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Lenna Harding

Author and Columnist


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Sawbuck Tales is a collection of tales (68,000 words) that form a memoir of the history of the fictional town of Sawbuck, Idaho, written to commemorate their centennial in 2010. The narrator in all but one is Thomas Weldon Wheeler, a descendant of one of the earliest pioneers. The exception is one by an “invited author” who was more familiar with the incident recounted. The tales appear in chronological order and tell about life in Sawbuck and Sawbuck County from its earliest beginnings as a family-owned sawmill to the present day as it evolved through the years into a resort community and arts colony. Sawbuck took its name from the fact that the land was purchased after the 1910 great fire for a Sawbuck. At first, it was accessible only by boat traveling the length of Sawbuck Lake then five miles up into the Sawbuck River.

The tales vary from the purely historical to the poignant to the humorous and introduce a variety of colorful characters who made Sawbuck the independent-thinking, self-sufficient town it is today. Being isolated, they devised their own solutions to everyday problems. Events in the outside world touched their lives but in ways unique to Sawbuck.

I have tried to remain true to the history and lifestyles of the general area at each period in its history.  

Contents of Sawbuck Tales



Sisters of the Careful Fires (a novella—36,000 words) was inspired by a zany dream I had one night that I actually remembered after waking up.  As wild as my imagination can be sometimes, my conscious thought would never have come up with that title, let alone part of that plot.  The setting is a small Midwest town.  Kate Dawson receives a letter and package one afternoon addressed to her law office from her aunt, Ellie Dawson. The letter begs Kate and her husband to come get her—that she fears for her life.  Meanwhile, Kate is instructed to put the package in her office safe unopened unless something happens to her. Kate immediately tries calling her aunt. Getting no answer, she calls Ellie’s neighbor and learns that Ellie is dead from a fall down her basement stairs.   Kate opens the package and finds a diary, several copied pages of mumbo-jumbo and a diaphanous circle of tulle with holes cut out for the neck and arms. On the top are instructions to make two copies of the diary and put the original along with the other items in her safe. She is to give one copy of the diary to the state police and have no dealings with either the local police chief or sheriff.

Kate and her husband follow Ellie’s instructions and set out to Ellie’s place to see what is going on.  On the way, Kate starts reading the diary aloud while her husband drives. They stop at the state police local headquarters on the way and are able to persuade them to look into the situation as something other than an accident. When they arrive, things develop so fast, no one has time to finish reading the diary in its entirety until several days have passed.

It seems that Ellie was caught up in a super-secret woman’s group called the Sisters of the Careful Fires in an effort to find out more about the death of her older sister. At first, it seems only as zany as the name, but it soon takes on a more sinister air as, one by one, various sisters die accidental deaths. As the story unfolds, Kate not only learns the secrets of the Sisters, but her family secrets come pouring out and Kate discovers some surprising things about her own parents.