How it Looks Going Back Growing Up in the Montana Woods

ByDoris Knowles Pulis


In 1949, taking a break from San Diego’s post–World War II bustle, the Knowles family went camping in Canada. Heading home through northwest Montana’s Yaak River country, they found a two-bedroom, story-and-half log cabin on a small lake.

There was neither electricity nor plumbing. Access was via dirt road, slow at best and iffy during the long, hard winters. Darwin Knowles saw a peaceful life, and adventurous wife Marilyn agreed. Third-grader daughter, Dee (for Doris), could attend the one-room school, and three-year-old Bob (Barbara) have a safe place to play. Enthusiastic but ignorant of wilderness living, the family moved in that fall—working together to cook and heat with wood, hunt and fish for food, haul water, and wash clothes by hand.

They stayed for six years, during which son Stevie was born. Dee’s reminiscence of her childhood in “the Yaak” presents quirky neighbors, growing girls’ adventures, wildlife huge and tiny, and especially one loving family. As she writes, “It was a cozy, scary, painful, hilarious, dangerous, interesting, and grand time, and the most fun I ever had.”


Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-60639-010-8
Author: Doris Knowles Pulis
Pages: 264

How It Looks Going Back: Growing Up in the Montana Woods is the true-life memoir and testimony of her family's six years of residence in Montana's Yaak River country, in 1949 and the early '50s. The family called a log cabin with no electricity or plumbing home, and access to the outside world was via a dirt road (and all but cut off during hard the long, hard winter season). Author Doris Knowles Pulis was in third grade and attended the local one-room school while her family worked together to learn how to live in the wilderness - cooking and heating with wood, hunting and fishing for food, hauling water, and washing clothes by hand. An inviting testimony of the ups and downs of a loving family that adapted to the rigors of an independent lifestyle, How It Looks Going Back is a treasure to be savored.
—Midwest Book Review

“Doris Pulis’ sweet and sassy memoir of her family’s back-to-basics idyll in the Yaak shows that spirit, guts, and grit are priceless qualities in any era.”
—Clem Work, University of Montana School of Journalism professor and author of Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West

Doris Knowles Pulis was born in California and spent her early childhood in the Yaak Valley in Montana. She later went to school in Spokane, Washington, and became a registered nurse, a profession she practiced for twenty years.  She met her husband, Cal Pulis, in 1962 while they were both still in school and working at American Lake Veterans Hospital in Washington State. They lived in Montana's Bitterroot Valley for twenty-five years, where they raised Christmas trees. They reside in Bend, Oregon, and have two children, Anne and Chris, and one grandchild.

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