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I entered the world slippery and squalling in the L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake on April 29, 1942 and my first days were spent in a rented house in my father’s home town of Magna, Utah. My father, Nick Papanikolas is listed on my birth certificate as a part-owner of a lumberyard. My mother, born Helen Zeese, grew up in Helper, Utah. It was from my parents’ stories of the lives of the immigrants and their children in these little industrial towns that I first got my taste for the history of the West and my interest in one day telling such stories myself. My father was a natural story-teller who was sometimes carried away by the possibilities of the tale and strayed from what you might call the narrow road of fact, but when he talked about an incident from his childhood the life of the rough, scrappy town of Magna came to life before you. My mother’s stories were of a different sort. She had wanted to write since girlhood and Helper became her inspiration, a sociology lab, a historical source and the inspiration for stories that were written with the humanity of the writers she most admired, Chekov especially and the American realists of the first half 20th century. But she was a published historian before any of her fiction reached print, and had the historian’s insistence on accuracy in both her fiction and non-fiction.
After high school in Salt Lake I went to Kenyon College, in Ohio, and then, after spending nine months in Athens trying to learn some of my grandparent