cover image Out Here on Our Own: An Oral History of an American Boomtown

Out Here on Our Own: An Oral History of an American Boomtown

J.J. Anselmi. Bison, $21.95 trade paper (198p) ISBN 978-1-4962-3232-8

Journalist and musician Anselmi (Doomed to Fail) presents an evocative portrait of Rock Springs, Wyo., the “wind-worn mining town” where he grew up. Stitching together contemporary interviews and excerpts from historical documents, Anselmi traces the community’s boom-bust cycle from 1850, when a survey party discovered coal in the region, to the present day. During Rock Spring’s “most notorious boom,” in the 1970s, the town was flooded with prostitutes, heavy drugs, and illegal gambling. A sharp downturn in the 1980s and ’90s contributed to the town’s high suicide rates (“I think the wind ends up being the last straw for people,” says Anselmi’s father. “It changes your brain chemistry”), while the hydraulic fracking boom in the early 2000s brought meth, OxyContin, and widespread sexual harassment. Many of the stories gathered here have the sharp yet dreamy quality of fiction: one former resident recalls standing in a Walmart parking lot and blankly staring at a “little red car” as it drove into oncoming traffic “until it exploded parts all over the freeway after it slammed head-on into one semi, and then the several semis it was driving next to.” By turns affectionate, mournful, embittered, and proud, this is an exceptional account of life in a boomtown. Photos. (Oct.)