A debut memoir recounts an assortment of personal tales.
Life, as some view it, is just an accumulation of days, each an adventure (and story) of its own. That’s certainly how McFarland presents his life in this episodic book, each chapter concentrating on a day in which something eventful happened: “The Day We Sparked A Riot In Fargo North Dakota”; “The Day We Lost Ten Grand At The Hollywood Sign”; “The Day They Tried To Kill Us In Arkansas.” Four of his tales relate to his time after college working for the Forest Service in the woods of northern Idaho, which included roping a bear to a railroad tie (only to have the animal climb a tree, the tie dangling beneath it) and dragging a cement mixer up the side of a mountain. Later experiences involved the author fishing for sharks in his underwear in the waters off Trinidad, running with the bulls in Pamplona (“What I remember most was the screaming”), taking a “multi-thousand”-mile detour on a road trip with a spider monkey in the car, and hitching a ride on a plane at a snowed-in airfield in North Dakota that nearly crashed as soon as it took off. Perhaps most notably, there was the time that the author was helping to produce a country music TV special in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where his wife was supposedly hit on by none other than Johnny Cash. (When McFarland asked her about it, she said, guilelessly, “Who’s Johnny Cash?”) What did the author learn from all this? It’s hard to say. As he writes in his first chapter, “Life is a delightful…storm of random events, most of which are stumbled into, make little sense and teach Life Lessons in the same way one learns from getting hit with a board.”
McFarland’s prose is colorful and conversational, filled with sharp details and wonderfully evocative asides: “My bunk mates were an eclectic bunch…among others, a Nez Perce kid who swore he was related to Chief Joseph (related or not, he had both a lazy grin and a cousin scarred from hairline to chin who staggered in one night, produced a rifle and announced he was going to kill us all).” These are stories for a hotel bar or around the campfire, barely altered from the oral format in which they undoubtedly originally existed. Some pieces work better than others, and these tend to be those from the author’s younger days traveling across the American West in search of work, love, or good times. As with all big fish tales, there’s a certain amount of exaggeration and self-mythologizing. McFarland and his companions often come across as a bit larger-than-life, and there is more than a little self-satisfaction discernible in the author’s tone. But these elements are inherent to the genre, and the right readers (perhaps of a certain generation) should thoroughly enjoy these feats of boldness, chaos, wit, and luck.
A collection of anecdotes in the classic sense: happenings meant to thrill and entertain.