Grover Howe gave up his career as an attorney in the big city to return to the family farm located near Lovell. The simple country life he now lives has allowed his imagination to overflow with images of western life that have so far translated into several self-published western novels based on real-life events that took place in the Kane area and other locations in the West.
“I grew up along the Big Horn, as did my father and his mother, aunts and uncles,” explained Howe on his website. “Many of the stories are based on true events in the lives of the people living along the river.”
Howe grew up on a ranch located near the town of Kane. It was a homestead his family lived on and farmed for generations before being asked like many others to sell out and leave the area. He was a senior in high school when the land was bought out by the Bureau of Reclamation and his family was asked to move.
The Bureau bought out the farmers and anyone else who owned land in and around the town of Kane and other small settlements that could potentially be flooded because of the introduction of the newly built Yellowtail Dam. The town was shut down after the dam was built in the early 1960s because of concerns about flooding that never really materialized. The government then burned, tore down and removed what was left of Kane, and the little town disappeared except in the memories of its former residents.
For Howe, the old family farm and the town of Kane may be gone but the memories live on in his historically based western novels. Although fiction, the novels, especially his most recent collection of short stories, contain many familiar names and bits and pieces of the oral history of the area.
“Most of the stories are my dad’s stories and stories told to me by my uncles,” explained Howe, who already published four books and expects to publish another soon.
Howe graduated from high school in Lovell. He then went on to college at BYU and to law school in Chicago and later lived in California. He practiced law, specializing in real estate litigation for 34 years out of state, but always came home to Big Horn County to visit family. He returned to the country lifestyle in 2006 when he and his wife Joy moved to Lovell. Howe writes in his spare time between tasks involving cattle, irrigation and other chores on the farm.
Although he kept journals most of his life, he really didn’t start producing and publishing novels until he returned to the Lovell area.
“First thing I ever wrote was published in the local newspaper (The Lovell Chronicle),” said Howe. “It was a story I wrote about Kane and what they were doing to it that I wrote for my English class. My teacher submitted it the newspaper and it was published.” (In the Spring of 1965)
The town of Kane may be gone but will not be forgotten thanks to former residents like Howe who keep the stories alive through both written and oral traditions.
“There is not much left in the Kane area but it is where we were from and it will be in our memories forever,” said Howe, who is also a member of the board of directors for the future Lovell-Kane Museum.
“As a child I remember that once a week we could go to the library in Kane, where every week they would bring in all kinds of books,” said Howe. “I read everything Max Brand and Louis L’Amour ever wrote and everything Ernest (Hemmingway) and Johnny (Steinbeck) ever wrote. All of these books would be there and we would pick out books to read because there wasn’t much else to do in Kane, Wyoming.”
Howe said that practicing law was a very rigorous task and he would sometimes dash out a bit of fiction in his spare time as a break from the grind of legal writing.
“Sometimes you need a break so I would write something that didn’t matter like fiction,” said Howe. “It’s somewhere you can lie and it’s okay. It was a change of pace, a much needed break.”
Howe has published western novels and most recently a collection of short stories based in part on real life events that took place in the Kane area.
His first western novel, entitled “No Time To Trust,” was published in April of 2012. “Dragons Of Fire” was published in May of the same year, although the novel was actually written first. A third novel, “Crow Woman On Deadman” was also published in May of 2012. His most recent work, “Short Stories Out Of Kane,” was published last month.
Howe’s novels can be purchased locally at Grace’s Backdoor Spa and Lovell Drug Store. They can also be found online at www.emptysaddles.com.
By Patti Carpenter