To best present this larger than life character, I have used his own words with minimal adaptions on my part, because he tells it better than I ever could.
There are those who reject any notion that a person can acquire the writing art outside those hallowed halls of academia, yet storytellers have captured audiences for millennia before Oxford or Harvard were more than just forest enclaves where wild turnips sprouted.
There’s dissent, of course, holding the cloistered academic life to be poor training grounds for the kinds of riveting stories audiences wish to hear or read.
My particular PhD came from God’s own University of Wild Places and Wilder Things, maybe best described as the Campfire kind, backed up against the inky black of star-filled nights, regaling saucer-eyed guests with tales of wilderness adventure, while horses stomped at picket lines and coyotes howled at a rising moon.
His doctoral thesis came during three decades of narratives about those wild places and wilder things; wonders seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt; crafted for Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and Sports Afield. His column was syndicated over two decades to 17 newspapers, and he hosted a coast-to-coast radio show with 210,000 listeners, airing on 75 stations across America.
Then he turned his attention to books: a baker’s dozen novels, wildlife and adventure nonfiction titles, all self-published to great success, all flavored with real-life experiences.
What’s his point?
That one can have adventure AND learn to write very well indeed (despite academic disdain for anyone outside their comfortable inner circle); well enough in fact, to tell the conventional publishing world to go to hell and that he’ll publish his own stuff. More successfully. And at greater profit.
For starters, few individuals can match Roland’s outdoors credentials
Consider the man’s incredible insider’s knowledge of the place God made for himself and for the lucky people with whom He deigns to share the land and its features and creatures.
Roland Cheek bucked blizzards and avalanches by day, and below-zero nights, while searching out remote basins and distant mountain valleys for the promised Valhallas he thought were there.
But to reach those promised paradises also meant rafting perilous whitewater rivers, fighting through wildfires, enduring deluges, lightning storms, and raging tempests.
On the other hand, there’ve been bull elk bugling in a meadow at break of day, “rocking chair” bucks cresting distant ridgelines, and rainbow trout as large as a big man’s forearm, erupting from the placid waters of an alpine lake (with a fly dangling from the lip).
And there’ve been grizzly bears!
Oh yes, there’ve been grizzly bears – charging from alder thickets with their teeth bared and ears back, or digging tubers in a marsh with breezes rippling silvertipped guard hairs along hump and rump. Roland has had them stare at him with something akin to disdain, or charge to within 10-feet, teeth clacking and head swinging low to the ground.
He’s been scared spitless and thanked God for the privilege of walking the same paths of these most powerful of the world’s great carnivores.
Roland has matched wit and grit and stamina and sweat with the best of a beautiful land, and the worst of a savage land.
He won some and lost some, exactly the way it should be – and always is – during a life of real adventure.
And he shared – and shares – what he learned via several decades of experiences through a syndicated newspaper column, popular nationwide radio program, hundreds of magazine articles, and upwards of twenty books of high adventure, belly-slapping comedy, and secrets gleaned from a life lived amid some of the wildest and most beautiful lands in all America, including the book that drew my attention to him:
Learning to Talk Bear: So Bears Can Listen
God’s music is wind soughing through treetops, dove wings whispering at waterholes, the mournful cry of a lost-in-the-fog honker. It’s harmony that became addictive, and carries even into my dotage. Elk music took me to the dance. Bears — particularly grizzly bears — keep me dancing.Grizzlies, you see, are the Marine Band of the animal world. They swagger with the calm indifference of an animal who knows he has nothing left to prove. So why does this John Philip Sousa of wildlife resonance — an animal who not only fears not, but cares not — receive such a bum rap from the planet’s most fearsome other creatures — us?
Good question; not all grizzly bears are Jeffrey Dahmers in fur coats. Perhaps that’s the “why” for this book.
What Of His Western Adventure Series?
Good question. After all, where does a guy get off writing about the Old West from the disadvantage of dwelling in the 21st Century?
Roland Cheek can hardly claim to have been in a gunfight at the O.K. Corral or punched dogies down the streets of Abilene. But he has straddled rawboned ponies over a few trails amid some of the wildest mountains in America – say upwards of 35 thousand miles of those trails! And he’s spent over five decades wandering the wild country throughout the West.
After crafting six prior non-fiction books, hundreds of magazine articles, and thousands of newspaper columns and radio scripts about his adventures, Roland at last turned his attention to crafting Western novels, tales from the heart and dripping with a realism that is based on equal parts historical record and the plethora of his own experiences.
Welcome to the world of Roland Cheek: seeker of wild places and wild things, whitewater adventurer, wilderness guide, newspaper columnist, radio show host, magazine journalist, book author, and consumate lover of one woman – his lifetime packmate.
Old Uncle Remus said, “It’s what you do with what you got that pays off in the end.” Roland has two things going for him (and you): A lifetime’s worth of experiences and a willingness to share.
By telling stories. His radio program, newspaper column, and magazine pieces are all from the past.
But his books are still out there – all eighteen of them. And his two blogs are current, one or the other shared three times each week.
Campfire Culture is a blog devoted to outdoors adventure: CLICK
Whereas the shorter Mountain Musing (twice-weekly) offers random (often humorous) thoughts on subjects at hand (no politics, no religion!): CLICK
There are also several video shows, both on YouTube and via his website; subjects as diverse as the 1930s construction of Ptarmigan Tunnel in Glacier Park, a two minute audio of a wolfpack on the move, Jane’s gourmet campfire meals, searching for Anasazi ruins, grizzly bears, and more. Much more. CLICK
His is storytelling refined to an art.
Some of his books are shown below, for more information, click HERE.