I’m inside out. Yesterday another unexpected day. The carefully conceived plans, gone. Just get in the Jeep and take in as much as possible. A new ranch. An incredible place, not that high but so vast and so empty all I could think about was disappearing into the hills. Antelope, elk, bobcat, mountain lion, hawk, eagle, rattlesnake, ground squirrel and two massive Bighorn’s cresting a hilltop a mile away. Spotting scope resting on the tailgate, trucks pulled over, engines off. Just observing, traces of diesel vanishing in the wind.
They fear the eclipse here. Well, they fear the people coming for the eclipse. No matter what else happens, just know with absolute certainty, people from the city do not belong here. They never have and they never will. This place, and all others like it, are meant to be left alone, open, vast; strategically sparse to keep in rhythm with the mechanisms of The West. Interlopers like me with romantic visions have no real place. We are meant to keep moving. So are you.
I find myself holding a package of beef. “Who is cooking the burgers?” “You?” he asks. “Ahhhh.” “Goodbye,” he says laughing and walks off, so I man the grill, cooking meat for men and women who eat meat everyday. I’ve been married to a vegetarian for twenty-one years. I manage and there are no complaints, other than I didn’t cook enough.
The plains light is harsh, but still has that slight edge of contrast and saturation you only get at high altitudes. Minus 2/3 on the Fuji and forget about the rest. I get seconds of opportunity then spend most of the day in the backseat of the Rubicon. “Okay Squirt,” he says using my childhood nickname, “this one’s on you,” as we arrive at the first gate. It’s a test. Do I remember how to do it. One gate is stubborn but I use my shoulder like he taught me forty-years ago and we pass through. “It’s amazing how much you kids learned by those few months a year all those years ago,” he adds. “You remembered how to do it.”
There is water up top. Enough for grazing. Decisions are made, coded in terms of pasture size, landscape features and past inhabitants. The original, one-room schoolhouse still stands, protected now by the wire. Squatters cabins old corrals and irrigation tools slowly fading into the long grass and wind of this little altiplano.
They hassle me about my man bag until I tell them they selling price. Then they hassle me a bit more. A part of me feels bad even being here because I know our presence, sister and I, throws them from their natural routine. It would take years to even begin to blend in here, and I would be lumped in with a category of people I want no part of. The only way would be to come alone for long periods and ask for nothing, change nothing, influence nothing and just shut the Hell up and observe.
A topic that always rankles me, and them, is the concept of “people of money,” who come here and do what they do. F%$# things up. Money brings greed, arrogance and opinion, many of which are based on romantic notions of centuries past. It’s just plain ugly when people of money meet people of the land. Doesn’t matter where. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this, and if even I ever have real money I will do everything I can to avoid infringing. Not that I’m worried about ever having real money.
Now we prep for the eclipse. Truthfully, I want no part of it, and we’ve spoken about getting up high and being alone even if it means we avoid the path of totality. Fine by me. Not sure I’m going to watch it anyway. There are already reports of massive delays near Glendo, fifteen miles from where I planned to be. Maybe we would be better off to consider it a moment to ponder what we are doing with our lives, our culture. A moment to think about everything but ourselves, but I fear it will become little more than media sensation and Instagram fodder for who can have the hippest experience. #blessed God I’m so sick of it all. One week here and the delusions of online life seem nothing beyond silly.
Flights are changed, backroads studied and now we wait.