Last summer was the most miserable I recall, ever. Dry and much hotter–a day or two over 90 degrees is usual, weeks of that are not. The mountains I can see from my window are red, a blush of beetle-killed trees. There will be fire and there should be fire, it is the engine of renewal here, but the smoke is irritating and people lose their houses and the customary order of their lives in minutes. Last year a fire began at Pine Creek down in the Paradise Valley. Wholly accidental, a spark from the bucket of a little Bobcat digging machine, made by steel on rock. Not much, but in moments it was moving too fast to squelch. A good friend was give fifteen minutes to leave her house and all she had. She took her cat and the hard drive from her computer. The fire was kept away by the firefighters, though other homes were lost, and in time she could return and go on. She wept over the lilacs, perhaps a century old. They were charred and damaged and so had to be cut and taken away, but the rootstocks were well established and this year new growth has shot out of the ground, and in a year or two will be as tall as what was lost. We hope for mushrooms. I was in the Blackfoot Valley in 2000, and huge fires burned to the north of me, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. At night the red glow went across half the horizon, giant trees exploded and the trunks tumbled through the air for hundreds of yards, starting fires if there was fuel to burn. The next year the seral forest erupted and the rodent population exploded and predators thrived so that driving on a paved highway I casually glanced at what I thought at first was a dog and then my brain worked a bit better and I found myself staring at a large wolverine, a creature I have never seen in the wild and many who spend years in the backcountry live long and die without seeing one. Today though it is raining and cool and several more such days are ahead, and we hope for rain now and again this summer. Two years ago it rained and it rained and it rained well into July, so much rain that the Yellowstone River was not “fishable” until the first week of August. (“Fishable” is a river suitable for ferrying dudes down, so they may catch trout which they release which is thought more sporting, but I wonder about that, since an animal dies once and torturing them to death does not seem to my mind to have much moral glow about it.). Livingston now depends for a good portion of its yearly take on fly fishermen, and wails when they do not come. I fish in the winter here since I loathe crowds, and what I hope for now is right after the cool wet weather we get some hot sunny days because that will bring up the morel mushrooms, which may be dried to preserve them and which are one of the choicest mushrooms of all. They come up where the forest fires raged, sometimes in great quantities, and and one very good year I had perhaps a bushel of dried mushrooms to give to friends and hints that this was greatly appreciated do tend to rise to a crescendo at this time of year. They really do not want to be forgotten. Some try bribery but so far the cheap bastards haven’t offered anywhere enough. I sometimes hunt mushrooms with Doctor Shroom, a deranged poet and a songwriter of marvelous and scurrilous lyrics. He is insomniac and so ceaselessly walks the land in search of mushrooms and in hope of exhausting himself enough to get a night’s sleep. His knowledge of mushroom patches is extensive and I am a shameless mooch. …and so in the hope of rain…..
( I have had inquiries about new Du Pre’ books as books, those obsolete things made of paper and ink–and indeed there are two new Du Pre’ novels, though not so new now since I wrote them years ago. So far no print publisher has been interested or if they are the attached conditions are too odious. Anyway, yes, there are more…..)