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Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

Here at the inlet cove of a high mountain lake,

the water is lined with boulders perfectly placed,

lily pads smiling and three clear hues shining in

morning light:

an ebony ess along this leftward shore,

deep, flagrant blue toward the center,

white sun-catching ripples at the eastern edge—

a fetching body of water pocketed by slopes

of golden meadow grasses gone to seed,

spiked with bright lemony clumps of

arctic willow

and crimson studs of Salix planifolia,

and backed by dark forests of spruce and fir

that sweep to timberline, with sheep slopes


sharp ridges, steps, buttresses, cliffs, and


leading up to turrety peaks that scratch

against the almost flawless sky—marred only by

three thin mare’s tails of high-stretched cirrus,

and that’s not all of it.

Call it perfect if you will.

I do and nearly gasp,

reach for a camera, think better of it,

knowing how a shutter’s snap diminishes

and sensing, too, in cirrus

that this whole September scene

is just about to change

Tomorrow the wind will shift

from warm south to raw northwest,

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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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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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Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

In the river just below

two ghost cabins near Fontenelle,

whose roofs now open to the sky,

we cast cold-handed for the native trout

that rise in corrugated water,

running aqua and violet

in the raw and ruddy afternoon.

We swat at ever-hope of anglers:

for quarry big enough and hard to catch,

but in sharp wind we hear fish snickering

at our folly, for surely they have seen

such exceedingly false lures

and fatuous flies before.

To hear more inviting voices on the breeze,

we scabbard graphite foils

and revive the homestead hopes

that must have built this long-shot place:

these hovels, coops, sheds, corrals—

a jetty against the greater stream.

Let us pray

that the cordwood stacked

will be enough

and more will grow,

that the kids don’t drown,

cattle won’t wander,

the river don’t flood,

horses won’t founder, and

we can still stand

each other come spring.

In sheltered bottom these barren branches

could form a fretwork, trunks make columns

to edifice at arms’ length

a carp-white sheening sky.

And if the soil is poor,

and clay, there’s plenty of it.

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Kevin Holdsworth University Press of Colorado ePub

To have become a resident of southwestern Wyoming requires wearing a Prudence medallion. There are two faces on it: one is smirking and amused and the other is horror-stricken.

Having felt the spirit of mountain idolatry early on, it was convenient enough to venture into the Uinta and Wind River mountains, the two great ranges in the neighboring part of the Cowboy State, during my teenage years. Wyoming offered three irresistible things: fresh air, freedom, and fun. Or to put it more concretely: fine mountains, fireworks (good for keeping the bears at bay), and firewater—ardent spirits easily available for underage consumption. There was nothing wrong with the Wasatch Range that formed the eastern rampart of the Salt Lake Valley, it was just that the Uintas and Winds were bigger, grander, emptier, rockier, wilder, more elk-rich and moose-rotten, and their watercourses were troutier too.

Yet Wyoming, at least the part of it my buddies and I drove through, presented an appalling picture of resource development run wild. I recall passing through wide-open Rock Springs on the way to the Winds in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during “the Boom,” a period of coal, trona, and gas and oil development on an unprecedented scale, as well as the construction of a power plant, and the town seemed home to 10,000 house trailers—mobile homes—that covered the hillsides like an impermanent malignancy. Large pickups painted primer gray plied the dusty streets, sporting gunracks containing mini-arsenals that proclaimed that the owners were one with the NRA, rigs that were accentuated with glaspacks that growled and flatulated. The eyesore that was Elk Street swarmed with roughneck oil workers, roustabouts, and riggers—still-barked, three-eyed men who wore tar-stained coveralls year round, and who did not seem kindly disposed toward backpackers. Sin City, Rock Springs, Wyoming, notorious for hard work and vice.

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