Sunday, August 23, 2009

Indian Creek Chronicles by Pete Fromm

I've been such a slacker with my book reviews lately. I'm reading good books, but my motivation to review them has been pretty minimal. Maybe because I'm eager to get back to those other good books I'm reading (and inevitably failing to review in a timely fashion). Right now I'm operating under the assumption that if I just sit down and begin to type mindlessly, a review will magically come to me.

Today's selection, I guess, is a little something different for me. Pete Fromm's Indian Creek Chronicles was a total impulse buy at a library book sale on the "Friends of the Library" preview night - also referred to as the snatch and grab. If it looks like it has any potential at all, you must snatch and/or grab it to prevent it from being snatched and/or grabbed by some other person. I spend a great deal of money at library book sales as a result of this tactic. The selling point for me on this one was its setting, the Montana/Idaho wilderness. Ever since driving to Montana in the middle of the winter, books revolving around Montana and South Dakota and the other less boring states my father and I drove through on our perilous journey have a much greater hold on me, and this one won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book of the Year. Despite my total lack of knowledge about this award, it somehow made the book seem that much more alluring. Anyhow, I agreed to trade it after reading it to someone at Bookcrossing, so I really need to get this review done and ship it out.

Midway through his college career as a wildlife biology major at the University of Montana, Pete Fromm's life takes a little detour. Fueled by his love of exploring nature solo, and most of all, by his college roommate's books full of romanticized feats of mountain men, Fromm makes a spur of the moment decision to apply for a job guarding salmon eggs. For seven months. In an isolated wilderness. In the dead of winter. More than anything, Pete Fromm wanted some mountain man stories of his own to tell, and getting paid to guard a couple million salmon eggs seemed just the way to do it. So, after one thoughtless phone call, endless supply shopping, and a few too many booze-fueled going away parties, incredibly amateur mountain man Fromm found himself preparing for months of total isolation with nary a clue as to what surviving alone in the wilderness would entail.

It's nearly mind-blowing that a tale that has at its core the unbelievable isolation and boredom of an Idaho wilderness winter would be so captivating a read. Fromm's stories and his descriptions of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness capture the rawness and cruel beauty of its winter that oft goes unobserved. With revealing descriptions of the scenery accompanied by powerful tales of wildlife surviving a hostile environment where survival seems impossible, Fromm reveals the dangerous magnificence of this wintry landscape in a way that few, if any, others ever could. Fromm himself is a sympathetic narrator as he seems to get on-the-job training in "mountain manhood." We go along with him as he learns hard lessons about what works and what doesn't, what it looks and feels like to hunt for food for survival, and, of course, that being a mountain man isn't nearly as fantastic as it seems in all the books, not to mention that he probably should have brought a few more than six books along when he agreed to spend 7 months virtually alone.

Fromm's constant inner battle between loving and owning his untouched wilderness and his desperate desire to get out and see another human face is all too convincing. When spring comes and people start entering the place he has come to think of his own, it feels, even to us, like an invasion of sorts. Foolish though his endeavor may have seemed at the outset, in the end, Fromm certainly emerged with the great mountain man stories he was looking for and much more.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book for a senstive, thoughtful, and appreciative perspective on a place and time that we could hardly hope to experience on our own. A warning to faint hearted animal lover: Fromm doesn't shy away from the details of his hunting or of the natural behavior of the wildlife he observes, which, of course, involves some killing and eating. I'll admit that there were moments that make me cringe, but I also think that to have left them out, Fromm would have done his memoir of his experience a great disservice since all of these instances seemed to be a crucial learning experience.

At one exposed bend of the river, where the wind had cleared the ice of all but the newest snow, I saw the trail of an elk that had run down the mountain and crossed the river. Its tracks showed how it leaped the last bit of riverbank, landing on what looked exactly like more snow. But on the ice, all hell had broken loose. The elk's front feet had shot to the left, while his back legs had done the splits. He held on for what must have been a long time, his feet making wild looping patterns on the ice, but then the snow had been wiped clean by the big broad side of the elk spinning over the ice.

I laughed, translating what must have occurred, and I wished I'd been just a few minutes earlier, that I could have seen the mighty, majestic elk take such a pratfall.


In completely unrelated news, Book Blogger Appreciation Week is fast approaching. I'm eagerly hoping to be able to make more time to be more involved with it this year considering what an awesome event it was last year. If you're a book blogger and you haven't rolled over there to sign up, get to it! It's an especially great week to be a book blogger. Many thanks to Amy and the whole crew that are busy making this year's BBAW what will be, I'm sure, another great success.

A few days ago, with surprise and glee I noticed an e-mail in my box informing me that I'd been nominated for a BBAW award in the category of Most Humorous/Funniest blog. Thanks so much to whoever nominated me! Even if that is all the other further it goes, it's an honor (and have I mentioned how surprised I was??) to be nominated. Thanks again for thinking I'm funny...and saying so! =D


  1. Congratulations on your nomination! I love your sense of humor - it makes reading your blog a pleasure :)

  2. Hey, it looks like a review DID magically appear ;) And a good one at that. The book appeals to me, despite the hunting bits.

    Congratulations on your nomination :D

  3. CONGRATs on the NOM! That is really cool.