Crazy like a fox, or a fish, or a bat...
by Hilary WattsField biologists are a rare breed. If you have any doubt about this, Jennifer Bové’s book, The Back Road to Crazy, will change your mind. Field biologists find pleasure in wading, chest-deep, against a fast current of sub-zero water before the sun has even considered rising — all to net and count tiny fish no one else seems to care about, let alone knows how to identify. They revel in camping out in wilderness, only to wake at 1 o’clock in the morning to pry wily biting bats from an invisible net, risking rabies and suffering sleep deprivation, just to track how many long-eared myotis are in the area.
You might not think that sounds like fun, but if you’d like to understand the people who do, The Back Road to Crazy will take you as close to nutty as you can get without setting foot in a desert or a riverbed. And if you do share the desire to jeopardize your skin and bones for the cause of protecting a species, this book will make you long for the moment when you can get back into your waders and drive the work truck into a world of uncertainty — and mud.
Jennifer Bové — a seasoned field biologist who has wagered her own life against slippery rocks, idiotic field assistants and a territorial cougar in order to get good data — has pulled together the accounts of more than 25 field biologists with a knack for storytelling. They recount often grueling but always memorable field escapades, including marmot chases, snake bites, sprained ankles and skin-searing temperatures. These writers and poets may seem crazy, but if they didn’t put their die-hard concern for animals over their own well-being, the imperiled creatures that still roam the earth would be in far worse shape than they already are.
The Back Road to Crazy: Stories from the Field Edited by Jennifer Bové 232 pages, softcover $19.95: University of Utah Press, 2005. © High Country News