Afterward: The Real Epic


In June of 1922, a pharmacist, known to locals as Doc Baker, was called to a log house, two miles from a small mining town.  A man led the pharmacist to a room where his wife was struggling to give birth.  The baby was coming breech.  Doc Baker was able to turn the baby around and the woman gave birth to a baby boy.  The baby’s father had come to the area as a surveyor and purchased some farmland for speculative purposes.  The plan was to improve the property to make it attractive for a quick sale.  After a few more years in the remote, Central Idaho valley, the ranch still hadn’t sold.  The surveyor leased the ranch and eventually left the valley.

Two families struggled through the Great Depression and each eventually made their way to rural Central Utah.  Two kids met and fell in love while war raged in Europe.  They married in September of 1941.  In the hours and days that followed the December 7th attack, they huddled around the neighbor’s radio to hear about the tragic events at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  Both of the newlyweds were 19 and with the U.S. entering the Big War, the young husband wasn’t eligible for a conscription deferment.  We hear people say all of the time that they question the morality of bringing children into a world with so many problems, but the young couple started their family during that time of upheaval and uncertainty.  The young father and husband worked as a machinist, building airplane engines throughout much of the war.  He and his wife waited for his lottery number to come up, but years passed without him hearing from the draft board.

His lottery number was finally called in 1944 and he went into the Navy.  Upon completing boot camp, he became a gunnery instructor.  The wife would tell her children the story of bus journey she made across the continent from Utah to Florida.  Her husband was granted leave and they reunited in Pensacola.  Eventually, her husband would be released from military service on hardship grounds.  The small family made their way to Central Idaho, to the house where the former gunnery instructor was born.  The plan, once again, was for to improve the ranch for a quick sale, but his father died before the ranch was sold.  The couple, who by this time had six children, bought the ranch from his mother.  They would remain on the ranch most of their lives, raising their 13 children.  In their final years together, they sold the ranch in 1992.  The wife and mother died from a stroke in 1997.

In the late summer of 2013, the retired rancher was taken to the hospital for a nosebleed that would not stop.  He was 91 and had concomitant health issues: he had a pacemaker with an 8-year battery and he said he aimed to use all of it; he took a baby aspirin every day to thin his blood for the pacemaker; and he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer – the prognosis for which, sounded good.  The nosebleed, it turned out, was related to all three.  His prostate cancer spread to his bones.  He died in January 2014.

Under the Mountain is the epic story of a contemporary American pioneer family on the dwindling frontier of Central Idaho.  Christian and Dorothy Rasmussen, the protagonists, were inspired by my folks.  I confess there are stark similarities, but also glaring differences.  My mom never picked up a guitar in her life, unless she was putting it away after one of her sons left it sitting out.  Dad never left U.S. shores and wasn’t drafted until 1944.  The list goes on but you get the idea.

September 20, 2016 marks my parents’ 75th wedding anniversary.  Under the Mountain was made as a tribute to them.

–Jack Nielsen