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Pitman Creek

“The popular view of Appalachia is a land where every man is willing, at the drop of a proverbial overall strap, to shoot, fight, or fuck anything on hind legs. We’re men who buy half-pints of boot-legged liquor and throw the lids away in order to finish the whiskey in one laughing, brawling night, not…
  • addiction, alcohol, brother, cousin, crawdad, creek, Cumberland River, death, essay, family, father, fishing, Kentucky, laughter, Mammoth Cave, man, Mississippi River, nature, park ranger, river, smile, stream, Tennessee, West, wife, wild, wilderness
  • September 12, 2014

SAR Talk

When I arrived for my shift, I heard talk of a search and rescue near the south end of the Ptarmigan Traverse: two climbers, stuck on an 18-inch ledge. They dropped their rope and most of their camping gear while summiting 8,200-foot Spire Point, the remote tail of the route, a spot between Sentinel and…
  • boy, climbers, crisis, essay, family, father, glaciers, man, maps, mother, mountains, National Park Service, North Cascades, park ranger, rescue, search, snow, son, storm, strong, stuck, West, wilderness
  • August 10, 2014

Ground Truthing

I was only 19 when I fell for Leah, an athletic, blond junior with emerald green eyes and a tongue that tasted of alcohol, radiating in my mouth like a faint chemical burn, like the halo of a small flame. I remember exactly how it felt because I didn’t drink—not beer, not vodka, not Mad Dog,…
  • alcohol, brother, California, childhood, Columbia River, cornfield, drinking, family, fate, father, fraternity, Gary Snyder, geography, girlfriend, Indiana, Jack Kerouac, Kentucky, maps, memory, mother, mountains, Ohio River, Oregon, river, road trip, West
  • July 15, 2014


Reba McEntire had her eye on a woodcock. Named after the famous country singer with curly red hair, the little hunting dog pointed her snout, trembling, and inched closer to her prey, then closer. Her owner George Darey stopped walking and aimed his shotgun toward the treetops. “Good girl,” he whispered nearby. I waited for…
  • animals, birds, breath, cats, cornfield, death, dogs, essay, guns, hunters, hunting, journalism, kitty, love, memory, Mississippi River, park ranger, pets, river, shotgun, soul, tree hugger, West, wife, writing
  • June 18, 2014

The Big Bang

In the snapshot I’m five years old, leaning against my father’s silver Chevy Impala, frowning from a throbbing pain. It’s June 1975 in central Indiana. My skull is wrapped in bright white bandages covering most of my unwashed hair, and my sullen eyes look away from the camera, toward whom or what I can’t recall.…
  • accident, addiction, alcohol, bike, blood, brother, cornfield, dogs, essay, family, father, Kentucky, memory, mind, mother, scar, son, stitches, The Big Bang Theory, wreck
  • March 18, 2014