Friday, August 23, 2013

Old Glory and Bullet Holes

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


  1. anger properly pondered
    produces profound prose.

    Nice couple of posts, Mallard. Beautiful.

  2. You are the Abbey of our times, reading these posts makes me feel lonely on a crowded train. Bravo

    That Rorschach is not a bad artist, but how does he know my ex wife and why did he always paint her with her head cut off?

  3. SBW, trust me, I'm no Abbey, nor will I ever be, but funny enough, I just posted an Abbey-themed blog. Sort of. It's really more of a giant, run-on sentence...