Meeting of James Alexander Thom

Here is an incident of a completely different setting and quite possibly one of the more amazing things that has happened to me.  I was working for the University of Idaho for a project called Lewis and Clark Rediscovery.  I was the Administrative Assistant to the project and my job was varied from office duties to coordinating and organizing educational institutes at the K-12 level for an innovative federal grant that was to take teaching technology of 1804 to current period, 2004.  This technology invocated education, technology, mapping and proper use of sextants and compasses.  My job was to meet, coordinate and organize summer institutes for key educational professionals chosen to represent public schools ranging from a portion of the beginning point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition where they sailed from the Mississippi, to the Missouri River and onward to the mouth of the Columbia at Astoria, Oregon.  I also was responsible, as the liaison, to bring key tribal leaders together for historical purposes.  In so doing, I met some really truly amazing tribal leaders and world renowned authors.  I feel extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity.  On a quest for the kickoff of the 3D IMAX film of the Lewis Clark Expedition preview, I flew to Omaha, Nebraska for a commemoration and special gathering at the Joslyn Art Museum where Karl Bodmer and George Catlin and some Charlie Russell paintings were displayed.  If you don’t know who Karl Bodmer is, and you love history, you need to go look it up.  While at an open house at this museum, chatting with a group of colleagues I noticed this man staring at me from across the room.  This man, I would guess to have been in his 70’s.  It made me nervous at first that someone was staring at me, and eventually he made his way to me and introduced himself, graciously, that he was James Alexander Thom.  I only knew his name from all the writings he had done that were directly associated with the Lewis and Clark Expedition novels.  I did not realize I was being introduced to a world-renowned author.  In his introduction to me, he stated matter of fact, that I was his mother’s look alike when she was a young country doctor.  He was very concerned that I would be upset that I reminded him of his mother, but he quickly stated that he had been very close with his mother and missed her terribly upon her passing some years prior.  I was immediately humbled!   Jim is also known as the author of Panther in the Sky, Follow the River, Long Knife, Red Heart, Sign-Talker, Staying Out of Hell, Spectator Sport, From Sea to Shining Sea, and Spirit of the Place Indiana Hill Country.


Jim Thom, whom I fondly know him as, and I have written a few notes to each other over the years since 2004.   The last few years have not produced very regular contact via letter.  This all changed as of today, January 31, 2017.   Making a long story short, I found a new email contact for him, sent him a quick note asking if he remembered me.  Naturally, his memory is sharper than my own and quickly responded back.  The delight in knowing he is well and still active in the passion of his life, writing and sculpting makes me VERY happy.  Such talent.  My hope is that Jim and I will one day be able to meet again person to person.  It would give me such joy to have that opportunity.

A bit of a side note is that Jim introduced me to his lovely wife, Dark Rain Thom.  Dark Rain is not only beautiful on the outside, but she is precious on the inside as well.   Dark Rain is a Shawnee and Algonquin elder (traditional) and serves as a tribal historian.  She has written a 1,000-year history of her Shawnee people, and one historical novel, “Warrior Woman,” on which Jim was the co-author. She’s working on a novel of her own, but there’s no completion date set.  Please go read about these two amazing individuals. 

It has been 13 years post face to face with Jim and Dark Rain and I have never forgotten about them.  It appears that I have not been forgotten either.  NO CHANCE MEETINGS!

Thank you, Jim, for being so loyal in your quest, writing and sculpting.  You and your wife are special to me in a way that is hard to describe.  I am not an eloquent writer, but pure joy comes over me when I think of you both.  May our trails cross once again!

By | 2017-10-25T19:56:03+00:00 February 7th, 2017|blog|0 Comments

About the Author:

Shelley Ensley is the owner of C & S Saddlery and runs it along with her master craftsman saddle maker husband Clay Ensley. Together they make the finest in hand-made saddles and many other leather products.

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