Memoirs of a Free Spirit, A Story of Dubois Homesteader Now Sold at the National Bighorn Sheep Center
Recently, while visiting and working on the many different projects going on at Jack Anderson’s Home on the Wind, we had a few visitors. It is not unusual to just drop by and say hello to your neighbor in Dubois, Wyoming after all. But much to our surprise, this was a lady in her 90s who was passing by and asked her son and his girlfriend to turn down the driveway.
Belle Epperson was so excited to see and talk to us. She had a lot of stories to tell about her own time as a young girl living with her mother on Jack’s ranch in the 1940s, and later as a caretaker of the Schwinn property and the Blue Holes. Those days on the Wind River were some of the best times in her life, she says. Belle graduated from Dubois High School in 1944 with only 7 people in her class and moved to Riverton in 1946, having married at 18 years old.
Belle’s mother, Blanche Morris and Jack were friends in their teens in and around 1912-1914. Kids who grew up on family farms. Belle’s stories of Blanche and Jack as childhood friends mirrored some of the same early life stories that Jack describes in his book Memoirs of a Free Spirit. While Blanche’s family lived in Bellevue, Iowa, nothing stopped kids in those days from crossing the Mississippi River to Hanover or vice versa to hang out with each other. They would go sledding in the winter and berry picking in the summer, and these rural farm families would get to know each other well.
These early stories were just the start of a life of adventure for Jack Anderson. In his book Memoirs of a Free Spirit, Jack sets out, at just 14 years old, on an open-minded-with-WOW!-factor journey which would eventually land him more permanently in Dubois around 1919. Leading up until then, Jack refused to stay in one place for long, taking on nearly any job to survive! One must laugh at the way Jack describes his experience as a boat hand on a stern wheeler steam tugboat (turned logging pirate ship) on the Mississippi. The jokes he and others played on friends and strangers and train hopping would land any of us in legal trouble today. Even Jack’s experiences in World War I, from training as a motorcycle mechanic, to serving in the 148th Field Artillery in the motorcycle brigade near Verdun, France, leads him back to Lander, Wyoming — via Leonard Young who Jack saved from the trenches overseas. There is so much in between these tales you must read!
In Memoirs of a Free Spirit, Jack tells his story just as he would speak to you, with a bold voice and dry sense of humor and in his own special vernacular. Each chapter unfolds quickly. You can hear his voice telling you, “That’s not all! You’d better keep going.” He makes you want to read more, knowing that another unexpected scenario is just around the corner. This book is a fun and quick read.
Originally self-published by Jack in 1980 and with few copies remaining, his grandchildren decided it was time for a 2nd edition of Memoirs of a Free Spirit. The new edition now includes a comprehensive Addendum of photos and descriptions — parents and siblings; hunting and World War I memorabilia, poems, Jack’s sourdough pancake recipe, personal memoirs of Jack by current family members, and a Reference section of people and businesses with whom Jack had close association in and around in Dubois.
Many years later, Jack and Blanche’s deep bond as kids would bring them together again, this time in Dubois, with Belle, during World War II years when many had left the area to work in defense plants in California or to serve. After the war they parted once more, but remained friends. This period in Jack’s life is not accounted for in his book, nor is his family life with my grandmother Lucile and their children in the 1920s to early 1930s. There are just as many fantastic, adventurous, and heart-breaking stories in these chapters that could easily be a sequel to Memoirs of a Free Spirit.
You will really enjoy Jack’s book. How far we’ve come! Or have we?
Dana Cheatham Scoby
Editor Jack Anderson’s granddaughter