watched the fleecy clouds above andrnTruman Julian’s sheep below moving inrnopposite directions across the rollingrnsagebrush hills.rnTwelve hours before the Thomans’rnlease expired at midnight, June 30, MaryrnThoman and I, accompanied by herrnniece Karen Thoman of Rivcrton, loadedrnthree saddle horses into a stock trailerrnand drove south along the meanderingrnGreen River to look for 43 yearlings thatrnneeded to be gathered and pushed up tornthe corrals for transshipment to theirrnsummer range on Ferentchaks’ ranch inrnthe valley of the Hamsfork north ofrnKemmcrcr. Besides Karen we had withrnus Mary’s sister Laurie—last year’s MissrnRodeo Wyoming and this summer’srnMiss Wyoming Trucker, since she acquiredrna Class A motor vehicle licensernauthorizing her to operate a semi-tractor-rntrailer rig—to take the truck back tornthe ranch. Always high-spirited, Lauriernwas particularly ebullient this afternoonrnin anticipation of a party 450 miles awayrnin Greeley, Colorado, from which shernwas due home in 48 hours to haul cattle.rnWe had a hard time spotting cows fromrnthe highway, but after half an hour’srnsearch we spied them bedded on a bluffrndownstream of a watergap in the bend ofrnan oxbow in the river. Mary drove acrossrna cattle guard and parked in the sagebrush,rnwhere we unloaded the horsesrnand bridled them, tucked the water bottlesrninto the saddlebags, and set off at anrnextended trot on a flanking maneuver tornjump the cattle from their beds and startrnthem moving up the wide valley towardrnhome. We counted 11 cows in the bunchrnand Karen and I, leaving these to Mary,rngalloped away to the river, where 32rnmore head lay resting in the cool mudrnbeside the shore. They heaved up atrnsight of us, as four heavy-bodied pelicansrnlifted off the water and flapped upstreamrnseveral hundred yards. Then they scatteredrninto the desert where we broughtrnthem together again and began pushingrnthem in the direction of Mary and herrnanimals. Being yearlings they movedrnalong briskly, much faster than maturerncattle. The horse did his work withoutrnmuch direction from me, but with arngood deal of restraint on account of thernobvious pleasure he took in charging atrnfull speed into the herd and busting it uprnlike a champion pool player taking hisrnturn at the break so that I was soon eatingrnall the dust I could get down, in spiternof the lushness of the desert verdure. Atrngathering time the previous June thernGreen River Basin had already beenrnburned a brittle brown by the roaring sunrnand the hot wind; now it rippled in supplernwaves under a chilly breeze, shimmeringrngreen and spotted with vividrnwildflowers. In the space between onernroil of yellow dust and another, I squintedrnahead at the chromium peaks of therndistant mountains gleaming against arnwine-blue sky: a promise, a mystery, anrnache. When we arrived with the yearlingsrnat the corrals Laurie had gone forrnthe semi. I sat my horse watching herrnback up to the chute and came close tornbeing caught between two bulls chargingrnbackward and forward with their hornlessrnheads wrapped around each other’srnnecks.rnAt dawn on the morning of the Fourthrnthe temperature in town was just abovernfreezing and a cold wind blew fromrnthe northwest under a mackerel sky.rnSnow filled in the high valleys betweenrnthe peaks in the Wyoming Range andrnplugged the couloirs in the sheer rockrnfaces, and across the basin snow cloudsrndriven by the high-altitude winds rupturedrnthemselves on the granitic superstructurernof the Wind River Mountains,rnwhich the resulting blizzards obliterated.rnI pulled onto the rodeo grounds as therngrand entry parade was beginning andrnparked behind the announcer’s stand.rnAt the center of the arena Old Glory andrnthe Buffalo Flag of Wyoming blew intornthe riders’ faces, and the gids held ontorntheir hats with their left hands whilern”The Star Spangled Banner” was sung. Irnrecognized Clyde Clark and his familyrnstanding 50 yards away, and recalled thatrnhis son Brett was scheduled to ride today.rnCasey, the younger boy, also had aspiredrnto be a bull rider before he watched arnfriend get stompled by a bull at thernPinedale Rendezvous several years ago.rnThe bull had stepped on the rider’s face,rncaving in the one side and smashing thernentire soft palate: a spectacle that recurredrnto Casey each time he settledrnhimself on a bull until Hnally he gave uprnbull riding for good. Brett rode well thisrnafternoon, sticking it until the buzzerrnsounded, but two rides later a cowboyrnmade a face plant and before he couldrnroll away was winged by a back hoof inrnthe calf of his right leg. He lay groaningrnin the sand until the clowns supportedrnhim out of the arena and settled him onrnthe bottom step of the stairs going uprnto the announcer’s box, where he satrnashen-faced with his head thrown backrnwhile the medics were summoned. Thernmedics stretched him on his l)ack on thernhard ground, sawed away the point of therncompound fracture where the splinteredrnbone protruded from the skin, and encasedrnthe leg in a clear plastic form beforernthey lifted him onto the gurney andrnstowed him in the back of the waitingrnambulance.rnI drove west out of town toward thernmountains into the lowering sun, as therngreen hayfields gave way to pasture andrnthe pasture yielded to the lavender sagcbru.rnsh hills. In the parks that opened betweenrnthe aspen stands and in the darkrnpine forests, isolated campers huddledrnabout their suppertime fires. The coldrnincreased with the elevation, and for halfrna mile and some hundreds of verticalrnfeet below the outlet from Middle PineyrnLake the creek torrentcd among leaflessrnwillows. I left the truck at the water’srnedge, stuck a pair of binoculars in myrncoat pocket, and set out around the lakernalong its southeastern shore. It was desertedrnsave for two men sitting with fishingrnrods in their hands and a stringer ofrnmackinaw in the liquid green ice lappingrnnear their feet. Ten years ago over thernFourth a pair of liquored teenagers,rnmooning their girlfriends from a boat,rncapsized into the lake and died of shockrnbefore they could swim the 75 yards tornshore. Before I was halfway around thernlake I had seen all that I needed to see.rnWyoming Peak was a triangular massif ofrnunbroken snow; Baldy Mountain wasrndecorated by an impressive snow cornicernextending 20 feet or more beyond therncliff edge; and the great bowl in whichrnMiddle Piney Creek heads below the circumambientrntrail was sheerly white, unbrokenrnby patches of red talus. Seatedrnon a piece of rock dampened by waves Irnglassed the wintry landscape far abovernwith precision, searching for signs ofrnhope. So near, and yet so far. WyomingrnPeak is my Kilimanjaro: my hope, myrnpromise, my dream, never to be fulfilledrnin this world though I have climbed itrnseveral times and gazed upon the woridrnfrom its summit. I rose, tucked the glassesrninside my shirt, and followed the trailrnback around the lake, overtaking the fishermenrnas they trudged slowly with theirrngear and catch, whose brilliant colorsrnwere already fading in the dry mountainrnair. “Which one is Wyoming Peak?” thernshorter man asked, gesturing at thernmountains behind us. “Can you sec itrnfrom here?” “No,” I told him, admiringrnthe fish. “You can’t see it from here.”rn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn