Friday, June 13, 2014

Wanda Winters-Gutierrez: In Finding Her Brother She Found Herself

Everyone's Story welcomes back author Wanda Winters-Gutierrez. Wanda is here this week to speak about the loss of her brother Harvey, also known as The Mountain Man. Wanda speaks of two types of loss: the first when a loved one drifts away from family and friends and the second when God calls them home. It's the first one--when a family member estranges him or herself from the rest of the family that first caught my attention to Wanda. I devoured her book, THE MOUNTAIN MAN and booked her for this blog. I hope she offers you peace and uplifting as she did for me. We both look forward to hearing from you.

Book Giveaway:
Wanda is offering to one randomly chosen commenter one copy of THE MOUNTAIN MAN and to a second commenter one copy of THE SEARCH FOR PEACE. The winners will be announced here on Friday, June 20th, between 5-6 PM EST. To be eligible, please leave your contact information within your comment. Thanks!

Excerpt from THE MOUNTAIN MAN:

THE MOUNTAIN MAN by Wanda Winters-Gutierrez

 JUST FOR A MOMENT IMAGINE you have come to visit Harvey on his mountain. You may have read about him, heard stories, or met him somewhere on his travels.

 To get there you have followed highway 70 up from historic Rogersville, Tennessee. It is early morning and for most of the 17 miles you find yourself driving through a cloud. A misty fog hovered over the mountain during the night and settled gently into the valleys. Occasionally, when a window in the mist clears, you glimpse the Great Smokies spilling away into the horizon; it is hard to tell where the mountains end and the heavens begin.

Eventually you emerge from the winding switch back curves of the highway and begin to pass roads, hollows, creeks, and com-munities with names such as Frog Level, Little Pumpkin Valley, Turkey Creek, Copper Ridge, and a church named Compromise.

 You turn at Gravely Valley Road and follow it until you find a certain mail box. The entry into Harvey’s land grew over long ago from lack of use, so you park your car beside the road. You were told it is okay enter the neighbor's gate; you will walk the rest of the way.

The neighbor's property is cleared farmland surrounded by forest; his house is barely visible behind a stand of pines far-ther up the drive. To the left, along the woods, a logging com-pany ripped a narrow road into the mountain. It is all uphill and you will have to climb it.

 Depending on who you ask, Harvey's cabin is two or three miles farther on. When you step out of the car the mountain wraps your senses. You hear the creek rushing over rocks as it fol-lows its century old path around the lower border of the moun-tain. The air is crisp. Somewhere over on the next farm a roos-ter crows. Nearby a blue jay calls out a welcome... or a warning.

 You start walking. Twenty minutes later you stop to catch your breath and look back at your car a half-mile away; it is the last symbol of civilization you will see for a while. Walking on, still uphill, you remember to check your cell phone... no bars. You are now officially separated from the outside world.

You are on the lookout for a big rock where you will turn left and cross onto Harvey's land. Another 15 minutes, past a bend or two in the road an outcropping of layered sandstone appears it looks as if it may hover over the entrance to a buried cave.

To the left of the rock a barbed wire fence stretches on up the mountain and defines the north boundary line of the sixty acres. Hanging on a fence post a carved wooden sign reads, “Road Closed: No Motorized Vehicles Allowed.”

Welcome to Harvey's world.
 CLIMBING OVER THE FENCE, you follow the path through the damp woods of pine, oak, poplar; their branches create a laced canopy above your head. Jewel-like dewdrops glisten on the delicate tips of grasses and pine needles.

The trail is quiet except for the soft crackle of twigs under your feet and an occasional chattering of a squirrel. As you walk farther into the mountain the world shrinks to the path before you. Moss, rocks, ferns, leaves take on exquisite de-tails you would have missed on other walks in wide-open spaces.

The pervading silence of the mountain brings with it a solitude humans rarely experience. Alone? Not really, forest eyes are wondering at the stranger who has suddenly appeared in their kingdom. Standing still for a moment you see a whitetail deer no farther than a stones throw away. She solemnly stares at you with unblinking eyes then melts off into the morning mist.

Moving on at a gentler pace you vaguely wonder what it is like to live this close to God's creatures and yet not see another human being for weeks at a time?

You have heard that before settling here Harvey traversed the length and breath of the country with only a backpack. What kind of person does that? What kind of person would choose to endure heat and cold, rain and snowstorms, loneli-ness and uncomfortable beds, or no bed, and danger...for what? A sunset? Another mountain... new people... freedom... solitude? There has to be a story behind the Mountain Man. Somehow you feel deep within that he may have answers that will help you live your own life in a more authentic way.

That is why you made this journey.
THE SCENT OF BURNING WOOD causes you to pause and look around. Faintly through the trees, you see a cabin nestled in a dip of the mountain. As you get closer you notice a hazy trail of smoke rising from a pipe in the roof and floating off toward the creek. The window glows with the warmth of a coal oil lamp... this has to be the place.

RIGHT ABOUT HERE is where you start second-guessing your decision to come. Now what? Just how does one make an un-announced visit to a hermit? You have heard he is friendly, but he obviously lives alone for a reason. What if he doesn't like company? Wonder if he has a gun? Didn't someone tell you that everybody in Tennessee has a gun?

Still not sure you finally just move past the questions and walk down the hill calling out! “Hello! Anybody home?”

He steps around the corner of the cabin, a short stocky man dressed in a faded flannel shirt and worn jeans. His kind, yet intensely blue eyes gaze at you from behind wired rimmed glas-ses above a Grizzly Adams beard. As you step into the clearing he says, “Welcome friend...” and extends his hand. He asks your name and where you are from, then with old-school gracious-ness he invites you into his home.

 STEPPING INSIDE THE FIRST thing you encounter is possi-bly the largest collection of books you have ever seen outside a public library. Books are everywhere. Floor to ceiling they line the walls, the shelves, the rafters. They are stacked on tables, chairs, windowsills, and on the floor. A library of this magni-tude is the last thing you ever expected to find on the side of a mountain in the middle of no-where.

On closer inspection you will find they are categorized by sub-ject... poetry, novels, history, medicine, law, how-to, self help, biographies, science, nature, art, religion, theology, mysteries, politics, and literally every other subject from anthropology to zoology. Homer's Iliad rest beside Thoreau, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Emerson, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain. James Patter-son and other modern day writers find their place near an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica, which Harvey explains, were given to him by the Britannica Company when he did a story telling event for them.

 OVERWHELMED BY THE SHEAR NUMBERS your unspoken questions tumble over themselves... “How many are there? Has he read them all? How did he get them up here?” Later, when you get to know him better, you ask and he answers with a chuckle, “Not real sure how many... lost count years ago... may-be about 10,000 here and more in the other cabin. Yes, I've read most of them... some numerous times, and I backpacked them in.”

 It is evident your host is totally at ease with his surroundings. Offering no apology for the simplicity of his lifestyle, and with all the dignity of a well-to-do Victorian gentleman showing you into his parlor, he invites you to have a seat at the oilcloth-covered table. More than likely you will be sitting in a chair he made from a tree on the property. The books and warm hospitality have already knocked many of your preconceived ideas of a mountain man in the head, but more surprises await.

HE IS SOFT SPOKEN, possesses a quick wit, a ready laughter, and a delightful sense of humor. His disarming way of laying out the most profound statement wrapped in a smile can be intrigu-ing. For instance, when you inquire about his decision to live outside-the-box he replies, “It just came to me one day that a human's life must have purpose, at least to the person living it."  While you are digesting that nugget he adds a few pieces of wood to the stove, throws a strange looking root into a pot of water and asked if you have ever had sassafras tea?

 AS THE MORNING PROGRESSES the range of subjects cover everything from the origin and nesting habits of the songbird singing a heartfelt melody outside the window, to quantum phy-sics verses Einstein's theory of relativity. Obviously behind his deceptive simplicity is a well educated man. When you ask him what University he studied at, he grins and motions toward the bookshelves saying simply, “I read.”

A natural storyteller in the old Appalachian tradition you could listen for hours as he shares mountain stories and songs he learned from his grandpa, as well as the accounts of his adven-tures during the decade he hopped freights, hitchhiked, and walked through thirty-eight states and two countries. He ad-mits he has a few bad experiences, but mostly met some good people and made many friends.

Before your visit is over you will be fully convinced that the old ways are best... freight trains really are an interesting way to travel... living in the woods by yourself is exactly what you want to do... and taking the hardships you encounter in life and using them for stepping stones makes perfect sense.

You will be ready to do as Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, and Harvey did, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Writing... The Mountain Man: Memories of a Free Spirit
by Wanda Winters-Gutierrez 
My brother was a hermit and when he passed I was the only member of our immediate family living. He left behind a treasure trove consisting of a forty-year collection of journals, poems, photographs, newspaper clippings, and the copies of all the letters he had written to family and friends since the 1960's. Before settling on his mountain Harvey had traversed the length and breath of the country alone with only a backpack. His writings covered his many fun and dangerous adventures, as well as his battle with the depression that separated him from the family he loved and who loved him...and yet woven into the fabric of his thoughts and experiences was his undeniable faith in God, which was forged in the fire of his own experience and inner healing. I knew there was a book here.
Writing a family member’s life story is always a challenge, especially if the subject of the book is gone. Unaccountably, as I worked on my brother's life story my own story became clearer. I understood more deeply why each of us must follow our own path and live life on our own terms. It is said that one's life is incomplete until one has been to the mountain, stood at its summit, and breathed the same air as the Creator. My brother's mountain in East Tennessee did that for him...writing this book did that for me. Reading it has done it for others 

The book has been out for a couple of years now, and selling very well around the world. Much to my surprise my little brother, The Mountain Man, has become a 'folk icon' of sorts. Somehow readers feel he has answers that will help them live their own lives in a more authentic way, and he does...BUT be forewarned...after meeting Harvey you may be convinced that the old ways are best...freight trains are really an interesting way to in the woods by yourself is exactly what you want to do...and taking the hardships you encounter in life and using them for stepping stones makes perfect sense. 

 One reader shared..."It's a funny thing since I finished reading the book sometimes throughout my day I'll think about some part of it and when I get a chance I sit down and read that chapter or paragraph again. And then more often than not I'll think to myself, "I wonder what Harvey would do?”
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said "Many people die with their music still in them.” My brother was not one of them, he heard his music and he danced. The Mountain Man: Memories of a Free Spirit it is a spiritual sharing of a life by one who lived it and a sister who knew his heart. I pray it will enable you to find the wisdom to live with what is, and move forward from there into a life that brings you peace. I pray that when your life is over and people are going through your things (as I did Harvey's) they will find years of daily journals that end with..."It was a good day."

You can see Wanda's first Everyone's Story's appearance here.

Wanda's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Author Wanda Winters-Gutierrez on Everyone’s Story: finding her lost brother. #BrokenFamilies (Tweet This)

Have an estranged loved one who has been missing for years? Wanda Winters-Gutierrez offers comfort. (Tweet This)

Help for broken families: Win a Wanda Winters-Gutierrez #BookGiveaway(Tweet This)

Author's Bio:
Wanda G. (Wanda Winters-Gutierrez) authors books specializing in creative non-fiction, inspiration, and memoirs. 

She is known as a writer with a unique ability to draw the reader into the emotion of the moment. Because of her insight and spiritual understanding she is able to touch the hearts and souls of wounded people all... over the world.
Her various endeavors are all geared toward setting people free from the unresolved issues of their past and empowering them to go beyond to a lovely future.

Her books are being used in prisons, halfway houses, shelters for abused women, book clubs as well as study guides in assorted woman's organizations.

Places to connect with Wanda:


  1. What an amazing brother Harvey must have been! He is someone I would love to have met and I will, through your book about him. Thanks Elaine for introducing me to Wanda. pat at ptbradley dot com

    1. Pat, in many ways I related well to what Wanda shares in her book about her brother. It was a fascinating, endearing read and then when you finish the last page there's the oh-wow moment when you realized this is NOT fiction. As always, thanks for stopping by.

    2. AnonymousJune 14, 2014

      Thanks Patricia! Yes my brother was amazing...I believe you will enjoy your journey with The Mountain Man... so far he has made people laugh, cry, and actually change their focus in their own life... One reader wrote.. " "Every time I think about Harvey and his life my spirit leaps with excitement. It is like the voice of one crying in crying in the wilderness. It is a cry to change our thinking, attitude and outlook on invitation to calm the restless soul..." Pat I look forward to hearing from you after you read the book...thanks again!

    3. AnonymousJune 14, 2014

      Wanda Here: Thanks Elaine for having me here always enjoy meeting your followers... I am excited about the week! Anonymous seemed to be the only way to post right now... I will work on the other options...

    4. Wanda, you might also try the Name/URL option when leaving a comment--then you can use your name.

    5. Thanks my friend...looks like it worked!!

  2. This sounds like a book I need to read as I prepare to now write my second book about Elsie. This one will be about her love of Palomar Mountain and her years of living there on an apple ranch with my mother. Harvey sounds like Elsie in his love of nature and solitude. I like that Wanda specializes in non-fiction.

  3. As always a Great interview Elaine. This sounds like a book I need to read as I prepare to now write my second book about Elsie. This one will be about her love of Palomar Mountain and her years of living there on an apple ranch with my mother. Harvey sounds like Elsie in his love of nature and solitude. I like that Wanda specializes in non-fiction. She sounds like me wading through notes & journals Elsie left behind. Puzzle pieces of a life.

    1. Barbara, both your comments were fascinating & relevant that I published both. Thanks for visiting--you're always welcome here. Do check back later for Wanda's reply.

  4. Thanks Barbara! Sounds like a wonderful project you are working on! I love old challenge with my brother's story was what to put in and what to leave truth I have enough material for a couple more books... they may come together someday. I think you will enjoy Harvey's thoughts about his beloved mountain... Your Elsie sounds like my kind of lady. I too am a bit of a recluse ...but thanks to folks like Elaine Stock my work still gets out into the world of readers...she inspires me. Will check out your work...thanks again for the comments!!

    1. Wanda, I inspire you? Wow. Sweet words, my friend. You've brought a smile to my face just now.

    2. Elaine Really you are AMAZING! I truly find you inspiring... (;

  5. Wanda, I related to your point that writing about our experiences is cathartic! It's a sweet irony that you and your brother both found peace through his journey--he through living it, and you through writing about it. The added blessing is that you have shared it with others.

    1. Kathy, you've expressed that so well that I won't try expanding upon that. As always, I'm grateful for your visit.

    2. Thanks was a sweet irony... I loved writing this book...I feel I captured my brother's heart as well as my own. I appreciate your comments...

  6. What a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this special story, Wanda. I look forward to meeting The Mountain Man!

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

    1. Thanks for your visit, Britney. Wanda's book is a lovely tribute.

    2. Thanks Britney...I am betting you will LOVE the Mountain Man...he was a unique and wonderful soul... Thanks for the comment and please let me know how 'the meeting' goes... ;)

  7. Wanda, heartfelt thanks for once again making this a meaningful week for my viewers, and most certainly a moving tribute to your brother. It's not easy having a missing loved one and you've helped show the joyful side of an otherwise sad time, showing us all that there is hope.

    Thanks too for the sweet BookGiveaways. The 2 B's won:

    Congratulations to Barbara and Britney! Both Wanda and I will be in direct contact with you two shortly.


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