Author: Tom Morrisey

Title: “Wind River”

Publisher: Bethany House 2008; 302 pages of text

I watched the movie “Wind River” on Netflix in Phoenix in February during my annual few days with my buddy, Mel, from the fourth grade at McKinley School in Minot. Mel and I and Charley and Steve were the best of friends in the Minot High Class of 1960. I had read about this movie in Time magazine shortly after it was released in 2017.

The movie is about a U.S. government animal tracker in the Wind River country of Wyoming, and his tracking of the men who raped and murdered a young Indian woman. A female FBI agent asks for his help. He ultimately tracks a trail over a mountain and through woods to the trailer where the murder and assault took place, arriving on the periphery as the FBI agent and the other officers are confronting a crew of well diggers. An incredible close range and quick gunfight breaks out. The tracker acting as a sniper picks off the rest of the bad guys.

After securing the scene and providing some first aid to the wounded FBI agent, he tracks down the one escaped bad guy and finishes the job. I thought it was a pretty good movie, so I wanted to read “the book.”

“Wind River” by Tom Morrissey is out of print so I had to purchase a copy from an online used book outfit. Since it was published in 2008, I assumed it was the basis for the movie. My first clue I was wrong was the cover of the paperback novel which featured a drawing of two fellows fly fishing in a river. When I started reading this novel, I kept waiting for the story of the tracker to develop, only to realize the only things the movie and the novel had in common were the fact they were both set in Wyoming, they both had a young Indian woman as the victim of rape and murder, and they both used the name Wind River. But this novel turned out to be a good and quick read, which I rather enjoyed.

In Morrissey’s novel the main characters are Tyler “Ty” “Tiger” Perkins and his now 86-year-old friend and mentor for fly fishing and the outdoors of Wyoming, Soren Andeman. The first chapter establishes their relationship with Perkins as a young fellow catching a fish on a back-country trip with Andeman.

Fast forward, Perkins is a sergeant in the Marine Corps with combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. On patrol in Iraq, he shoots a potentially deadly man and he needs some time to deal with this. The next day a gunny sergeant takes out his patrol and is killed. Back home in Virginia with his wife, Perkins is troubled by someone else being killed in his place when he should have been there. An invitation from Andeman brings him back to Wyoming and a back-country trip.

Andeman had served as the county sheriff and had an encounter with the neighborhood bully, who disappeared to the relief of others in the county. At 86, Andeman wants one last trip into the back country and he chooses Perkins, who he calls Tiger, to go with him. The trip is hard on Andeman as they push farther and farther into the back country, where Andeman insists they go, as Andeman has something he wants to reveal to Perkins.

They find the hidden spot where Andeman reveals to Perkins the gun and some of the personal belongings of the missing bully. Andeman then tells Perkins how he had killed the bully by striking him when he taunted Andeman about how he could never prove he raped and killed a young Indian woman. Being trained in investigations, Andeman knew how to cover up and fake the bully’s disappearance. He wants Perkins to know all this as he is living with guilt and he wants the truth to come out as he is going to confess to the new sheriff.

He doesn’t make it back to confess so Perkins is going to leave it alone, but when he tells Andeman’s widow, Enda, of Andeman’s death she wants to know all of the details, leading to the second and final twist in the story.

Even though the movie and the novel were within nine years of each other and had the same title, I learned there was no connection. In fact, as I searched for a copy of the novel, I found there are several books with "Wind River" in their titles. Thus, it is apparently true you “cannot tell a book by its cover,” nor can you tell a book or movie by its title. I enjoyed both the movie and the book.

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Bob Wefald is a retired North Dakota State District Court judge. Wefald became a lawyer in 1970. His career included serving a year as a law clerk, four years as attorney general, more than 23 years in private practice in Bismarck and 12 years as a judge. He served as an officer in the Navy for three years of active duty plus 24 years in the Navy Reserve.