Pete Fromm, a noted Great Falls writer, returns to the fertile ground tilled in his first book, Indian Creek Chronicles – a memoir about seven months he spent in a tent, tending salmon eggs in Idaho’s Selway Bitterroot Wilderness.
But he’s no longer a 20-year-old college student tired of school and striving to become a contemporary mountain man. It’s 25 years later, and Fromm is a middle-aged father – “wild man become mild man” – who reluctantly leaves his two young sons at home to spend a month alone, standing watch over buckets of grayling eggs deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Every day brings another 10-mile hike to check two incubator sites, plunked in the wild tributaries that feed the North Fork of the Flathead River. His trek is teeming with elk, deer and badger sightings; the muddy trails are often punctured by bear and wolf paw prints. He watches a giant grizzly devour an elk calf, while fending off a smaller griz and the mother elk.
Another time, he corners the trail and finds the bloody half-eaten carcass of a calf. “I scan the trees, their dank blank walls …” and retreats quickly along the “bear highway,” knowing the predator isn’t finished with its snack.
As the month progresses, Fromm reminisces about other experiences that fed his “chafing to be away, to be alone in the wild:” His years with the National Park Service, first as a lifeguard at Lake Mead, then as a river ranger in the Tetons; the people, like the unorthodox ranger Sagebrush, who cultivated his off-the-beaten-path sensibility.
He revisits his own childhood, with parents “opening the doors, allowing one of their litter to go feral,” just as he opens doors for his own children.
Like his first memoir, The Names of the Stars is infused with Fromm’s exuberant passion for the natural world, his deep attention to the pulse and mystery that surrounds him. It’s also seasoned with a sense of mortality and responsibility, the wisdom and yearning of a devoted dad who spends evenings at the cabin crafting deer-hide moccasins, vests and medicine pouches for his kids. A father who realizes that his children have become “a whole new river sweeping me away.”
“An adventure worth savoring,” writes Kirkus Reviews.
Fromm, a five-time winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, has also written three novels and a short-story collection.
– Kristi Niemeyer