The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnWings of IcarusrnFrom 9,000 feet the triangulating mountains,rnsnow-covered and hazy withrnspring, showed on three horizons boundingrnthe broad brown desert of the GreenrnRiver. Leveling at 9,475 feet we saw thernsteam plume from the power plant. LakernViva Naughton, and the white scratch ofrnclay road running toward the mountainsrnnorth of town. The bumpy ride wentrnsuddenly soft, the engine caught,rnchoked, and died, and I got out in thernmud to turn the wheel hubs in. We continuedrnon half a mile in four-wheel drivernto a stand of limber pine and a compactedrnsnowdrift across the trail, where wernleft the truck and trailer and rode horsebackrnalong the escarpment of SheeprnMountain with the sun and the freshrnMay wind in our faces. “Let’s ride overrnand see Ben Brown’s cabin,” Norma suggested.rn”What for?”rn”1 just want to see it.”rn”There isn’t anything to see.”rn”I want to see it anyway,” she said.rnBen Brown’s cabin, broken in two byrnthe heavy snows and filled up withrngarbage by elk hunters on their way downrnfrom camp, was in a stand of trees back arnfew hundred yards from the cliff. Wernhad ridden within 100 yards of the wreckrnwhen a brown blur bounded through thernbreak in the log wall and disappearedrnaround a corner of the building into thernwoods. The mare shied and fled withrnthe reins dragging, as Norma collectedrnherself from the mud and the new grass.rn”Bear,” I said, helpfully.rn”He must be a yearling. Where’s Larki?”rn”Over there by the cliff watchingrnyou.”rnNorma spoke gently to the shudderingrnhorse before remounting and we rode onrntogether along the cliff edge to a fewrnscraps of aluminum lying among thernbroken shale. Years before a pilot out ofrnBig Piney and his passenger had flownrninto the mountain side 30 or 40 feet belowrnthe summit. Arriving hours later atrnthe crash site a Search and Rescue teamrnfound a disintegrated airplane and somernhuman remains, among them shoes withrnthe feet laced inside. While magpiesrnpicked fragments of brain tissue from thernbranches of surrounding trees. Searchrnand Rescue gathered up the plane andrnpacked it off the mountain. Apparentlyrnthey missed a few pieces. I reached forrnwhat looked like part of the gyroscopernand turned it over in my hand.rn”How could he have made an errorrnlike that.”rn”It was an early fall snowstorm. Hernwas trying to land at the Kemmerer airport.”rn”This isn’t the country for flyingrnplanes around in.”rn”It’s no better riding horses,” Normarnsaid.rnThe warm weather held from Aprilrnthat year and we were with the horses inrnthe back country by the second week ofrnJune, after the road along La Barge Creekrndried out. We left the rig at the guardrnstation on the Greys River and rode westrnup Corral Creek into the Salt RiverrnRange, where we fixed camp in a rockyrnswale below a long alpine ridge. Seatedrnby the fire drinking coffee spiked withrnwhiskey we watched a fine buck deerrnpick his way along the ridge line, turningrnhis eight points in the sun’s final light.rnAt the sound of engines boring out of thernsky I shifted the field glasses from thernbuck to a big commercial jet flying eastrnby southeast, low enough that the houserncolors and ensign were discernible on thernfuselage and tail.rn”He’s going to crash,” I said.rn”Of course he’s not.”rn”I’ve never seen them so low this farrnout from Salt Lake.”rn”Look: three—no, four—bucks justrnjoined the first one.”rn”Three hundred people going 500rnmiles an hour on their butts, drinkingrnCalifornia champagne and watchingrnHollywood movies.”rn”Here’s where you should come huntingrnthis fall.”rn”While we’re thrashing around 20,000rnfeet below in down timber, falling offrncliffs and getting thrown by horses.”rn”Will you fix us both another drink?rnDon’t put any coffee in mine this time.”rnIn the morning we staked the horsesrnto graze and climbed uphill over roughrnground to Corral Lake in its rock-walledrnamphitheater. The lake was partly coveredrnby ice, but cutleaf daisies blossomedrnat the water’s edge. Seated on the gravellyrnsand along the shore we ate driedrnfruit and nuts and watched the watery reflectionsrnof the round white clouds driftrnacross the wavelets. I lay back to take thernsun on my face and was already halfrnasleep when a loud echo arose in thernrocky bowl like the roar of a giant conchrnshell. From a sitting position I observedrnthe vapor shaft lance behind its brightrnmetallic point across the opening to thernsky. w h e n the uproar had faded andrndied I asked, “Have you ever thoughtrnwhat it was like to be in the mountainsrn100 years ago, before there were airplanes?”rnNorma looked surprised, then pitying,rnas if called on to answer a question byrnwhat used to be called in her native Tennesseerna child of God. “Why, just thernway it is right now,” she said.rnIt was a hard ride coming out. Therncreek had risen to flood stage and therernwere slippery rocks and logs to get over.rnSeveral times the horses nearly wentrndown, until we dismounted at last andrnled in the worst places. Where the footingrnwas good the gelding would pushrnfrom behind, and where it was bad hernhung back at the end of the lead to gatherrnhimself for a leap calculated to putrnhim exactly on the spot I had hastily vacated.rnOur shouts to one another wererncovered by the thunder of white waterrnrushing over boulders and piled logs intornblack swirling pools descending by levelsrnthrough green meadows edged by timberrnto the juncture of Corral Creek with thernGreys River. Across the valley of thernGreys the Wyoming Range blocked thernlower half of the eastern sky, the glazedrnsnowfields above timber line shining inrnthe light of the westering sun. A fewrnAUGUST 1997/49rnrnrn