>Man, those are words to live by, uttered by author and my new idol, Seth Kantner. Went to a reading of his at Fact & Fiction in Missoula last night, where he was promoting his new book, Shopping For Porcupine. He uttered that quote while explaining why he was in Missoula and not in Alaska; he was brought down to Helena to speak to incoming freshmen at Carrol College. The irony, based on his quote (if you haven’t figured it out yet, it is the title of this post), was not lost on him or the people attending the reading. Skylar from The Independent did a great piece on him last week, which is well worth reading to get a gist of what the guy is about.
I loved, I mean loved, Kantner’s first book, Ordinary Wolves. He was in Missoula promoting it when the softcover came out a couple years ago, but I was unable to attend because I was out of town. My copy was previously savaged by a little critter named Darla, but Julia took it for him to sign anyway.
The guy lives way up in Northern Alaska. He hunts, fishes, and basically makes a subsistence living. And he writes, of course. He also takes great photos. I admire people living out on the edge like that, especially in Alaska, which has always been a place that has called to me. It’s a changing place, which doesn’t make him happy. I think he got a little irritated at a guy who was asking him all these endless questions about the Natives, and all this “green” way of living and stuff, and it just isn’t like that. People down here want to romanticize the life up there, but as he said, “We have the Cabela crews, we have young Natives with their pants hanging off their asses listening to rap music on their headphones.” It’s very sad, to think that the “last frontier” is becoming just like everywhere else. When asked, Seth said life changed with the coming of the snowmobile. “Before that, people had dogs. They would take their dogs out to hunt, and what they killed would feed themselves, their families, and the dogs. When snowmobiles came, everyone got one . . . but then they were forced to get jobs to get money to pay for fuel, repairs, new snowmobiles, etc.”
It bums me out. Nonetheless, Seth Kantner is a great writer I can relate to. Just a normal guy, not some grandstanding preppy snob. In her book Coyotes and Town Dogs about the Earth First! crew, author Susan Zakin (another friend of Julia’s from Tucson, who, when I met her, totally lived up to all of the delightfully crazy — and loud — images Julia had painted of her!) talked about “hairy-chested Western writers.” I don’t think it was supposed to be complimentary (she was refering to guys like Ed Abbey, Doug Peacock and Chuck Bowden), but I never forgot it. I wouldn’t mind being a part of that fraternity!
The Express Clydesdales
These magnificent horses, on tour from their home of Oklahoma, visited Missoula on the 17th; I’ve just been lazy about posting about them. They were set up in the parking lot of the Super Wal Mart, which makes sense when you consider the political leanings of the people who are behind the Express franchise. Let’s just say all of the young wranglers in charge of the animals — very nice boys, all of them — were sporting belt buckles somehow Jesus related.
I love Clydesdales, always have. We want to have one, or two. It makes sense, especially when the world ends and we lose the use of gas-powered vehicles. If you doubt me, read James Howard Kunstler‘s novel, World Made By Hand. I think Kunstler is quite a New England snob, and more than a little racist (which he would certainly deny, but don’t they always?), but he makes some good points. In World Made By Hand, he paints quite a compelling picture of what things might be like when everything goes to shit. I enjoyed it, especially because people are forced back to using horses.
This picture is a fella named Emmitt. He is 19.2 hands, which means about 6’6″ at the withers. That’s big. And he weighs over 2000 pounds.
A monster of an animal, for sure, but as friendly as you can imagine. All of them were. Not friendly in a dopey way, they were very alert and energetic . . . but being around them was such a powerful, and calming, experience. I fell in love with them, even though I was standing in Missoula’s equivalent of Moria. They were giving people rides in their little wagon. My mom and I went for a ride, even. It was fun.