Author Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana and moved to Dupuyer, Montana with his father when he was six years old. Both communities, and some in between, share their love for this author who became one of my favorites.
Dupuyer has taken the lead on preserving Doig’s memories. He was born on June 27th and each year the community has Doig Day complete with birthday cake and a wonderful sharing of memories.
This year Doig Day honored the author’s Scottish heritage and a bagpiper, complete with kilt, greeted us at the door to Dupuyer’s small and well-maintained community hall. Later on we would be treated to music by the bagpiper and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
A restored sheepwagon was parked alongside the community hall and will remain visible from US Highway 89 as you travel through town.
Readings, taped prior to Doig’s death, were played at Dupuyer’s Doig Day and memorabilia was spread out on tables. Carol Doig, Ivan’s widow, also spoke to the group and shared personal stories about him. A year ago she donated Ivan’s journals and book drafts to Montana State University in Bozeman so they will be preserved and available for research. Several faculty attended Doig Day this year and also spoke about Doig’s writings.
New this year for Dupuyer’s Doig Day celebration was a sheepherder’s monument made of stacked rocks and placed alongside the highway on the north end of town.
So, how does the little community of Dupuyer do all of this? Several of Ivan’s former schoolmates still live in the community and have devoted countless hours and money to keep his memory alive. That’s rural Montana!
Now, some Doig history.
From 1978 to 2015 Ivan Doig wrote 16 novels. Most wove in a touch of history with ficticious towns in settings primarily between White Sulphur Springs and Dupuyer.
My favorite – Dancin’ At The Rascal Fair written in 1987. The reason – it was the first book of Ivan Doig’s that I read. That began my quest to read them all, in chronological order. Each of his novels stands alone but several are written in trilogies so it’s best to read them chronologically.
I could usually figure out the geographic locations of the settings in the novels and could visualize the harsh winters he wrote about, the vast landscapes and difficult terrain the characters would travel.
One of Doig’s novels I read that wasn’t sited in Montana was The Sea Runners. I felt it was totally different from the novels based in Montana and at first I wasn’t sure if I would like it. After the third chapter I had a hard time putting it down.
Ivan was born in 1939 and passed away in 2015. His final novel, Last Bus to Wisdom, sited in Montana, was published in 2015 after his death. It seemed bittersweet when I read it, knowing he was no longer alive. I read it twice. And I’ll read it again.
Dupuyer – thanks for the memories!