Some 15 years ago, Lynda Bourque Moss’s friends in the Paradise Valley told her of an adventure involving their dog, Nubbin, and their pygmy goat, Frosty.
Everyone in the family had left one morning, leaving no food for Nubbin and Frosty, and for some reason the two animals decided to go visit Nubbin’s best friend Bucky, a “movie star dog” who lived on Mill Creek five miles from Nubbin’s home.
They made it, but only after trekking all day, spending the night outside and arriving tired and wet from having crossed Mill Creek on the way.
Moss, who had a cabin on Mill Creek, knew the area well, and she knew the animals involved. In fact, the pygmy goat had been her “ranch-warming gift” to her friends when they moved to the Paradise Valley.
“It’s always been this wonderful story I shared with my friends,” Moss said of the overnight adventure.
It started to become something more than that a year and a half ago, after Moss met DC Ice, an illustrator living in St. Paul, Minn., where Moss had gone in her role as a board member of the Northwest Area Foundation.
They met at an artist-run co-op, and Moss was so taken with Ice’s charming pen-and-ink drawings that she soon proposed collaborating on a book. The result is now in print, a children’s book called “A Montana Love Story.”
Moss said it’s mostly a true story, though she had to embellish the details of an adventure that will remain a mystery. Moss wrote the text and then Ice worked up drawings based on photographs of the dogs, the goat and the ranch house, plus some careful research into the plants and animals prevalent in the Paradise Valley.
On their way to Bucky’s place, Nubbin and Frosty enlist the help of Mr. Owl, Madame Marmot, Mr. Trout and Mother Fox and her kits, among other creatures. They also have a brief, frightening encounter with a black bear. In doing research for the book, Moss said, she learned that children “love danger. You have to have danger.”
At the end of the book there are notes on Mill Creek and Paradise Valley, with descriptions of some of the habits of the area’s human and nonhuman inhabitants. There are also some questions for young readers to ponder, including “How do animals, without maps or any directions, find their way?” Another is, “Can trees, fish and animals help people know where to go?” And, “Can animals have friends like people do?”
Moss is a former two-term state senator from Billings who is now returning to her roots as an artist and writer after a career of executive positions with foundations and museums, including a stint as director of the Western Heritage Center in Billings.
She has a master’s of fine arts degree from Montana State University, and a fondness for animals that manifested itself during her time in the Montana Senate, where she introduced a bill to designate a state dog. It failed, alas. She was also known for campaigning with her very large dog, a bouvier, that became known as her “moving yard sign.”
Ice has a BFA from the College of Visual Arts and she has illustrated nearly a dozen children’s books.
The handsome hardcover book has been published in a limited run of 200 copies, which Moss is selling for $40 each. She will have a book signing Saturday, Dec. 5, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Toucan Gallery, 2505 Montana Ave. Another signing is scheduled at Chico Hot Springs on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.