Cover image for Population-- 485 : meeting your neighbors one siren at a time
Title:
Population-- 485 : meeting your neighbors one siren at a time
Author:
Perry, Michael, 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
x, 234 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780060198527
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Call Number
Material Type
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Status
Central Library PS3566.E7135 P6 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Central Library PS3566.E7135 P6 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Hamburg Library PS3566.E7135 P6 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

Mike Perry's extraordinary and thoughtful account of meeting the people of his small hometown by joining the fire and rescue team was a breakout hit that "swells with unadorned heroism" (USA Today)

Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin (population: 485) where the local vigilante is a farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Michael Perry loves this place. He grew up here, and now-after a decade away-he has returned.

Unable to polka or repair his own pickup, his farm-boy hands gone soft after years of writing, Mike figures the best way to regain his credibility is to join the volunteer fire department. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, he tells a frequently comic tale leavened with moments of heartbreaking delicacy and searing tragedy.

Tracing his calls on a map in the little firehouse, he sees "a dense, benevolent web, spun one frantic zigzag at a time" from which the story of a tiny town emerges.


Author Notes

Michael Perry is a writer and a humorist. He has written three best selling memoirs and his work has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Backpacker, Outside, and Salon.com.

Perry was born in rural Wisconsin. He has spent many years as a volunteer firefighter. The majority of his writing discusses his farming background and life lessons. He was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Perry's books include Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace (2012); Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting (2009); Truck: A Love Story (2006); Off Main Street: Brainstormers, Prophets, and Gatemouth's Gator (2005); Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time (2002); Big Rigs, Elvis & the Grand Dragon Wayne (1999); and Why They Killed Big Boy (1996).

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Being a volunteer EMT is no small challenge, even in a town as small as New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry mixes his tales of heroic rescues with his stories of small-town life. His book opens with his team attempting to rescue a teenage girl from a disastrous car wreck on a dangerous bend of road. As part of the volunteer fire department, Perry--along with his brother and mother--pulls people from mangled cars and answers 911 calls from critically ill people. He also relates how New Auburn got its name (after going through three others), and shares the lives of his fellow volunteers, such as Beagle, a man who can't use the town's only gas station because both of his ex-wives work there. He details the technicalities of being a volunteer--the many terminologies one needs to memorize, and also crucial, life-saving techniques, such as CPR and controlling a house fire by puncturing a hole in its roof. Tragic at times, funny at others, Perry's memoir will appeal to anyone curious about small-town life. --Kristine Huntley


Publisher's Weekly Review

When writer Perry returned to his tiny childhood town, New Auburn, Wisc., after 12 years away, he joined the village' s volunteer fire and rescue department. Six years later, he' d begun to understand at last that to truly live in a place, you must give your life to that place. These charming, discursive essays are loosely structured around the calls Perry responds to as a volunteer EMT, including everything from a collision at the local Laundromat to heart attacks, fires and suicides. Perry' s mosaic of smalltown life also paints charming portraits of the town' s memorable characters, such as the One-Eyed Beagle, another firefighter. Perry' s insights into the small-town mentality come from apparent contemplation, and he writes about them with good humor, in prose reminiscent of Rick Bragg' s: The old man says he had a woozy spell, and so he took some nitroglycerin pills. This is like saying you had high blood pressure so you did your taxes. In spite of an enormous surprise in the final chapter, the book' s lack of central conflict leaves it feeling desultory, like a collection of good magazine pieces rather than a propulsive chronicle of quirky small-towners la John Berendt' s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Still, there are moments in which Perry achieves an unforced lyricism: Rescue work is like jazz. Improvisation based on fundamentals. (Oct. 11) Forecast: A blurb from Michael Korda himself a recent aficionado of small-town living and the current hoopla surrounding volunteer firemen and EMT workers will attract buyers to Perry' s celebration of Middle America. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Population: 485 Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time Chapter One Jabowski's Corner We are in trouble down here. There is blood in the dirt. We have made our call for help. Now we look to the sky. Summer here comes on like a zaftig hippie chick, jazzed on chlorophyll and flinging fistfuls of butterflies to the sun. The swamps grow spongy and pungent. Standing water goes warm and soupy, clotted with frog eggs and twitching with larvae. Along the ditches, heron-legged stalks of canary grass shoot six feet high and unfurl seed plumes. In the fields, the clover pops its blooms and corn trembles for the sky. If you were approaching from the sky, you would see farmland neatly delineated by tilled squares and irrigated circles. The forests, mostly hardwoods and new-growth pine, butt up against fields, terminating abruptly, squared off at fence lines. The swamps and wetlands, on the other hand, respect no such boundaries, and simply meander the lay of the land, spreading organically in fecund hundred-acre stains. The whole works is done up in an infinite palette of greens. There is a road below, a slim strip of county two-lane, where the faded blacktop runs east-west, then bends -- at Jabowski's Corner -- like an elbow. In the crook of the elbow, right in the space where you would cradle a baby, is a clot of people. My mother is there, and my sister, and several volunteer firefighters, and I have just joined them, and we are all on our knees, kneeling in a ring around a young girl who has been horribly injured in a car wreck. She is crying out, and we are doing what we can, but she feels death pressing at her chest. She tells us this, and we deny it, tell her no, no, help is on the way. I do my writing in a tiny bedroom overlooking Main Street in the village of New Auburn, Wisconsin. Population: 485. Eleven streets. One four-legged silver water tower. Seasons here are extreme. We complain about the heat and brag about the cold. Summer is for stock cars and softball. Winter is for Friday-night fish fries. And snowmobiles. After a good blizzard, you'll hear their Doppler snarl all through the dark, and down at the bar, sleds will outnumber cars. In the surrounding countryside, farmsteads with little red barns have been pretty much kicked in the head, replaced with monster dairies, turkey sheds, and vinyl-sided prefabs. The farmers who came to town to grind feed and grumble in the café have faded away. The grand old buildings are gone. There is a sense of decline. Or worse, of dormancy in the wake of decline. But we are not dead here. We still have our Friday-night football games. Polka dances. Bowling. If you know who to ask, you can still get yourself some moonshine, although methamphetamine has become the favored homebrew. Every day, the village dogs howl at the train that rumbles through town, and I like to think they are echoing their ancestors, howling at that first train when it stopped here in 1883. Maybe that's all you need to know about this town -- the train doesn't stop here anymore. Mostly I write at night, when most of this wee town -- except for the one-man night shift at the plastics factory, and the most dedicated drinkers, and the mothers with colicky babies, and the odd insomniac widower, and the young couples tossing and turning over charge card balances and home pregnancy tests -- is asleep. This is my hometown, and in these early hours, when time is gathering itself, I can kill the lights, crack the blinds, and, looking down on Main Street, see the ghost of my teenage self, snake-dancing beneath the streetlight, celebrating some football game twenty years gone. I was a farm boy then, rarely in town for anything other than school activities. I didn't see Main Street unless I was in a parade or on a school bus. But now Main Street is in my front yard. On a May evening nineteen years ago I walked out of the school gym in a blue gown and left this place. Now I have returned, to a house I remember only from the perspective of a school bus seat. In a place from the past, I am looking for a place in the present. This, as they say, is where my roots are. The trick is in reattaching. About a month after I moved back, I dropped by the monthly meeting of the volunteer fire department. The New Auburn fire department was formed in 1905. The little village was just thirty years old, but it had already seen its share of change. The sawmill that spawned the settlement ran out of pine trees and shut down before the turn of the century. Forests gave way to farmland and New Auburn became a potato shipping center. Large, hutlike charcoal kilns sprang up beside the rail depot. In time, the village has been home to a wagon wheel factory, a brick factory, and a pickle factory. There was always something coming and going. But then, in 1974, the state converted the two lanes of Highway 53 to four lanes and routed them west of town, and the coming and going pretty much went. We have a gas station, two cafés, a couple of bars, and a handful of small businesses, but the closest thing to industry is the plastics factory, which employs two men per shift, rolling plastic pellets into plastic picnic table covers. Most of the steady work, the good-paying stuff, is thirty or forty miles away. During the day, the streets are still. It is from this shallow pool that the community must skim its firefighters. If we get a fire call during a weekday, we are likely to have more fire trucks than volunteer firefighters to drive them. During that first meeting, a motion was made and seconded to consider my application as a member. The motion carried on a voice vote, and I was admitted on probationary status. After the meeting concluded, the chief led me to the truck bay. He is a stout man, burly but friendly. By day he dispatches freight trucks. "Try on these boots," he said. "We've got a helmet around here somewhere." Someone handed me a stiff pair of old fire pants -- bunkers, they're called. A farmer in a bar jacket showed me how to shift the pumper, his cigarette a sing-along dot dancing from word to word. That was it. I was now a member of the NAAFD -- the New Auburn Area Fire Department. Population: 485 Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time . Copyright © by Michael Perry. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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