The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnSomething in Coloradorn”Hear that,” Dick Mcllhenny said.rnHe removed the headset and handedrnit to me, while holding the Bionic Earrncupped toward the woods.rn”I hear it.”rn”What does it sound like to you?”rn”Footfalls, coming this way. Look atrnthat horse.”rnThe gelding stood at attention behindrnthe trailer, his body rigid and his ears forwardrnwhile the mare cropped the littlerngrass she could reach from the shortenedrnlength of rope. The dark woods drippedrnaround the circle of light the lanternrnmade, and in the headset the measuredrnstealthy tread drew closer. I shucked itrnoff and ga’e Dick back the equipment.rn”It’s just Larki pulling grass,” 1 said.rnWe heated coffee on the Primus stovernand opened two MREs from the cartonrnDick had brought. The night chilled,rnand rain started to fall again. We drewrnon ponchos and ate supper off therndropped tailgate of the pickup truck, thernshotguns within easy reach under therncamper shell.rn”I vote we sleep in the truck tonight,”rnDick said.rn”Agreed. It will be a hell of a lot drier.”rn”And safer. We’re not secure surroundedrnthis way by woods.”rnWliile he arranged the truck bed andrnunrolled the sleeping bags I watered thernhorses and loaded them in the trailer forrnsecurity, leaving only the manger doorsrnopen to the night. It got colder and thernrain went on falling, stirring the branchesrnof the fir trees and turning the surfacernof the logging road slick.rn”You think this could turn to snow byrnmorning?” I asked.rn”Probably not. Today is only thernfourth of August.”rn”And we’re at 11,000 feet, don’t forget.”rnWe turned in in our clothes, and Dickrnpulled the tailgate up and drew down thernback window of the camper shell andrnlocked it. Lying in the unzippered bagsrnwith the shotguns beside us, we heardrnthe rain pattering on the fiberglass roofrnand watched the glass fog over with ourrnbreath.rn”I was hoping we’d hear somethingrntonight,” Dick said.rn”It could be the rain. Everything’s takenrncover until the weather clears.”rn”Will the horses let us know if somethingrndoes come in?”rn”I think so. It all depends on whatrnthey take this thing for.”rn”I’m starting to drift. If the balloonrngoes up, I expect we’ll know about it.”rnAt first light the mists ascended likernspirits from the forest before the sunrnclimbed above the mountains, turningrnthe gray cloud ceiling above it gold. Wernboiled water for coffee on the little stovernand struck the camp, packing it back inrnthe truck while the clouds burned awayrnand the summer day grew bright and hot.rnEight hundred vertical feet below, anrnopen park at the end of another loggingrnroad offered a view of the forest aroundrnand alpine peaks rising over 12,000 feetrnto the south. On a rise of ground betweenrnthe creek running through thernpark and the forest edge we made a secondrncamp, raising the tent and stakingrnthe horses to graze on the lush grass. Itrnwas a good camp having a good view ofrnthe approaches all aroimd, except for arnpoint of the woods running close in behindrnthe flat place where the tent stood.rnWe gathered wood, built a fire to signalrnour presence and boil water for tea, andrnsat in the late afternoon sun with the tinrncups in front of us and the big revolversrnon the camp table beside the cups, glassingrnan elk herd bedded a half-mile outrnand a couple of thousand feet above onrnthe steep alpine meadow where patchesrnof snow remained.rn”Have you thought what it was yournmight have heard if it wasn’t that?” Irnasked Dick.rn”I’ve thought. Nothing that’s supposedrnto belong here: elk, bear, moose,rncougar, wolf coyote — “rnThe sound came a mile or so fromrncamp in the direcdon of the lake: a cryrnsuch as a man—a giant one—could producernand yet not like a man’s. Singersrncall it a calling voice: in the head, unmixedrnwith chest tone but with no tracernof falsetto.rn”There it goes,” I said.rnIt lasted about four minutes, changingrnpitch several times in a tonal stef>-up orrnstep-down that gave it a distinctly musicalrnquality, and when it ceased Dick stillrnhad not succeeded in getting the recordingrnequipment set up.rn”Is it what you heard at Leadville?” Irnasked.rnHe nodded. “Pretty much.”rn”What do you suppose it means?”rn”It means the word is on the street already.rnI think we can look forward to anrnencounter tonight.”rnI threw damp wood on the fire for arnheavier smoke column as Keith Hawkinsrnand his son Andrew arrived from Kansasrnafter stopping to check the bait they hadrnset out three weeks before on the southeasternrnend of the ridge at the top of arntalus slide above the river. The curiosityrnbait with its wax tabula for recordingrnhand prints had been untouched, and sornwere the other baits Keith had rigged.rnEnclosed in the Jeep Cherokee, rattlingrnand grinding on the rough mountainrnroads, they had not heard the soundrnwhich had ceased only a half-hour before.rnThey raised their tent beside oursrnand parked the Jeep to fill in the semicirclernof vehicles arranged like a wagonrntrain expecting attack. Finally we let thernfire burn down to coals and cooked ourrnsupper over them, while boiling anotherrnpot for tea. A small thunderstorm blewrnup over the peaks, silver veils of rainrnfalling from black clouds through therngolden light of the evening sun, andrnfrom the stony bowl above the camp arnpack of coyotes whooped and nattered.rn”Something set them off,” KeithrnHawkins said thoughtRilly.rnFully dressed except for our boots wernturned in at nightfall around ten o’clockrnafter shutting the horses away in the trailer,rnsecuring the camp, and arranging thernflashlights and loaded guns to hand inrncase of emergency while the moon, ris-rnNOVEMBER 1998/49rnrnrn