Idaho Arts Quarterly » Reading Idaho

The good times are all gone now

Julie Whitesel Weston (University of Oklahoma Press)

by

There is a section of I-90 between Missoula and Spokane where the speed limit is too fast for the road. At the posted 70 mph, you careen along the elevated highway past the mining town of Kellogg. From the skid-marks to the denuded hillsides, recklessness is clearly part of the landscape here. For years, miners feverishly scraped tons of silver and lead from the surrounding mountainsides and released toxic chemicals into the air and water, resulting in a present-day Superfund site.

Yet, Kellogg is also the home of people, and this is what Julie Whitesel Weston's The Good Times are All Gone Now is about. Part memoir and part history, Weston provides a complicated reflection on Kellogg's last 100 years. Through mining disasters and strikes, Kellogg looked after its own, but not after the land. Weston also explores her relationship with her father, everyone's favorite doctor and drinking buddy, and her own fearsome tyrant.

Weston allows us to meet the human side of Kellogg outside the context of its environmental legacy. For some readers, this will be a chance to wax nostalgic about Kellogg's good times. Others might like to find a little more dirt.