Friday, August 23, 2013
Continuation of a theme...
A mortally wounded mailbox along US 160 in far southeastern Colorado in the middle of the seldom-visited, largely unknown, unloved, overgrazed and hauntingly beautiful national grasslands of the southern plains, a scattered patchwork of thousands of abandoned Dust Bowl-era homesteads bought out by the government and surrendered back to the grass.
On a topo map the hundreds of small grassland parcels are shaded, and on some areas of the map where the grasslands intersperse with unshaded private ground, the pattern resembles a crazy, hopscotching checkerboard of folly. Other areas of the map containing denser, larger and more closely spaced grassland areas remind me of giant Rorschach blots. There's a metaphor there somewhere.
It is a gaunt, haunted, and largely unpeopled land totally unappealing to the conventional aesthetic of pleasantness and comfort. Of course I love it. Nothing out here now but a few scattered ranches, in the fall a handful of itinerant bird and antelope hunters, and on the wind the ever-present whisper of long-ago dreams turned bad.
“Neither a land nor a people ever starts over clean. Country is compact of all its past disasters and strokes of luck–of flood and drouth, of the caprices of glaciers and sea winds, of misuse and disuse and greed and ignorance and wisdom–and though you may doze away the cedar and coax back the bluestem and mesquite grass and side-oats grama, you're not going to manhandle it into anything entirely new. It's limited by what it has been, by what's happened to it. And a people, until that time when it's uprooted and scattered and so mixed with other peoples that it has in fact perished, is much the same in this as land. It inherits.”
John Graves, Goodbye To a River
Posted by Chad Love at 10:59 AM