Jack Hunter abandons his Sierra Club lobbying job in D.C. and a marriage gone sour, eager to settle on life's placid surface near the Diablo National Forest of southwestern New Mexico. He takes up horseshoeing and jumps into a meaningless affair, enjoying the respite from strenuous work for hopeless causes. But then he meets a beautiful conservation biologist and learns about the endangered Mexican wolves in the forest's imperiled roadless area.
Such is the
outline of The Lobo Outback Funeral Home, Dave
Foreman's first venture into fiction. Foreman, a founder of both
Earth First! and the Wildlands Project, has written books before,
including the provocative essay collection Confessions of
an Eco-Warrior and a national inventory of roadless areas
called The Big Outside. Lobo
Outback goes beyond these, delving into a particular
place that Foreman knows as few others
Foreman's fictional Diablo National Forest
stands in for the Gila National Forest, but his descriptions ring
true: "Blooming lupine washed a blue tide" through a ponderosa
forest of "plate-barked yellow pines," while along a creek,
"violet-green swallows scooped up aerial plankton ... like tiny,
feathered baleen whales."
Outback is more than Foreman's chance to wax poetic over
one of America's wildest landscapes. The novel is a chilling
reminder that much of the West's old power structure remains
intact, and that some of its beneficiaries are disposed to thuggery
when their good-old-boy politics fail.
County, a locus of militia organizing and anti-endangered species
activism, appears in Lobo Outback as Fall
County. Fall County's most powerful rancher, Buck Clayton, who
lives in a "ducal manor" complete with private airstrip, lobbies
for more taxpayer-built roads in the forest and hires a local yahoo
to hunt down endangered lobos - Mexican wolves. When
conservationists stand in his way, he excoriates them as
"modern-day witches and druids" and "dangerous terrorists" - and
follows his rhetoric with violence.
Lobo Outback Funeral Home is a literate and highly
readable story of a region where the soil itself seems seeded with
conflict. This is a book about the present, about the persistence
of wildness and about the intransigence of those opposed to Nature
The Lobo Outback Funeral
Home, by Dave Foreman, 2000, fiction, University Press of
Colorado, 226 pages, $24.95.