Blowin’ smoke

Father’s Day. Sparks Marina. Sitting in a low-back beach chair half-reading Wallace Stegner’s Wolf Willow: “The world is very large, the sky even larger, and you are very small.”

My kid said: “Looks like the Reno Hilton is on fire.”

I looked up. Smoke from what would be called the Martis Fire filled the sky, a voluminous plume rising from the southwest. By late afternoon Tuesday, almost 13,000 acres would burn, threatening homes west of Reno. But we didn’t know that yet.

“I hope it’s not Tahoe,” The Weatherdude, aka my husband, said. “If it’s Tahoe, they’re going to have real problems.”

They hiked off to get a better view. I returned to Stegner: “But the world is also flat, empty, nearly abstract … “

I heard a snatch of conversation from the beach blanket to my right.

“It’s the environmentalists that have to save every frickin’ tree,” a youngish guy tells his girl. “They’re against every controlled burn. They don’t know jack about managing forests. If they let the loggers manage ’em, there wouldn’t be frickin’ fires. And there’d be a hell of a lot more timber.”

In a way, he’s right. Forest fires don’t rage quite the same through barren wastelands.

Stegner: “ … And in its flatness you are a challenging upright thing, as sudden as an exclamation mark, as enigmatic as a question mark.”

During the 2001 Nevada Legislature, if you wanted to ask a question of a wired lawmaker, e-mail came in handy. But it wasn’t something you could count on. It’s hard to answer dozens of e-mails a day. So it was understandable if a state senator didn’t get back to me for a few days.

Sure, if I really need some comment or clarification, I can almost always finagle a way to get a response. I will call you at 6:15 a.m. at home if I have to.

Last week, though, I received my favorite legislative response.

Back in mid-March, with a deadline fast approaching, I hammered out a brief e-mail to Sen. Randolph Townsend (R-Reno). I wrote: “Sen. Townsend, I’m working on a story about Sierra Pacific’s recent rate hike. I’d like to do a simple explanation of the issue for readers, since the whole deregulation thing is mystifying to many. I wondered if you’d have a few minutes to talk—or if you’d be able to answer a couple of questions via e-mail today?”

Here’s the response I received—91 days later:

“I received your e-mail message, but … I have been unable to personally respond to individual concerns. I do want you to know that I have reviewed each e-mail message, and that I took your views into consideration. As a legislator, I must weigh each and every piece of legislation that comes before me and evaluate all sides of a given issue.”

A friend of mine had better luck getting a quick response. When e-expressing views to Sen. Maurice Washington (R-Sparks) in mid-session, my friend received a response in a head-spinning two days. Here’s the exact text of Washington’s message: "Thank you for your e-mail, I well take your comments under consecration. Maurice."