The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, ]r.rnThe Voice of the Turtlern”Niuno e solo I’apnll” Minii tells Rodolfornin Act Three of Ld Boheme. Mimi didn’trnsurvive until April, and if she had shernmight have felt alone without Rodolfornan’way. Still, spring, like sex, is exuberant,rnirrational —rather, it’s suprarahonal.rnAnd unignorable, like a 70-mile-an-hourrnwind, which is what spring amounts to inrnmost of the Rocky Mountain West.rnWyoming has nothing properly describablernas spring, only a prolonged battle tornthe death between the lengthening lightrnand the Arctic air mass retreating grudginglyrnnorth, evocative of Die Gotterddmmeningrnin a murky Bayreuth productionrnby Wieland Wagner. To date, the powerrnof light has prevailed eventually over thatrnof darkness —sometimes not imtil thernFourth of Jidy weekend or even later—rnbut you never can tell. It gets wearisomernnow and then; still, the annual cancellationrnof springtime is just another of thosernblessings in disguise, like solihidc and nornstate income tax, easily recognized asrnsuch by people who belong here. If nothingrnelse, it acts as a means of populationrncontrol, a seasonal prophylaxis discouragingrnimmigration on the part of outsidersrnwhile depressing sex drive in thernnatives. Most years since 1995, thernWyoming census has didy recorded a declinernof a few hundred, a few thousandrnsouls—we’re the only state in the Unionrnto be able to boast of that honor, thoughrnfor some reason (progressive brainwashingrnby the idtramontane culture, perhaps)rnfew of us do. Logically spcakiirg,rnEd Abbey should have made Wyoming,rnnot the ever-expanding margins of Tucson,rnArizona, honre to his Wolfs Hole retreat.rnWliy didn’t he do it? Because hernhated snow and cold weather, of course.rn(Sorry, VA, wherever you are: We didn’trndo it to exclude you.)rnFollowing a mild winter, this yearrnthere are at least signs of spring, which isrnnot always the ease in Wyoming. Somernmornings the water in the horse troughrnripples smoothly in the early breeze, notrnso much as a skim of ice to remove withrnthe shovel. My measure of winter’s severityrnis less the hcahng bills than how muchrnhay is left by Memorial Day; by earlyrnMarch of this year it was already apparentrnwe were coming out ahead, with plentyrnof last year’s fodder going into next winter.rnThe horses, barrel-bellied on just arnthird of a 110-pound bale a day, barelyrnlook up from grazing the brown grass tornacknowledge the pickup as I turn into thernranch yard: When they come running atrnlast with their manes and tails flowing,rnsunfishing and kicking their heels in thernair, it’s more from habit, or curiosity, orrnaffection—who knows the emotional lifernof horses?—than hunger.rnThe bird life in Laramie is still largelyrnrestricted to rock doves, sparrows, ravensrnand crows, and the five parrots I keep indoors,rnbut in late February, on the wayrnover to Kansas to visit the Detrixhes andrnagain on the return trip, I saw waterfowlrnin numbers recalling the amazed reportsrnof the early explorers and settlers on thernHigh Plains: elongated V’s of north-flyingrngeese and ducks, clouds of sandhillrncranes glittering like locusts as the sunrnstrikes their bellies and the undersides ofrntheir wings, funnels of snow geese spiralingrnfrom the sky to alight on the thinrngreen fields of winter wheat, hundreds ofrnthousands of them covering the swellsrnand depressions like a localized snowstorm;rnevery lake and water impoimdmentrnalong Interstate 80 between Ogallalarnand York, Nebraska, black withrnresting birds —Canada geese, mallards,rnteal, and others I didn’t recognize fromrnthe highway at 70 miles an hour. Niunorne solo I’april.rnIf I were a bird I wouldn’t be returningrnto North Dakota or Manitoba just yet.rnSpring is the time to be in the Southwest,rnbefore the thermometer climbs abovern100 but after the snowbirds have got intorntheir Winncbagos and gone home to thern”polises” (Minneapolis, Indianapolis,rnAbominapolis). Cabaret, the singer AndrearnMarcovicci has written, is where yourngo for tenderness. And cabernet. And, inrnspringtime, the civilized (meaning thernleast popidated) regions of the AmericanrnSouthwest: southern Utah and Colorado,rnnorthern New Mexico and Arizona.rnWhat more tender than budded cottonwoodsrnstanding in swirls of foamingrnbrown floodwater, prickly pear in redand-rnyellow blossom on the warming pinkrnsand, the song of tree frogs from die creekrnbottom, white clouds making up againstrna cyanic sky, snows melting out from therntawny foothills of blue distant mountains,rnthe brilliance of Orion in the southwesternrnsky behind the ragged red flames of arncampfire? Camped up a side canyon inrnNine Mile Canyon, Utah, searching forrnpetroglyphs among chunks of sandstonernlike broken red china and pygmy rattlesnakesrnemerging from hibernation,rnwhile men mounted on winter-fat quarterhorsesrnride at full gallop dirough thernsagebrush, the tails of their yellow slickersrnflying. Backpacking off flic north rim ofrnthe Grand Canyon with Tom Shccley,rnfamily, and friends, among them hisrngood buddy Maddy Albright (home fromrnstrong-arming Putin in Moscow) whorngets to carry the heaviest pack. Defyingrnthe Forest Service by building an openrnfire in a restricted area and the surgeonrngeneral by getting drunk on Jim Beam.rnOr just sitting in the shade of a juniperrntree reading a novel by Thomas Mc-rnGuane, as I did the year I broke my legrnskiing across the absolutely level surfacernbetween the parking lot and the BeaverrnMoimtain ski lodge, while clutching arnbottle of beer in each hand along withrnthe ski pole.rnWhat passes for springtime in thernNorthern Tier has its moments, ofrncourse. It’s pleasant, for instance, tornimagine the million-plus inhabitants ofrnSalt Lake Cify and vicinify playing golfrnand tennis and watching the crocusesrnand tulips come up around the MormonrnTemple while yon shovel out to the mailboxrnfor your copy of a spring seed cataloguernspecializing in varieties (lettuces,rnradishes, cucumbers, and some types ofrnJUNE 2000/49rnrnrn