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Bonfire Night! I won't pretend to get all the nuances of Guy Fawkes Day, having lived in England for only one of them, but I love my annual chance to use this icon. *waves to all her UK friends*

Speaking of fire, I'm reading/listening to The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, by Timothy Egan, the surprisingly thrilling and subtextually homoerotic history of the founding of the United States Forest Service.

I know, right? But the friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot was passionate and deep, and founded on a love of the American West that gave rise to the very concept of conservationism in the US. (I've lived near the Gifford Pinchot National Forest most of my life, and didn't know until this week that Gifford Pinchot was just, this guy, you know?)

Egan uses a devastating forest fire that burned much of northern Idaho and Montana in 1910, as the linchpin of his story--it's the kind of book that starts with a vivid and horrifying description of the approach of a disaster--the titular fire--then goes back in time and traces the threads that led up to that disaster and its importance as "the fire that saved America". I still don't know whether the town survived!

[ETA: nwhepcat has been there! It lives! Wallace, Idaho.]

The audiobook is read by Roberston Dean, whom I know nothing about except that he has a deep, rich, James-Earl-Jones-ish voice that's wonderful to listen to.

Highly recommended.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
That's fascinating! I followed the link, and couldn't tell which Idaho town is the main source of suspense there, but I followed the link and saw mention of Wallace. I've been there several times, which I've posted about at various points (but I'm bad at tagging). Fascinating place, also full of cathouses, clear up until 1988.
Nov. 5th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Wallace! Yes, that's the one. What a boomtown it must have been. So...it survives, huh? At least in part?

Well, I've still got three or four hours of audiobook to go. I'll let you know my final assessment.
Nov. 5th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
Oh it definitely survives! It was also destroyed by volcano -- CGI, that is -- in "Dante's Peak." It was just recently named one of the Coolest Towns in America by Budget Travel mag. The mag mentions the bordello museum, but the website does not. (In fact, the stuff Castiel says about quick-release customers in brothels in that End-verse story I wrote is stuff I learned in Wallace at the bordello museum.)

Must go home and look at my copy of Idaho for the Curious and see if Cort Conley mentions the fire.
Nov. 6th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
How could anyone not mention a bordello museum?

I've been looking around online, and wow, what a fantastic setting that town is in!
Nov. 6th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
Here's my comments on my Wallace visit, aka VolcanoCon.

Nov. 6th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
That was fantastic! I think it sounds like a place I ought to visit. It's not ALL that far from home. Hm...late spring, early summer jaunt? Sounds very appealing.
Nov. 6th, 2009 06:37 am (UTC)
So glad you posted about this! The author was on Fresh Air the other day and it was so interesting, especially when he started talking about Gifford Pinchot. I had the same exact reaction you did -- we've been donating to the Gifford Pinchot for several years now (just a regular monthly contribution) so we get e-updates and stuff from time-to-time, and that's all the more familiar I ever was with it. I'd never really thought that it was named after someone -- never thought about it long enough to think about it, you know -- and so to find out that he was this really amazing guy...so cool!

So I guess that's another book to add to my "To Buy" list, with will then get added to my "To Read" pile. Sigh. It's such work to be me. ::grin::
Nov. 6th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
I hope you do get to read it. Pinchot was a fascinating and really odd character. Can't remember if we've discussed audiobooks, but this is a goodie. After a couple of years of futzing around balking at the price of them, I finally signed up on a subscription basis with Audible.com. I pay about $14 or $15 a month, which buys me a credit a month. The credit is good for almost any audiobook, at almost any price--many of them are quite a lot more expensive than a hardcover.

And one a month is about my consumption rate, so for me it's perfect. I get great "edutainment," and audiobooks are a wonderful way for me conquer an increasing attention deficit that often prevents my sitting quietly and reading any but the most lurid, id-tapping fanfic.

In short, for $14.95 a month, I get to retain at least a sliver of my intellectual cred.
Nov. 6th, 2009 09:50 am (UTC)
Now that sounds good! Teddy Roosevelt was also buddies with Seth Bullock of Deadwood fame.

Bullock's friendship with Roosevelt led to him becoming a Captain of Troop A in Grigsby's Cowboy Regiment of Roosevelt's Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War... When Roosevelt became vice president under President William McKinley, he appointed Bullock as the first forest supervisor of the Black Hills Reserve. After Roosevelt was elected president, Bullock organized 50 people (including Tom Mix) to ride in the inaugural parade in 1905. Bullock was then appointed U.S. Marshal for South Dakota for the next nine years.

.. After Roosevelt's death in January 1919, Bullock created a monument to him with the aid of the Black Hill Pioneers, dedicated on July 4, 1919, on Sheep Mountain, which was renamed Mount Roosevelt.

Bullock ... is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, along with Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, with his grave facing Mount Roosevelt.
Nov. 6th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
The man inspired some amazing devotion! I don't believe Bullock is specifically mentioned in The Big Burn, but Deadwood is. I had no idea that Deadwood was even a real place until reading this book.

By happenstance, I saw a production of "Ragtime" just last Saturday night, and suddenly I'm up to my eyeballs in 1910. It's fascinating. Like most Americans, my sense of American history is: Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, and The Sixties. I'm almost surprised to find out how interesting things were in between those events.
Nov. 6th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
I think you might have solved the annual 'what to get my Dad for Christmas' dilemma. That sounds right up his street. Thanks.
Nov. 6th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Oh good! It's just a terrific piece of historical writing.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )



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