6/11 Idaho Magazine Features - "The Demons of Boulder Lake" (non-fiction)

Daniel Claar - Idaho's Premier Backcountry Writer

Winner - Idaho Magazine Publisher's Choice Award 2010
"The Proper Filter"

Winner - Idaho Magazine Judge's Choice Award 2011
"Where the River Leads"

"Hot Spring Break "

"Stampede! "

"Seeing Things"
Winner - Idaho Magazine Second Place 2011

Friday, January 29, 2010


Today in Idaho
I saw the Statue of Liberty
Trying to get my attention
At an intersection and
Offering to do some work
On my behalf

She waved her sign
And smiled for passing cars
While the other hand
Held a vanilla ice cream cone

On the heels of
A state of the union address
Where half the room
Turned to stone
Like victims of the
Gorgon’s gaze
It seemed like
An omen
A prognostication
Something imperative
But I could not determine
What any of it meant

Felt like a mixed signal
At best
And as I drove off
I watched that symbol
Turned saleswoman
Get smaller and smaller
In my mirror
Until she may as well
Have never existed at all

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Math

Maybe it is
A simple game of numbers
Shaping these
Seemingly callous theories

When I think about
A thousand noble snow leopards
Clinging to not only to their
Diminishing hunting grounds
But their very existence
In the face of
A billion screaming
Short-sighted savages
I have no choice
But to side with the
Least common denominator
The cry unheard above the din

Of course
By adding math to the equation
I try to distance myself
From the ugly truth
Of having never seen a lazy
Cruel and addicted
Child molesting wild cat
Wallowing in its own filth
While attempting to unload
An infinity of self loathing
On the rest of the world

I can pretend
It is nothing more
Than a combination
Of ones and zeroes
In some unseen ledger
If that makes me seem
More human
But more often than not
We justify the sum
Of my solution

Friday, January 22, 2010

Never Too Late

     “Cougar,” Allen whispers. “Two o’clock.”

     Stanley has his back to the new bartender but already knows which woman the young man is talking about. Every Thursday afternoon, for almost three years, she had stopped by for a few drinks. As always, he had noticed her walk in from the sunlit stairwell and across his dark and smoky basement bar. Stanley lets out a barely audible sigh, looks over his shoulder and says, “Beth is out of your league.”

     Allen reacts with one raised eyebrow. “Beth, huh? Care to make it interesting? The older gals be lovin’ some hockey star action.”

     Stanley doesn’t respond right away. The kid is good looking in the All-American sense, tall, broad-shouldered, a head-full of thick blond hair, and possessing the confident body language of a man still in his prime. He may have only bounced around between minor league teams, but Stanley has little doubt Allen experienced his share of luck with the ladies.

     “Former hockey star,” says Stanley, “and I’m not gonna take your money.” He pours a stiff Jack Daniels and Coke and sets it on the bar. “Here, take this to her… work your magic if you have to.”

     Allen picks up the drink and runs a hand through his curly hair. “Don’t mind if I do.”

     Stanley watches the young man saunter across the room to a small table in the bar’s most shadowed corner. Allen is right, Beth is physically stunning. Stanley had always thought so; a natural raven-haired beauty nearly six feet tall, lithe as a dancer with creamy skin untouched by make-up. Nobody would guess she was pushing the half-century mark save for the laugh lines burrowing around her mouth. Ironic, Stanley thought, it wasn’t until she had stopped laughing altogether that he even noticed them.

     Despite her elegant features, Beth is dressed in simple blue jeans and violet t-shirt revealing sculpted biceps and the jagged points of several tribal tattoos. He remembers seeing those tattoos for the first time over a dozen years ago when it seemed she always wore a snug black tank-top. She would pump quarters into the juke box for hours, buy drinks for complete strangers, dance with unimaginable sensuality, and her howling laughter filled the room. Stanley missed her laugh most and the intoxicating affect it always had on his patrons.

     In those days, there was no such thing as a bad night when she and Travis were drinking at the Boar’s Head. During his own brief marriage to Beth’s closest friend, they had teamed up with the intrepid couple for several backpacking trips. Listening to Beth and Travis tell stories, and watching them operate in the wilderness, was like going back in time to live amongst the local Kootenai tribe, or so he always imagined. The four of them became good friends over time and those expeditions were the fondest memories of Stanley’s life.

     Stanley watches as Allen places the drink on her table and leans in a bit closer to say something. He finds himself wishing the young man will succeed where others always failed. Stealing glances at the two of them while wiping water drops from a clean pint glass, Stanley feels something tugging at his subconscious, a sudden, desperate need to see her smile; something he hadn’t witnessed in over three years. He knew Beth blamed herself for what happened because the Salmon River float had been her idea. Stanley remembers her child-like excitement when describing the walls of whitewater her and Travis were about to run.

     Despite his wishes, Beth’s reaction to Allen is no different than it is with everyone. She stares off into space, barely nodding as he speaks as if Allen is no more substantial than a whispering ghost. Despite her dream-like state, she swallows half the Jack and Coke in one gulp and smacks the glass down on the table hard enough to spill a few drops of the dark liquid.

     Allen walks back to the bar with a look on his face somewhere between amusement and concern. “Okaaaay,” he says. “That was interesting.”

     “Told ya’,’ Stanley says while pouring a draft Budweiser for a portly, red-cheeked customer in a hunting vest. The customer takes his drink, tosses three one-dollar bills on the counter and sits back down at a table with two other similarly dressed men.

     Allen smiles, warming back up after his initial strike-out, “It’s nothing my friend, Jack, can’t take care of here in a bit.”

     Stanley shakes his head. “She can put down an entire bottle and you still won’t have a chance.”

     As usual, seeing Beth brings back demons of his own. Their situations were different, but Stanley liked to believe he understood at least some of what she had been through. In that sense, he felt protective of her. One night, Stanley had nearly caved in a customer’s skull with the Louisville Slugger he kept behind the bar.

     An obscenely drunk patron had been hovering over her table, broadcasting his load, obnoxious pick-up lines for the whole bar to hear. Stanley was walking up behind the guy, with the club in hand, when he saw her pull a large folding knife out of her pocket. Without looking at her harasser, she began to clean her fingernails with the long blade. The man walked away in mid sentence, his face draining white. The casual hostility radiating from her presence had convinced both Stanley and the drunk somebody was about to get killed.

     “Look man, I’m no quitter,” Allen says smiling once again. “Besides, what’s the worst that can happen? I go to bed alone tonight?”

     Stanley turns away from Allen, wincing involuntarily as a memory of his ex-wife bubbles to the surface. Her warm body beneath the covers and the most comfortable sleep he ever had lost in an instant; a slammed door never to be re-opened. “Is there anything worse than going to bed alone?”

     Allen laughs in his easy-going manner. “I can think of a lot of things. Ever been knocked out with one punch and lose three teeth?” Stanley doesn’t respond knowing Allen wouldn’t understand, but he would gladly take that punch and a thousand more if he could change one night of his own past. Instead, he pours another Jack and Coke.

     “Here, she’s done with the first,” Stanley says. “Take her another, champ. Keep it civil.”

     Allen winks at Stanley, grabs the drink and walks back to the Beth’s table. Again, he sets the drink down and begins talking. Stanley can’t hear the words, but he sees the young man’s easy smile and relaxed confidence. Once more, Stanley finds himself hoping Beth will offer something more than her usual terse replies. The result is the same, except this time, when he returns to the bar, Allen is clearly irritated.

     “Damn, is that bitch stuck-up or what?”

     Before he knows what he is doing, Stanley is in Allen’s face, staring venomously into the taller man’s eyes. Tapping Allen’s chest with one index finger, Stanley hisses, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know her at all. When have you ever experienced real love… real loss?”

     Out of the corner of his eye, Stanley catches a glimpse of himself in the antique mirror behind the bar. He looks old, tired, and almost comical jabbing his finger into the chest of the much bigger man. His brain flashes a familiar warning image of hockey players pulling opponent’s jerseys half-way over their heads and beating them mercilessly. Instead, Allen raises his hands in a calming gesture. “Whoa, dude. Sorry. I wasn’t trying to piss you off or anything. Look, I need this job, alright.”

     Stanley wishes he could shut his mouth but instead his voice gets louder. “Yeah, you need this job. Everybody needs something, right?”

     Stanley knows Allen doesn’t deserve his anger, but waves of pent up emotion and guilt are suddenly tearing holes through his facade and he can’t stop the flood. For years, he had wanted to tell Beth how sorry he was, but the timing always seemed so wrong. Besides, there was no reason for Beth to forgive him, let alone accept his useless apologies. Nothing he said could bring anyone back.

     “They did more for me and my bar than I ever could have. And you know what, she didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t her fault!” Stanley catches his breath with one quick intake and continues ranting. “I had a choice once. Hell, I had everything and threw it away in one stupid, selfish moment, but she never did. She didn’t deserve that for one second! Travis didn’t deserve it either”

     Stanley is acutely aware the handful of afternoon customers are focused on their exchange and part of him wishes he could drop through the floor, out of sight forever. Beth, after hearing her husband’s name, is looking at Stanley as if she recognizes him for the first time in years. Stanley continues his tirade, wishing more than anything he could stop.

     “How would you like to watch your husband drown knowing you couldn’t do a damn thing? Goddammit!” Stanley smacks his hand down on the bar hard enough to leave his palm stinging. “Never mind… forget it. In my bar, you show some respect, understand?”

     Allen shrinks slightly beneath the verbal onslaught, while in the corner, over the young man’s shoulder, Stanley watches Beth finish her drink and place a ten dollar bill on the table. She walks to the exit, places a hand on the door and then pauses. She looks back at Stanley for just a moment. The last thing he sees before Beth disappears into the sunlight is a brief, clear flash of her crystalline blue eyes and the tiniest of grins threatening the corners of her mouth.

     Allen places his big hands on Stanley’s shoulder and stares into his intense gaze with an equally forceful look of compassion, “Look, I am really sorry, ok? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t know, but I’m sorry.”

     Stanley cuts the young man off in mid-sentence, feeling suddenly mortified by the silence in the room and the customer’s eyes upon them. He steps away from Allen’s grasp and begins walking towards the storage room where nobody will be able to see him. He feels the water welling in his eyes. “No, I’m the one who’s sorry,” Stanley whispers. “I needed to say that a long time ago.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Four More Wars (11/9/2004)

Had a chance
Just the other day
A chance to learn
From the same mistake
The same mistake
We always make
Day after day after day

Hate to ask
But I have to
What did you buy
That made you
Take a devil
We already knew
Through and through and through

Are you ready to kill
To make a rich man richer
Are you ready to die
To watch his pockets grow deeper

Four more wars
Are you ready now
Four more wars
Get your hate on
Four more wars
Four more wars

Got a war on drugs and
On the freaks
War on the water and
On the trees
War on the poor
So easy to beat
Down and down and down

Soon they'll start
The war with you
On the white side now
But just wait a few
You have something they want
You know that you do
So true and true and true

Are you ready to kill
To make a rich man richer
Are you ready to die
To watch his pockets grow deeper
Four more wars
Are you ready now
Four more wars
Get your hate on
Four more wars
Four more wars

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Photographic Memories

So many moments
I have failed to immortalize
Because my outlook
Tends to run bleak
Seems unfair
I should bust out the chisel
When moments refuse
To make sense
Because sometimes
Stars do align

I remember a winter scene
On a river
And the golden eagle
Floating above our naked winter
Hot spring soak
Recall howling wolves
Outside our tent door
While we trembled in ecstasy

Then there was
The leaping bobcat
And Sally's backseat
The adrenaline rush
And throbbing after pulse
Of a mountain goat stampede
And who would believe
But you

You were there
In the only memories
I seem to shake loose
Like I can't remember any
Moments before

Dog Tags

Fought for my stripes
Prowling the stage and
In those lights
I was supposed to be
A gaunt and pale
Axe-wielding soldier
Fronting a pack
Of salivating devil dogs
Back from Hell to preach
The evils of war
On every front imaginable
I could never shake
The hypocrite
The blood lust
The abomination
In my rear-view mirror
Always much closer
Than it seemed

In truth
I have amplified
A death wish on
Humanity's inhumanities
For so long now
It would be obscene
To pretend
I have any interest
In saving somebody

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You Aren't Helping

In the aftermath of a movie
Capturing worldwide imagination
Religious leaders issue warnings
About a love of the natural world
Clouding judgment and
Replacing our rightful devotion
Of course
They know a good story
Is more rewarding than truth

How do they separate the creation
From the deity
Is it acceptable to trash his art galleries
Vandalize his museums and
Poison his gardens
As long as we have faith
He will welcome us
Into his mansion one day

Why let something seen
Touched and smelled
Something living and breathing
Recycling energy for billions of years
Affect your conviction
In a latter day mission statement

Robes are suits toeing company lines
Focusing on fiscal projections and
Drawing imbecilic barriers
In a dune-shifting desert
While justifying a death march
Against the Mother
Who actually births and sustains us

Remember your own tale of Eden
Why encourage anyone
To turn their back on such an ideology
Was that not intended to be the
Creator’s idea of heaven right here on Earth
Why fight an unsoiled virgin rebirth
Unless it has something to do with the fact
Pagans would run shameless and naked
Without pockets to pilfer

Monday, January 11, 2010

It Was So Beautiful I Had To Kill It

You have some audacity
Speaking to me about conservation
Or preaching a love of wilderness
When your relationship is obviously
That of an abusive spouse

You do not care
You do not commune
You do nothing
Unmotivated by self-serving greed

When screaming down
Dirt trails and snow packed roads
Straddling your mechanical monsters
What exactly are you trying to appreciate

All you hear is the howl of engines
All you smell is black exhaust
You see nothing of the wild turkeys
Red fox and snowshoe hare
Left terrorized in your wake
You care nothing for the lichen and fern
Shredded beneath your tires
You think little of the solace
Sought by an endangered few
Who actually understand
Our place in this web

You are lazy and loud
Brutish and ignorant
Ugly and predictably human

Do not lie to me about your love
Of mountains
Rivers and forests
We both know
You are only out here
Because your own backyard
Is not big enough and
Because your neighbors will not tolerate
Such destruction
In the one place
I would be hard-pressed
To even notice

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dead Eyes Don't Close Like What You See In Movies

Caught a snapshot of strangers
Huddled on the edge of chaos
A power pole vigil
Replacing withered roses and
Wiping mud splatters from a million tires
Off photographs of a smiling teenager
Holding her wide-eyed infant

Shouldn’t this ceremony occur
Somewhere beyond the blast
of angry honks and zombie eyes
Where manicured lawns
Are dotted with elegant stone reminders
Where flowers wilt undisturbed

Shouldn’t this family be blessed
With the fragrance of cherry blossoms
Instead of burnt rubber and exhaust

Think about the odds

A final breath in the arms
Of familiar faces
Comforting hands
Calm whispered words
A life wrapped up and
Tucked in white sheets with quiet dignity

What percent of life is afforded such luxury

It is the cosmic lottery winners
Who aren’t slain and devoured
Starved to death
Stepped on
Skeletonized by hideous disease
Shot to pieces or
Simply part of every season’s mass execution

The survivors just get to deal
With the unseemly location
And timing of someone’s daughter
Plastered around the steering wheel
Of a mini-van
On some random Tuesday night

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glutton For Punishment

Ten years
Since my pen last touched
This maddening slate

Between blackened ankles
And swollen knees
Spent five years courting
A halfway respectable game
Of street ball
Before signing up for
Five years of slinging axe
And shredding throat
In a halfway decent band

Did I learn something last decade?
Have we
Learned anything?

Never thick to begin with
Long since
Pulled up a rocking chair
And draped a shotgun
Across our lap
Friends and lovers still burn
Like oil across the ocean
Preachers still lie
Liars still preach
They both become politicians
The impending brink
Is within arm’s reach
And we never stop grasping
At fuses

On the other hand
Walked by a homeless guy
Chatting on a cell phone
Wouldn’t have seen that
Ten years ago
Surely there is some comfort
In the progress we take

Monday, January 4, 2010


I do not expect her to look back
But I whistle anyway
Leaning out of my truck
Like a lust ravaged teen

What can I say?

She is my first
And you never forget
The first

She stops
All grace and attitude
And in an instant
Ten thousand years
Of glowing eyes around campfires
Nightmare fabrications
Poison bait
Steel jaws
Relentless fear
And genocide
Pass between us
A crystalline barbaric understanding

I want to apologize
For those hunting her
For those hating her
For the collar she wears

I feel compromised
Like her
Hemmed in
Dodging bullets and
Cars on highways

While the world shrinks
Around our gaze
I realize
The places we hide
Have always been
Just more places to die

Never Look Them In The Eye

Worse than knowing
The situation was my fault
Worse than patiently
Lining up a head shot
While you crashed
Around the cage
Worse than pulling the trigger
And watching your life
Curl up in a fetal position
While a final ragged breath
Escaped the lungs

Was a look of recognition
And relief
In your eyes
When I first found you
In the trap

Because of our history
You were certain
I was there to set you free
Or at least
Slip some banana chips
Through the cell bars

All in all
Just another haunting
I willfully
Take to my grave
Because you
Never had a choice