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The Lockhart contemporaries reunion tour 

You know the feeling you have about old classmates, or compatriots in some ancient but intense experience? That’s how I feel about many of the people in Caroline Lockhart’s life: I wonder whatever happened to them, and I hope it was generally positive.

The feeling played out effectively for me on Wednesday night, when I spoke to the Yellowstone Corral of Westerners, a group of Billings-area folks interested in Western history. We were talking about Lockhart’s efforts to set up her ranch on the Dryhead (the climactic section of The Cowboy Girl). I showed a picture of one of Lockhart’s boyfriends, Lou Ericson, the fellow who had signed his name to the ranch purchase in 1926.

“We knew Lou Ericson,” said a voice from the audience. It came from Shirley Steele, speaking on behalf of herself and her husband, the esteemed artist Ben Steele. Ericson had been a friend of Ben’s father, and the younger Steeles visited him shortly after their wedding, at the Spear Ranch southeast of Hardin. Ericson told them of his days as a jockey, but not of his association with the notorious novelist/rancher.

A year or two after they purchased the ranch, Lockhart and Ericson split up. (There was a gunfight involved.) She banished him from the L Slash Heart. I was never able to find out what had happened to him, how he felt about Lockhart and his time on the Dryhead. But I was gratified to hear the Steeles report that he lived to a ripe old age, and seemed at that age to be quite happy.

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