As ALWAYS, my severest and most constructive critic is my wife, Melody Webb. All my books owe her influence an incalculable debt, and A Life Wild and Perilous follows in this tradition. For the mountain man book, however, the debt is twofold. For four years, 1992–96, while she served as assistant superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, I had the privilege of living in a big log home at the very foot of the Grand Tetons. Each day (in nice weather), I sat at my desk with the Grand Teton itself looming over my computer monitor. No setting could be more inspirational for taking on the mountain men than Jackson Hole, "the crossroads of the fur trade," and its surrounding mountains. Beyond the inspiration, this mountain residence afforded me the opportunity to master the complex geography of the northern Rockies, the heartland of the fur trade. For a book such as mine, these outdoor archives proved nearly as critical as the indoor archives preserving the all-too-scarce documentation of this important phase of the American experience. To Melody and her boss, Superintendent Jack Neckels, I am grateful for the chance to have lived in so beautiful and historic a place.
To two unsurpassed specialists in the mountain men and the fur trade I express heartfelt appreciation for reading and commenting on the entire manuscript. Professor James P. Ronda of the University of Tulsa and Professor William R. Swagerty of the University of Idaho saved me from errors of fact and interpretation and provided badly needed reassurance that