JACK AND CLIFF BEFORE "THUMBING" TO PRACTICE
(My mother was good at chopping off heads in photos)
OUR BIKE LOOKED SOMETHING LIKE THIS
A spring day in the desert has a softness about it. The sagebrush, normally muted, looks almost fluorescent. The gray hills take on a purple hue. The new fields and wild grasses are a fresh pale green. My mother loved the desert. She would raise her face to the warm sun, sigh contentedly and say, “I love this beautiful place.” I would look around and wonder what she was talking about. It looked shabby to me. I had seen mountain meadows and still water lakes in the Uintas and I thought that was beauty. How is desolation beautiful, I wondered?
My mother read Zane Gray and when I got old enough she passed on a couple of his books for me to read. His descriptions of the desert made me look at barrenness differently. Besides, I wanted to hold my face to the sun and see like my mother.
I began to notice the subtle colors in the rocks and hills, the mildly pungent aroma of sage, and cedar trees, the beauty of shaggy Tamaracks with spiked pink blooms growing along the alkaline creek. Oh Yes, I am beginning to see.
Our Wellington house was 3 miles east of town—the last outpost before the long expanse of desert that stretched out toward Moab. There is a turn off Highway 50-6 that takes you down a lane in front of our old house—the house my dad built on six acres of alkali desert. If you continued down the lane it would take you to the community Rodeo grounds. (We called it “grounds”, nothing so exotic as “Arena”) The half-mile down this lane passed alf alfa fields, sprightly green in the spring and then purple with blooms at harvest time, then covered with rows and rows of rectangular bales—bales that my brothers would heft onto a hay wagon working for the farmers who owned the land.