Red Desert Notes

Somewhere in Wyoming, I swung into an I-80 rest stop to let Sam run around and be a yellow Lab. Morning still, a dandelion sun. It was only me and a couple of truckers who were napping in their rigs. A dry, chill wind lashed the parking lot, and flat, barren, brown land stretched all around us.

The rest stop had brick restrooms and some picnic tables, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that horrible crimes had happened there. That after miles of lonesome but beautiful scenery I’d arrived at a murder stadium, a rape arena. It was as if, with no obvious place to visit evil on each other, man had to blueprint one. I walked to the edge of the parking lot and watched Sam snake through the sagebrush and clump grass. To my right a slanted signboard sat bolted to a rusting pedestal, and sealed beneath dusty Plexiglas a paragraph informed me that I was standing in the largest unfenced area in the Lower Forty-Eight. The Red Desert. Millions of acres of high-altitude desert that separated the southern Rockies from the central Rockies, home to more than fifty thousand pronghorn antelope, as well as a rare desert elk herd. Shoshone and Ute had roamed here, and later, passing through: mountain men and pioneers, Pony Express riders and Mormons.

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