I’m never bored crossing Kansas. Or Nebraska, certainly not South Dakota, even the Texas Panhandle, interstate New Mexico. I crossed New Mexico and Arizona in an unairconditioned Ford Maverick when I was 16. It was 1973 and when we arrived at the Grand Canyon overlook north of Flagstaff we were the only people there. Imagine that. The vastness of the canyon, the insignificance of our little family. I crossed the green wheat prairie of North Dakota in a Greyhound bus in summer; sat in the doorframe of Father De Smet’s mission in Montana and watched the bison spill over the brown hill of the national range. As a young woman, I was advised not to walk after dark to the cafe in downtown St. Ignatius, Montana because some of the Flathead boys had spotted a grizzly wandering down from the Sawtooths. I’ve stuffed my legs into my dad’s Ford Ranger and driven straight through to Wyoming, only to awaken the next morning in the John Ford movie that is the canyons and buttes of Green River. I’ve ridden over roadless range in my cousin’s truck banging my butt for two hours just for the chance to see a moose in the Seedskadee, but instead sitting cross-legged on the hood to watch a herd of mustangs raising dust on the far, far Wyoming horizon. I came upon the South Pass six days before 9/11 when a tempest dropping snowflakes the size of handkerchiefs blew into the valley and out again before we could even stop to catch one. I’ve sat beside my 10 year-old niece in a dreamlike magenta twilight driving out of Yellowstone past the Snake River into the Jackson Hole where thousands of elk crowded silently on both sides of the road. Never duplicate that in a million years. I’ve trudged in my 50s to keep up with my nephew as he dodged the boulders and ponderosa of the Colorado front range to get a better view of the bighorns my Dad and I had never managed to find on our trips. And it was on the trip with my nephew that I finally saw the moose, in a place they are seldom seen, much less mother and calf. I am charmed in the West. The drive could never bore me. I still see herds of bison crossing I-70 in Kansas for days. Still see a thousand tipi above the cottonwood draws of western Nebraska, see threadbare Norwegians two months off the boat hacking shelter from Dakota sod. I still see the sea of grass where titanic weather systems form, storm, and die as the plains anticipate the mountains. And then, there are the canyons. Forty-two years after my first trip West, there’s still nothing like it. Nothing. I call this photograph Western Reflection. I like the reflection I make in the West, too.

Copyright RC


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