Book signing set for Tims’ ‘Merciless Eden’
by Courtney Warren
Apr 23, 2014 | 2565 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A love for the land and an appreciation for its history is what Doug Tims wanted to show when he chose to spend years researching Campbell's Ferry Ranch on the Salmon River in central Idaho for his book "Merciless Eden."

Tims will be signing copies at Cotton Row Bookstore in downtown Cleveland on May 2 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Tims said there were several reasons he chose to write the book.

"When you get there and begin the work — the sweat, toil and challenge of caring for the homestead, surrounded by the artifacts left by pioneers who preceded you—you cannot help but form a bond, feel respect, hear their voices. We wanted our grandchildren to know that. We wanted future generations to know the homestead, value it, and preserve it. We felt a need to tell the story," he explained.

The research for the book took a great deal of work.

Tims said he and his wife Phyllis found many surviving members of the pioneer families and also traveled to Texas, California, and the states surrounding Idaho.

Through interviews, uncovering family photos and letters, and searching national forest and national archive records, he was able to put the pieces together.

"Ancestry.com was a valuable resource. Frances, who lived on the homestead for half a century, was a pack rat and we found her nest of letters, photos and diaries," Tims said.

Tims explained Frances was a woman who arrived at the Ferry in 1940 and she was actually running from the law in Texas.

"She lived there for 46 years, it put the place on the map because she started writing a weekly column for the county newspaper and would send it by horseback," he said.

Through his writing Tims said several pieces of information really stopped him in his tracks and he them to be special. These events only strengthened the merciless theme.

"The tragic nature of the pioneers' lives — the criminal pasts, death threats, falls from cliffs, drownings, frozen in snowstorms, dying in childbirth, horse accidents — it was merciless," he said.

Tims and his wife spend mid-April to the end of October on the ranch and must fly in by mail plane because the only way to access the ranch is by hiking trail, float or jet boat on the river or by a short landing strip open only by permission.

Tims said there are many joys and challenges involved in caring for the ranch.

"When something breaks, and it always does; when you need something, and you often do; there is no trip to the local hardware store, lumber yard or grocery store—everything must be produced on site or brought in by boat, plane or trail. When you go to find the maintenance guy, repairman, the expert on what's wrong, you are looking in the mirror," he said.

"It forces self-reliance. And it brings a sense of accomplishment and value when, whatever the need, it is met; whatever broke, it is fixed. I've been making my own lumber with a chain saw mill — from felling the tree to making the board needed to fix the barn wall — it is all you. Late afternoon Phyllis picks up her basket and says, 'I'm going shopping' and walks to the garden she has planted and nurtured, which now nurtures us. It is a good feeling," he added.

Tims said he has many favorite spots on the property and explained them by saying, "The small creeks, the homestead's arteries, ditches dug by homesteaders a century ago, ramble noisily among the pines through the woods telling tales of where they have been, bringing their lifeblood to our home. A walk along them is not lonely. The cool shade under the 50 year-old walnut tree, a wedding present given by a pioneer to his wife, is a wonderful place to sit and share history with our visitors.

"Late evenings, sitting by a fire in front of the cabin, watching the canyon shadow creep across the homestead - we tell our grandchildren it means the earth is still turning. The view down canyon from the outhouse is memorable."

"The wildlife—bear, elk, wolves, mountain lions, turkey, deer—our constant companions on what we call the Ferry Serengeti—are a marvel," he added.

The research for the book took seven years and writing took about a year and a half.

Tims said he enjoyed the research aspect more because of so many wonderful things he learned.

"It's like panning for gold; you find nuggets of information you didn’t know before. That becomes a very seductive process," he said.

Tims explained he hopes readers gain many different things by reading the book specifically the importance of the land they live on.

"Americans need to know how important our historical heritage is, how hard our ancestors worked, how blessed we are that visionaries decided to preserve our wild land heritage. Two thousand fourteen is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act," said Tims.

"The framers anticipated a 30-40 million acre system. We now have a National Wilderness Preservation System of more than 109 million acres. You don't often hear about our successes. We have done well. Add to that the extensive system of parks, wildlife refuges and monuments — we need to acknowledge that, cherish them, give ourselves and our nation a little credit. We need to connect future generations to this heritage and instill in them a desire to preserve it. We need to get our children away from their computer screens and let them experience their heritage in person," he said.

To get a copy of "Merciless Eden" visit Cotton Row Bookstore in downtown Cleveland or call (662) 843-7083.