Monday, July 7, 2014

Excerpt from DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP, by Joshua Doležal

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging, by Joshua Doležal, is a coming-of-age memoir about moving from the mountains of northwestern Montana to the Midwest.

Lonna motioned for us to sit. Jones and Tozzi took the open chairs as Jacobson and I leaned against the doorjamb.

"How'd you like to go to northern Alberta?" she grinned. "I just got the call, and we're trying to put together a crew. Libby will send a squad, we'll get one each from Eureka, Rexford, and the Cabinet district, and I thought we could send you four. Jones, you'll be our squad boss. They'll be sending Claude Shanley from the Cabinet to run the crew."

Jones sniffed. "What the hell do they want us in Alberta for?"

"Big muskeg fires, they say. It's a ground moss, grows up to five feet deep. Anytime those swampy areas dry out a little bit, like down in the Everglades, you get some bad fires. Once the heat starts skunking around in that moss, it's almost impossible to stop. Anyway, you guys interested?"

"Hell, yes," Tozzi said. We all agreed. Nobody ever turned down an off-forest assignment. With twenty-one straight days on the clock, twelve to fourteen hours a day, the overtime was reason enough. We were all cash-craving college kids except for Jacobson, one of the Troy boys still determined to make a life for himself in our hometown. Jones and Tozzi stood to go, but Lonna waved them back.

"There's something I want you all to know, just to be on the safe side. Claude is a nice guy, but he's not all there. Just two years ago he was crew boss with a hotshot outfit, and one of his guys died on the fire line--tree-felling accident or something. Whatever it was, it got Claude demoted. If it was me, I'd never send him out again, but it's not my call." Lonna leaned forward in her chair. "You guys don't hesitate to call home if you think things aren't safe up there, OK? No heroics. I need you to pay attention and speak up if your gut tells you to. All right?"

She looked at Jones to be sure. He nodded and pulled his cap down over his eyes.

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