J-School releases long-lost A.B. Guthrie essay
A.B. Guthrie Jr. and his daughter,
A.B. Guthrie Jr. was a prolific writer of both journalism
and fiction and his family thought all of his work was accounted for –
until an essay on sheepherding emerged from papers held by his sister.
The writing was discovered by Guthrie’s niece, Peggy Haugen Bloom
of Missoula, who found the manuscript in papers held by her mother, Jane
The long-lost essay has been published in a limited edition by the UM
School of Journalism, which is selling 250 hand-bound copies numbered
and signed for $100 each as a fundraiser. Money raised will be used for
the Guthrie Reading Room in the newly built Don Anderson Hall.
The essay, given the title “Occupation Sheepherder” by Guthrie’s
daughter, Gus Miller of Butte, was prompted by a headstone Guthrie saw
near Choteau at the grave of a sheepherder who lost his life in a storm.
In his classic, spare yet evocative prose, Guthrie ruminates on the life
of the sheepherder – the mandate to stay with the flock even when
his own life is threatened, the sheepherder’s isolation and connection
to the land and the tendency to go wild in town when not out with the
Miller provides an engaging forward to the book, discussing her father’s
writing life and the role UM and the journalism school has played in her
Charlie Hood, former dean of the journalism school and
UM professor emeritus, weighs in with remembrances of interviewing Guthrie
for his master’s thesis, which Hood completed in 1969.
Miller said when her cousin told her of the find she “thought it
was fabulous,” adding, “My cousin didn’t know quite
what to do with it. I had been put on the advisory board for the journalism
school. I certainly wanted to prove my worth as a member of the council,”
Miller said, tongue in cheek, so she suggested publishing the essay and
selling it to raise money for the school.
Asked if she thinks it possible another Guthrie manuscript will be found,
she said, “It’s safe to say there will never be another unpublished
piece of Guthrie to see the light of day.”
Peggy Kuhr, dean of the School of Journalism, noted that “people
interested in Montana history, writing and journalism will be interested
in this book.”
She said $90 of each $100 paid for the limited edition will go to the
J-School. The book was printed on a letterpress by Peter Koch, a friend
of the Guthrie family who owns Peter Koch, Printers, in Berkeley, Calif.
Guthrie was known for his novel “The Big Sky” and others that
followed, including “The Way West,” which won a Pulitzer Prize
in 1950. A 1923 graduate of the UM journalism school, Guthrie worked 30
years as a reporter and editor for the Lexington Leader in Kentucky. While
there, he earned a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, which he used
to write “The Big Sky.” He wrote 10 novels, many short stories
and an autobiography. His screenplay, “Shane,” was nominated
for an Academy Award in 1954.
Guthrie received an honorary doctorate of literature from UM in 1950.
He returned to Montana in 1956 and lived to the age of 91.
“Occupation Sheepherder” is available through The Bookstore
at UM by calling 406-243-1234 or online at http://montanabookstore.com.
For more information, call the journalism school at 406-243-4001.