On oil and rocks
By Doug Hare EBS Staff
After graduating high school, Jack Clinton decided to move from the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut, to northwest Wyoming where he found refuge in the ski- and climbing-bum lifestyle. During those formative years, he worked odd jobs and befriended many of the eccentrics, itinerates, dreamers, seekers and madmen that comprise those who relentlessly seek out mountain adventure.
After eight years of researching gravity in and around the Tetons, and finding the solace and sanctuary of the backcountry, he decided to go back to study at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Eventually earning a bachelor’s in English and master’s in Spanish, he soon began a career as a teacher.
Having dabbled as a freelance writer covering environmental news during his time as a student, he eventually came up with the idea for a novel while on a hike with his future wife after finding a piece of Clovis, a distinctive spearhead relic from the Paleo-Indian culture that many scholars believe hunted mammoths and giant bison more than 11,000 years ago.
This January, 19 years later, the now 60-year-old, Red Lodge, Montana-based Spanish teacher has published an impressive debut novel, “Clovis,” in which the experiences of his youth and the characters he met during his Wyoming days are transmogrified into a riveting social and environmental exploration of the New West.
Told from the point of view of a working crew of anthropologists and archeologists tasked with approving the path of the fictional CanAm gas pipeline, and most of whom go mountaineering on their days off, “Clovis” is topical in the way that it takes a deeper look into the various competing interests, but also the lives of the people, involved in deciding the fate of our nation’s public lands.
The characters are authentic, their personal struggles and interactions nuanced, and their sexual liaisons always unpredictable. At the center of the novel is the unassuming heroine Hanna, a vegetarian archaeologist and avid runner trying to navigate her way in the rough-and-tumble, misogynistic world of petroleum companies and vast expanses of unforgiving terrain.
Circling back time and again to the image of the prehistoric spearhead, this book’s imaginative exploration of the history of the Clovis people and their unique stone tool provide a backdrop for a stark depiction of the struggles, as well as the beauty and joy to be found in modern day Rocky Mountain deserts, prairies, basins and peaks.
“Clovis” succeeds as a subtle reexamination of the true value of friendships, love, artifacts and pristine wilderness areas in the modern West.
Doug Hare is the Distribution Director for Outlaw Partners. He studied philosophy and American literature at Princeton and Harvard universities.