Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature writing. Show all posts

June 18, 2011

Poem for the Dry Spring Wind

 No rain since mid-May, and most days are windy. Only the names of the fires change: Sand Gulch, Purgatoire, and Bear replaced by Track and Duckett.

Looking through a new anthology of writing from the San Luis Valley, Messages from the Hidden Lake, I found this poem by Julie Waechter, who works on the staff of Adams State College in Alamosa. (If you are going to write "after" or in the style of someone, you could do a lot worse than Richard Hugo.)

It's a good poem for the spring of 2011 in southern Colorado.


the enemy’s not poverty it’s the wind
after Richard Hugo


you stitch patches onto patches
layer the kids in castoffs
water down the milk
spice up another pot of beans

but wind defies even the sun
smothers its heat in gritty haze
blows you to the earth’s edge
where yesterday mountains stood

spring wind devours her own child
sucks watery marrow from grass
pursues the plow to clothe
her nakedness in good earth
stretches almost solid across the sky

you almost prefer winter

it’s cold, yes
so cold pine logs freeze hard as piñon
so cold water crusts over in the bucket
before you can haul it to the barn
so cold the redtail hawk cowers on a bare cottonwood

but cold is clean
honest

wind you can’t trust

December 11, 2010

Wyoming Papers Please Copy

From a listserv on literature and nature to which I subscribe comes this observation:

If such a thing [as "Footnote of the Year"] existed, it should surely go to this, from Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson's introduction to Queer Ecologies: discussing Brokeback Mountain as gay pastoral, they comment: "Although there are clear differences between Wyoming and Arcadia, both physically and economically."

December 10, 2010

A Book for Pronghorn Antelope

I was driving to Pueblo yesterday and passed a small group of pronghorn antelope at the edge of the prairie.

Again I thought, antelope get no respect. There is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, and other groups that organize conservation efforts, help to fund scientific research, and sometimes buy vital land for habitat for other North American ungulates. For antelope there is, for instance, the Arizona Antelope Foundation, but no national groups that I am aware of.

They often seem to be expected to just make it on their own, like jackrabbits. Some Westerners refer to them half-pejoratively as "goats."

The catalog copy for Cat Urbigkit's new book, The Path of the Pronghorn, states,
They are the fastest land mammals in North America, clocked at speeds of up to sixty miles per hour. Of all the world’s land animals, only cheetahs are faster.
A ghost hides in that paragraph. At one time cheetahs did live in North America, and pronghorn evolved to outrun them in a sustained chase, since cheetahs are mainly sprinters. Until humans built automobiles, there was nothing faster than the antelope for many centuries on the Western grasslands. 

(For more on this and other "ghosts of evolution," see Connie Barlow's book of the same name.)

Wyoming has more antelope than any other state. Urbigkit's text and Mark Gocke's photos  trace the migration of one herd in the Green River country, as they move from the sagebrush desert up into their high-country summer range and back down again in fall.

This particular herd, she writes, "participates in the longest land-mammal migration in the continental United States .... up to two hundred miles to spend the summer in Grand Teton National Park."

And it's not an easy trip.

Path of the Pronghorn speaks for antelope, then, and does it lucidly.

August 10, 2010

Blog Stew on the Yellowstone

• Yellowstone visitors reach an all-time high in July. You may connect that to the economy however you like. M. and I visited in September 2008 as the stock market plunged, but we saw no newspapers and had no internet access except for one morning in a Cody, Wyo., coffee shop. We called it "camping like it's 1929."

• At Querencia, Steve Bodio heralds the publication of John Vaillant's The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.

Its protagonists are a single huge tiger, a ragged bunch of drunken poachers, and a patrol of anti-poaching rangers dedicated to protecting tigers over a huge area, with no money and inadequate tools. The beginning, as an unnamed hunter and his dog approach a dark cabin on a freezing evening, is a masterpiece of tension and quiet terror; the ending is utterly cinematic but real (the book is based on over 200 interviews).
• More Southern Rockies bloggers are reporting a great mushroom year--Peculiar even channels Chaucer.

• The Atomic Nerds buy dead critters from their dog. I had to do something similar yesterday with Fisher. 

• After a black bear sow smacked one of my scout cameras in June, I sent the damaged camera to camera-trapping biologist  Chris Wemmer in northern California, whose students conducted a proper postmortem on it.

April 05, 2010

A Dog Memoir Worth Reading

Normally I do not read dog books—memoirs, that is. I do read dog-training books.

When I was a boy, I read one of Ernest Thompson Seton's  books of animal stories—I don't remember which—in which one or more dogs came to bad ends.

Talk about aversive conditioning! It was like setting the shock collar on "10." I was shy of dog stories ever after.

Forty-plus years later and  I still look at my collie-mix dog, Shelby, and think of the dog in the story (another collie?) sleeping sweetly on the hearth of home (if I remember right), while its owner, realizing from its bloody muzzle that it is the sheep-killer that has been plaguing the area, prepares to shoot it on the spot.

Then somewhere I learned a phrase that ran more or less like this: "All dog stories are sad because dogs do not live as long as we do."

I seem to recollect it being attributed to Judge John Voelker (a/k/a Robert Traver.)

Thus prepared, when M. brought home Ted Kerasote's 2007 dog memoir, Merle's Door, from the library, I decided to read it too.

It has provoked a lot of discussion across the dinner table. Merle's life was not unlike Shelby's when she was younger—she spent a lot of time out roaming on her own and socializing with other dogs as well.

Like Kerasote, we had to deal with a neighbor who wanted to overfeed her, and unlike him, we spent a lot of time looking for her. (It did not help that she was—I am sure—kidnapped for two months.)

Kerasote's laissez-faire attitude about letting his dog develop his native intelligence must be provoking comments elsewhere too, because he wades right into the nature-versus-nature debate as applied to dogs.

And dog-training, I have learned, is a minefield. For example:

  • Cesar Milan: genius or charlatan?
  • Clicker training: good idea or reliance on a stupid gadget?
  • Shock collars: Useful at times or vicious torture?

And so on. Come down on the "wrong" side of those debates, and there will be somebody flinging feces in your direction. (Speaking of which, now that the snow is melting, the dog run desperately needs the big shovel.)

Kerasote, meanwhile, always a hard-working nature/outdoor writer, has now smelled the kibble and morphed into a dog writer, with two new dog books forthcoming.

As for Merle's Door, it's a good read but you have to expect the inevitable ending.

March 04, 2010

Now We Are Six

Tuesday (when M. and I were in Colorado Springs) was Southern Rockies Nature Blog's sixth "blogiversary."

And in tribute to such longevity, here is the first post, which I did not write.

That's right. This started as a class blog for English 325, "Nature Writing in the West," a course that I designed at CSU-Pueblo. (I don't know if it survived my leaving.)

Consequently, many of the earlier postings are by students. And it was hard to get some of the student writers to hyperlink names, terms, etc. in their posts--or even put titles on them!

When the semester ended, I hated to see the blog die, so I kept posting. Later other nature-writing classes also participated.

This is post number 1,358, by the way.

January 06, 2010

Passing of Outdoor Writer Charlie Meyers

Charlie Meyers, who wrote for the Denver Post since the 1960s and was perhaps Colorado's best-known outdoor writer, has died.

He never talked about it, but he had been there and done that. He walked away from a float plane crash in Alaska. He met with a witch doctor up a remote river in Nicaragua. He did it all," said [Kirk] Deeter, whose fly-fishing book he penned with Meyers is scheduled to be published in May.

It wasn't just rich writing and engrossing characters that gave Meyers' work depth. He scrutinized tangled topics, such as Colorado water rights and resource protection, and the bureaucracies that managed both. He was an environmental reporter long before editors invented the title.


Given the current state of the newspaper business, I am not holding my breath to see if the Post replaces him. The distinct possibility that they will not leaves us bloggers to pick up the slack, I suppose.

December 26, 2009

'Ice Hunter' and the Ice

The big storm that battered the Midwest skipped over us, leaving just a couple of inches of powder snow on top of the icy Forest Service road where I walk the dogs.It's slippery--Fisher comes galloping up to me and makes a sort of canine snowplow turn in order to fully stop.

M. and I took a longer walk up the same road this afternoon, eventually reaching the south-facing stretch that was not so icy.

Coming home, I was thinking of Joseph Heywood's novel Ice Hunter, which M. gave me for Christmas and which I started reading last night.

The plot and characters are sort of Nevada Barr-meets-C.J. Box. Maybe more like Box, since Heywood's protagonist is a game warden—or conservation officer, the Michigan term.

Ice Hunter was published by The Lyons Press,  usually associated in my mind with fly-fishing. Right off Heywood makes a literary link, placing protagonist Grady Service in the same Marquette, Mich., courtroom in which Jimmy Stewart, playing a fly-fishing small town bachelor lawyer, defends the accused in the noirish 1959 drama Anatomy of a Murder.

That movie was based on a novel by Michigan judge John D. Voelker, also a well-known fly-fishing writer under the pen name of Robert Traver, best known for his "testament":

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful and I hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant--and not nearly so much fun.

As to Ice Hunter, I am halfway through it and enjoying it. Working any time as a copy editor, however, ruins simple reading. I keep thinking, "Shouldn't that word have been capitalized?" or upon reading that a character got "a B.S. in forestry from the University of Colorado," I want to click Microsoft Word's INSERT menu and insert a COMMENT: "The forestry school is at Colorado State University (Fort Collins), not at CU-Boulder. Suggest change."

That won't stop me from looking for more "Grady Service, woods cop" novels, however.

November 16, 2009

A Tenuous Bond with a Foreign Soul


Early in her falconry memoir Lift, Rebecca O'Connor writes, "Predator or prey, you choose."

As she later elaborates, "Predator worship is an odd thing, but perhaps not so odd for a woman. I am aware that I am more prey than predator."

That dialectic--woman as prey and predator--spirals through Lift, a book that is intensely erotic in the original sense, being about passion, desire, and union with the Beloved, even when the beloved is a bird.

Anyone who has worked with animals (and O'Connor is an experienced bird trainer, author of A Parrot for Life: Raising and Training the Perfect Parrot Companion, not to mention an "Avalon Career Romance" called Falcon's Return) know how intimate the relationship can be. He loves me, he loves me not.

So it's no surprise that her relationship with her first peregrine falcon, Anakin, partakes of First Love, right down to the candlelight dinner of the first duck that the peregrine has brought down. At that point in her life, she admits, her relationship with Anakin  "is the only honest relationship." When frustrated, she catches herself "berating the bird like a lover."

Yet with falconry, there is a bond, but no possession. Battles of wills, development of trust, relationship-building--all of that--but still a falcon does not need the falconer. As O'Connor tries to tell herself when Anakin has disappeared while hunting, "The falcon and I will both be fine on our own."

(You have said that about human lovers, right?)

Thus the book's narrative twists like a mallard dodging a falcon three feet above the water, human relationships intertwined with bird relationships, hunting trips cut by bitter memories and sweet ones.

A lot of the back story of Lift involves things that were done--or threatened--to the author in her younger days, which add poignancy to her struggle to become--in some areas--the predator, confronted with the mysteries of death and blood.

 "Maybe I was wrong. Given the choice I would be the predator. Maybe I'm a hunter after all."

Whether you have felt that bond with an animal or not, by reading Lift, you might learn, in the author's words, "a way of thinking, a means of experiencing life." Not just falconers, but all true hunters, share O'Connor's experience of having touched "nature's senseless violence, clung her stray miracles [and had them] alter our beliefs."

(Rebecca O'Connor blogs at Operation Delta Duck.)

November 15, 2009

Teddy Roosevelt Biography Wins Outdoor Book Award

These are the 2009 winners of the National Outdoor Book Award, by category. I have The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America sitting in my "books to review" stack and will give it a longer review here soon.

History/Biography.  Winner.  The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley

Outdoor Literature.  Winner. Halfway to Heaven by Mark Obmascik
Outdoor Literature. Honorable Mention.  Rowboat in a Hurricane by Julie Angus

Design & Artistic Merit Category. Winner. Lars Jonsson's Birds. Illustrations by Lars Jonsson

Classic Award. Winner.  Kayak: The New Frontier by William Nealy
Classic Award. Honorable Mention. Appalachian Odyssey by Steve Sherman and Julia Older

Nature and the Environment. Winner. Our Living Earth by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Nature and the Environment. Honorable Mention. Sand: The Never Ending Story by Michael Welland.

Natural History Literature. Winner. Every Living Thing by Rob Dunn

Children's Category. Winner. Whistling Wings by Laura Goering.  Illustrated by Laura Jacques.
Children's Category. Honorable Mention.  Operation Redwood; by S. Terrell French

Instructional Category. Girl on the Rocks: A Woman's Guide to Climbing by Katie Brown.

Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks. Winner. Guide to the Green and Yampa Rivers by Duwain Whitis and Barbara Vinson
Outdoor Adventure Guidebooks.  Honorable Mention. The Guide to Baja Sea Kayaking by Dave Eckardt

Nature Guidebooks. Winner. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America  by Roger Tory Peterson
Nature Guidebooks. Honorable Mention  Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West by Dennis Paulson

December 18, 2008

A Tribute to George Herter

Yes, I already knew that the Virgin Mary was fond of spinach.

I learned to cook partly from George Herter, as my tattered copy of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices will attest. I think about Herter now and then.

Herter never acknowledges — not once — that his facts are any less sturdy and real than his Herter’s Famous No. 153 Saskatchewan Goose Call. No, sir: Herter facts are the finest, the most famous, specially selected and custom-made by only the oldest and most experienced craftsmen — even more factual than is necessary. No sooner do you digest his account of drinking with Hemingway in Key West (where Papa recommends a mixture of three parts light rum to one ounce of port wine as “great for dandruff”) than you come across a chapter called “Milking Scorpions Brings You $150 or More a Week.”

Thanks to Steve Bodio for the catch on this Herter review essay. Read the whole thing.

August 16, 2008

The Presidential Candidates from Nowhere

Nature writers love to write about the uniqueness of "place." When teaching, I have assigned students to do the old CoEvolution Quarterly "Where You At" quiz as part of learning about their home environmental on an ecological level.

But as Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal, what does it mean when neither presidential candidate is really "from" anywhere in particular?

Mr. Obama hails from Chicago, but no one would confuse him with Chicagoans like Richard Daley or Dan Rostenkowski, or Harold Washington. "There is something colorless and odorless about him," says a friend. "like an inert gas." And Mr. McCain, in his experience, history and genes, is definitely military, and could easily come from Indiana or South Carolina or California, and could easily speak of upholding the values of those places.

(Via Never Yet Melted.)

August 02, 2008

The Rattlesnake Initiation

When I was bitten by a rattlesnake just outside Tucson, where writer Erec Toso lives, I spent two nights in the hospital, got rid of my crutches after a week, and was completely healed after a month.

Toso had a much rougher time, but he got a book out of it, one that uses the encounter with Crotalus scutulatus to talk about a number of larger issues, including the whole New West issue of how we should live among sharp-toothed and/or venomous wildlife.

That book, Zero at the Bone: Rewriting Life after a Snakebite, was published last year by the University of Arizona Press.

We meet Toso first off as trail runner, painter, U. of Arizona writing teacher, husband and dad, still cherishing romantic dreams:

Why, I wondered, had I caved into this life? . . . . It had not been my vision to be a householding teacher, a worker bee. . . . I thought I should set up my life to be more free, maybe move to Montana and get a big dog, a sheepskin coat, and write muscular action movels about climbing mountains or running rivers, or outrunning and foiling the greedy corporate evildoers.

But walking across his own front yard one evening, bringing his sons home from the community swimming pool, he is bitten:

As sophisticated as a syringe, the delivery system did its work. Then the snake rattled a dry leaves whir.

And all his life evaporated . . .

I became little more than a piece of meat that was being digested by highly toxic enzymes, a body that soon could not work or walk and that was in the first round of a fight for its life. The fibers I wove together as a kind of shield to protect myself against the pains and threats of the world, both inside and out, unraveled, leaving me holding only threads, a searing vulnerability.

And then the medical part begins, with Toso taking the first initiatory journey on the wings of venom and morphine. I know that one: at one point, as my gurney was wheeled down corridors from the emergency room to the ICU, the Tucson PD K-9 officer walking ahead of us turned into a fullblown Guardian of the Underworld.

Toso had the additional misfortune of contracting a secondary infection—all snakebites leave bacteria behind, bacteria deposited by the last defecation of their prey on its way down the snake's gullet. Sent home in a wheelchair after four days in the hospital, Toso has barely started to catch up on the new semester when an infected abscess sends him back to the emergency room.

As the medical story progresses, however, what interests Toso the writer is the snake story--how one culture treats them as holy while another wants to kill them on sight. As Southwesterners keep moving to the desert's edge, snake encounters increase, and as a biologist whom he interviews remarks, "We need to reconfigure the stories we tell about snakes. The ones we have just don't work when it comes time to share the desert."

Meanwhile, Toso sees himself changing, becoming more mindful, less driven—changed. If you came for the scary rattlesnake story, you get it, including biochemistry and a little herpetology from the biologists, but Zero to the Bone is really the story of a man "in the middle of the road of my life," to quote Dante, who awakes in an emergency room where the true way was wholly lost and has to re-evaluate everything.

May 01, 2008

Teaching Nature Writing - Part 3

The nature-writing class had its final exam today (i.e., turned in portfolios) at the Cactus Flower, a Pueblo restaurant whose main recommendation is its large dining room -- no waiting. (Seriously, the red chile sauce is good if you order the "hot" strength. Almost New Mexico quality.)

The students -- who have been blogging here -- gave me a homemade farewell card. Thanks, guys, now you have me feeling all Mr. Chips-ish. But I am still going to grade the portfolios as I would have done sans card.

And then on to new adventures.

April 30, 2008

Gary Snyder Wins Lilly Prize

Poet, essayist and -- dare I say it -- philosopher (in the original sense of the term) Gary Snyder has won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Snyder is always on my nature-writing reading list, which is partly why he pops up now and then on this blog, such as here and here (about being a wild animal) and here (about vultures), and here (Shelby as "wild").

The foundation's news release describes him as "in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself. His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation.”

Via University Diaries, who brings herself to admire Snyder even though he is outdoors too much (at least on the page) for her taste.

April 05, 2008

Nature Writing, Environmental Justice, and Lefty Prejudice

Peculiar links to a review essay on nature reading that I had also skimmed at the Bodios' last week.

Author John Derbyshire is better known as a political writer, and he hits Lefty enviros pretty hard. But he likes Steve Bodio's work:

The Left survives and flourishes because, as well as there being plenty of people whose satisfaction in life is to boss others around, there are even more who are willing to be bossed. Those who are not so willing — persons of a prickly-libertarian temperament — often head out to the wild places, to end up as lovers of the raw creation. There is, too, that aspect of the conservative temperament that abhors sentimentality and wishful thinking, and greets with happy recognition the cycles of death and mayhem that comprise most of the natural world's activity. I am thinking here, in both cases, of the Western writer Stephen J. Bodio, whose 1998 memoir On the Edge of the Wild offers an eloquent hunter's perspective on nature.


And Barry Lopez's too. (I would have to go to the mat with Derbyshire over his judgment on Gary Snyder.)

Even more, however, I recommend Rebecca Solnit's piece in the latest Orion titled "One Nation Under Elvis".

Solnit, one of the nation's best nature-and-culture writers, I am coming to think, speaks of her own move away from unthinking Lefty bigotry:

I grew up surrounded by liberals and leftists who liked to play the idiot in fake southern accents, make jokes about white trash and trailer trash, and, like the Canadian enviros, made gagging noises whenever they heard Dolly Parton or anything like her. If Okies from Muskogee thought they were being mocked, they were right, in part.


Her point is that the mindless partisanship of both Right and Left does environmentalism no good:

Right-wing politicians may serve the super-rich with tax cuts and deregulation and privatization galore, but they also dress up expertly in a heartland all-Americanism that has, at least until Bush’s plummeting popularity, allowed a lot of rural Americans to see them as allies rather than opponents. The right has also done a superb job of portraying the left as elite and hostile to working-class interests, and the class war going on inside and outside leftist and environmentalist circles did this propaganda battle a great service. The result of all this has been a marginalized environmental movement—more specifically, an environmental movement that has alienated the people who often live closest to “the environment.”

Even the "environmental justice" people seem blind to poor white people, she suggests, because they still carry around mental cartoons from the civil-rights era. She suggests, instead, that

The anti-environmentalist right has shot itself in both feet in the past few years, losing credibility and constituency, and a smart and fast-moving left could make hay out of this, to mix a few fairly rural metaphors. It would mean giving up vindication for victory—that is, giving up on triumphing over the wickedness of one’s enemies and looking at them as unrecruited allies instead.

March 20, 2008

Birds in the House

At the Bookslut blog, Jessica Crispin links to her review of some nature-writing titles with the obligatory disclaimer:

As an urban dweller, most days the only nature I encounter is the mouse that lives behind my bookshelf ...

But by the end of Roger Deakin's Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, she continues,

I too wanted to sleep in a house where birds and bats are allowed to fly freely through the rafters.

Here is the book's editorial blurb:

From the walnut tree at his Suffolk home, Roger Deakin embarks upon a quest that takes him through Britain, across Europe, to Central Asia and Australia, in search of what lies behind man's profound and enduring connection with wood and with trees. Meeting woodlanders of all kinds, he lives in shacks and cabins, builds hazel benders, and hunts bush-plums with aboriginal women. At once autobiography, history, a traveller's tale and a work of natural history, "Wildwood" is a lyrical and fiercely intimate evocation of the spirit of trees: in nature, in our souls, in our culture, and in our lives.

Coming as I do from a line of firewood contractors, furniture makers, and foresters, I think I need to read this one.

February 17, 2008

Blog Stew with Badgers

Nude web-cam photos of hot British badgers.

¶ Colorado writer David Petersen has his own online bookstore. I read A Man Made of Elk with pleasure last fall and might return to it again this year.

But the funny part involves A Hunter's Heart, to which I contributed a chapter: I had had the same idea for an anthology around 1990 and pitched it to an editor who was never able to make the deal work for his press. My title? The Hunter's Heart. And then Dave came along and did it -- good for him!

¶ A federal judge has ruled to protect habitat for the Mexican spotted owl in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. This is personal for M. and me. From 1990-1994 we did owl censuses for the BLM. That was our summer job (sometimes on top of part-time college teaching), and we referred to Strix occidentalis lucida as "the gentleman who paid the rent."

January 28, 2008

Welcome, New Nature-Bloggers

From now into May, some of my nature-writing students at Colorado State University-Pueblo will be blogging here too, so expect some different perspectives.

January 03, 2008

Dust Pneumony

Continuing to find books for the nature-writing class, I decided to give them a selection from Timothy Egan's The Worst HardTime.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s ("the nation's worst prolonged environmental disaster") pretty well centered on the southeast corner of Colorado. I have used some of Donald Worster's excellent Dust Bowl in class before, but Egan follows a small, memorable set of characters from the agricultural prosperity of the World War I years through the subsequent collapse of grain prices, the regional economy, and the land itself.

Is the Dust Bowl is simply disappearing from the popular consciousness? Maybe we should watch The Plow that Broke the Plains as well. Netflix has it. And then go out to the national grasslands and think about blizzards of dirt that lasted for days.

My mother's family, in Colorado Springs, was slightly removed from the worst of the Dust Bowl, although my grandfather's furniture store went bust in the late 1930s, since furniture purchases are among the first to be postponed when times are hard.

Earlier, my grandparents had run a general store in the High Plains town of Arriba, but they luckily sold out before the big collapse of prices and population.

My father, meanwhile, was growing up in Tulsa, where, he said, "There was no Depression" -- or at least that is how he remembered it from a teenaged perspective.

Reading Egan's book in bed last month, I turned out the light, lay back on my pillow, and started coughing. It was persistent cough--something irritating the airway that would not shake loose. Pretty soon I was imagining "dust pneumonia."
I got that dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
I got the dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
An' I'm a-gonna sing this dust pneumony song.