Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier

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9780803266278: Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier

"In this splendid book a gifted observer and a terrific idea have come together in a real love match. In 1990, a century after the census bureau's famous observation of the frontier's imminent end, Dayton Duncan set out in an aging GMC Suburban to visit a large sampling of counties outside Alaska that have fewer than two persons per square mile―the bureau's old standard for places still in a frontier condition. There are 132 such counties. All are in the West. . . . The result of his tour is an insightful and entertaining book, troubling and funny and consistently illuminating. . . . Much of the book's charm comes from Duncan's sketches of people who choose to live 'miles from nowhere'―ranchers in the Nebraska sandhills, a New Mexican bar owner, a priest and United Parcel Service driver along the Texas-Mexico border, and the descendant of a Seminole Negro army scout in west Texas. In them he finds characteristics associated with the mythic frontier. . . . Great fun to read."―Montana Born and raised in a small town in Iowa, Dayton Duncan has been a reporter, humor columnist, editorial writer, chief of staff to a governor, and deputy press secretary for presidential campaigns. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire. His books include Out West: An American Journey, also available in a Bison Books edition.

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About the Author:

Born and raised in a small town in Iowa, Dayton Duncan has been a reporter, humor columnist, editorial writer, chief of staff to a governor, and deputy press secretary for presidential campaigns. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire. His books include Out West: An American Journey, also available in a Bison Books edition.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Duncan's Out West (1987), which retraced the route of Lewis and Clark, took the author to some remote locales--but to nothing like the outposts of civilization that he reports on in this solid, well-informed survey of the 132 counties in the American West that have population densities of fewer than two people per square mile. Duncan calls these counties--which sprawl over 15 states, with the greatest number in Texas, Montana, and Nebraska--the ``contemporary frontier,'' and indeed there's an aura of rugged individualism about their scattered inhabitants that harkens back to the classic frontier. But there's also ``an undercurrent of paranoia,'' Duncan says, bred by a vulnerability to an ex-rural America that uses these regions as waste dumps, nuclear-missile sites, and so on. It's this sort of unsentimental, balanced view of his subjects, backdropped by an in-depth historical framework, that gives Duncan's travelogue its resonance (though he displays neither the wit of an Ian Frazier nor the poetry of a Gary Paulsen) as he describes the many months he spent traveling the territory in a GMC Suburban (``a station wagon on steroids'') that he christened the Conestoga. Typical of the counties is Nebraska's Banner County, with 1.1 people per square mile, whose businesses number a bank, two cafes, some home shops, and two hairdressers. Typical of the people the author met is the Texas UPS driver whose average day covered 338 miles in 12 hours--really just a Sunday drive in the American vastness that Duncan explores from myriad angles, covering ethnic groups (many Native Americans, few blacks); environment (harsh); crime (low); politics (often libertarian); death (often violent); grit and courage (endemic), and on and on. Sharply observed, literate travel writing that drives home just how big--and big-souled--this country really is. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs, one map--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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