by Marcia Melton and Janet Muirhead Hill
Part 1 was posted on April 20. After a melting-hot day and one book sale, join our intrepid authors for day 2.
Despite dreams that our booth disappeared in its entirety, we made it through the night and headed back to the park to discover the fate of our booth.
Our optimism was renewed by the coolness of the morning and by finding a parking place a little closer to our site—and our booth, the same lumpy, brown pile we’d left, was still there, though all six of the poles had to be reset.
The smell of sausage, pancakes, and coffee served under massive trees on the park lawn by welcoming community members cheered us. After a fortifying breakfast, we took time for a quick walk to see the majestic Missouri River and walk along the Fort Benton Levee for a few minutes before tackling our job. Thoughts of transforming the drooping gazebo into a welcoming kiosk display was enough to make a leap into the Missouri look more appealing.
Suddenly, as we stood there gathering our courage and looking out over the wide river glistening in the early morning sun, there came through the cool morning air a single trumpet call—Reveille played from the old Fort. Clear and compelling. The same Reveille that had greeted the day on the shores of this river for more than 150 years for trappers, steamboat travelers, miners, military militia, roustabouts, ramblers, gamblers, riverboatmen, ladies of the night, ladies of the day – all of them. A call to wake up and start the day. By gum, we could do this!
And we did! By the end of the day, we’d talked with wonderful people passing by, children imploring their parents to buy them a book, and adult readers and writers who stopped to chat. We’d been entertained by a parade of floats and prancing horses; we’d tapped our feet along with darling children dancing across a portable stage; we’d heard all sorts of music from the nearby Park Bandstand, everything from country swing, to cool jazz, to Bluegrass, to Sousa Marches; and we’d refrained from bidding on $100 pies at an auction near our booth.
By late afternoon, temperatures had again soared and thousands of gnats swarmed out of nowhere, but we lasted every minute to the 5 o’clock closing bell of the day’s sale. We packed up and hit the Montana highway for the long drive home. As we drove along, we calculated that our sales roughly covered our expenses. We giggled as we decided to save money by using the gazebo again at our next show.
We considered our first big event of the summer both a learning experience and a grueling endurance test, which we’d proudly passed. We pulled into Bozeman in the dark, gave each other an exhausted hug, and went our separate ways—until the next fair! After all, we’re writers! Here comes summer, 2016. Are we ready to go again? We wish good luck (and sturdy gazebos) to all the other Women Writing the West!
Marcia Melton and Janet Hill are colleagues and friends in Montana. Janet is the Publisher of Raven Publishing, Inc. of Norris, Montana, publishing the works of ten authors, and is the author of thirteen fiction books for middle graders and young adults. Marcia Melton has published two middle grade historical fiction titles with Raven, The Boarding House, and Joe Henry’s Journey.