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When Doris Knowles Pulis was an intrepid young girl exploring her new home in Montana’s remote and beautiful Yaak Valley, an old-timer offered her this advice about traveling in the woods: “Turn around every once in a while so you know how it looks going back.” Fortunately for readers, she did, and her new memoir, “How It Looks Going Back: Growing Up in the Montana Woods,” is a delightful account of quirky neighbors, growing girls’ adventures, wildlife huge and tiny, and especially one loving family.
“It was a cozy, scary, painful, hilarious, dangerous, interesting, and grand time,” Pulis writes, “and the most fun I ever had.”
When the Knowles family left San Diego on a camping trip in 1949, they stumbled across the Yaak River country and found a two-bedroom, story-and-half log cabin on a small lake. Darwin Knowles saw a peaceful life, and adventurous wife Marilyn agreed. Third-grader daughter, Dee (for Doris), could attend the one-room school, and three-year-old Bob (Barbara) have a safe place to play.
Enthusiastic but ignorant of wilderness living, the family moved in that fall—working together to cook and heat with wood, hunt and fish for food, haul water, and wash clothes by hand. They stayed for six years, during which son Stevie was born.
Pulis’ reminiscence of her childhood in “the Yaak” is a beautiful narrative. Clem Work, University of Montana School of Journalism professor and author of “Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West,” said, “Doris Pulis’ sweet and sassy memoir of her family’s back-to-basics idyll in the Yaak shows that spirit, guts, and grit are priceless qualities in any era.”