Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your talents and what you love to do?
Thank you for the invitation to tell you about myself, Mollie Sheehan Ronan. I’m a shy person though some would dispute that because I do love to recite moving pieces like Chief Black Hawk’s 1832 surrender speech or a Shakespeare sonnet. When a piano is around, I can play it – and the organ too – and I love to sing. But recitation is my favorite. I’d do that after supper at our establishment that my step-mother ran while my dear father worked as a freighter in the Montana mines and was sometimes gone for a year at a time. I suppose I enjoyed the praise and the compliments about my very long auburn hair, so long I could sit on it. Best was getting to see stage performances that my father would take me to. Such plays were a great pastime in the mining camps when winter snows kept miners from panning or sluicing for gold. I loved reading fairy tales from Ireland especially and dreamed of falling in love with my own prince charming. And I did!
You mentioned that you met your prince charming. What happened?
Sadly, my father didn’t approve even though my fiancé had been my father’s best friend! My father was so adamant that we break off our engagement, that he moved our entire family (step-mother, sister Kate and brother Jimmy) out of Montana to San Juan Capistrano in California. Quite a different landscape, I can tell you. Beautiful, bougainvillea blooming, eternal summer, but I did miss the mountains. I thought my life with Peter would be no more. I considered joining the convent in Los Angeles but one of the Sisters counseled me that service to God was not to be an escape from the world but a way to enter more deeply into service to all God’s children. Well, God had other things in store and through a series of twists and turns, Peter and I found each other again. I think you’ll like that story, but I won’t go into it here. My life then did become a kind of fairy tale, living happily ever after with my husband who was involved in the newspaper industry, mining, politics and, of course, he was very active with our growing family.
You mentioned that “Family is everything” to you. But going against your father’s will led to some conflicts within your own family.
Family is indeed everything to me and I hated hurting my father, who still didn’t approve of my husband despite his being a fine provider and loving husband and father, one who encouraged rather than controlled his children. He felt Peter being 10 years older than me was too old but I don’t think my father would ever have approved of anyone who might fall in love with his “little girl.”
How did your language skills and your desire to make everyone feel welcome aid you in being the wife of the Indian Agent among the Flathead People?
Peter and I had some disappointments but then when we were the most discouraged, a new door opened and I entered a world of the Flathead People, — the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend D’Oreille tribes in Montana. We lived among them for the next seventeen years. Every day I learned that the way I saw the world was not the only way to see it. My best friend after Peter is a Salish woman, Shows No Anger. How I love her! I learned so much from her about the land and family and that honoring one’s father meant listening to my heart and focusing on my own family. I do love words and kept a journal and wrote my memoir. One word I especially love is hearth. It comes from the second century and can be translated as focus.The hearth was the center of the home. It’s where people were fed, stories told, comfort offered. It was where the heat was. The farther one moves from the heat, the more easily one can lose focus. I focused on the hearth of my family and always had an open door to strangers too. Imagine a table that could seat sixteen. My husband sat across from me in the middle, never at the ends. We always wanted to keep the focus on our guests and family to be sure they were well fed. And thus, we were well fed too, with family, friends and faith.
I hope you like my story of living Beneath the Bending Skies.
About the Book:
Bestselling and award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick has brought
the West to life in her inspiring novels based upon true events. Each
tale looks at the hidden lives of women whose universal struggles,
bravery, indominable spirit, and ingenuity helped form the American
West. In Beneath the Bending Skies, Kirkpatrick uses her signature style
to delve into the life of Mollie Sheehan, who had to forgo her father’s
blessing in order to seek her happily ever after. Her life-altering
decision became the catalyst for her movement to aid the Nez Perce
tribe during the mid-1800s.
Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-
winning author of 40 books, including The Healing of Natalie Curtis,
Something Worth Doing, One More River to Cross, Everything She Didn’t Say,
All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver,
This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the
prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Her
works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for
Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award.
Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her
husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar. Learn more