word craft


Not All Fiction is Fiction

It’s a new year so here is an old story.

For most of the year, I live in a log house 8900 feet up in the Rocky Moun­tains, right on the edge of Routt Nation­al For­est.  It’s in the unin­cor­po­rat­ed town­ship of Clark, north Routt Coun­ty, a coun­ty larg­er than the state of Rhode Island.  It’s thir­ty miles north of Steam­boat Springs, six miles from the Wyoming border. 

Avi's cabin in the Rocky Mountains
Avi’s cab­in in the Rocky Moun­tains [pho­to: Avi]

It’s a beau­ti­ful place sur­round­ed by for­est, high peaks, and deep val­leys, one of which allows me to look down for six­ty-five miles.

Rocky Mountains near Avi's cabin
Rocky Moun­tains sur­round­ing Avi’s cab­in [pho­to: Avi]

It’s a beau­ti­ful place sur­round­ed by for­est, high peaks, and deep val­leys, one of which allows me to look down for six­ty-five miles. 

It was in 1889 that Han­nah Emi­ly Clark opened a post office on her home­stead. She named the post office CLARK, there­by giv­ing the new town a name. Back then the post office served a pop­u­la­tion of sev­en­ty-five per­sons. These days — as far as I can tell — the rur­al town­ship has a pop­u­la­tion of about five hun­dred and forty. 

Win­ters can be very snowy (thir­ty-four feet last year) and cold, which is why locals have giv­en the area the nick­name, “The Clark­tic Cir­cle.” That’s why I spend the win­ter months in Den­ver. It’s not much fun to dri­ve six­ty miles on snowy roads to get food. As I write this it is sev­en­teen degrees in Clark, fifty-five in Denver. 

There is no postal deliv­ery to my house. If I wish to mail a let­ter or pick one up, I must dri­ve six­teen miles. These days the post office is in a build­ing known as the Clark Gen­er­al Store. The store func­tions as the cen­ter of the town, and it’s there, more than any­where, I meet my neighbors. 

Clark Store
The Clark Gen­er­al Store [pho­to: Avi]

The small store has dif­fer­ent depart­ments. It has a tiny gro­cery store. A small­er liquor store — by state law with its’ own cash reg­is­ter. A deli — where you can have lunch.  I can also pick up a copy of the local dai­ly news­pa­per — the Steam­boat Pilot — a free news­pa­per. Bench­es and tables are there so I can have cof­fee and meet up with friends. 

The post office, which has a ser­vice counter, is most­ly tak­en up by postal box­es. It’s all run by one per­son, and you do not just pick up or drop off your mail, you chat with the post­mas­ter and exchange news with her or oth­er folks there.

The Clark General Store
The Clark Gen­er­al Store [pho­to: Avi]
Mailboxes at the Clark Post Office
Mail­box­es at the Clark Post Office [pho­to: Avi]

My favorite part of the store is the wall of books locat­ed in the post office area. Reg­u­lar­ly stocked, and restocked, by Steamboat’s pub­lic library, these books — most­ly new, and in fine con­di­tion — are offered free to the pub­lic. There you can find all kinds of books, most­ly fic­tion, but also non­fic­tion. A cou­ple of shelves of children’s books are there, too. I’ve been told that some fifty or, so books are tak­en each week, which sug­gests an ele­vat­ed lev­el of read­er­ship in Clark to go along with its altitude.

I’ve tak­en a few myself. 

Bookshelves at the Clark General Store
Book­shelves at the Clark Gen­er­al Store [pho­to: Avi]

A few years back, friend and col­league Bri­an Flo­ca, came to my Clark home to scout out the scene before doing illus­tra­tions for our book, Old Wolf. With­out say­ing so, the tale is set about my land. 

Part of the sto­ry takes place in that Gen­er­al Store. Thus, one of the illus­tra­tions Bri­an did is of the post office. In the illus­tra­tion, he insert­ed the por­trait of a man. The man he depict­ed was Richard Jack­son, the late great edi­tor, and the edi­tor of that book, not that he ever was in Clark. 

Look­ing out from the postal desk is Sophie Black­all, one of Brian’s stu­dio mates, and two-time win­ner of the Calde­cott award. 

Some­times the illus­tra­tions in books have their own tales to tell. 

Which is to say, not all fic­tion is fiction. 

illustration © copyright Brian Floca, from Old Wolf, written by Avi, published by Atheneum, 2015
illus­tra­tion © copy­right Bri­an Flo­ca, from Old Wolf,
writ­ten by Avi, pub­lished by Atheneum, 2015

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