From my forthcoming book, How Is Travel a Folded Form?
Isabella and I are always on bridges, even when everything is dry. Episode. We drive past the factory-cum-brewery, the little post office, the straight part of the route with a railroad on one side and Calf Mountain ahead, books on the floor of the car, plastic soldier on the dashboard. We imagine living here and there. You put in a driveway or you just paint. One slope is covered in knee-high plants turning red. One cowers below electric lines and high towers.
She writes about where she wants to picnic and ride, then I write about her horse. She writes a memory:
“This man, known through the Territories and beyond them as ‘Rocky Mountain Jim,’ or more briefly, as ‘Mountain Jim,’ is one of the famous scouts of the Plains, and is the original of some daring portraits in fiction concerning Indian Frontier warfare…He is a man for whom there is now no room, for the time for blows and blood in this part of Colorado is past…”[i]
I watch a Mountain Jim show from the driver’s seat. Things have gotten taller, I tell her. I write,
“I went off to look for a trailhead which the info board at the campground had mentioned on its cheery Things-To-Do list, but it proved elusive amongst the cows and tall grasses. A ranger told me it hadn’t been maintained so she wouldn’t even try to explain where it used to be.”
Something to add to our notes: Myths preceded wagon ruts onto the plains. You can still follow deer and rabbit trails, I tell her. She picks her favorite of my sentences.
We stand openmouthed at a chasm of air where dry leaves blow like flecks of gold. Isabella proves to me thus that land exists. She wants to know how anklebones lead to six-packs, how Vespas lead to myocardial infarction, how the Sunday paper leads to sugar packets, how salads lead to antique furniture. When a frontier is visible, so is its legend, and its advertising. I point out signs to her, and which ones are worth saving.
[i] Isabella Bird, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.