Butter the Mountain Tops – A true story by L. J. Martin

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L. J. Martin

L. J. Martin is the author of over 46 book length works from such major NY publishers as Bantam, Avon, and Pinnacle, and Wolfpack Publishing LLC

A true story by L. J. Martin

Hunting is the great American pastime. One that teaches self-confidence, self-reliance, and too many times, humility.

My adult son and I were camped at 6,500’ or so, high in Montana’s John Long Mountains, which are a short drive from our Wolfpack Ranch in the shadow of the Sapphire Mountains—an easy and lazy camp, with a sweet spring, just off a drivable logging road which traverses the range from Rock Creek to Upper Willow Creek. We were just above the fir line in a stand of lodge pole.  We seldom actually hunt together, as one hunter makes enough noise, much less two. We most often hunt public land, and were now in two million acre Lolo National Forest. Montana is almost 30% public land, much of it full of game—Montana leads the nation in hunters per capita. It was snowing lightly but we were dressed warmly and both carried emergency gear, including hand-held radios.

We wandered together a mile or so from camp—I could see a logging road I knew well a few hundred yards down below—then split up to walk around the crown of the mountain, he went one way, which oft times for him means straight up and over the top, and I the other. We weren’t apart for more than a half hour when the storm did a Medusa, taking on an ominous and ugly face. I did a quick u-turn and headed straight back to camp, while the gettin’ was good. This old dog didn’t want to learn any new tricks, and surviving—with luck—a night or more in a blizzard not knowing up from down would have been a new and unwelcome one. And the wind and sleet-snow were beginning to razor-slice at my face. Before I stumbled back into camp I had my face mask on and only a slit for vision.

I called my son on the radio and, as usual, he hadn’t turned it on. Normally, we only squeal the radios if we have something down and can use a little help, so we turn on and listen for a few minutes if we hear a distant shot—in this howl you wouldn’t hear a shot unless it was upwind. I knew he wouldn’t turn the radio on until he was convinced he was in trouble…and it wasn’t long before he realized he was.

After a few anxious minutes in camp, warming the coffee, the radio crackled.

“Where are you?” I snapped, a little anxiously.

“Good question,” he answered, still laughing, but there was an edge to his tone. “I may be as far as a mile from where we parted, but I can’t see five feet, much less a landmark.”

“Is it as bad there as it is back here at camp?” I wasn’t rubbing it in, even though it sounded that way.

“I don’t know how bad it is there, but it’s a white-out here, blowing horizontal, and I don’t have the slightest idea—“

“No compass?”


“Okay, you’re dressed for it and I know you’ve got matches. Don’t move far as all you’ll do is get more screwed up.” He was within radio range, but it might as well have been a hundred miles in this deluge of white and cold.

“I already hunkered down under a big ol’ fir,” he said, then added, “have a cup of coffee for me.”

“I’ve got an idea,” I said, as the proverbial light came on. “Turn your radio off so you don’t run your batteries down.” I checked my watch. “I’ve got 7:37, what’s your watch say?”

“Right on.”

“I’ll call you back at ten to eight.  Leave it on for at least a half hour.”

“Good enough, maybe it’ll let up by then.”

“This is Montana, maybe it’ll get worse.”

“Thanks,” he said, and turned off his radio.

And I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of guy.

I topped a thermos with hot black chill-killin’ coffee, grabbed up my camp gun, a Smith and Wesson .44 caliber revolver with custom loads that would knock a bison down, then hustled the hundred yards to the truck, just out of sight of our camp. I fired the diesel up and wheeled my way down the mountain a half mile or so and picked up the road I’d spotted below us, turned my radio on and waited until the agreed time, then squealed him. He didn’t read the call, or I couldn’t hear him if he did, so I drove. In less than a half mile more he came back.

“Okay,” I said. “Keep talking, I’m going to drive until I lose you.” I checked the odometer, then drove as fast as I dare finding my way by the brush on the driver’s side of the two-track road, circling the mountain below where we’d been hunting. We kept trading insults until, after about four miles, I lost his signal. I checked the odometer, found a place to do a six-point turn, and headed back, quickly picking up his signal again.

Then I half’d the distance from where I was to where I’d first picked up his signal, about a mile and a half. Luckily, I was upwind from where I hoped he was.

“Okay, listen up, I’m gonna fire two shots from this hip canon.” I stepped out of the truck, fired one shot, counted to five slowly, and fired the second.

“I think I got you,” the radio squeeked.

I had bracketed him with radio reception, using the radio’s short range as a make-shift locater beacon. But I wasn’t quite ready to feel smug.

In less than ten minutes, he walked out of the white-out and right in front of the truck. Now I allowed myself a little smugness.

“You got coffee?” he asked, his teeth chattering a little.

“I figured you’d be draggin’ a fat and sassy buck,” I said, handing him a cup of steaming brew and wishing I had a shot of brandy with which to lace it. But even the smart-ass remark couldn’t hide the relief in my voice.

“Passed a couple of small ones up, three by four and four by four…left them for the old guys,” he said.

It’s hard to get one up on him.

Other work by L. J. Martin

Check out my webpage for lots, including links to my four dozen plus novels.



www.wolfpackranch.com or www.katbooks.com.

L. J. Martin is the author of four dozen works of both fiction and non-fiction from Bantam, Avon, Pinnacle and Wolfpack Publishing, and formerly a publisher of over 400 titles from other authors. He lives in Montana with his wife, NYT bestselling romantic suspense author Kat Martin. He’s been a horse wrangler, cook as both avocation and vocation, volunteer firefighter, real estate broker, general contractor, appraiser, disaster evaluator for FEMA, author, publisher and has traveled a good part of the world, some in his own ketch.  A hunter, fisherman, photographer, cook, father and grandfather, he’s been car and plane wrecked, visited a number of jusgados and a road camp, and survived cancer twice.  He carries a bail-enforcement, bounty hunter, shield.  He knows about what he writes about, and tries to write about what he knows.  His work has topped the Amazon genre lists in Action Adventure and Western.  He has over 120 videos posted on YouTube, with over a million views, edited by him on Final Cut Pro: search ljmartinwolfpack.  You can join him at facebook.com/ljmartinauthor, on twitter at @westwrite, and on other social media sites.  His Wolfpack Publishing LLC, now sold to a former partner, had great success in eBooks, having a disproportionate share of top action adventure novels in that genre, consistently over 60% of all of Amazon’s classic western bestseller list.

Other Fine Action Adventure from L. J. Martin

(and many more, available on Amazon)

West of the War

Young Bradon McTavish watches the bluecoats brutally hang his father and destroy everything he’s known, and he escapes their wrath into the gunsmoke and blood of war. Captured and paroled, only if he’ll head west of the war, he rides the river into the wilds of the new territory of Montana where savages and grizzlies await. He discovers new friends and old enemies…and a woman formerly forbidden to him.

Overflow. Mike Reardon, the Repairman, hates to mess his own nest—to work anywhere near where he lives. If you can call a mini-storage and a camper living. But when terrorists bomb Vegas, and a casino owner’s granddaughter is killed…the money is too good and the prey is among his most hated. Then again nothing is ever quite like it seems. Now all he has to do is stay alive, tough when friends become enemies and enemies far worse, and when you’re on top the FBI and LVPD’s list.

Click here to visit L. J. Martin’s Amazon Page!

Click here to email L. J. Martin!

L. J. Martin, L. J. Martin author, Short story, Literature,


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L. J. Martin

L. J. Martin is the author of over 46 book length works from such major NY publishers as Bantam, Avon, and Pinnacle, and Wolfpack Publishing LLC

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Butter the Mountain Tops …

by L. J. Martin time to read: 6 min