The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, ]r.rnEvery Man for HimselfrnEl Paso del Norte . . . the Jornada delrnMiierto . . . Tiguex . . . Santa Fe: The triprnthat for Don Juan de Onate was a weekslongrnordeal up the Rio Grande on thernCamino Real in 1598 for me is an hourand-rn20-minute flight, including 20 minutesrnon the ground at Tiguex (betterrnknown today as Albuquerque, New Mexico).rnThe Franklin Mountains.., SierrarnUvas . . . Cooke’s Peak away to the westrn. . . the Black Range . . . the MagdalenarnMountains (under the wing, the highrnpark with the observatory at one endrnwhere Jim Rauen and I scouted for elkrnsign a few years ago) . . . Ladrone Peak,rnconcealing, according to legend, a quantityrnof thieves’ gold beneath its sun-blackenedrnfolds and wrinkles. . . next, the descentrninto Albuquerque, step by broadrnstep down a lurching, invisible staircase.rnThere is just enough time for a trip backrnto the restroom to rub at the coffee stainsrnin my lap vith a paper towel before we’rernairborne again, bucking the westerlyrnwinds on climb-out as the plane makes arnright turn and resumes following the riverrnnorth. For miles—five? ten? twenty?rnit’s hard to tell from up here—the Albuquerquernof 2010, 2020 is platted westwardrntoward Mt. Taylor, sacred to thernNavajo Indians, 70 miles away be}ondrnthe Canoncito and Laguna Reservations:rndrv scratch marks on the burnt and aridrndesert, vast geometrical petroglyphsrnwhose enigmatic meaning is — what?rnCatastrophe, I suppose, recalling thernPhoenix cit)’ fathers—mothers, too—reportedrnto have a similar grid planned asrnfar west as the Colorado River to meetrnIJOS Angeles pushing east. I won’t bernaround by then, of course, having gonernnorth instead. The Jemez Mountains . . .rnLos Alamos, crawling with Chinese spiesrnand sleep American security men onrncoffee break . . . snowfields below now,rnpatchy at first, then coming together andrnspreading north into the San Juan Mountainsrnpushing south from Colorado . . .rnSan Antonio Mountain, the Conejos Riverrnand the high San Juans where DickrnMcllhenny, Keith Hawkins, and I nearlyrnbagged the Sasquatch last August—appearingrnnow, in May, like somethingrnfrom the last Ice Age, snowed in for thernnext ten or hvelve thousand years. After arnmere three or four generations in the air,rnhumanity is almost totally blase about thernview from 30,000 feet. My fellow passengersrnsleep, drink Diet Coke, scan fat paperbackrnnovels into their motherboardedrnbrains —except one, a Native Americanrngendeman with his nose pressed againstrnthe window as if he might actualh be seeingrnthe world —/zfs world —for the firstrntime. The plane scrapes above Pike’srnPeak (elev. 14,110), clearing it by onlvrn15,000 feet or so, and soon after is on approachrnto Denver International Airportrnon a northeasterly heading.rn•Viewed from 12,000 feet (or otherwise),rnthe western hub city of Denverrnscarcely inspires a son of the Old West tornstand in his plane seat and yell, “Yippeeyi-rnyav-OH!” Built on a few dozen piles ofrnwhitened buffalo bones after the CivilrnWar, Denver knew its heyda- in thernCowtown period, the old town buriedrncompletely now beneath the glitteringrnsuperstructure begun during the energyboomrnof the 1970’s and early 80’s andrncompleted by the Colorado-or-Bust! migrationrnof well-to-do Caliphoneyans arrivingrnsince then. Today, LOenver fromrnthe air appears like a vast insect spawn onrnthe face of the prairie, its myriad suburbsrnand declopments laid out in an endlesslyrnrepetitive honevcomb pattern —arnhome for termites, perhaps, or for ants.rnRaised in the Dantesque environment ofrnLittleton, Colorado, I too might gornberserk (though I wouldn’t waste m’ ammunitionrnon teenage girls). While thern”lesson of Littleton” is a complicatedrnone, the fundamental message is thatrnmodern America has become unlivable.rn(Another is that white American malesrnhave no future in America and are beginningrnto recognize the fact, but that’s anotherrnstor)’.)rnFaulkner thought the American soilrncursed by slaver)’. As if slavery were thernworst thing ever to occur on the NorthrnAmerican continent, including the destructionrnof the Indian peoples, howeverrnsavage and cruel the- might have been.rnNot to mention quite a number of nonhumanrnindigenous species, includingrnthe passenger pigeon and the buffalo. Inrnher fine book The Buffalo Hunters, MarirnSandoz describes the virtual extinctionrnby white hunters of the bison herds onrnthe Great Plains—millions and millionsrnof animals—over a period of a little lessrnthan a decade, beginning in 1876 (a yearrnbefore the “reconstruction” of the defeatedrnSouth ended). What happened to thernIndians and the buffalo —intimately relatedrnin their mutual destruction, as theyrnhad been in their aboriginal existence —rnwas not an accidental chapter in Americanrnhistor)’, but a preview of the modernrnempire emerging. The colonists arrivingrnin America during the nearly two centuriesrnbefore the creation of the UnitedrnStates were a different breed from the immigrantsrnwho came after 1789: the firstrngroup more settled (and settiing), educated,rnand pious, concerned with transplantingrncivilization to the New World; thernsecond rootless and rapacious, exploitive,rnmaterialist, and individualistic, interestedrnin escaping Western civilization ratherrnthan in recreating it a hemisphere away.rnThe colonists, being civilized people,rncarried civilization with them; the immigrants,rnless civilized, brought chaos. Therncolonists sought remote places in whichrnto worship their God undisturbed; thernimmigrants hoped to “get ahead,” “makernsomething of themselves,” exercise theirrnprecious “equality” against eveiTone, especiallyrntheir betters. From approximatelyrnthe beginning of the 19th century forward,rnthe immigrants debarking atrnBoston, New York, and Philadelphiarnconsisted largely of the European peasantryrnand proletariat; men and womenrnwho, whether from the countrv or therncity, had never owned or controlledrnland —indeed, any natural resources atrnall. Released into the vast American hin-rnSEPTEMBER 1999/49rnrnrn