Virginians for The Virginian

Hey, Virg!We stayed in a funky little cabin at this resort in Winthrop, Washington, several nights ago:

The Virginian

There were Gideon Bibles in every room, but not a single copy of The Virginian, or even a videotape of any one of the numerous movies based on the book. Winthrop earns its place in literary history by somehow inspiring the novel that supposedly gave birth to the Western genre. When I suggested that motel guests might enjoy passing idle motel moments thumbing a copy of the very book that gave the cabin complex its name, the proprietor gave me a somewhat blank and bemused stare. But if you care to send a threadbare thriftstore copy to stock the motel library, I’m sure they wouldn’t object. Or, since they offer wifi, you can read it here while slouching on a springshot naugahyde sofabed:

The Virginian Online

Winthrop is currently swathed in smoke from the 100,000 acre Tripod Fire and everything came home smelling like a campfire. Conveniently, there is a smoke-jumper base situated right outside town, somewhere past the also-convenient Sullivan Cemetary, where many of the grave markers are etched with images of their occupants heading off into pristine mountains on horseback, a vision of the afterlife which I find more evocative than most.

In the evening, the town fills with smoke jumpers eating ice cream. We drove out to the Electrical Co-op and parked there in the night to watch the fires burning on the far side of a near ridge, until we started to worry we had attracted the attention of suspicious locals who parked nearby as if to keep an eye on us. Later I thought they were probably, like us, watching the fire. It is a constant presence above the town, a preoccupation as well as an actual occupation for many of Winthrop’s residents.

And the smoke has followed us home. We saw a burnt sienna pall above the mountains East of Monroe yesterday.