In the age of (ahem) an overabundance of the written word, One way to protect your reading time is to limit yourself to reading the good stuff. The really good stuff.

I’ve got a recommendation. I first met Elizabeth Royte when we were both writing about the bottled water industry (she wrote the excellent, award-winningBottlemania).

Royte’s superpower as a writer is that she knows how weave a detailed picture from small details without ever losing sight of her subject matter — a technique fully on display in her recently published article about the impacts of the fracking boom on small towns:

An hour passed, and I went outside to pace. The sidewalk was smoky, of course, and music wafted from the two strip clubs uphill from the train station, which sat on a rotary at the dead end of Main Street. In this merry atmosphere I chatted with itinerant oilfield workers and locals, visiting grandmothers, and the loquacious stationmaster, who told me the Empire Builder’s on-time rate, the previous month, was 0 percent. There was track work, of course, and conflicts with freight trains, but also collisions with trucks carrying oil, gravel, sand, water, and chemicals. The trucks were driven by exhausted young men servicing drill sites and fracking operations. (Developing a single fracking well involves forcing millions of gallons of water, laced with chemicals and sand, down boreholes that stretch for miles. The pressure cracks the shale, releasing oil and chemically polluted water. The liquids and other equipment are hauled in and out in trucks — thousands a day for every well under development.)

A racket up the street drew my attention. The stationmaster and I watched, slightly amused, as a drunk staggered from one of the strip clubs to his jacked-up truck. Screaming obscenities at an invisible enemy, he flopped backward out his pick-up door onto the pavement, and tried again to mount his own cab. After three attempts, he achieved the driver’s seat and began furiously revving his V-8 engine.

“Watch out if he gets it in gear,” the stationmaster said. “Sometimes the drunks don’t make it around this turn” — meaning the rotary in front of her station.

Almost as if on cue, the truck lurched, its tires squealed, and the sidewalk loiterers, including me, scattered like chickens. The pickup hurtled down Main Street, gathered speed, jumped the curb, and smashed head-on into the Amtrak building. “What did I tell you?” the stationmaster said, flinging her cigarette to the street in disgust. “Now I’ve gotta fill out a police report.”

It would be easy to let the drunk driver make her point for her, but Royte wraps up the incident — and says far more about the impact of the mining boom — by finishing with the stationmaster’s disgusted, cynical response.

You can follow Elizabeth Royte’s blog here.

Royte website

A site worth reading.

Keep writing (and reading the good stuff), Tom Chandler.