“I worked on US Forest Service and BLM fire crews from the mid-1970s to early 1980s, until my career ended abruptly after an injury. Devastating. Forced to rebuild my life, I ended up in college and earned both an undergraduate and masters degree. Life continued to be challenging, and in 2005, I again found myself rebuilding my life. Was this easy? No way. I had to tap into a strength I didn't know I had to survive.
In 2010 I decided to write a memoir about my life as a woman on a fire crew, and the subsequent events that changed my life forever. My book, Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love, and Courage, published with Bedazzled Ink Publishing in May 2018.
When working on my book, I created a blog about my journey in the writing and publishing world and wrote posts about women who were 'firsts' in achievements, as well as those working in men's fields. How delightful to have women contact me to express their appreciation for my entering the firefighting world early on, with many of them telling me how very difficult it must have been back then--more so than now. However, once we connected, I discovered (and soon learned by reading of your challenges, too) that things are not better for women on fire crews now, but much worse! While I faced sexist comments and innuendos, outright discrimination and the holding back of career advancement, I don't remember hearing about any women who were sexually assaulted. It could be they were too scared to speak up, but to be honest, I don't think men were that brave back then. Why haven't things gotten better? I have some thoughts on that.” - Linda
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Speaker 1: 0:02
Having jobs like this, even if it's just to put you through college, it makes you a different person and so many art creates character that not many people have.
Speaker 2: 0:10
Oh, I agree. I agree. And the camaraderie know when you've got people, the naysayers and the difficult people behind the ones that want the ones that were there that you worked well with, and then you had that you felt like part of a team. You don't get that anywhere else, and you get to know people good or bad.
Speaker 1: 0:32
You're listening to her brotherhood. I'm your host, Abby ball. And this is where we celebrate women who put their lives on the line. Now to support the show, which I would really appreciate. If you did, you can check out the show notes or visit me at her brotherhood calm. Author, Linda straighter shares with us how she came to writing a memoir about her time in wildland fire from Arizona to Alaska. Little did she know that she was one of very few women in 1973. And a huge weight was placed on her shoulders by a federal agency. Linda shares beautiful memories and then she lets us know what she learned when it comes to writing your life story and how she managed to capture the attention of an agent and a publisher. I hope you enjoy the interview. Today I am here with author and former firefighter Linda straighter who's in Arizona. Hello, Linda. Hello, happy Nice. Yeah, so nice. To see how exciting that we can do an interview from afar and especially exciting right now because of Coronavirus. So we are doing our social distancing and utilizing our digital skills. Yep, it's a great world flat. So tell me that, you know, I reached out to you I've we've seen each other online. And I was really intrigued by your past one because you have a past as a wildland firefighter. But you went and you wrote about it. That is so amazing. Tell me what led you into being an author?
Speaker 2: 2:13
Well, you know, it's kind of interesting. I never don't think I've ever written my life. Up to up until I started writing my book was a thesis for my master's degree. I mean, I've never had any creative writing or anything. And so what happened was, is that I was going through a really rough time. So I, I ended my 23 year marriage, having a secure job thinking I will be fine, I can do this, I can get out on my own, I'll be fine. And then I probably lost my job. Oh, wow. And then three months later, my mom died. And so I was feeling pretty lost. And I started looking to the past because I just needed an escape. I needed an escape, because I just didn't know what what's gonna happen today for the future. So I started just thought, Well, you know, I really enjoyed my firefighting days, or my pirate career was, that was everything to me. And I thought maybe I should just write down some of the things that happened. In case I forget, I mean, I did keep very detailed journal. So I had that, but I thought maybe I would try to write it down, like an essay format, or, or something, something more creative. And once I got started, I really had really, really got involved with it. And I wrote that 90 pages. And I shared it with a few friends. And they said, wow, you know, this is really this is pretty interesting. Maybe you should add, you know, a little bit more in between your firefighting and when you know, it's what you did during the winter months, and maybe a little more detail. Yeah, okay, I could do that. So 400 pages later, I realized, Oh, I think I have a book. Wow, it just all of a sudden started flowing out. Well, yeah, I got started. And then. So I wrote a book before I knew how to write one. And I knew that you know, and I didn't know that was any good. So I started thinking, well, now I need to get if I'm really going to do this, I need to get serious about that. So I actually connected with some fellow authors in my community and I joined a writers group and I also met someone online. I was doing some writing about my landscaping, my knowledge about plants just earn a little bit of money. So I met somebody who she saw we connected on this website that it was an online magazine and we connected on this online magazine she's and she started telling me what I really love plants. So it's really interesting what you write about. I really liked your articles and it turns out she listened to some so we get to talking and and I told her about what I was writing and she's that sounds really interesting because I'm a retired English teacher. You're specializing in creative writing. I'd love to see it. Okay. I sent it to her. She said, Yeah, with a little work this, I think this is really good. Fast forward five years later of brutal hard work. I started looking for an agent. And eventually I found a publisher. And yeah,
Speaker 1: 5:23
that is great. Man collaborating over plants. And next thing, you know, you're writing a book of your life. That's pretty cool.
Speaker 2: 5:30
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was just Yes, it was totally unexpected. Now, this is where this was going to go. And and, and the more I worked on it, the more I realized what happened to me was unusual that I turned out, I realized that I was very, very early in the forest service as a woman on a fire crew. That surprised me. I didn't know that although the federal woman's program appeared in 76, when I first started, and I was kind of wondering, so what's that all about? So they were telling us stuff? Yeah, we're trying to get women to feel more comfortable in jobs, you know, working with men. There, they were recognizing there were issues. Like we had assertiveness training, and I was like, What in the world and
Speaker 1: 6:12
this is a this is in the late 70s. Then when this you were saying 76 is when you started? And so you started seeing this kind of kind of training and to you you were a little baffled by it. Yeah, I
Speaker 2: 6:23
mean, I just had no idea. I mean, when I walked into the job, and how I got the job was really unusual women, and it wasn't like, I jumped about being a firefighter all my life, I kind of fell into that job and really loved my work. And I thought and I and I never for a moment wondered if I was going to be accepted. I just figured, well, I'll just do my best and what more can you do? Certainly, you know, that won't be a problem. And I had a wake up call home really easy.
Speaker 1: 6:52
Yeah. And now Where were you located? When you first started? Where was that?
Speaker 2: 6:56
It was in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson, and I know Dallas Ranger District. Cornetto National Forest. And it was a crew of 10. And I was the only woman. Yeah, and I didn't think anything up until and I didn't think anything else. You know, they teased me and I get the you know, women belong barefoot pregnant and in the kitchen. I just laughed mom. Yeah, well, I know I can do this. Because I am doing jobs we had. My first fire was two weeks. Right. So what was right after training, we had two weeks of training, and we got a fire. So I found out very quickly what it was all about. This is fun. Let's do this again. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 7:34
I mean, what's crazy is, especially in jobs like this, the reason why so much of this stuff goes unsaid is we love the job so much. Like I've always talked about like my first year, there were some guys on there, their goal was to see if they can make me cry every day. And I wasn't gonna let it happen. I just that was like, I'm like, Nope, I'm not gonna fall for that. I love this too much. And so I was able to see past that because I loved the work. And yeah, that wasn't just, that wasn't gonna happen.
Speaker 2: 8:01
Yeah. And when and that's the thing is when you love what you do, it took me a little while because the harder they made it for me, the more I was determined to study,
Speaker 1: 8:09
right? Because I know the more you're buying a job, the more things you let go by, because you want to focus on the good.
Speaker 2: 8:15
Well, yeah, yeah. Because it's like, well, you know, but I want this job. So I'm just going to have to put up with this
Speaker 1: 8:20
now. So your first year, you're winning, and you got started. And so it was already kind of been challenging. And like, how did it go? Did you decided no, I'm coming back, like, tell me a little bit about your first few years progression.
Speaker 2: 8:33
My first summer was was 76. And it was it wasn't until and I thought other than the few guys that gave me a hard time, you know. And I would just ignore them. They I just call them chauvinist pigs and whatnot. And a lot of the guys seem to accept me. So I thought that I was doing fine. I mean, it took a while to get my supervisors confidence. But, you know, he would often tell me, you know, you're in good hands, you know, you're doing fine. So that gave me the confidence that my supervisors, they can do science, to heck with those other guys, man, I don't care. And I went through the whole summer very naively thinking that I was part of the crew. Yeah. And it wasn't until the end of summer it was I think it was late September that they, they sent us off to a federal woman's program meeting. And it was a three day workshop. And the end of the workshop, the woman that was in charge said, I'm going to send you all back to work. And I want you to interview the guys who work with an ask them what they think of women on fire crews. And yeah, yeah. So I'm thinking, Oh, this will be easy. Other than the few guys that give me a hard time about what everybody else yeah, accepts me and likes me and, and, and you know, he'll be fine. And out of the 37 women in that meeting, only three were firefighters. Wow. And I remember thinking wow, you're including me. economical Sofia. So I went back to the station thinking, oh, I've got this. Yeah, this is gonna be really, it's gonna be kind of fun. So I interviewed the guys one on one. And by the time I was done, I was just done and, and thought, now what am I going to do? Because they were very open. It sounds like they were very open to do don't belong here. Wow. And some of it
Speaker 1: 10:22
honestly, that was a taste of honesty that it's like we're not allowed to have any more. And I wish we could because you know, people are afraid to share their honest opinion, because they know they're going to end up in a complaint about it. Because I know there's a lot of people that would share some things we don't want to hear right now. If if that fear wasn't there. So it's interesting to hear that unfiltered feedback you're getting.
Speaker 2: 10:41
Oh, and it completely caught me off guard. I felt like a complete I felt like such an idiot for not catching this. How did you live? And to be as close to someone there was a couple of the guys is because they were worried that you're going to get hurt, we don't want you to get hurt. And then we think oh, well, we all know the risks, you know, and I'm willing to take the risk as a cop out. I don't want you to worry about me. I can take care of myself. Don't worry about me so so it wasn't all you know, you don't belong because you're a woman. Some of it was because they were just worried I was gonna get hurt. But what a rude awakening. So we had to go back to another meeting to report what we found out. And I remember telling the woman that was running the meeting, how stunned I was to get the results that I got. And I still have those results and know exactly what everybody said cuz I still have them in the box. That's awesome. Those of you fun to publish. Amazing. So after I shared that with her, she's what what are you going to do? And I said, Well, I lost my job. I know they want me to quit, but I'm not going to quit. So I went back the next summer. And that was the summer 77, which was one of the worst fire seasons in recent history. Some of the guys didn't. Didn't come back after that. It was too hard on Oh, wow.
Speaker 1: 11:52
Yeah. So they washed. They couldn't handle it. And so I'm looking at your book cover here and the picture of you on the lower left with smokey, just vision because I love to have a vision of like what it was you looked like back then, you know, what was your? What were people's impression of you you're? Well, I can't say that you're tall. Because you're sitting next to smokey, he's Whitehall. But just getting a vision of you. You're a beautiful young woman, you look fit you. I mean, you were just a really great woman, you can see and it looks like that you fit into me nowadays, it looks like man, she fits in right there. But when my focus comes back out to that 30,000 foot level and remembers what year it was, and how rare it was to be a woman in there. I can't imagine what it actually felt like once you started getting these sorts of feedback from people.
Speaker 2: 12:38
Yeah, you know, and it was when I read my journal entries, and I have one that actually ended up in the book. After that, you know, everybody told me their honest opinion. And I thought there's danger. I mean, there could be something could go wrong in any line of work. There's some kind of risk in anything that you do. And I said, and I want to do this. And I actually wondered, should I quit? And I thought no, no, no, no, I don't want
Speaker 1: 13:04
to do it did the thoughts of quitting? Was it ever because of the job? Or was it because of the culture?
Speaker 2: 13:08
It was because of the culture was because they made me feel unwanted? I mean, you know, here I mean, yeah, they've been the only one. Yeah, they flirted with me too. And it was an I felt accepted. I they fooled me. They made me think that they wanted me there. And then when I asked them for question without right, they're like, Well, no, actually, we don't. What I felt so betrayed was after after that experience, I changed. When I went back the next summer, I was looking at everybody like, Oh, yeah, you say one thing, but what do you really mean? Yeah, cuz
Speaker 1: 13:44
it's so great. You got that transparency. So pain fallen, and life changing. And, you know, a lot of people get that kind of feedback, just never that direct, you know, they get it from little nuances where you have that feeling. You're like, I know, he doesn't want me here. And they don't say it up front. And you had that and they're telling you that so I can't imagine. So what was the so you're saying they, you know, then they're like, Okay, well, what's your feedback? What was the whole purpose of this women's group thing? Like, besides making it way worse on you, which that's what that kind of action does, you know, what was there? What were they going to do about it?
Speaker 2: 14:18
Well, see, so this is something that I was asking this question of myself currently, because I was thinking, I wonder why that came up. I mean, I still have my notes from that federal woman's program. And there was all kinds of, you know, exercises, you know, like I said, assertiveness training, and there was we did some role playing for catastrophes, you know, like, you know, there's a major fire and you get lost or you get separated from your group or you have to make you know, we did a lot of role playing of you ever have challenging situations to and even though there was only three firefighters out of the 37
Speaker 1: 14:54
everybody, you're doing this role playing for you women, not for everybody else, it was just for you know, Just
Speaker 2: 15:00
Yeah, just just in the woman's group. Wow. So when I was working on my book, I thought, hmm, I'm really curious because I remembered the name of the facilitator and he was Jan Coyle. And so I googled Dan Coyle, federal woman's program, 1976, boom, popped up. And I thought, interesting. She was a college student. And she was writing a paper. And so I think that's where that interview came in. She was doing some kind of statistical,
Speaker 1: 15:28
she was doing her research for a paper. Yeah, you guys were getting paid. And
Speaker 2: 15:33
so I found it so easily. That I thought, Wow, well, that's pretty cool. I'll have to see if I can find her. Well, they didn't book market. And you know, I've never been able to find it again. Oh, wow. Yeah, I was so disappointed. I've tried several times, rewarding it anything like possible way. I even contacted the federal women's program, which is kind of still there. And I couldn't get anybody
Speaker 1: 15:58
to respond. They wiped it. They're like, this is filled with lawsuits. Let's get rid of people to see that history.
Speaker 2: 16:07
Oh, yeah. So I think that that's what that was about. I think the other part was just part of it was the fourth service was worried about women now entering men's roles. And there was there were problems. So that program came about because of that to help women fit in and teach them what to do when they're confronted, we learned all about the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and how to file a complaint if we were discriminated against and what discrimination looked like and what it meant, what our opportunities were, what we could do about it. So we learned all of that. And I think that I use
Speaker 1: 16:41
that I appreciate and I liked what they were doing. And then you know, some of it is like you were saying, I thought I belonged here. I thought it was great here, and then they point out all this stuff, and you're like, Oh, wait, maybe maybe I don't maybe I do need to be offended about this or that. But they taught you you know that stuff. And so I think that is good, what they were doing it just anytime that we take women and we focus on them so hard in ways like that, that it's such a dance, like if we're not careful, we're immediately shooting every woman in the foot. Because you're bringing that attention to it. And then all the guys are like, oh, here's another woman thing.
You know, so it's a delicate balance.
Speaker 2: 17:17
Oh, yeah. And that's it. She I think it was was the same summer I think it was they actually sent someone down from the district office to we're going to have a sensitivity training meeting. And I was thinking, Oh, give me a break. Like, like, Oh, you can tell guys, you need to be more sensitive. And they'll say, Oh, okay.
Speaker 1: 17:38
I can't we just have how not to be an ass meeting like
Speaker 2: 17:43
that. Yeah, I remember. I wrote it down. I said, It ended up being a bitch session about all the reasons why we were killed. And the final kind of was what a bunch of whiny asshole. See?
Speaker 1: 17:58
Exactly that's they needed the anti asshole meeting. That's Yeah, and they go, they go exactly like that. Now, all those meetings are the same. They turn into huge bitch Sessions is everybody has a better way to form their opinions. They don't get in trouble.
Speaker 2: 18:11
It was pretty interesting. And I continued to work that station for three. And it didn't really want to lease but it wasn't going well.
Speaker 1: 18:21
Did you feel like it would would be better somewhere else? Like just there was a problem?
Speaker 2: 18:25
Why? So that's where we the ranger station, and we got laid off early in 78. It was a very wet summer. And they laid us off in July. Three, but that's crazy. Yeah. But then they were like, yikes, you know, so they had transfers available. And one of the transfers was up to the Santa Catalina district on the Catalina hotshot crew. I applied for that. I was told and there was trail crew positions open. So I applied for the hot shots. And I was told they don't hire women. You can't do that. And I really thought they couldn't do that.
Speaker 1: 19:04
I went through the training dammit.
Speaker 2: 19:06
Yeah. So So I took the trail position. Not really sure what I should do about I took the trail position. And when I got up there, I was talking to another woman that I was going to be working with on the trail crew. She was on teletech that summer and teletext was very short. So she was already done with teletech. And she and I told her what happened. And she said, Really? Did you want to go up and talk to the dfmo? And because I can't believe that that's true. I mean, they really said that. Hi, Anna. Well, you know, maybe maybe they misunderstood. You know, maybe I got it all wrong, right? You immediately Oh, I went up to the office and sat down with asml. And he looked at me and I said, you know I'm confused. I have the most fire experience than all the seasonals at Flo Rida. And yet you hired someone that only had one season over me I have three on the hotshot crew. So I'm just kind of wondering what's going on. I mean, I've been I was actually really surprised that I even get that out. Yeah. Because the guy just staring at me, right? And he said, the left because we don't hire women on that chat group. Oh, really? And I said, Wait a minute, I can't do that. looked at me. And he says, so what are you going to do about it? Wow. I'm sitting there thinking in his book, do you want the trail position or not? And I said, Okay, I'll, I'll take it. And then I was driving back to my quarters. I was thinking, that's discrimination.
Speaker 1: 20:39
Yeah, you'ren training. I know. Now, that's not okay. Yeah,
Speaker 2: 20:42
I can't do that. So I, I let it go for the summer. And at the end of the summer, I thought about and I'd said, I'm gonna file an EEO complaint. Yep. That's what I'm gonna do. Yeah. So I did that. And of course, they told me, oh, this is free from repercussions, and it's totally so protected, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like,
Yeah, okay, fine. You know, and, and it was about two months later that I got a letter from them saying that he denied ever saying such a thing to me. He said, it was the two of us in the room, you know, I let it go. And that was a year later. When I was I actually stopped working for the cornado after that, and I got sick of it. And I wouldn't, I was working on the Coconino. And my supervisor up there told me that I'd been blacklisted Surprise, surprise.
Speaker 1: 21:27
Yeah. I kept running into some serious honesty, though. You I mean, to be Yeah, you know, it's kind of great, in a way, because you were actually hearing what people were thinking. Nowadays, you don't get to hear it. You just know that it's happening.
Speaker 2: 24:40
Yeah. And when they told me that, and then I was at that point, I was done with the Forest Service, even though I wanted that job or news in the world. I've had enough. I've had enough. So I applied for a job with BLM and Alaska. And I got it and thought maybe BLM will be better. But yeah, I had just gotten off the plane. And I walked into the office, my first day of work, and my supervisor looked at me says you need to cut your hair. And I looked into it. Now I'm about to explode. Walk. And I and I like I said, I always because my hair was very long. And I said I always braid it and pin it up on my head while I'm at work. And he says, well, it doesn't matter. It's a fire hazard. And so I'm looking at this guy with big bushy beard and shoulder length hair. Oh my gosh. And he's telling me to cut my hair and I'm not cutting my hair.
Speaker 1: 22:25
Do you even have a grooming standard that he presented to you? Or you just felt this way?
Speaker 2: 22:29
No, he just told me that he just said it. I said I'm not. And I was thinking well, I guess we're going back to Arizona. Right? Yeah, another list. I'm black Don. Cool. Yeah, but he didn't say anything more. He just we let it be let it drop. But
Speaker 1: 22:42
he probably really thought you might go do it.
Speaker 2: 22:44
Oh, he probably did not question that. He probably figured I'd feel intimidated. And I would just go do it because I wanted to or you thought it might make
Speaker 1: 22:51
you quit? Because you don't want to cut your hair? Yeah. See, this is the kind of stuff you know, people are like, wow, that really happened or people did that? I can't imagine. Yes, it did happen. This stuff does happen. It's you know, it's unless you've actually witnessed it, observed it or felt it yourself. You don't realize it and so I don't blame a lot of people because they are naive because they haven't seen it. First Person. But yeah, this stuff happens. Yeah, all over the place.
Speaker 2: 23:17
And a lot of times it my book cogs has I have young women in my in my life, you know, maybe 20s I even had book signings, you know, 14 year olds come up to me and ask me what it was like, and and when I tell them they took me, really they wouldn't let you work there.
Speaker 1: 23:33
Right. They can't imagine. Yeah, I get can you get that both? We get girl some gals nowadays, we do have them to where they're understanding that they can do anything. And then we have the young ladies who are like, Oh, I didn't know girls could do that. We still have that happening.
Speaker 2: 23:47
While there's that. And I've had, I've had women say to me, Well, how could you possibly handle that kind of work? And I said, because it's not all about strength, physical strength, right. And it's interesting how I've I've had women actually against me doing the work because they look at me and say, Well, I don't want to work around my husband. Oh, yeah, that's, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I got that too. Yeah, the woman hated married woman hated me working around their husbands.
Speaker 1: 24:14
Yeah. Wow. I so besides all of this frustrating reality, and agency bashing and hating him, like all his, you know, I don't mean to make it like into that. But I'd like to talk the realities. And I like to think that these federal agencies have improved and I had so sweet that you thought if you went from the forest service to the BLM that you thought it would be man. I mean, it's still federal agencies, the same fire culture, it's really, you know, one agency may jump ahead and behind each other and some things that they're doing, but that's all gonna usually be be about the same. So let's put all of that stuff aside and talk about more of the stories that you share and your adventures and and you know, what really makes this enticing because that's what's funny is we start telling these stories. And to us, it's just, it's our life. Like, we don't even think that It's fine or cool or whatever, you know, my mom will start. Oh, have you tell me tell him about that one time that this happened. I'm like, What? Oh, yeah, that was such a great story that and I'm like, Oh, it was, you know, I just don't really see it that way or my mother will remember things I shared with her. And I don't even remember. I'm like, oh, and I told you about that, you know? And she's like, Oh, yeah, it was so exciting. And I'm like, I was just a normal day at work. So, you know, what are some of the things you share in your book?
Speaker 2: 25:21
I would say, Well, my, my first fire was really interesting, because no one was prepared. We just finished training. And it was only it was the end of May. And we didn't think it was fire season yet. Yes. And so when we got the call, I was the only one at the station. Everybody else lived in Tucson, or had gone home for the weekend or whatever. So I was the only one that was actually available. And my supervisor was there. And so he had to call someone that lived nearby and he came over and then we got someone from Tucson. So I spent most of the first hour an hour and a half. After we got the phone call. I was sitting in the office thinking, isn't this supposed to be an emergency? I was supposed to be gone by now. If I could go, please. Nobody was fired. Yeah, let's go. Let's go. So when we finally get going, that's when I got that wake up call. If you know, this is this is the real thing. I saw the smoke. And I thought, wow, that's not that's not drill. That's not a smoke bomb. Because we had a couple of those. That was a surreal thing. So it was just the three of us at first. And we wrote up in a four wheel drive, getting as close as we could. And then we had the hike. So we got our fire packs on, got our tools and everything. And then we split up when the fire whisperer up. So Scott went one way. And Joe and I went the other way. And he told him, let's start building line, and we'll try to meet at the bottom. So we're working away and we've got our fire packs on and they were bulky and uncomfortable. And every time I'd lean over, you know, it would swing around and, you know, come on my shoulder and pain so it doesn't work. We just don't whine. Let's leave our packs here so we can work easier. And so we set up packs down, and we're busy working away and working away and all of a sudden, I'm looking, I look up and he's looking behind us. And I'm trying to figure out what was he looking at and I'm looking I'm looking to see what he's looking at. And he finally says, oh there go our pack. Oh my god. I saw. He said you sat him down. Yeah, so my first thought the holy so funny. My first thought was what is their animals dragging them away? And then I realized, Oh, you mean they're on fire? Oh my god. Oh, hell. And unfortunately, our canteens are in them. Right. So all of our water burned up
Speaker 1: 27:37
in your fire. So fire shelter. So this is pre fire shelter. Okay, gotcha. Yes. For leaving their shelters behind.
Speaker 2: 27:45
Yeah, no. So no fire shelter. So we lost. Yeah, we've you know, but the big thing was our canteens melted. So we're like, Okay, this is great. So we worked for hours and hours and hours without water. I've never been so thirsty in my entire life. And that was a hard lesson learned. I'll tell you. I never see I can't tell that story without needing a drink of water. So I need to drink and do it. And I never ever ever put my water in my fire path again. It was always tied to me.
Speaker 1: 28:14
Oh, yeah. I bet never sat down again. I'm sure. Yeah. So that was amazing how much weight and firefighters will carry around just in water. You know? Because six quarts. Yeah. That's your lifeline. Yep.
Speaker 2: 28:25
Yep. Yep. Yep. So that was Yeah, that was an introduction. But it's still, it's still didn't stop me from wanting to do it again. I mean, that was sure to our muscles, blister dams. All of those things. But I thought of myself.
Speaker 1: 28:37
Yeah, at the end of the day, when you're dirty and sore and tired. There's just a feeling of accomplishment that comes with that, that it's hard to explain. Yep. And especially when you're doing it for this reason. It's one thing to be like working in a farm field and having that kind of tired, where you're just doing the same thing day in, day out day in, day out. But when you're when you're doing something like this, where you really don't know what the day is going to bring or what the next hour is going to bring. It just feels good.
Speaker 2: 28:59
Yeah, it was always a good kind of sore. It was like, I actually did I put fire out? Wow. I mean, yeah, I did that. I can do this. And I would I would impress myself on a regular basis. I can do that. That's sent a lot of people can't
Speaker 1: 29:14
A lot of us, man, when you can feel that in yourself. You're impressed with yourself.
Speaker 2: 29:18
Yeah. And so one the guy could, you know, would harass me about what you can't do this. And I'm like, but I'm doing it. And when they would say this, I would immediately say, Well, I am doing it. We're living in it. And we're gonna do it again tomorrow. Yeah. And it's not like anybody carried my gear for me or dug my fireline for me or nobody. I wouldn't let anybody help me do anything. I could do it myself.
Speaker 1: 29:41
Yeah, I always have real hard ass about that for a very long time. Like I didn't ever if somebody would offer Hey, you want me to grab that for you? Or you want help with that? I was always like, nope, nope, nope. Because I never wanted to be like, Oh, yeah, I need your help. Come on, because I'm a girl. And then oh, no, that would have gotten around right when I was always I would never accept it. I wouldn't let them open my door, I wouldn't let them you know, if I we had to rip something and go get something to stand on top of to get it, I would. And then finally, the older I got and the further down, you know, send me like, I'd be like, Hey, can you grab that? You know, not because I knew I could do it. So that wasn't the problem anymore. I wasn't having to prove myself anymore. I just needed to employ and, you know, delegate some things out. But until you get to that point, it does hold you back from delegation to as a leader because you feel like relegating as weakness at it at one point. So it's hard and it's hard to get there, people don't realize that you're you are trying to prove yourself, prove to everyone that you belong there. And it can be exhausting.
Speaker 2: 30:35
And I had to do that every every single job I ever had, I had to prove myself, it got old. Some people came back, and sometimes seasonals would back on and they already knew I could do it. But then we'd get to new people. And they'd be looking at me like is when are you doing here? It's like, Fine, whatever, I knew that they would change their mind.
Speaker 1: 30:57
Yeah, you mentioned to like, the wives didn't like you, the girlfriends, all this stuff. And what always cracked me up about that which I had to do some serious call outs at one point where, you know, women be chattering and there'd be the Mean Girls. And finally, I was at an end of the season party. And I tell this story all the time, because I remember it like it was yesterday. And we were all hanging out in this barbecue. And one of them was brazen enough to come up and say something about it, you know, and make you know, she's like, Oh, you just like being on the crew. Because all these guys and blah, blah, blah. And she was just running her mouth. She'd been drinking too much. So I said, You know what, and I just yelled at all the guys because I was one of the entire crew. There's like 20 or 22 of us. I said everybody out on the front lawn right now. They're all looking at me like, Oh, shit. So I called everybody out there, get him in a circle. And I'm standing the middle of the circle and I get all these women around. I was so ticked off and I just looked around at all because I had had a really rough year there'd be been some guys there that were terrible to me terrible. And the last thing that I would ever even dream up would be hooking up with one of them. And I just looked at him and I go Alright, that's it. Raise your hands if you have asked me this season. And what can you each other? Like, who here have I hooked up with and they just the the gals that were giving me a hard time could not believe it. their jaws were dropping like oh my god, she just called us out. But I'm like, you gotta go. You guys have all been so mean to me this year. I'm like, do you really think that I've been hooking up with one of your boyfriends? You have no idea. And they never gave me a hard time after that. It they shut up. And you know, it's like, wow, if you realize some of the experiences where you're in or how bad your man smells after a week out in the dirt. Trust me. Like it's really romantic. tiring. No, it happens. I know it happens. I mean, gosh, everybody that I've ever had I always call for some of the gods. But that's not our intent. That's not why we're there. If you if you know if God happens with your man, and there's some other issue that you guys need to work on something, but I hate that assumption.
Speaker 2: 32:56
Yeah. Yeah. And you hear that? And it just just rolling I think Yeah, whatever. You know, if you really think that I want I don't want your husband to be I don't want you right now. Right?
Speaker 1: 33:07
No, we had it like and I don't mean to like tell my stories. But wait, I know you can live by these. Like I was on a I was on a crew and we were in a fire and we were all sleeping in this park. And we just it was a tight space. And we were just like sardines, like our sleeping bags. We were just lined out all of us like scientists, I decide. And we were so tired. And we crashed and I was one of the only people with a cell phone they had just kind of started coming out and I lived in a really remote area. So I didn't have a landline. So I'd gotten a cell phone, and the guys would give that to their family. They'd be like here you can call Abby, she'll be able to get ahold of me. And so it's like three o'clock in the morning and my phone there next to my head and it rings. I was like, Who the heck is calling me? So I answer. I'm like, hello. And it's this gal and she is this guy's girlfriend. She is just drunk and pissed off. And she's like, I want to talk to Bob. Where's Bob, you know, and so she's calling me and I guess she already was nervous about me. So I'm like, Oh, hang on a second. And he was like one or two dudes down for me. So basically, I wake up at three o'clock in the morning and hand him the phone as if he's sleeping in bed with me. And I just I don't care anymore. I'm like, here you go. Hey, Bob, your girlfriend's on the road. I guess it's started quite the shitstorm. But I was like here, I don't even care. Okay. So what was wrong? What were that your first buyer was super memorable. Like, what else in your book that you have in there that you share with people
Speaker 2: 34:27
mentioned earlier, the summer 77 was the worst fire season in recent history. And we went to so many fires that, you know, it's all kind of a blur. I would just get back from one and just get out of the shower and say, Well, guess what? We have another one. And I was like, okay, sure, let's go. But near the end of the summer, it was late August, we got a call to California. So that was the first time that we were going to go out of state. So I was pretty excited about that. It was up on the Klamath National Forest. And you know, and it was easily you know, like, I think it reached 50,000 acres, which of course back then was huge, whereas now that's nothing. But that gun that was pretty big. So we were sent out, they did a major backfire. To cut it, they just could not contain it, it was windy, they were actually backing off by several miles and burning out in front of that. So the first time we had night do these after they set the backfire, we were securing the line. So they spread this all out in groups of two to watch the line to make sure that the fire didn't jump over it. And then the squad boss was walking up and down the line and checking on us throughout the night. So at one point, it got kind of quiet and the squat bar came along. And he said, Well, you know, they're going to move us to another sector. So I'm going to gather up everybody else, and I'll pick up you two on the way back. And I remember thinking, Well, why don't we just come with you now? I don't understand why it's not at all, but I'll come back and get you. Okay. Yeah. So we settled in and we waited. And we waited. How long has it been? We look at our watches. It's been two hours and they didn't come back. Right? Maybe they did they forget? No, no, no, they, they must have found a Spotfire. So we better. We decided to wait, because we didn't have radios. So we've we've pretty well we better we better go find them. So we we started walking down the firing line. And here comes another crew. And we asked them if they'd seen our crew. And the guy says no, but you can't stay here. We're getting ready to backfire this area. Oh, wow. It then it clicks. If we hadn't moved. They could have burned us up. No one knew we were still there. Wow. So now I'm just furious. And he's the end that the other crew boss said, Well, why don't you go back to fire camp? Maybe they're back there. And then he directed us which way to go and we get the fire camp and our crew is already there. And I'm mad. Oh, I bet I like I went up to my supervisor and I couldn't even get a word out. And he he looked at me and he said, Don't you ever get separated from the crew again, and I was so humiliated, and so angry and so tired. And I couldn't think of a word to say that I just didn't say anything. And I never said anything. No one ever brought it up again. But my partner and I could have died that night right there easily. We hadn't decided that we were waiting. There was no point waiting any longer.
Speaker 1: 37:18
Right. Such a close call. So many of those things happen. And we never hear about them.
Speaker 2: 37:21
Yeah. And I've even talked to I still know until peak was some of the people that I worked with that some of the stuff in the area, they don't remember that course.
Speaker 1: 37:30
Move on another memories takeover.
Speaker 2: 37:32
Yeah. Yeah. And because, and one of one of my friends guess she continued to work for the Forest Service. And he retired from the Forest Service. And he now works for a local fire department. And he's he trains people. But yeah, so he's got a gazillion memories to replace that one. And he didn't he wasn't worried about his wife. Yeah, wasn't significant. Yeah. So those are some of the more adventurous ones. But when I worked in Alaska, I was introduced to a type of firefighting that I had no idea existed. They do it quite differently. Oh, yeah. And that was rather enlightening. And I fought more mosquitoes and fires. That takes a whole different level of top. mosquitoes. I was like, No. How long did you stay in Alaska. I was up there for a summer for one summer I went up the first week of May and I left late September. By the end it was snowing. It was snowing in May and it was snowing when I left. When when I've never been so cold in my life. You know, just it rained all the time. And dreary and there was nothing was happening. We didn't have project work. I was just we were so bored. We just drove around the Kenai Peninsula every single day just driving around and it just wears out well and that was the thing you know, wildlife pictures like crazy and everybody I worked with except for one native Alaska and everybody else was from someplace else that had come to Alaska and wanted to see Alaska so on the weekends we would get the way to go somewhere anywhere we go hiking, camping, backpacking, exploring we get on the ferry and went to see glaciers you know, and all of these things and we did it in the rain because we kept waiting for the weather to get better and it didn't leave the hacker that Cisco sided nervous so cold my life though coming from Tucson as you can imagine. You're not freezing, but it was had a lot of fun and I and I've got very, very fond memories of the people that I met those who my bosses I told him, told me to cut my hair but he was a complete idiot. So I had there was some adventures with him where he would just he would do the most bizarre outrageous things and I thought how does he get away with
Speaker 1: 39:46
when How are you still alive and to how do you start a job?
Speaker 2: 39:49
Yeah, you know, unbelievable but, but that was it. We had helicopter training which I thought was pretty amazing and and we finally
Speaker 1: 39:59
get to do you You get to do stuff that people pay to do. And that's why it's so that's why you put up with so much crap.
Speaker 2: 40:04
I love flying helicopters, I always thought that was really cool. And the only reason I didn't ever apply for a health tech position because they were so short, it's like six weeks. Yeah. And they just want a six week summer job. I wanted one of those I was trying to get in as a permanent government employee, and you got to get your time in and that just wasn't long enough. And you may or may not get picked up by somebody else. So I'm just rolling it I didn't do that. But I did get a lot of helicopter training up there. And, and building line. I mean, when you're building mine and tundra, which is essentially a big wet sponge. Yeah, I was gonna ask you about you literally would just walk on it to bring the water up. So crazy. So that worked, as we called it the wet line, because we would just walk on it. That's crazy water would come to the surface. So that would, that was one thing we did. And the other thing we would do is we would actually cut the tundra with a plasticky and then roll it back like carpet and expose the permafrost,
Speaker 1: 40:59
right? No, it's a whole different method up there.
Speaker 2: 41:03
Yeah. And then we had to put we had to put the tundra back after the fire went out. We had to
Speaker 1: 41:07
put the carpet back, please. And rehab up. There's kind of a whole different different BS. Yeah.
Speaker 2: 41:13
That's crazy. But so that was that was sure different. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm glad I did it when I did it, you know,
Speaker 1: 41:20
your mind and your heart that like so many people don't have, you know, even the really crappy trips that really miserable ones, the ones where you are starting to question your entire existence and why you took this job. And those still are, they're still good memories. And there's some great slides to have in your mind to just learn and grow from having jobs like this. Even if it's just to put you through college. It makes you a different person. And so many art creates character that not many people have.
Speaker 2: 41:47
Oh, I agree. I agree. And the camaraderie know when you've got people, the naysayers in the difficult people behind the ones that want the ones that were there that that you worked well with. And then you had that you felt like part of a team. You don't get that anywhere else. And you get to know people good or bad. Better than you ever get to know a coworker and just about any other job and maybe the military you do, because when you're when you're with somebody 24 hours a day for a week or so.
Speaker 1: 42:14
Yeah. Is there anybody in your like we you know, we talked about some of the difficult ones, but who comes to mind wedsite. But he was awesome. He was great to work with who strikes your memory,
Speaker 2: 42:23
that would be my supervisor at Florida. Glen. I had more admiration for him because he knew I could do this. It was interesting, because the first day that I met him, he checked my hand for calluses. And he squeezed my arm to see for muscle strength and gave me like, we'll see about this. But it didn't take me long to prove to him that I could do it. And he would tell me, you know, you can do this. And you can I've always held them in the highest regard. He was he was probably 43 I was 20. I will never forget him. He died way too young died of a massive heart attack at the age of 57. That's too bad. He was, you know, and I think of him as being one of the he was the epitome of the Forest Service. He was what I thought a real Forest Service employee was he was a meal scanner. He was not afraid of hard work. He was a supervisor, but he would be out there with a Pulaski and a shovel work and what if we had a fire in the standard radius, he gets into meals, harnessed up and bring up food and supplies up the trail. He knew how to build a fence. He knew how to put a water line and he taught me all of those things. And he taught me the most important thing about your job is to have pride in your work to him. You know that joke about the with the force versus always there's never time to do it right. But there's always time to do it over. In his world, you took the time to do it like period, period. And I learned I got to work ethic from him that I think I always had a good work ethic because my parents were hard workers. But he drilled at home to me. You don't do things have to do it right period. never forgotten that. That's great.
Speaker 1: 44:02
What a great mentor to have back in your past. Yeah, no, and you're on the back of your book. It reads battling fires exhilarating, yet exhausting. The discrimination real and sometimes in her face. Summers of fire is an adventure story that honestly recounts the seven years, she ventures into the heart of fires that scorch the land, vibrant friendships that fire the soul, and deep love that ends in devastating heartbreak. While you cannot give me Don't you dare give me these great pieces out of your book. I just wanted to point that out. Because I think that there are some really great stories in your book that people need to pick it up and read. Oh, thank you. Yeah, I'm so glad that you'd wrote it that you have this out there because we don't get a lot of highlights of wildfire women and I'm so glad that you took the time to do this.
Speaker 2: 44:46
Well, thank you. And it's very different in a very personal story. It's when I started getting feedback from people that read it and I'll tell you what fascinated The reason my publisher told me they picked my book, telling me we don't publish a lot memoirs, but we picked yours because our goal is to get
Speaker 1: 45:18
more books published, written by women that men will read anything that's read that thing. And Taya, I would say, easily 50% or more of my readers are men. That's great. That's when I did
more exposure, the more stories we share, the more that people are exposed to it. It's the norm
Speaker 2: 45:24
for Yeah. And the response is fascinating to me. I mean, every time someone contacts me and says, Oh, I loved your book, because of this, this and this even more interesting, because women Tell me, you know, I love that you were strong willed and you would not let anybody stop you from doing what you wanted to do, then would get that, but they would also say, I can't believe that you persevered to all of the challenges that you had. And you see that, yeah. And I had a review in force history. Today magazine, Amazon has that is the editorial review. So he says, although it might be easy to characterize the book as being for women, because of the inspirational message about trying to make it in a man's world, men would greatly benefit from reading it too. If only to learn that it takes more courage to fight for respect, and they can dignity than it does to fight a wall of flame.
Speaker 1: 46:15
Wow, that is impressive. That's so cool that he wrote that. Yeah, that's that right there. You're like, and boom, that's my why that's why I'm doing this. That's so cool. First, tell me where people can read find your book. And we're gonna include all that in the show notes. But then I have a couple of questions for you about becoming an author. So
Speaker 2: 46:33
all Amazon so it's, it's available around the world. It's available on Barnes and Nobles website
Speaker 1: 46:38
deal. Oh, tell us about your second book.
Speaker 2: 46:41
second book is a prequel. It's about everything that led up to me working for the Forest Service.
Speaker 1: 46:46
Oh, wow, that's great. Well, you're gonna have to let us know when that comes out. And we'll have to push that out for you. And, and so I wanted to ask you about for there's so many women out there, I know that are thinking about and guys to wanting to write a book about their adventures. So what is the best way to get started? So you start pouring your heart out capturing it all? And then what? Like, what are your top tips?
Speaker 2: 47:04
That's what I suggest you do is somebody who recent much about structure and everything right at the beginning, you can't be creative that way, just dump it out. And that's what I did. Because I ended up with 490 pages the first go through and I had to cut it back to 250. So my God, I could never get to 490. And it's like, you'd be surprised. Oh, yeah, it was just it was like once it started coming out. So So and I actually had to teach myself how to do this. And then I had to teach myself how to edit. And of course, I had my friend helping me too. But I it does help to take a memoir writing course, if you can probably would save a lot of grief doesn't need to be years and years to put this together. I mean, and I wanted it right. I mean, I was just found determined that I would never self publish, I wanted a traditional publisher that is extremely difficult to deal with a memoir. There are so many memoirs out there. So they're very, very,
Speaker 1: 48:04
How many did you have to put in for before you got one that picked you up? About 250? Yeah, people don't realize like, the rejection is very high. And so people might say something, and they get rejected, and they think, oh, nobody's gonna want it. But that's just the end of the game.
Speaker 2: 48:17
Yeah, it is. And actually, that was total. And I did query agents before the book was wasn't up to par. I didn't know that till I started getting rejections. And if I got a rejection from an agent that actually said something other than No, thank you. Yeah, that actually comments. Well, you know, the first chapter didn't grab me. Okay, you know, right at it, whatever it took after that. And I would say I had about 200 rejections before I really something is wrong here. I need to fix this. And it's the beginning is, you know, it's where to start the story where you start the story, right. And that goes back and forth, back and forth, where I started the story. And so I just had a wake up call one day, and I thought, you know what, quit editing what you already have. I put that aside, I brought up a blank Microsoft Word document and rewrote the first few chapters without looking at the original manuscript. And it clicked, and all of a sudden, then it put the rest of the story back together again, and wove it all back in. And I sent it out to I think about 25 agents, and I think 10 small publishers, and I started getting people contacting me, we want the whole manuscript. Great. And the winter that I started getting re offers from small publishers, and I had three agents, reading it wanting more time before making a decision, and I got two offers from publishers and I thought, do I want to play this game? What should I do, you know, right. And I decided to take the offer. That's so cool. If the offer from one of the
Speaker 1: 49:44
reason that they took the book and I think that's critical is like their actual reasoning behind it. That's pretty cool.
Speaker 2: 49:50
Yeah. And they didn't tell you that till down the road. We were talking on the phone when I was getting was putting together a marketing plan and everything said the other thing is that you have to Market Chromebook, yeah, it doesn't matter if you get even if you get picked by one of the big five publishers, you still have to market your own books. They're not gonna stop speaking engagements for you unless, and I was done in Sherman, to do it myself. because number one, I couldn't afford to hire a publicist, which is like 100 bucks an hour. But that's not happening. I taught myself how to market my book. And I think I've done really well, I had an extra publishing right magazine, I've been interviewed on TV, and I had Arizona illustrated that PBS show filmed a segment about me in September.
Speaker 1: 50:31
Yeah, I'd say you've done a pretty good job.
Speaker 2: 50:32
Yeah, I'm very proud of and my publisher wants me.
Speaker 1: 50:36
to Linda, you, you work your butt off. Great. Oh, I did it is such hard work. Yeah, well, I'm so thank you. And I can't wait to hear the next pre qual. The next one. I'm really excited about that, too. And so we're gonna have to make sure that we get that out to all of our listeners, when that comes out as well. And I'm just I'm so you know, you are the generation ahead of me that paved the way for women now, and had you not done the things that you did, and stomp your boots where you did and moved forward and didn't quit, we wouldn't have half of the things that we do now and wildland fire. So thank you for that.
Speaker 2: 51:12
I've never thought it was a big deal. And it actually was my editor friends that like this is a big deal. Like, you know, I just didn't think so. But thank you. I mean, I I'd like to think that it helped, you know, I really would like to think that
Speaker 1: 51:28
it's still helping and I struggle. Yeah, no, I think the struggles are still quite real. But they're just a little bit different. You know, the struggles are still there. They're just adapted. And so it's hard for me to think that too. And some people like every, even the women now people tell us like you guys are paving the way. And my thing is always speak up, don't give up because there is a little girl out there that you are never ever even going to meet or know who she is. And she is going to have it better because of what you're doing. And that's what we have to think of is the little girls that are way in our future. We're doing things for them. So it's it's pretty important.
Speaker 2: 52:03
Yeah, like I said, I have a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Tucson, and a family came in. So it was a dad. And it was like maybe his three daughters or two daughters and one of their friends. And they came straight up to my table. He said, Yes, I knew you're going to be here today for the book signing. And I want to buy a book for each of the girls. And we're talking goes like 12 to 14. And they said, you and he looked at them because you need to read this because you need to understand what it was like for women 3040 years ago, and I want you to write a book report for school when you're done. Wow, way to go Dad, I know. That's I signed their all their books and everything. And they taught me for a little while. And then they wandered off to do their shopping in the store too. And one of the girls came back, and she said, I just wanted to shake your hand and thank you. And I was like, wow.
Speaker 1: 52:55
make me cry. Amazing. Yeah, just those little impacts. And there's a lot of those that are happening that you're never even getting to see and how great that you got to see one.
Speaker 2: 53:04
Yeah. I've had a lot of really wonderful things come out of the book signings, even if only 10 people show up, or less. I mean, just what all it takes is one person to say that is amazing what you did. Thank you. And I'm like, thank you. I never thought of it. But thank you so much.
Speaker 1: 53:22
All right, take a little pat on the back. Well, Linda, and it's been so good talking with you. Is there anything else that you would like to share with us? Before we go today?
Speaker 2: 53:30
Well, I'm just gonna say if there's anybody out there that's thinking, you know, maybe I'd like this career. Don't let the negative publicity and the things that you hear stop you from doing this, this, this is something that you want to do. Do. We need more women taking on these jobs and proving that we can sell I say steal yourself up? And just do it anyway?
Speaker 1: 53:51
Yes, that is always my thing to people think that, you know, even men will reach out to me and say, hey, my daughter's thinking about getting into this. What should I tell her? And I'm like, tell her Hell yeah. You know, here's, here's some warnings, here's what to look out for. And here's how to beat the hell out of it and move forward. So yeah, good. I'm glad that that's your message. Because that's very important. Just because we call things out and we're transparent. We're talking about history and things that have happened, doesn't mean we don't want girls to be there. It means we want 100 times more girls to be there.
Speaker 2: 54:17
Yeah, yeah. That's what's gonna make a difference. Yeah, you know, because if we let if we let people stop us, from doing what we want to do, if we let men stop us from doing what we want to do, then things will never move forward. We've got to not let anybody stop you doing
Speaker 1: 54:30
anybody tells you he can't do that do like Linda said, said, but I am
Speaker 2: 54:37
doing it right now that was always for me. What do you mean, I can't I am doing it. Thanks a lot, buddy.
Speaker 1: 54:44
So Well, great. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. And I really appreciate it and thank you for your support.
Speaker 2: 54:52
You're welcome. And I'm pleased that we finally got to talk. I've been following you and what's going on and so
Speaker 1: 54:58
well, thank you. All over the place was scattered with different messages but they're all on they're all for the good. It's just hard when you want to do so many different things and so much good for so many you know different routes and rattles so many cages and I just wish I could make you know, duplicate some myself all over the place. I could actually do everything I want to do. Yeah, I would just like I'm sure you are. Welcome, anytime. That is all we have for this episode. It has been an honor to spend this time with you. Now if you know that there's anybody else out there who might appreciate this effort, please share it with them. Subscribe to the show, leave us a review. Come see me and Abby bolt calm and her brotherhood.com and we would really appreciate your support. And with that, have a wonderful day and don't forget to lead with fire.