A River Runs Through It: Black Jack’s Bar (Wolf Creek)

Black Jack’s was a freight car taken off its wheels and set on gravel at the other end of the bridge crossing the Little Prickly Pear. On the side of the box car was the sign of the Great Northern Railroad, a mountain goat gazing through a white beard on a world painted red. This is the only goat that ever saw the bottom of his world constantly occupied by a bottle of bar whisky labeled “3-7-77,” the number the Vigilantes pinned on the road agents they hanged in order to represent probably the dimensions of a grave. (30)

Maclean, Norman. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories (Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

About the Book

A River Runs Through It

It was only after his retirement in 1973 that Maclean began writing the stories for which he’d become famous. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories was published in 1976, the first work of original fiction published by the University of Chicago Press.

While the settings in A River Runs Through It are clearly drawn from actual locales, it is understood that the novel—including its places—is ultimately the product of the author’s imagination. The intent of this literary map is to enrich the reading experience by interpreting those places, not to render them literally or definitively.

About the Author

Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean was born in Iowa in 1902. In 1909 the family relocated to Missoula, Montana, where Norman’s father, the Rev. John Maclean, served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church for the next 17 years.

After college at Dartmouth, Maclean became a professor at the University of Chicago. He married Jessie Burns of Wolf Creek, Montana; they had two children, Jean and John. At Chicago Maclean taught Shakespeare and the Romantic poets; in his last years there, he held an endowed chair as William Rainey Harper Professor of English.