Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The Haystacks - Part 1
The old man in the little store at Red Desert, WY had a bighorn sheep skull he'd picked up in the breaks south of Man and Boy Butte back in the ‘50s – the 1950s. Both the man and the sheep skull looked like they could have just as easily found one another in the 1850’s. Both were sun-dried and weathered relics in this little oasis in the middle of the sagebrush sea. The country south of Wamsutter was still wild when my dad and I used to stop in at the store for a Coke on our way home from a daytrip to Fort Laclede or the Haystacks. The old man and the little store grew older and shabbier together over the years as the Lincoln Highway was replaced by Interstate 80. Finally they both passed away. I wonder what ever became of that sheep skull.
I wonder what ever became of the country he found it in, too. I tried to take The Apprentice and his dad in there not long ago. The sagebrush sea was gone, chopped into little pieces up by a spider web of roads and pipelines, wellpads and compressor stations. It took me three hours to find the road along the north side of the Haystacks, and another hour to find the little two-track that dead-ends where we used to camp. The old timers claimed that Butch Cassidy used to camp for a day or two in the Haystacks too, back in the day. He could rest his horses and watch his back trail to make sure nobody was following him on the Outlaw Trail from Hole in the Wall to Brown’s Park. It was a dry and lonely camp then, but not anymore. It’s part of one of the largest gas fields in America.
We can stand on the same rockpile that a bighorn sheep stood on once, quick-draw the smartphones out of our pockets and call our cousins in Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Lost Springs. We can open Google Earth and know exactly where we are. There’s no app to tell us exactly where we’re going, but I think I know. I think we're going to a place where nobody knows and nobody cares about bighorn sheep or Butch Cassidy or the Red Desert Store. We're going to a place where as long as we’ve got a smart phone, a soccer field and an SUV, we could care less about the Haystacks or Man and Boy Butte or Fort Laclede. We’re going to the place where comfort lives and freedom dies. Welcome to the 21st century, fellow travelers.