Who is Joseph Nathan ‘Sleeps with Bears’ Meeker?

Joseph Nathan Meeker is a fictional character in my Michelle Tanner series of stories. There are several real people the character was modeled after. The first is John Adams (also a New Englander) born in 1812, who became better known as Grizzly Adams. The name Sleeps with Bears comes from Adams’s habit of cohabiting at times, with a few bears. Then there was a western pioneer Joseph Lafayette “Joe” Meek who settled in Oregon and became a lawman. Born in Washington County, Virginia, he died in Hillsboro, Oregon. Meek’s was the Oregon Territorial Federal Marshal. I threw in a bit of Heck Thomas too, a deputy US Marshal who served under Judge Isaac Parker - the infamous ‘Hanging Judge.’ There’s also a few other lawmen, mountain men, and pioneers thrown into the mix for good measure.

Much of Meeker is cut from the tapestry of stories I heard, about not so famous people. People you would have never heard of. His ability to tell a tall yarn is culled from my father and his mischievous brothers. Yes sir, it is certain, Meeker inherited that ability of confabulation inflation from my dad, along with a good-natured manner, slowness to anger, and keen ability to measure peoples’ intentions. My father had this way of looking at you, listening to you, and he’d know right off if I’d told the truth or not.

Meeker’s love of the outdoors is mine. I could have been happy living in those days. There is nothing better than climbing high in the Rockies and looking out over God’s handiwork. Alone with just your thoughts, the sounds of the wind in the trees, a babbling brook, and animals all around you wondering just what the heck you’re doing in their world. It’s pretty much a religious experience.

Joseph Nathan Meeker craves both solitude and companionship. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? It isn’t, you know. Having those around whom you love for companionship while shutting out the rest of world, to him, would be glorious. Nathan’s first love was a bear. Yeah, a bear. Not in any carnal sense, but he stumbled into her life one cold day, and he was never the same afterward. The bear moved in and out of his life for twenty years.

Oh, so you know, you can call him Deputy US Marshal Meeker, Marshal, Meeker, Nate, Nathan, Sleeps with Bears, or old feller. But, never, ever call him Joe or Joseph. I’m not sure why, but he just doesn’t like that.

Pick up a copy of Michelle Tanner Going West and meet Sleeps with Bears. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably like him.


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