to the inheritors, even though theynhave not heard the sound of mountainnwater, smelled the wolf willow tree, ornwrestled with the bear.nOne further observation. New Englanders.nSoutherners, and the commerciallynminded Americans of the MiddlenStates, as I have argued before, broughtna filter with them as they extendednwestward civilizations that they knewnand loved. In blocking them off fromndirect transactions with the West, thesenoverlays also inhibit their apprehensionnof the majesty of nature: that which isnnuminous and wholly other. Writersnconcerned with the mountain West arennot often thus constrained. They understandnwhat Wordsworth meant byn”that beauty which hath terror in it,”nwhich brings to us both awe and exalta-‘ntion. The West as ground for religiousn34/CHRONICLESnThe Watchnby Brad OmansonnLodged in oak on a rugged bluff,na ruined farmhouse rises overnlands that gulley into the roughncleft of Spoon River—nlands that for generations fellnfrom father unto eldest sonnwith always hope of harvest tillnforeclosed upon.nThe current owner lives so farnaway he’s never seen the darknApril fields lie furrowed ornwinter fields lie starknand now Spoon River, ever more,nruns muddy through eroded banks —nthe footbridge is in disrepair,nminus many planks.nUpon the bluff, in cryptic shade,nthe house succumbs to slow decay —nwhere once the porch and parlor stood,ngrazing cattle stray,nyet the old proprietor standsnattentive at his window, stillnkeeping watch: his icy handsngrip the rotted sill.nexperience, a land resilient in resistingnintruders and not easily subjected tonour will, is not to be underplayed,nthough it fosters religion of a verynProtestant kind, with each man anchurch of his own as he contemplatesnwhat God hath wrought.nFor reasons detailed in my accountnof how we go about imagining thenWest, I do not expect to see any greatnfalling off in the volume, intensity, ornartistic value of Western writing in thenforeseeable future. For even though itnis evident that Hollywood and thenmajor television networks do not sonmuch depend on Western materials asnwas once the case, it is also true thatnthat shift has more to do with thenintellectual and political bias of thosenwho generate these entertainmentsnthan with the attitude of the nationnnntoward serious treatments of life asnlived in the Western setting or undernthe terms prescribed for usage by thenWestern imagination. Moreover, thenacademic industry of interpreting thenWest as history or literature is on itsnway toward achieving some definitivenshape. In the process, a distinctivenculture is coming toward self-consciousnessnof a variety it had not previrnously known.nIn examining the evidence supportingnthese remarks, I should acknowledgenthe contributions of the WesternnAmerican Literature Association andnof the Western and Southwestern Historicalnsocieties. Journals like WesternnAmerican Literature, South DakotanReview, Southwestern Review, PrairienSchooner, and Southwest AmericannLiterature watch attentively the flow ofnpublications that deal with westeringnand wilderness or the enterprise ofnknowing what these words mean. ThenUniversity of Nebraska Press has acceptednas its role keeping in print thenclassic texts of Western American literature.nIn this work they have beennfrequently supported by the presses ofnthe University of Texas at El Paso,nTexas Christian University, SouthernnMethodist University, Utah State, andnthe University of New Mexico. Thennew press at the University of NorthnTexas has also made an ambitiousnbeginning. With the history of thenAmerican West, the University ofnOklahoma Press has, over a period ofnalmost fifty years, assumed a specialnresponsibility. And the Western WritersnSeries, with titles ranging fromnRichard Etulain’s Owen Wisternthrough Dorys Crow Grover’s JohnnGraves, will, when completed, be anbasic introduction to the writers whonconstitute this field. What began innspontaneity has been translated intonart. What had its origin in unplannednencounter has matured with reflectionninto an understanding of hidden connections,nwhich together struggle towardnmaking up the ground for anliterary tradition. This process as itnemerges should be an encouragementnto those who do not believe that thenUnited States and its cultural developmentnare a finished business. For asnconcerns the operation of the imaginationnin dealing with the AmericannWest, the evidence is altogether to thencontrary. n