Lost causes, anachronisms: the theme of my life. Born to a small family farm, just before the death of the small family farm. Student and practitioner of print journalism, just before the demise of print journalism. Writer of books at a time when attention spans are being eroded in the acid bath of social media. Now: fire lookout. I sometimes try to imagine what’s next. Taxi driver? Typewriter repairman?
The places I call home have been targeted for the ash heap of history.
If Trump has his way on climate policy, the forests of the Southwest—already in grave peril—are finished. If Trump has his way on border policy, an ever more militarized atmosphere is destined to overlay the life of the borderlands.
Those of us with long experience sitting watch over the Gila sometimes joked that we were not so much fire lookouts anymore as morbid priests or pyromaniacal monks — officiants at an ongoing funeral for the forests as we had found them when we first assumed our posts. All of us had come seeking solitude, adventure, the romance of wild mountains, and a taste of the sublime; we got everything we had hoped for and more, including pyrotechnics on a landscape scale. The job never lasted long enough — six months maximum, more like four or five in a typical season — but it beat working down in the neon plastic valleys.
This morning we drove to the storage unit on the outskirts of Albuquerque and put Dan’s possessions neatly into the U-Haul. There was no emotional response from anyone. We approached it as a task to be accomplished, a chore to be done, and we did it, simple as that. A life, or the remnants thereof, packed neatly into a 5×8 trailer.
His abiding obsessions were taxes and weapons. He thought taxes should be cut always and everywhere, except for poor people, and he thought America should build as many weapons as possible. The more weapons we had, in his view, the less likely we were to need them. But he believed that occasionally we might need them to bomb other nations that were trying to get them too.