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Other Writers On Dirt Work
"Christine Byl has been summering on trail crews for more than a decade and a half. A first-rate storyteller, she details the techniques and tools, and the spirit of fellowship and feel of the woods. If you love getting into the back country, or even if you're an armchair backpacker as I am now at age eighty, you'll love Dirt Work.”
--William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky and The Nature of Generosity
"Here is a love story that encompasses wild country, skillful labor, hand tools, crusty workmates, and lingo formal and foul. As a woman, and a small one at that, the author must persuade the males on her crews that she can more than hold her own at hiking, trail-building, and swearing. She begins by convincing the man who becomes her husband, and ends by convincing the reader. You'll find plenty to relish here, in a narrative that's gritty, witty, and wise."
--Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Conservationist Manifesto
"Every denizen of wild places from Laotse to St. Francis to Rachel Carson to black bears to field mice has depended upon trails. But rarely have we considered the people, tools, or toil that lay our favorite trails down. Dirt Work is a spectacular correction of this omission. Imbued with a tough-minded, ribald reverence for honest labor that brings to mind a female Gary Snyder or Wendell Berry (if you can imagine that!), Christine Byl does epic justice to the whole-bodied satisfactions that come of staying out in the weather, staying alert, and working one’s ass off for others with love, tenacity and skill."
--David James Duncan, author of The River Why and Sun House
“In Dirt Work, Christine Byl describes life as a traildog, which is to say, life lived as a verb. As a laborer on trail crews, she learned to use the right tools to brush, blast, hew, and smooth the paths that so many of us follow into the woods. As a writer, she uses story itself as a tool, wielding language both gritty and graceful as she considers the meanings of work, labor, job, vocation, usefulness, purpose. Nothing is romanticized, yet Byl is never stingy with her recognition of the mysteries and pleasures of wildness and community, toil and leisure. This is not a world of groomed nature, inert tools, or nostalgic rituals, but a vibrant landscape inhabited by people and animals and layered by idea and history. As she learns her way through the wildlands of Alaska and the West, we encounter trail bosses, trail crews, swampers, sawyers, packers, cooks, and cowboys, people who are ornery, kind, irreverent, patient, confident, overconfident, vulnerable, and strong—just as she is. She means this book as a love song, she writes, and it is, not only from her to her fellow laborers, but from the mind to the body, the hand to the tool, the human to the wild."
--Sherry Simpson, author of The Accidental Explorer: Wayfinding in Alaska