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Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier

Miles from Nowhere: Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier

5.0 2
by Dayton Duncan

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A perceptive and engaging observer, Duncan ( Out West: An American Journey ) set out in 1990 aboard the GMC Suburban truck he dubbed the Conestoga to describe life in several vast, underpopulated Western counties ``where a land-hungry nation nibbled but lost its normal appetite.'' Duncan is no questing William Least Heat Moon or quirky Ian Frazier, but he ably melds history and reportage: as in the past, the schoolteacher and the rancher are the frontier couple. Although most frontier dwellers approach a cowboy stereotype, Duncan meets New Agers in Colorado's Saguache County; he notes a parallel to the days of the old frontier, when land was also marketed to people on the basis of dreams. Yet he also finds modernity, ``the first commuters' gold rush,'' in Nevada, and regularly tracks the ``irreducible minimum''--establishments a county can't function without--citing hairdressers and video rental stores. He concludes with a reasoned rebuke to the academics who argue that economic, climatic and social distress will depopulate these regions. ``They have overlooked the irreducible minimum,'' he argues, claiming that sparsely settled places may undergo difficult adjustments but will persist. (May)
Library Journal
Duncan traveled more than 30,000 miles of what he calls the contemporary American frontier, which consists of the 132 counties within 14 Western states that have fewer than two persons per square mile. For readers living in mainstream America, Duncan's tales sound like a report from a foreign country or a different time period. The strength of the book is in the accounts of people he meets in the nearly uninhabited--and sometimes nearly uninhabitable--regions. The residents are fiercely independent survivors who spend most of their lives battling the elements, yet they possess a deep love and respect for their surroundings. The same frontier spirit epitomized by the fur trappers and gold seekers of the late 1800s is alive and well, and Duncan, through his observations, descriptions, and characters, brings it back to life. This vastly entertaining and eye-opening reading experience is recommended for most collections.-- Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editoral Svces., Wondervu, Col.
Duncan (a writer, no university affiliation) explored the American West, focusing on those counties with fewer than two people per square mile. He sketches the people he encountered, including ranchers in the Nebraska sandhills, a New Mexico bar owner, a priest and UPS driver along the Texas-Mexico border, and the descendent of a Seminole Negro army scout in west Texas. He also describes the communities they belong to, and the geography of the areas where they live. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Roland Wulbert
Hot on the heels of Jim Lilliefors' fascinating account of the loneliest road in America, "Route 50" , comes this exploration of America's contemporary frontier--counties with fewer than two persons per square mile, which is the census definition of a frontier. Duncan's journey commemorates the centennial of historian Frederick Jackson Turner's claim that American institutions issued from the encounter of civilization and savagery on the frontier. Turner's thesis weathers the test of time better than his conviction that the frontier was a thing of the past. Today 132 frontier counties--13 percent of the nation's contiguous landmass--are scattered through 14 western states, in such areas as the deserts of Utah, Nevada, and southeastern Oregon; Texas' panhandle; Nebraska's Sand Hills; Death Valley, California; Idaho's River of No Return region, and the Great Plains of Montana. Duncan recounts the surviving frontier's history (incidents including Billy the Kid's career and that of Fort Sumner, America's first concentration camp) and through interviews takes us as close as we can in reality come to a trip backwards in time.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
20.00(w) x 20.00(h) x 20.00(d)

Meet 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.

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't really like Duncan's 'Out West', a book about Lewis and Clark, but this book is great. He goes to unusual places, meets freaks, weirdos, and regular people, and gives some historical insight but he doesn't allow historical accounts to constitute half the book. He also includes plenty of pictures and maps. There are few, if any anecdotes that appear meaningless or uninteresting. I wish I had gone with him on this trip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago