Every community ought to produce a slim volume like “One in the Hole” because this little anthology is a quick read that gives a true sense of a place. The thread of these pieces is Jackson Hole, Wyo. The writing comes in the form of poetry, nonfiction essays and a few fictional stories. Every author has a link to Jackson Hole, some of them going back more than 80 years.
The strength of the collection is the nonfiction, accounts that give short histories of the region, the small town of Kelly, Mormon Row, early Jackson life. Anne McDonald Kent’s “With a Stir and A Stir” reflects on the age-old “competition” of women to be the best cook in the valley and this super-short piece has a twist at the ending that is sure to uplift your spirits.
Another super-short piece that is long on content is Bonnie “Queen Mum” Budge’s “The Time I thought I was Worth Kidnapping.” If you ever had an older sister who pulled a trick on you, this nonfiction account of a return home from school is bound to resonate.
Poetry by K M Mittan “Wyoming Winter,” Sunny Hoover “As the Moon Rises,” and Cynthia Thompson “Jackson Hole Within Me” provide just the right seasoning, while “Tourist Town Disguise” by Tara Le Reynolds perfectly captures the place — both physically and in attitude.
“Gaile Meeks’s Reminisces” takes you on a trip through a family’s experiences in Jackson Hole, and the author skillfully holds onto the best for last as she outlines Mother’s Worst Day. Let’s just say “olden day” kids and their mothers were pretty darned tough. On this particular day Gaile’s mother took two kids to the doctor in two separate trips after incidents with M-80 firecrackers ... and then Gaile smashed her hands when a window fell on them and needed additional doctoring at home. As if that wasn’t enough for a mother to endure in a single day, Gaile decided to have a little encounter by sticking her foot (well actually most of her leg) down a gopher hole.
With the exception of “The Fiddler and the Guitar,” which is a well-crafted piece of fiction, the short fiction in this collection fell very flat for me.
But editor Charley Daveler wisely concluded the collection with a very strong nonfiction essay she wrote, “Raisin’ A Barn.”
The first sentence immediately caught me: “It is not that barn.” I knew immediately That Barn is the T.A. Moulton Barn (which was a subject of my recent On The Trail recognizing its 100th Anniversary this year.) But the barn of which Daveler writes is the one connected to her family. Her barn, she writes, is “of a much more iconic shape. ‘Iconic’ being another word for unoriginal.”
The Moulton family has connections to it’s barn, and Charley Daveler has connections to “her barn” that are just as important, every bit as deep. As Daveler writes, “stories exist in every home” and for her the barn of her youth “is a representation of my family’s survival.”
Well said, and well done. ❖