It is Ray Hodges’ first year to help Jim Winters guiding elk hunts. At fourteen, he has a camper and a dog of his own, but many seasons will pass before he can attain Jim’s single-minded awareness of the hunt and its demands. Along with lessons about horse-minding and setting camp, Ray is learning to discern the beauty of a land that fosters him and to appreciate the pace of its slow change.
In By Way of Passing, Falke explores “memories of a land and a youth” that cannot be saved. “Nothing,” as Jim Winters says, “can be saved,” but the story itself aspires to save this land and this youth, and proves the worth of that aspiration. Even as Ray learns beauty, it escapes him. Even as Jim lingers over the ritual of caring for his animals and tack, they are passing. He is passing. But the inevitability of that passage only intensifies our need for a story like this, a story in which the call of land and youth and beauty cannot adequately be answered, but can resoundingly be heard.