Throughout the year, Weltzien brings highly-acclaimed writers from around the country to perform at The Cup on campus.
Pete Fromm is best known for his first book, “Indian Creek Chronicles,” a memoir about his time spent “babysitting” salmon eggs on the Bitterroot River. The book was a worldwide hit and made Fromm one of the most popular Montana writers of his generation.
Fromm remains humble despite his success. In his frequently humorous manner, Fromm said, “being a best-selling author in Montana is like being a famous stamp collector.”
Professor Weltzien also uses Dances with Words as an opportunity to showcase student writers. On this evening, Nathan Eury was given the chance to read a few of his poems.
Nathan Eury is the president of Twisted Ink, Montana Western’s creative writing club. A history major, Eury’s poems included a meditation on King Arthur and a love letter to County Kerry, Ireland where he one day hopes to live.
Fromm’s reading was well-received by the larger-than-usual crowd comprised of students, faculty, staff, and literary locals. His laid-back demeanor and carefree smile charmed the crowd who were quick to laugh at his tales of youthful naivety. The bulk of his performance told the story behind “Indian Creek Chronicles” interspersed with excerpts from the text.
Fromm grew up in Wisconsin and had no intention of going to college until he saw an application for the University of Montana sitting on his high school friend’s desk. He was attracted by the prospect of learning outdoors.
He spent his first few years at the university working to maintain his swim scholarship, practicing for over five hours a day. The swim team was cut his junior year, and during his newfound free time, he and his roommate became obsessed with mountain men.
Classic novels like “The Big Sky” by A.B. Guthrie led them to fantasies of living off the land in seclusion like great literary figures of the past.
During his time as a lifeguard, a classmate told him about an opportunity to work out of a tent for several months, and he jumped at the opportunity to become a real mountain man.
He had never cooked, hunted, used a chainsaw or driven a stick shift before accepting the position guarding salmon eggs in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. He didn’t even know how to tie a knot.
On Fromm’s success, Weltzien said: “It’s not that he’s a so-called fishing expert. It’s his incredibly funny accounts of what he’s done. He’s also a very tight writer. He’s pretty strong.”
Fromm’s tales of how he became a writer were similarly serendipitous. He needed three more credits to graduate and settled on a creative writing class.
Professor Bill Kittredge encouraged Fromm to continue writing which he did while working as a park ranger for several years after he graduated. “Indian Creek Chronicles” was published in 1992, 14 years after the events described therein.
The strongest reading of the evening came from Fromm’s newest book, “The Names of the Stars.” The passage read explored the reasons why Fromm has continually found himself drawn to the isolation of the vast Montana wilderness.
The Dances with Words series continues throughout each academic year. For upcoming readings, please visit our upcoming Events page.