ACTOR GAVE UP STARDOM FOR LIFE UNDER THE STARS

Published: Monday, Aug. 15 1988 12:00 a.m. MDT

When spring comes to Wyoming, Lake Alice and Hobble Creek thaw to provide some of the best trout fishing west of the Divide. About the same time, Magic Mountain Outfitters pack up their gear and hitch up their horses to become one of the most rustic pack and guide companies in the region.

For former child star Stewart Petersen, co-owner of Magic Mountain Outfitters, there's more drama in the mountains than on the stage. "I've always had a desire to get into the outfitting business," Petersen said.Being a guide for an outfitting company comes natural to Petersen - he learned it from his father who was also a guide and from his uncle who has been in the business for 30 years. And after working with his uncle, Sharon Dayton, for about five years, Petersen, who prefers to be outdoors rather than cooped up inside, jumped at the opportunity to go into a partnership with him last year.

"Our summer speciality is taking people back in the wilderness on pack trips, fishing trips, photography trips or whatever they like. There is a whole series of different things people can do in the mountains," Petersen said. "In October we run our big game hunts with elk, deer, antelope, moose and some bear."

Petersen said all their pack trips and hunting trips are taken on horseback.

The star of five movies, including "Where The Red Fern Grows" and "Against a Crooked Sky," an "ABC After School Special" and "First Vision," a movie filmed for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Petersen was selected in 1976 by several movie distribution organizations as the boy star of tomorrow.

However, a small-town country boy at heart, Petersen gave it all up in 1978. "He didn't like the notoriety and the fame," said Petersen's mother, Carol.

"I remember after the filming of one of his movies, Stewart flew to San Francisco to promote the film and do a talk show with hostess Kathryn Crosby, widow of Bing Crosby. When he came home, as he walked off the airplane I noticed his eyes were full of tears," said Carol Petersen. "I asked him what was wrong, and his only reply was, `I don't want to be famous.' "

Although the characters he played were a lot like himself, and the parts did not require a great deal of acting, Petersen, now 28, said it wasn't the actual filming of the movies he disliked, it was the exploiting of his name and feeling as if he were being used as a showpiece, or being trucked around like a caged animal that he couldn't get used to. "I never did enjoy the public relations aspect of the movie industry."

Petersen said although he realized he might not always talk as clearly as he should, he resented the fact that when it came to publicity, ". . . things always seem to get twisted around or said different than the actual words that left my lips.

"Now if I were to receive a little notoriety from something I had accomplished on my own, I wouldn't mind that," he said, "because it would be me that was being honored for what I did, not from something the media was trying to make bigger or better that it actually was."

Petersen's mother said while her son saw fame as having it's drawbacks, it also provided him the opportunity to excel in other areas of his life.

While wrestling in high school, some of his competitors knew who he was and looked forward to the challenge of beating the Stewart Petersen. "As a result, I think it pushed me harder to want to excel as an athlete to the point that if someone did beat me they knew they had been in a match," Stewart Petersen said.

"Stewart took the state wrestling championship in the 140-pound division his senior year," his mother said. "He also graduated with honors."

When he's not working in the mountains, Stewart Petersen, a native of Cokeville, Wyo., and one who is used to wide-open spaces, lives with his wife, Chemene, and their children - 3-year-old Brittney and 11-month-old Landon - in Provo. "Provo is too big for Stewart," Chemene Petersen said. "And living in a duplex sure teaches you patience," Stewart Petersen quickly added.

A part-time student at Brigham Young University, Stewart Petersen is majoring in business. He said he will apply his education to the outfitting business, ". . . or whatever other business I can drum up. I'm kind of the mind that I like to work for myself and have that little bit of loose rein."

Anxious to get back to God's country - where the air is fresh and where one can clearly see the stars at night - and establish a real home life for his family, Stewart Petersen said he has not ruled out the possibility of completing his education a little closer to Cokeville.

"My personal opinion is that if I am going to be successful in business, it is me that's going to have do it and not the stamp on my diploma that says I graduated from such and such a school.

"My family is the most important thing to me," Petersen said. "Not only my wife and my children, but my parents and my brothers and sisters. They are my best friends and as far as I am concerned, Cokeville will always be my home."

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