Like any good classic, Indian Creek Chronicles is revived with a second printing. With timeless humor, Fromm draws readers into his world in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness of 1978. It’s a book as much about self-growth as it is about the natural world around us. It is a book about life choices, mistakes and the ability to change.
Pete Fromm is a dreamer, with incredible luck. “Unwittingly, I’d made the first in a series of completely unconsidered decisions leading to the tent” - the tent being his home for almost seven months over the winter. It all began when he decided to move to Montana to continue his post-secondary education. His roommate, Jeff Rader, was Fromm’s antithesis. “While I had goggles and speedos,” notes competitive swimmer Fromm, “he had rifles and shotguns.” The differences extended beyond the physical. “Rader was also a reader, something I’d never been.” That would quickly change as Fromm was drawn into stories of mountain men. He began to read, voraciously. And then fate decided to put his dreams to the test.
Fromm heard about a vacant position guarding salmon eggs over the winter in a remote piece of Montana. When he called to find out more, he was told they didn’t want “anybody accepting it on a romantic whim...”. He was entranced. Fromm recalls that his would-be boss, “actually used that word - romance. I’m sure he hadn’t intended it, but he hooked me with just that one word." Now Fromm didn’t have a clue what the job really entailed. He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t think about the isolation, and there his tale begins with self-deprecating humor that grabs the reader and makes the book impossible to put down.
It’s a tumultuous journey from scared greenhorn (“You’ll do fine,” Fromm’s boss said in final farewell. “I was positive it was a lie.”) to territorial mountain man (“I just wasn’t ready for anyone to get my country handed to them on a platter.”) As the story unfolds, Fromm’s words touch the soul with an almost poetic honesty. “That night, however, with the mail so read it was dying, the thrill collapsed and I realized how I missed all those people. But already, in the two months I had been here, it had softened from the early, desperate loneliness that closed my throat, to an easy kind I could almost savor.”
As a writer and former park naturalist, I didn’t want to stop reading. The adventure, woven with natural history and told in such a humorous voice was appealing. I was, however, a bit surprised by the handful of black-and-white photographs tucked in the middle of the book. With the vivid imagery Fromm had drawn through words already firmly entrenched in my mind, I’m not sure the actual photos added as much as they detracted from the story. They were a visual shock that broke the flow momentarily. Likewise the epilogue of Fromm’s journey after the winter is a bit of a jolt away from the main story. Skip them if the story grabs you as it did me.
I have a feeling that my copy of the Chronicles won’t be spending much time on my bookshelf. My daughter’s read it, so has my husband and friends are already queuing up for their chance to enter Fromm’s remarkable world.