The next morning

158      When I woke up the next morning I knew I had a problem. In the late 1990s, I had been walking through a swamp in central Arkansas when a twig slapped me in the eye. This is happened many times while I work for the Forest Service but I had driven home that day without resting my eye and had problems with it several times later as previously described. Since then, I've had similar symptoms caused by allergies. No matter what the cause, as we started to drive the next morning my I became extremely irritated and I was unable to continue driving. We ended up having to waste a day sitting in a motel waiting for my eye to heal. We should have stayed in the campground another night but I was hoping to see a doctor which never happened.

159      We would have been smart if we had spent the next day seeing other parts of the park but I made the decision to drive west through the park and see the sights in that direction. We enjoyed seeing herds of elk which Haibo walked fairly close to and we did some high elevation hiking before we drove back down the far side of the mountain. From there I made the decision to drive south and see what we could see. I would later realize the guys would've rather spent their time hiking somewhere but I'll learn from that mistake.

160      I called my sister Nancy to ask about where we might go to see some interesting areas and she suggested an area of sand dunes a couple hundred miles south. We went there and while I found it interesting the trip was a dud. "It's just a pile of sand," Lin said flatly. Obviously, the guys were not too interested in walking into sand dunes and we decided to continue our journey home.

Haibo’s first accident

161      New drivers do things that experienced drivers don't do. I had asked Changji to pull off the side of the road the first time I taught him how to drive and he pulled off far enough to get the car stuck in the mud. In Haibo’s case is first accident was not his fault. We were somewhere in Oklahoma coming up to a traffic light and he slowed down a little faster than many people would for the light. A car was traveling too closely behind us so that when he put on his brakes sooner than expected the fellow bumped into the back of the truck. "Congratulations," I told him, "you've had your first accident." The guys were all quite concerned that I knew that the other car had barely tapped us. His car had hit the connection to the trailer hitch on the truck, one of its most solid parts. The truck was not damaged but the car had a small square imprint on its front bumper.

162      The driver was not interested in reporting the accident the police nor was I. So after exchanging information we headed on down the road. After all, there was no real damage and no one had been hurt. A police report would've just detained us, and since we were not the ones that caused the accident I saw no risk in not reporting the accident.

163      I had really enjoyed the trip, and I was gradually learning what I wanted to do on any future western trips. Driving day after day would not be one of them, something I would learn the hard way on a 2011 trip to California described later in this book.

Idaho City

164      I've always wanted to be a writer since I was in high school. I hated English but quickly discovered in high school that I had a flair for writing. If you could put your thoughts on paper the teachers would be simply astounded. So many students have never tried to write that the garbage I put out was seen as delightfully different. I've written a few letters to Ella Ott, a brief girlfriend in sixth grade when we left for California, and Windsong describes my work on the high school newspaper. I have written poems and fiction over the years but decided in the summer of 2009 to try my hand at fiction. Initially, I decided to call my first book Idaho City.

265      In 1994, I spent three weeks in Idaho City and McCall, Idaho on my only three weeks as a wildland firefighter for the United States Forest Service. I decided to use that experience as the base of my first novel. I have been to many fires since then but this was my only experience that lasted the full three weeks on the fire line kicking ash, as firefighters like to say, which was the standard length of a fire detail at the time. My goal in writing the book was twofold. I wanted to write a book of fiction and I wanted to tell a story that would describe what life is like on an ordinary wildfire without any major disasters.

266      I would eventually change the name of the book to Moose Creek. Fires often get named for geographic locations such as the Idaho City Complex, the Rainbow Fire, the Big Bar Complex, or they get named after interesting things such as the Bassboat Fire in North Carolina which occurred when a local resident burned off his garden and accidentally set his boat on fire. Moose Creek would become a good book but after writing more than 60,000 words and learning the basic art of writing fiction I realized I had a problem. Moose Creek like one critical element, a plot.

267      Rather than keep writing I decided to learn how to write a good book of fiction. After studying the topic for a while I realized Moose Creek had a good underlying theme that I had written into the original manuscript that would bring it to life. During my second round through the manuscript I can out large, boring sections and made a strong effort to bring the story to life. I took the advice of one author and expanded that underlying theme into the main underlying story which would give Moose Creek its reason for being. Since the book is not yet been published I won't ruin the story. But I really like it now. As of early 2013 I still need to polish it off.