Category: The Hundredth Meridian

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The Seventh Day

The first thing you notice is the heat and the intensity of the light, glaring on the white-painted adobe walls of Mesilla where Indian rugs, sun-rotted and sun-faded, hang behind deeply recessed windows barred with iron. Stepping out from the

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South by Southeast

East, east-southeast, southeast: rugged mountains covered by lichenous forests breaking from the red desert floor, sky islands of the American Southwest. San Carlos Lake ahead of the wing, and beyond it the dark mass of the Pinaleno Mountains; southwest, the

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Wings of Icarus

From 9,000 feet the triangulating mountains, snow-covered and hazy with spring, showed on three horizons bounding the broad brown desert of the Green River. Leveling at 9,475 feet we saw the steam plume from the power plant. Lake Viva Naughton,

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The Wanderer

For three weeks the wind blew hard on the desert and the nights were very cold. The wind dropped, the days grew warmer, and the snow line retreated on the mountains. The winds came again and the red sand stiffened

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Year’s End

The house key on its leather thong had nearly worn through the corner of the mailing envelope in which it had arrived. The gate latch was a loose affair operated by another thong, of a piece with the first, running

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Hobbles and a Bridle

Neither Art Antilla nor I felt like getting drunk. We stood away from camp on the cliff edge above Devil’s Hole canyon, drinking black coffee while the Commissary Commandos huddled around the campfire with their whiskey bottles and someone pitched

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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

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In Mexico

The man and the bull stood facing one another across the yellow sand midway between the center of the ring and the barrera. The bull was smaller and less ferocious than the big fighting bulls; the man was young, not

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The Perfect Life

It is possibly a good thing that more writers are not sportsmen and outdoorsmen. The relationship between art and sport is a complexly curious one, since a case can be made for a sporting element in writing that is, of

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Up From Michigan

Fontenelle Creek ran fast and brown at the crossing, the waves flashing backward, flooding islands of willow that bent before the strength of the water to show the gray undersides of the slender leaves. I left the jeep at the

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Spring, Like a Lion

The cloud was no bigger than a puff of white smoke above the western horizon at a point equidistant between the Henry Mountains and the Book Cliffs, It was a nice cloud, a point of interest in an otherwise banal

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Alternative California

It felt as strange flying west—not south, not east—from Salt Lake City as if the earth had reversed its rotation and were spinning in the opposite direction. Basin and range, range and basin: the long barrier mountains were heavy

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Zia

There is a point along New Mexico Route 6, on the edge of the West Mesa of the Rio Grande, from which as you look east the whole of the river valley between Albuquerque and Socorro—a distance of about 120

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Twelve Westerners?

“The Sahara of the Bozart,” more than anything else Mencken wrote about the South, won him the undying hatred of the former Confederacy and its spokesmen. The essay, which first appeared in 1917 as a newspaper column and was subsequently

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Hunters and Gatherers

The carcass lay across a slab of rock at about the level of mv knees. I estimated its undressed weight to have been around 700 pounds: substantial for a two-year-old elk. I had managed to position it so that when

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Elk Country

As the supernatural world is eternally at work behind events in the natural world, so the world of man-in-nature continues to operate behind the synthetic, abstracted, and unreal world of man-outside-of-nature. For that reason alone, I shall always hunt elk.

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The View From Mount Nebo

Last summer this expansive sagebrush basin at the lower end of the Wyoming Range made the annual encampment of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, spawn of a congestive civilization. Fifteen thousand strong, they organized according to their various pursuits:

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Wyoming Peak

It is 145 road miles from Belen to Gallup, New Mexico, a railroad town immediately east of the Arizona border on old Highway 66 and adjacent to the Ramah and Big Navajo Indian Reservations where my grandmother Williamson taught school

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Circuit Rider

A town without a saloon is like a woman without a heart. I made Blanding, Utah, before sundown, checked into the Best Western Motel, and rang up the front desk from my room. “Is the Elk Ridge Restaurant within walking

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Navajoland: II

We had gone barely 25 yards when I had a feeling of the woods dissolving around us, and then we were hanging our toes over a bare rock ledge at which the world dropped away. From 20 miles out Black

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Navajoland: I

In the American Southwest nothing looks to be of a piece but the landscape and the infinity of sky overhead. The vast frame of the earth and the geomorphic scheme that shaped it lie plainly revealed through a scrim of

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Papagueria: II

Past Robles Junction where the road coming north from Sasabe meets Highway 86 we crossed onto the Papago reservation heading west toward the Indian capital of Sells, no lights ahead save the constellation of the Kitt Peak Observatory lifted high

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Papagueria: I

“The whole place would be abandoned if it weren’t an Indism reservation,” Bernard Fontana was saying, “like so much of rural America these days. There are a lot of people on the reservation who wake up in the morning knowing

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The Land of Oil and Water

A sign above the cafe adjacent to the motel across the highway from the railroad tracks in Lordsburg, New Mexico, proclaimed the good news in faded red letters on a flaking white background. “Whiskey and water,” I told the waitress

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Fallen Walls

I studied the weather for four days before making a break for the south, slipping between the winter storms along icepacked roads wreathed with snowsnakes across sun-glazed plains in the direction of the Salt Lake Valley, where much of the

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Enclosure

Late in the afternoon of the day before the final day of elk season I parked the truck and trailer above Blue Jay Creek north of Krall’s ranch and rode into the mountains against a cold wind and the lowering

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The Great Portcullis

In the third week of August someone pushes the button and brings summer to an end in the Mountain West, though beautiful weather and Indian summer lie ahead. Typically the change comes with the discharge of a powerful thunder cell,

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Abbey Lives!

Fifteen years after I arrived in the West, I can no longer recall how I first became aware of Edward Abbey, though I do know that I had been the book editor of a national magazine for nearly four years

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The Home of the Brave

Vague and acrid as the ocherous smoke drifting in scarves and shoals from fires burning across the West, the specter of Range Reform pervaded the Rocky Mountain states last summer, the driest on record since 1932. In drought years ranchers

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Work Suspended

If compensation is possible for a summer so brief that the growing season is limited to 55 days at best, it is the most beautiful Indian summer on earth climaxed by elk season in the last two weeks of October.

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View From a Campfire

“Been up the Hams Fork yet?”

“I took a drive there last weekend.”

“How far did you get?”

“Almost to the guard station. There’s a hellacious mudhole just south of it.”

“How about Fontenelle?”

“I ain’t tried it myself, but

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Give Me Wilderness, Or Give Me . . .

Better than anyone before or since, Frederick Jackson Turner explained the peculiarly American fascination with wilderness that continues to perplex and, occasionally, to annoy European observers. In his instantly famous paper delivered before the American Historical Association’s annual meeting 101

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The Violent West

The matador who received top billing was not, as advertised, the most famous bullfighter in Spain but rather (we guessed) his son, or perhaps his nephew or second cousin; also, the promised dinner with this matador, to have been arranged

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29,000 Leaseholders

The war on the West is not going badly—from a Westerner’s point of view. As of mid-February, salient victories included the successful filibuster, by Western senators, of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s range reform bill; the routing of the obnoxious Representative

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Present for the Duration

Kemmerer, Wyoming: Population 3,500, more or less; throw in another thousand or so for Frontier and Diamondville, the three together making Greater Kemmerer. Five churches, two Mormon stake houses. The Lincoln County Courthouse and the Lincoln County Law Enforcement Facility

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War on the West

Maybe because the Sage Brush Rebellion coincided with the energy boom of the late 70’s and early 80’s when Western industrialists and developers were firmly in the saddle, its rhetoric rarely, if ever, achieved the intensity that Rocky Mountain politicians

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Out Where the West Began

Flying home from the East, I usually honor crossing the Mississippi as the occasion for my first double dry martini, which means that passing the Hundredth Meridian, equidistant between the towns of Kearney and North Platte, Nebraska, is generally the