Friday, September 25, 2015

The Northern Mystery

      The Spanish called it the “Northern Mystery” - the unspeakably vast country north of the Sangre de Cristos, beyond the missions and the trails. They tried it, but soon turned back. It was too big, too empty, and too cold. The natives were fierce and the treasure too elusive. Father Escalante came up the Rio Verde – the Green River - as far as Marsh Creek in 1776. The old timers say that when Ashley and his men came down the river there were adobe buildings – clearly Spanish in design - near Brown’s Hole on the river. The Utes were vague when asked about it, but they were willing to say that some men came up the river from the south and spent one winter there. When asked what happened to them, they would say only that they died and no more. A mystery within the Mystery…    
      Maybe it’s the mystery that draws me to and connects me with the sagebrush country of the interior West. Maybe it’s the history. There have been Gassons abiding in the sagebrush sea for four generations, a long time for non-native people in a hard land. Our history is a blink of an eye compared to the Shoshone and Ute people who came before us, but it’s long enough to put down deep roots. Deep roots are needed to survive here. But for those four generations, we have been nourished and nurtured by the waters of the Green. The thin ribbon of emerald green that starts on the west flank of the Wind Rivers and winds through the willows and cottonwood bottoms and canyons to meet the Colorado far below us has been our lifeline.
       But no one, no family can have a life by clinging to a lifeline. Most of our lives have played out, for better or worse, in the great wide open of southwestern Wyoming. For me, my father before me and his father before that we have been men of the sagebrush country. By foot, a-horseback and by pickup truck we learned to navigate the immensity of this country. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter and incessantly windy year-round, it is often unforgiving. But it is stunningly beautiful in every season and it touches my heart like no place on earth. 

    It’s antelope season in our country, and we’ll soon be out on some nameless two-track road, a little used shipping lane out on the sagebrush sea. We’ll be glassing and stalking and if we’re lucky we might even be killing an antelope or two. But mostly what we’ll be doing is teaching the next generation the importance of public land from horizon to horizon and their responsibility in caring for it. We’ll talk about the country, the people and the critters. We’ll watch the sun sink below the Wyoming Range and we’ll thank God that we had one more day of our history, one more chapter in the mystery of our country – the sagebrush country.


1 comment:

  1. And we got Antelope! We had veal parmisghn for dinner last night and it was delicious!