In the Land of Garison Fitch

  • user warning: Table 'tuttles.date_format_types' doesn't exist query: SELECT dft.type, dft.title, dft.locked FROM date_format_types dft ORDER BY dft.title in /home/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api.module on line 2098.
  • user warning: Table 'tuttles.date_format_locale' doesn't exist query: SELECT format, type, language FROM date_format_locale in /home/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api.module on line 2227.

Yesterday, I drove up La Plata Canyon. If you’ve never heard of it, then shame on you ‘cause La Plata Canyon is the home of Garison Fitch. It was also the home of Louis L’Amour, which is how it came to be the home of Garison Fitch.

It’s easy to miss La Plata Canyon. Heading west out of Durango* on your way to Mesa Verde, there’s a green sign and an arrow pointing to an unassuming little road heading off into a valley on the north side of the road. There’s a restaurant on the corner, but not much else.

Get off the main road and head up the Canyon road and you’ll find yourself in one of the prettiest valleys/canyons in the world. No wonder Garison decided to build his house there—in both realities.

I first fell in love with La Plata Canyon back in the summer of 1986. I had heard of it because of my affection—some might have said obsession—with all things Louis L’Amour. I took a job as a summer intern in Farmington, NM, and someone mentioned that the Canyon was only about an hour away. I couldn’t wait to go.

I must’ve driven the Canyon ten times that summer in my clunky 1980 Granada. Never did figure out which house might have been L’Amour’s. I think I was hoping I would see him out in the yard, raking leaves while occasionally walking over to an old Royal typewriter and knocking out a few sentences of his next masterpiece.

In the process, I began to fall in love with the Canyon. It’s just a pretty, quiet place with a few camp grounds and—near the entrance—some great hippy-signage protesting some mining project or another. (“Mother nature is angry with you. Stop mining!” is one of my favorites, though I haven’t quite caught the spirit of the actual sign owing to the fact that I spelled all the words correctly.)

I had been toying with the idea of a book about “Garison Fitch” for at least a year at that time. Those early notes, though, were of a completely different character that I never could develop: a skinny, older, eccentric, small-town lawyer. Suddenly, though, I realized that Garison needed to live in La Plata Canyon. And he needed to be younger. And then he had all this talent which he was reluctant to use and became a recluse. Somehow, he stayed a lawyer even though—if you’ve read the book, you’ll notice—he never practices law anymore.

It was great being back in the Canyon. I didn’t stay there long. Partly it was because I had kids in the car who were anxious to get to supper. Mostly, though, it was kind of like falling in love with a movie star. Deep down, you don’t want to get to know her better because you know she’ll never really live up to the image you’ve created in your mind.

*Durango – home to the world’s most confusing small-town traffic.