Passion Below Zero

Passion Below Zero is out of print but used copies can still be found on Amazon.

When this nature column started over 20 years ago in the Post Register (Idaho Falls), of the four authors tasked with it, there was one writer who stood out with prose that caused me fits of jealousy and excited me at the same time. His name was David Hays and he was the owner and editor of the Island Park Bugle, a weekly publication that reflected his style: "The picture in my head was a turn of the century newspaper, non-mean spirited, somewhere between cute and quaint.”

 His quality of writing is something I have always strived for in this column. His writing style was impossible to mimic but I have always tried to create prose equal to but different than his. I have seldom succeeded in even approaching his talent for turning a phrase.

After moving to Island Park, I discovered that David Hays had written a book about his life in Island Park (a collection of 88 essays from the Island Park Bugle). He was such an interesting character that many long-time residents still remembered him fondly years after his death in 1999, and I determined to read this book in my first year there. I scored an Amazon triumph, finding a used copy of his out-of-print book, Passion Below Zero, Essays from Last Chance Idaho, (1995, Lost River Press) and began to read.

Hays’ style was at once adventurous, lively and, well, occasionally a bit mad, or at least puzzling. His free-wheeling pen seemed to lasso words at random, splashing them onto the page in prose that delighted and occasionally confused, using words in unique combinations. For example, “I home on a good half-acre at the end of an old road that sneaks off through the trees like an evening deer, off of an even older quiet road, near but not on the river, the Henry's Fork, the splendid main artery of an old volcano.”  Sometimes I had to re-read a phrase to catch its meaning and more than once I was left a bit baffled at his word associations. But I loved it, and his passion for Island Park enveloped me like river mist. I was hooked.

Hays, a former professor with a PhD in cultural anthropology, worked and lived in a one room cabin without running water and where daylight and winter wind could sift between the cracks in the uninsulated walls and floor. It was, by almost any standard, an unconventional life, and perhaps that led to the uncommon clarity of thought, wit and wisdom that are braided through each essay.  

 Every page was full of gems worthy of remembering but I was loath to do much underscoring.  I wasn’t sure just how difficult it would be to get an additional copy and I didn’t want to highlight something today only to have it distract me from a different passage on a future reading.

Passion Below Zero is a great read from a mind that definitely did not color between the lines. I am torn what to do with my copy. I know a neighbor who was friends with David and would love to read the book. He may get it next. I may then donate it to the Island Park library if they don’t have several copies already. But first, I think I will read it again, something I haven’t done with a book since I was a kid.

Hays passed away shortly after he started to write for the Post Register, an unfortunate fact that likely has kept me, instead of him, writing this Nature column. I could have never competed with his prose, wit and wisdom.


Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho

TAX DAY is coming! Here is a chance to do something good with a bit of your tax return and make the day less painful.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf. You can donate any amount you wish, it all helps to support the wildlife you love.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.