Review of 'North Country, A Personal Journey'- page 2 | People & Places | Smithsonian
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Review of 'North Country, A Personal Journey'

Review of 'North Country, A Personal Journey'

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Borderlanders regard government dubiously, Mosher finds. He gets rebellious himself, after a turn down an attractive lane in North Dakota leads him to an unmarked ICBM silo, where an Air Force sergeant hassles him. In Idaho, Mosher finds that the antigovernmental streak has attracted extremists. One man, shirtless, arms tattooed with swastikas, a pistol in a shoulder holster, announces that he is there to get away from things. Mosher asks him what. "Nonbelievers," the man says. "Schools. Government. Taxes. Electricity. The devil. . . . Writers like you." The next day, fishing in Idaho's border mountains, Mosher comes across a menacing bowman in camouflage and circles through the woods to escape the mysterious hunter.

But many of his encounters are poignant. Signs plead, "Our Town Needs A Doctor." He meets two rugged smokejumpers who feel unwelcome in their Washington borderlands hometowns because they are a homosexual couple. There is the cowboy pining for the city woman who jilted him and the retired Blackfoot sheriff who spent much of his career helping wayward kids find themselves. Mosher's trip ends at Blaine, Washington, where he meets two crabbers, a man and his teenage son. Nineteen years ago, the man flew in from Fiji, a penniless immigrant. "Now I have a wonderful wife, four great kids, a house," he says. "And next month I'm buying a salmon trawler."

What Mosher discovers on his trip is his own borderlands life--"walking the mountain each day of the year, visiting with friends, fishing for brook trout, watching a pickup baseball game on the village green, sitting quietly in the evening with the person I've loved for thirty years and more, reading a good old or new book, writing a new story. . . ."

And so Howard Frank Mosher drove home. And wrote a book.

Richard Wolkomir, a frequent contributor to Smithsonian whose recent articles include a history of flags and a look at the science of soil, writes from his own north-country household in Vermont.

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