We’d become a team during annual
summer hikes in these Idaho mountains,
Granddad’s artistic eye turning an observed
wild animal into a whimsical sketch. Around
alpine campfires we’d spin possible story-
line and illustration ideas based upon that
sketch. Before week’s end, a new, very rough
but humorous picture book would emerge.
The popular Wildlife Whimsey series?His.
“GRANDDAD?” I KEYED the
hand-held radio, facing away from a blustery
wind. “Weather’s turning. I’m heading down.
The bear rub’s all I’ve got.” I released the
talk button. I’d hoped to relay some creative
story idea—or maybe, for old-time’s sake,
a cool wildlife sighting Granddad might
sketch. But a measly black bear rub on a
ponderosa pine wasn’t likely to inspire either.
I sighed. Normally, Granddad’s need to
observe wildlife permeated our every moment
together. But normal ended last fall.
Patsy Pika’s Party came from our hike when I
was ten. Markie Marmot’s Mystery and other
books followed. A writer and illustrator with
decades of success, Granddad had included
me on those research hikes as soon as I was
old enough to shoulder a daypack. I treasured
them, naively assuming they’d never end.
And then an eye disease left him blind
last fall. Which hadn’t changed my grand-
father’s independent core, just compelled him
to adopt a different sketching style. Bold,
blocky, impressionistic. Whimsical? Not any-
more. So, no current Whimsey book contract.
Worse, no dual hikes during this summer
visit. Instead, Granddad—still very much a
writer at heart—announced that each day I’d
reconnoiter, solo, out of his rented summer
cabin, looking for story ideas. For this first
hike, he sent me up the insanely steep hill
behind the cabin while he waited below. We
communicated by two-way radio since cell
Illustrated by Alan Marks
text © 2019 by Diane L. Burns, art © 2019 by Alan Marks
by Diane L. Burns
A BEARRUB IS WHERE A
BEAR RUBS AGAINST A
TREE TRUNK TO REMOVE ITS
WINTER COAT AND LEAVE
SCENT FOR OTHER BEARS.
RECONNOITER MEANS TO SCOUT
AROUND FOR INFORMATION.