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Alexandra Fuller Remembers a Wyoming 'Legend'

Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.

Alexandra Fuller learned about the world of Wyoming oil field workers while researching an article for The New Yorker. When she read about the death of Colton H. Bryant, a 25-year-old oil man, that article turned into a book, both biography and lament.

A third-generation roughneck, Bryant was "born with horses and oil in his blood like his father before him and his grandfather before that." He died after falling off a drilling platform that lacked a $2,000 safety rail. In The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, Fuller turns him into an iconic cowboy — a son of the wild, stark landscape of Wyoming.

Between 2000 and 2006, Bryant was among 35 people who died in Wyoming oil and gas industry accidents. After his death, Bryant's company was fined $7,000 for safety violations. It boasted record profits the same year. Bryant's family received no compensation.

Fuller is best known for her 2002 memoir, Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, about growing up in a dysfunctional white farming family in Africa. She now lives in Wyoming, which reminds her of Africa — in its beauty, harshness and the way it's treated by companies that, she says, do much in the way of environmental damage and show little in the way of compassion.

This reading of The Legend of Colton H. Bryant took place in May 2008 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

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Neda Ulaby
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.