Wild Onions Guest Blog with Author Sarah Black

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is welcoming Sarah Black this week to talk about her latest two releases Wild Onions and The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari.  In today’s post, the author talks about her love for Idaho, the setting for Wild Onions.

During this four day Sarah Black event, we will be giving away one copy of The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari to one lucky person who comments on any Sarah Black blog from10/22 to 10/26 with the winner to be announced on Saturday.   Visit

Leave a comment below.

Falling in Love with Idaho: An Illustrated Adventure by Sarah Black

A few years ago, on one of my periodic urges to explore the world, I took a locum job as the Nurse Practitioner at a small clinic in an Athabascan village in Alaska. The village was on the Yukon, about 130 air miles from Fairbanks. We moved in February, and all I will say about that is if you are going to move to Alaska, consider waiting until the summer. On the positive side, my son got to experience the joy of having his boogers freeze at forty below zero, which is the sort of thing boys love and moms will never understand.

In July, I bought a truck in Fairbanks and we left, (I might say ‘fled’ if I was being very honest) driving back to America on the ALCAN Highway. Since I had no intention of ever returning to Alaska, we took the opportunity to visit the National Parks. It is my avowed intention of visiting all of America’s National Parks in my lifetime. Except the Everglades, because I missed my chance and I’m not going back to Florida. That story for another time.

Here’s my baby on our first trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my favorite of the National Parks, wearing my college sweatshirt!SB -James at North Run Grand Canyon

Anyway, we had a very good time visiting gorgeous Denali and Kenai and Katmai and staring a glacier in the face; I couldn’t help but wonder if they would still be around in another fifty years. The scenery was gorgeous, but we didn’t see any wildlife. My only near miss with a bear was actually a hiker, sleeping in the grass, who popped up so suddenly I thought he was a bear and I nearly keeled over in shock. Also a flasher at the Grizzly Café outside Denali who looked like Santa, but I’m not sure if he was an intentional flasher, or if he just forgot both his underwear and zipper. Either way I classified him as wildlife.

One of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords:
SB Alaska Glacier 2
After Flasher-Santa, I said, screw it, let’s head to Canada. Almost as soon as we crossed the border, we found all the wildlife. I don’t know why the eagles and bears and wolves were in Canada- perhaps the IRS turned their eye on them and they sought asylum? Either way, we drove slowly, and the bears ambled across the road, babies bouncing behind, and my kid stared at them out the window and said, ‘they look just like they do in the pictures!’ And that was my exact thought as well.SB JamesGlacierNatnPark002_zps00698238

We crossed the border with the US at Glacier National Park in Montana, and immediately had a lecture about bear safety. I tried to tell the Ranger the bears were all up in Canada, but he doubted my theory about the wildlife moving north. My son adores Park Rangers and always has many questions for them.

He takes their rules, usually posted near the bathrooms, for gospel and we always follow the safety rules to the letter. Which is why we had our toothbrushes in plastic bags, and locked in the truck. Because bears can smell Crest. We ate our hotdogs and marshmallows and then lay in a very small tent, and SB Glacier Park with boatsI stayed awake all night, listening for the grunt and rasp of ursine breathing through very thin nylon. The bighorn sheep were crawling all over the mountains, the lakes and rivers were icy cold, and we experienced the terror and delight of Going to the Sun Road.

After all this fun, I told the kid we needed to head on to Boise, where I had received a job offer. Frankly I was exhausted by all the adventure.

So we started driving through Montana, heading to Idaho.

The Northern Rockies are like nothing I’d even seen before. Huge, stark, forbidding, but sort of protective, too. The valleys were encircled, and the mountains were big andSB Northern Rockies strong, and I was safe there, safe surrounded by these old grandfathers. It was a

strange feeling. I was used to being the tough one, strong myself, taking care of everyone, and in these mountains, I felt like they were watching out for me. I was astounded. Astounded and so relieved I felt like weeping.

The rivers are not like the rivers I’d grown up with back east. These rivers are noisy, muscular, tumbling and roaring. Idaho has a masculine spirit, the landscape strong and tough and silent as a cowboy. No wonder I fell in love! And the people are like the landscape—tough and still, very strong, but with hearts as big as the mountains.

SB Salmon River #6

These are the Grand Tetons. The French fur trappers in the mountains called them Les Tois Tetons, which means, of course, The Three Breasts. What did I say about the masculine spirit? Some historians suggest the mountains were named for the Teton Sioux. There were many Native tribes in this area, Bannock, Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfoot. I used the past tense just then, but small groups of Bannock and Arapahoe still live in these mountains. I’ve always been fond of the Blackfoot, since they were the only tribe to try and ambush Louis and Clark.

SB Grand Tetons
When I first moved out to Navajo country to work, I took my usual view of the world, and since I like to listen to people talk, found myself hearing really different perspectives on things. I worked at a tribal boarding school, and I heard a couple of the teachers talking about what they were going to do to teach Lewis and Clark’s trip west. One of the teachers just shook his head, said, “Those bastards.”SB Idaho Lewis and Clark Trail
I’ve always been a bit of a Corps of Discovery nerd. This was the first time I’d heard an opinion from the other side! This is just off of the Lewis and Clark Trail through the Northern Rockies.

Buy Link to Wild Onions:HERE IT IS!

Review of Wild Onions

Buy A Story, Help A Food Bank! Guest Blog by Sarah Black

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I don’t know about all of you, but I am astonished at how high the food prices have risen.  Even only a few basic staples in the basket shoots my bill skyward.  So you know that all the local food banks are overwhelmed by families and individuals in need.  Sarah Black is giving everyone a chance to contribute to the food bank in her new state by donating the proceeds of her story, Wild Onions, at Amazon.  I will let her tell you in her words.

And while you are reading this story (and helping feed those in need), don’t forget about your local food banks too.  Our help is needed everywhere! Thanks, Sarah!

Eat! Eat! Welcome Back to Idaho, and a New Story by Sarah Black

Now we’re settled in Boise, the kid and I have resumed our volunteer jobs at the Idaho Food Bank. Mostly we’re sorters. For a two hour shift, we take bulk food, such as dried peas or instant mashed potatoes, and portion it into person or family sized plastic bags. Sometimes we have barrels of donated food from food drives, and we make up family food boxes. Each box should hold some canned veggies and fruit, some canned meat, rice or pasta, bread, etc. It always seems we run out of canned fruit first, and some boxes don’t have any canned tuna or chicken at all. We also make up backpacks—these backpacks go home with kids on Friday from school and have enough food for the weekends, though the word is the kids usually share with their younger sibs.

I’m obsessed with feeding everyone, have been for years. It seems pretty normal to me. I remember my great aunts and grandmother cooking for hours, in steaming hot kitchens with no AC in south Texas, southern Louisiana, hair frizzing madly in the humidity, but nobody went hungry and nobody went home without some food to hold them over for the trip. Nothing fancy, but beans and cornbread can feed a lot of kids. Food, and feeding people, was something of a holy calling for the women who raised me. The stories from the Dust Bowl, the Depression, when we lost our farm and could no longer feed ourselves from our own land- these stories cast a long shadow over my family. The old men were still talking about what had happened, what they should have done, when I was a kid.

And of course I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was 16, an impressionable age, and this story echoed the family stories I’d heard growing up, about losing the land, being hungry, not having any way to feed the kids. It’s been a long time since anyone in my family went hungry. In fact, I’m writing this with a peanut butter and jelly, Fritos on the side, at my elbow. But I remember the stories I’d heard growing up. And I saw an echo of those stories when I first came to Idaho, back in 2007.

I went to work as a Nurse Practitioner in a clinic that served people experiencing homelessness. That’s the politically correct way to say it. We used to say, poor people. Hungry people. Hungry kids. People with no food, and no way to get food. So this idea of hunger, for me, went from old family stories from 1935, to a person fainting in the lobby of my clinic from hunger, or a kid coming in for shots, telling me he’d had a ketchup sandwich for supper but no breakfast yet, because they were still waiting for the week old muffins at the shelter.

The Idaho Foodbank is a cheerful place. There is usually a waiting list for volunteer jobs, and for the most part the people in these volunteer jobs are not working off their court-mandated community service. I like working there, trying to make a little food stretch a long way. But food is expensive and healthy food is even more expensive.

What I decided to do, to celebrate moving back to Idaho, is to donate a story to support the Foodbank. I published a story of mine called Wild Onions, set in Salmon, Idaho, at the Kindle store on Amazon. This story was originally published in a print anthology called Scared Stiff by MLR Press. The list price is $2.99. For each book sold, I’ll donate a meal to the Foodbank. On November 1, I’ll report back here the number of meals donated and books sold.

I’ve put some pictures up of the Salmon River, and the beautiful Idaho backcountry, and my kid on a camping trip. He and I have put away some hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over a campfire. I will only say, and I have said to him, that I am now officially too old to crawl into that tiny tent and sleep on the ground. But I’m not too old to help out at the Foodbank. I hope you’ll help me buy some healthy food in time for the holidays, to share a little in the land of plenty.

Here’s the link to Wild Onions: WILD ONIONS

Wild Onions by Sarah BlackTHE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.

The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”JamesGlacier012_zps07940ef6

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

Buy link for Wild Onions at Amazon

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