Monday, November 3, 2014


An English acoustician, Jeremy Luscombe, published a terrific piece about his work to reduce restaurant noise, and he was kind enough to open it with a reference to a piece of mine that was published in Zester Daily some while ago.
Click here to see Luscombe's piece.
And here's mine:

And then in an email thanking Luscombe I wrote the following (I've still been thinking about this problem, which shows no sign of diminishing):

One thing you didn't mention, which I barely touched on in my piece but which I've been wondering about since, is the question of how noise raises levels of adrenaline, norepinhephrine, and (worst) cortisols, in effect creating the sensation of anxiety and even fear.  Those of course can be mollified by further intake of alcohol and food.  Up go sales.  And like the idiots who combine Red Bull and vodka, the victims of this (perhaps sometimes unconscious?) stratagem believe that the combined effects of simultaneous excitement and calming--at war with each other, as it were--are tantamount to "having a good time."  Loud laughter, the camaraderie of the whole group being in the altered state together (thus some moderation of the underlying sense of fear), and general disinhibition are exactly what you get in these goddam places, and exactly what increasing numbers of young people have learned to identify as markers of having a good time.  Good conversation is out the window.  And we adherents of conversation are out of the restaurant, not to return.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Unfortunately, this is not a joke.  I thought the killer of Wolf Number Ten was long dead--I'd been told so by several people.  Apparently he's not, and he has been acting strangely in Red Lodge, and not nice-strangely.  The bookstore owner got in touch with the sheriff, and they decided that it might be prudent to have a couple of armed deputies present at my talk and reading.  If I don't get shot, this will be make for a photograph I will treasure forever.
Here's a link to the event.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


In the very hometown of the killer of Wolf Number Ten, a talk and signing:
Red Lodge Books, Saturday, August 23.
Click here to check the Facebook page for full information.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Heinous Wildlife Killing by a Professional Conservationist

...who was once a friend of mine. We served on the board of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition together. I was chairman during the Yellowstone fires of 1988, and Marv was among those of us who tried hard to get the public to understand that the fires were not a disaster. Later I was proud to see the Coalition hire Marv as our representative in Idaho. And now this:
He has brought shame not only to GYC but to all of conservation. Any jerk who wants to say, "See? I told you they were all phonies," now has his banner example.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Techno-fun, Except Not

You can curse Bill Gates, you can blame yourself for your dependency, you can bang your head against the wall--but when your computer just stops, just won't go, no form of self-expression, no matter how powerful you may think it, will accomplish anything.  You are in Job's position.  You can't look up anybody's phone number.  You can't email anybody for advice.  If, as I was, you're on your way that morning to Yellowstone National Park to have lunch with two old friends and colleagues from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, thereafter to a meeting with the head of the Yellowstone wolf project--a meeting essential to the book you're just finishing--and thereafter to dinner in Livingston with other dear friends, you cannot Google "computer repair livingston montana" and find out instantly where to drop off the accursed laptop on your way to the park.  All you have is a four-year-old Yellow Pages that shows Bozeman well supplied with computer repair people and Livingston with none.  You don't have time to do anything but jump in the car with your dead computer and hope for the best.

Well, there's a Radio Shack on the way, so I stop off there, and guess what, there's a computer-fixer guy on-premises, and sure, he'll have a go at it, and they're open till six, and I'll be back from the park before that.  Beautiful.

Except not.  Come five-thirty, he's stymied, stuck, nowhere.  I have to go home to Outer Greater Metropolitan Melville that night to feed Cat Isabel and then next morning drive--the opposite direction--to Billings for another important interview for the last little crucial dramatic bits of the ending of The Killing of Wolf Number Ten, with one of my favorite characters ever, the swashbuckling undercover investigator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tim Eicher, who singlehandedly nailed the killer of Wolf Number Ten.  Luckily my friend Lexi is going to be driving to Big Timber the next morning, and so she can bring me my repaired computer, and all I'll have to do to get it is the ordinary bagatelle of the fifty-six-mile round trip to town.

Except not.  The Radio Shack guy still hasn't been able to fix the damned thing.  However, that same night I do a little talk to a book club whose members are all singing the praises of a computer repair guy in Livingston named Bob Sigal, and so I ask Lexi to bring the computer not to Big Timber but just across town in Livingston to Sigal.  By the end of the day, he reports that after wiping the hard drive clean and reinstalling all the major software--the equivalent of a brain transplant, were it a human being--my computer is humming with life.  The hundred-mile round trip to Livingston, with P. G. Wodehouse playing on the trusty iPod, is, under these circumstances, sheer joy.

Except.  It is now time to start packing.  I'm leaving Montana early this year.  I pack and send my books.  Isabel takes me on her Special Walk every day, usually about eight in the evening,

and I am wrapped in the sweet melancholy of leaving this place I love so much.

Trying to keep shipping costs down, I fill the good old BMW M3 ("Techno-Violet" in color) to Beverly Hillbillies condition, and on Tuesday, July 23, with Isabel in her carrying case unhappily but stoically wedged between two great cardboard boxes, off we go, with ghastly Twin Falls, Idaho, in our sights for the evening.

Except.  We don't make it that far.  While idling outside a Stinkers convenience store in Blackfoot, Idaho, in midafternoon, the BMW's engine starts shooting steam from under the hood in hideous billows.  The temperature gauge sweeps rapidly to the top and the emergency red light starts flashing.  A pool of coolant spreads beneath the car, and it is immediately undeniable that this car is skee-rewed.  Once more I am cast in the role of Job, v.2013.

One bit of apparent good fortune is that we are only thirty miles from Idaho Falls, which actually has a BMW dealer.  A call to AAA brings--slowly--a flatbed truck.  Every place of lodging in that city is booked, so the truck driver kindly delivers Isabel and me to a Best Western in Blackfoot, and the car to BMW of Idaho Falls, which by the time he arrives is closed for the day.

Morning brings a phone call from the service department informing me that the coolant overflow reservoir is cracked and a new one must be ordered, to arrive overnight.  They kindly send a driver to bring Isabel and me to a much nicer Best Western (which now has a room) overlooking the actual falls of Idaho Falls.  I dine in one of  the worst restaurants I have ever known, unsurprised.  Isabel's patience with motel life is growing thin.

By ten-thirty the next day, the new part has arrived, and Micah the mechanic goes to work.  By two o'clock he declares the car returned to health.  A driver picks up Isabel and me, I pile our stuff back into the car, and off we go.  We make it about three hundred yards when hot air comes blasting out of the air conditioner vents and the temperature gauge begins rising fast.  A quick U-turn and a desperate dash bring me back to the dealer before damage sets in.  The car is not fixed.  Not even close, Micah.  Well, I did test-drive it.  Well, it's not fixed, Micah, is it?  Like--I want to say, but refrain--quod erat demonstrandum, Micah?

I return to the Best Western and take another room.  At three-forty-five the service person calls and says the car needs a new thermostat, water pump, and some sort of housing, and the deadline for ordering those was three-thirty.  He has placed the order anyway, and "thinks" the order will "probably" come tomorrow.

Now, "tomorrow" is Friday.  If the parts don't arrive, I will be staying on in Idaho Falls for Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night, and since the installation of these particular parts is time-consuming, I may well have to stay Monday night as well--meaning that I will leave Idaho Falls exactly one week after I left Montana.  Idaho Falls, by the way, is usually considered about a four-hour drive from my starting point.

I call Elizabeth in San Francisco--where it is an hour earlier--and ask her to rush to BMW of San Francisco and buy the parts and then race to the central Fed Ex shipping facility and see if they can't still be overnighted to Idaho Falls.  She does it all brilliantly.  And at ten-thirty that Friday morning, both shipments arrive.

Except.  The order placed by the Idaho Falls dealer contains a thermostat and a housing, but no water pump.  Elizabeth's order contains a water pump and four housings, but no thermostat.

Put them together, however, and you have enough parts to make the car go.

Except.  It turns out that San Francisco has sent the wrong water pump.  Then a miracle.  Somewhere, somehow, Micah the mechanic finds an after-market water pump.  My desire to torture him with Latin evaporates.  And at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, July 26, 2013 (anno domini, Micah), Isabel and I are on our way to a filthy motel in Winnemucca, Nevada, and the car just simply...runs.  The next day, it continues to run, and come Saturday night, we are home.

Monday, July 22, 2013


And melancholy so intense it shades to grief.  The day is right: hot and still, the air alive only with big fierce mosquitoes.  The Sweet Grass is down, doubtless robbed of far more water than the irrigators are entitled to; nevertheless this year the creek has formed a few long runs deep enough for good fish.  They've had little botherment from me.  Yesterday I forced myself to go fishing and caught one brown about three inches long, then quit.  This morning I couldn't be forced, it was already too darn hot at nine.

The nights have been my kind of air.  Last night was the first time I've been sure that the great horned owls are back.  After the fire of 2007--or more probably after the logging that followed the fire--the pair that nested very near the Langston House had disappeared.  We loved those loud deep hoots and the louder chirrups of the youngsters, who were always getting separated around the meadow and across the creek and calling to each other, "Where are you?"  "Here!"  "But where are you now?"  "I'm over here now!"  Last night the moon was one crack short of full, tonight it will be in its maximum glory, and not a cloud is expected.

Just off the driveway is a dead calf.  I had smelled it for a while but hadn't gone looking because it was in the swamp.  By last night enough other critters had trampled the tall grass down enough to make a looking-path, and yucko.  It looked as if the head was gone altogether, though it seems more likely to me that it's just folded under--nobody eats the head first.  Much of the shoulder and neck, however, were thoroughly eaten away.  I had heard coyotes singing a few nights before, far out on the prairie, but somehow this didn't look like coyote work, nor bear: The hind leg was untouched.  Hard as it is to believe, I'm thinking that all this gobbling has been done by the maggots.  I have not seen or heard a single raven, which seems very odd.  A few years back there was a whole dead cow from far from the same spot, and the half-dead cottonwoods nearby (and we've still got plenty of those) were festooned every day with a whole funeral chorus of those great birds.  We have, of course, golden eagles here, and occasionally turkey vultures, and bald eagles--and why haven't I seen any of them in the sky above this feast of veal tartare?

Melancholy has been well aided by Truffaut's "The Last Metro," one of the most perfect movies ever made, with Deneuve and Depardieu at their most sublime.  The ending comes at you like a speeding but silent train, and I burst into helpless tears.   Can anybody tell me that they have ever seen a woman more beautiful than Catherine Deneuve?  Or a more powerful actor than Depardieu?  Too bad he's gone nuts over taxes.  That seems to happen to more than a few geniuses, doesn't it?

Elizabeth has come and all too quickly gone.  At least, when she was here, we were able to get at Porcupine Butte two different ways.  The first was up its flank to a bench we'd never known the existence of, a flat shelf covered with limber pines, nearly all dead, and one thriving Douglas-fir.  I wondered if maybe the living limber pines might be immune to both the mountain pine beetle and the blister rust, and if it and its kinsmen might therefore found a new population.  I wondered if the same thing might be going on among their more important close cousins, the whitebark pines, which have historically been the single highest-calorie source of food for Yellowstone grizzlies.  I've gotten in touch with a researcher who's looking into the Yellowstone whitebark situation, but haven't read her papers yet.  She did say she didn't think it was quite as much a crisis as people have made it out to be.  Good thing if so, since the spawning runs of cutthroat have been slashed by ninety percent by the lake trout introduced by some fool to Yellowstone Lake, and the supply of elk calves is down too (thanks in part to wolf predation--oops).  Well, I digress.  The point was this new place on the butte.  We decided to sidehill south along the face of the butte, but instead hit a gorge--which we'd also never seen.  It was unquestionably impassable, for people.  Across it we saw two blonde coyotes scrambling up the wall, followed by fuzzy, stumbling cubs.  I saw only two, there may have been more.  One of them turned and looked at me for a long moment, one of the cutest, biggest-eyed, biggest-eared little puppy dogs I've ever had the pleasure to see.  I don't think it had ever seen a person before.

(I'm just realizing I've already written about this.  I don't care.  Or, if you prefer: I'm sorry.)

Then a few days later--July 7, 2013--we did our regular route to the summit, up the long, rising grassy slope from the west--and oh, such flowers this year!  I believe we recorded something like forty-five species in bloom.  The weather was perfect, and to be granted such beauty and tranquility, we must always be deeply conscious of our good fortune.  At these times it's good to think about the proportions of what's what in one's life.

Meanwhile, nearly every day, another source of gratitude: cat Isabel.  We now have a regular walking route (in addition to others), which is officially known as the Special Walk because at the turn-around point is an old, old, gnarled, but not very tall willow tree--her Special Tree-- in whose branches she can climb and twist and peek out at me and be a little mischievous--though she always comes down when I ask her to.  Here is a picture of Isabel taking me for the Special Walk.

I wondered if Isabel were going to make some sort of parting gesture here, and she has done so.  She came racing in this morning with a tiny dark bird in her mouth, dropped it at her plate, and when it skittered across the kitchen between my legs she shot through the same wicket and bit it hard.  I told her to take it outside, and quite to my surprise she did so directly--trotted right out the front door.  I followed.  She dumped it in the lawn, and when I went to look, it looked to me like some tiny little wren.  Maybe it was a Western wood-pewee, of which there are a lot here, but the tiny body (two inches max) and relatively long, pointy, turned-up tail said wren.  (The bird book is packed and gone.)  Isabel gave the body a bop and to both her and my astonishment it took off flying--landed on the BMW's windshield wiper.  Isabel flew right behind it, chomped it, brought it back into the yard, and dumped it again.  No further flying.

Tomorrow she gets locked in her box and I in mine, and off we go, to pastures new.