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The Kingdom in the Country by James Conaway

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Queen of the Walkabout

Joined: 15 Jan 2004
Articles: 35
Comments: 1
 Posted: 5/29/2006, 2:04 pm

This is really the most incredible book. I say that because of the "different" perspective offered here, in a readable format discussing our "public lands", the lands held for us, all of us, by the BLM, forest service,etc.
The author, a reporter in the Washington scene, fascinated by the West as some Easterners are, met and got to know the controversial James Watt, Secretary of the Interior. What evolved was a year's leave of abscence to tour the Western US, and visit the public lands, and get to know some of the people who look after them, use them, and love and abuse them.

He covers the West from top to bottom, visits ranchers, miners, loggers, rangers, volunteers, eccentric loners ( gee, I didn't get to meet him!!), tourists, people on the run from something, and those with deep roots historically, radical environmentalists in many guises, and anyone else you can imagine.
It's an inside view to the difficulties the government has in making it "right" for everyone to use the land it holds, and sometimes the very different daily logistics of those who walk the land. People who have lived on the land a long time, with a lengthy family history and the struggle to realize the land they have is not really theirs, struggle to understand the tenative ownership. Some love it and take care, others seemingly abuse it, but are making an effort to make a living on the edge.

A couple of interesting sections:
This from a chapter where he visits a logging operation in Oregon. A large tree is at the mill and being sized down by a machine, as the tree shrinks a charred spot appears on the body of the tree.
"Your watching history" shouted Ford. The charred spot could have been a pitch ring, he said, left by the Umpqua Indians setting a fire two centuries ago, to clear the ground under the big trees. Before Fords' explanation is done, the pitch ring had disappeared, part of an enending ribbon of wood bound on rollers for enormous wheezing press, and eventually, the sides of a house on a distant lot somewhere in Arizona."
And in California, a secluded beach area:
The BLM put up barriers at both ends of the beach to keep the motorcycles and the ATV's away, but every year someone came with a bulldozer and pushed them down. I asked what the agency did about that. "We bring out our bulldozer" he said, "and put them up again." It was the voice of the old General Land Office: let the people do what they want on the land, since it belongs to them, i.e., to no one."

And a funny statement on backpacking, in the Gila Wilderness:
"We hikers were all after a 'wilderness experience', as if it could be had like a dose of Benzedrine. Every time I swing into my pack I wonder why; fifty pounds of temporary furniture, and the prospect of ten thousand footsteps before I can stop and eat hydrated mush."

There is so much more to this book, its an oldy and I got it at a bookstore sale for $4.00, so your best bet is online to get it.
I recommend it, to anyone interested in the public lands a lot of us recreate on.
Rating: 0.00/5.00 [0]

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