COMING IN MARCH, 2021: A 5,000-WORD FEATURE FOR OUTSIDE MAGAZINE ABOUT DOWSING, THE OLD WORLD WAY OF FINDING THINGS
Outside, March 2021
Killed, May 2020
A story I grew up with: When my dad was a boy, he shot a bird with a BB gun. Blew its head right off; blood all over the snow. He broke the Daisy over his leg and today reviles guns. My dad loves animals and is known to cry when hitting them in a car, and on most issues he is as liberal as the summer sun is long, often aggressively so. Once he told a devout man the Bible is the comic book of life. But in mid March, just as this thing was becoming real in the U.S.A., I got a text from him: “Is your shotgun a 12 gauge?”
The Virginia Quarterly Review, March 2020
These events, you should know, were foretold. Yes, the world burned before. There is no record written of it, just a story, older likely than Christ and passed through time from mouth to ear as a warning. Before the Spanish, before the Inca, before even the Wari there lived in the Andes the Aya. The Aya disrespected their mother earth. Wisemen warned them. But as the Earth warmed, they marched from vast grassy plains to cool mountain caves and stone homes along shady rivers, and they continued to disregard nature, law, community. They continued as a second sun rose alongside the one then a third alongside those two, their fate now bright and hot and horrible.
Vice Magazine, March 2020
The golden retriever is a portrait of happiness standing in the snow by the open trunk of a black Xterra, his wavy hair platinum in the Colorado sun, his tail a metronome wound tight. But Nixon—named after the watch company, not the 37th president—isn’t going in the trunk. Three pairs of exceptionally short skis are. His owner, Doc Roberts, calls to him from the front door of his Bayfield home. “Come on, pup.”
VICE Magazine, November 2019
Late in the summer of 1989, John Christy discovered the earth wasn’t warming. Satellites spinning through the atmosphere reported no upward trend line, and above the tropics, the University of Alabama atmospheric sciences professor and his research partner, the NASA scientist Roy Spencer, learned that the satellites had actually recorded cooling. The two men were the first to crunch the enormous volume of data captured by the satellites since their launch a decade earlier, the first to build a database that showed the surface readings depicting a warming earth were overblown. They were pioneers. They submitted a paper to Science magazine, and in March the following year, they became celebrities. NPR called. The Los Angeles Times called. Jay Leno made a joke about it on national TV.
Vox Magazine, November 2017
In 1986, Missouri lawmakers announced who mattered most to the state. To keep its brightest students, they decided they would create a scholarship fund measuring who was worthy by how well they did on high school tests. They were fighting what they call “brain drain” by funneling cash into the state’s most academically astute and trying to persuade them to attend local colleges, graduate and grow the economy.
Vermont Digger, July 2017
Scott Morley climbed a set of fire escape steps to the second story of the Coventry Community Center, slid through a window and dropped to the floor.
The scene was worse than he expected. Cat feces caked the carpeting. Cat hair hung in clumps on bookshelves and swivel chairs. Ammonia burned Morley’s eyes as two feral cats burst across the hall and raced into another room.
Unpublished; reported and written Spring 2018
Further in the cave, the glow of daylight disappeared and Alvey-Mudd and Shafer scanned their headlamps up and down the limestone walls searching for bats. They dragged themselves on padded knees through a passage that flashed with thousands of green and gold lights — dew-clad cave fungus, the native kind, and also some fools gold refracting the headlamps — but no bats. They crawled above a stream where salamander larvae, miniature white shrimp and leopard-printed pickerel frogs swam in cold, clear water, and they ducked their heads to avoid a bat hanging from the ceiling. Shafer added it to her tally.
As they pushed deeper, Alvey-Mudd thought out loud.
She saw several bats stuffed in a crack.
“They’re like playdoh.”
She saw another bat hanging from the ceiling.
“Nope. His nose looks good.”
But now, in a crater above her head, she spotted three bats: tri colored. Their fur shined silver like tinsel: condensation. Alvey-Mudd didn’t need her thermometer to know these bats were warmer than they should be. Something had disturbed their sleep.
Unpublished; reported and written Fall 2013
ALASKA-CANADA BOARDER — I knelt in my driver seat with my feet out the door and leaned into the back so I could scrape with a file at my candy-cane-painted, Remington 870, pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun. On a clipboard in the passenger seat sat a Royal Canadian Mounted Police form. I needed the gun’s 8-digit code to pass into Canada. But I didn’t know the code because it was hidden behind red, white and blue acrylic stripes.
Three minutes passed.
The file snapped.
Behind me on the building are dark double doors. I want to look at them to know when the two officer inside will walk through. But looking would be suspicious, and my suspicion would be seen in the black-hooded cameras on the grey wall above my car.
(NOTE: Dan did not write this condescending headline)
The Fairbanks Daily News Miner, December 2012 (Originally published in The Peninsula Clarion, which lost the story, but not before it was syndicated by the AP.)
SOLDOTNA, ALASKA — The sun was still a few hours above the horizon, and a cold wind started to blow from Petco across the Fred Meyer parking lot. People in thick jackets filed over the pavement, compelled by Christmas errands.
“Yankee!” Dave Waldal yelled for his dog. “Get your (butt) over here!”