352 pages

Dance On the Wild Side

I'm distressed by the idea of Jane wanting to compete in a man's world. That's the way my wife refers to her growing enchantment in outdoors adventure. The idea infuriates me. I understand that anyone who really is anyone must struggle with everday problems and relationships. I realize love must be learned and earned, and that it can be lost through mistakes or choices made or not made during life. Some might applaud the thought of a lady determined to become her "own woman" in a man's world. Not me. What bothers me is not that my petite wife of more than five decades wants to compete in outdoors proficiency, but where in hell does she, or anyone else, get the idea that all in nature belongs to men?

This book, then, is about two people in love, sharing a life of dreams and adventure -- and growing in the process. In reality, it's about any couple who live and love and share and struggle to achieve the life they wish. What makes this story especially remarkable is how many time this couple fell on their butts while doing so!




what people are saying:


I just read Dance On the Wild Side and couldn't put it down. I want everyone in my family to read it. I just ordered Learning To Talk Bear and can't wait to get started - Kathy McHugh e-mail

While on vacation this summer I was in Wal-Mart in Bozeman and found some signed copies of Dance On the Wild Side. I loved it, and ordered more. I love all I've read, Chocolate Legs being remarkable. Your writing is outstanding - Phyllis Hammons e-mail

Roland Cheek writes as beautifully as Shakespeare about love
- Madeline Willson / Great Falls, MT

Nan and I have read, enjoyed, and admired the structure and writing of Dance on the Wild Side. You are caring, concerned, eompetent advocates for an important way of life. Very well done! A fascinating autobiography - Hugh Cullman / Beaufort, NC

One helluva book! Enjoyable reading! Amazing life you two have led. I know it took courage and honesty to tell the story of your personal life. - Robert West / Eatonton, GA


I had the pleasure of talking with Roland in Bozeman last December, and bought three of his books as gifts for friends. As Roland mentioned I would, I saw parts of my wife and my experiences in your Dance book, though our adventures were tamer! - Dave Buschena /Bozeman, MT

P.S. I had no idea of your early involvement in Back Country Horsemen -- what an important group.


Publication Reviews (mostly)

Dance on the Wild Side is terrific reading, part true life adventure, part inspiration, and part blueprint for a life worth living.

- The Midwest Book Review


Date: January 3, 2010 9:40:13 AM MST
Subject: PA nemesis
Dear Jane and Roland
You can’t imagine how often Lee and I have reflected back on the time we spent with you both in the “Bob”. We have traveled all over the U S and seen some awesome country but we haven’t come close to matching the total (beautiful scenery, educational, camaraderie, hands on) experience that we had with you.
Just before Christmas I was searching for a special gift for Lee and found and ordered your books “Dance on the Wild Side and My Best Work is Done at the Office”. It was quite a surprise to find …..well, ME in your book. (The picture proves I’ve never exaggerated on the size of that Dolly. I always said it would have taken 2 big fishermen to lift that baby up.) When we skimmed through it we laughed till we had tears in our eyes then we took it along to Leigh’s (she, her husband and their son live several miles from us) and she enjoyed it every bit as much. Those memories are priceless. I’ve since read Dance on the Wild Side from cover to cover and I must say I am impressed. Your talent for capturing a reader equals your skill of guiding and enlightening outsiders to wilderness treasures. I’m glad you have the same fond memories of us as we do you!
We look forward to reading all your books. We hope you both are well and continue to enjoy life to the fullest.
Forever Your PA Nemesis!
Leanie Hitz


Great Falls Tribune

Cheek's newest book is a love story

You ought to get to know Roland and Jane Cheek; their new book, "Dance on the Wild Side," is just the way to do it.
Roland Cheek is a regular contributor to Outdoors Across Montana. He writes a column that leans heavily on his years in the mountains as an outfitter and guide. He is author of "Learning to Talk Bear," a Cheek perspective on grizzly bears, and "The Phantom Ghost of Harriet Lou," a collection of stories about elk hunting and life in general.
Cheek also leans heavily on his wife, Jane, as many of us husbands do. There is plenty of evidence of Jane Cheek's hand throughout this book, whether it is in her influence on the young Roland or in the turn of a phrase that speaks of a little more grace than might have been picked up through three decades of outfitting in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness
"Dance on the Wild Side" is a memoir, mostly from Roland Cheek's perspective, and it is a love story. It begins in a time that has become just distant enough to take on that golden patina of nostalgia and it continues right up until now. It begins in a small town in Oregon and moves to a growing town in northwestern Montana.
You'll like the Cheeks. They worked for everything they have and in this country that kind of currency is worth more than its face value.
Roland Cheek was born in the West Texas Hill Country and moved to southwestern Oregon in 1937.
Jane Cheek left Arkansas with her parents in 1944 and wound up next door to Roland.
They married in 1954 and 10 years later they moved to Montana. You meet the Cheeks when they are just kids living next door to each other in Oregon, and you follow them through raising a family, growing a business and finally retirement, of sorts.
There are dark passages in this book: Roland's devotion to a haunting older brother, an underlying characteristic of belligerence in the man and some trouble in the marriage.
But as Jane Cheek's publicity notes say, the book's thrust is that it is never too late to simplify; that one is never to old to seek adventure and that one should do what one loves and contentment will follow.
Besides this story about a couple that becomes a family, the book also is full of encounters with wild animals and colorful characters. It is all set against the backdrop of America's fine country--first in Oregon in the 1940s and 50s and then Montana's great backcountry.
There are stories about runaway horses, blizzards, raging rivers and fierce windstorms.
This is a good book about good people who do the right thing.
Michael Babcock / Tribune Outdoor Editor






More Reviews

Helena Independent Record May 7, 1999

Love of outdoors stars in outfitter's 'romance'

IR Book Coordinator Lois Lonnquist

Dance on the Wild Side:
A True Story of Love between Man and Woman and Wilderness is the real life story of Montana outfitters Roland and Jane Cheek. The Cheeks were married in November of 1954, two weeks after elk season, and have spent the past 44 years sharing adventures in the scenic wilderness of Montana's northern Rockies.
Looking back over their struggle to live the outdoor life they wanted, they refer to an empowerment, "about underdogs succeeding because they became a team." Today, facing the challenge of change, they are eager to share their latest discovery: It is "never too late to simplify; one is never too old to seek adventure; and one should do what one loves. Contentment will follow."
THEIR BOOK begins with Roland's recollections of childhood during the Great Depression, a family tragedy, his parents' divorce and the solace and adventure he found in the outdoors.
Roland and Jane Cheek will be in Helena today to autograph copies of their books at WaldenBooks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Hastings Book & Music from 5 to 7 p.m.
Jane was the girl-next-door whose father told her to have nothing to do with the boy- next-door. But love prevailed and the young couple set out to overcome whatever other obstacles stood in the way of their dream
In 1970, the Cheeks founded their Skyline Outfit "on a shoestring." For the next two decades Roland, later with Jane, guided hundreds of hunting, fishing, and packing treks into the wilderness. They traveled to sport shows around the country promoting their business and made friends with people from all over the world. Their accounts of these years, written with humor and detail are both lessons of the wilds and campfire tales.
The Cheeks sold Skyline Outfit on May 9, 1990. They would miss the people and beautful, wild scenery but not the cold winds and physically demanding work. What they really wouldn't miss was, in Roland's words, "the incessant, idiotic, debilitating struggle with a faceless bureaucracy that cared nothing about a little guy's necessity for profit in providing a needed public service."
The thread of a second story is woven into this book--that of Roland's older brother, an airman who died in a bomber crash at the end of World War II. An unexpected event brings some resolution to the tragedy and is shared in the last pages.
"Dance on the Wild Side" has 352 pages and a number of black and white photos of Roland and Jane at work and play, their dogs and horses, wilderness, wildlife, and many friends old and new.
JANE CHEEK is an accomplished hiker, skier, whitewater rafter, flyfisher, amateur botanist, mother and photographer. She founded and operated Village Home Interiors until 1995 when she sold it to become full-time vice-president and marketing director for Skyline Publishing in Columbia Falls.
Roland Cheek writes a weekly Syndicated column "Wild Trails and Tall Tales." He launched a syndicated radio show in 1992. He wrote his first book "Montana's Bob Wilderness" in 1982. He authored two other books, "Learning to Talk Bear," and "Phantom Ghost of Harriet Lou" published in 1998.

Read 1st chapter

Chapter One

Everybody's Favorite

There was but one certainty in the world of my childhood: that all existence was controlled by two powers. The first was a terrible, vengeful Creator with direct authority over an unspeakable horror called hell, a creator who delighted in consigning even an innocent child to the flames of eternal damnation for the tiniest infraction. The second was a mother who wielded a seven-foot piece of broken driving rein with such relish that risking God's displeasure was preferable to even a baleful glance from His most prominent challenger.

In fairness, my mother's determined forcefulness may have bubbled so near the surface because of a perceived need to compete in a world peopled with males. If so, she succeeded remarkably well, tolerating little dissent from her husband and less from her three sons; especially the youngest, who failed from the outset by arriving via Caesarean section in the midst of the Great Depression, and with the wrong orifices.

* * *

My brother Hillburn, the oldest of the three boys, was six months into his nineteenth year when the attack came on Pearl Harbor. He wanted to enlist before the oil slicks cleared and he would have done so, but mother ordered him to wait for the draft. Not even her favorite in the full flush of young manhood dared test that outthrust jaw and piercing eye.

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