As author Craig Johnson explains in “acknowledgements” the stories in “Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories” come from his annual holiday treat for his newsletter subscribers. Not only were they previously published in that sense several were also previously published in the small 2012 publication titled Christmas in Absaroka County: Walt Longmire Christmas Stories. Some of the stories are mysteries or have something a little mysterious going on and others are more slice of life type stories featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming. A fact that is also noted in the introduction written by Lou Diamond Phillips that follows.
Then it is on to the stories which begin with “Old Indian Trick.” An award winning tale that starts off with a routine trip for Sheriff Walt Longmire and Lonnie Little Bird to Billings so that Lonnie Little Bird can have his routine diabetes checkup at Deaconess Hospital. They stop for food and a break at the Blue Cow Cafe on the Crow Reservation. Before long any chance to go on up to Billings this day is out of the question.
Walt Longmire is also on the road as the next story “Ministerial Aid” beings. It is just before dawn on January 1, 2000 and he is headed to Powder Junction located about 45 minutes away from the county seat of Durant, Wyoming. He is driving the 100 miles round trip to deliver deputy Turk Connally his paycheck. While delivering the check at the empty station the phone rings. Instead of letting the phone call roll over to Turk’s rented house and waking him up on New Year’s Day, Longmire decides to answer the call and give his deputy a holiday break. It is an impulse he will come to question almost as much as his clothing choice of only wearing a robe.
A small part of the previous story is the fact that it has been only a few months since Longmire’s wife, Martha passed due to cancer. That situation is a major part of the very powerful tale “Slick-Tongued Devil.”
New Year’s Eve and Sheriff Walt Longmire is at the Durant Home for Assisted Living. His old boss and occasional chess opponent, Lucian Connally, apparently left a space heater to close to the curtains in his room, causing some damage. Known for his cantankerous ways, Longmire is there to help keep things calm and peaceful. That is not going to be easy since Lucian hates having to sit in the communal area with everyone else. It certainly does not help Lucian’s mood that he is afraid he is losing his mind in “Fire Bird.”
Mental stability is part of several stories in the book and aspect of the preceding one. It is also a factor “Unbalanced” which also uses Sheriff Walt Longmire on the road traveling to get things started. Cady is on the way home for the holidays and is scheduled to arrive in Billings just before midnight. Sheriff Walt Longmire is on the way to the airport with his always present canine companion, Dog, at his side. He stops as at empty gas station where the pumps will take a credit card after hours in Garryowen, Montana to get gas. Clearly, the young woman sitting on the bench needs help on this incredible cold night. The question is whether or not she will take it.
The aftermath of a truck crash on the snowy interstate in “Several Stations” could have been worse. The driver who rolled the semi did so at slow speed and escaped unhurt though as a precaution he has been taken to the hospital. The truck and its cargo of toys did not fare so well on this Christmas Eve. As the snow continues to fall and a wrecker is at least 45 minutes way, Walt Longmire is left alone to babysit a crash scene that should remain quiet. One just knows it won’t.
Sometimes folks accidently drive off without paying for gas. The department has a way of handling those situations in “High Holidays.” They also have a way of dealing with things when they escalate.
Cady has just arrived for the holidays in “Toys for Tots.” She wants to make a stop at the local mall in Billings before they head home. Longmire made the mistake of telling her they could go shopping when she came home for holidays and now she is calling him on it.
Unlike many of these preceding stories which are set around Christmas, “Divorce Horse” is set on the Memorial Day weekend. It has been few months since Walt nearly died in the Bighorn Mountains chasing the convicts, Vic seems to be sticking around, and soon to be married Cady has a few questions in mind. That is all going to have to take a back seat to trying to figure out what happened to Tommy Jefferson’s horse.
It is Thanksgiving and Longmire and Dog are at Red Pony with Bear who is cooking the traditional dinner. They are not going to be alone for long in “Thankstaking.”
Henry, Dog, and Bear are coming back from a fishing trip with a cooler of trout in “Messenger.” They are going to need them to rescue Ranger Chuck Coon and a civilian from a possible bear attack. Rescuing them will be the easy part.
The book closes with a new story, “Petunia, Bandit Queen of the Big Horns.” Sheep are involved in this tale that has far more to do with inner character of people than anything else.
The 12 tales of Wait for Signs are all good ones. Mysterious in many cases, they all show various small details of the Walt Longmire character and his motivations regarding people, animals, and cultures. All of the short stories in the book are good ones well worth your time as are the novel which began with “The Cold Dish.” If you have not read the novels, Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories is an excellent introduction to the character that has garnered so many fans worldwide.
Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories
Viking (Penguin Group)
Hardback (e-book and audio editions available)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.
Late last October Lesa Holstine reviewed Wait For Signs and you can and should read her review here. She also was the recipient of a poem from the author when she was leaving Arizona and you can read that here. I must point out that nobody ever wrote me a poem. All I ever get is the occasional dirty limerick from somebody telling me where I should go.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2014