15 March 2013

A historical novel with a Middle Fork setting is again available. ” Murder on the Middle Fork”,2005, by Don Smith, can be ordered from his daughter, Heather Thomas, at hsmiththomas@centurytel.net. Some of you who are familiar with the lore of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River may have read of a murder just upstream from the Flying B in the WWI period. A summary of the events is in Conley’s “The Middle Fork”. A fellow named Reberg had a homestead on Sheep Creek. A couple named Ernst had a placer claim near by. The Ernsts divorced in the fall of 1917, and Frances Ernst moved into Reberg’s place. In early winter, neighbors noticed Reberg was missing. Investigation found his body, buried, with a bullet hole. The supsects were Ernst and/or his ex Frances; the motive to obtain Reberg’s homestead. Only Reberg and the two Ernsts really knew what had happened. Reberg was dead, and the Ernsts stories did not agree.
Don Smith came to Salmon as a Methodist minister in the early 40s, about 25 years after the incident. Don had a strong interest in the back country, and this story was relatively current, but, as Don said, “the story had been retold so many times by so many people with different opinions that sometimes it was hard to believe they were talking about the same thing……so I have used the event as a basis for a novel…..I have tried to be entirely faithful to the setting and geography”. The result is a novel that captures the essence of the event, as best as Don could sort it out, in a well-written, entertaining manner. Conley’s synopsis is more precise, but Don’s book is better to sit in front of the fire on a cold winter evening. I had the chance to talk with the fellow who packed out Reberg’s body. He was old and I was young. It was sure interesting to get a first-hand account, though I wish I had known enough to ask more questions.
Many of these regional books are in print for only a short time, and this one has been unavailable for several years. Heather has gathered up a few copies, but I expect the supply is limited.

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