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6. CHILDREN

Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

I study the nurses’ faces. They’re pure poker but worried. The ob-gyn, Dr. Peters, on his third delivery of the night, looks beat and concerned. He’s called in the pediatrician, Dr. Wengen, just in case. The baby’s lodged. For three months Jennifer has been complaining of intense pain down there and his kicking. (We learned that it was a he from the ultrasound.) He’s already two weeks overdue. He’s posterior, breech—they can tell that—and stuck. The suction device they attach to his head isn’t working. Little bone-colored forceps—jaws—are next, or a C-section.

Jennifer has been in induced labor for thirty hours now and is completely worn out. She’s deep inside herself—I can tell. I can tell none of this is really happening to her. It’s not that she’s watching, she’s just deep inside, far away. We withdraw in such times of great stress.

The two nurses tell her to try one more time, Honey, just one more time. We’re all in this together. Dr. Peter’s eyes look pale gray and reflect the overhead fluorescent light. He’s wearing a clear mask that looks like something a welder would use. The pediatrician, Dr. Wengen, one of just two in the county with hospital privileges, stands in the corner by the incubator tray, ready, watching, not in the way. He looks kindly, probably sixty-five. He’s been here before. It’s hard to keep good doctors in our community.

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1. HOWDY

Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

The first movie western, The Great Train Robbery, was filmed in New Jersey, or upstate New York, depending on whom you believe. The Homer of western writers, Owen Wister, was a Philadelphia lawyer. Zane Grey, the king of the formula western, was a dentist from Ohio. Louis L’Amour, inheritor of the Grey legacy, wrote about the wild wild west from the City of Angels and had such powerful concentration that he boasted he could compose on a median in the middle of the Santa Monica Freeway. Mary Austin, who wrote so beguilingly of the great dry lands experience, spent much of her creative life in New York City, as did other “western” writers, Willa Cather and May Swenson. Jackson Pollock, the celebrated urbanite drip, fling, splash, and swirl painter, was born in Cody, Wyoming.

These facts might seem discordant if not downright contradictory. They may be, but the ability to keep two opposites in mind helps us to negotiate this arid vale of tears. It’s not enough to circle it as yin and yang or simply pin it on a star sign. It is instead what keeps us wrangling—to acknowledge both sides of Prudence. It may also have something to do with the way past and present coexist in our minds. It may be the way sound shifts in passing. Where we are is also where we have been. We have to escape in order to return.

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3. RISK

Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

The ambulance that carried Whitey to the hospital

was operated by the same firm that ran

our town’s funeral home and crematory,

a coincidence that might have made him nervous,

but Whitey was already too-far-gone, rolling on

to hog heaven now, above the black and orange clouds,

his skull too full for impact, set to burst;

he downshifted into sky Sturgis for the final time.

The deer he’d missed browsed placidly

on the scrub-brush slopes beneath White Mountain,

the one he’d tagged lay smeared in bits and pieces,

dragged off the road by Officer Staples, lights flashing.

Lord, that busted up Sportster, Staples noted,

was as sad a sight as a bloated range bull,

or a dead moose, or a road-killed owl or eagle,

all strewn against the trapeze fence.

He walked the red sea roadside

but found no skid marks on the pavement

and nothing left to salvage.

We all knew Whitey liked to ride too fast—

he boasted road-rash tattoos, close calls aplenty,

but when he broadsided that hapless bambi,

his velocity must have carried him straight through it,

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9. ADIOS

Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

A day this nice so late in the season is given one year out of ten: mild and tender-breezed, and so darned pretty that to sit on cool sand and pebbles on the shore of String Lake suffices for much and helps make amends.

A man in a blue canoe glides past and saws the air as he struggles to his feet in the boat and waves—a scarecrow to the lying calendar. Christopher shouts and waves back. Mid-October most years and String Lake is already sheened with ice, not t-shirt weather. Sundry other merrymakers glide past and stroll along. We are all of us lucky.

My boy is happy enough to mug for the disposable camera. His face is still dirty from lunch, which was alfresco beneath tall spruce. During the picnic, two wind-up, fearless camp robber jays provided entertainment and had him in stitches. Silly birds, bold enough to steal your sandwich. They’d land just out of reach, snatch crumbs, and live up to their names. Camp robbers … Silly birds …

Mom’s off walking by herself. The girls are hunting for boys in the opposite direction.

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8. MYTH

Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

Darrell “Magpie” Menzies and Richard “Beaver Dick” Martinson worked together in the control room of the massive trona plant at Westvaco. They reenacted together, too, nearly every summer weekend, traveling around to various sites in the state—Hamm’s Fork, Daniel, Pinedale, Ft. Bridger, Casper, to attend rendezvous—to play act, really. And their wives, whom they called “our squaws,” generally joined in the hijinks. Magpie and Beaver Dick’s choice of hobby was intensely embarrassing to their children, who sulked in their RVs, can’t we get any better reception than that? practiced voodoo on little trapper dolls with rubber tomahawks and bags of possibles, prepare to die, Trapper Swine, and dreamed of a life far away from Wyoming. The highlight of the year, though, was the annual hunting trip to the Middle Fork. Magpie and Beaver went alone with only their animals. Smoke rose sinuously into a leaden sky. Magpie and Beaver were enveloped in fast-falling white darkness, in clouds so low and ground-hugging no one would call them clouds. But the smoke did not rise lazily for long. Much to his own delight, and to his partner’s dismay, Beaver Dick stoked and stoked the fire. The flames leapt up, licking back the damp chill. Beaver built a regular white-man’s fire.

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