is thrown at you all the time. And another thing to understand is just a geographic or demographic fact that you take several western states that I can point to Washington, Oregon, and Montana in particular. In each state, there are basically two states. The western part is more urban. That’s where the universities are much, much more liberal. And then the eastern part of the state is much more conservative, it’s farming and ranching, there’s basically a civil war going on culturally, in each state. I’ve certainly experienced some of that here and have stayed on my side of the state. That’s just the way it is. And I’ve made my choices. I’m more comfortable around small town people, grassroots people, working ranchers, cowboys, and farmers.
Well, I think that your books transcend a lot of that and speak to a deeper level of humanity that is common to everyone. And I’m speaking as somebody who lives in the city. I’m in San Diego, so I’m not a cowboy. I appreciate what ranchers and farmers do for us very, very much. But I love your books, and I can resonate with your books on a very deep human level. And I want my children to read them and their children’s children to read them. I’m glad that they’re there. Let’s tell people a little bit about The Breaking of Ezra Riley because it won several awards. It really got you started as a writer, right? I mean, that was the one that kind of cracked the egg for you.
Well, it did, and in a way, this isn’t too uncommon with writers that sometimes your first book is your best. I don’t let myself fall into that mindset, because I’m working on my seventh novel right now. The fifth in the Ezra Riley series so I don’t want to be thinking that I can’t outdo the first one. But certainly, it touched a nerve that no book probably had certainly not. In recent times, probably just Montana Magazine reviewed it and just used the phrase deep and pervasive honesty. I think that’s what kind of shook up so many reviewers and readers, it’s just so real, so honest, and they’ve been used to so long that anything with a cowboy and a horse in it had to be romantic. It had to be sentimental, it had to be heroic, action figure type of mentality, and Ezra Riley isn’t.As difficult as these times are, there's a cultural and social shift happening that will change the way we live forever. Click To Tweet
It’s deep, and it’s literary, and I think it touches everybody. It’s good that you bring up this point. You don’t have to be a rancher, real rural person to read it. You just have to know life’s deeper meanings and life’s challenges. I think that’s just that sense of growing up. It’s a coming of a bubble in its own way but in a more deeply spiritual way. I think we all make that choice as we hit adversity, that we can choose bitterness or choose fruitful brokenness. And that’s a lot of the lesson of Ezra Riley. It was just to reach the end of themselves and he certainly had reasons for bitterness. And he had a lot stacked against him. Towards the end, he just finally- I won’t give away the ending. I really feel the ending is one of the most beautifully symbolic endings anybody will read. And I don’t mean to brag when I say that because I feel like it was a gift to me. I gave myself a deadline, being a journalist, I’m used to deadlines. And so I gave myself a deadline. And with two weeks to go, I had no idea how the book was going to end.
Oh, my goodness.
And I thought, here I am down to the last chapter. And I don’t have a clue, I just feel grace descended and gave me a very appropriate ending.
I think that most creative people would agree with you that that kind of creativity is really a gift from a much larger place, and it helps us when we’re stuck. I loved The Breaking of Ezra Riley, and I think it resonated with me because it’s the story of a young man searching for the meaning of his life. Really? Could you truly have said that? Is that accurate?
Yeah, kind of in rebellion against his life and searching for it. And I’m the type of person and writer, that my main concern is I want to touch lives. I don’t want just to sell books and have them thrown away. I want to write books you’ll pass on to your children and grandchildren, as you said earlier, but I want to touch lives. And I’ve had a lot of letters through the years from people just thanking me for that book. I know of two or maybe more, but I know of two firstborn sons named Ezra because of that book. And what do you compare that to? Making a lot of money or getting famous is one thing but knowing that you touch somebody’s life so deeply, that when their first son was born, they named him Ezra. And I do know of two of those young men that are out there today.
That’s a wonderful feeling. I had a cat named after me.
But getting back to Loosening the Reins, that has a unique story, because originally it was Letters to Jess and I was under contract to Macmillan. So here I am about 1988, I’m 36 years old, I’m in a terrible drought. It’s the year I was published in the New York Times Magazine for a drought piece, and I got a contract with Macmillan. And I believe they were about the 12th largest publisher in the world at that time. Then my editor gets fired, so Macmillan notifies me they’re canceling my contract. And legally, they had no grounds for it, but they also told me they had a larger legal staff than I did, and they demanded the first half of the advance. I think the advance was only $2,000, and they had fronted me $1000 or something, and they wanted that back.
Oh my goodness.
So I caved in. My former editor was picked up by a very popular Christian writer at the time, Father Joseph Corazon. They formed their own little publishing company, and they brought out Letters to Jess. Unfortunately, it was filled with typos. They brought it out hardcover and it was beautiful, just beautiful. Everything about it was first class. Except I had blank pages, and I know in one book, I counted over 200 typos. I mean, it was just a mess. After that, I somehow got it to Zondervan, which was about the second largest Christian publishing house, and they released it. It came out as Loosening the Reins, but before they could promote it, Rupert Murdoch got it over. And they were just in a turmoil, and so it slipped between the cracks. And then when I was at Thomas Nelson, America’s largest Christian publishing house, I was there probably the longest. They kind of found it, and they brought it out in hardcover as Take the Reins. And so that book has had three different lifetimes, but it’s a nonfiction kind of prairie parable, and kind of falls into the type of nonfiction writing that I’m probably the best at, which is short, insightful little stories.
Well, I like the father teaching his son. In our society today, the families are all falling apart. And I think we need mothers and fathers to teach their children more than perhaps this current generation is doing. So I really like that part of it. The version that I have is Take the Reins, so it’s hard to find some of your books. They’re sold out, and they’re becoming collector’s editions some of them now.
Yes, they are.
So just a side note here on the technical aspects because you know we like to talk tech. Your self published, originally The Breaking of Ezra Reilly, and that was in the days where you literally had to type it up and how did you do that? You typed it up, and you copied it, and you had the copies printed with a cover, and you had to pay for all the copies ahead of time and then hope that somebody bought them, right?
Yeah, I went through a commercial printer in Montana, Falcon Press, which is also kind of a subsidy type. They didn’t do my subsidy, but they did other books too. I did it to really have more like a bound manuscript to send to publishers. Also, I did it just to be creative. I had a friend illustrate it, and the local community was so supportive, even with that self-published version. When I first held a book signing, I can’t remember how many hundreds of books I signed and sold, but I know my hands were cramping. I just couldn’t hardly sign any, people were lined up for quite some distance. So I had just so much support, and I did that largely. Like I say, to have something in my hands just besides at that time typewritten pages, but to be honest. And I told a couple of friends the other day when I looked at your previous guests, and I said, “What am I doing here?”
Oh my goodness.
What am I doing at OWC? I mean, they want to see a real “technosaur,” like a dinosaur from the past caveman. Because for a 67-year-old cowboy, I’m probably a little bit ahead of the curve technologically, which puts me on about, like the average second grader, is probably about where I’m at.
Oh, I think you need to give yourself more credit, you’ve published an eBook.
Yeah, but technology has been my hardest part of writing for about the last 20 years. And I’m just now because of the popular software app. Kind of mastered it and getting to where the novel I’m working on at least seems approachable. But there for a long time, I was so dissatisfied with some of the word processing software. They would advertise them as being simple and designed for the writer, and then you’d buy them and, golly, they had so many bells and whistles. Everything’s too complicated. And they have to change things that don’t need constantly changing, too many middle managers.
Yep. Well, let me answer that question, though. I’m going to tell you one of the other reasons I wanted you on OWC Radio. I have to thank Larry O’Connor and everybody at Other World Computing for sponsoring this podcast because if you listen to my shows, you’ve heard me tell several people. It gives me the chance to meet, celebrate, and share a moment with incredibly inspirational people. And I think no matter how much technology rules our lives, it’s still all about the story, it’s all about the creativity that drives all of that.
When I talk to people who code these complicated technological, innovative products, there’s creativity. I mean, you might be sitting at your computer writing code, but you are creating, and you are creating using the written word, the spoken word. But I think that, yeah, you may not be what you consider to be the highest level of technology, but you’re doing what everyone who works in our business and I say film and television because that’s where I spend a lot of my time. Well, we need stories that inspire, we need stories that tell us that it’s beyond the technology, that the stories are more important. And so what you do is the foundation for what everybody else wants to do and can do if they have the courage to do it.
And in your case, I think you’re writing about the heartbeat of our country. You bring issues to light that everyone has the father-son relationships, the relationships with the land, the relationships with our spouses and with our children, and the ups and downs of surviving hardship. Not everybody has to survive fires and major snowstorms. I mean, we became friends on Facebook through other mutual friends. That’s how we got to know each other. And I watched you through that terrible winter that you had in Montana, where it was almost impossible to get food to the cattle, and that’s not easy. I think a lot of people don’t know about that. So no, don’t ever apologize for not being technological enough because there are others who can do that.
Well, that’s what I need. I mean, my last book, Looking for Lynne, which I really think is an outstanding book, put a lot into it. I worked on it when I’d been in what we call a “horse wreck.” Our mirrors are getting bucked off, and then there’s what’s called a wreck. I was in two-horse wrecks 10 minutes apart, because I was too stubborn. I had to get back on, and my shoulder was pretty badly torn up, and I could hardly move my right arm. And yet I finished that novel, using my left arm to help my right arm not only type but move the cursor.
When I went to think of getting it published, I thought about having to deal with editors, publishers, and agents again. I just literally had such a terrible series of remembrances of all the bad experiences I’ve had with editors, publishers, and agents. Some of it was just bad luck. And I thought, I just can’t go through that, I’m just gonna self publish this and trust God to do something with it, and so I went through that process. But I’ve been almost like starting all over again. I mean, that might as well be 1982 or something all over again. And when I sit down to work on the seventh novel, part of it is just an act of faith; part of it is I write because I’m a writer. And if I’m not writing, I’m just going to fall into despair. I’m gonna fall into self-pity and depression and torment myself and beat myself half to death.
Then you have to stop and say, “Okay, I’m going to write, because I’m a writer. And I’m not going to worry about whether or not anybody will ever publish it or read it, or I’m just going to do the best job I can do for my own self-respect.” And so that’s what I’m doing now, I’m returning to this novel, and it has probably quite the plot quite the same. It’ll be a little less literary, certainly than The Breaking of Ezra Riley, but I’m back at it simply because that’s who I am. And because I have a very supportive wife, and she married a writer, and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care if I’m a famous writer or not. But she’s just always been hugely supportive, and she’s happy when I’m writing. And I’m happy when I’m writing you brought up earlier and we probably should touch on it briefly, the recent induction into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Absolutely. That was wonderful. Congratulations!
Thank you, and it is the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage. And I went in certainly on the Western Heritage end of things as a writer. As a novelist, journalist, photographer, and, of course, being in eastern Montana, you kind of had to be a cowboy too, or you weren’t going to get voted in. The other writers, just pure writers that are in it, included A.B. Guthrie, Jr., Norman Maclean, and Dorothy Johnson. Most people are familiar with all three Dorothy Johnson’s a little older, but she wrote A Man Called Horse and numerous other well-known books.
A.B. Guthrie Jr. was a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Norman Maclean wrote A River Runs Through It. And they were more on the Western Montana end of things. And so for me coming out of Eastern Montana, I think I am the first pure writer to ever go into the hall out of Eastern Montana. Stan Lynde, a late friend of mine, is in there, but Stan was best known as a cartoonist, he did the Rick O’Shay cartoons years ago. He did a few novels later in his life, but he wasn’t known as a novelist. And I went in because of my novels and my books, but also the articles through the years is a lifetime achievement award kind of thing. And largely, what brought it all to attend to the people probably more than anything was my writer’s Facebook page. I was late coming to Facebook. I only came to Facebook to see photographs of my friends and family because you couldn’t see them anywhere else. And the writer page just kind of fell into place after a period of time and became very popular. It almost reached its end because I don’t have much further I can really go with. Because all the stories that I do, largely are really grassroots area history, giving honor and respect to people and events and horses, that are often overlooked. And certainly, there’s no end to that. But if I want to write a novel, I’ll have to put somewhat of an end to it.
Or maybe just on hold for a little while. Don’t end it, it’s wonderful. I mean, there are things all over your page that I love. I love the picture of your father. Who is standing next to your father when you’re talking about how to tie a tie?
Yeah, well, there are things about history on my writer page that you won’t find anywhere else. I’ve never been interested in the things that everybody writes about, like the Civil War, or Battle the Little Bighorn, things like that. I figure all of that’s been handled by experts. There’s not much more to really dig out. I’ve always concentrated more on the history of horses on the Northern Great Plains and cowboy history. That’s not as widely known, and I try to treat people with respect and show the character of lives that were developed in adversity.
Because like you say, we have some very harsh weather up here. We can have 40 below in the winter, and 110 in the summer, you just don’t know. You’ve got to be a little bit determined to live here, you have to have forestall gratification, I guess it would be the term to use because I live in what’s called next year country. You always keep thinking next year will be better. Next year it’ll rain, next year the cattle markets will come up, next year will be better. And you keep just working in faith and hope.
Yeah. Well, I really believe that what you’re doing not just with your novels, but with, for example, the Facebook page and things like that. As I traveled through the country and went to very rural areas, it became very clear to me that there is a whole side of our country where there are no stories about these people. And the storytellers are the keepers of history. If the storytellers don’t tell those stories, they’re going to go by the wayside. And I found that sometimes it’s one of the ranching associations that publishes a book, like I have one from Burns, Oregon that has all of the ranchers and pictures of them. It talks about the history of their family. You’re not going to find that in mainstream publications. Or maybe it’s the ladies auxiliary in a small town, in the middle of Wyoming or in the middle of Idaho that they all got together. They published a combination of family stories and recipes, but that’s history, and I have a love of that, and I think a lot of people do. But if you don’t hear about it, you don’t know about it.
One thing the rural West has that people ache for and don’t know is “community,” Ranchers and Cowboys we’re thought of as rugged individualists and on a certain level we are. But one reason I like to stay in the rural parts of Eastern Montana is that there’s such a strong sense of community. Everybody knows everybody else. And if there’s a need, a medical need, for example, somebody starts a fundraiser. And it’s not an anonymous GoFundMe type of campaign. I mean, there’s a dance that’s held and perhaps an auction, and it’s very much personal involvement. And that’s what I really treasure about rural America. And it’s just sad that I’ve dealt with big city press as a result of being a writer. I’ve had opportunities to deal with other writers and journalists and from the eastern seaboard and from California and everything. And the odd part is they all come with a certain amount of expectation which dies quickly. Because they were not prepared properly, they were expecting something. I don’t know what they’re expecting, one woman came to me and told me she had been to Russia 12 times. But she had never been in a small rural town in America in her entire life, and she was just blown away by friendliness. She could not understand why people downtown were so friendly. She was just suspicious. Another recent filmmaker that was here, I saw some of the same things from her. She was always a little bit on edge because she was used to that kind of aggressive New York City mentality. And she just learned to kind of relax and realize, people here are friendly, and hospitable and respectful.
There’s a quote in the prologue to your book Looking for Lynne, It says, “Behind every beautiful thing, there is some kind of pain.” And that’s a quote from Bob Dylan. And I was talking recently with Michael Williams, who they call the godfather of comedy about how the best comedy comes from hardship. There’s something to ponder in there for people, and you mentioned it to me in one of our earlier conversations, not online. That we have to think of adversity as in some ways a gift. Can you address that for everyone?
I think we all try to live a life that’s pleasant and comfortable. We went even more so that our children and grandchildren could have pleasant and comfortable lives. But when we really look at life, honestly, that’s not where the character is developed, or where the character is revealed. You can use all kinds of metaphors and similes to describe it. It’s a little bit like weight training resistance training of any sort. For muscles to grow, there’s no pain, no gain any of that. But really, I think at the core of it is it is life. And we can’t have any false expectations that somehow we’re entitled to have this pain free wonderful life. And if somehow we don’t, then we’re being shortchanged. A lot of what I learned in my life I learned at the foot of cowboys- good and bad. But a lot of that I learned on the road hitchhiking. And when you hitchhike around the country for 12,000 miles- you’ve had knives at your throat, guns at your chest, outrun street gangs, and slept in hobo jungles, and everything that I did- you see really the best and worst of people. I found out that even with some of the most downtrodden people- it may be alcoholics on the street- you would find those that were of character and maybe they’d had a lot of bad luck. Maybe they’d made some very poor decisions, but they’d retained a sense of dignity and a sense of character. And then you might meet some spoiled 18-year-old kid on a beach in California. And he thinks he’s entitled to everything, he’s special. I don’t mean to single out the beaches of California, but any place you could run into people that did not place character as a value. They were after things, they were after status, and character was not a pursuit, and our character does not come easily. And if it did, it wouldn’t have the value that it has.
You and I both grew up during those 1960s of Rebellion, where Everything was the anti-establishment and the anti-hero. And even in my hippie days, I had a certain sense of cowboy respect about me. I would never diss. I would never spit on a returning veteran from Vietnam or anything like that. I mean, that just angered me, and I was around the kind of hippies and staff who did. And I thought, Man, you won’t get away with that for long. You think you’re pretty privileged and morally superior, but life will even the score here eventually. And that’s what life does, in time, it just evens the score. So I think we need to accept adversity, I don’t seek it. I don’t want any more adversity in my life. But If it comes, it comes. In my case, I’ve been happily married for 45 years. And I have a very strong partner, a woman of principle. And we’ve been through so much that I just don’t really share too much more at this point.
If life were perfect, it would be really boring. So maybe there’s a little bit of that too. Your first book was self-published, it was literally printed. What I would say the old fashioned way, right? But you’ve gone the eBook route as well. Did you use Amazon? Or how did you work on your ebook?
Well, I went two routes. Looking for Lynne was through Amazon through CreateSpace. Then an ebook, Green E-Books out of Idaho, picked up The Breaking of Ezra Riley and The Land of Empty Houses. And they would have done all my books. But they couldn’t format them, they were still on floppy disks. So they only did what they were able to do. And technology still is the hardest, hardest thing for me. And for me, there was that time period when I was working at The Great Falls Tribune, and computers were first coming in. And if I’d stayed in journalism at that time and grown with it, it would have been different, but I returned to ranching. And then I had to buy a personal computer and had no real training, you just buy one and read the owner’s manual. And that’s how I have to do so many things here in eastern Montana because you just don’t have the network around you. So I just have to buy a Macintosh and kind of find my way through it. Of course, as I mentioned, my first computer was a Kaypro, writing my first novel.
All right, that does it, I’m coming to the ranch, and I’m bringing computers with me.
Yeah, well, we need help. And I’m a step ahead of my wife, and she’s so frustrated. I mean, it is such a frustrating world for those on the outside looking in.
Well, I guess I’ve always been called a bit of a geek, but I’m also creative, and I can only sit for so many hours in front of a computer. I edit too, but I really admire people who edit full time because I can’t do it. I can’t sit in a dark room. I have to get out into the open space and get some fresh air. I’ve never been through a harsh Montana winter, where you’re trying to trudge through snow and ice to feed your animals, but I really admire what you do. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you want to tell people while I’ve got you, hostage, here?
Well, I don’t know really what it would be, except to just maybe slow down and consider those of us that are in the rural communities. These are the ranchers, the farmers, and really kind of think about it. People often think that everybody involved in ranching or farming is some big corporate farm, corporate ranch, or welfare ranching all these terms that get thrown out. Where almost all farms and ranches in America are family-run operations. And we’re corporate only in the sense that we have to be for tax reasons.
We might be a small operation, but we’re incorporated for tax reasons. Unlike with me, my cattle are out there, ranging in the prairie and gumbo. I’m a good steward of the land, I love wildlife. We work with nature because you can’t work against it and succeed.
It’ll break you eventually. I know of guys that try, and I have no respect for them. But I know guys that try and hammer creation into their molding, and it doesn’t work. And we work with nature, and we have old fashioned values that I think the nation needs to return to. They’re still people out here in the hinterlands where their word is better than a contract. They look you in the eye, shake your hand and tell you something. They’ll live or die by that.
There’s a sense of loss about that. There’s a sense of the loss of straightforwardness, and honesty, and trustworthiness. And I think that it still exists, we just have to look for it. And I want the people listening here and some of them might be wondering now why we are talking to somebody who does it the old fashioned way. And I wanted to talk to you because I think that you’re telling the stories. Everybody that uses technology needs to take a step back and think about what they are creating the technology for. What is its technology living for?
I had a thought this morning while I was out feeding my cows.
So if you ask me, what is my concern? I would say my concern is artificial intelligence. But when I say that I’m not talking about robotics, I am talking about people living such an urban life. That they are not really interacting with nature. And everything they know is largely artificial. They’re still human, all right, they might be great people, but they’re surrounded by artifice. They’re surrounded by man-made products and creations. And there’s so much to learn not just by being in nature. We have a phenomenon in America now that sociologists and psychologists are now calling “Nature Deficit Disorder,” and we certainly have that. But we have this larger need to learn common sense from people who are living with nature? Not recreating with it, but truly dependent upon it?
Absolutely. I have friends who work in the technological business, I’m partnered with them in a company called Lumberjack System. And we take brief sabbaticals, and I know you’re gonna laugh at us. But we go hiking in the hills because Philip Hodgetts and Gregory Clarke always say you can’t have big ideas in small spaces. And we really believe that we need to get out of our houses and get into nature. However, we can reach it from where we are, and I do believe that’s important. And I’ve been fortunate to have seen parts of this country that very few people have seen. I encourage everybody to read your books, look up John L. Moore, go on Facebook, find John L. Moore Writer on Facebook, and that’s Moore Writer. And you’re writing about the heartbeat of our country, you’re writing about people with strong souls and courageous hearts. And these are dramatic stories, but they’re stories that appeal to all of us and that tell the truth about human nature, whether you use the best of technology or the beginning of technology. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad you’re writing, and I’m fortunate to have had this time to talk to you. So I just want to say thank you.
Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your heart for the rural people. And truly do respect and admire those who are creative with technology. I’m just afraid that we’re entering into what I referred to in one column as technological Darwinism. If you’re a dinosaur, you might as well die. This is what some of us in the rural community- I am at the very end of cable broadband, our ranches, everything north of me doesn’t get it. So they might have a satellite, and they’re getting their internet that way. But I’m just lucky, I could still be on dial-up, and that’s where a lot of the rural West is. But sometimes when you have technical problems, and you call for help somewhere, you will have those times where you encounter people that say, “well, grandpa, if you don’t know how to fix this, you’re not worth living anyway.” There’s a little bit of that attitude that’s out there that I think is scary.
Well, I think people just don’t realize it. I’ve stayed on a ranch, for example, where we were 35 miles away from the nearest small store for groceries. I’m not talking about a grocery store. I’m talking like a 711 type of store, where the family only had a few megabits per day of the internet that they could use. And I had a four-person crew counting me there were four of us there. And everybody wants to check their emails. And I told him, I said, warn your families ahead of time that you’re not going to be able to get on the internet every day. Because it wasn’t just that the family could pay more and have more access. It was that after a certain cutoff, they didn’t have it at all. I don’t know why that is. That’s just the way it is. So, when they’re talking about creating infrastructure and bringing more technology to rural America, there’s a part of me that thinks that’s wonderful. And another part of me that wishes it wouldn’t happen. I hate to say it, but I do.
I shamelessly do not own a smartphone.
There you go.
I don’t, and I have a Tracfone that I keep in a vest pocket. In case I get left off, 10 miles from the house or pick up breaks down or something. And it may or may not be charged, because I never look at it. And when I’m out in the hills, I do not want to hear a phone go off, something like that.
And on that note, I’m going to sign off and say thank you to our guest, one of America’s literary treasures, writer John L. Moore. And before I ride off into the sunset, I want to make sure. I thank Other World Computing for sponsoring this podcast and bringing great people to the global conversation. Thanks for listening. And remember what I always tell you, get up off your chair and go do something wonderful today. Be well, be safe, and know that you are loved.
- John Moore
- John Moore – Facebook
- The Breaking of Ezra Riley
- The Land of Empty Houses
- Looking for Lynne
- Bitter Roots
- The Limits of Mercy
- Leaving the Land
- Take the Reins
- Lonesome Dove
- Debra Moore
- The Denver Post
- hippie era
- Watergate Scandal
- Bob Woodward
- Carl Bernstein
- Malmstrom Air Force Base
- The Great Falls Tribune
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
- Cross Creek
- Maxwell Perkins
- Lion, UK
- New York Times Magazine
- Montana Magazine
- Loosening the Reins
- Letters to Jess
- Rupert Murdoch
- Thomas Nelson
- Take the Reins
- Falcon Press
- Larry O’Connor
- Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center
- 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees
- A.B. Guthrie, Jr.,
- Norman Maclean
- Dorothy Johnson
- A Man Called Horse
- A River Runs Through It
- Stan Lynde
- Rick O’Shay
- Civil War
- Battle the Little Bighorn
- Bob Dylan
- Michael Williams
- Green Ebooks
- Nature-Deficit Disorder
- Lumberjack System
- Philip Hodgetts
- Gregory Clarke
- Find an outlet for creativity, so it’s always free-flowing even in quarantine. When you think outside the box, you will discover many ways to spark -fun and artistry in your day.
- Decide how much you’re willing to contribute to the current global cultural shift. Stand for what you believe in and become a part of a better world by starting with your own self-development.
- Aim to thrive and not just survive through adversity. Understand life’s struggles and challenges are what deepen and improve a person’s character.
- Be excited about the adventures, even the misadventures that are yet to come. Go on with life with an innate feeling of acceptance that you’ll be alright no matter what comes your way.
- Never quit. Take pauses, but don’t give up. Just keep doing what you love, and the rest will follow.
- Have faith in the universe, humanity, and yourself. Just focus on what’s right for you and others and leave it to fate. Let fate protect and uplift you even in the darkest times.
- Never settle. Don’t compromise your vision and value your skills and accomplishments. Coming a long way and surviving all odds is something to be proud of.
- Show support and give back to your community. Find ways to cultivate unity and camaraderie with your tribe. They are your best allies.
- Never judge other people. We often make judgments from a surface-level perspective that we forget to take a pause and see where the other person may be coming from.
- Check out John Moore’s Amazon page to grab a copy of his books.
If you work in tech and haven’t heard about Other World Computing (OWC), you’ve may have had your head in the sand. OWC, under the leadership of Larry O’Connor since he was 15 years old, has expanded to all corners of the world and works every day to create hardware that makes the lives of creatives and business-oriented companies faster, more efficient and more stable. Go to OWCDigital.com for more information.
Here’s the company’s official mission statement:
At OWC, we’re committed to constant innovation, exemplary customer service, and American design.
For more than 25 Years, OWC has had a simple goal. To create innovative DIY solutions to give you the most from your technology.
Beginning with 100% compatible memory upgrades, reliably exceeding Apple’s maximum RAM specs, OWC’s product offering has grown to encompass the entire spectrum of upgrade and expansion possibilities, all with a focus on easy, DIY setup and installation.
Our dedication to excellence and sustainable innovation extends beyond our day-to-day business and into the community. We strive for zero waste, both environmentally and strategically. Our outlook is to the long term, and in everything we do, we look for simplicity in action and sustainability in practice.
For us, it’s as much about building exceptional relationships, as it is about building exceptional products.