68 Slices
Medium 9780253353139

The Geography of Somewhere

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

for Dan Shilling

If we are to build up a civilization
around ourselves in these United States,
we must learn to keep our beautiful things and
to look at them more than once.

—VACHEL LINDSAY

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Medium 9780253000958

The Uses of Muscle

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

When I was a boy growing up on the country roads of Tennessee and Ohio, the men I knew all earned a hardscrabble living with the strength of their hands and arms and backs. They raised corn and cows, felled trees, split wood, butchered hogs, mortared bricks and blocks, built and wired and plumbed houses, dug ditches, hauled gravel, overhauled cars, drove bulldozers and backhoes, welded broken parts. They hunted game for the table in season, and sometimes out of season. Some of them had once mined coal in Appalachia or trawled for fish in the Great Lakes. Many had fought in Europe or Korea. They arm-wrestled at the volunteer fire department, smacked baseballs over fences at the schoolyard, and at the county fair they swung sledgehammers or hefted barrels to see who was the mightiest of the lot.

A brawny, joking, red-haired southern charmer who often won those contests was my father. He had grown up on a farm in Mississippi, had gone to college for a year on a boxing scholarship, had lost the cartilage in his nose during a brief Golden Gloves career. After moving north to Chicago, where he met the woman who would become my mother, he worked by turns as a carpenter, a tire builder, and a foreman in a munitions plant, until he eventually graduated to wearing a white shirt and sitting all day at a desk. He never liked the fit of a desk or a starched shirt, however, so as soon as he came home from the office he would put on overalls and go to work in the shop, garden, or barn. He could fix every machine we owned, from the car to the camera, and he needed to fix them, for we rarely had enough money to buy new ones. Although he grumbled when the tractor threw a belt or the furnace quit, as soon as he grabbed his tools he began to hum. He took pleasure in using his strength and skill, and I took pleasure in watching him. Around our house, whenever anything heavy needed lifting or anything stubborn needed loosening he was the one to do it. He could tame a maverick horse, hoist an oil-slick motor out of a car, balance a sack of oats on his shoulder, plow a straight furrow in stony ground, transplant a tree with its root-ball bundled in burlap, carry my sister and me both at once in his great freckled arms.

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Chapter One

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Phoenix thought of her as the barefooted walker. From the morning when she first loomed into view like an unpredicted planet, she set up fierce tides of desire in him.

On that morning the pressure inside Oregon City and inside his head seemed no greater than usual, no more conducive to visions. A blue wig dangled stylishly about his ears, facepaint disguised his features, and a portfolio of satellite film beneath one arm identified him as a man bound for the office. Chemmies regulated every bodily process that needed regulating. All his life was in order. But when Phoenix emerged from his apartment, ticking off the day’s plans in his mind (work, then breeze-tripping for lunch, electro-ball in the afternoon, and eros parlors in the evening), suddenly there she was, a barefooted woman pacing in the wrong direction on the pedbelt. Slap of naked flesh on the conveyor. By matching her stride to the speed of the belt she managed to stay at the same point in the corridor, just opposite his doorway. Bustling along, yet never stirring from her chosen spot, she reminded Phoenix of the conjoined whirl and stillness of a gyroscope.

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Medium 9780253000958

The Common Life

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

One delicious afternoon while my daughter, Eva, was home from college for spring vacation, she invited two neighbor girls to help her make bread. The girls are sisters, five-year-old Alexandra and ten-year-old Rachel, both frolicky, with eager dark eyes and shining faces. They live just down the street from us here in Bloomington, Indiana, and whenever they see me pass by, on bicycle or on foot, they ask about Eva, whom they adore.

I was in the yard that afternoon mulching flower beds with compost, and I could hear the girls chattering as Eva led them up the sidewalk to our door. I had plenty of other chores to do in the yard, where every living thing was urgent with April. But how could I stay outside, when so much beauty and laughter and spunk were gathered in the kitchen?

I kept looking in on the cooks, until Eva finally asked, “Daddy, you wouldn’t like to knead some dough, would you?”

“I’d love to,” I said. “You sure there’s room for me?”

“There’s room,” Eva replied, “but you’ll have to wash in the basement.”

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Buffalo Eddy

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

From pristine headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River flows through western Wyoming, across Idaho, and into Washington before joining the Columbia River near the Hanford Nuclear Site, a destination as toxic as any on Earth. Hanford, repository for two-thirds of our nation’s high-level radioactive waste, has leaked its lethal brew into air and water and soil since reactors there began making fuel for bombs during World War II. Despite its pure beginnings, by the time it reaches the Columbia, the Snake bears its own load of pollution, mainly runoff from irrigated croplands, feedlots, and fish farms. Such a fall from innocence to corruption is a common fate for American rivers, but few have fallen as dramatically as the Snake.

Over its thousand-mile course, the Snake cuts through mountain ranges, surges across sagebrush plains, and roars through canyons—or at least it did cut and surge and roar, until a series of fifteen dams built during the past century reduced the river to a string of lakes. The dams have been profitable for ranchers, farmers, barge companies, and electric utilities, but they have proven disastrous for salmon. Huge numbers of returning coho, chinook, and sockeye perish at each dam, chiefly from the strain of climbing fish ladders. Of those that survive the climb, many die from the higher temperatures and increased predation in the reservoirs, and others lose their way in the slack water, where the current is too weak to offer direction, and where silt blocks the light and pollution muffles the smells they need to guide them to their spawning grounds.

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