This episode of the podcast features an interview with Rick White who shared his story in front of a sold out crowd live at The Wilma on December 10, 2019. It was the last in-person Tell Us Something event before COVID struck. The theme was "Tipping Point". When I talked with Rick, we talked about the story that he told at The Wilma, about podcasting, about his writing, his artist residency and about storytelling. Rick’s story, which I play after the interview, is called “Mister”.

Transcript : "Mister"

[00:00:00] Marc Moss: Welcome to the tell us something podcast. I’m your host, Mark Moss. Do you have your tickets for the next tell us something live storytelling event? You can get your tickets online at tell us something. org. Better yet though, why not pick up some limited edition printed tickets? These tickets are the same price as the online tickets and feature the beautiful artwork used on the posters.

Artwork for the Lost in Translation event was created by Bear River Studios. These special tickets are available exclusively at Rockin Rooties. Get your tickets now at Rockin Rooties or get the digital version at TellUsSomething. org.

[00:00:35] Rick White: Just way back there in the heart of the fell way, Bitterroot National Forest.

So, yeah, we were at the end of the road and… Uh, I’m off grid for, for three weeks, and it looked like me scribbling furiously on a yellow legal pad and then transcribing onto a, uh, a hundred dollar typewriter that I found at the antique mall beforehand so that I could [00:01:00] translate it

into print. This week on the podcast,

[00:01:03] Marc Moss: Rick White and I chat about the story that he told live on stage at the Wilma in Missoula, Montana in December of 2019.

The theme that night was Tipping Point. We also talk about podcasting, writing, his artist residency, and storytelling. Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something Storyteller alumni.

We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experiences, sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story and we always get to know them a little better. I caught up with Rick in September of 2020,

[00:01:44] Rick White: early on, and Covid got awarded a writing residency or an art residency through a local organization called Open Air. It’s been pretty cool.

[00:01:53] Marc Moss: Oh yeah, I know Stony. Yeah,

[00:01:56] Rick White: Stoney’s great. Her program’s really fantastic. So, yeah, I was fortunate I [00:02:00] got a three week residency in the Selway Bitterroot, you know, in a cabin down there, the Paradise Guard Station, um, to work on writing.

So, it was, yeah, that was the highlight of the summer for sure, right in the middle of July.

[00:02:12] Marc Moss: We are talking about a local non profit, Open Air. Open Air provides artist in residence programs for artists from all disciplines who are local, national, and international. Residencies last for four to six weeks.

Open Air believes that artists are critical to our community’s vitality and help to strengthen the creative capacity of Western Montana and foster dialogue and experiences that are culturally vibrant, healthy, and intellectually vigorous. You can visit Telesomething. org for a link to Rick’s open air talk.

So what did that look like?

[00:02:45] Rick White: That looked like my girlfriend and I and our two dogs living at the Paradise Guard Station, which was the Wanderer’s cabin attached to a campground that is where the people who float the Selway River, one of the premier… [00:03:00] rafting destinations and, and rivers in the country. The Wild and Scenic River, it’s, it’s the, the put in for that.

It’s at the end of a road about 48 miles down, uh, from Darby, Montana. Just way back there in the heart of the Selway. Bitterroot National Forest, so. Yeah, we were at the end of the road and… Uh, I’m off grid for, for three weeks, and it looked like me scribbling furiously on a yellow legal pad and then transcribing onto a, uh, 100 typewriter that I found at the antique mall beforehand so that I could translate it into print.

Uh, so it was very, uh, romantic, uh, uh, uh, maybe Hemingway or Faulkner esque, uh, if you’re thinking of those pictures, but the quality of the writing, uh, not close to that, but it was, it was wonderful. Um, yeah, uh, Stoney’s program was really fantastic. [00:04:00] Um, I think, um, kind of like Tell Us Something, just local organizations just doing tremendous things for, for artists and storytellers and, and creative folks.

Um, really just, just Super impressed with what she’s doing.

[00:04:15] Marc Moss: And so, I’ve seen some of the residencies that she’s had with visual artists. How will we get to see your work?

[00:04:24] Rick White: Yeah, that’s good. Um, so, in, we donate, uh, artists donate, um, One thing to them, so she’s planning a, uh, type of display, uh, maybe a traveling exhibit, depending on COVID, I think, uh, to show off different folks work, so I’ll be donating a poem that I wrote there, uh, and maybe some other things as, as needed.

She took a lot of great photos, and, um, we have some, some different, uh, resources from the Selway Bitterroot Foundation, uh, Drink Church Foundation, so I think that, that will be how [00:05:00] she does that. I also had a… Uh, reading that I gave, uh, at the, at the conclusion of the residency about two weeks later in August.

And she recorded that, Stoney recorded that, and we’ll put it up on YouTube. Um, she’s, she’s busy finishing up the, the residency season right now, but she’s working on uploading those to YouTube and then on their website, openairmt. com. Uh, org, I believe.

Yeah, and how it’s all shifting right now and shaping,

[00:05:30] Marc Moss: Yeah, I know, FreeFlow.

[00:05:32] Rick White: Um, I’m working with them on their podcast and doing, doing interviews and stuff.

[00:05:36] Marc Moss: We talked a little bit more about writing workshops before I asked Rick about his work with the FreeFlow institute.

[00:05:42] Rick White: Chandra was, um, you know, forced to cancel a lot of those. Those riding workshops that she does on the rivers, uh, the river trips.

Uh, we, like I was scheduled to go with David James Duncan down the Salmon River, which was going to be a spectacular trip, but that got postponed until next year. But they did a similar [00:06:00] thing, um, designed a five week, uh, riding workshop. Work, excuse me, workshop, uh, called Shift. Uh, which sounds kind of like the one that you took for ten weeks.

In which it was, you know, engaging with these themes of, of shift and transition. Um, yeah, it’s just been, it’s been interesting to watch how these circumstances have, have forced, um, evolution. Um, in some ways good, in some ways, uh, like… Man, how much Zoom can you handle in a day, you know? Totally. In your life.

It’s frustrating. Yeah. At that, at that level, certainly, and I think everybody. Cause, you know, the Zoom fatigue and everything is a real, is a real thing. Um, you know, if you can, if you can step back from it, there was a real blossoming of some really interesting, creative things that would not have happened otherwise, outside of [00:07:00] this year, you know?

[00:07:01] Marc Moss: Right. And I think. Once we get a vaccine and we are, it is shaped together in person again, the Zoom will also offer a balance.

[00:07:12] Rick White: Mm hmm. Exactly. That

we probably wouldn’t have otherwise embraced. Right.

Yep. Yeah, something, it will get winnowed down into the, hopefully the best of those things will rise to, you know, rise to the top and we’ll get to continue using those.

Well, both rats and mediums, you know? Yep.

[00:07:35] Marc Moss: So, can you talk about the podcast? Yeah, the Free Flow podcast? Or, or, uh… Yeah. Yeah, the Free Flow podcast. No, the Free Flow podcast.

[00:07:45] Rick White: Sure, I’d love to. Um, so we got interrupted, um, in February. I did, did the first, uh, Chris Latre, local writer who’s done local Tell A Something Storyteller, I think, a few times, right?

Yep, he’s done it [00:08:00] at least twice. Yeah, such a great guy, and a willing guinea pig for our, for our experiment.

Um, in February on a pretty snowy day, and talked about his first book, um, One sentence journal that won the Montana Book Award and um, some High Plains Book Awards as well. So we got to talk about that and a lot of that deals with grief and loss and creativity and everything. So that was a really, that was a really wonderful thing.

The idea behind the Free Flow podcast is to do, similar to the Free Flow trips, the river trips, is to kind of simulate an experience of being outside with… With a writer, um, so I get, you know, a lot of ambient, ambient sounds and structure it. Structure them as some, as sort of mini journeys. Um, so there’s, there’s a lot of heavy editing involved, uh, on [00:09:00] the back end, on the production side.

Um, but yeah, so I interviewed Chris and, and spent quite a bit of the time in, during COVID working that. That one episode up and editing it into a kind of pilot episode to pitch to potential funders, but was interrupted with COVID and unable to continue interviewing folks and funding requests were delayed.

So we’re still looking and searching for, for some funding for that. But, um, in the last month I’ve gotten to go interview Hal Herring, an award winning outdoor journalist who’s based up in Augusta. And then Just last week I, I sat down, um, with David James Duncan, um, on the Bitterroot River and then at a, at a little farm where he rents a, rents a cabin for his workspace, um, out in Target Range, and we have some other folks lined up on the docket, um, for the rest of the month of this [00:10:00] year, uh, in hopes of releasing the game.

Uh, a handful of episodes in the springtime, in the early springtime ahead of, uh, next year’s free flow river season, fingers crossed, if COVID allows, so. Yeah. Um, it’s been a really great project. Um, it’s really fun to, to kind of peer, we center it on the themes kind of of a free flow trip, which is, uh, the conversations about, about craft, about the writing craft and the storytelling craft, about conservation and, and their, Most of our, most of our writers, uh, or storytellers are involved in some way in, um, conservation, be it public lands or…

Free flowing river, or any, any number of climate change, any number of things, who’s not, who’s not involved in that these days, you know, I think we all are kind of, our hand has been forced to be involved in that, that writing, so, conversation about, uh, craft and conservation, and then the creative [00:11:00] life, so I get to talk to them, kind of about, especially working, working writers, it’s really fascinating for me to see, you know, how they construct their, their days, and how they, you know, David James Duncan’s been, um, He’s at 1200 pages on this manuscript he’s been working on since 2007 or 2008, I believe.

So, you know, how do you, how do you… What does it look like to work on a book for 12 years on a daily, monthly, weekly basis? It’s been really, really wonderful conversations and folks have been really gracious. Many of them will lead trips, river trips next year, um, that’ll be writing workshops for people interested in what they were, you know, if they’re writing, you know, if you’re a David James Duncan fan, you’ve got access to him that you don’t get otherwise.

Um, he doesn’t really do much. Pretty, pretty fantastic organization. It’s just really, um, you know, the Missoula community, it’s just, [00:12:00] it’s wild how supportive this community is of, of passionate creatives, um, and making those things happen. It’s, even, even during trying times, it seems like it’s a, it’s a priority here.

Um, so, it’s really just a wonderful place to, to be right now. Well, and you’ve got a powerhouse

lineup in, in your podcast roster. Um, and what a great… We what a great, uh, you know, first batter, so to speak, with Chris LaTray

[00:12:32] Marc Moss: that book. Oh man. One sentence journal. I mean it, you know, if you haven’t been outdoors for a while and you read one sentence journal, you can’t help but go outside.

I mean, yeah. You know, this is what it like. Yeah. It’s like, oh God. Uh, when I read it, it was winter,

[00:12:51] Rick White: which I think is Chris’s favorite time of year.

[00:12:53] Marc Moss: Yeah, exactly.

[00:12:54] Rick White: Uhhuh, most of the books said in winter, right.

And you, and you talk about loss and [00:13:00] grief, and I think… Darla the Wonder Dog died during that time, and, and, you know, I think my cat, one of my cats died, and I was like, oh, yeah, I get it.

[00:13:11] Marc Moss: Mm hmm. Man, what a great book.

[00:13:14] Rick White: Yeah, great book. And the chance to walk around with him at a place that he was taking Darla, you know, in those, in her last days, and just to, to see him experience, be able to narrate, like, you know, this is where she would do, she would… run around, or this is her favorite place to do this, and to get choked up when he read some selections from it, and got choked up talking about her, you know?

It’s just, it’s just a pleasure, and that’s the idea. It’s just to kind of get, get those authors out there, get people like Chris out there, um, where the ideas are being generated, and where his connection to his creative practice is really, really blossoming. Yeah.

[00:13:58] Marc Moss: Unrelated, did you, have you [00:14:00] ever seen his band, American Falcon?

[00:14:03] Rick White: I haven’t. No, I talked to him a little bit about his music. He was really wanting to talk about his book, but I made him talk about it. How’s American Falcon?

[00:14:10] Marc Moss: Um, I saw them play in the VFW like four years ago. And

Travis Yost is in the band as well. And I can’t remember who else. And I

went with Ryan Bundy. You know Ryan.

[00:14:27] Rick White: Mm hmm.

[00:14:28] Marc Moss: And I was like, Ryan, you like this kind of music? And he’s like, bring your earplugs, it’s gonna be awesome. And we went, and it was like Black Sabbath meets Kiss. I mean, it was ear splittingly beautifully grungy, and it was awesome. I try not to overuse that word, but it was like, what did I just experience?

And even with the earplugs, you know, my ears were ringing for [00:15:00] days.

[00:15:07] Rick White: Come from that, that genre authentically and just love it. It’s so wonderful. I haven’t gotten in a band, but…

[00:15:14] Marc Moss: Oh, and his kid was in the band too.

[00:15:17] Rick White: That’s awesome.

[00:15:18] Marc Moss: Yeah, and it was like, the energy in the room, it was like… Henry Rollins would love this shit. You know what I mean? It was so cool.

[00:15:28] Rick White: Nice. Nice.

[00:15:30] Marc Moss: Yeah.

[00:15:31] Rick White: So, it’s fun to watch him, too, like, highlight authors that he loves. And I’ve been reading, or listening to his, uh, poetry that he does on public radio. It’s

nice. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. But, anyway. Yeah, we spent a good half hour just talking about Jim Harrison. One of our favorites, one of our mutual favorites. Mm hmm, mm hmm.

[00:15:54] Marc Moss: So, when you told your story at Tell Us Something, Um, [00:16:00] you, did you

have the whole thing written out already, or was that part of, like, the workshopping process at Tell Us Something? Was that part of, like, how you got your final piece


[00:16:15] Rick White: That’s a good question. Um, I had, um, speaking of workshops, I had engenerative workshops like you participated in.

I had, I guess it was that summer, last June, had gone down to Denver to uh, The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, um, for a week long generative workshop with, uh, Melissa Fibos, who now teaches over at Iowa. She was in, she was in New Jersey, uh, last year, but just got a job in, in Iowa. And she was doing a, an essay on the very, or a workshop on the very short essay.

So, I went down there looking to kind of learn and generate some short essays in the thousand word or less range. [00:17:00] And that was a first. piece that I produced. We had read a, she had us read Annie Dillard’s Weasel essay because it’s a famous, famous short essay on, on creative practice and singular focus.

And then, uh, Melissa, you know, gave us a prompt. And I chose to write that, that essay about teaching, um, because it was, it was a prompt about a time in your life, an experience in your life when you were singularly, Focused on one thing, um, one activity or one job. And for me, that was, it took me back to when I was teaching.

I went to high school as a first year high school teacher in a really challenging environment. Uh, high performing charter school for low income students, low income Latino students in inner city Denver. So, that came to mind and I, I pumped out a draft of that essay overnight in the first night of that workshop.

And, [00:18:00] yeah, something, something true came out of it and I got a good response. So, I kind of just held on to that. Um. And had it in my back pocket as a story that I wanted to try to publish, wanted to refine, but just kind of had it there. And I think when I pitched to tell us something, pitched a story for…

Um, for that event, I pitched another essay, uh, that, uh, about another story I had told in various formats and hadn’t really written down, um, but had told orally, and… Just did a terrible job on the pitch, just, just, I think you give a 10 minute thing and I think I rambled to 30 minutes on the phone. No, the

pitch, oh, well the pitch line is 3 minutes and then when we did the workshop, yeah, we did the first initial phone workshop, I think you did went [00:19:00] like 16 or 20 minutes long or something like that.

It felt like, it felt like a few hours.

Well, it didn’t slow the train down.

[00:19:09] Marc Moss: It sort of did feel long because the story was pretty brutal. And, and I don’t, at the time I didn’t know you at all, and I was like, how am I going to tell this guy he can’t tell this story?

Who is this guy?

[00:19:24] Rick White: Yeah, uh, it was a, you know, a story of, of slipping down a moral slope, you know?

And when, and um, uh, so, and it got necessarily brutal, and it was, yeah, I think, just um, Yeah, just not the story. Um, and learning from you, that’s one, one great lesson I’ve learned in the workshop process with you specifically, which was, you know, there’s a time and a place for certain stories, and sometimes you have to retire stories, um, [00:20:00] or just shift.

It’s not just as simple as, like, knowing your audience. Um. But just knowing, you know, what, where that’s, where certain stories, uh, belong in, in time. And it wasn’t, certainly wasn’t the right time, certainly wasn’t the right place. Uh, it had kinda, it was, the way I think I, I told it to you initially, it was still a very kind of personal inside story between people who, who kinda knew me and knew the character, knew my buddy Hayden, who was part of that story, and, um, so.

Yeah, it was, it was, that was, that was a challenging, challenging thing, but man, what a valuable experience to, to get to share it with you and have your feedback and, and kind of go through it. And then, by the time we got to, uh, workshopping it with the other storytellers, I had switched, I kind of realized that, for the theme, um, that was, [00:21:00] um, I’m blanking right now on the theme of that.

That, uh, tipping point is what it was, was that, that I, that I had that other essay in my back, my back pocket, which totally fit the theme, and that was about teaching, so, yeah, I had that to refer to, I had, so I guess I did have it written out. Um, but it wasn’t in its final form, so it allowed me to kind of keep working on that.

Um, and I, I guess since I had that script and had it all kind of written out already, it made it for easy reference. I’m kind of a visual learner, so it was nice to have that to, to sit down with and, and look through and kind of know the, the turns of the story. Um, and how to keep it going. Um, so, yeah. So I told it, told it orally for the first time without, without just reading it.

Um, to, like I did in the workshop. Um, to our, to our group over at your house. And then from there just kind of refined it. [00:22:00] And told it live on stage at the Wilmot. Yeah. Those were the days. Yeah, those were the days.

But you, it was, it was great the way you approached it because, you know, I asked you to sign a release form and you said, I will, and I want you to not publish this until after the written version is published.

Yeah, hoping that it would get published, you know.

[00:22:30] Marc Moss: Right. For sure. And I

really appreciate the way you approached that and how graceful you were with that. Um, and even if you would have said no, I don’t want you to ever publish this, that would have been fine too. Sure. I’ve worked with other authors who, after the fact, like after I had already done all the work and post production of publishing their story, then they call me and they’re like, Can you take that down?

And I’m like,

Why didn’t you [00:23:00] just tell me ahead of time, you know ?

[00:23:03] Rick White: Yeah, that’s tough. That’s tough. It’s such a, it’s such an interesting industry and I’m just on the front edge of it. Uh, hopefully, hopefully I get some, some more things published. Um, I’m in the MFA program now. I just started it this year here at Montana.

Um, so we’ll see what, what comes of that and how far I go. Just the, the early stages of this is complicated. It is really publication to publication on, you know, the first time rights and, and how, how long they get first time rights and how they get released. So, it’s just a whole, whole world to learn to navigate.

So, yeah, I was fortunate that, um, the, the spring, that story, the written version of that story, um, Got published at High Desert Journal, a really great online journal that’s doing, that’s publishing some [00:24:00] really important and really, really wonderful work from, from writers out West, writing about the West.

Um, but they published it and yeah, I’m, we’re pretty, we’re gracious in the, the thing. I think they just, they’re such a great publication, I think they want to get good work out there, and they’re not, not overly concerned with, You know, I think they, I think they’ll, they’ll love hearing a podcast version of it, you know, slightly different, of course, because it’s, I didn’t get, I, I just kind of recited a version close to it.

I think they’ll love seeing that version and, and the cross, cross genre work of audio and so, yeah.

[00:24:46] Marc Moss: I think it’ll be fun. I mean, it’ll be the first time many people will have heard the story. Um, many people who attend. Tell us something maybe weren’t there or you know, since then we’ve gotten [00:25:00] new followers So for anybody that wasn’t there This would be the first time they’ve heard the story and it’ll be certainly interesting for people who have read it to hear the difference Between a written story and a spoken


[00:25:15] Rick White: Yeah, and what a what a wild difference we were talking about that via the email Yeah It’s so interesting, I mean, to have, to, to listen to that, to any story, uh, orally, versus to read it on the page, and I’m still, I come from a tradition, I come from, from the South, I come from a, very much the, the person, my grandfather was the person I learned storytelling from, and he is.

Or was, uh, he’s since passed away in the last, last couple of years, but, um, he was just an oral storyteller, um, and certainly not illiterate, but not, not engaged with the written word in any way, um, in his storytelling. I learned, [00:26:00] I learned storytelling in, in the campfire kind of way, you know, um, but I, I just, my version of it generally is, um, I don’t know, some blend of that, that oral tradition and, And the written word, uh, that I gained later in an appreciation for, for storytelling on the page.

And I’m still trying to navigate that. I think, I don’t even know that I have to choose one or the other. It’s just really, really… It’ll be fascinating to see this in both places, you know, um, and, and who responds to it in different ways. I feel like I write in a voice, in an oral voice. I write in, in a way that is meant to be read aloud, um, rather than on the page.

And I don’t know what your experience reading it, um, reading that story on How Does It Journal versus… listening to it was, and how you responded, if that voice came through or not, but…

[00:26:59] Marc Moss: [00:27:00] Well, for me, I mean, it felt like, you know, if you see a movie before you read the book, then your reading of the book, your reading of the book is informed by how the movie was.

Sure. And so it was very similar like that for me, like… Interesting. I had seen you perform the story first, and I had seen a couple different iterations of it. Before you even performed it, and then once I got to the written word, I listened to it with my eyes, you know what I mean? Like,

I was reading it, but I was hearing your actual voice.

Yeah. So, it’d be interesting to talk to somebody who’s never heard it, after they listen to it, and see, you know, and see what’s the… What’s their experience?

[00:27:49] Rick White: Yeah. If they were like, oh man, , you could’ve done better on the page if you’d, uh, who knows? I mean, this, that, the other, who knows, right? Yeah. I mean,

[00:28:00] I, I don’t think you do have to make a choice of one or the other, and I think it’s valuable to do both.

[00:28:08] Marc Moss: And I’ve had, you know, Chris is an example of that. So is Mark, uh, Gibbons. They do readings and they have this blend of storytelling and then reading from the page and then the great banter back and forth with the participants who are there. And I think blending storytelling, oral storytelling with written, I think is key.

[00:28:39] Rick White: Yeah. My question for you would be, I mean, I know the spirit of Tell Us Something is to perform a story. You know, that’s been workshopped, uh, for basically to curate the listening experience and make sure, you know, you don’t do like I did on the, on the phone that day and, and take a 10 minute story and [00:29:00] drift to 20 or 30 and just ruin everyone’s experience.

Um. Uh, my question for you would be like, what is it, how do you feel about stories like that, that are, that are really carefully written out beforehand, and in my case, more or less just recited from memory, um, not to the word, but pretty close to the word, um, how, how do you, uh, Do other folks do that? Um, and, and, to what effect do you feel like it has, in, in, tell us something in a lineup of, say, eight, eight storytellers?

[00:29:38] Marc Moss: I would say that, um, you know, for a long time I said, avoid the temptation to write out your story. And I, I stand by that, um, because what you did is a hard thing to do. You wrote a story, and then you, you, you said just now that you recited it, but it didn’t come off that way. [00:30:00] Um, it came off fresh and like you were actually telling and sharing a story from memory.

Um, and that wasn’t, you weren’t trying to remember every comma and every pause and every word. Right. And, and that’s because you’re a writer and you’re a professional writer. And often people who aren’t writers, when they try to write out their story, then they try to memorize what they’ve written and they get up on the stage.

And they’re not sharing a story. They’re trying to remember what they wrote. So they’re not actually immersed in it anymore.

They’re, you know what I mean? And so,

[00:30:43] Rick White: it’s a tough balance. A safety blanket rather than a performance.

[00:30:48] Marc Moss: Yeah, and I can certainly see the value in writing it out ahead of time. Sure.

And so for people who are insistent on that. I try to compromise with them and [00:31:00] encourage them not to write it out like they would an essay. But instead to draw it, like make a mind map and just write, yeah, write bullet points instead. Um, so that, you know, if they forget something, they don’t get hung up on that and they can just keep going.

So, I mean, and everybody’s got a different process. Sure. Um, I’ve watched storytelling workshops by other professional storytelling organizations that say, you know, the first version of your story, you should let it out longhand. Then you should transcribe it. Then you should practice it. Then you should revise it.

And it’s always going back to the written form. And then by the time you’re done with your story, you then when you’re ready to perform it, you know it so well that you don’t need to try to remember what you’ve written. [00:32:00] And that’s a whole different way to approach it. And that’s not, you know, certainly not how I approach it.

[00:32:07] Rick White: Right. I think that’s just a very particular, particular process, um, for certain people. Uh, but I think your, I think your way is better for, for a community storytelling event. Um, that, something about that vulnerability up there on stage. Not that just, not that, not that standing up in front of 800 people and reading or reciting and like doing anything is not vulnerable, but there is some, some intimacy that’s really exchanged there when, when someone is off the cuff.

And, and true, true magic happens. I know in, in our, in our, performance there, um, there were a couple of stories that, that we had workshopped together at your house that I was, I was kind of concerned about because the story wasn’t really coming together or, um, you [00:33:00] know, it was rambling or, or whatever and then those guys and gals just crushed it on the stage and it was all these surprising little twists and turns came out and, um, yeah, you saw, you saw it.

People who were actually born performers and, and really thrived off the crowd energy. Uh, and, and responded to, to funny little asides that we hadn’t even heard in workshop. Uh, it was just, it was wonderful to see that. See that happen. You just can’t do that if you, if you write out a story ahead of time and, and it’s trying to recite it close to it, you know.

[00:33:37] Marc Moss: Yeah, I mean you, you do that. You write it out ahead of time and where you think the jokes are gonna land, sometimes they don’t land and then that throws you off or there are jokes where you didn’t expect them and then you’re thrown off and it’s like, you know, that’s one of the things like, like you say, the magic of the event, the evening.

Is the exchange that’s going on between the [00:34:00] storyteller and the crowd. Um, who I like to think of as participants in a, in a conversation or a dialogue.

[00:34:08] Rick White: And hopefully, hopefully, um, a good participant, uh, constructive. Yeah, I mean, certainly. Opposite that. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. That was a wild, wild time, um, really interesting experience, but yeah, I mean, your, your vision of them as the audience, as participants is.

100% the case. There’s just so many, you know, uh, noises made, expressions of, uh, uh, that just, uh, that was one wonderful thing about telling this story on stage, was just knowing when something that I was saying was, was falling as I intended it to, and vice versa, just because you could hear people sighing, or you could hear [00:35:00] people laughing, or, or whatever it was, and it really does feel like a…

A kind of a co constructive experience of storytelling and listening and, um, Yeah, it will, it will be interesting to hear it again, and hear it when it’s on, on the Tell Us Something podcast, to hear it versus reading it, and, you know, I’ve, my parents and, have shared it with people, you know, down south, the, the written version of it, and it’s kind of made the rounds around my friends, so, I’ve, I’ve gotten feedback on the written version, but it’ll be interesting to see, um, What it feels like to listen to it again and, and to hear, hear that.

[00:35:40] Marc Moss: Yeah, I’m interested to hear what you think of it once, once we hear it again. Cause I don’t know if I, did I send you a copy of it?

[00:35:47] Rick White: You did, you did, and I listened to it back then. I think that was, that was January or something. So it’s been quite a while since I listened to it. Yeah.

[00:35:57] Marc Moss: Is there anything about your story that, uh, didn’t come out [00:36:00] either in the writing or in the performance of it that you want to share with, with our listeners?

[00:36:07] Rick White: Uh, I haven’t thought about that. I don’t think so. Um. Yeah, I, you know, that experience was, was, it defined so much of my life for, for so many years as a, being a teacher. Um, there’s so many experiences I could have written, I could write. You know, 10, 000 words just on my first day of teaching. Uh, and what it’s like to stand up in front of a group of ornery 9th graders, um, who, you know, should be, should be ornery, and, you know, stand up there with most of them not having English as their native tongue and me not speaking Spanish well enough to really know what they’re saying under their breath.[00:37:00]

I can, I can, I can write for days about that, but I feel like just trying to channel my experience as a teacher, uh, and concentrate it down. Um, I feel like I succeeded to, to a large, a large enough degree in this story. It’s something I’ll, I’ll continue writing about different facets of and different experiences.

Um, but for what, what I was going for in the, in the tipping point as far as, you know, nearing my own tipping point of, Of, of breaking and not being able to maintain whatever control of the classroom, um, or, or whatever shorthand you want for that. Um, I feel like I, I feel like I told it all, uh, in the story and wrote it all out, so.

Yeah, I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything missing from it, um, it does require context of it being Denver in, um, the early 2010s, [00:38:00] so I think that was actually 2010, September of 2010, so, yeah, um, I don’t know if the time, I, I, I think I’m in the spoken version that tells something, I, I, I located that time and place, but, Just in case.

Um, yeah, it was two thousand, two thousand ten in inner city Denver. Um, that’s where I was teaching. So, a lot has changed since then, uh, in Denver and in the world. So, yeah.

[00:38:30] Marc Moss: Well, Rick, I appreciate you spending time with me today, and I appreciate you remembering that it was today.

[00:38:37] Rick White: Absolutely.

[00:38:38] Marc Moss: COVID, it seems like time is a weird construct.

[00:38:43] Rick White: It really is.

[00:38:45] Marc Moss: If I don’t remember to write it down, it’s… That’s not going to happen, so I appreciate you picking up my slack.

[00:38:51] Rick White: Absolutely, Marc, no problem. Um, yeah, I can’t tell you how many appointments I’ve missed. I got an email last night from someone who I [00:39:00] promised to write a blog post for, and by the end of September, look at that.

Today’s the end of September. Yes, sir. Exactly. You know, so it’s just wonderful. I have faith in you. Yeah, thank you, thank you, I appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for calling and talking. It’s fun to talk about this stuff. I’m excited you got your workshop. Well,


[00:39:20] Marc Moss: I’m glad you appreciate it. And, uh, good luck with the writing today and have an awesome rest of your week.

[00:39:25] Rick White: Yeah, thanks, Marc. Yeah, enjoy the weather. It’s going to be a cool weekend. All right, Thanks, Marc.

[00:39:30] Marc Moss: All right. Thanks, Rick. Bye.

Coming up after the break.

[00:39:34] Rick White: So I had a few letters behind my name. Those letters and what they signified of what I had earned or what I thought I had earned mattered less to my students than did the name preceding them, which was not so shield.

[00:39:48] Marc Moss: Stay with us. Do you have your tickets for the next Tell Us Something live storytelling event? You can get your tickets online at tellusomething. org. Better yet though, why not pick up some limited edition printed [00:40:00] tickets? These tickets are the same price as the online tickets and feature the beautiful artwork used on the posters.

Artwork for the Lost in Translation event was created by Bear River Studios. These special tickets are available exclusively at Rockin Rooties. Get your tickets now at Rockin Rooties or get the digital version at tellussomething. org.

[00:40:26] Rick White: Much of my first year as a high school geography teacher in inner city Denver, I spent debating whether or not to pick the stapler up off the desk and throw it through the classroom window. Would the violence of intentionally shattered glass regain for my students the attention that I had lost? Would it somehow assert the authority that the professionally framed master’s degree on the wall behind my desk did not?

Or would it just get me fired and likely jailed? Was prison really that much worse than teaching 9th grade?[00:41:00]

Laughter For the first 88 days of that school year, I arrived at school at 7 a. m., left at 7 p. m., drove to Chipotle, bought a chicken burrito, ate a chicken burrito, drove home, walked my lonesome hound dog around the block, graded papers for a few hours. Wrote lesson plans until I passed out on the couch, then descended into fitful nightmares as I slept.

In my dreams, I stood in front of the same whiteboard on which I wrote neatly bullet pointed lecture notes in real life. In my dreams, I addressed the same low income Latino students who I taught in real life. In my dreams, I wore some combination of the same five dress shirts. And the same five neckties that I wore to class in real life.

All while [00:42:00] being strangulated by a half Windsor noose, and slowly dying of the embarrassment of lecturing to my students while not wearing any pants.

I was a teacher. But if my students ever thought of me as such, not once in those first three sleepless months did they ever let me know. On good days, I was bapdom, or way, dude. On bad days… I was pendejo. Asshole. Cabrón. Bastard. Sometimes even puta. I was brutal at one point. At least I was those things until I let on to my students that I knew more Spanish than they thought I did.

They whispered and muttered their names for me amongst each other at their desks. But to my face, My students always called me the same thing, [00:43:00] Mr. Not Mr. White, like I had introduced myself to them, because it was my name. Not even Mr. Rick, which I would have accepted, and might have even preferred. No, just little M.

Mr. Like they were trying to bum some change off of me. The stranger strolling down the sidewalk of their lives. . Hey, Mr. Said Fernando. One day his voice at age 14 already an octave lower than mine. At 27, Fernando carried himself with a casual confidence of a botto who’d always been big for his age. He had a good 20 pounds on me and proudly sported a Tuf to stubble on his chin, which jutted upward.

when he spoke, which was usually just to crack a joke. Hey, mister! Although I had just concluded a rivi uh, was just finishing a riveting lecture on latitude and longitude, I was surprised by Fernando that day because his voice conveyed [00:44:00] a sense of genuine curiosity. Hey, mister! Then I was concerned because curious students in my classroom were a kind of endangered species.

Or, as we in Capital E Education might call, at risk. Yes, Fernando. I said, Hey mister, who do you think is better? Messi or Ronaldo? In case you’re wondering, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were not the world’s two most famous geographers, but the world’s two most famous soccer players. Mr. White, in the classroom, with a stick.

The expectation from the school administration that year was bell to bell instruction, so bell to bell instruction was what my students got. Four page daily [00:45:00] lesson plans, exit tickets at the end of every class to prove that my students had learned what I had tried to teach them. Six formative assessments and one summative assessment every other week.

This, the study said, would close the gap. This, my principal said, would get my low income Latino students to college. This, the wealthy founders of the high performing charter school network said, would deliver my students to the promised land, that mythical paradise. Co ed dormitories, and full ride scholarships, and all you can eat cafeteria buffets.

Mythical paradise that one enters as a timid, unsophisticated freshman, and exits with a bona fide college degree, that golden ticket to the joyride of the American middle class. Signed, stamped, and guaranteed to get you the job of your dreams. That job that gives you purpose and meaning in your otherwise purposeless and meaningless [00:46:00] existence.

That job with a six figure salary and good health benefits. And a supportive work environment governed by a boss who prioritizes work life balance over all other things. Or something like that. In that world, The world of higher education, I had been something. I had recently graduated summa cum laude. In my students world, though, or at least in that intersection where our latitudes and longitudes crossed, in that world, in my classroom, I was just a rookie in a room full of hardened vets.

Whiter than a saltine cracker and greener than the left side of the Mexican flag. Yeah.

So I had a few letters behind my name. Those letters and what they signified of what I had earned, or what I thought I [00:47:00] had earned, mattered less to my students than did the name preceding them, which was not Xochitl. Name of both a Toltec queen and a feisty freshman girl with thick black eyeliner who sat in the second row of desks.

Xochitl. Girl whose name even her Spanish speaking friends had trouble pronouncing. Much less her white bread teachers, so she shortened it, she said, in the sixth grade, around the time that her cousins and uncles started getting gunned down in Mexican border towns. Casualties of the escalating drug war there.

No, my name was not Xochitl. My name was not Rogelio, either, and my father had not been deported in September for failing to signal for a left turn. My last name was not Guerrero, not Alvarez, not Trejo. And the status of my U. S. citizenship was so secure that I could not have even told you where my Social Security card was, much less would I [00:48:00] have needed to.

The name on my student, or my school, ID badge It was not Alicia Martinez. And though I did not go to the house parties that my non teacher friends invited me to each weekend, because I spent every minute of my so called free time, including weekends, grading papers, and writing lesson plans, Or dreaming about grading papers and writing lesson plans.

I could have gone to any of such house parties on any given Saturday without fear of being murdered and dismembered and stuffed into plastic garbage bags in some pendejo’s garage. I must have missed that lecture in graduate school, the one in which my professor explained the proper classroom management technique to employ on the Monday in class when every kid has just seen the picture of their friend and classmate, Alicia Martinez, on the Sunday evening news.

No. My name was not Xochitl. It was not [00:49:00] Corahelio. It was not Alicia Martinez. My name was Xochitl. Mr. What, Fernando? Mr., I’m serious.

Messi or Ronaldo?

Fernando, I said.

Your question cannot have less to do with today’s lesson on latitude and longitude. For that matter, not Lino Messi of Argentina. Not Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, not even Javier Chicharito Hernandez of Mexico. Has anything to do with the subject of geography at all. None whatsoever. But the answer to your question, sir, is messy by a mile.[00:50:00]

And if you’ll open your textbook to page 456 of the world map, and give me the coordinates of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lisbon, Portugal, Mexico City, Mexico, I’ll give you, in every other way, in class, a perfect score on today’s exit ticket. And we’ll call it good for today, how about that? And that’s when the nightmares ended.

That day in early November, just after Dia de los Muertos, the day I learned to meet my students where they’re at, the day my education began. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank


[00:50:41] Marc Moss: Richard Harrison White is a writer from Northeast Arkansas. He is the author of Can’t Go, Can’t Stay, a yet to be published memoir of the year he spent on a grief journey with his rascal of a grandfather and a taxidermied raccoon. Once upon a time, he was a school teacher. Rick produces the podcast for Free Flow [00:51:00] Institute in Missoula, Montana.

Thanks, Rick, and thank you for listening today. For a link to the Free Flow Institute podcast and to learn more about Rick White, visit TellUsSomething. org. The Tell Us Something podcast is made possible in part because of support from Missoula Broadcasting Company, including the family of ESPN Radio, The Trail 1033, Jack FM, and Missoula Source for Modern Hits.

You want to learn more at Missoula broadcasting. com thanks to float, Missoula for their support at the telesumming podcast. Learn more at float msla. com. And thanks to the team at Missoula events. net. Learn about all of the goings on in Missoula at Missoula events. net. Thanks to cash for junkers who provided the music for the podcast.

Find them at cash for junkers band. com. Do you have your tickets for the next tell us something live storytelling event. You can get your tickets online at tell us something. org. Better yet, though, why not pick up some limited edition printed tickets? These tickets are the same price as the online tickets and feature the beautiful artwork used on the [00:52:00] posters.

Artwork for the Lost in Translation event was created by Bear River Studios. These special tickets are available exclusively at Rockin Rudy’s. Get your tickets now at Rockin Rooties or get the digital version at tellussomething. org. To learn more about tele something, please visit tell us

Tell Us Something Board member Jason Sloat recalls his impactful experience of visiting Missoula with a buddy and calling an old professor from a payphone - a phone call that changed his life trajectory.

Transcript : Meet the Board - Jason Sloat

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Welcome to the tele hunting podcast. I’m Marc Moss. The next, tell us something live storytelling event is September 27th. At the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go eight storytellers. Take the stage to share their two personal stories from memory. Tickets are now on sale. For tell us something live at the Dennison theater, September 27th.

Marc Moss: Get your [email protected]. We again, welcome our friends from the deaf C. By providing American sign language interpretation. See you September 27th for letting go stories at the Dennis and theater, more information and tickets are [email protected]. The next, tell us something podcast episodes are a little different than what you are used to.

Marc Moss: You will meet each member of the, tell something board, former board member Sierra, Ty Brownley interviewed the tell something board for her podcast. Impactful experiences. Sierra believes that listening to meaningful stories, changes your ideas and makes you think and feel beyond what you [00:01:00] may already accept.

Marc Moss: This week. Sierra sits down with tele something board member, Jason slope. Let’s listen.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Welcome back to impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, where I chat with a new guest each episode and ask them to share one of their impactful experiences. This is your host Sierra, and I want to thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy today. I’m joined by Jason slope, current risk manager at the university of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: And tell us something board member Jason, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Oh, it’s

Jason Sloat: my pleasure, Sierra. Thanks for having me

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: anytime. So let’s just hop right in and I’d love to hear about your impactful experience.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. So, you know, when, [00:02:00] when I was thinking about what impactful experience I wanted to share, I was thinking about my, my current life, um, here in Western Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I started to think about there, there was one very impactful experience that led me. To this point that I’m at now. Um, I just turned 48 years old and, um, it kind of feels like I had this experience. Um, when I was 23 years old, I was fresh out of college. The year was 1997. And I had an experience in Missoula that all these years later has kind of everything.

Jason Sloat: Everything in a sense has, has, has really come full circle for me. Mm-hmm um, and the reason I’m here today is because of this impactful experience that I had in the late nineties, um, arriving in Missoula as a kid who was kind of fresh outta [00:03:00] college. And that’s the experience that I’d like to share today.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay, that sounds great. Well, I’d love to hear about it. And if you could tell us what brought you to Montana.

Jason Sloat: Sure. So I graduated from a small liberal arts college in central Indiana in okay. In, uh, 1997. And. My my best friend. And I set out when, when we graduated from college, we didn’t really have any career plans.

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm um, we were, we were trying to figure out what we were doing with our lives. Um, it was a moment for, I think, both of us, of, of kind of great uncertainty. Neither of us had a distinct. Path that we could see kind of out of college, into real adulthood. Mm-hmm . And so we set out on a road trip in kind of the classic American road trip.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. And we [00:04:00] didn’t really have much of a plan. Um, other than we were going to, we, we decided to challenge ourselves by seeing how long we could go without paying for lo. Okay. Just as a challenge. Um, so, uh, at the time I had my high school vehicle, which was a very old 1980 Jeep, CJ seven, like an old school kind of version of a Jeep Wrangler.

Jason Sloat: Okay. And we loaded, we loaded this Jeep up with all of our earthly possessions, um, in the early summer of 1997. And we set out, um, To just see kind of where the road would take us. Mm-hmm and we ended up traveling for almost four months, um, and we spent most of those four months camping. And once we got out of the Midwest, we stuck to national forests, um, so that we could camp for free.

Jason Sloat: That was [00:05:00] part of our, part of our challenge end. Four months later we had been, we, we left Indiana. We went north through Michigan, uh, into Canada, around the north side of lake superior. Came down, spent some time in the boundary waters in Minnesota. Came across the Dakotas traveled down the Rocky mountain front almost all the way to Mexico turned around and went up.

Jason Sloat: The west side of the Rocky mountains eventually ended up landing in Missoula. And by the time we ended up in Missoula, Montana, we pulled into town, uh, on a September afternoon mm-hmm and. We were running very low on cash. Mm. And, um, we had to kind of figure out what we were gonna do about that. And the first place that we ended up going in town, we actually, we actually drove, we figured out where downtown was.

Jason Sloat: And we parked on Higgins avenue and we [00:06:00] got out of our Jeep and we asked the first person we met, where’s a place. We could get a beer where the locals hang out. We went like a, a locals kind of place. Right. And they said, well, there’s a bar across the street, like a half a block up. It’s called Charlie bees.

Jason Sloat: And there’s no sign, but you’ll know it when you get there. Okay. And so we walked up Higgins avenue and we found this door that had a little sign connected to it, that set on the corner of space and time. And we thought, well, this looks the right place, check this out. And so we walked into Charlie bees and we ordered some beers and we started playing pool mm-hmm and, uh, We were just kind of passing the time at this point.

Jason Sloat: And as we were playing pool, my friend, John, who I was traveling with, um, said, Hey, I think this is the town. Where that there [00:07:00] was that professor, that art history professor at Wabash college, that’s where we had just graduated from okay. Several months before. And he said, I think that professor, we knew at Wabash named Rafael didn’t Rafael, move here and get a job at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I said, man, I think you’re right. Um, And so the story behind that is that there, when John and I were freshmen, our freshman and sophomore year at our college in Indiana, there had been a young professor fresh out of grad school, fresh off of his PhD. Mm-hmm who had come back, come back to his Alma. He was a graduate of Wabash college to teach his first two years out of grad school.

Jason Sloat: And then he got a tenure track job at the university of Montana mm-hmm . And so he left and he moved off to this exotic place called Missoula Montana. And we hadn’t really kept in touch since then. Yeah. But we knew, [00:08:00] we knew at the time we called him professor shaone and we knew professor shaone very well when we were at Wabash college.

Jason Sloat: So we found ourselves in Charlie bees, drinking beer, playing pool, saying, Hey professor, shaone I think moved here and lives here. Now we should get ahold of him. And so we finished our beers. We walked down the street. This was before the age of cell phones and the internet. And all of that mm-hmm so we found a payphone, um, and it used to be that in payphone, uh, there would be a phone book mm-hmm hanging from a cable.

Jason Sloat: And so we took the phone book and we looked up Rafael shaone and sure enough, he was listed in the phone book. And from this payphone, we dropped a quarter and we called Rafa. This was completely out of the blue out of voicemail. Voicemail said, you know, Hey, this is Rafael. Leave a message. And so I left a message.

Jason Sloat: I said, Rafael, it’s Jason and John from [00:09:00] Wabash college. We just landed in Missoula, Montana. We’d love to stop and say hi, it’s been a few years. Like, let’s catch up. Um, we’re gonna hang out at this phone booth for a few minutes. If you get this message, we didn’t have any other way for him to call us. Yeah.

Jason Sloat: So we were like, and they used to print the phone number of the phone in the phone booth on the, on the phone panel. Mm-hmm so I read him the number of the phone in the phone. And I said, call this number. If you get this message, like in the next five to 10 minutes, and then we hung out and waited sure enough, five minutes later, the phone and the phone booth rings and I pick it up and it’s Raphael and he says, yeah, like, of course I remember you guys.

Jason Sloat: Uh, I I’m here. I live outside of Missoula in this little town called Lolo with my, with my partner, Andy, we were like, oh, Andy. Right. We, we knew Andy from when they were in Crawfordsville, we were like, fantastic. Um, [00:10:00] and he was like, you know, I’m sure if you guys have been on the road for a few months, sleeping in the woods, camping the whole time, you’d love a hot meal and a shower.

Jason Sloat: He’s like, you’ve gotta come out and hang out with us tonight. So we did mm-hmm um, And it was this act of extraordinary generosity on Rafael’s part. I mean, we would’ve been okay if he was just like, let’s meet for a beer mm-hmm but instead he was like, come to my house. I’m gonna fix you a hot meal. I’m gonna, I’m gonna let you take a hot shower and you can stay here with us for a couple nights.

Jason Sloat: If you want to, if you wanna sleep in a real bed, get off the road, get out, get out of the woods. Like not, yeah. You know, you’re tired of camping. Come stay with us for a while. Um, and it was really amazing. He really didn’t have to do that. It was, it was just extraordinarily generous of him. So we went out and, and, and we met up with Andy and [00:11:00] Rafael, um, in their house in Lolo, we had a great meal, we got cleaned up.

Jason Sloat: It was amazing. Um, and basically we ended up staying with them for three nights. Um, mm-hmm and. we told them after three nights, we were very concerned about overstay. Our welcome mm-hmm , even though we were having a blast and it was really comfortable, um, we told them, uh, the third night that the next morning we were gonna leave.

Jason Sloat: Um, and so. They were gonna get up early and go to work. Um, and so we set our goodbyes that night, the next morning they got up and left for work. And my buddy, John and I were packing up getting ready to leave. We had no idea what we were gonna do. Next things were very uncertain. And then the phone in their house started to ring.

Jason Sloat: And I wasn’t gonna answer their phone. So I let it go to voicemail. He had one of those like old school answering machines where you could li you could hear the person leaving the message. Okay. So [00:12:00] when the answering machine picked up, it was Rafael and he was saying, Hey guys, it’s Rafael. If you’re still in the house, pick up the phone, I’ve got some news.

Jason Sloat: And I ran over and picked up the phone. I was like, Hey Rafael, you know, what’s going on? We’re just getting ready to walk out the door, like what’s happening? And he said, well, I’ve been making some calls this morning. I know you guys are a little short on cash and you’re not sure what you’re doing next.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. He’s, he’s like, I found a job opportunity for you guys. And he basically said, there’s this woman who we’re acquainted with, who owns a bunch of land out in Theo valley. it’s about 60 miles Northeast of Missoula. He said, and I talked to her this morning and she would like help getting her ranch land ready for winter.

Jason Sloat: Um, she’s got some fences to fix some basic labor stuff she needs help with. If you guys are willing to drive out there this morning, she’s home and she will interview you. And if the interview [00:13:00] goes well, she’ll hire you and you can help her get ready for get her ranch ready for winter and maybe work for for a week or two, uh, put some cash in your pocket.

Jason Sloat: and that way you’ve got some funds to go on to your next adventure. Mm-hmm so, yeah, so anyway, it was just incredibly nice of him to do this for us. And we, we drove out to van, we had this interview, it went well, we got this job. And after a few weeks, we ended up getting hired on to this. project as co-ran managers.

Jason Sloat: Um, okay. And that was our, that, that ended up being my very first official job out of college. Mm-hmm who was working on this ranch in Theo valley, I say ranch. It wasn’t really a working ranch. This woman who had bought this property, it was several thousand acres and she had taken the cattle off of it.

Jason Sloat: And she was her goal was to reestablish wildlife. Just just viable, healthy wildlife [00:14:00] habitat. It was a habitat restoration project. Okay. Um, and so anyway, that ended up being my first job out of college due to this kind of chance encounter Rafael’s generosity. Hooking us up with, with, with a place to stay for a few nights and then, and then finding a job for us, none of which he had to do.

Jason Sloat: Um, and it ended up being an absolutely incredible experience. And we worked on this land for about a year. Um, mm-hmm and that was my introduction to Western Montana. Okay. Here we are. All these years later, it’s 2022 and I’m back in Western Montana. Mm-hmm um, after a number of years away and, um, my wife and I are building a house that is on land that is next door to Andy and Rafael.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. And they’re still there

Jason Sloat: and they’re still here. They’ve been here this whole time. Um, they moved from [00:15:00] Lolo out to the Moise valley, which is out by the national bison range. Okay. Um, and they owned some acreage out here. Um, and when we moved out here several years ago, uh, after 15 years in Chicago, Um, I, I got a job offer at the university of Montana mm-hmm and one of the first people I called was Rafael.

Jason Sloat: Cuz I wanted to talk about the university and what he thought about the job opportunity, cuz he’d been there for a long time at this point. Yeah. And in one of our first conversations, he said, Hey, I don’t know what you guys have are planning to do when you get out here in terms of where you’re gonna live.

Jason Sloat: what you’re gonna do in terms of housing, but he said, if you have any desire to own land in a rural area, he said, I think our neighbors are getting ready to sell their land. And, uh, if you jump on it now, I think you can get in. And, uh, that, that, there’s just a great opportunity out here. So we came and looked at this piece of property.

Jason Sloat: Next door to where Andy and Rafael live. And, [00:16:00] uh, lo and behold, it’s a beautiful piece of property. I’m actually sitting on it right now. Um, and, and we ended up buying the land and we’re now in the process of building a house. So this is a great, like, you know, for me, this is a very like story. That’s come full


Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Definitely. Yeah. Wow. What a journey. And I, I understand what you. As you, when you said this is really kind of a full circle moment. Um, I think that’s kind of crazy and that Rafael is still still here and that you’ll. Living right next to him.

Jason Sloat: we’re we’re neighbors. Yeah. We’re gonna be neighbors.


Sierra Tai-Brownlee: is crazy.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Um, so you did mention that you did leave Montana, um, for a little bit. And did you know you wanted to come back or did you kind of, yes. Oh, okay.

Jason Sloat: So, you know, part of the rest of that story [00:17:00] is I worked on ranches out here for a couple years, and then I decided to go back to school and I, I went to the university of Montana cause I was, I, I loved it here.

Jason Sloat: I didn’t wanna leave Montana. Mm-hmm so I, so I applied for, and was accepted to a graduate program at, um, and I ended up getting my master’s degree at, um, in English literature. While I was getting that degree in literature at, um, mm-hmm I met the person who is, who I’m now married to, um, Addie, who was getting her MFA and poetry.

Jason Sloat: And so we were in the English program together mm-hmm and when we both got done with graduate school in 2004, um, that was a time in Missoula where it was very difficult to. A good job. Mm-hmm um, it was just that the job market was really tough in this part of the world, um, at that point in time. And so.

Jason Sloat: We didn’t really feel that we had much of an option, but to leave, um, [00:18:00] basically to seek careers. And at that point that, that we ended up moving to Chicago. Um, and so we moved to Chicago from Missoula in 2004, we moved there together. Um, and then we got married and then we ended up spending the next 15 years in Chicago.

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm . And toward the end of that time in Chicago, we had never really stopped talking about our love for Western MUN. Um, yeah. And so the last couple years we were in Chicago, I, we both started looking very diligently for any way that we could get back out here and, and, and any way that we could get back out here and have kind of create like a viable living situation for ourselves in terms of jobs.

Jason Sloat: Right. Because that’s always the, that’s the always the trick bag, right? How, what are you gonna do for work? How are you gonna make a living? And. I happened to be looking at the university of Montana’s job page one day. And I saw a job [00:19:00] advertised as, uh, the job was a, a for a risk management position at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And it just so happened that in this intervening 15 years that I spent in Chicago, mm-hmm . what I had done with my English lit degree was I had gotten into business and kind of by chance, and one thing led to another and I got into risk management. Okay. And I looked at this job opportunity at the university of Montana.

Jason Sloat: And I was like, man, I, I think I’m qualified for that job. Mm-hmm . And so I applied and it went very quickly. I went from applying to the. to having an acceptance letter in a matter of a couple of weeks. Um, and that was it. As soon as I had that acceptance letter in hand, we were like, we’re, it’s been a good ride, Chicago , but, but we are out.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, we were, that was one of the, it was one of the most exciting moments of our, of our [00:20:00] lives. Actually, we were so thrilled to move back.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. That’s really exciting. And I’m glad things worked out. So at this point, how long have you been back in Montana?

Jason Sloat: Uh, we came back in the fall of 2018, so it’s been about three and a half years.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. And what motivated you to build this house? Like, was this also something you had in your mind for a while as well?

Jason Sloat: Yeah. I mean, that’s a great question. So it had been a, well, it had been a dream of mine since I was pretty young since I was in my early twenties. Mm-hmm to someday design and build my own house.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Um, and then when Addie and I got married, that turned out fortunately to be a dream that she shared with me. Um, we spent a lot of time. I mean, [00:21:00] I didn’t get real serious about a career until I was in my early thirties. Mm-hmm . And so this story that I’ve just told you kind of there’s big chunks that I’ve by necessity of time here that I’ve left out.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. The bottom line is, you know, by the time we were living in Chicago in the mid two thousands, we were both in our thirties and we had. 15 years renting, living in places that, you know, um, I think a lot of people can relate to this. You know, you, you get what you can afford. and every place comes with its own set of challenges and problems and irritations, right?

Jason Sloat: Mm-hmm in terms of the spaces you’re forced to live in when you’re young and you don’t have any money, you’re just forced to live, where you can afford to live mm-hmm . And I think that created in us a desire to someday design a space [00:22:00] that worked with it was designed specifically for us mm-hmm um, where we weren’t essentially living in a.

Jason Sloat: that was full of other people’s problems, like other people’s poor decisions. yeah. Right. Um, and so, so this has been a very long term. Dream of ours was to find a place in a, in a rural environment we wanted, we knew we wanted to be in the country. Um, I’m a person who, if I’m gonna be in like in a city or in a town, I want to be in the city.

Jason Sloat: If I’m not, if I’m not going to be, I really don’t want to be, I want to be out. Um, okay. I, I wanna be one, I guess what I’m saying is I’m not a suburban person. I, I, I, I don’t like the in between lands. I either I either wanna be in the thick of the action. I want to be five, a five minute walk away from a great coffee shop, or I don’t want to have, like, I don’t wanna [00:23:00] be around people.

Jason Sloat: I want to be in the middle of a beautiful area. That’s very quiet. Right? Mm-hmm. So we spent 15 years, like in the city kind of dealing with a lot of noise and a lot of chaos. Um, it was, it was a great experience and I’m glad I had that experience, but I was at a point in my life where I was really ready for something quiet.

Jason Sloat: Um, and so when we found this piece of property that is very rural, um, we don’t have many neighbors out here. Um, it’s, it’s a quiet place and, um, it’s peaceful and, and that felt like home to me. Mm-hmm so we wanted to make a place here that was designed for us. Um, and that for us meant we wanted this very small footprint, um, Uh, we don’t have kids, um, by choice mm-hmm and, uh, so it’s just the two of us.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, that means that we don’t need a lot of space. We don’t need a [00:24:00] complicated space. We wanted something very simple, uh, very easy to live in. Um, we kind of knew from years of talking about it, exactly what we wanted, but it’s hard. It’s, it’s hard to find that thing. That as it exists on the market. Yeah.

Jason Sloat: Because a lot of places right. Are designed for families. Right. and a lot of places are designed for this kind of American sensibility of having the maximum amount of square footage. That kind of maximum number of rooms you can afford. Like is a, a lot of people, I feel like come to the house buying process, wanting to buy.

Jason Sloat: Now, this has changed a little bit with. Tiny house movement, things that have happened in, you know, the last decade mm-hmm , but generally speaking, a lot of people, I think still when they go to buy a house, they want the maximum amount of space that they can afford. And that’s distinctly not something we wanted.

Jason Sloat: We wanted something that was, we, [00:25:00] we didn’t really want to like to go completely the tiny house route. Yeah. But we wanted something that was very compact. Um, that just felt like just enough. And so that’s why it was so exciting for us to find land where we could design our own space.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Definitely. I think this is really exciting.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Wow. That’s very cool that it’s happening right now.

Jason Sloat: You’re right. And it’s happening right now?

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yes. Okay. So basically this story that you’ve shared, um, this in a way, like you said, kind of shaped what you did with the rest of your life, because if you hadn’t stopped in Missoula, you think everything would be completely different.

Jason Sloat: Everything would be completely D. Absolutely. I don’t know that I would’ve known about this area. I mean, another, another crazy aspect of this story. That’s just this kind of chance thing is that after I, I [00:26:00] spent a year working for on this habitat restoration project in the van valley, and then the friend that I traveled out here.

Jason Sloat: Went back to Indiana to go to grad school at that point in time. And I stayed in Montana and at that point I moved up to the, uh, I moved up to a place outside of AR mm-hmm , uh, on, on the reservation. And, um, I got a job for a rancher. Who was a tribal member and he hired me, uh, that would’ve been the summer of the summer of 98.

Jason Sloat: He hired me to, um, Make hay for his ranching operation. I’m a farm kid. I grew up on a farm in Indiana, so I knew how to make hay. It was one of the skills I brought to Montana now how to make hay, right. He hired me to make hay for him that summer. And at the time he was [00:27:00] leasing a piece of tribal ground where he made hay.

Jason Sloat: That was in the Mo east valley, which was a few miles from where his actual ranch was located. So I traveled to this valley. To make hay to, to cut hay and RA hay and bale hay for this rancher. Okay. And I got out here and I thought, my God, this is one of the most beautiful places. I have ever seen in my life, if I could ever find a way to live here, um, I would love to live in this spot.

Jason Sloat: And at the time I didn’t see how that would ever be possible. I just, it seemed like a pipe dream. I mean, it seemed like something that it was just at the time for me. I, I was just scraping together life. Like I, I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was essentially a ranch hand. I, I didn’t have any, I didn’t have any money.

Jason Sloat: I didn’t see how I, I would ever be able to afford [00:28:00] anything, but I thought, you know, someday, if I could live here, I would really love to, well, it turns out that from this piece of property that we now own where we’re building our house. I can actually see that hayfield that I was in when I had that moment.

Jason Sloat: Wow. It’s right down the road. Wow. I don’t know. It it’s a, it’s a crazy thing. I, I, I don’t claim to understand it, but. Something about, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t really totally believe in that thing about, you know, you put it out into the universe and then it comes back to you. Like, I, I don’t really necessarily believe in all that, but boy, it’s been, it’s been quite a, quite a, again, a full circle thing.

Jason Sloat: Um, definitely, you know, it’s been, it’s been a thing that’s like 25 years in the making.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Yeah, I think that is really crazy that you are like coming back and completing, I guess, those dreams that you had so long ago, and [00:29:00] it’s really tangible. Like you do see that where you were those years ago. I think this is crazy, but also very exciting.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Yeah. I, I hear, you know, Sierra, I hear a lot of, I hear a lot of despair these days. in, you know, like, uh, you know, gen Z, people who are getting out of college right now, and the world looks very bleak. Mm-hmm job opportunities. Don’t look great. I think there are a lot of people who kind of a lot of young people who are in this kind of state of despair, and I can actually.

Jason Sloat: I can, as a gen Xer, believe it or not, I can relate to that. I don’t think a lot of people, I don’t think, I don’t think most people, my age necessarily went through that, but I think there were some of us back in the, back in the late nineties and early two thousands who went through that feeling. Mm-hmm and I just always want to tell people, like, I don’t know, it sounds super cheesy, but like, hang in there, [00:30:00] like, you know, It’s it’s okay to want what you want.

Jason Sloat: And, uh, just, just, just keep going. Uh, cause you never know, you never know. As, as, as desperate and bleak, as things may look now, it can also turn around. Um, and you can end up in a place that’s kind of like in a situation that. Is beyond your wildest dreams. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: mm-hmm definitely.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: Okay. Well, Jason, I think we will start wrapping things up, but I always ask at the end of each episode, what is the best piece of life advice that you’ve been given?

Jason Sloat: On the best piece of life advice? Um, I mean, I think, I think I just, I think I just kind of touched on that. Yeah. Which is, um, there’s a lot to be said for perseverance and, you know, despite the fact that things may look.

Jason Sloat: Things may look somewhat hopeless at [00:31:00] certain points in your life. Keep getting out of bed, keep doing, keep pursuing that thing. Put one foot in front of the other. It’s a little bit like when you’re facing down a long hike, right. Um, when you’re in that first mile of a 10, 12, 15 mile hike, um, it, it, it, it seems like you’re never going to arrive at the destination, but the thing is you just keep putting one foot in front of the.

Jason Sloat: and eventually you do arrive. Mm-hmm you, you arrive at some point. It may not be exactly what you had in mind. Uh, but you’re, you’re, you’re going to keep making progress and that’s what I would, that’s probably the best advice I’ve gotten is keep, keep moving. Yeah. Okay.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: No, I like it. I think it’s certainly a good piece of advice.

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: All right. Well, I really appreciate you coming on today, Jason and I enjoyed hearing your story.

Jason Sloat: Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Of

Sierra Tai-Brownlee: course, of course. Yeah. Thank you once again, Jason, and thank [00:32:00] you guys for listening and take

Jason Sloat: care.

Marc Moss: Thanks Sierra and Jason, Jason slope grew up on a farm in Indiana. After graduating from college, he spent a couple of years working on ranches in Western Montana. During that time he fell in love with the beauty of Montana’s wild spaces. He eventually completed graduate school at the university of Montana, and now works for, um, as the director of risk management.

Marc Moss: Sierra Ty Brownley is a curious individual with a never ending interest in people and their stories from asking 50 strangers for their best piece of life advice to sitting down, to hear about pivotal stories on her podcast, impactful experiences with Sierra Ty Brownley, Sierra is always excited to meet new people and hear what they would like to share.

Marc Moss: You can find the impactful experiences podcast. Wherever you

Jason Sloat: get your podcasts.

Marc Moss: Thanks to our inkind sponsors. Joyce of tile, gecko designs, float Missoula and [00:33:00] Missoula broadcasting company. Thanks for listening to this week’s podcast. Remember to get your ticket to the next event. September 27th, 2022.

Marc Moss: Live at the Dennison theater. The theme is letting go more information and tickets are [email protected].

This week on the podcast, I sit down with Melody Rice to talk about the story she shared live on stage at The Covellite Theater in Butte, America in 2018. The theme that night was “Work”. We also talk about inequality in the workforce, life in Butte, Montana, and what things were like in regards to COVID in Butte at that time.

Transcript : Interview with Melody Rice and her Story "Butte Barber"

00;00;00;22 – 00;00;25;15
Marc Moss
Welcome to the Teleseminar podcast. I’m Marc Moss. Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gives May 5th through the sixth. Missoula Gives is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support Tell Us Something during Missoula Gives May 5th through the sixth. Learn more at Missoula gives dot org. This week in the podcast I sit down with Melody Rice to talk about the stories she shared live on stage at the Coveleite Theater in Butte, America.

00;00;25;16 – 00;00;27;03
Marc Moss
The theme that night was work.

00;00;27;18 – 00;00;41;17
Melody Rice
I walk into this barbershop and I say, Hey, I’m wondering if you’re interested in hiring somebody to be in that second tier of yours. And the guy turns and looks at me and he says, I don’t hire women.

00;00;42;10 – 00;01;07;01
Marc Moss
We also talk about inequality in the workforce, life in Butte, Montana, and about what things were like in regards to COVID in Butte at that time. We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell US Something storytelling event. The theme is didn’t see that coming. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4062034683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch.

00;01;07;19 – 00;01;26;16
Marc Moss
The pitch deadline is May 27. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for joining me. As I take you behind the scenes at Tell US Something to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell US Something Storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage.

00;01;27;05 – 00;01;48;18
Marc Moss
Sometimes we get extra details about their story and we always get to know them a little better. Melody Rais shared her story in front of a live audience at the Kodak Theater in Butte, Montana, in November. 2018. The theme was work. Melody Rais shares her story Barber about being the first woman Barber in Butte, Montana, in the 1980s.

00;01;48;28 – 00;02;01;21
Marc Moss
Remember that the Colville Theater in Butte is an old church that’s been restored and operates as a performance space. So the recording has a little bit of an echo. Thanks for listening.

00;02;02;01 – 00;02;46;04
Melody Rice
In 1980 I moved from San Diego to Butte Montana. And the reason why is a different story. Today we’re talking about work. So there I was in Uptown Butte with my newly minted barber’s license looking for a job in the first barbershop that I popped into was the barbershop. I am certain that Ray Stevens wrote the Barbershop song, the haircut song about if you haven’t heard the haircut song, it’s time that you look it up on YouTube because Ray Stevens went to came to Butte, Montana, and got a haircut in this redneck barbershop.

00;02;46;05 – 00;03;01;05
Melody Rice
Anyway, I’m I walk into this barber shop and I say, hey, I’m wondering if you’re interested in hiring somebody to be in that second chair yours. And the guy turns and looks at me and he says, I don’t hire women.

00;03;04;01 – 00;03;32;19
Melody Rice
And I go, Huh? And he says, there’s a guy down the street that does. So I, I back out because I know that barbers have sharp things, and I can feel how intensely, like, angry or whatever he was to me. So I backed out and went the direction that his thumb pointed. And so sure enough, that other barber had just been thinking about how he wanted to get somebody to rent his other chair.

00;03;33;17 – 00;04;19;28
Melody Rice
So I got the job my first day at work. It was 40 below zero for oh, below zero. I had no idea that entire vehicles could freeze solid, so you couldn’t even put your key in the door. But that’s another story also. So here I am working in this barbershop, and I love it. It’s wonderful. There are business people bankers, lawyers, doctors, Old guys that are cut their hair and the old guys sometimes would come in and they’d go, Ooh, a female barber.

00;04;21;05 – 00;04;25;02
Melody Rice
And I would say, Oh, a guy who needs a haircut.

00;04;27;08 – 00;04;47;04
Melody Rice
And some of them thought my sassiness was OK. And they’d get in my chair and others would run away. But that’s all right. So I learned a lot in that place from all the business men and women that came in. And one of the things that I learned is in order to build business, you give business to the people who gave you business.

00;04;47;20 – 00;05;14;07
Melody Rice
Right. And at that time in Uptown Butte, there were three banks. So I had my business account in one bank, my personal account in another bank, and my safety deposit box in another in the third bank to spread the love, because all the presidents and vice presidents and some of the loan officers would come in for haircuts. So I was learning how to spread the love.

00;05;15;03 – 00;05;39;16
Melody Rice
So I loved working there. I learned so much from all the folks that came in. And about 12 years into cutting hair there, there were signs from the universe. Now, that’s kind of California lingo for there were there are business indicators and the signs from the universe was were telling me to get my own barber shop, and the signs were kind of like this.

00;05;39;23 – 00;05;43;17
Melody Rice
A guy would come in, he would sit down and he would say, You should get your own barber shop.

00;05;45;25 – 00;06;17;12
Melody Rice
And so I was taking that, you know, indicator in. And then the final indicator, though, was when the owner of the barbershop came in one day and noticed how worn the floor was getting from how busy we were. And he said, we’re going to have to get a new floor and you’re paying 50%. Well, in that 12 years, I knew the difference between an independent contractor and a equal share business partner.

00;06;17;18 – 00;06;47;20
Melody Rice
I was not a business partner. So that helped me decide the indicators and the signs from the universe that it was time for me to get my own barbershop. So I decided to go and try to find out somebody would give me a loan. So I picked bank number one where I had my business account because I thought, well, they could see that I had my business account in there for 12 years, and then it may income was building and I paid my bills and I was a good risk.

00;06;48;08 – 00;07;15;00
Melody Rice
So I called and I made an appointment and I showed up at the allotted time and I was having really good confidence about this because I cut that guy’s hair, right? And so I go to the, the appointment and the secretary told me where his office was. I walked in with confidence because I did have an appointment and he says What are you doing here?

00;07;15;24 – 00;07;49;01
Melody Rice
And I said, Well, I came because I have an appointment to talk to you about. And right then in the doorway, what, this guy with a ten gallon hat, you know, like the one that Hoss wore on that TV show. But then. That’s right. So Hoss is walking in and loan officer Lew from the home. The desk jumps up and he almost runs over there, and he’s with one hand shake and ten gallon hat, man’s hand.

00;07;49;01 – 00;08;12;09
Melody Rice
And with the other one, he’s indicating to me that my appointment is over. So I walk out the door and I feel like I just got kicked in the gut. Like, what the heck was that? I mean, I need an appointment. I wanted to give this guy business. What the hell? And so as I’m walking back to the barber shop, I’m confused.

00;08;12;09 – 00;08;31;03
Melody Rice
Just I’m just dejected. But then I get pissed. I’m so angry. And what’s that saying? Hell, hath no fury than a woman going for a bank loan and getting blown off by ten gallon hat, man.

00;08;34;02 – 00;09;09;19
Melody Rice
So I decided, okay, I still I still gotta find a loan. So I go to bank number two, where I have my my private account and make the appointment. And the person on the phone had told me, OK, it’s really important for you to bring some evidence that you have savings. Now, that’s one of the other wonderful things that I learned working at the Barbershop is that some very wise person told me to save 10% of my income when I was 19 at the time when I first started cutting hair.

00;09;09;19 – 00;09;32;04
Melody Rice
So I, I started saving 10%. So even if I made $5, I’d save 10%. Now, as a contract worker, you have to pay all your own taxes. You have no benefits no health insurance, you have to pay. So you almost have nothing. So I was able to manage to save that 10% and I had a little portfolio really.

00;09;32;04 – 00;10;06;27
Melody Rice
It was just one bank statement talking about my IRA. So I brought that with me to the loan officer of bank number two I show up and the loan officer is a woman and I say, Oh, good on you. Nontraditional. Yeah. So we sit down and I hand her my one page statement of my IRA and she opens it up and looks at it and her eyes get really big and she closes it and her smile gets really wide and warm.

00;10;06;27 – 00;10;38;09
Melody Rice
And she says, how much money can we loan you and so now think like three months into the future, I am owning my own barbershop. It’s the off-Broadway barbershop. And I bought it from guess who? The guy who I went to his shop the very first stop I went to. Right. Except, well, I really didn’t buy it from him, did I know?

00;10;38;09 – 00;11;05;13
Melody Rice
Because he wouldn’t have ever sold it to a woman, but I bought it from his widow. And his widow was a wonderful woman. And we did a beautiful, mutually acceptable, beneficial business deal that left us both happy as clams. Yeah. So now flash forward to my little new barbershop. I it’s it’s renovated. It no longer looks like that.

00;11;06;06 – 00;11;33;04
Melody Rice
You know, that place that was a redneck place. But anyway, so I’m there. It’s busy day. Lots of people is walking. I’ve got a guy in the chair and who walks in the doorway, but loan officer Lew. Oh, OK. I get kicked in the gut again when I see him, because the last time I saw him was at the bank, and and I think it’s cool he’s coming in to give me business.

00;11;33;11 – 00;11;56;06
Melody Rice
I don’t like it. It’s fine. I’ll be fine. So I finished my haircuts and all the guy’s waiting, and he hops in the chair and we do pleasantries, and we’re talking about his family, and I’m thinking, OK, we’re on the homestretch. We’re OK. And so now it’s time to us. Shave around his ears, and I’m getting the hot lather from my lather machine.

00;11;56;06 – 00;12;22;09
Melody Rice
Jeez. And I put that around his ears, and I get out my straight razor and I’m strapping my razor, and I am about ready to shave right around his ears when he says to me, you know, if you ever need a business loan, I’m your man. And I freeze. I freeze right there with my razor right above his ear, my straight edge razor right above his ear.

00;12;22;09 – 00;12;49;04
Melody Rice
And I’m thinking some thoughts in my head that aren’t very nice. I’m thinking some stuff that I cannot say, and I think I just want to tell him off. So but but then I notice, oh, there’s too many witnesses but there’s fight or flight or freeze. And I was frozen. And I’ll tell you that freeze saves lives or ears at the very least, right?

00;12;49;27 – 00;13;10;28
Melody Rice
So anyway, I get unfrozen because I think too many witnesses and I finish up a shave and I shave around the edges and I get the lather off and I slap him up with some aftershave. And I’m thinking to myself, what am I going to say to him? And I take off the cloth from the cloth from him.

00;13;11;08 – 00;13;25;07
Melody Rice
And I say to him, Thanks for the offer, Lieu. Appreciate it. And he pays me and he leaves and the other guy gets in the chair.

00;13;34;28 – 00;14;00;12
Marc Moss
It was a 60 degrees below zero cold snap in Butte that convinced Melody Rice’s mom to pick up her three year old daughter and head to the warm shores of Southern California. Most summers, Melody returned to Montana to Fish Camp and help her granddad build stuff, which created a special place in her heart. For Crabby old guys. She worked as a barber for 18 years until a shoulder injury required her to find a new profession.

00;14;00;24 – 00;14;18;11
Marc Moss
Melody is now a licensed clinical professional counselor and art therapist in private practice in Butte. I caught up with the melody in June of 2020. I’m curious. I can’t remember how did I recruit you or did somebody tell you about it, or how did you end up being a part of it?

00;14;19;20 – 00;14;52;25
Melody Rice
So I saw your ad and I had heard about your project before from my sister in law, Teddy, who you did with when he came to you to play this show about you as a potential place. So I just heard about the project itself and she is a librarian and the school she works with, the School of Computers and storytelling itself, which is telling you about it.

00;14;53;09 – 00;15;23;14
Melody Rice
That’s great. And then I thought your posters everywhere and even included a poster in the hotel. Yeah. So that’s where I worked and I was able to, of oh my gosh, that’s so great. In terms of if you have, if you would be interested in any of the stories I have and then seeing if any of my friends or clients would be interested in sharing their life stories.

00;15;23;16 – 00;15;36;14
Melody Rice
And I believe life stories are so essential in terms of wellness and hearing. And so I was pretty excited to be on call and everything in my head. Yeah.

00;15;36;14 – 00;15;38;00
Marc Moss
So I was.

00;15;38;28 – 00;15;41;26
Melody Rice
It thrilled that you liked the story?

00;15;42;05 – 00;15;45;09
Marc Moss
It wasn’t just me personality. It’s an awesome story.

00;15;48;12 – 00;15;55;01
Marc Moss
Yeah. And I was so grateful to you for providing the space for us to do that practice run.

00;15;57;12 – 00;16;06;00
Melody Rice
So it was an honor to have other story tellers there in my office serving you customers on that was super cool.

00;16;06;04 – 00;16;13;24
Marc Moss
Yeah, it was really cool. And Jim, your uncle. Yeah, yeah, he was. He’s a riot.

00;16;15;02 – 00;16;16;24
Melody Rice
He is. So fun.

00;16;17;00 – 00;16;18;01
Marc Moss
Yeah. So I’m just.

00;16;18;15 – 00;17;03;05
Melody Rice
He’s got a lot of I had so many amazing stories and stories of working over the Mountain View and and I think that, you know, he’s is 100% Irish. And I think that those Irish folks they know us Irish folks that they know how important storytelling is to just the fabric of the world. Fabric of society and the fabric of importance of not only learning from other mistakes but also just from hearing each other of each other.

00;17;03;17 – 00;17;06;11
Melody Rice
I don’t know if you ever been to Ireland from my work.

00;17;06;22 – 00;17;18;12
Marc Moss
No, I haven’t. I, I’ve been to Canada and Mexico, and those are the only two foreign countries I’ve been to. Unfortunately, I’m not a world traveler. I wish I were.

00;17;20;20 – 00;17;50;23
Melody Rice
But one of the things that happens is that still to this day in Ireland is that there’s a gathering of people at Harvard Public Health then this is it used to be that the whole family would go there with kids, everything, and keep all whatever talent they had favorite singer, the band, if they were dancers or if they were placed in a musical instrument.

00;17;51;04 – 00;18;39;24
Melody Rice
They have a story then they would take turns sharing their things. And it’s a pretty super cool thing to watch that you know, people speak so well. Yeah. For you to go around the table and then say, what do you have for us to share? And so very often there be those stories that are jokes or real life stories, you know, and and so I just know that tradition and I love that my whole goal and a lot of my family members are like, do that and they’re gracious in terms of, you know, asking How does your show have something to, you know, or what did you experience?

00;18;41;01 – 00;18;54;14
Melody Rice
And tell me there’s nothing to plug for at the traditions from Ireland to me and over here, and that traffic is fantastic.

00;18;54;23 – 00;19;01;29
Marc Moss
Yeah. So can you walk us through the process of how you decided what story you wanted to tell.

00;19;04;28 – 00;19;42;20
Melody Rice
Oh, that’s a good question. But just to you know, the first piece was that you have a theme posted on the poster of work. And so currently I’m an art therapist, a counselor, and the majority of stories that I experience in my work now are confidential. And they’re in I can see them. However, well, I was a hair stylist for 18 years and viewed as a barber, specifically in Europe, which is huge.

00;19;43;00 – 00;20;27;19
Melody Rice
And an interesting place in terms of its flow to catch up with the rest of the world in that it’s kind of a little bit isolated in its flow in terms of at least my experience experiences been flow in terms of just being aware of women’s rights and women’s place in the world and so as I started thinking about, OK, what is one of my favorite stories about being gay being on my way here?

00;20;28;11 – 00;21;18;29
Melody Rice
And so that story of being country first female barber and being one of the first female barbers and for the first time and also to go out on my own in terms of being an independent worker and having my own shop and getting along and sort of the fact that that that story for me was an important piece to my confidence that I can speak my own shop owner being my own person in the industry.

00;21;19;11 – 00;21;54;19
Melody Rice
And so I felt like, OK, if I start at the very beginning, in terms of what it’s like being a female barber and you’re trying to be in the business world fully. And so anyway, it was kind of primary in my mind, like, what is that? I want other people to know what it’s like that to try to launch yourself at a place where you’re mostly geared around an industry.

00;21;55;00 – 00;22;03;12
Melody Rice
So how is my process of deciding which story to tell and how important to that?

00;22;04;08 – 00;22;27;02
Marc Moss
I think it still resonates. I mean, women still haven’t caught up in some in some sense, you know. Right. People in office jobs. As an example. I always think of you have two people with the same skill level. One is a man, one is a woman. Woman is always going to get paid less. Right. And it’s not fair and it’s not right.

00;22;27;14 – 00;22;51;03
Marc Moss
And to hear your your origin story of working in viewed and and sort of standing up to that and overcoming that was really inspiring yeah. And you’re great with handling the guy when he after after the fact. It does. Yeah.

00;22;51;06 – 00;23;31;12
Melody Rice
Yeah. And I think that in in the business world in general, I think that there are circumstances that are like that where the playing field aren’t level. And and then how do how do women or or other minorities how do they how do they manage it without burning bridges. How do they manage it without making them struggling more severe and so for us to actually experience that, I feel just just being a woman in the industry, it’s difficult to manage, especially when things are unjust.

00;23;32;04 – 00;24;09;25
Melody Rice
And so, yeah, but it’s like what’s interesting. Yeah. I, I love within you and I a even though there are some things that are pretty difficult speak that I is it was worth being here for just the level of community and family building that I have experienced elsewhere. And so while there was struggle in terms of being a female in business, I feel like it was worth a challenge it has been tough for me.

00;24;11;15 – 00;24;12;20
Marc Moss
How long have you been in view?

00;24;13;23 – 00;24;32;26
Melody Rice
I mean, I must tell you when I was 18 to my family first my mom and I lived in Butte when I was three and then she had a it was a really rough winter was 60 below zero.

00;24;32;26 – 00;24;33;14
Marc Moss
Oh my gosh.

00;24;34;02 – 00;25;21;09
Melody Rice
And then so she’s got so many Southern California, you can start detoxing up at age three and I lived in Southern California until I was dating 18 and then found my place dude after I finished barber college and in due time first landed in LA it was my family and then the Holy Bible College was in the fall and to finish up my training there and I had planned on staying in San Diego and had planned on getting a roommate and just finishing things up there because I didn’t want to go back to a place that was so potentially frigid.

00;25;22;00 – 00;25;40;14
Melody Rice
But every time I need to go through. So it’s kind of like be here listening and you need to go, you need to go there and then. So yeah, I’ve been here for 40 years. It’s kind of crazy.

00;25;40;23 – 00;25;44;09
Marc Moss
Yeah, I know you’ve seen a lot of change, I bet.

00;25;45;14 – 00;26;26;10
Melody Rice
Yes. Yeah, yeah, I have. I have seen a lot of changes. When I first arrived here, it was struggling. Was a mining shut down and stuff. But, but the thing that was very interesting is how over the decades you have been able to manage through all kinds of strikes and all kinds of adverse experiences here. And so it is a place of learning, resilience and learning connection and community learning how to help one another when things are difficult.

00;26;26;10 – 00;26;57;10
Melody Rice
And so I have understand this kind of coaster, as you call it, to around a virus pandemic has hit our community that continues that connection, that that strength in numbers sense and and I have a lot of confidence in this community because of the history of helping one another. And there.

00;26;58;18 – 00;27;03;13
Marc Moss
Are people masking up and B right now generally.

00;27;04;17 – 00;27;51;21
Melody Rice
This seems to reflect blame the kind of general public 5050 there’s some people now who do their first two years I would say that’s like going to the grocery store about 50% of the workers do all of us. I mean that’s just because they’re doing restricting the plants the patients or never walk in and there are some places that require that you were and people have been fighting against that which is pretty sad so I’m not and they were my nurse came and not had anybody there approach me in terms of it being a political statement.

00;27;51;23 – 00;27;52;04
Marc Moss

00;27;52;04 – 00;28;19;14
Melody Rice
So yeah this is for me I feel like wearing a mask is a protection because there that element of people that may have it but have no symptoms, right? So I don’t want to be a person that is the potential for me being a carrier giving it to other designers. I wear putting me in close quarters.

00;28;20;08 – 00;28;31;21
Marc Moss
So yeah, yeah. I mean for me when Saint Patrick’s Day got canceled, that was sort of my cue, like, this is real. This is a big deal.

00;28;32;24 – 00;29;11;05
Melody Rice
You exactly. Because I don’t know how many how many decades ago for today’s stand in view of that. But that was a wake up call for me as well. Like I told you, this is that this is got to be you. Yes, you, Curtis. The St Patrick’s Day parade. And they cancel the beer against the gathering that they had and the farmers and and all of those things.

00;29;11;05 – 00;29;16;13
Melody Rice
And so that’s definitely OK. This is absolutely, totally real.

00;29;16;16 – 00;29;54;17
Marc Moss
Yeah. Well, the last time I was in Butte, I think it was maybe October I was scouting out other locations to come back and try to do it again. And I went and I found Frank Little’s grave. And you did? Yeah. Yeah. And but I was also wandering around the cemetery, looking and noticing the number of gravestones from 19, 19 and 1920 and you know, 1921 in 1922 I was just like, wow.

00;29;54;29 – 00;30;26;06
Marc Moss
And when Saint Patrick’s Day got canceled this year I, I was like I have a view remembers what this, what a pandemic is like because they did not shut down during the flu pandemic. Pandemic I mean mining was still going in and Butte suffered. And I think what I was reading was Butte had the most deaths in Montana during the during the flu pandemic of 1918 1919.

00;30;26;09 – 00;31;09;04
Melody Rice
Yeah. So it, it, it, if I’m correct I think that government are pulling in some Butte and so I’m here I think that yeah, me personally have some family. I mean this entire family is from Anchorage and he might get at least know some story about it. I know in my family my grandmother’s brother died during the pandemic and everybody’s a family was just laying low and they had a woman in the neighborhood that was the only person in the neighborhood that wasn’t just bedridden by the Thomas.

00;31;09;20 – 00;31;40;12
Melody Rice
And they had come she had come over to help care for everybody. And, you know, and in that process, my great uncle died from 300. So it just so interesting range in terms of how people how they may or may not live from that from their history. And, you know, in Butte, they were used to of course, the virus is there.

00;31;40;28 – 00;31;49;02
Melody Rice
You know, places where the miners would hang out and the miners would go down into the mine and the particular areas. Oh, my goodness.

00;31;49;09 – 00;31;51;10
Marc Moss
Yeah. I mean, you can’t such a distance in the mines.

00;31;52;27 – 00;31;55;27
Melody Rice
You play it pretty safe. Yeah.

00;31;57;13 – 00;32;03;19
Marc Moss
And I don’t even think that they knew that they should do that. Right. Social distancing.

00;32;05;06 – 00;32;28;06
Melody Rice
Well, they were there newspaper clippings that ended up in the Montana Standard just in terms of comparing what the newspaper was saying back then. I to say now and indeed, there were newspaper clippings saying that the health department of Health Health has been downgraded afterwards. So don’t do this. Don’t do that, you know, and the people were doing it right.

00;32;29;10 – 00;32;40;20
Melody Rice
So so there was a you know, from the state level there and even across the land saying, don’t do these social events and do this like whatever other time yeah.

00;32;41;23 – 00;32;43;19
Marc Moss
You don’t know us. We’re tough. We’re from being.

00;32;44;03 – 00;32;47;28
Melody Rice
Mean, like you said, in time and large, large numbers. Yeah.

00;32;49;07 – 00;33;21;04
Marc Moss
I don’t know when public gatherings will be possible. I mean, we go to the grocery store about once a month and we try to utilize the curbside pick up when possible. And it’s required to wear a mask at the store at this particular store. And it’s still really stressful. There are certain people who are getting close and, you know, touching each other and hugging and them just like it’s anxiety inducing, just to go to the grocery store.

00;33;22;00 – 00;33;22;19
Melody Rice
Because of.

00;33;23;07 – 00;33;38;24
Marc Moss
The nature. And then you get home and or at least we get home and wash everything before we put it away. And then we take all of our clothes off and get out, get in the shower. And it’s like, you know, what would be a 15 minute grocery trip turns into 90 minutes.

00;33;39;10 – 00;34;18;28
Melody Rice
But for sure, yeah. Just in general, you know, I woke up this morning and there are no new cases in Montana and I just think, Oh gosh, so here comes the snake. And we were thinking that this second wave would only happen this fall because typically those kinds of viruses only come during the flu season and quote unquote, you know, with the viruses and stuff here and it just it’s just not even taking a rest really.

00;34;19;04 – 00;34;51;27
Melody Rice
It’s, you know, especially we can’t believe this bigger than the first like it was the Spanish Flu. Yeah. That hopefully will well have some requirements that are a lot more, you know, safe and producing. And I was thinking about being more stringent because your doctor might be what we need but when people think that government is stringent and overreaching, then they have folks to and stuff.

00;34;51;27 – 00;35;05;22
Melody Rice
But I’m one of those people that feel like this is there’s parameters that there are boundaries that are meant to keep us safe. I feel like, yeah, just to go for that just because I prefer no doubt. And then more.

00;35;05;22 – 00;35;06;20
Marc Moss
Deaths. Yeah.

00;35;09;00 – 00;35;15;07
Marc Moss
Me too. It’s like this isn’t this shouldn’t be a political conversation at all.

00;35;16;08 – 00;35;33;21
Melody Rice
But yeah, so it’s unfortunate that that’s, that’s, that’s a political it became a political issue. Health care issues and political caring for us for more damage should not be political to do my views.

00;35;34;01 – 00;36;00;21
Marc Moss
Yeah so going back to tell us something in storytelling roundabout way, this is sort of an Irish Irish way to tell stories isn’t that where you go a on all these different rabbit holes but you know rolling into 2020 tell something had a lot of momentum and we were going to be back in Butte. I can’t remember what we were going to be at the orphanage or theater.

00;36;01;24 – 00;36;04;12
Melody Rice
Oh yeah yeah. Yeah. Great venue.

00;36;04;16 – 00;36;14;14
Marc Moss
Yeah. We were going to come to the orphan girl and you know, that’s a pretty intimate little space and obviously we’re not coming this year.

00;36;15;16 – 00;36;50;19
Melody Rice
You know, and I love how you’re kind of reinventing how this is going to be because it reminds me of this and this is one of the things I tell my clients who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by how everything has changed because we kind of out of it. And that is during the time of my grandparents, my, my grandfather was in World War Two in the Pacific, and he he married my grandmother and then groom he had to go and be gone in the war.

00;36;51;15 – 00;37;26;12
Melody Rice
And I think about, wow, what does that make for all of their spouses? During the war? Right. And particularly in the case of my grandparents during the war were to stay in each other for a long time. And how do you stay connected? How do we even though we’re not in each other’s physical presence, how do we stay connected so so the case for them, if they just wrote letters or wrote letters and wrote letters and then that that connection maintaining.

00;37;26;12 – 00;37;50;02
Melody Rice
So when he returned you know, they they still were married. They still spent the rest of their lives together. And, you know, my mom was born my mom is the oldest of two. And three siblings. And so, you know, she was born and my grandpa came home for a and me and just all kinds of stuff like that that I just think wow, I’ve never had to do that.

00;37;50;24 – 00;38;00;14
Melody Rice
Maybe a coronaviruses is a better way of figuring out how to stay connected we can’t see each other physically. Yeah.

00;38;01;16 – 00;38;04;14
Marc Moss
Yeah. No, I mean, people are finding ways to do it.

00;38;06;03 – 00;38;42;04
Melody Rice
Yeah, well, I just want to thank you for creating a place for people to share their their stories, their life experiences, and I feel like there and from Olivia, that stories were such a very, very important part of the human experience. And I’m pleased to be to be able to get a view of what it is that you’re doing in terms of helping people tell their stories.

00;38;42;04 – 00;38;51;24
Melody Rice
And because I’m a mental health professional, I have great trust in the value and the ability for stories to heal.

00;38;53;28 – 00;39;24;16
Melody Rice
And when other people share their stories there’s it becomes part of us. So there’s kind of layers, in my view, of how storytelling is so important and what is being able to externalize your narrative. You have a story that lives in you, and I think it was Maya Angelou that said something to the effect of There’s no better tragedy than having a story is not expressed and I agree with that.

00;39;25;04 – 00;40;06;25
Melody Rice
And so there’s a level of telling it that’s super important. And then there’s that other level of healing that can happen when you hear someone else’s story and it resonates if this stuff is about our own personal experiences. So so yes, really want to tell you on a very preciate the fact that you are keeping something alive, that you are reinventing how this is going to be in order for it to sit in the coronavirus pandemic and in order for other people to continue to allow that to happen, you know, face to face or live audience or rest referring to COVID right now.

00;40;06;25 – 00;40;21;20
Melody Rice
So thank you. Thank you for your motivation. Thank you for your creativity in this. Thank you for your dedication, dedication to it, to allowing people to share and to receive the stories.

00;40;22;06 – 00;40;44;12
Marc Moss
Oh, you’re welcome. And I think I’ve said this to you before. It feels this work that I’m doing feels like a vocation. And it’s almost like I don’t have a choice. I have to in order to honor the work that I’ve done for the past ten years, I have to figure out a way to keep it relevant and make it real and allow it to continue.

00;40;45;17 – 00;40;53;10
Marc Moss
And sometimes I’m not doing great at it. Sometimes I’m messing up and making mistakes, and that’s what growth looks like.

00;40;53;10 – 00;40;56;05
Melody Rice
So yeah, that is true.

00;40;56;11 – 00;41;02;16
Marc Moss
Yeah. Melody, thank you. Thank you. So much for spending the time with me this morning.

00;41;03;20 – 00;41;06;21
Melody Rice
You are so great. I know. Talking with you, Mark.

00;41;06;28 – 00;41;09;08
Marc Moss
Oh, and tomorrow’s the first day of summer, so happy summer.

00;41;11;00 – 00;41;16;02
Melody Rice
Tomorrow is. Wow, that’s great. Yeah, yeah.

00;41;16;02 – 00;41;40;14
Marc Moss
Happy so. All right. Thanks, Melody. You too. Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gives May 5th through the sixth Missoula Gibbs is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support. Tell us something during Missoula Gibbs May 5th through the sixth Learn more at .We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell us something storytelling event the theme is didn’t see that coming.

00;41;40;29 – 00;41;57;12
Marc Moss
If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4062034683 You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is May 27th. I look forward to hearing from you thanks to our in-kind sponsors.

00;41;57;19 – 00;42;12;11
Joyce Gibbs
Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at

00;42;13;04 – 00;42;17;17
Gabriel Silverman
Hey, this is Gabe from Gecko Designs. We’re proud to sponsor. Tell us something.

00;42;17;29 – 00;42;50;07
Gabriel Silverman
Learn more at Gecko Designs dot com

Marc Moss
Missoula Broadcasting Company, including the family of ESPN Radio The Trail, one of 3.3 Jack at them and my favorite place to find a dance party while driving you want to paw point by floating to zero Learn more at Amazon Wacom and Missoula events dot net thanks to Cash for Junkers who provided the music for the podcast Find them at cash for Junkies band dot com If you’re in Missoula you can catch them live at a union club on May 14th to learn more about Tell us something please visit.

00;42;50;08 – 00;42;51;25
Marc Moss


Neil McMahon shared his story in front of a live audience at The Wilma Missoula, MT in September of 2016. Neil is working as a carpenter on a construction site in a remote part of Montana when the call comes from his New York City publisher. Neil calls his story “Deus ex Buick”. Stay tuned after his story to listen to our conversation. I caught up with Neil in July of 2020.

Transcript : Interview with Neil McMahon and His Story “Deus ex Buick”

00;00;00;00 – 00;00;25;06
Marc Moss
Welcome to the Tell US Something podcast. I’m Marc Moss. We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell US Something storytelling event. The theme is didn’t see that coming. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4062034683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is May 27th. I look forward to hearing from you this week in the podcast.

00;00;25;07 – 00;00;35;12
Marc Moss
I sit down with Neil McMahon to talk about his story. Deuce X Buick which he told live on stage at the Wilmer in Missoula, Montana on September 20th. 2016.

00;00;35;20 – 00;00;54;27
Neil McMahon
At that time, believe it or not, young folks, nobody had cell phones yet, and there was no way for me to get this information. I couldn’t afford to take the day off work or just hang around. So it came down that the only way we could do this was that my and my wife, who was working at home at the time, would feel the call.

00;00;55;22 – 00;01;04;05
Marc Moss
The theme that night was the fork in the road. After his story we talked about his friend and fellow author Kim Zupan. His day job and the life of a writer.

00;01;04;09 – 00;01;05;15
Neil McMahon
Go into some kind of line.

00;01;05;15 – 00;01;05;29
Neil McMahon
Of work.

00;01;06;15 – 00;01;10;06
Neil McMahon
That would give you much more material you know, whether it’s like.

00;01;10;06 – 00;01;11;00
Neil McMahon
Michael Connolly.

00;01;11;00 – 00;01;11;24
Neil McMahon
Was a journalist.

00;01;11;24 – 00;01;14;04
Neil McMahon
Obviously physicians, lawyers, whatever.

00;01;14;27 – 00;01;16;13
Neil McMahon
Something besides swinging a hammer.

00;01;16;29 – 00;01;40;22
Marc Moss
Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell US Something to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell US Something Storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story and we always get to know them a little better before we get to Neil’s story and our subsequent conversation.

00;01;41;02 – 00;02;02;03
Marc Moss
Please remember to save the date for Missoula GIBS May 5th through the sixth. Missoula Gives is a 24 hour online giving event remember to support Tell US Something during Missoula gives May 5th through the sixth. Learn More at Missoula gives dot org. Neil McMahon shared his story in front of a live audience at the Wilma in Missoula, Montana in September of 2016.

00;02;03;01 – 00;02;10;07
Marc Moss
Neil was working as a carpenter on a construction site in a remote part of Montana. When the call comes from his New York City publisher.

00;02;12;28 – 00;02;33;27
Neil McMahon
I started working as a carpenter back in the early seventies actually started as a union apprentice in 1973 and in a few years later I started getting interested in writing and you know along the way I started thinking, you know, really I’d kind of rather make my living as a writer than a carpenter and this is easier said than done.

00;02;33;27 – 00;03;00;02
Neil McMahon
So I kept swinging and a hammer and trying to buy time to write and so on and you know, lots of ups and downs There was a brief little peak in the late eighties when I managed to publish three horror novels. I was trying to kind of ride on the coattails of Stephen King and The Exorcist and all that stuff, and they vaporized and that little bubble tanked very quickly and I was back out on the bricks again, so on.

00;03;00;02 – 00;03;26;18
Neil McMahon
And so forth. So we fast forward to 1998 on a rowboat and by this time I have managed to cobble together a draft of another novel. This time a mainstream thriller. I’m trying to reinvent myself as a writer. I get it to an agent in New York. And then astonishingly, we get word that there is an editor at HarperCollins who is actually interested in this This is kind of a big deal.

00;03;28;07 – 00;03;47;27
Neil McMahon
On the other hand, it’s kind of not because I’d been through so many of these deals already where it was a, you know, a near-miss and somebody is interested and yet peters out and so on. Couldn’t take it too seriously, but you can’t not take it seriously. So the deal was anyway, the way it came down this was a Thursday in July that we got this news.

00;03;48;17 – 00;04;15;17
Neil McMahon
And this guy was going to call the next day on a Friday. And I had to actually be there to talk to him on the phone to formally confirm if he made an offer. It was a yes or no deal. If he did not call, you know, if he didn’t call and nothing was going to happen, if he did, I had to be there, talk to him, confirm it, a kind of a handshake over the phone, you know, make contact and all above all, not give him the weekend to change his mind.

00;04;16;09 – 00;04;33;13
Neil McMahon
So the wrinkle with this being this day and the crew online, we’re working with Brother Creek Road past the airport and then up in the Master, the New World, that’s about three miles past where the pavement is, this rutted dirt road and so on. And at that time, believe it or not, young folks, nobody had cell phones yet.

00;04;35;09 – 00;04;52;22
Neil McMahon
And there was no way for me to get this information. I couldn’t afford day to day offer. It could just hang around. So it came down that the only way we could do this was that my and my wife, who was working at home at the time, would field the call. And if it was a no, then, you know, that was their Tuesday home.

00;04;53;06 – 00;05;14;23
Neil McMahon
But if it was a yes, then she was going to have to drive up there and find me. And I didn’t even know, you know, to tell her where the place was. It was just a few miles up past where the pavement is. And there’s this kind of shelter like house up there. And the only thing I could say was, honey, you’ll see our trucks because the crew I was working on our trucks looked basically like a mobile junkyard.

00;05;15;06 – 00;05;23;07
Neil McMahon
And we actually we actually had a client call the sheriff’s office one time the first day we showed up on a job. This is true.

00;05;26;24 – 00;05;48;18
Neil McMahon
And on top of everything else, he’s driving his little Buick’s a little bit eighties white Buick that has a wheel clearance on the back. You know, this much in the ruts on the road or about this. And the top of it was peeling off, looked like it had leprosy. But OK, that’s another story. So I’m up there with the crew and the day goes on and on and on and nothing happens and nothing happens and nothing happens.

00;05;48;18 – 00;06;14;15
Neil McMahon
It gets to be about 230 in the afternoon, which is 430 in New York time. And by this time I’ve ridden it off I figure, you know, this guy’s forgotten all about this. Forgotten all about me. He’s in a bar or someplace, drink a $20 martinis in midtown Manhattan and I was in Europe for this. But on the other hand, this is kind of a big deal.

00;06;15;06 – 00;06;36;27
Neil McMahon
Again, I was trying to reinvent myself, and writers know that when a novel goes out like that, if it doesn’t sell in the first few passes to an editor, chances are it’s not going to there are exceptions to that, but usually they’re looking for pretty much the same thing. So this was kind of the handwriting on the wall because of that deal, you know?

00;06;36;27 – 00;07;06;03
Neil McMahon
And so anyway, I remember I was on the side of the houses mid afternoon at that point where there’s drag and things are getting heavier, and I was on the side of the house hanging a door and I heard my friend Kim Zubair, who was working with me, I heard him yell at me and I looked over. He explained, It’s still hard for me to get through this point and down the road and I see this little white car and up there, my wife behind the wheel, you know, kind of looking around.

00;07;06;03 – 00;07;35;23
Neil McMahon
But I would like to say that that was the start of a New York career. And a wave that I’ve been riding the crest of ever since. In fact, it was more like a little ripple in a child’s wading pond that toddler in a rubber duck inner tube could very safely negotiate with. Then a lot more trust and trust and so on and so forth.

00;07;36;19 – 00;08;01;26
Neil McMahon
But but still, that was the start of everything, you know, that was that moment when everything changed. And it has made all the difference. Anybody, you know, it’s cliched, but to say anybody who’s chased the dream and for years and wants to slip away and then you get that moment where you get a piece of it you know what that means and how it changes your life in the way you see yourself and the world and all that sort of thing.

00;08;01;26 – 00;08;27;22
Neil McMahon
And when I think about it, that’s what I think of as looking down. I see that little white car jam behind the wheel. So if I got another vintage tumor I assume I do I’ll add one more connection there. And that’s my my great old friend Jim Zupan, who was the guy who yelled at me there and very much in the same situation as me.

00;08;27;22 – 00;08;56;09
Neil McMahon
He was also a carpenter, an aspiring writer. It took him way too long to get his own break, but eventually he did with the publication of a novel called The Plow. Man. Some people might be familiar with his extraordinary. Oh, yeah, OK. The editor at HarperCollins, who bought my book that day, a guy named Dan Conaway, then went on to become a literary agent, and he was the agent who took on Kim Zoop, Dan’s book, The Plowman, and handled it and sold it and so on.

00;08;56;09 – 00;09;08;13
Neil McMahon
So kind of a little triangle there. That was that was kind of cool. Yeah. If I may just I’ll finish this off with one more very brief story Hey, I’m Irish.

00;09;10;29 – 00;09;32;04
Neil McMahon
This is this one. This was this was really pretty good. It’s actually, it’s it’s it’s Zoop story. Kim Zupan, a story talk about a fork in the road his grandparents immigrated here from Slovenia in the early 1900s. And the deal was that the old man came across a typical deal. The husband came across first and he got a job as a miner in Nevada.

00;09;32;20 – 00;09;58;07
Neil McMahon
And he sent back for his wife and a couple of her brothers to come and join him. So they took off and made it across Europe. To Cherbourg in France. And they were just about to cross the Atlantic the last second. They get a telegram from him saying, hold off. He was going to go up and work in the mines in Butte, which, believe it or not, apparently was a step up so he needed time to get up there and get settled and so on.

00;09;58;25 – 00;10;10;11
Neil McMahon
And so they were forced to cancel their transatlantic passage and sell their tickets that they had bought on a ship named the Titanic. True story. Thank you all again.

00;10;15;29 – 00;10;34;00
Marc Moss
Neil McMahon grew up in Chicago and moved to Montana in 1971. He’s the author of a dozen thrillers. His favorite is Lone Creek, set near Helena, Montana. To learn more about Neil and his work, go to tell us something Georgie. I caught up with Neil in July of 2020.

00;10;34;27 – 00;10;56;10
Neil McMahon
The manuscript I’m steering it until drops of blood form on my forehead are you reinventing yourself again? Oh, kind of. I guess I’ve been working on this for years, so not really. But it’s not the same vein of stuff I was doing earlier. Well, you first. You did horror, right? And then you did some thrillers, right? And what’s this?

00;10;57;11 – 00;11;47;08
Neil McMahon
This is maybe kind of somewhere in between the two. It’s it’s medieval. It’s actually set if you’re familiar at all with the Templars, that whole mythology and some historical mythology, they were there was a mass arrest of the entire this great order of knights and 1307. And the sort of springboards off of that, I would imagine there’s a lot of research involved uh, yeah, I guess I’ve been fascinated by them for years anyway, so I know enough to kind of gloss it over, but uh, it’s actually more, I don’t know, it’s, it’s not really historical novel, it’s not really fantasy.

00;11;47;08 – 00;12;06;29
Neil McMahon
It’s got some kind of magical elements and horror elements involved in that sort of thing. So I don’t know what to call it. We’ll see, but we’ll see when an agent picks it up and says, this is incredible. Yeah, well, you’ll be the first to know when that happens. Oh, great. You hope you’ll tell another story about it, I’m sure.

00;12;07;08 – 00;12;27;24
Neil McMahon
Absolutely will have. You bet. Hey, let me just say, I don’t I don’t want to blow smoke or anything, but I just want to say, you know, this is really a terrific program. Tell us something and I think a lot of people realize that you put a lot of work into it and there’s great appreciation for that. So thanks for saying that, Neil.

00;12;27;25 – 00;13;02;17
Neil McMahon
I hope that it survives this pandemic. Well, we sure hope so, too, but it’s going to be tough. Well, the last time I put out a call for stories nobody called the pitch line. And I had a I did a intensive workshop. So five days, 2 hours a day on Zoom but the idea that the participants would then tell a story at a livestreamed event and right out of the six people, only two wanted to tell a story and can’t really have an event with two people.

00;13;03;11 – 00;13;27;22
Marc Moss
So that’s really do you think that’s just because of the pandemic or. I think people are just torn in so many different directions right now and they don’t have the bandwidth to think about things like this. I was kind of dug in to well, you know, especially parents who have kids and they’re having to not only work from home, but also help them help their kids with school and will and worry about whether the schools are going to open.

00;13;27;22 – 00;13;52;14
Marc Moss
And so, yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine being a parent right now or even a teacher. Well, exactly. It’s a health worker. Yeah, all of it. And or or even a carpenter. Well, that’s true, too. I’m I’m glad I’m out of it for a lot of reasons. Yes. Some days I’m so hopeful and so full of optimism and so excited about the future.

00;13;52;14 – 00;14;09;19
Marc Moss
And other days, I just want to crawl into a bottle of whiskey and call it good. You know, I kind of do both you but, you know, I do think eventually this virus is going to get down. I mean, they’re going to come up. We’re going to we’re going to be living with it for years in some form.

00;14;09;19 – 00;14;28;09
Neil McMahon
But there’s going to be vaccine and treatment and so on and so forth. But I’m sure while you have been working from home for years. Yes. This really hasn’t changed much for you in that perhaps. It really hasn’t. You know, I’m kind of you know, I’m I, I discovered that I that I work best when I really hunker down.

00;14;28;09 – 00;14;30;00
Neil McMahon
And I tend to make lists.

00;14;30;00 – 00;14;31;01
Neil McMahon
Of errands I have to.

00;14;31;01 – 00;14;47;06
Neil McMahon
Do and then try and go out and get them all done at once, more or less, rather than kind of constantly popping in and out. You know, it makes me sort of a recluse, but on the other hand, it it gets you up the hill. Yeah. And I’m looking forward to busting out of that, I hope, by hoping to have this thing done pretty soon.

00;14;47;14 – 00;15;07;12
Marc Moss
What’s pretty soon months? Three months? Oh, I’m actually looking to try and get it out of the house here in another week or two. Oh, that’s great. After several years, well, but then we’re going to find out, you know, that’s the day of reckoning is coming. So but that’s, you know, the sword is hovering over the head and all that stuff.

00;15;07;12 – 00;15;28;25
Marc Moss
So well, at least Kim’s not having to drive the shitty Buick up the hill. Well, there you go. There you go. She knows where I am right now, you know? Yeah. Yeah, I remember you well. I listened to it this morning when I was picking raspberries. And I loved your description of the the top of the car peeling off.

00;15;28;25 – 00;15;30;01
Marc Moss
It looked like it had leprosy.

00;15;32;13 – 00;15;54;24
Marc Moss
Oh, well. Well, I think we’ve all had a car like that. And that was all I had for the first, you know, until till I was in my forties. You know, finally. But, yeah, well, there’s, you know, it was, I have to say, which, Jim, this point we were talking about, if for some reason it was a good little car, you know, I mean, it had 100 and change on it and it lit right up and all day long.

00;15;55;04 – 00;16;22;18
Neil McMahon
That’s great. What year was it? Was it mid eighties. I’m not exactly just one of those little nondescript, you know, it ranges that you saw all over the place at the time you were working on a crew with Kim, Kim Zupan. And he did he had he been published at the time, stories but not a novel. Yeah. So he was cheering you on.

00;16;23;17 – 00;16;58;11
Neil McMahon
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. He’s been you know, he’s been a great supporter. And I must say, conversely, I got him in touch with my then editor, Dan Conaway. Right. You mentioned that, who’s now an agent and Dan loves Kim stuff right from the get go. This is back when I first hooked up with them in the late nineties. You just couldn’t you know, you got to persuade what’s known as the X Committee at the publishing house acquisitions, but they call it the S committee with several other people who oftentimes are, you know, trying to keep you from, you know, getting your stuff done.

00;16;58;11 – 00;17;18;12
Neil McMahon
And anyway, it was way too long before before Zoop finally got over the, you know, the hump there. But thank God he did yeah. It was a great book. Terrific up. So good. Well, yeah, you mentioned that at the end of your story when you finished up your story and then you said, do I have time for work?

00;17;18;14 – 00;17;34;16
Marc Moss
And I was like, I mean, I remember being backstage doing No, you don’t. And you said, well, I guess I I’m assuming that I do well, I was waiting for I was waiting for the cane to come out and hook me around the neck, drag me off. But I’ve never I didn’t do that. I didn’t go on too long.

00;17;34;23 – 00;17;59;11
Marc Moss
No, you didn’t. I didn’t time it when I was listening to it today. But I think you maybe you were like 90 seconds long, longer than that time. That’s fine. I’ve never told anybody off the stage with a cane or whatever. You know, there have been times where I’ve wanted to believe it and I’ve had to have hard conversations after the fact with people who sort of went off the rails.

00;17;59;11 – 00;18;26;21
Neil McMahon
And, yeah, well, it’s a temptation for everybody. And, and writers, you know, writers like to talk. Yeah, well, you’re Irish, too, so, you know. Well, there’s that. Yeah, I didn’t. I didn’t drink until afterwards. There you go. So had you ever done anything like that before? Because, I mean, telling a story on stage like that is much different than doing a reading though I don’t think I have.

00;18;28;08 – 00;18;52;26
Neil McMahon
That was you know, that was the first time I the only thing about sometimes, you know, in readings when I do them, my tendency is to keep the reading itself real short, you know, like 5 minutes max and then get questions because they people get a lot more, you know, stay a lot more interested, you know, when it’s interactive and so on.

00;18;53;12 – 00;19;15;02
Neil McMahon
That’s what I’ve always found as an audience member and. Sure, yeah. But so I mean, that would be kind of those would be the times when I would, you know, was talking more or less off the cuff. So a little bit of that. But I don’t I don’t recall ever ever doing a sustained monologue like that. So what what was that like for you?

00;19;18;03 – 00;19;42;14
Neil McMahon
It was fun. I remember you and I rehearsed it first and, you know, I felt OK about it. I I’m I’m reasonably comfortable I guess in a situation like that, just, again, you know, maybe because of readings out there and all that many of them. But, you know, on the one hand, I was, of course, a little nervous that I’d screw it up and then on the other hand, I thought, well, so what if you do you know who’s going to know what’s what are they going to do?

00;19;42;14 – 00;20;04;11
Neil McMahon
You know, then, you know, anyway, so and it was it was wonderful, you know, I mean, a really good audience. And, you know, and you could tell that. And of course, you know, coming up, being up there with John and and all that, it was it was, you know, it was it couldn’t have been better. It was a fun night.

00;20;04;11 – 00;20;36;01
Neil McMahon
I remember it was also he gave a great talk. He did. And it was also packed. Yeah, it was. We had no I mean, as far as the roster, we had 11 storytellers that night. Right, right. Right. And, you know, eight is the sweet spot. Hey Storytellers is about what people can tolerate as far as attention span goes and it was part of the festival, the book right then it was like, oh, another, another author wants to do this.

00;20;36;03 – 00;21;02;23
Neil McMahon
Okay, now. Okay. Yeah, it’s buried my mind somewhere. I remember if I could ever think, yeah, electrical and what’s that? Spoon it out of my memory. Yeah. Well, is there anything that you want listeners to hear or to know about your story before we wrap it up? I don’t know what what I would say about about the new book or the or the old stuff.

00;21;02;23 – 00;21;20;21
Neil McMahon
Just if you’re going to see if you’re going to write, you’re going to write and, you know, write try to be smart about it. If you can make some money, great but you’re going to write what you want to. It’s going to come out somehow, you know what’s in it. Oh, here’s how about if I ask this question.

00;21;21;17 – 00;21;30;08
Marc Moss
If you could tell your 20 year old self some advice from you. Now, what would you tell him?

00;21;40;29 – 00;22;08;00
Neil McMahon
If I knew that I wanted to write, which I didn’t by that age, by the time I was 25, you know, my late twenties, I started getting more serious about it. I would certainly get some kind of go into some kind of line of work that’s a lot more conducive. That’s not the right word. But you know what I mean?

00;22;08;29 – 00;22;39;03
Neil McMahon
Would give you much more material, you know, whether it’s like Michael Connolly was a journalist, a lot of people have done that. Obviously, physicians lawyers, whatever something besides swinging a hammer, you know, which I did for much of my life. So just so you’d have that experience to draw and then maybe be smarter about money and some other things like that, smarter about money, isn’t that always the truth?

00;22;39;26 – 00;23;04;29
Neil McMahon
Yeah, it really is. It’s some of that was generational because, you know, I think, you know, in the seventies, as you know, kind of when I was coming up, it was, you you know, we didn’t have this atmosphere that we do know about, you know, sort of everything being contingent on that and, you know, students being swamped by loan debts and you know, the markets as all you hear about Wall Street and so on, that stuff was pretty well muted.

00;23;04;29 – 00;23;20;13
Neil McMahon
And it was you know, you went out and worked and drew wages and, you know, put your money in a savings account. And so it kind of snuck up on me. I wasn’t paying attention. But nowadays I think you’ve got to pay a lot more attention to it. And just to get by, what’s the savings account. Yeah, exactly.

00;23;21;06 – 00;23;41;08
Neil McMahon
Yeah. That’s you know, nowadays, you know, that really was the way it was. You put it in and it was, you know, three or 4% and it was steady and you know, it didn’t disappear overnight, you know, because Wall Street went crazy and so on and so forth. But those days are gone. Yeah. Anyway, so it seems like there are a lot of writers and Zoeller who swing a hammer.

00;23;42;23 – 00;24;02;20
Neil McMahon
Well, a lot of us did. Zupan, I of course. Yeah. And I remember thinking, you know, Mark Gibbons worked as a mover and Bob Reid was a cop all those years. And, you know, I keep going down the line of thinking of a lot of, you know, a lot of different people from the women to, you know, gooks or whatever.

00;24;03;07 – 00;24;19;26
Marc Moss
Yep. When are you going to get up there and tell us something? I did one, I don’t know, a couple of years ago. I, I try not to make it be about me. You know, I want to focus on other people, but I can’t remember what the theme was, but it was just too good to pass up the story that I told was about.

00;24;20;17 – 00;24;49;28
Marc Moss
I lived in Gardner, Montana, and I didn’t have a car and also a big Bruce Springsteen fan. And he had just done the E Street Band reunion and was touring and the closest he was going to come was Fargo, North Dakota. And so I I bought for tickets and didn’t have a way to get there. And so I’m not paying attention to the time.

00;24;50;26 – 00;25;12;03
Marc Moss
And all of a sudden I look down and I see that it’s like 2 seconds left and I’m not anywhere near done. And the gong person is a friend of mine, Marissa. She’s standing up like a like a batter about to hit a home run, and she’s just wound up the gong and she plays into it as loud as she can.

00;25;12;15 – 00;25;33;06
Marc Moss
She’s laughing her ass off. Everyone in the place is cracking up because they know I’ve broken my own rules. Exactly. Is this a heal thyself? Yeah. Yeah. So it was that was the last time I did one. It was pretty fun. Oh, that’s a great story. Yeah. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see what themes pop up then.

00;25;34;22 – 00;25;54;26
Marcf Moss
All right, we’re we’re we have just as much talent in this town as L.A. or New York or anybody else. Austin? Yeah. Yeah, so that’s been a lot of fun. It’s a great town. We’re lucky to live here. We are. We’re we’re very blessed. And I can’t imagine living in a big city right now. God, I grew up in Chicago.

00;25;55;02 – 00;26;18;12
Marc Moss
I know fast enough, right well, I won’t keep you. I know you’re cool. Instead of swinging a hammer, you’re swinging at those things. Swinging my fingers it’s a pleasure to talk, Mark. Hey, it was great talking to you, Neal. Fantastic. You’re my best to Joyce. I will say hi to camp, OK, my friend. All right.

00;26;21;05 – 00;26;26;13
Marc Moss
Thanks, Neal. And thank you for listening today. Next week, I catch up with melody rates.

00;26;27;05 – 00;26;41;04
Melody Rice
I walk into this barber shop, and I say, hey, I’m wondering if you’re interested in hiring somebody to be in that second chair. Yours. And the guy turns and looks at me and he says, I don’t hire women.

00;26;41;29 – 00;27;02;00
Marc Moss
Tune in for our conversation on the next Tell US Something podcast. Please remember to save the date for Missoula. Gibbs May 5th through the sixth Missoula Gibbs is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support Tell US Something during Missoula. Gibbs May 5th through the sixth. Learn More at Missoula gives dot org thanks to our in-kind sponsors.

00;27;02;07 – 00;27;16;28
Joyce Gibbs
Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at Joyce of tile dot com.

00;27;17;20 – 00;27;18;26
Gabriel Silverman
Hey, this is Gabe from.

00;27;18;26 – 00;27;21;18
Gabriel Silverman
Gecko Designs. We’re proud to sponsor. Tell Us Something. Learn more at

00;27;22;15 – 00;27;47;18
Marc Moss

Missoula Broadcasting Company, including the family of ESPN Radio The Trail one, two, 3.3. Jack at them and my favorite place to find a dance party while driving you on a portable five float measure. Learn more at float MSL, Laikum and Missoula events dot net thanks to cash or drunkards who provided the music for the podcast, find them at Cash for Junkies band dot com.

00;27;48;02 – 00;27;59;09
Marc Moss
If you’re in Missoula, you can catch them live at a union club on May 14th. Find them at Cash for Clunkers Bandcamp to learn more about. Tell us on. Please visit.


This week on the podcast, I sit down with Laura King to talk about her story “My First Pregnancy”, which she told live onstage at Free Ceramics in Helena, MT in April of 2017. The theme that night was “The First Time”. We also talk about podcasting, a new podcast that she’s working on with her cousin in California.

Transcript : "My First Pregnancy" and Interview with Laura King



Laura King: Yeah, so actually I’m super excited about the project itself and gathering these stories. My cousin and I have two great uncles who are pretty interesting historical figures and lots of glass, , both lawyers, , and I’m a lawyer.


Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.


This week on the podcast, I sit down with Laura King to talk about her story “My First Pregnancy”, which she told live onstage at Free Ceramics in Helena, MT in April of 2017. 


Laura King: We can hear the heartbeat, which sounds great. The gestational SAC, which is what the baby starts out with. Looks good. So I left feeling reassured.


The theme that night was “The First Time”.


We also talk about podcasting, a new podcast that she’s working on with her cousin in California.


Laura King: So that’s kinda fun. one of them was very conservative and the other one was very liberal. So we’ve got a guy who is an FBI and involved in propaganda. , supporting Japanese internment, on the one hand. And then we’ve got, , the other guy who was, , a criminal defense attorney and, very active in, , you know, abolition of criminal punishment and, , the efforts early, early efforts to legalize marijuana.


Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode,  I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.


Before we get to Laura’s story and our subsequent conversation…


I am so excited to tell you that the next in-person Tell Us Something storytelling event will be March 30 at The Wilma. 


The theme is “Stone Soup”. 7 storytellers will share their true personal story without notes on the theme “Stone Soup”. 


We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at


Laura King shared her story in front of a live audience at Free Ceramics in Helena, MT in April of 2017. The theme was “The First Time”. Laura King, a 32 year old married to her high school sweetheart, becomes pregnant and has to juggle that with the stress of being in law school. Her first ultrasound is an internal ultrasound at five weeks and goes well. She returns home and has to go back to the hospital after complications arise. Thanks for listening.

Laura King:

This story is about a pregnancy, and you might notice that I’m pregnant right now. It’s not about this pregnancy, but it’s about my first pregnancy, which occurred when I was in my last year of law school. I was a third year law student at Harvard law school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was 32 years old.

My husband not. Uh, our high school sweethearts. So at that point we had been together for 16 years, married for eight. So this was a long time in coming, but we had put it off and put it off. And we’re finally feeling like, well, there’s no time. Like the present, let’s just dive in. I got pregnant easily. I was thrilled to be pregnant.

I very much wanted this, but as much as I wanted it, That level of anticipation also seemed to create an equal level of nervousness and dread about what might go wrong. So I think it was because I was so nervous that I was ear for reassurance, and it’s unusual to have an ultrasound at five weeks pregnant, but at about five and a half weeks, I organized two.

Go in and have an ultrasound. And at that point they can’t do an external ultrasound. The baby is too tiny, tiny, so they do an internal one, which means putting a wand up inside and getting as close as possible to the baby. And they did this and found a heartbeat. They said, your baby’s doing just fine.

We can hear the heartbeat, which sounds great. The gestational SAC, which is what the baby starts out with. Looks good. So I, I left feeling. I went home couple hours later started bleeding. So I was extremely frightened. I called them right away. I’m bleeding. What’s going on? Oh, that’s probably okay.

It’s a common response. When you have an internal ultrasound, have a little bit of bleeding, the cervix is sensitive. So I took a deep breath and all right, well, would you like to come back in? And I did. So I came back in, they did another ultrasound internal again, this time they said we can’t find the heartbeat.

They gave me a little cup. They said it’s Columbus day weekend. The clinic will be closed. If you do have a miscarriage, please collect the specimen in this cup, keep it in your refrigerator over the weekend. Bring it to us. I was crushed. It was so clinical, this passing of the cup to me, I was in tears. I went home.

I got a bee in my bonnet that I should take. Herbal miscarriage prevention T and I looked online to see what combinations I might create. I called it my husband. He had the car, we had one car. He had the car at work. I said, can you take me to get these herbs? I really need them. I’m bleeding. I think I’m miscarrying.

He said, I can’t leave work. I’m busy. So I decided I’d take matters into my own hands and take away. I wasn’t used to taking buses in the city. I was so close to school that I usually walked. So I figured out the schedule, I found myself on a bus, still bleeding, and also on my lap was my law school work, which I was having this crisis.

And at the same time, I thought, well, maybe it’s not a crisis. Maybe I just have to continue doing this routine of, uh, preparing for my advanced environmental. So I’m reading a Supreme court case on a recent Supreme court case on environmental law. As I’m on the bus to whole foods to get these herbs, they don’t have them at whole foods.

My husband comes home. He takes me to another store. We finally get the herbs and I’m doing cups and cups of tea. And in the meantime, hoping that nothing will come out to fill this other cup that I’ve been given. I call people in my. Family who could help me? I call my mother-in-law who had four miscarriages during law school, no seven miscarriages during law school.

She also bled through one of her pregnancies. And so she told me maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s something you just have to wait and see, I called my sister and my mom. Had miscarriages and, um, they didn’t have much reassurance to offer. My sister said, oh, maybe it’s just implantation bleeding. I said, oh no, that would have happened two weeks ago.

That’s when the baby burrows in and implants, this is much later. Well, the bleeding didn’t stop. It got worse. Despite the tea, the tea seemed to do nothing but a fuel. The liquid that was coming out, I was in bed. For the next three days, as things got more bleak and the pain got intense, it was worse than my birth experience with my son, which was unmedicated.

12 hours and ended in a C-section. So maybe I didn’t get to the point where it really hurt, but in any case, this miscarriage was painful and it did end, um, with, uh, a little person coming out and I put that little person in the cup and put the cup in their refrigerator. Well, a couple months went by and I let my.

He’ll a bit and we decided to try again and again, I got pregnant easily and I wondered am I going to be like my mother-in-law with seven miscarriages during law school? During this stressful time, I was so worried and I ordered online a relaxation, CD pregnancy relaxation. And I remember lying on my bed, the same bed where I.

I felt this pain and all this resistance to having this, to losing this baby and the ma the relaxation CD instructed me to think of a place that I felt comfortable. I imagined myself on a beach. It instructed me to imagine myself holding my baby, which I did. I imagined myself walking from the sand, into the.

Letting the waves lap against my feet and holding my baby up in the air. And it was really nice. It was really peaceful. And then I had an experience that I’ve never had before, since I felt a true communication coming through. And I, I heard or felt my baby say to me, mama, I’m coming. I’m coming. And I felt this wave of relief.

And after that, I didn’t worry. And the months went on and he did come and I have a beautiful three-year-old boy. And one of my friends later said, you know, if you hadn’t had that miscarriage, you wouldn’t have Jeffrey, your beautiful son, but I don’t think of it that way, that other little. Person was important too.

I don’t think it’s worth discounting that, that other little being who didn’t quite make it to the finish line. Okay. .

Marc Moss:

As the mom of an 8-year-old boy and his four year old brother, Laura King gets the chance to tell two or three stories a day, mostly about spiders, fairies, and superheroes. She was, at the time she shared her story, also a lawyer with the Western Environmental Law Center in Helena. There she told stories about arbitrary and capricious government action (and weaves in spiders, fairies, and superheroes where possible). She has since moved to California to focus on a story that will take a long time for her to tell. We’ll get into that more during our conversation. Thanks for listening.

I caught up with Laura in June of 2020.

Marc Moss: [00:00:00] Hello? Hello, Laura. Hi mark. How are you? Good morning. I’m well, how are you? Good. So I’m recording this right now by line. I have to say that

Marc Moss: I listened to your story this morning. Yeah. I haven’t listened to it a long time. Have you listened to it? I

Laura King: haven’t. No.

Marc Moss: Well, before we get into that, how are you?

Laura King: I’m doing really well. I’m um, yeah, just at home, working on some writing and I’ve got my dog here at my feet to beautiful day here in

Marc Moss: Helena.

Marc Moss: And your kiddos six now.

Laura King: Yeah, I’ve got Jeffrey has six and Nate who’s two.

Marc Moss: Oh my gosh.

Laura King: And they’re actually in school. We have a. They go to a private Montessori, [00:01:00] which reopened. So I have a little free time every day. It’s a shorter schedule, but, , they’re in

Marc Moss: school. Are they going to be in school for the entire summer?

Laura King: Yeah, I think so. We’re gonna be taking some time off, , going to California and a couple of days, but for most of the summer they’ll be in

Marc Moss: school. Yeah. What’s happening in California.

Laura King: So one thing that I wanted to talk to you about is happening in California, which is I’m doing an audio storytelling project with my cousin, , which I’m excited about.

Laura King: And it involves interviewing my dad and his dad. , so that’s one reason we’re going, we’re just also going to see our families

Marc Moss: cool, like Northern health.

Laura King: It’s Southern California LA areas.

Marc Moss: Yeah. , have you figured out how logistically you’re going to do the recordings? Like what equipment you’re using and stuff?

Laura King: That is [00:02:00] a great question. So my cousin who I’m doing this project with, , is a podcaster and, and we’re thinking of this as a podcast, he recommended. Eh, so I have a little recording device because I’ve been doing, , interviews, but not, , you know, just for my own, like I take a transcript of them. Yeah. , so I have a little recording device and he recommended getting just a simple external microphone. , but then I was also talking to a friend who is a, a guy who’s done PRX. , Pieces. And he was like, no, that’s not adequate. So I don’t know if you had any recommendations. I’d love to hear them.

Marc Moss: I mean, it sounds like your PRX friend is going to have better recommendations than me, but it is interesting.

Laura King: Thank you.

Marc Moss: Yeah, but I love this idea for the project. What, is the impetus for this?

Laura King: Yeah, so actually I’m super excited about the project itself and gathering these stories. My cousin and I have two great uncles who are pretty interesting [00:03:00] historical figures and lots of glass, , both lawyers, , and I’m a lawyer.

Laura King: So that’s kinda fun. , one of them was very conservative and the other one was very liberal. So we’ve got a guy who is an FBI and, , involved in propaganda. , supporting Japanese internment, , on the one hand. And then we’ve got, , the other guy who was, , a criminal defense attorney and, , very active in, , you know, abolition of criminal punishment and, , the efforts early, early efforts to legalize marijuana.

Laura King: I’m in California. So I kind of two interesting figures who are also connected the movie industry. Um, my family has connections to Warner brothers and the conservative guy became the head of, um, security for, for Warner brothers. So I think we’ve got some interesting stories that we can, uh, in our, both of our dads.

Laura King: [00:04:00] Um, my cousin and I, um, our dads are getting older. So now we feel a good time to go get their stories and tell these stories, which, um, really have not been very well recorded, but we think maybe of interest more broadly than

Laura King: I’m already fascinated. I’m going to subscribe to this podcast when it comes out.

Laura King: And you have so many directions that you could take.

Laura King: Yeah, that’s true. And we don’t know all the stories yet either. Um, one of the other interesting stories is that, uh, our aunt, um, niece of these two great uncles was Joan Anderson. Who, um, do you know that Joan Anderson letter, Neil Cassidy’s, uh, Joan Anderson letter.

Marc Moss: Anyway,

Laura King: because she was part of the beat movement [00:05:00] and I’m kind of involved in that scene. There’s a possibility that she was the Joni Anderson and the letter. We kind of don’t think she was, but, um, you know, my husband and I were talking about creating kind of a citizen Kane framework where you kind of build up these interesting, uh, Ideas that might turn into something and maybe they don’t need to anything at all, but it’s, if that’s the hook and it gets the listener interested in hearing the stories and also creates a platform for telling other stories that kind of branch off from, from the main hooks

Marc Moss: Rosebud.

Laura King: Yes.

Marc Moss: Background or training in how to collect stories like this. Cause it seems fascinating. And I, I, I really would love to hear what direction you want to take this. Cause I’m, I’m trying not to like plant seeds where I want to see you take it. Cause.[00:06:00]

Laura King: Lance, my cousin brought the project to me. And I think in part, because he thought, you know, I’m a lawyer and I can help him do the foyer requests, but I also got really interested in just the storytelling aspect of it. Um, And yeah, I don’t have, you know, I’ve been doing for the past six months, I’ve been doing interviews and writing profiles.

Laura King: Um, so there’s that piece of it that I’ve had, you know, just a little bit of experience with, but, um, this is all pretty new and exciting

Marc Moss: for me. It’s yeah. I mean, you might have more than one project on your.

Laura King: Yeah, well, his concept is that we would do like a series of, they would turn into like six to eight episodes, um, that we’ll see how it shapes how ha how it takes shape as [00:07:00] we gather the stories from our dads.

Marc Moss: Yeah. Have you thought about like what potential directions you could take it as far as, I mean, do you have any sort of story about.

Marc Moss: Well, I’m just thinking like, there certainly is the family aspect and getting some family stories and family history. There’s also the law aspect of historical perspective of law stuff that, that both of those men dealt with most interested in hearing how they feel about what’s going on. Right. With like defunding the police and the Brians and all of that stuff.

Marc Moss: I mean, it seems like, and maybe they’re all in maybe can time altogether, but it seems like there’s also some standalone storytelling options with each one of those subjects that I just mentioned. And those are the only the ones that come to mind off the top of my head. [00:08:00] And I don’t even know these men.

Laura King: That’s interesting. Okay. So yeah, I guess, yeah, it does. Um, it would make sense to once we have all the stories, figure out how they fit together and how they can be told, um, whether it’s, you know, each episode as a standalone or is there a, are there larger themes that we can also connect to present time?

Marc Moss: One thing that I think about as far as storytelling and being a responsible storyteller is if you’re a good storyteller. One of the things that you do is you anticipate questions that your listeners might have, and you try to, you try to answer those questions while you’re telling the story. So the questions that you have.

Marc Moss: Are important. And then think about the questions that [00:09:00] other people might have to answer and try to answer those or, or dismiss them and just acknowledge like, yes, these are, these are things that you might want to know about, and we’re not going to talk about them.

Marc Moss: I can’t wait to hear this.

Marc Moss: Do you have a target date for releasing?

Laura King: No. And so, as I mentioned, , we’re also putting together, FOYA requests for information from the FBI about both of these men. , so it may be that it takes a while to get that information, you know, it could be a year or two years. , so I have a feeling that we’re, you know, we’re going to get audio.

Laura King: Now we’re going to start working in this up, but it may be a slow walk to process as we wait for the other information to trickle on. Right.

Marc Moss: Well, I don’t know how I can help, but if there’s any way that I can help, please tell me. [00:10:00] Yeah, absolutely. Is there anything else that you wanted to tell me about stuff that you have going on or projects that you’re cooking up?

Laura King: So I quit my job as a lawyer, I was working for a nonprofit Western environmental law center, which is an awesome organization. And I’m now working as a freelancer for them doing not law, but writing and storytelling. And I’m, ,

Laura King: Doing these profiles, kind of new Yorker style profiles of the attorneys. And what I love about it is they’re just giving me free reign to do it in the way that I want to do it. , so I’m having a lot of fun with that.

Laura King: I have been trying to as much as possible, you know, have like kind of a general idea of some things I am interested in asking them about, but I also try to just be present to the conversation and let it move in the way that it wants to move. , and, and just be present to them as they are. [00:11:00] You know, like I, I have Lily’s asked about their childhood, , and that often yields interesting, , stories that they, for example, I was interviewing someone recently and she said, well, you know, I haven’t thought about that in a long time, but that is an important part of my personal story.

Laura King: And, , so cool, cool. Things like that and just, you know, trying to keep it to, to, , The story of why they care about the environment and, , you know, why now what’s, what, what are the big issues that are, , bubbling up in your mind and your heart right now? And how are you facing them or, , bringing your energy to them.

Marc Moss: Why do you care about this work that you’re doing?

Laura King: I think that’s a great question. Yeah. I really feel like these, , you know, in some way it’s like, oh, profile’s about lawyers. That’s so boring. I’m like, you know, and their lawyers who deal with science and [00:12:00] that’s so boring, but you can humanize it, you know, because they do care passionately about what they’re doing and to tap into that, , can be really powerful.

Marc Moss: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s awesome. When and how are those being used? Are they just being pushed out on, on the website for the attorneys? Yeah,

Laura King: yeah, yeah. I’ve got it. I’m the communications director is doing the visuals and he’s doing a nice job with that. Cool.

Marc Moss: Let’s talk about your story that you told us.

Marc Moss: Tell us something. What was that like for you to tell that story? I mean, it’s pretty much.

Laura King: Yeah. You know, it was cathartic and I’m glad that I told it. I, um, when I had a miscarriage afterward, I was sharing it with some close girlfriends and suddenly it became clear to me that having a miscarriage is a really [00:13:00] common experience, but it’s one of those things that people don’t talk about.

Laura King: And I felt, um, good. About making the decision to go and share that story in public, because I feel like it’s a topic that needs to be talked about and doesn’t need to be a shameful topic that we, you know, hide. And it’s just a female topic and we can’t talk about it in public. Um, so yeah, it was, it was, uh, a powerful experience for me.

Marc Moss: What was the response of people in your community after they heard that?

Laura King: you know, I remember a couple of people coming up to me afterward and thanking me for telling me, telling the story. , I definitely felt a sense of yes. That, you know, this is something that we share and we appreciate you coming out with that.

Marc Moss: Yeah. I mean, it’s, [00:14:00] it was a brave story to tell. , and it’s, I asked you. , to tell a story, not knowing anything about you, because Aaron Parrett said that you’d be good at this. Yeah. , and so I didn’t know where, where you would go. , and then when you said, this is what you wanted to do, I was like, absolutely because this story, I’ve never heard that story, you know?

Laura King: Yeah. And it’s one of those topics that there are so few stories told about it that it’s like a blank slate, like, well, what was my experience of it? , you know, there’s no like set idea I have about how I should have reacted to it. So that was an interesting angle to come

Marc Moss: at it. Yeah.

Laura King: Yeah, well, it says there’s some, you know, there’s kind of the protocol and you get pregnant that you don’t say anything for three months until the day he is solid. , I love that idea. Well, you know, I’m pregnant and you know, whether or [00:15:00] not it comes to term, this is what’s happening and, and I’m going to be public about it.

Marc Moss: I like that. Yeah. It’s, it’s incredible.

Marc Moss: Anything else you want to say about your story?

Laura King: No, I just, I really appreciated the opportunity of that, that you gave of having a platform to tell it. So thank you for that.

Marc Moss: Oh, you’re welcome. I mean, that’s what I’m doing.

Laura King: Well, yeah. And it was just really fun, you know, it’s fun having these events and hearing everyone’s stories in the community, , it connects you to people in a way that is not always available when you’re just socializing,

Marc Moss: Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Laura.

Laura King: Thank you so much. This was really fun to talk to you. Yeah.

Marc Moss: And seriously with your new project. If, if there’s anything that you think that I might be able to have. Please call me or text or email, whatever, and let me know how I can help.

Laura King: Awesome.

Marc Moss: All right, well, [00:16:00] have a fantastic morning. You bet. Bye bye.

Marc Moss:

Thanks, Laura. And thank *you* for listening today. 


Next week, I catch up with Neil McMahon


Neil McMahon:  Get some kind of, uh, go into some kind of line of work. That’s a lot more conducive that’s not the right word, but, , you know, what that means would give you much more material, you know, whether it’s, uh, like Michael Connolly was a journalist, a lot of people have done that.

obviously physicians, lawyers, whatever, uh, something besides swinging a hammer, Uh, you know, which I did for much of my life….


Marc Moss: Tune in for his story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.


Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at


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was a little broadcasting company. Learn more at Float Missoula. Learn more at podcast production by me, Marc Moss. Remember to get your tickets for the next in-person tell us something storytelling.

I live at the Willma on March 30th, tickets and more information at To learn more about tell us something, please visit tell us

In this episode of the podcast, Brian Upton sits down with Tell Us Something Executive Director Marc Moss to talk about his story “Parting Ways with Henry Miller in Egypt”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June 2015. The theme that night was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”. They also talk about his extended family in Egypt, about Henry Miller and separating the art from the artist, and about the atmosphere at a Tell Us Something live in-person event.

Transcript : "Parting Ways With Henry Miller in Egypt" story and Interview with Brian Upton


Brian Upton: My stress just was on a huge upward trajectory about that book and who may find it or how I can get rid of it before somebody nails me for violating Egypt anti-pornography laws.

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, I sit down with Brian Upton to talk about his story “Parting Ways with Henry Miller in Egypt”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June 2015.

Brian Upton: one thing I’m appreciating about this conversation is that I can also set the record straight because that was, that was definitely kind of traumatic for me. , but really the defining, , Aspect of that trip was getting to meet my wife’s family and the relatives.

The theme that night was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”.

We also talk about his extended family in Egypt, about Henry Miller and separating the art from the artist, and about the atmosphere at a Tell Us Something live in-person event.

Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.

Before we get to Brian’s story and our subsequent conversation…

I am so excited to tell you that the next in-person Tell Us Something storytelling event will be March 30 at The Wilma.

The theme is “Stone Soup”. 7 storytellers will share their true personal story without notes on the theme “Stone Soup”.

We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at

Brian Upton shared his story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June of 2015. The theme was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”. Brian Upton buys Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France. He begins reading the book in Alexandria, Egypt and discovers that the book is considered pornography in Egypt. Thanks for listening.

Brian Upton: It started out in Arab spring 2011 and the Tahrir square revolution in Egypt, my wife, Dina, and I decided that it would be a good time to take our kids are eight and 10 year old kids to Egypt to see the country and to see their family and relatives. My wife’s parents had come over from Egypt and she was born here, but her mom actually brought her to Alexandria, Egypt to go to an American school.

So she has dual citizenship and she actually had an Egyptian passport at the time. She’d met her relatives and family, but I’ve never been to Egypt. Our kids had never been there and they’d never met the family. So it was a really exciting. When Deena booked the tickets over there, she got lucky and she was able to get a three-day layover in Paris on the way to Egypt.

So how great was that? I was excited because there’s a spectacular bookstore there called Shakespeare and company that I’d never been to. I don’t know how many of, you know, Shakespeare and company, but for those that don’t, it’s a hundred year old bookstore. That was a favorite haunt of the lost generation and all sorts of cool characters.

And I wanted to check that place out. So we take our trip, we get to Shakespeare and company. It’s fantastic bookstore. I wanted to find it a cool book, a great souvenir of that bookstore to take with me something I can’t just find anywhere I was coming up dry. So I thought, well, I’ll just come up with a book by somebody that had a connection there.

And I thought Henry Miller, I’ve never read any Henry Miller and Tropic of cancer is supposed to be a big deal. So I’ll get that. I go to the Henry Miller section. Of course there’s no Tropic of cancer. So, I don’t know any other Henry Miller books. I just look at the shelf and I see a book called Tropic of Capricorn.

So good enough. It’s a Tropic. So I picked up Tropic of Capricorn. That’s my souvenir of Shakespeare and company stuff. It in the suitcase, we finish up Paris, go to Egypt, go to Cairo, go to Alexandria, fantastic trip meeting my wife’s relatives, my relatives now. And, uh, it was just super, I started reading Henry Miller for the first time in Alexandria on our last night there.

Our next stop was flying up to upper Egypt in Luxor where the valley of the Kings are in a number of temples. Luxor in the nineties was the site of a terrorist attack on tourists at one of the temples there. And as a result of that, Egypt has co-opted the military to be security for the tourist infrastructure down in Luxor.

So what that means is when we get to our hotel in Luxe, We go through a metal screener and there’s military people acting as security in the hotel lobby, which is kind of unusual, really nice lobby, very comfortable lobby. So actually that night after we’d gone out in the town and we got back to the hotel room, everybody was ready to go to sleep except me because I’m still jet lagged.

So the kids in Dina want the lights out and going to sleep. I told Dean and I’ll just read down in the lobby. And so I get my Henry Miller book out and I say, I’m going to go down the lobby. And Dina says you can’t do that. I said, why can’t I do that? I’m just going to go down to the lobby to read. And she looks at the book and she says, that’s pornography.

And my face is all wrinkled up. I look at the book and oh, and the cover of the book, which I didn’t really think about when I grabbed it in Paris was a very tastefully done, black and white photo of a woman. From the knees up to the neck, which was all Henry Miller cared about. If any of you have read Henry Miller, it all makes sense.

But did I say it was tastefully done because it was tastefully done very skimpy panties, no top. So in Egypt, absolutely. That qualifies as pornography. So I put the book away and got another book, went down to the lobby, read that and everything. I watched the military men go up and down the lobby hallway while I’m sitting on my comfortable couch.

I go back up to the room to get to sleep. And you know how nighttime is the time when all the great worries come out? Well, I I’m trying to get to sleep in, uh, the gravity of this situation has impressed upon me that I am sitting here in Egypt with pornography, with contraband and. I was dialed right back to high school.

When I was in high school, I was in model UN and I remember reading a whole bunch of accounts of primarily Westerners that were caught in developing world countries with contraband, usually drugs and the things that happened to them in prison. And it terrified me. And I remember vividly thinking, I will never go to a country where I could even conceivably be caught with contraband and have something like that happen to me.

So I’m on my family vacation with my children in a country like that, carrying contraband, and now I’m stressed. And I’m also remembering by the way, for anyone that remembers midnight express the movie, not midnight run the Robert DeNiro movie, but midnight express about the American that got caught with contraband and Turkey and sentenced to life in prison and a Turkish prison, not an uplifting movie.

And I remember when I saw that in college. It reinforced. I will never go to a country like that and be caught with contraband. It’s not going to happen. I will avoid those. So that was my thinking for the night. And the next morning when we got up, I was concerned at that book is sitting in the room and whoever’s going to clean the room.

I’d come across this pornography, be alarmed, contact the military, my pipeline to prison. So I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t throw it away. I would, I didn’t feel like I could stuff it under a mattress. Cause I thought. Maybe I might look under the mattress for things like this and B if they’re just making the bed, they might come across it.

So I did the only thing I could do, which was just wrap it up in a shirt, stick it in a bag, wrap up the bag and some more clothes and put it in the middle of my suitcase and hope my suitcase doesn’t get ransacked by. And it worked. We went out, saw valley of the Kings, had a great day, put it out in my mind, all was well.

And same day or next day, same thing. It was pretty much out of my mind for the most part at night, I was still worried about midnight express, but where everything amped up was our next leg of the trip. And our final leg of the whole Egypt vacation was to go to Sharmel shake on the Sinai. The red sea. So we have to fly from Luxor to Cairo and then back over to Sharmel shake.

And I’ve got the book in my suitcase because I don’t have a good place to dispose of it. And there’s military patrolling in the lobby. So I’m nervous and all of my high school model, UN torture accounts and midnight express recollections are just forefront of my head. There’s nothing to be done. So we checked the suitcase and I just hoped.

Nobody was going to be looking in the suitcase. And all I could think of was, I don’t know if the airline personnel rifle through suitcases here. I don’t know if airport security rifles through suitcases, if they do random checks. But when we went to Egypt, there were far less tourists because of the economy and the political situation than there typically are.

So the odds of my suitcase being ransacked in my pornography, contraband found were much higher than they otherwise would be. And I was thinking about. But when we finally get to the airport at Shama shake, we go to the baggage carousel. I am not panicking, but I’m nervous and I’m waiting for the bag to come out.

And, you know, I don’t know if you guys have the same experience. I do my bags always the last one out, regardless of the airport. So I had that in mind and I was prepared, but we waited for a long time for the bags to come out. And finally my son suitcase comes out. Okay, good. That means our suitcases are here.

That’s good. And then after a while my daughter, Alex, his suitcase comes out. Good. We wait still no suitcase for me. We wait, my wife’s suitcase comes out. Okay. That’s good. Three to four. Where is my suitcase. So I’m waiting and waiting. And finally the baggage carousel stops and my suitcase isn’t there.

What are the odds that only my suitcase is not showing up? I mean, that’s, what’s screaming in my head amongst all the visuals of midnight express. So there weren’t a whole lot of English speakers there, but Dina speaks Arabic and she was able to find one of the airline staffers who’s assured her that there were no other suitcases.

So my suitcase was gone. He said, he’d make some calls. So we waited for 20 minutes and I’m sweating. He comes back and assures us that the suitcase is in Cairo. It got held up. He doesn’t know why he will look into it and give us a call at the hotel. So rather than spontaneously combust, Tried to clamp everything down for the sake of the children.

And we all went to the hotel and I was getting panicky at this point. I was a little panicky because this was way too close to midnight express in the prison pipeline than I ever wanted to be. And I was legitimately nervous. So we go there and then Deena and I are trying to have the conversation with.

Explaining to the kids. Exactly. What’s going on, how daddy brought contraband at Egypt. And we were trying to have the conversation about who’s going to go back to the airport when we get this call. And what’s that call going to sound like? So we’re talking about that and I say, look, this is my bag. So I should go there because it’s not your problem.

You shouldn’t have to go there. And if something happens with it, then I should be the one to be there. Dina is much more logical smart and everything else than I am. And she pointed out the fact that I can’t communicate with anybody at the airport valid point. And she also, which I found out later, she was putting on a good face.

Cause she was as panicked as I was. But at the time I didn’t know that. And she said, I’m sure this is just a mix up. And it’s just like a random mistake. So let me go to the airport and clear it up. Oh, We got a call after we sweated all afternoon. And all I can think about was what I’ve already told you.

And we waited all afternoon for that call and I’m trying to figure out how do we react when one of us is arrested in a foreign country and the other has to take care of the kids and get them back. What’s the number of the consulate. We finally get a call and they said our suitcases here, so we can go pick it up.

And that’s all they told us. So at least there’s no bad news over the phone. There was no military guy knocking on our door, but Dina goes off to the airport. And so I’m left with the kids and I’m just realizing, you know, she is not only in Egypt’s eyes and Egyptian citizen, but I’m also realizing that the bag that I use for this.

Was her suitcase and had her identification on it. So if they rifled through and found our pornography in our suitcase, it would have her name on it. And she’s an Egyptian citizen. And that could make things a lot more difficult if we’re trying to extricate ourselves out of criminal charges in Egypt. So that’s how I managed to ramp up the stress level in my head while she was gone.

And it was kind of a fever pitch. She comes back finally after about 45 minutes and she’s got. And my suitcase is unmolested and Henry Miller is in the middle of it all wrapped up, just like it wasn’t Luxor. So that was a huge relief. And then my whole crescendo of panic and stress and midnight express was receding, but it left a heavy residue of paranoia because now I see this book, this Henry Miller book that I don’t want to see again, that’s ruined my vacation, caused me more stress.

In years, I’m getting rid of this book. How do I get rid of the book? Because the wastebasket, the mattress thing, it’s the same as the hotel in Luxor. I don’t have a good choice here. So I just decided I’m, I’m destroying the book. I’m going outside. That’s our wastebaskets in the hallways. I’m going to destroy it.

I told Dina that and she said, all you have to do is rip up the cover. The rest is fine, and I’d read enough of the Henry Miller book already to realize it. If somebody were to see me throw out the book, fish it out and leave. The text is much more pornographic than the tastefully done, black and white photo on the cover.

So I didn’t want to risk it because I was completely paranoid at this point. So paranoid that rather than use the wastebasket on our hallway, I went up to slights of stairs. I told Dean and the kids I’m going to meet you in the restaurant go. So they left. I went up two flights of stairs. I ripped up the.

And I didn’t want to just throw the book in the wastebasket because you all realize that somebody could just walk around the corner out of the elevator and see me fish out the book and then pipeline to prison. So I figured if I had defaced that nobody would fish it out of the wastebasket. So I’m just frantically tearing up the pages, stuffing them in the waistband.

I bought a quarter of the book, go down a flight of stairs, repeat, go down a flight, skip my floor because I’m not going to have the incriminating evidence on my floor. I’m a smart criminal, right? Go down one more floor, shred everything while I’m looking around madly stuffed it in the waste basket. And then I’ve just got a little bit left.

So I go to the restaurant, there’s a bathroom off the restaurant. I walk in casually with the book under my shirt. I look in the bathroom. There’s nobody in there. So I shred the rest of the book, stuffed it in the waste basket, grabbed some paper towels stuff and over those pages. And then only then after Henry Miller is safely stuffed in the wastebasket of the restaurant bathroom.

I went over at dinner with Dean and the kids we snorkeled, we scoop it up. We had a great vacation. I was free and it was a fantastic feeling. We ended our vacation and two months later, it’s my birthday. Dina gave me a copy of Tropic of cancer by Henry Miller. So I was finally able to read Tropic of cancer and I didn’t like it very much. .


Brian is originally from the Great Lakes country and came to Missoula from Indonesia in the mid-90’s to go to the University of Montana. He has since discovered that Butte is the more interesting place, but is settling for Missoula anyway.

I caught up with Brian in August of 2020.

Brian Upton: Hey Brian, can you hear me okay? Yeah. Can you hear me?

So have

Marc Moss: you listened to your story since he told it?

Brian Upton: You know, I think I listened to it once. Just stay here. It and that was probably, uh, two, three years ago. It’s hard doing it yourself. It

Marc Moss: is hard to listen to yourself, but I ended up having to do it a lot. So I’ve gotten used to it.

I listened to it again today. The first time since. Um, at the time I wasn’t the one producing the podcast. So I think the only time I really heard it was when you did it on stage. And I listened to it again today. How much did you practice that?

Brian Upton: Well, it doesn’t show, but I’ve practiced it quite a few times.

Your workshop was a huge help and kind of getting some response and figuring out how to refine it. But because I was having a hard time keeping to the time limit with. I didn’t keep too. I, I ran over it. I dunno how many times? Probably at least six to eight, if not over a dozen times. Just mostly to try to get it to 10 minutes.

Marc Moss: The first time you were in the motel. I forgot about you putting in the suitcase.

Brian Upton: I should have destroyed the book. Initially saved myself a lot of.

Marc Moss: All right.

Brian Upton: That wasn’t me trying to build the suspense. It was. That’s how it went. My stress just was on a huge upward trajectory about that book and who may find it or how I can get rid of it before somebody nails me for violating Egypt anti-pornography laws.

Marc Moss: So they actually have laws on the books.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I have not seen them, but my wife who used to live there assured me that it’s illegal. You know, it’s, it’s not Saudi Arabia, but it’s still a Muslim country. And I I’m sure I believe it.

Marc Moss: Yeah, I believe it too. And I’ve not even after you told the story, I thought, man, I really had to see midnight express and I never got a chance to see it yet, but I can imagine it.

Wasn’t very pleasant.

Brian Upton: Midnight express is I haven’t seen it in probably a couple of decades, but I did see it twice at different times. One when I was probably just out of high school and the second probably when I was around 30. And it’s a good movie. It’s a, it’s a compelling story. It’s a very good movie, but also it hits you probably particularly if you’re male, it’s in a pretty visceral way.

And that that’s kind of why it was in my frame of reference while I was there in Egypt and feeling like I was susceptible to the criminal justice system. Yeah.

Marc Moss: Well, one of the things that I appreciated so much about your story is many people want to tell a story about traveling and it’s such a difficult thing to do, right?

Because you know, you’ve been traveling. Potentially weeks or months. And how are you going to pick the one thing, the one event that epitomizes the trip, you can’t include everything. So what are you going to do?

Brian Upton: You know, market and a lot of ways. That’s true. But one thing I’m appreciating about this conversation is that I can also set the record straight because that was, that was definitely kind of traumatic for me. , but really the defining, , Aspect of that trip was getting to meet my wife’s family and the relatives.

I mean, now my relatives over in Egypt, in Cairo and Alexandria, and they were so gracious and friendly and warm, all of them and her father’s side was a very big family and they actually, so it was. , so lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and that experience was just so fantastic. And that’s how I remember the trip.

That’s the first thing I think of. I don’t think of my trauma over Henry Miller’s book. That’s not the first thing that I remember thankfully.

Marc Moss: Right. And that’s what I’m, I guess one of the points I’m making is because. That’s a completely different story. The story of meeting your wife’s family in a foreign country who has a completely different culture.

And that, that story, I think, would be a fascinating one to develop as well, but it would be a completely different trajectory.

Brian Upton: Right. And, and I love that story and that memory, it was, that was my first time to Egypt. That was my first time meeting any of these relatives. So yeah, that was. It was pretty amazing.

It was pretty amazing. And it’s a total counterpoint in the total opposite side of the coin to that terrible few hours. When I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, to see whether somebody had taken that book out of it

Marc Moss: has, has your, um, extended family. Dina side of the family. Have they listened to your story at all? Do you know?

Brian Upton: I, I highly doubt it. I, I’m not even sure how many of them really speak English. There were just a few that, that were very fluent in English that kind of served as our translator, Dina speaks Arabic, but I don’t.

So I, I highly doubt any. Would have caused to have Googled and found it. We certainly didn’t bring it to anyone’s attention. Right.

How many

Marc Moss: languages does Dina speak?

Brian Upton: She speaks three Indonesian, English and Arabic. I think she would tell you her Arabic is a little rusty conversationally and she knows some French. She took French for a number of years in college or high school.

Marc Moss: Actually makes a lot of sense, knowing what she does at the university, with all the international students that come through.

Brian Upton: Yeah. That’s definitely her passion and she’s so good at interacting with all sorts of people from anywhere on the planet. It’s always a pleasure to, to see that and to see the relationship she builds.

It’s pretty amazing.

Marc Moss: Well, it sounds like your experience meeting her family. You can see where she gets it.

Brian Upton: Yes. And her parents both, you know, both of her parents immigrated to the United States from Egypt in the sixties, her father to go to school. So her father didn’t come from wealth or anything. And he really.

He really built up a solid foundation for his family in the United States. He came to the university of Minnesota to get his bachelor’s and he went or excuse me to get his master’s. And he got a doctorate at Oxford, Mississippi, um, after Dina was born. So she was born in Iowa where her father was teaching at Simpson college, which is the same college that.

George Washington, Carver after Iowa state university rejected him for being black. Um, Dina grew up in Iowa until she was five and then went to university of Mississippi at Oxford for her father to get a doctorate. And when he finished that he taught at university of Wyoming. So they moved there, but her father just kind of his educational pursuit.

And his Intrepid newness, uh, coming to the United States alone and teaching in rural Iowa and going to the south and getting a doctorate and living in Wyoming. He was definitely, I unfortunately never got to meet him because he passed away when Dina was 10, but, um, his fortitude and Intrepid, nearness and ability.

To obviously navigate a whole lot of human landscapes. Definitely, definitely lives on through Dina. Yeah.

Marc Moss: And what a different upbringing than you coming from Butte, America.

Brian Upton: Oh yeah. I actually grew up in rural, mid Michigan and. Lived there till I was 18. And then I met Dina our freshman year of college at American university in Washington, DC.

Um, but yeah, very different. I mean, Dina, Dina is very interesting because she knows she grew up in Iowa, Mississippi and Wyoming, but also grew up in Alexandra Egypt because after her father passed away, her mother, um, Moved to Alexandria, Egypt and Dena went to high school there at an American school and they would go back to Wyoming during the summers, but that was part of her growing up too.

So to counterbalance the deep south, the rural Midwest and Rocky mountain west with urban Alexandria, Egypt is a lot of experience growing up that I certainly didn’t have.

Marc Moss: Right. And I don’t know for whatever reason. I always imagine that you’re from BU even though I know you’re not right. I always forget that right away, but

Brian Upton: no, I love Butte so much.

Marc Moss: Did you get any sort of feedback from people who were there or heard it later after.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I heard from a few people, um, that night afterwards when we were leaving, um, and, and a few people that have heard it, um, on the Telus something website, you know, and months or years later, um, and you know, the people that, that want to say something to you about it are the ones that are being gracious and want to say something nice.

That was nice to hear. Um, but yeah, that’s about all I’ve I’ve heard.

Marc Moss: Well, before you decided to tell a story, um, your history will tell us something initially you had never heard of it. Right. And, and I think I put up tickets for, uh, like a premium for the KBG, a fundraiser, the local college readiness.

Fundraiser and you and Dina got those tickets. And then I think they were like season tickets or something. Right.

Brian Upton: Okay. Yeah. You have a really good memory. Cause I I’m trying to remember. I think that would have been in 2014 or maybe 2013 and yeah, we, I had donated to K BGA cause I think that’s a fantastic station.

Always appreciate that. And part of the premium. Yeah, years’ worth of tickets to tell us something. And I believe that’s the first time I’d heard of probably wasn’t the first time I heard of it, but the first time it really resonated with me. And then I was like, oh, wish I could go to this. Um, so we went and yeah, that was when it was at the top hat.

And the very first one, we went to it just bowled me over at great stories. You know, you have a great. Presentation of the whole thing and the way you make it an event and a community was very obvious right then and there just made a huge impression on me and it just looked fun. So I remember stalking you after the end of it, to just tell you what a good job you’re doing.

I can’t remember if I asked to do a story or if you said, do you want to do one? But I, I thought that was amazing that I could have an opportunity to do that. And I remember you writing my name down in your black book. Yeah. I

Marc Moss: have a little book that I can carry around in my back pocket for those reasons, because anybody that ever says that was great.

I always say you could do this too, because that, I mean, that’s part of the point of it, right? I can do this. Everybody has a story to tell and I want it to feel inclusive for everybody. And so when you said this was awesome and I had a good time, I immediately invited you didn’t think you would follow up at all.

Most people don’t, you know, um, and you gave me your number and then yeah.

Brian Upton: So,

Marc Moss: um, I can’t remember how long after your first time. At the show you decided that you wanted to tell a story, but, um, how did you decide that was the story that you wanted to tell?

Brian Upton: I knew that was the story I wanted to tell, because I’d already told it to, you know, groups of friends and family, because that, that was a pretty.

Scarring experience for me, but it was also, it seems to me pretty funny in retrospect, but at the time it was pretty scary. Um, so I just kind of enjoyed telling it, cause it was kind of cathartic and I always got a kick out of seeing people’s reactions to various parts of the story. So I knew that would be the story to tell.

And I don’t think I have another one that, that, uh, That is equivalent,

Marc Moss: maybe not equivalent, but I bet you have another one,

Brian Upton: maybe.

Marc Moss: So did you ever, I know that Dana for your birthday gave you a Tropic of cancer and you read it and you weren’t really that impressed by it. Did you ever get around to

Brian Upton: reading Tropic

Marc Moss: of cancer Capricorn?

Brian Upton: I did not. I. My recollection is I thought that was a little more interesting as far as I got through it in Egypt. Um, because Henry Miller was talking about growing up pretty poor and working class, New York city. I forget which borough, but he painted a pretty evocative picture of that. And it’s so different.

Um, from the New York city of today, that it’s, I found it really interesting. Um, I, I never finished Tropic of Capricorn, but when I read Tropic of cancer, it was certainly interesting in its own way. And he was pretty evocative about how living in Paris was, um, at that time around the turn of the century, I think, uh, and that also was so different than how.

Most people experience Paris now. I mean, when he writes about cold drafty flats with lots of vermin and lights and it just didn’t sound at all, like the place, most of us kind of envisioned our experience there, but the book was also, um, super massage monistic and I don’t know something about it. Really enjoy all that much, but it’s scratched the itch.

You know, he was one of the guys that Shakespeare and company in Paris, uh, that bookstore, um, he knew Paris. So it was, uh, it was a good thing to pick up in Paris. It served that purpose.

Marc Moss: He was, uh, revered enough that they created a library for him in big Sur, California, the Henry Miller library. And I had the occasion to go there and I think it was 2003 or 2004. Um, I had a job that put me on the road and it just turned out that I was on the road. In that part of the country when jello Biafra was on a spoken word tour.

Oh, wow. You know, Jello Biafra is

Marc Moss: do. Yeah. The dead Kennedys lead singer. And if

Brian Upton: you’ve ever, you heard him speak at the Henry Miller library. Yeah.

Marc Moss: And if, if you’ve ever heard him do a spoken word show, I mean, it is like Henry Rollins. On steroids. I mean, he is in your face. He is super political and the people who come to events at the Henry Miller library, some of them, it seems like maybe never have read Henry Miller.

Brian Upton: Absolutely I, yeah, you’re right about that. And I bet that you’d also be. And that Henry Miller is probably surprised a whole lot of people. I didn’t know anything about him when I picked up his books. And I can imagine if other people think they’re going to pick up some kind of quaint, uh, 19th century, early 20th century author, who, who wrote in Paris, they probably didn’t know necessarily what they’re getting into when they started reading things like Tropic of cancer.

Marc Moss: Right. And I like put Charles Bukowski in that same sort of thing, but people said about this great American poet and all of a sudden they’re in this misogynistic bullshit. Um,

Brian Upton: yeah. You know,

Marc Moss: it’s and it’s, uh, then, then we have the question. How much of that was the person and how much of that was the art and how much of that is forgivable?

If. You know, and like, I don’t have answers to any of those questions, but it’s interesting to read some of those pieces of literature. And now with the knowledge that we have go on that guide and sort of cringe.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I would say Henry Miller is pretty cringe-worthy and I certainly don’t know the answers to your questions either.

I would assert that, um, my sense of traffic, of cancers, that we were seeing a pretty unvarnished look at the man. Um, that was my sense of it. Yeah.

Marc Moss: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you want people to know about your story or your experience?

Brian Upton: Um, I think the only thing I would add is that, you know, the experience of telling it can be as you know, intimidating, a lot of people, you know, public speaking is a pretty common phobia. Um, and it can be kind of nerve wracking to kind of prepare for that and know you’re going to go up in front of a stage of people.

I would just reinforce for anybody listening that the environment you create is very, uh, friendly, nurturing. It’s, uh, it’s an environment where you don’t really feel as nervous as you might think you would. And that’s in part because of. The workshops you do, and kind of getting people used to who they’re going to be on stage with and getting used to telling their story.

But it’s also, I think, a real tribute to the community that you have built and encouraged with with that audience. I think most of the time, those audiences certainly now are, are kind of regulars. Um, and I, I can’t say enough about how you’ve cultivated a good diversity from Missoula. Of speakers. And, um, the experience is just a really good one.

And when I was on stage at the top hat, which granted is not as imposing as the wilderness stage, that that tell us something has evolved into, um, but still that was a lot of people you packed into the top hat and it wasn’t, it felt, it felt good. And, and that’s, I think attribute to you. And I’ll also add that I’d never even heard when I was up on the stage, the little gentle gong that tells me I exceeded the time limit.

So, so you’re gentle to your participants in many ways.

Marc Moss: Well, the gong is as much for the storyteller as it is for the audience to key them in to know that we’re about to wrap. But

Brian Upton: also I’ve been here when I was the storyteller.

Marc Moss: Yeah. And I think at the time I think I might’ve been the one with the gone.

Now I’ve got a governor who is a loud enough timekeeper, , Marissa Crerar. So if you’ve ever listened to or ever been in the audience, you can recognize her laugh. She has this very distinct laugh.

It’s interesting to see, uh, Events are evolving during this time.

COVID and, , the, , live streaming events in particular. , the April show that we did the storytellers knocked it out of the park. I saw it and they didn’t have any interaction with the audience at all. Um, and I asked one of them, I had the opportunity to talk to her pretty in depth about that experience.

And she said it was all. Oh, the green room. , , I had a little breakout rooms, , for the storytellers to go quote unquote backstage. And they were just building each other up, back there. You know, they weren’t even listening to the stories as they were being told, because they’d heard them enough and we practiced them and us.

They were just like backstage having fun off my.

They all bonded and they’d never met each other in person.

Brian Upton: Well, that’s, I didn’t know you had done that. Um, that’s great. I, I really appreciate that. Tell us something is doing the virtual events during the pandemic, because a that’s really about the only way you can do it. And it’s just a great way to introduce, I think a lot of other people. The whole, tell us something, um, kind of event, but that’s, I can see some of the storytellers maybe being glad they’re not in front of hundreds of people on a stage with lights shining in their eyes.

Um, and maybe having it be an easier experience, but I can also see it being perhaps a little more difficult because you’re just trying to stare into a camera to make eye contact with the audience. And as being a little kind of empty with no feedback. So I guess it would depend on the person. I could see it going both ways, being maybe easier and a better experience, or maybe a more difficult or experience without all the people, but I’m sure, glad you’re doing it because yeah, we were part of that audience and, and again, I mean, those, those stories are great.

And I guess one of the other things that would be, uh, I’d like to comment on, especially for anybody that hasn’t been to a tell us something event is one of the things I’ve always appreciated too, is that in a number of the events, there’ll be a side splitting, hilarious story. The same night as there can be a really, really moving emotional, sometimes traumatic.

Story that just in some ways they just don’t go together at all. And in other ways it’s a great way to, um, really appreciate the, either emotional depth of one story or the humor in another story, because you get to compare them to each other. Okay. It kind of lets you kind of travel a whole human gamut in one night and I’ve always appreciated that, especially when, and I think this is how you usually structure it when sometimes there’s a traumatic event that somebody recounting is followed by something that has a lot more levity and it is funny and, and that’s always a nicer way to, to travel that emotional path.

Marc Moss: I think of it, like you would think of making a mix tape or, uh, if you’re a musician creating the structure of an album, what songs you want to include, it’s one thing. But then the order of the songs is just as important. And I learned that the hard way, because one night there were, I think, five. Pretty heavy stories.

And I stack them pretty close to each other without any levity in between. And I had people walking out because they could not handle it. And I had people talk to me later and say, man, those stories were good, but I just couldn’t, I couldn’t take it anymore. And I had to leave and that taught me a lot. Um, those conversations were important to hear.

And when I started thinking about it in the way that you would think about. What do you want to include in a mix tape or if you’re an author or like what short stories do you want to include and in what order, or if you’re a poet, you know, how do you want to order the poems you have in a collection? I think the order is just as important as the stories themselves.

And that’s my job as a curator is to try to determine how are these stories going to land most effectively for the list. So that the storyteller and their experience can be the most effectively honored.

Brian Upton: And sometimes I think you do a great job really easy.

Marc Moss: Well, thanks. I appreciate that. Um, but it took years to figure that out.


Brian Upton: love the mixed tape analogy. I think that’s perfect. And, and, uh, I’m a little concerned if you had people that had walked out after four or five. Stories of levity who wants to, who can’t take five grade funny stories? No, no. They were the heavy stories. Oh, they were heavy. I misunderstood. They were

Marc Moss: five, five stories of heaviness was sort of lined up one against each other.

Um, and that was a big mistake on my part to do that, to do it that way. And, um, People let me know. And I’m really glad they did because I probably would have made that mistake multiple times, but I only had to make it once. And that might be the only time in my life where I’ve only had to make a mistake once before I’ve learned the lesson.

Brian. Thank you so much for spending time with me today. Um, I appreciate you and all your support of telecommuting over the years, and I’m glad that you were able to participate. Okay.

Brian Upton: It’s always great to talk to you, mark, and, um, thanks for the opportunity and thanks for everything you’re doing for the community that you enjoy.

So have given us a lot and we appreciate it.

Marc Moss: Well, I appreciate. , acknowledging Joyce. She doesn’t often get credit and she’s just as important as me in this work that we’re doing. So I appreciate it. I appreciate you. And I hope you have a story worthy weekend.

Brian Upton: You too, Marc . Thank you. All right. Thanks, Brian.

All right, we’ll see you.

Marc Moss: Okay.

Thanks, Brian. And thank *you* for listening today.

Next week, I catch up with Laura King.

Laura King: Yeah, so actually I’m super excited about the project itself and gathering these stories. My cousin and I have two great uncles who are pretty interesting historical figures and lots of glass, both lawyers, and I’m a lawyer.

So that’s kinda fun. , one of them was very conservative and the other one was very liberal. So we’ve got a guy who is an FBI and involved in propaganda, supporting Japanese internment, on the one hand. And then we’ve got, the other guy who was, a criminal defense attorney and, very active in, you know, abolition of criminal punishment and, the efforts early, early efforts to legalize marijuana.

Marc Moss: Tune in for her story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

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Free from jail at 16, Stephanie faces a corrupt system and overcomes an inept foster parent. Stephanie calls her story “The Smartest Girl in the Jail”. We also talk about her band, her podcasts, and about how things in the system don’t seem to have changed much since she was 16.

Transcript : "Smartest Girl in the Jail" - Interview with Stephanie Hohn

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, I sit down with Stepahnie Hohn to talk about her story “The Smartest Girl in Jail”, which she told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October of 2012.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: The theme that night was “Forgiveness”.

We also talk about her band, her podcasts, and about how things in the system don’t seem to have changed much since she was 16.

Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.

Before we get to Stepanie’s story and our subsequent conversation…

We will be in-person for the first time since August 2021. We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at

Stephanie Hohn shared her story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT on October 9th, 2012 at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT. The theme was “Forgiveness”.

Free from jail at 16, Stephanie faces a corrupt system and overcomes an inept foster parent. Stephanie calls her story “The Smartest Girl in the Jail”. Thanks for listening.

Stephanie Hohn: So, um, I got out of prison when I was 16 and I’m here to go to college. I finished two years of high school in six months because I was the smartest girl who’d ever been at that prison, which is possibly not a compliment. Um, but it’s something that the program director told me when I left. And I got out of a van with no handles on the inside.

The good food store parking lot. So I could meet my foster mom and we could have small talk for an hour and then go to my parole meeting and pretend like we met before, which worked well. I got to sit there at a table with five adults that I’d never met before, telling me all of the ways that I could go back to jail.

Most of them seem to include Maureen, not liking me or me not being able to find a job. And I came out with $5 and the clothes that I was. And I think I also maybe had chapstick, um, cause that’s what I had when I had gotten arrested and that’s what I had. And when I moved here, so worrying took me to Ross or something to pick out some clothing so that I could have something professional to wear, to try to get a job and begin paying my way as soon as possible.

Cause she didn’t want to do it. Uh, and I was sitting in the dressing room, looking at my. And I could see like, so clearly what a big hole I was in, because I didn’t know how to do any of those things. I didn’t know how to tell them what they wanted here or how to get a job, or I don’t know how to make people like me.

So I stayed in there and I cried for as long as I thought I could get away with. And then I went back out there, but eventually I, I did manage to get a job. Start going to college and all of those things. But the main problem was Maureen, because she was very unstable. Um, she’d picked me up from work. A lot of the times really smashed, tell me a bunch of strange stories and then try to take me to bars and not understand why I didn’t want to go with her and be like, no, come in don’t you want a beer?

No. Um, I’m 16 and on parole Marine, I don’t go in the bar with you. Um, and then she would cheat at pool, which is not necessary when you’re playing pool with me because I’m horrible at pool and she would still lose. And then she would try to get me to drive her car home, and I still don’t know how to drive.

And then we would go home and she would spend the entire next day in bed crying until I had to call her sister to come and take care. So it was trying to talk to my parole officer about this. And I got halfway into the story and he stops me and he looks at me and he says, Maureen is more important to us as a foster parent than you are as a kid in our program.

And if there are any problems with her and you cannot live there anymore, I’m not going to find you another placement. You can just go back. So I took that to me in, Hey, Stephanie, shut the fuck up. So I did, um, and I didn’t tell them anything else about her and it seemed like things were going okay. Um, she decided that she was going to go to AA because every time that she freaked out, it seemed like she was drinking.

So she was like, oh, maybe there’s some connection between this. Um, But when I, we were supposed to go to a movie together and she decided that she didn’t want to go or that she wanted to go out drinking with a friend from out of town. Um, she’s like, you know, I’ll pick you up after movie, just call me. Oh, good.

So you’ll be drunk then and driving you. That’s awesome. Uh, but I called her after the movie and she comes and picks me up completely smash and grabs me by the arm. Like for emphasis of shock, Stephan, Stephan, I fell in love tonight. Um, and first they used to tell me about some girl that she met at the bar that she’s going to go back and steal away from her boyfriend.

Um, no previous lesbian tendencies there, but you know, whatever. Uh, the only problem is I have to work at eight o’clock in the morning, the next day. And my work is all the way across town. So I’m a little worried. It’s like, we’re gonna, are you gonna be okay to drive me home tomorrow? Cause it’s it’s two right now.

Be to work at eight. She’s like, no, no, no, it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. Cause there’s another lady in the sheets. Me congratulate me. She actually did the finger guns. So not, I didn’t have that. I was like, oh God, you not want to see that at all. So I wake her up the next morning they got alone and she takes me to work and it seems like it’s fine.

I mean, she’s a little drunk still, but it’s like Sunday morning. There’s no other car. She asked me what she should bring me when I’m going to get off work. So I was doing a double shift. I had to go to the other store. It was like, coffee should bring me coffee. She was like, okay, let me bring you coffee.

It seems fine. I get about halfway through my shift and I get this phone call. Um, and it’s Marine just speaking really fast. And it sounds like she’s like outside or something like the phones all crackling. And she just starts like speaking all in a rush. It’s like Stephanie, Stephanie said. I have to go see my mom.

If she go see my mom right now, I was like, like, like now, now she’s like, I don’t know. I’m on the way to the airport. I’ll call you back. Click, like looking at the phone. I’m like, yeah, I’m going to jail. I am going to jail. I’m going to fail college and get fired and I’m going to go to jail. Um, so I look at the phone for like, you know, a couple of seconds decide there’s not really anything I can do about it, but it back and go back to work.

Um, I get about halfway through. And Maureen’s boss and her best friend, Jocelyn calls me and she’s like, Hey, it’s Ryan picking you up today? It’s like, I don’t think so. She’s like, yeah, me neither because her mom just called me from Indiana. And she says that she’s there. And, um, I don’t know where her car is also the dog.

Um, so yeah. What do you want to do about that? I was like, oh, well, if you could just give me a ride to work, that would be cool. Uh, so that happens. And so about a month ago I was walking down the street and I’ve run into her and we made eye contact and then couldn’t take it back. So we had to talk to each other and she, she seemed eager in a strange way to sit down and have coffee with me.

It didn’t seem like it was coming from her. So I kind of got the impression that she was on the ninth step, but, um, I sit down and I have some coffee with her and it’s about like, I thought she starts telling me about how every night in her room, she was drinking by herself and she never mentioned it to anybody.

You know, she’d had like a history of mental problems. I was like, I’m shocked. Um, but. She she’s asking me if I could forgive her, but even as she’s saying it, she’s almost taking it back. Cause she’s like, oh, I feel like I wasn’t a very good big sister to you. I’m like, oh, I like how you’re minimizing your responsibility in this situation, even as your attempt to take some sort of responsibility.


so I mean, she seemed, she seemed to need it. So, so I gave her my forgiveness, but I don’t think that it meant anything. Um, So what actually happened was, uh, she didn’t ruin my life. She actually ruined hers because a Marine was a social worker here in town and she could no longer get a job after that here.

So she had to move in with her parents and spend five years going to nursing school, which I thought was a poor career choice for somebody like her, because. Um, people die in hospitals and I don’t know how well that would work for her, but regardless, that was her, her decision. Um, after that I was kind of my parole.

Officer’s like golden girl. He got like copies of my sat scores and my college transcripts and like put them on his wall. Like there was some child’s crayon drawings or something. And we tell everyone about what a success I was is if he had been some kind of assistance to me instead of a constant hindrance, uh, I got to sit down at those meetings with the five people that I didn’t know and be asked like, well, why didn’t you tell us, why didn’t you tell us that she was so unsealed?

I did. I told you, you told me not to tell you anything else. So I didn’t, um, and I think maybe guilt was his motivating factor for trying to be nice to me after. Uh, I ran into him a while ago and he said that he mentions my story in the talks that he gives about being a parole officer as if, you know, he played some role.

Uh, something interesting that Maureen did tell me was that I’m apparently the only person who went through that program, who didn’t go back to jail, which they recognized as not a flaw in their program. But as the rest of them being worthless criminals, and I’m the only redeemable one. But I think that when you’re constantly told that you are the disposable factor in a situation that you become, that if you’re not a stronger willed person or the smartest girl in the jail.

So, you know, I guess, I guess that’s the whole.

Marc: Stephanie Hohn, raised by wolves, is an activist, artist and traveler.

I caught up with Stephanie in July of 2020.

A quick warning for sensitive listeners, towards the end of our conversation, Stephanie describes assault with frank language.

Marc: Are you practicing via zoom with your band?

Stephanie: So my band all works at our shop aside from our singer, who is the sister of one of our band Pampers. And so we’ve been meeting in person because we already are around each other all day at work. Anyway, it’s like at that point we’re already pretty exposed.

So we might as well.

Marc: And are you performing?

Stephanie: We did some live streams when quarantine first started to happen for us, like when we were laid off from our jobs, but shelter in place hadn’t been put into effect. And then when shelter in place happened, we all took it pretty seriously. Everybody stayed home, you know, for that amount of time.

And then once, you know, The places that we were working at opened back up again, we were like, well, at this point we might have sold to start practicing it person. We are hoping to record an album this year. We have enough music for it, and we’re kind of ready to go on that front, but it’s just a matter of like that being something we can do.

Cause I don’t really know if people are doing that right now,

Marc: Matt. Oh,

Stephanie: well, that’s good to know.

Marc: I’m pretty sure. Yeah. And he’s, I’ve worked with him before. He’s

Stephanie: yeah, we, um, we’ve been working on some merchant. I’ve made some shirt designs and I’m screen printing those myself and stuff. So we’ve got like a lot of, a lot of things.


Marc: do you have your own screen printing setup or do you use?

Stephanie: I have my own right now. Yeah. I have used the Zack in the past and I think if I was going to do something. More complicated or, or trying to do a lot of shirts that I would probably use their setup. But, um, since we’re kind of doing like print to order, I just have a small setup and we’re doing simple designs and we just have three shirt colors, and three ink options.

And I mean, , I feel like, um, what I’ve been doing, it has actually been hand adding second color details myself, just with like a brown.

’cause you can do, you can do wet on wet with like a water-based ink. And so I’ll just do the whole, like, if it’s like a black shirt and I’m putting a white design on it and I wanted like some yellow accents, I’ll just do the whole thing in yellow and then the whole thing in white. And then I’ll go in and add the yellow on top of it by.

And I, I feel like that’s like been a good result, but that’s only for a few things. If I was trying to do a whole bunch, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

Marc: Right. And it’s fun too.

Stephanie: If you’re just, if you’re just kinda messing around and like having fun.

Yeah, for sure. And because I, I do the t-shirt section at my job now, it’s pretty easy for me to get blank shirts at a lower cost. So it’s not like terribly expensive on our. You know, once you have all the supplies, so hopefully, yeah. Hopefully people are into it. It’s been kind of weird. Cause I haven’t felt like it’s something that I should be promoting right now.

I mean, even like thinking about live streaming or a band practices, it’s like, we know why it’s okay for us to be meeting, but that I feel like that might be hard to communicate as like setting a bad example for other people. You know,

Marc: that makes sense. But, I mean, I’ve seen all of the band members except for the one you mentioned at the shop and you know what I mean?

It makes sense that you’re allowed

Stephanie: to get together. Yeah. I mean yeah, Claris do sister, so they obviously see each other at their house. So it’s not, yeah, there’s, there’s a, there’s a point at which it’s like, I mean, if one of us got COVID at this point, we would all have to quarantine regardless.

Marc: Where can people

Stephanie: listen? I actually have it up on streaming, right? So it’s called the spooky town radio show. And it’s, it’s on like Spotify and apple podcasts and stuff it’s available there.

Marc: So anybody could subscribe to the spooky

Stephanie: town radio show. It’s all people from. Yeah, just voice actors from here in town.

And all the fully sound effects are things that we made ourselves for the most part. So, you know, when you hear like a door shutting or whatever, those are all real sounds that we recorded to

Marc: that’s fun. Do you find yourself watching around when you are out and about recording? I’ve

Stephanie: tried a few things.

Usually there’s like a specific sound effect that I want to use. And I’ll try to like, write a scene around that. Like if I, if I get a really good like door creaking noise or something like that I also recently have come across a. Some like, you know, compilations of different sound effects for like cheesy horror movie things.

So I’ve been using that to add like background music to scenes. But a lot of it, , there’ll be like, like a dun dun duh, on a piano. And like most of the time, like we’ve actually recorded that on the piano or, you know, something like that. Right.

Marc: Yep. I mean, I I’ve started since I’ve started editing audio, I paid attention to sound more and like, Walking across a wooden floor.

That’s like a deck, a wooden deck in your bare feet versus walking across the same floor and a pair of Dansko shoes versus walking upon across the same floor in a pair of combat boots. You know, like the sound is different, even performing the same activity. And I, I think it’s fun to play with. A sense of place

Stephanie: using sound.

Yeah, we haven’t done this as much yet, but we’re hoping later to maybe go to locations and just record a lot of ambient noises to use those like background noise for different scenes, like so that if, if people are in like a convenience store to just go and record some sound in a convenience store or something, and just use that as some, as some like flavor.

But we’ll, we’ll see, like what is available it’s so it’s, it’s a horror comedy podcast. It’s based loosely off of a role-playing game called monster hearts, but

Marc: pretty nerdy

Stephanie: stuff, stuff. Yeah. I’ve been, I’ve been doing a lot of role playing games. Um, I had a D and D group for a little while that was, uh, Doing discord games and everything.

Well, both things were shut down. So we were still calling each other and doing stuff. I recently wrote a little tabletop game where you play as a shop cat.

Marc: Um, uh, are the cats in the game named after the shop? The

Stephanie: shop. As S as illustrative examples. Yeah, it’s, it’s called perfect crimes with the P P U R O

I feel like I I’ve had a little bit more time to explore like those weird little creative projects. I learned how to, sew I’ve been working on that which is something I always was interested in making clothes, but I never, you know, really sat down and like really tried to make myself do it.

Because there’s just, yeah, there’s not like. At least I don’t feel comfortable, you know, going out and doing activities that much for right now. Yeah. I’m trying, I’m trying to minimize the number of like places I’m going and things that I’m doing. And then I just have a few things, like, you know, having band practice, because I feel like.

Those are reasonable, but yeah, I’m, I’m really, I haven’t been to a restaurant. I’m probably not going to one for, you know, the rest of this year.

Marc: Right? Exactly.

Stephanie: I’m really surprised at how people are just, you know, not, not wearing masks. Not really. It seems like they just got sick of taking precautions and or if they ever did it in the first place, you know?

Marc: Right. Well, we’ll see how this winter goes. I think it’s going to be pretty, pretty brutal.

Stephanie: I. At the beginning of the year, I had signed up for a CSA share. And so I just started getting that. But I remember like when we were having, you know, some grocery store shortages and stuff, like thinking about how good it was that I signed up for that, cause it’s just a local farm.

There’s no supply chain issues at all. They’re like, you know, and it was already paid for and they were doing just fine as, you know, a small group of people on their farm. So maybe, you know, considerations like that will make people kind of pivot to more local options.

Marc: You told your story in the first year of telephoning, it was October 9th,

Stephanie: 2012. It’s definitely a long time.

Marc: It’s been a long time and that was the same night. The former owner of the top hat said goodnight and goodbye to essentially her dad. So that’s how long ago it was.

It was before the remodel. It was still a dive bar. What was that experience like for you?

Stephanie: Well I think, I mean, if you’ve listened to it, I think you can tell that I was pretty nervous. I was, you know, I was pretty young also at that time and I just had a lot of like stage, right. I was in college at the time and I guess I still have this experience, but I have it a lot.

Or I had it a lot. Then when I was talking to people my own age, that like everybody’s life experiences were so different from mine, that when I would tell stories about my life, people would legitimately like not believe me, or would think that that sounded like fake and made up. And I, I honestly. I feel like that still does happen because I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: Yeah. I mean, I thought that’s was the power of your story. People have. Perception of our town as being liberal and we take care of everybody.

And, but no, I mean, people are expendable in the eyes of the system and you certainly were. I mean, I think that somebody in your, you even said in your story, like somebody told you, like, I’m not going to try to place you in. If Maureen disappears, you’re going right back to jail.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. His name was Brett Gordon and his, his wife was my assigned therapist, so there was no real and I was required to go to therapy.

So it’s like there was no real confidentiality which is one of the things that I think about now when people are wanting to kind of pivot more towards a more social workers and away from police is how intertwined those systems are for us. Social workers and cops who were canned in hand. I I’ve had, you know, some pretty bad experiences with caseworkers when I was a kid too.

So I don’t know if that’s like 100% going to solve all of our inequality issues.

Marc: I wonder if better training would be helpful with that

Stephanie: too, or, or them. Not as, as a meshed into the system. I mean, the main, the main issue in Montana is funding. We have some of the highest, like reported cases of child abuse of like any state it’s very high here and we have some of the lowest funding.

And so there just aren’t enough places for kids to go if they’re in dangerous situations. And so the. Wants to place people back with their parents, if they can justify it at all. And the number of people that I was in group homes with, or that, or that I was in, in prison with, who went back to households that were very, very clearly unsafe and were causing a lot of the problems that were supposed to be addressed by incarceration, you know, it was ridiculous.

Marc: One of the things that you did in your story that was so heartbreaking and beautiful and kind towards the end, when you were talking about, and you didn’t name the guy, but they just named it now, but you said that he talks about you and his programs and the T know as your sort of success story. And you said that as if he had any role in that and all of the rest of the.

People in the program all went back to jail and you were the only one who didn’t. And that the beautiful thing that you did was you said, you know, something about they didn’t have self enough self-awareness and then this is these, aren’t the words that you used, but they didn’t have enough self-awareness to think that maybe there was a problem with their program and it wasn’t the girls and the fact that you were just giving that love to.

Even just in that little tiny sentence was so cool.

Stephanie: Well, some of the, some of the people that I think about the most well, , if we’re talking about, you know, systemic inequality, at least half of the, of the girls that I was in prison with were native American and they’re not half the population.

And there there’s a reason for that. And it’s because of the. That things are covered on reservations. Reservations are not legally part of the state. They are part of our country, but they don’t have to abide by state laws, which means that federal law enforcement and tribal police are the only people who are able to help with issues on the reservation.

So if you get in trouble and you’re from the reservation, it’s immediately a federal. So the level, the level of incarceration that they experienced when there are problems is extremely high,

Marc: that’s so messed up.

Stephanie: And there was one girl I remember who was very clearly mentally ill. Like she had schizophrenia, she had like hallucinations that she would respond to like visual and auditory hallucinations, and she was repeatedly. Getting put in jail. I think when I was there, she was 15 and she had been there three times already.

And it was for things like minor drug offenses non-violent things when, obviously what she needed was mental health help. And instead they just kept putting her back into her household, uh, which had a lot of its own dysfunctions. And that’s, that’s just going to, or as far as I know, that was her second.

You know, the whole rest of her life when she was at least a teenager is just being on parole, getting a parole violation for some minor offense, going back to jail over and over and over again, when really what she needed was, you know, mental health support.

Marc: Yeah. I mean, that’s, I think that’s been the case for decades, right? Yeah.

You did some nervous, but you also sounded like I need you to hear this. Like that was sort of the attitude. It sounded like you were confident in that way.

Like, and you told the story in such a compelling way. And I was. So I’m still so grateful that you wanted to share it.

Stephanie: So I’m not in college now, but w when I was going to school, I wanted to do creative writing and I feel like people always wanted me to do memoir. And then also when I did it, I sort of felt like, I dunno, like a, like an object.

To them, because it’s like the things that I was was trying, the stories that I was trying to tell them were so out of the norm for them, that it didn’t, it seemed like affection. It didn’t seem like a real story that had really happened to them. Um, but I’ve been trying to work on doing that more just because of, you know, thinking about some of the different people that I was around.

Who probably never, were able to either get out of that cycle or have never , been able to tell their story because it was too hard for them to say, you know, so I don’t know but that’s hard work because it’s just, it’s upsetting, you know?

I’ve always been more interested in like speculative fiction because it’s easier for me to do, but I kind of feel like people, I don’t know, I probably have stories that it would be good for people to hear.

At the same time. So I’ve been, I’ve been trying to do more of that kind of stuff.

Marc: Beyond the nervousness of telling your story, was there anything afterwards after that event was over, did you have any buddy come up to you and say anything?


Stephanie: there was one lady, like right after I got off stage, who I think said something to me along the lines of, oh, I always wonder it’s like what, what the deal with you was? Or like, something like that. So it kind of sounded like she’d seen me around town and like noticed me or thought I was weird or something was just wondering like what, who that person is.

I found kind of like a strange comment. I was like, I don’t really know how to respond to that, but

I imagined that sh that, that, like, it made her confront whatever assumption she’d made about me. And she was like, oh, I’ve learned something. But it, I, I definitely took it as like, oh, I’ve seen you as a local weird. And I was wondering like, why is that girl dressed like that or whatever? Yeah, I definitely, I remember that one specifically.

I think that I had maybe one other person recognized me, , and like want to be my friend after that, but it was like, It was kind of a, it was kind of an odd individuals. I don’t think that really went anywhere, but well, and I don’t know, cause I, because I was a minor when all of this happened my record has been expunged and so I, I guess I.

I am open about that with people that I know well, but it’s not necessarily something that I like would open up with talking to people, like normally like on like a day-to-day basis. I’m not like, by the way I was in prison when I was a kid, like but it’s something that is definitely really present in my mind with political issues.

Like I do. I don’t know. I do consider myself. To be an ex-con, even though that’s not how I think most people perceive me or what they are that they think about that. And so I, I definitely like it’s, it’s impacted the way that I like think about all of those issues and probably will for like the rest of my life.

Marc: Sure.

Stephanie: . I mean , our whole outlook towards imprisonment I think has, has gotten worse over time for sure.

And I think. I think, I mean, hopefully, you know, this moment that we’re in right now, when people are looking at the role of police, I think the natural next step is to look at the role of prisons and to, to ask if like they’re accomplishing the goals that we claim we want them to accomplish. Um, because I think it’s at least from my experience, I don’t think anyone was helped by.

You know, I don’t, I don’t think that most of the girls that were there were truly a danger to the community. I think that they needed, they were people who were at risk at, in their homes and they didn’t have another place to put them there. Wasn’t another option for them. And that’s the say nothing of the situation, you know, of boys.

Way worse. I mean, the, in Montana, the, unless things have changed since then, they very well could have, it’s been quite awhile, but Riverside in Boulder is the girl’s prison here in Montana. And it can only hold about 20 girls, pine Hills as the boys. And it can hold 120 boys. So I’m sure that their situation is worse.

Yeah. From what I’ve heard, it’s much more violent there. So yeah, I mean, you’re taking people out of an abusive situation and putting them into a much more abusive situation. How is that going to help them improve their behavior? It’s only going to make them more likely to respond to threats with violence because that’s, those are the only tools that have.

I mean if, what we actually wanted to do, if we’re like, oh, , I’m concerned that these children are committing crimes in the community. I’ll just give you some examples of some of the, some of the crimes that people were were in there for that I personally knew there was a girl who was in there for check fraud because her mother had abandoned her and their other siblings for a second.

And so they had just, they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have anyone else to contact. So they were just writing checks to the grocery store and I’m sure for also frivolous things, but they were writing checks off of her bank account. And when her mom finally showed back up, she decided that she wanted that money back.

So she reported her daughter for this crime so that she could get, you know, restitution fees from that. And when she was done with her stay in prison, that girl was put right back.

Is that like, it’s not a real stuff. That’s true

Marc: in time of COVID, you know, sometimes the safest place for kids is in school and now they can’t go to school and they’re forced to be with their abusers for the entire.

Stephanie: Yeah. And they’re, they’re not able to receive, you know, if they’re a part of a school lunch program that’s gone now. I mean, the, the food bank has definitely been, you know, doing their best and working over time. But I definitely, when I was a kid, I had to steal food from the grocery store because my parents weren’t feeding.

Marc: That shouldn’t you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t end up in jail for that.

Stephanie: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s the problem is the problem there that something was stolen from the store or is the problem there that a 12 year old felt like they, that was the only way for them to get through.

I think it’s just easier for people to, to like, feel sympathy for younger kids, because when like a five-year-old acts out, everyone’s like pretty sure that it’s not their fault or at least like, they’re like, well, there’s probably problems at home. But when like a 14 year old is acting out, then people kind of are like annoyed by it.

And they feel like maybe this is just a bad kid. I don’t think we give kids enough, like leeway as they get older to understand that like they don’t have control of their situation. And that’s why they’re acting like that. Like when you see a, like a toddler screaming in the store, your first response is to think that like, oh, they’re over tired.

You know, whatever they, like, they don’t have control over their life. They’ve been pushed to a point that they’re acting like this, but we don’t, you know, we don’t give teenagers that same breathing room or that same like sympathy.

Marc: I see teenagers coming into the store and acting out. How do you respond to that?

Stephanie: I mean, I guess I haven’t really. Too many, like teenagers acting out in the store, there are definitely some kids shoplifting and I’ll just be really straight with them about it, where I’m like, I see what you’re doing. , I know what this looks like, and , I need you to stop doing this. That’s pretty much what I do cause I don’t have the ability to do too much more, but.

I had a, I saw a lot more of that kind of stuff. I used to work overnights at a gas station and there would be neighborhood kids that would try to come into the store and hang out, you know, at like midnight bunch of 12 year olds want to hang out in the gas station and mess around. And there was one girl in particular who would try to go up to cars outside and see.

Th they could get money from people just ask like people who were stopping to get gas, if they would give her a few dollars. And, and her, I did pull aside and I was like, do you realize how close we are to the interstate? And that no one knows where you are and that , somebody could, grab you.

If you’re out here at midnight, they know that there’s nobody paying attention to you. Do you realize how fast you would be gone? You need to seriously consider the danger that you’re putting yourself in right now.

Marc: What does she say?

Stephanie: She kind of like scoffed, you know, I think because when you’re in a survival situation, you’re like, well, I know this is dangerous, but this is, what I need right now.

But I didn’t see her doing it again, at least when I was working there. So hopefully she found some better options, but I was like, I, I know that there isn’t help for you. If I call the police, they’re not going to help that person. I don’t think there’s any community support for that person. She’s going to have to figure out how to help herself.

So I don’t know. Usually I just kind of, yeah. I mean, I don’t really think there’s anybody who can help those kids. I don’t know who to direct them to. I’ll I’ll I can do is like give them personal advice.

Marc: Do you ever weigh in with any of these opinions at places like. City council meetings or when they asked for public comment, you can type up an email or whatever and say, look, this has been my experience.

Or do you think that’s just not, it’s not worth it.

Stephanie: I guess I haven’t. I mean, I don’t really,

I don’t really know, like the. The, the, like the first issue is funding. For sure. We do not fund these services, you know, and people are happy to donate to like the Watson children’s home because it’s it’s children. But as you get older, they’re less inclined to want to help you. One of the big problems with finding placements for kids that have already been in trouble is that there are a lot harsher requirements to foster.

A kid that’s been in jail. You can’t have any other children in the home, for example. And I think it’s called something different. I, I think when I was doing it, it was called guide homes, but it might be different, but there, yeah, there aren’t like, there aren’t an adequate number of foster parents.

There’s not an adequate amount of funding for group homes. There’s like a lot more drug rehabs than there are any other types of shelters. Like every time. I got in trouble because I would say because I had an abusive home life, the, the amount of times that the cops were called to our house, because there was like physical fighting going on was probably dozens of times.

And I would just temporarily, you know, be in a group home for a little bit. And then they’d put me back with my mom and it just happened over and over again until eventually things escalated to a point. They put me in jail. And every one of those incidences, in my opinion, was a self-defense situation for me, where I did not initiate the physical altercation.

But in the state of Montana, it’s not illegal to hit your child with an open. That’s considered corporal punishment and it’s legal. So if your parents are like slapping you in the face and you hit them back, you did not defend yourself. That’s assault

as, as a really absurd example. Uh, one time I was being fish hooked, like I, my mom was dragging me across the floor by my face, and I bit her thumb because it was in my mouth and I got a ticket for my.

I got an assault ticket for doing that and it’s like, I was being assaulted when that happened. So I like, I really feel like the whole, the whole system, you know, is so. It’s so messed up that I don’t really, I mean, you’d have, you’d have to completely


Yeah. And people would have to consider it a priority and they’d have to, you know, I, I think that would be definitely like a step once people started considering, you know, their, their opinion toward incarceration injury. But yeah, I mean, there, there are whole towns, like deer lodge that are just based off of their prison.

That’s what everybody in that town does. So like that’s where all of their income comes from. So where are those people going to really question like their only source of income or is it easier for them to just decide that everybody who’s in that jail now

is there in Ohio? That’s how he feels. If you’re in prison, you did something to deserve to be there.

And I’m just like, dad, that is not true. You know?

Well, like 100% of people in jail definitely didn’t do it. Like that’s. I mean, even if you just like, think about regular statistics of anything, 100% of something, it’s not, it can’t possibly be. There’s, there’s gotta be at least one person, not one little outlier who didn’t do it. And it’s, it’s exponentially more than one person.

But even if we agree that the, every person who’s in prison committed the crime that they’re in prison for, we still, if our goal is to, to have people who have committed crimes reintegrate into society. And, and like be normal, productive members of it. We are not achieving that.

Marc: And so what’s the answer we don’t have.

I mean, there’s, we can’t solve this now. You and I can’t anyway, you know?

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m I mean, hopefully as people start to consider what role does. Should have in our society that they can also then look at like what role prison should have, because if you, if you don’t have police arresting as many people you’re still gonna have in your community, there are going to be people that are committing crimes,

There already are people that commit crimes that there really aren’t any consequences for. I mean, you know, sexual assault is the first thing that comes to my mind as far as people who, I mean, I know I can think of like probably five or six people just in the community, off the top of my head that have never received any, you know, any justice.

Marc: Yeah. And then that’s a whole new conversation to talk about why people don’t report and when they do report the victim blaming that happens and the retraumatization of the person who reports.

Stephanie: Yeah. The, the lack of testing, like the really low, like amount of punishment that people receive, even if they are convicted.

Yeah, I mean a whole, a whole other bag of worms, but there I, yeah, I don’t think that I don’t think that the police are effective at their stated goal. And I don’t even know if those goals need to be achieved, but we would have to build. Whole other institutions to deal with these issues and it could be done, but people would have to want to do it like collectively, that would have to be a priority for everyone to think.

Okay. When there’s a homeless guy on my property, you know, Spain gin for money, I want him to leave, but I don’t want to call the cops. Who do I. You know, and there are like homeless outreach things, but they don’t have very much funding. So we would have to, we would have to want to help, you know, the prov relo increase their staff so that they’d have somebody to come do that we would have to increase what shelters, so that people who had been drinking would have a place to sleep, regardless, you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Each one of these things, you know, there are other systems. That could probably more effectively help them, but we would have to prioritize doing that. Cause the, I mean, every, every situation, every dangerous situation is, is a cop, the correct person to come deal with this, or could somebody else do a better

Marc: job, somebody with different and better training for the state of situation.

Stephanie: Yeah, you shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be getting the same person to come take care of a dangerous dog in your yard that you would call. If you were sexually assaulted, that you would call, if there’s a homeless guy that you would call, if your house got broken into, those are not the same problems and they can’t all be solved by the same tool.

Marc: is there anything else that you want to say about your story before we.

Stephanie: Um, well, if people like it, I’m, I’m glad that they heard that. I would say that I was an outlier, at least as far as my like, ability to like react the way that they want you to, to that situation. Cause I, I think a lot of people, if they were suddenly left on their own, you know, as. I don’t think they would just keep going to work.

Right. Which is what I did. They would probably freak out and, and it definitely occurred to me like, well, I’ve been told that if this, if there’s any problem, I’ll just go back to jail. So now that there’s been a problem, like I think a lot of people would just freak out at that point. Cause they already know that no one’s going to help them.

That’s been their experience that no one will help them. So I’m not, I’m not surprised that all the other people that they put in that situation had a bad outcome. Like they were set up to have that bad outcome. And I don’t really know that that situation has changed to my, to my knowledge. There hasn’t been, you know, any changes to those programs, but.

Marc: Most people would freak out in the same circumstance. How did you not freak out? How did you keep moving forward?

Stephanie: Well, I mean, I have really, I don’t, I don’t know if I want to say that I haven’t respected authority, but I like from the, like, I didn’t have babysitters after I was four. And so for the majority of my life, I’ve been pretty responsible.

My own safety and, you know, taking care of whatever I needed to do on my own. And so I think that like, that’s always been, my approach is like I have to solve this problem. Without generally thinking that like an adult would help me or I should be asking for permission from somebody. That was just my default.

And so it didn’t really occur to me at the time. You know, to tell anybody about what was going on or to ask somebody about it. I just continued to do what I’d been doing, because that was already the plan that I had in place. And I was like, well, I have no control over what she does or what they do about this.

But maybe if I just like continue doing what I’m doing. Everything won’t totally fall apart. Or if they do decide to like, put me back in jail, at least maybe like my boss will still give me a good recommendation or something like that. I don’t know. I like, I didn’t, I was like, I don’t have control over what they do.

So I’m just going to keep, keep doing what my original plan was and hopefully it’ll work out. But I got told that things, that I was the plants that I was making, weren’t going to work out and. I like basically made them work out through force of will, like over and over in the course of being in the system.

So I think I was kind of used to that being the outcome. When I first went to Riverside, which is the girls jail, their plan was that when I was done being there, that I would go back to living with my mom and that I would go back to high school and. Just with like the amount that, that situation had escalated over the last couple of years, I was like, if I go back to living there, like someone’s going to die.

Like it’s getting to the point where I feel like it’s going to like go somewhere really bad. So I was like, I can’t, I can’t do it. I can’t go back there. So what do I need to do to not go back? So I stopped communicating with my parents about. I yeah. At 16, I was like, I’m not going to, if I like refuse to have a relationship with her and I refused to talk to her and I’m extremely uncooperative with that, they’ll have to find, you know, their placement.

And then I basically did a year and a half of schoolwork while I was there so that I could graduate. And they told me from the beginning were like, you’re not going to be able to get enough credits to graduate. And. You’re you’re going to have to go back with my mom. Neither one of those things happened because I like made them not happen.

So I don’t know. I think like you just have to, whatever, like your goal is, like, you just have to focus on that above what anyone else is telling you, because. They’re probably they’re wrong if you like, if you dedicate everything towards one thing you can accomplish, I’m Stephanie

Marc: Hall and everybody

thank you so much for spending the time with me this afternoon.

Stephanie: Yeah, I have a band. I have a radio drama. I have a podcast where I review horse books. Yeah,

it’s called pasture med time.

Marc: Um, man, I love that about you, that you like puns as much as I do.

Stephanie: Well, my, my friend Melanie is a, is a big horse book fan. She’s been a horse girl, her whole life. And I am not a horse girl. Although now people think that I am because I have this and they send me horse things, but essentially she has all of her childhood horse books, like the things that she was reading when she was like nine, and then I read them and.

I’m like, Melanie, did you realize this book is just about domestic violence? She’s like now what?

Marc: I was just, I’m just going to subscribe as soon as we hang up, I want to be present with you right now, but I’m out to pasture. What does

Stephanie: that, is that what it’s past your bedtime, past your

Marc: bedtime. So their horse, their children’s horse bedtimes. That you, you deconstruct them.

Stephanie: Yeah. I just read the last the last season we read the full unicorns of ballon or series, and now we’re doing some like one shot horse books.

We also did a one episode on black lives matter and the protest horses, there’s been a lot of people that have been bringing their horses to protest.

The Compton Cowboys. There’s the fleet street writers’ club there’s nonstop writers in Houston and, um, Brianna noble, who I think a lot of people have seen pictures of her in Oakland with her, her horse Dapper Dan, I think the most interesting thing about all of those is like the immense level of training that an animal like that would require to be in a.

Every one of those people that you see bringing their horses to a protest, just like put in so much work and time for them to be able to be in that environment. It’s really impressive.

Marc: Thank you, Stephanie. I will talk to you again soon. I hope and stay safe out there.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: Thanks, Stephanie. And thank *you* for listening today.

Though I was unable to find the podcasts that Stephanie hosts, for links to some of the podcasts she mentions in our conversation, head over to

Next week, I catch up with Jim Beyer

Jim Beyer: Oh, it was the Sturgis adventure. Yes.

Marc: “Message from God”.

Jim: “Message from God.” Yeah. Yeah, because I practiced that for a week. while driving around Montana, I just tell it to myself over and over and over again so that it, , would be, um, shortened and, um, , yeah, nearer to perfect. So.”

Marc: Tune in for his story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at

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The theme is “Stone Soup”. 7 storytellers will share their true personal story without notes on the theme “Stone Soup”.

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Jeremy N. Smith and I chat about his story “Always, Only, At Least", which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October 2014. The theme that night was “The Things We Carry”. We also talk about podcasting, some of the podcasts that he hosts and co-hosts, storytelling, and being in service of others. I caught up with Jeremy in August of 2020.

Transcript : Interview with Jeremy N. Smith

Marc: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, Jeremy N Smith and I chat about his story “Always, Only, At Least, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October 2014.

Jeremy: Always start the onions before the garlic and the Sauter will ruin it only use parmigiano Reggiano cheese, not just something called Parmesan. You know? So, uh, the zucchini, at least 30 minutes to remove any impurities before trying to use the zucchini.

Marc: The theme that night was “The Things We Carry”.

We also talk about podcasting, some of the podcasts that he hosts and co-hosts, storytelling and being in service of others.

Jeremy: You know, if it’s a trick with Marcella Hazan and I’m like, I’m going to make the sauce and it’s going to take me a while. Why don’t you guys make the pasta? The good thing. If you’ve got a couple that’s visiting, if they’re engaged, see if they can make pasta from scratch together. It’s a really good relationship, test.

Marc: Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni.

Jeremy: If you’re in your own head down on yourself and someone can somehow put you to work, it’s just hard to stay in your feelings when you’re busy and when you’re bodily busy. And when you have a responsibility. To these other people.

Marc: We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.
We will be in person for the first time, since August, 2021, we’re running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at the Wilma.

Learn more and get your [email protected].

Last year, and in 2020 when I was cutting these interviews together, the format was that I would play the interview, then play the storyteller’s story.

Jeremy, never having heard the new version of the Tell Us Something podcast, assumed that the order was the opposite — that I would play the story first, and then play the interview.

As I’ve been thinking about our conversation, I wonder if he’s right. So I decided to try it that way.

Jeremy shared his story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT on October 9th, 2014. The theme was “The Things We Carry”.

Finally arriving in London to be with his girlfriend after a long-distance relationship, Jeremy instead takes the train to Amsterdam for an extravagant formal dinner. Over the course of the next year he cooks all over the world, memorizing portions of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Jeremy calls his story “Always, Only, At Least”. Thanks for listening.

Jeremy: I traveled in Europe for a year after I graduated from college. And when I left to go on that trip, I had a backpack that I put two pairs of pants, two shirts, socks, underwear, toothbrush, and a tuxedo because my mother told me you’re going to Oxford. And in Oxford, there are balls and two balls. One must wear a tuxedo.

And she was right of all the places I was going. I was aimed toward Oxford because my girlfriend had just a few months earlier, won a Rhodes scholarship, which is one of the top academic awards. You can get like 30 people in the country, get it of all graduating seniors in college. And it pays for three years of graduate school at Oxford, all expenses.

And so I had scrambled after she won that we had dated long distance. We were not at the same college. We were thousands of miles apart. And we had dated long distance for four years. And I didn’t want to stay long distance for seven years. So I just applied to anything and everything I could to get across the ocean.

And I got a crazy scholarship. You won’t believe it, but it paid me to travel in Europe for. Poor me poor me. Uh, there were requirements. I was not allowed to have a job or enroll in any institution of formal study.

So, uh, I land in London, look it up. Henry Russell Shaw fellowship. It was on my business card. Okay. Uh, I land in London. I take a bus to Oxford. I get there. She greets me and she says, you know, I don’t think we should live together. Uh, you know, I don’t, I don’t think we should necessarily like see each other that often, uh, you know, we’ve done the long distance thing for so long.

It’s just a lot to go from, from almost nothing to everything. Okay. Um, And I checked my email the next day. And I get a message from my friend, Paul, who has just been fired from his job and in San Francisco. And he is cell celebrating. Or if you, if you call it that he’s using an entire severance package to throw a formal dinner party in Amsterdam,

My mother is a genius black tie.

I take the train across England through the channel tunnel, into France, Belgium Amsterdam, 24 hours later. The entire time, of course, I’ve warned my tuxedo because you know, you don’t want it to wrinkle. And I get there. Paul’s at the train station. On one of those big Dutch bikes, he says, get on the back James Bond, we ride to his apartment and his apartment, the apartment of a friend he was crashing in and it is filled with like Noah’s Ark worth of food.

It’s just every fancy, amazing cheese meat, vegetable of every color, shape, size, whatever. And it’s like five hours till till dinner. And he says, you’re making this, this, this, and this. And he’s bookmarked the pages in a book. I have never cooked in my life and I start looking. It’s a book I’ve never read a cookbook.

It says essentials of classic Italian cooking by Marcela Hassan. It’s got like a white haired lady with a wooden spoon on the sort of side. Uh, and I start reading and these three words, uh, it says. Only at least all the time in this book always start the onions before the garlic and the Sauter will ruin it only use parmigiano Reggiano, cheese, not just something called Parmesan, you know, S uh, soak the Q a the zucchini at least 30 minutes to remove any impurities before, before you’re trying to use a zucchini for anything.

Okay. So recipe one is like a story. Finn spinach pasta with the ricotta cheese ham. There’s like not somewhere, uh, chard and it’s 10 pages long. The recipe. Well, Paul’s, I turn around Paul’s chopping, dicing, cooking, baking, whatever. Okay. So it’s a step. Make the pasta refer, you know, 30 pages. There’s 30 pages of in a different chapter, how to make the pasta.

And it’s like make the pasta. I mean, it’s like the star with the spinach you get, I’m literally elbow deep with flour in just a few minutes. Okay. Beating the eggs in and time passes. I’m immersed. People start coming in. Beers are cracked. Backs are slapped. People are calling me shifts. I’ve got a, you know, an apron over my tuxedo and I’m cooking this, that and the other and it’s proceeding.

And it’s amazing. And at the very end, this dish is like, like a Yule log or something. And it’s, it’s wrapped in cheese cloth at the very end, this pasta that’s been stuffed with all these things. And then that’s like dropped like Jacques Cousteau into this boiling water. And we took it up and, you know, it’s midnight when it’s unfurled and the steam and the cheers and I’m with friends and it’s a transformative moment.

And I, I go back the next day, party’s over and I get there and my check-in with my girlfriend and she feels the same way she felt before my transformative moment. She has not had a transformative moment and. So, okay. I’ve got this belt. I’m actually going to travel on my traveling fellowship and I hang up my tuxedo in her closet and I take my backpack with my shirts and pants and shorts and toothbrush.

And I go to the bookstore and I get S essentials of classic Italian cooking by Marcela Hassan. And I started carrying that instead of the tuxedo. I go to France and I’m, you know, baking zucchini and I go to Italy and I’m making pizzas and, you know, spaghetti, carbon are, I, you know, spend a, like I meant to spend a week.

The ferry gets wrecked with bad weather and I’m S I’m stuck in the island of San Tarini, the Southern most island of the Ajai at sea for like three extra weeks with like three Argentenians where the only tourists on the island. I’m making like Osso Buco and, uh, and I’m telling stories from our Chella has essentially of classic Italian cooking by Marcela hands-on and telling people why they should never use a garlic press and how, you know, if you don’t have Canton, you know, imported San Marzano tomatoes, who are you and a year passes in this fashion.

And I, at the end, And now I have a long distance relationship and we are very good at a long distance relationship. And at the end of this summer that I’ve been home, we’ve been doing the email. Okay, I’m going to go back. It’s going to work. We’ve been fools. We’re great together. I get a one-way, we’re going to get an apartment together in Oxford.

She’s moving into the dorms. I get a one-way ticket and I fly across with my back. And I get there and I land in London, I take the bus and I get out and she greets me and she says, you know, I don’t think this is a very good idea.

So I say, well, you’re splitting the ticket home with me and putting our money together. We find a ticket. That’s like the first ticket we can afford is in a week. And I have a week in her apartment. Uh, she goes to class, I watch TV, you know, Breed and I cook and I’ve got all the time in the world, you know, I want an eggplant Parmesan sandwich.

Okay. You know, it’s six o’clock in the morning. It’s six o’clock at night. You know, I just, I take the eggplant, you know, I salted bread, you know, saute it. I’m chopping the tomatoes. I’m getting the right cheeses, you know, it’s midnight. Okay. I got that. It’s pulling out of the oven. Okay. Now I gotta make the bread.

Cause I want to say. You know, I get the olive oil, I get the flour, you know, always only, at least kind flower, of course. Uh, and I make the bread and, you know, at six in the morning, I gotta let it cool. You know, at least half an hour. And you know, I slice it, I eat it while watching television. It takes five minutes and then I’m like, oh, what am I going to for dessert?

And that’s the next 12 hours. So my girlfriend comes in last. And I pull in like an olive oil bread, whole wheat, olive oil bread out of the oven. And she goes, Ooh, warm bread. You know, and she cuts it and puts butter on it. You’re supposed to let it sit at at least half an hour. Uh, but. But she doesn’t know that she doesn’t do it.

And I watched the butter melt and I could say that that was my, my heart. Right. Um, and you know, that’s not true because here I am 13 years later, but it, you know, it felt like that at the time. So, uh,

you know, you can lose your backpack. And you can outgrow your tuxedo and you can even have a cookbook that gets kinda warned to shreds, and you can’t use that too much anymore, but, you know, I knew those recipes now. I had them with me. I’d had spent a year cooking them over and over and over and I could make them for new friends.

I could make them for new girlfriends. I can make them for my eventual wife and now for our four year old daughter. And, you know, I think those are the most precious things. We carry the ones that, that are, you know, no one can take with us because we know them by heart. And I think they’re the most delicious ones as well.

Thank you.

Marc: Jeremy N. Smith is a journalist, podcaster, and author of three acclaimed narrative non-fiction books: Breaking and Entering, Epic Measures, and Growing a Garden City.

Jeremy has written for many outlets including The Atlantic, Discover, Slate, and the New York Times.

He hosts the podcasts The Hacker Next Door, Stimulus & Response (with high performance coach Damon Valentino), and You Must Know Everything (with his daughter Rasa). Jeremy speaks frequently before diverse national audiences

A graduate of Harvard College and the University of Montana, Jeremy lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife and daughter.

I caught up with Jeremy in August of 2020.

Marc: Hey Jeremy.

Jeremy: Hey Marc.

Marc: Hey, how you doing?

Jeremy: I’m all right. How are you?

Marc: I’m surviving.

Jeremy: Well, now you’re just getting all braggy on me.

Marc: Editing out my laughter because it sounds so dumb on the podcast.

Jeremy: I think you’re overthinking. I think, it should be your new income stream. You should pay people to add in laughter you know, like, well, what do I want to do? I want to say these, I want to say these jokes and you do laugh. And then, you know, the listener is just like, yeah, I guess, guess it wasn’t funny. Keep the laugh. What is car talk? Do you listen to people? Listen to car talk for 30 years because of the card rights or because they just liked the way the guys laugh.

Marc: Oh, that’s true. No, I think part of it is tell me what that sound was. Can you make that sound again?

You know how they, they ask the callers to make the sound of their cars.

Marc: Jeremy, and I sort of geek out a little bit on Car Talk before we started talking about his podcast that he does with his daughter Rasa, You Must Know Everything.

You know, she’s nine, right?

Jeremy: Yeah. She just turned 10 last week. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. I listened to your marketing story with her and also the behind the scenes one today.

Yeah. Backstage. Yeah.

Whose idea –was it your idea to do that show? You Must Know Everything or did Rasa suggest it, or

Jeremy: So, You Must Know Everything is a concept I had years ago when Rasa was basically born and I had these life lessons that I wanted to impart to my child, but they would occur to me and she’d be like two years old.

I was four years old or six years old or older, but nevertheless maybe not in a receptive space. Old enough to kind of, you know, get these key lessons or they would occur to me when she was at school or daycare or whatever. So I was going to kind of write them down and have like the big book of everything you need to know.

You Must Know Everything was sort of a joke. And I think she kind of had an inkling of it and I’ve actually written up pieces and sort of shared them, you know, with a few friends and family, just little snippets. And she was like, well, what are you going to show me this book of everything I need to know?

And, you know, I showed her a little piece once, but then , in this pandemic, we’re here, we’re home together. And I was like, oh, you know what? I shouldn’t write them down. I should just tell her and record it. And she’s now old enough, enough time had passed that I was like, she’s a genius. I don’t need to.. Dumb it down or smart it up. I just needed to just talk as if I’m talking to Rasa and that’s exactly the right level of intelligence for anyone. And also what I’m just being much more heartfelt and direct and obvious and honest, if you know , that , the audience is listening in on this, this really intimate conversation and my real genius move was realizing it should go both ways. I have as much to learn from her as she does for me. So we trade off. As you noticed, when you heard those two shows.

Right. Every other episode, I’m the leader. And I’m like, here’s the theory or the lesson or whatever I need to tell you, you needed to know. And then the other is her telling me what I need to know. And by the same token we have these other segments and I, I don’t know how those came up. They just came organically in the first time we did it.

So we just kept it where we read it, discuss the poem. And again, the person is the leader of that particular show, leads the discussion of the poem and the reading. And then we have, you know, the vexing question, the last segment of the show, where you can ask the other person anything, it can be a point of philosophy, but it’s often sort of like, you know, why are, why don’t we say a pair of pants when it’s just one of them?

Or, you know, when did the earth and the sun closest to each other, that one is the warmest. Are those unrelated to each other? Or, you know, how does a. Dandelion become, you know, go from a flower to a missing spheroid thing or how many people can fit socially distanced space, six feet apart in the state of Montana, you know, whatever questions you have a animal vegetable geopolitical.

Then I asked her how, like, once I’m like, how could it be nicer to myself? Like I was like, I’m nice to you. You’re nice to me. How can I be nice to me? Yeah, that was like an example of vexing questions. So anyway, whoever the leader has to in an answer that same question. So then you got to kind of pause and go, okay, shoot.

I gotta go figure out how a country officially changes its name as is the case of the former country of Swazi land. You know, that was a vexing question. So, you know, you can get those two, so there’s a sort of magic school, bus research science aspect of.

Marc: And you, you open that up to anybody. You know, you say, you can tell us what your vexing question is, and we will answer it

Jeremy: You go to, and there’s the submit a vexing questions button.

Marc: Right. And so that’s my question is it’s not my vexing question. It’s my question about, logistically.

Are, are people utilizing that?

Jeremy: Yeah, I’d say about one in every three. We get from the audience and I’d love there to be more, I think one challenge is of course our audience is families. But often if it’s a kid with the vexing question that see, or she has kind of email, that’s one reason I did it via this web form.

So you don’t have to have email, you can just go to the website and type it in on the borrowed iPad or whatever. Right. But yeah, we, we, we go,

Marc: Okay, well, I mean, you were on the Pea Green Boat and so that must have hopefully boosted your listenership.

Jeremy: Yeah. But what’s awesome about the, Pea Green Boat is the children’s programming on Montana Public Radio and we’re there, you know, twice a week and sometimes on their Saturday morning programming too. And what’s cool about that is yes, it’s children’s programming, but. Everyone of all ages of all demographics, listen to that show. It has to have the most diverse clientele. I’ve getting so many texts from people that I’m like, I know you are a unmarried, unmarried childless 52 year old dude. I played basketball with, you know and you’re, you know, saying, Hey, I heard you had the Pea Green Boat. So you know, it’s, it’s got a wide, wide stance. The Pea Green Boat.

Marc: So I want to thank you right up front, because you organized the very first live in-person storytelling event I’d ever attended.

Jeremy: Yes. The magic of The PEAS Farm, right?

Marc: Yeah. It was "Eat Our Words". Yeah. And it was because of you that I was inspired to do this.

Jeremy: Well, That’s amazing just because I know how amazing the events you put are are, and how you’ve seen it grow and how much storytelling you’ve nurtured and just how the audience is so moved. So to be like, I’m the father of the father of the father of all that pleasure in my own way. It’s, it’s a lot of, I’m like 8 times removed from all that hard work and amazing stories, but it’s just, that’s, that’s inspiring to me because it means you can just do something that’s kind of random and cool, and, you know, you can do it three or four times and it can have this other effect.

So thank you. And you’re just never, I say that to people all the time, like you don’t, you know that good. You do, but you also, like how else could you don’t know that you do yeah. A follow up. So you know, back at you, I hope you’re, you know, I know you’re getting good feedback, but just whatever feedback you’re getting. Each of those people is speaking for so many other people.

Marc: I know. And , I just wanted to acknowledge the influence you had on the whole thing. But I still want to talk to you about the first story you told at the very first event. The theme was "Dear Diary". It was December 2nd, 2011. It was 70, 75 people in the Missoula Art Museum. Packed.

Before, Tell Us Something happened then Debra Magpie Earling had just read from her book, The Journals, of Sacagawea. And then we sort of pivoted into this other room and, and we had Tell Us Something. And you , closed out the night with this beautiful story about Anne Crosby.

Jeremy: Yes. So what can I tell you about that story? What did I, what did I not leave in the air? I mean, I said it all

Marc: I listened to it again. For the first time, since I heard it, because then at the time I was not the one editing the podcast. And so I listened to it again today.

And your, your ability to paint a picture of a person, you didn’t even say that she was beautiful at first, you just talked about what the environment was like when you walked into a room and you saw her. If you go back and listen to it again, it’s, it’s beautiful. So thank you for telling it.

I gave you no guidance at the time. I was just like, please do this. I respect you. And I think you’re great. Please help me. And you did, there was no workshopping or anything. How did you decide that was going to be the story?

Jeremy: Well, I remember I love to follow the prompts because I think that you find things from the prompt, as opposed to thinking this is a story I want to tell, and I’ll just make it work, whatever the prompt is. And I think also by telling something out loud or by just writing the story does a lot of writing itself and a good story, even though you’re the one telling it, even though it happened to you should have the ability to surprise you and.

When you said, dear your diary. I just had this vivid picture of really the first and practically only diary I’ve had for most of my life. And it was like this fourth grade, fifth grade kind of diary. And I don’t even know if it was, I’ve had the sort of fancy leather bound books where you take the strap and sort of, you know, curve it around to around the knob to close it and all the good kind of fancier dyes.

But I feel like this was just one of those like 80 page Mead journals, but it was like, I just had to pour out like my first crush into this journal. And it was like, I remember even just so vividly. Just my outraged at like the crushing actual fourth grade boyfriend complaining that he had to like buy her a necklace and me just being like, I gotta, I just like going home and being like this, you know, this guy doesn’t understand anything, you know, this is the one, he only the moon, the stars.

And just, just sort of pouring that out into this journal that then hilariously, I remember taking one of those, like a walk on her locks, master locks or whatever their. The w the like combination ones where you’re spending three times the one-way and then two times the other way. And one, the other, like, best like my locker lock and like, putting that on the journal, like through one of the three holes that was punched at this, that was locking it, which obviously that’s not how locks work.

If you like, put it through one of the three holes you could still just like open the book. It might be hard to lie completely flat on a table. And it’s not like I thought that that was the security measure, but somehow that was like a sign of it’s value to me. The only thing, I don’t think I actually locked my bike.

I remember like that stolen. So, you know, the only thing I actually had a lot, like my gym clothes, God bless somebody say it’s stolen them. But like, I just remember this, any patients, you know, 99 cent notebook. And that was the sort of diary. And I just, so when you said diarrhea, just remembered that one.

That was like the dear diary conversation I had. And I just remembered this kind of evolving relationship that I had with this crush and that ironically, or rarely or whatever the word is the world has with this crush. You know, it’s just so rare that like, your crush is like everyone’s crush. I think maybe it isn’t cause it’s my experience, but like, you know, that’s how I think I started that story where, you know, I’m at a sleep over and people are like, say who you like, and I’m excited.

Cause I’m going to say this. I’m going to say it out loud for the first time, the only time. And then you can’t say, okay, Her cause it cause duh, that’s obvious. And I was like, oh, you know, I am a cliche. I didn’t even do this thing. I’ve never even said out loud as a cliche, I have a crush cliche. And that, that, that then even evolved to the point.

As I said, you know, in high school, the yearbook company that makes your books in Texas, right. Not, not where I was from, make your books for all the yearbooks for all high schools chosen her photo right now as the photo for like getting a yearbook in America. So, you know, just kind of being like, oh, I’m not maybe as seeing the person inside as, as I might’ve wanted to believe, like you want to in your sort of nobility of your crushes, but then yeah.

And then there was that term in the last conversation we had and in a way, the only conversation. That was significant was, you know, after graduating Polish and seeing her again, and kind of getting to know her as a person and that, you know, transforming how I saw her, like just how I saw seeing people.

Marc: Do you know if she’s heard the story?

Jeremy: God, I hope not. It’d be so embarrassing. It’d be terrible. I hate that, but you know, it could happen. I have to live up there with that possibility. I was so dumb. I should’ve, I should’ve changed the name or I should just tell you that I used a fake name. But you know, my, my life we live on, but I would say,

you know, if I were Anne Crosby and I heard that story, I would feel so honor,

Marc: Because you saw her as a person finally

Jeremy: after like a hundred years, but yes, yes. Yes. We’re all on a journey within sometimes it takes many lifetimes right now I’m on the road is still, probably never been seen as a person. Right. You know, I remember my grandmother talking about me, Marilyn and rose at a party once and she just said, Marilyn Monroe wanted to talk about what she was reading, you know, you’re just like, yeah, of course.

Everybody’s got a path. Okay. Everyone’s got a path. Yeah, no, no, that’s good. I’m a, I’m a, I’m a, I’m a romantic. So I think you story is about someone going through change. No change, no story. You can have funny things happen.

You can have quirky incidents, but you have to like literally have your life change as a result of what happens. And that could be internal or it’s not a story. And so yeah, of course you’re going to have love. And what happens after love or crushes and what happens after crush, right? Those are, yeah, those are one of the building blocks of the story and I’ve travel.

You’re going to have tragedy otherwise, no change, no story.

Marc: Right.

Marc: You know, every time someone shares with me, I always feel like I need to share a story with them too, you know, to let them know that I get it, that I have a shared experience. And it sometimes veers into almost the non-sequitur realm or gets way off track. Yeah, I did that here. I’m trying not to do that as much.

And just recognizing that I do it is a good. I’m working on it. Okay. When we pick up again here, we’re talking about the second story that Jeremy told at, Tell Us Something, “Always, Only, At Least”.

Marc: And at the time, when you told that story about going to London, you made this reference of like, don’t use a garlic press. And I was like, oh God, I’m a jerk. I use a garlic press and,

but I didn’t know any better. And so then I immediately stop using a garlic press and only bought a fresh garlic.

Now I grow my own garlic.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Last year we had 400 plants that we harvest it now.

Well, what’s great about Marcella Hazan that cookbook author is that the standards are only minimums. There are no, there’s no satisfying her. There’s just only being potentially acceptable. So, you know, that’s what I kind of highlighted in my title of that story, you know, only use canned 10 being reported, San Marzano tomatoes, right.

You know, so pure cucumbers, not cucumber soak, your zucchini zucchini, my British edition and my British edition, of course, they’re called courgettes. Soak your zucchini for at least 30 minutes to remove impurities you know, always of course peel your garlic in a certain way.

You’ve got your order. And so I just think that there’s actually something really relaxing about structure and discipline. And someone who has this amazing vision. I remember our mutual friend, Jason Wiener talking about perhaps another mutual friend, Bob Marshall of vegan pizza. And I was like, why is he such a good chef?

And he’s like, well, and Jason just said this off hand, it was a brilliant remark. He said, well, you know, all good chefs, all great chefs are creative control freak. And I love that combination of creative control freak. And, you know, Marcelo has on certainly creative control freak. And so, you know, it’s sort of aspirational to do something that she would find acceptable.

She’s a sort of Mr. Miyagi of, you know, cookbooks Italian cookery. So, you know, by her actual nature or actual personality, she could have been completely congenial and she looks very grandmotherly and is very kindly, but. She knows the right way. And she’s going to tell you to do with the right way and you can, you’ll do what you want to do.

She’s going to tell you the right way to do it. Yeah.

Marc: What you’d never said in the story, which a thing that I took away from the story was that this opportunity to go to this party and your friend, oh, hi James Bond. You know, he said to you, he doesn’t even acknowledge your, your potential heartbreak that you’re going through. He just puts you to work. And in service of others,

Jeremy: I think it’s such a gift.

If you’re in your own head down on yourself and someone can somehow put you to work, it’s just hard to stay in your feelings when you’re busy and when you’re bodily busy. And when you have a responsibility. To these other people. You said they were my friends, they were not my friends. They were strangers.

They were his friends, but right. Yeah. We had to have a dinner put on and all of a sudden it was wheat and it wasn’t me in my own head. And so that was great. And I certainly tried to learn that where, you know if people come to dinner, I love to make an elaborate dinner. But if there’s some way to kind of include them, like, yeah, I want you to bring the toppings for the pizza, or I’ve done that exact same trick.

You know, if it’s a trick with Marcella Hazan and I’m like, I’m going to make the sauce and it’s going to take me a while. Why don’t you guys make the pasta? The good thing. If you’ve got a couple that’s visiting, if they’re engaged, see if they can make pasta from scratch together. It’s a really good relationship, test and story to tell.

And then you destroyed. So they kind of kind of work at their own. I’m like, ah, I’m busy. This is boiling, you know, trying to ask questions and let them figure it out. It’s such a gift. And it’s one of the geniuses of like the youth harvest program at the peas farm. It’s like, ah, you’ve got these quote unquote troubled teens that have been sentenced by youth court.

Yeah. You could put them in juvenile detention. You can send them to hoods in the woods program or you can put them on a farm and be like, we got to grow this because these people are going to come and they want to eat these carrots. And these people are actually house bound, seniors or they’re military veterans or other people in your community.

So totally. I totally get you on a complaint. Or do you want us to talk about your tattoos? Do this or that, or talk about mom or dad or bitch, but like, you know, we just got to get the carrots first. Let’s just do that. And then, you know, over the course of the season, I’ve seen that be transformative for people.

That was one of the subjects of my, my first book Growing a Garden City, you know, was that program. So, you know, I steal that insight from Josh Slotnick and some of the other people that were behind that program. And in there’s a, You Must Know Everything episode called DOE where I talk about my pizza dough recipe, and I share that with Rasa and I’m like, these are her 18 words that are the best shortest, fastest, most guaranteed way to win friends and influence people.

And the 18 words or just the ingredients for the recipe. And I’m like, learn how to do this. And you can just go anywhere and do like, you can have no skills, you can have no talents, you can have nothing of interest so you can know no one, but if you say I’m making pizza tonight, do you want to come over?

It’s all gonna change. It’s all gonna come your way. So, you know, that’s what I was kind of sharing in that episode. So that’s an example. It’s kind of a crossover, I guess, between Tell Us Something and You Must Know Everything

So I have a hacker one. That’s like a limited series. It’s like a spinoff from my book breaking and entering the hacker next door. And it tucks these 10 different hackers in 10 different kinds of specialties of hacking and interviews them about kind of who they are, their background and their all hackers for good.

They’re all using their skills to protect people. Right. And that’s that, but then I bet You Must Know Everything with Rasa. And I have this other one, that’s very trippy and it’s called stimulus and response. And it’s with this high performance coach friend of mine. So he’s super keyed into like elite athlete, CEO teams kind of group flow, high performance space.

And it’s like, how can. The rest of us, these high-performance mindsets exercises, tools, techniques that use to thrive. How can we use it to just kind of survive better? So it’s not like doing a million pushups. It’s like, here’s a different way of looking at yourself or a breathing exercise or a visualization thing.

So, you know, it’s a podcast I like to think of is not exclusively, but best enjoyed, you know, in a basement with a buddy, just kind of chilling out, filling the field. And we go to some super trippy places. There he is a very like yes, and conversation. So, you know, a typical start of an episode would be like, do you think we are individuals sessions?

Or are we all connected? And then it’s like, what’s the science, what are the visualizations? What are the techniques? You know, how can we kind of step through that? And that’s been super fun to do. That’s the only way I guess I make that, like, I can listen to later with a certain amount of distance, because it just has a certain intoxicating effect where it just it’s about kind of changing your mindset.

Marc: So I guess then the next question is: analytics

This is a thing that I struggle with so much. Do you pay attention to any of that? And if you do, how are you managing that?

Right. So I assume I analytics, you mean. How many people are listening, downloads, audience size, and I guess things like retweets and mentions.

Is that what you mean?


Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a total crucible, unless it’s huge, right? It’s just hard to not feel less than, or not enough, or want more, especially if you’re putting in so much time and getting value out of it.

And I think, you know, to me, I’ve tried to have satisfaction on multiple levels. Like intrinsically, ideally, can I be pursuing projects that I would do no matter what? And also if it’s a new media for me, can I be learning? So either way I’m kind of creating and it’s also an internship. And also if I want to do something that’s really meaningful, is it meaningful to me if it’s

Marc: Jeremy cuts out a bit here. What he was saying was, “is it meaningful to me if it’s reaching a small number of people, but I feel like it could move the needle?”.

Jeremy: you know, something like You Must Know Everything it’s so heartwarming and life affirming in a broad sense.

I hope that I feel to the degree that it reaches people, I can be sort of satisfied, even if it’s not really. Very many people for each person it goes to. And I guess the other one, cause it’s about sort of mindset and transformation and who you really are and why we’re really here stimulus and response in a similar way.

I can be like, well, if I was in person and I was talking to 70 people, that’s a good, that’s a huge book event, you know? So yeah, it’d be great if it was 700 or 7,000 or 70,000 or 700,000 or 7 million, but can I kind of get right with it and those ways, and I go crazy and beat myself up and feel bad. And I think I just have to recognize that’s a separate discipline of like reaching audience and marketing and promoting.

I can pursue that discipline and see if I can succeed at it and its own terms. But if I’m not succeeding on something I’m not doing, then I should at least recognize that and not kind of beat myself up to like, okay, you know, I’m trying to do something that’s meaningful where I’m learning, where it’s intrinsically important and rewarding.

And if I’m also trying to gain audience than let me do that, but don’t let me beat myself up. Cause I’m not getting all these other things out of it too. Yeah, my joke, I was saying to someone the other day, he was like, are you making money from the podcast? I was like, well, dude, I know people that do it. And I know people that make money. I’m not, I’m still, you know, figuring it out, trying to learn from that.

My joke was like, yeah, I’m self-employed so what did you say? You know, when you’re a writer, it’s like a range between self-employed and self unemployed. Got it. So my joke, cause yeah, I’m self unemployed, so yeah, I’m working all the time for myself for nothing. So that’s a lot of. Yeah, it’s just that kind of hustle.

And I don’t know. I mean, I think that’s probably one reason I appreciate that Stimulus & Response and the headspace, it puts me in because it’s about getting a bigger perspective.

Marc: Yeah. And right now that’s so important

Jeremy: right, right. Like we’re in the steam punk post-apocalyptic future of like the sort of mix of high technology, local food and plague. And so, you know, it’s not that surprising that, you know, we’re not all just.

Mass media superstars or niche media superstars. I think that you know, here’s an example, exercise that the performance coach co-host, I’d say most of the response time you do, he was like, you could do with, with podcasting or Tell Us Something he’s like on one piece of paper, write down everything that you hate about writing, like having to hustle have to sell what you don’t get paid, you know, the anxiety, dah, dah.

So I could say like hosting a radio show being ahead of a nonprofit, all just the, the grind, having a podcast and he’s like, right that. Right, right. Just all the, all the, all the terrible things, just all the things that are just so. So it’s like, okay. Sort of thought about it kind of did it a bit. And he’s like now flip the paper over, like, okay.

He’s like now write down all the things that you love about it. You know, what are all the amazing things? The freedom, the creativity, that connection, the expression, the discovery for example, the unexpected, you know, a company, you find the comradery the righteousness, whatever you want to say. I was like, okay, so doing that now, I’m getting more excited, more positive.

And he’s like, what do you notice? And I was thinking about it. And then I was like, oh, he totally Jedi mind trick me up. They’re not the same piece of paper, a paper in my mind for three weeks. It’s like we think of these things as like, here’s the good thing. And just the bad thing is if we could have the good thing without the bad thing, but maybe there’s not a good thing, a bad thing.

They’re just together. They’re just one, this like your strengths are the same as your weaknesses. You know, your weaknesses are the same as your strength. These all, all these kind of burdens bothers or are part of the balloon and the benefit. And just the, yeah, it’s really annoying to have the burdens in the bothers, but I think it’s even worse to think like we’re doing it wrong because we have them and we’re failing because we have them and that load of self judgment, that’s even more painful.

It’s just like, you know, this is just the piece that they’re on the same piece of paper. I can work on a totally different thing, but it’ll have its own two pieces of paper. So anyway, I don’t know if that’s the only do that’s been useful.

I mean, it’s useful to me already on, I’ve got a grant on my face, bigger than I’ve had in a long time.

And as soon as we hang up, I’m going to go subscribe to, to this new podcast that you’ve turned me on to.

Thank you, brother.

Marc: Thanks, Jeremy. And thank *you* for listening today.

You can find the schedule for The Pea Green Boat and listen online at

For articles about The Lost Journals of Sacagawea, go to

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at

On the next Tell Us Something podcast, tune in to listen to Stephanie Hohn’s story “The Smartest Girl in Jail,” which she shared at a Tell Us Something storytelling event back in 2012. Stick around after her story to hear her thoughts on it, as well as learn what she’s been up to since COVID struck.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: she shared her story at a Tell Us Something storytelling event back in 2012. Stick around after her story to hear her thoughts on it, as well as learn what she’s been up to since COVID struck.

To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit


Bonnie Bishop talks about what it was like to be the first person in Tell Us Something history to share her story in a live-streamed setting. We talk about the pandemic, about collective grief and about what it means to begin returning to life beyond quarantine. After our conversation, you can hear the story as Bonnie shared it on the Tell Us Something live-streamed stage.
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