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I have completed a major milestone for my next book, Encounters in Yellowstone 1877. I finished an outline. That was a complicated task because I’m writing about a myriad of overlapping events and disparate (often desperate) people.

First, there are the Nez Perce, who decide to flee their homeland in Idaho and Washington State and make a new life in the buffalo country of Montana. After the army’s predawn attack on their sleeping camp on the banks of the Big Hole River, the Indians fragment. The Chiefs try to avoid whites while leading the main group, but they lose control over small bands of young men who spread out to seek revenge. These young warriors attack settlers along the Montana-Idaho border and tourists in Yellowstone National Park.

Like a nuclear chain reaction, each attack breaks up a group of people yielding several dramatic stories. For example, when a young warrior named Yellow Wolf and his companions attack a tourist party near the lower geyser basin, they capture a young woman, shoot her husband in the head and leave him for dead, and send several other tourists fleeing into the forrest. This one event yields Emma Cowan’s chilling tales of her captivity and quest for help after being released in the wilderness; George Cowan’s story of regaining consciousness to find himself wounded and alone, and the Cowan’s companions’ efforts to hide, flee and find help. Meanwhile, army units converge on Yellowstone Park from several directions, trying to find and subdue the elusive Nez Perce.

I’ve organized these events into 20 chapters that chronicle events beginning in 1805 when the Nez Perce befriend several starving men from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and ending 130 years later with publication of a book entitled Adventures in Geyserland. Doubtless I’ll make changes as my research proceeds. I’ll need to merge some chapters, split others and rearrange things. But I have an outline that organizes a complicated human drama into a coherent narrative. For now, I’m happy with that.

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