Category: The Hundredth Meridian

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Elk Hunting in High Heels

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”  Having slept on the hard ground in single-digit Fahrenheit temperatures, tramped all day through a snowstorm at 11,000


Trench Warfare

War talk was running high when they threw the loaded packs in back of the Gold Pony and left Flagstaff, headed north across the Navajo Reservation.  Television and the newspapers had nothing to say about anything except the towering evil


Western Swing

The Hollows, Hasty and Happy, were hardly ever sure where they were.  At times, they weren’t sure who they were, either, but it never mattered for them because they were very, very rich.

Hasty was from Chicago originally, and Happy


The Geology of Time

Atop the final ridge rising to the south rim, Tom Hart stopped the truck and sat behind the wheel, gazing over into the meandering trench stretching from west to east and across it to the line of blue mountains over


Fire On the Earth

The old man had understood since the summer of ’88 that pigs are afraid of fire.  He’d been in the pig business only three years, following his retirement from the Union Pacific Railroad, when the uncured hay in the hayloft


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Edward Paul Abbey



—Inscription on Edward Abbey’s
grave marker, Cabeza Prieta
wilderness, Arizona

My friend Edward Abbey, dead these 13 years, is finally the subject of a formal biography, published last year by the University of Arizona


The Man in the Black Hat

From where the boy’s wagon was parked, Laramie Peak, which from every other perspective appeared in some degree or another triangular, had a rounded aspect suggesting the crown of a tall, black hat.  The wagon stood braced on the summit


The Mysterious Mountain

The wind that had risen directly after sunset blew hard down-canyon, filling the rocky bowl where camp was fixed with a sound like rushing water, scouring the open fire pit, and sending red sparks in sheets among the dry cacti


Love Thy Neighbor

Ben Lummis was not in a mood to write this morning.  He wanted to be outdoors, and, because he was an outdoor writer, being outdoors was as legitimate a part of his job as writing about having been outdoors was


Crazy Horse

The horse went down on a horizontal stretch of trail where no sound horse had any business stumbling.  The quadrupe-dal rhythm broke suddenly, his near shoulder crumpled, his head sank at the end of the black-maned neck, until the horse


’69 Plus 40

Sam Nash pushed the empty beer bottle away across the knife-scarred table.  “I’m ready to hunt bulls,” he said.  “We need to be making tracks for the mountain soon, before it gets too dark to put a camp in up


Getting Somewhere

Jackson Hole is burning up. Gerry Spence had to evacuate his ranch ahead of the wildfires, and Dick Cheney could be next. Here above timberline in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, 400 miles to the southeast, the


Sunday Summer

In June, the sun gets up about the time the pollen release ends. Keeping the bedroom window down in the early morning hours is a simple preventive for hay fever that requires only getting up around 2:00 A.M. to drop



On my knees in the bright pebbly waters of Hermit Creek, I looked up from the cotton shirt I was wringing out to the buff-colored rim of the Kaibab Plateau, over 4,000 vertical feet overhead.

“Its a long way down


Dust Thou Art

Sheep Mountain like a fallen tombstone lay on the horizon under a sky thickening with gray cloud ribbons and white lenticulars. It was too cold for snow yet, and rain had not fallen for weeks in the mountains. The wind


Getting Out of Dodge

The Founding Fathers intended the “Enumeration” (Article I, Section 2) not only as a means of assuring representational equality among the states but as a graph displaying the growth of the American nation in size and prosperity. For almost 200


Now Hear This!!!

You could say it isn’t easy being a liberal in the most conservative state in the Union if it weren’t for the fact that in the most conservative state in the Union, the liberals occupy all the best bully pulpits.


A Happy Hunting Ground

The alarm clock went off in the dark. In the light of the electric lantern, frost glittered on shadowed nylon walls. The inside zipper stuck; after a few futile tugs I escaped through the mouth of the mummy bag. I


The End of Drought

Somewhere between Muddy Gap and the old uranium town of Jeffrey City I became aware of my lungs, painfully expanding and contracting inside my denim shirt. Beyond Jeffrey City the smoke cloud was visible to the northwest, a pinkish-grey mass


A Cowboy at Caramoor

It’s a long ride to hear Andrea Marcovicci, the Maria Calks of cabaret, in concert after I missed her in Billings a couple of years ago. At Katonah, New York, I checked into the first motel I saw, snubbing the


The Centaur

I used to make fun of them, those barelegged, ball-capped figures grunting under the weight of 90-pound loads giving them the appearance of Neil Armstrong on the moon or a man bearing his own coffin on his back: tall, headless


The Phantom Horse

“What does ‘AQHA 1990 gelding, bred Actual Spark’ mean?”

“It means someone has a neutered ten-year-old American quarter-horse, sired by Actual Spark, for sale. Why?”

Rhonda looked up from the Casper Star-Tribune she held spread in her lap.

“I want


The Voice of the Turtle

Niuno è solo l’april!” Mimì tells Rodolfo in Act Three of La Bohème. Mimì didn’t survive until April, and if she had she might have felt alone without Rodolfo anyway. Still, spring, like sex, is exuberant, irrational—rather,


Having It All

You could say liberalism is about squaring the circle, if it weren’t for the fact that even liberals don’t really expect to accomplish this feat: They aim at creating the impression they can effect the impossible, and lying afterward about


A Sinner in Paradise

White sky, white earth. In the foreground a fenceline: three strands of barbed wire stretched taut between crooked posts cut from a juniper forest growing along the sandstone hogback, the bottom strand running in and out of low drifts


Friends at a Distance

Second only to prostitution, writing is the loneliest profession. Because a writer’s work is wherever he happens to be, he has no real need to be anywhere; because writing is neither a team sport nor a cooperative enterprise, and because


The Cowboy Reservation

At the kickoff of fall semester last year, the University of Wyoming hosted a conference attended by James Watt, Pete Simpson (the brother of former Senator Alan Simpson), and Kathy Karpan (an unsuccessful candidate for both governor and U.S. senator),


Bliss Meadows

Most of the 50 states having been designed as political units rather than the geographical ones John Wesley Powell vainly urged Congress to consider in the case of the Western territories, there’s no particular reason why southeastern Wyoming should be


Waiting Nights, Beastly Days

The high Colorado Rockies are like a type of beautiful woman, eye-catching without being especially interesting. Spectacularly well-endowed, they are also obvious, unsubtle, lacking in individuality and complexity, bland in their stunning perfection, with a hint of vulgarity. Or perhaps


Backtracking for Home

I was gone from Wyoming less than two years, not so long as to forget, just enough for the shock of recognition to be poignant. The cold northern skies, the tilted mesas tinged green with sagebrush and purple with lupin,


Home and Abroad

The stock market is over 10,000, Michael Kinsley exhorted Pat Buchanan recently, and so America can do as it likes internationally in the exercise of the U.S. mega-military machine that Madeleine Albright has been slavering, throughout her Foggy Bottom years,


The View From Out Here

There is a story about the man who surprised another man in bed with his wife. “What did you do about it?” his friend demanded. “Hell,” replied the fellow in disgust, “the sonofabitch lied his way out of it!”



Citizen Ed

It may or may not make sense for the living to think in arbitrary terms of decades, centuries, and millennia; what is certain is, the dead don’t. Edward Abbey had been deceased just two months short of ten years and


Wildness in Waiting

Dick McIlhenny awoke with a cold foot in the blackness that could be an hour after he fell asleep or ten minutes before the alarm clock went off. He attended to the foot inside the sleeping bag and checked the



The environmentalist movement, as usual, is one theoretical jump ahead of the practical results produced by its previous level of ideological development-results it now deplores and blames on the enemy. After arson destroyed three buildings and damaged four ski lifts


Writing the West

The Northwest strikes me as a better place than the Southwest to live in—fewer people, better hunting, plenty of invigorating Arctic air and the cold dry snow—but the Southwest, probably, offers greater advantages for the Western writer. The presence of


Something in Colorado

“Hear that,” Dick McIlhenny said.

He removed the headset and handed it to me, while holding the Bionic Ear cupped toward the woods.

“I hear it.”

“What does it sound like to you?”

“Footfalls, coming this way. Look at that


The Horror!

At four-thirty in the afternoon Papa’s on North Mesa Street in El Paso was preparing to open for business. Although the place looks like a student hangout and is located near the university, the clientele is largely well-to-do professional men


The Wind Listeth

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. Speaking from experience, rather than poetic frenzy, I say both. The spring winds blowing white at home in Wyoming blow red down here in New Mexico, a howling


Christmas in July

The crickets which stopped singing at Thanksgiving have come inside at last, along with the spiders and an occasional skink. The leaves dropped from the pecan trees around the beginning of December, and crews are at work in the orchards


Epic America

Up in Oregon a woman was bathing in a river. The transistor radio she had set on the bank played as she swam. She was still swimming when a movement farther along the bank caught her eye. She turned and


Whistling Dixie

Historians have been arguing since the 1950’s whether the West ought to be understood as a frontier, a region, or the seamless westward extension of Eastern and Midwestern America. Beginning in the 1980’s the debate intensified, owing to the work


Mexico Way

Back in the 70’s when the publicity stunt called Hands Across America was in the planning stage Kenny Rogers announced his intention to assume a position on the western boundary of Texas in order to be able to hold hands