Taking My Own Temperature, Raw and Heavy-Handed

A Confession, with Wishes

It’s time to ‘fess up.
I’m feeling less and less keen
on “finding common ground”
and all that assorted
“give them a chance” bullshit,
and the vague nature
of my pacifism is washing away
with every drop of water
that stings the flesh
of peaceful protestors
on a frigid landscape barely
a day’s drive away
from where I sit fat and warm,
mired in my own
inconsequential dramas.

So here are some truths.
I wish a vessel would burst
in the heart or brain of our
“President Elect” and he’d
drop flopping and dead
in a puddle of shit from
his own vacuated bowels,
and the world would sigh
with relief,
then point and laugh.

I wish every one of that man’s
braindead followers would be
visited in the night
by the spirits of the lost,
forgotten, and brutalized,
– Dickens-like –
to see a possible future where
they and their loved-ones face
the violence and hate
they advocate and cheer,
that each one may wake
soaked and reeking
of piss in their sheets,
screaming into the morning,
“What have I done?”

I wish that the ghosts
of our ancestors
would sweep across the land,
whooping and singing,
and leave behind nothing
but shriveled carcasses
frozen inside the body armor
of every rent-a-soldier
who tramples the bodies
of my friends, lovers, and family,
like the husks of locusts
whose plague ended
when it ventured too far
onto the Northern Plains.

I wish all those fuckers
would suddenly understand
that indeed they are correct:
not everyone belongs here.
But it isn’t the ones
they were thinking of.

Homecoming: New Pete Fromm

I often feel a little weird sharing articles I wrote that “go live” online. It feels a little too, “Hey, look at me!” for my tastes. But not this time, damn it. Pete Fromm became one of my favorite writers way back when I first read Indian Creek Chronicles, and he deserves to be read and enjoyed by everybody. His new book, The Names of the Stars, is newly released, and I have a review in this week’s Independent. Here is an excerpt:

The main action in Stars revolves around Fromm’s return to the wilderness —  this time the Bob Marshall — in the spring of 2004 to babysit another batch of fish eggs. Unlike his previous experience, it’s only for a month, and Fromm is no longer a footloose young man. He’s pushing middle-age, is married and has two young sons. When he is first offered the job, he hopes to bring his sons out into the wilds with him, despite the Bob having the highest concentration of grizzly bears anywhere in the lower 48 states. Issues of liability and Forest Service bureaucracy prevent Fromm from taking them and he nearly decides not to go.

Check out the review HERE. I enjoyed the book very much. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

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Fromm reading at S&Co, Sept. 2014
Fromm reading at S&Co, Sept. 2014

Wild at Heart

I had the pleasure last week to interview one of my writing heroes, David Quammen. It may not be a big deal to some, but last May’s issue of National Geographic that focused on Yellowstone National Park was written single-handedly by Quammen. That, when it comes to magazine writing, is a pinnacle achievement. He will be in Missoula Friday for an event, and my interview — a much-abbreviated version of our full conversation — is in this week’s issue of the Independent. I hope you can check it out, because the guy is loquacious and fascinating. Here’s an excerpt:

When you realized you were actually writing an entire issue of National Geographic, did you have any particular “Holy shit!” moments?

David Quammen: It was a “holy shit” moment for me. And there were a few times after I accepted this project that I had a few of those “holy shit” moments at 4 a.m., thinking, “How in the world am I gonna do this?” What I was thinking was, everyone has already read books about Yellowstone, at least in this region and the world that we live in. And across America people think that they know Yellowstone and what it’s about. The first challenge was how to make it new, how to make it fresh, how to make it interesting. So I worked very hard on trying to do that, to make it serious and probing and unexpected.

I’m looking forward to the event Friday. If you are near Missoula, you should check it out.

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Kickin’ and Stickin’

Things have been quiet around here in April, but that’s because I’ve been busy as hell. Mostly I’ve been working on a big project for the Indy, which I’ll talk about when it comes out early in May. Until then, here are the latest things I’ve published in the last couple weeks; again, all via the gracious folks at the Missoula Independent.

Oil Trail: Ken Ilgunas talks Keystone, Plains folk and fear

Q&A with writer Ken Ilgunas, appearing in this week’s edition, for his book, Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland.

Fighting Irish: Timothy Egan’s story of social justice resonates

My review of Egan’s latest work of non-fiction about Irish hero Thomas Meagher, who also served as acting governor of the pre-statehood Montana Territory. Great stuff, as usual for Egan. My only regret is I missed his event in town last night.

What’s Good Here: Eating squirrel with Steven Rinella

This was a fun one, and at 1300+ Facebook likes at the Indy page, it’s easily the most popular thing I’ve ever written for them. It’s an interview with hunter, writer, and host of the Outdoor Channel’s “Meat Eater” television show, Steve Rinella. We’d met once before when his first book came out (which has just been reissued by his current publisher), The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. This published piece is just a fraction of our conversation, and some of the best parts were left on the cutting room floor, if only because the piece was a pinch hit for the regular Food article dude at the Indy. I will likely transcribe and post the entire conversation at some point, because I think it would make for a fun read.

Road stories: Marc Beaudin defies category in Vagabond Song

I met Marc, who lives in Livingston and owns the bookstore there, at last fall’s Montana Book Festival. I enjoyed his book, which I review here, and I enjoyed his event. I wish I’d gone out to beers with him afterward, but I wimped out at the end of what had been a looooong day. I’m certain our paths will cross again more than once, though.

Richmond Fontaine: You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To

My review of the first non-movie soundtrack album I’ve bought this year. It’s really good.

 

Making Bones

bonesI have a review in the latest Missoula Independent. The book is called Making Bones, by Bill Vaughn. It’s a crime novel set in the Missouri Breaks region of Central Montana and features a fantastic female lead character. You can check the review out HERE, and I urge you to do so because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I can’t recommend it enough.

Normally I’d run a clip from the review here, but instead I’m going to share the book excerpt that Vaughn published online; I doubt he’ll mind if I copy and paste it here:

IZZY sprawled in her lawn chair, holding hands with Mark and trading gossip about the latest acquisition of the local polygamist, while they waited for the sheriff. Rolex, Izzy’s bay-and-white paint, and Sally, Mark’s long, tall buckskin mare, were saddled up and tied to Mark’s trailer.

At ten a streamer of dust on the horizon announced the arrival of the local constabulary. Smudge Iverson was already red-faced and out of breath as he lowered his considerable heft from the county’s old stock truck to the ground. He’d brought along one of his three deputies, a scarred and wiry Cree named Fenton Welch. Their horses stomped in the rack, eager to get out and get on with it.

“Porta,” the sheriff rasped, apparently unwilling to waste any additional effort to shake hands. Mark had told Izzy that Iverson informed him in their most recent professional conversation that he was no different than his constituents in the matter of their position on Washington D.C. and its most visible presence in the Breaks, the Bureau of Land Management.

“What did he really say?”

Mark shrugged “We don’t need your kind here.”

“Does he mean Rangers? Or Italians?”

Mark shrugged.

Izzy watched Smudge examine her in a guy way, chest first, then crotch. Then he looked again, in reverse order. “Hey, Smudge . . . .” She resisted the temptation to ask him if he’d like her to turn around so he could check out her ass.

“Izzy,” Iverson rasped, ignoring her to deal with Mark. “What’s this, Porta? You bringin a date to a body search?”

Despite herself, Izzy laughed. Everyone in Hilger County knew that she and Mark were doing more than sniffing around each other. After all, they were high-profile individuals—Izzy resented because she inherited a big spread in a part of the world where there wasn’t enough ranch to go around for even the male heirs of these old families, Mark reviled because he worked for the land-grabbing socialist government that was trying to confiscate their property so rich liberals on the Coasts could have even more playground in the Big Empty.

“She’s here in an official capacity,” Mark told the sheriff.

“Welch will take all the pictures we need,” Iverson rasped. “You know we cain’t take no civilians along.”

She went to her saddle bag and came back with her badge. The BLM office in Lewistown had issued the shield to her after Mark convinced his bosses that her knowledge of the Upper Breaks qualified her to be sworn in on the Castel case as a special deputy ranger.

“Ain’t no civilians round here,” she said. Iverson took the badge and poked it with what seemed to her an unwholesome gesture.

“Well, fuck me and the horse I rode in on.”

Izzy tapped her index finger on her lips. “Um, how about just the horse?”

What is unique about this particular outing is that it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a book for the Indy that is available only via Kindle eBook. It’s possible this is the first time they’ve ever published one at all, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you one thing: if more Kindle-only releases were as good as this one, I think I’d be reading more than the dwindling number I do every year. Most, with a few exceptions from reliable writers I’ve come to trust (like Gramlich, and Badelaire), are shit. Maybe I’ve just been on a bad run the last couple years, but the quality in self-published fiction has been on the decline. Either that or I’m just getting pickier. Or grouchier. Probably all of the above, but heaviest on that last possibility.

Anyway, give Making Bones a chance. Here is the link on Amazon. You won’t regret it.

Oh, and if Bill Vaughn’s name sounds familiar, it’s because last year I reviewed his nonfiction work Hawthorn: The Tree That Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired Through the Ages, also for the Indy. That book was recently selected for Honor Book recognition for the 2015 Montana Book Award. So kudos to Vaughn for unleashing two excellent, totally different books in about a year.