Great Western Trail: 1000-Lake Mountain

Lyn and I gave a talk about barbed wire last night at Robber’s Roost in Torrey, Utah, invited by the Entrada Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting science, humanities, and arts in the region. Frank McEntire, a remarkable Utah sculptor, was our host. As a thank you for our lecture he gave us a windmill made of sections of “Brink Flat” barbed ribbon. Frank got it from the estate of a friend and figured we would love it. We do.

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On the way home we drove through the little town of Freemont and up onto 1000 Lake Mountain. At the top we stopped at the trailhead of the Great Western Trail. Here is the scene at the trailhead:

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And here is the territory dropping off toward Capitol Reef that Sam Rushforth and I rode our mountain bikes through that day in October 20 years ago.

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In case you haven’t read our book Wild Rides & Wildflowers: Philosophy and Botany with Bikes (Torrey House Press), here is an account of the epic ride.

 

16 October, Great Western Trail, Thousand Lakes Mountain

It’s just before noon and Nancy is driving us through Bicknell and then north through Fremont. Alfalfa fields are lit by a brilliant sun, which makes the white slashes across the green grass all the more shocking: gangly big-wheeled irrigation pipes are rimed with gleaming white ice. Hogan Pass is high and exposed and windy. We leave the car reluctantly to assemble our bikes, pull on our gloves and draw our hoods tight amidst blowing ice crystals.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Nancy says while surreptitiously tucking a bag of cheese curd into Sam’s camelback (after having convinced him to add a bag of sunflower kernels and an emergency blanket).

“No question about it,” Sam agrees.

We wave good-by and head south on the Great Western Trail. Just below the pass we stop to adjust our packs. A moving shadow draws our gazes upward to where a big bird banks and sweeps and quarters into the wind, its white tail flared and white head brilliant against a black body. It’s a bald eagle! (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). “Haliaeetos,” I discover later, is the Latin for sea-eagle or osprey. “Leuco” is Greek for white, light, bright and is related to lux, luna, light, lightning, lumen, luster. “Leucocephalus”—white head.

“It’s a good omen,” I tell Sam.

“A good omen, my ass,” he replies cheerfully.

We pedal south on a rough jeep road. The mountain ridge rises abruptly to the west. To the east, 3500 feet below us, stand the buttes and spires and grotesque protuberances of Cathedral Valley. Sam points out Factory Butte at the north end of the Henry Mountains, whose peaks are half-veiled by dirty air, courtesy of coal-burning power plants. We skirt the western edge of the mountain through sage scorched by a recent fire. A flock of mountain bluebirds (Sialia currocoides) rises and falls among the sage. The trail leads us down a steep jeep track into a grassy valley. Around one turn we come face-to-face with a corpulent elk hunter sitting on a rock next to his four-wheeler.

“Sorry,” I say, screeching to a surprised halt. “Didn’t mean to screw up your hunt.”

He answers with a hateful stare.

“Lardass,” I mutter as we descend into the valley, shooting down the trail faster than I would have had my mind been on the mechanics of the descent. I hit the ground hard when my front tire slides across a steep incline, pulling the bike out from under me. I glance back quickly to see if the hunter can see me. He can’t. I feel a little better.

“Hell,” Sam says, riding up, “you do that on purpose?”

We hear motors. Two orange-clad elk hunters follow the trail out of the trees. They stop in front of us, a burley, burrheaded 45-year-old man and his father. We exchange pleasantries, about how cold it is, about how riding a bike at least kept your blood running, about the elk they have seen this morning.

“Where are you coming from?” the younger man asks.

“Hogan’s Pass,” Sam answers.

They are surprised.

“Where you headed?”

“To Torrey.”

“Torrey? You’re riding to Torrey!”

We’ve never ridden this trail. Now we’re a bit spooked.

We forge on, pushing some, riding some, tiring rapidly, awed and sustained by the magnificent Water Pocket Fold stretching away to the south and by the fantastically colored Capital Reef now below us.

There is the final sudden trail down from 9000 to 7000 feet, what I begin to call the Great Western Chute as the tendons on the sides of my knees begin to scream. Then the ride out between white and red Navajo Sandstone walls, along Sand Creek on a road so drifted with red sand that we fishtail our tired asses down into Torrey, where we call Nancy and wait in gathering dusk for a blessed ride home.

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Labor Day Memories from the Oil Patch: 1972

These pay stubs are from the first summer I worked as a roughneck. It was a wildcat expedition in southern Arizona, the first well almost two miles deep — just outside of Eloy (between Phoenix and Tucson) — then a shallower well outside Wickenburg to the west.

Hot as hell.

Three crews worked 8-hour shifts or “tours” / pronounced “towers” — 7 days a week with breaks only between wells. Thus the “BOTTOM HOLE” pay — a substantial bonus if you worked through to the end of that hole. The middle check is just for bottom-hole pay and not for subsistence (the hourly wage). Time-and-a-half overtime, which came only if someone on the tour following yours didn’t show up and one of you had to stay for a second 8 hours, which meant you only had 8 hours before your next tour to eat and sleep.

Floorhands like me were paid $3.25 an hour. Checks were issued weekly. With my summer’s wages I bought my first car for $600 (a VW Variant hatchback) and paid tuition, room, board, and incidentals for my next year at college. Plus I returned to Provo with an enormously expanded vocabulary.

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Loffland Brothers was a big company out of Oklahoma. This is the logo like the one on my hardhat.

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The booklet the company gave out to all its employees let us know what an extraordinary company we were privileged to work for and had a full page informing us that from time to time outside agitators might try to talk us into forming a union. We were to ignore them. There was simply no need, given the benevolent employers we were privileged to work for.

There was, of course, no medical insurance. No benefits of any kind other than the hard hat and sticker and, of course, the hourly wage. And, lest I forget, the benefit of principled sayings at the bottom of the pay stub:

WANT OF PRINCIPLE IS THE PRINCIPAL WANT OF TOO MANY PEOPLE THESE DAYS.

I was proud to be a roughneck, proud to earn a living among skilled men. I worked for 4 more summers with companies out of my hometown, Farmington, New Mexico. In retrospect, I wish Loffland Brothers had had principal principles aimed not at personal self-sufficiency but at corporate responsibility to its labor force.

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The Perfect Fence: Upcoming Talk

Flier just released for our upcoming talk for the Entrada Institute in Torrey. We’re very much looking forward to this.

Bennett-Abbott Flyer PDF

[photo credit: Tim Abbott]

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The Perfect Fence: First Citation

Lyn’s and my book The Perfect Fence: Untangling the Meanings of Barbed Wire has been cited . . . in a Norwegian dissertation on opioid addiction.

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I’m not sure about barbed wire as a symbol of hope or a question of freedom . . . that doesn’t sound like anything we wrote. But the difference between outside and inside and between ourselves and others is one of our key points.

Obviously the book will soon go viral. Better get a copy while you still can!

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Some of Peter Handke’s Notebooks

These notebooks from the Marbach Literature Archive, featured in a new book titled Das stehende Jetzt / The Standing Now / nunc stans

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Summer Reading

 

Savoring the freedom of the summer, finishing my half of the book with Zarko Radakovic (We: A Friendship) and writing an introduction to a collection of my essays to be published as Dwelling in the Promised Land as a Stranger: Personal Encounters with Mormon Institutions, I read some of the books I had looked forward to for the summer and some books that surprised me as they surfaced.

The Goethe/Schiller correspondence, for instance, turned out to be a good source for the friendship book as I featured correspondence between Zarko and Alex Caldiero and myself.

Bryan Waterman’s and Brian Kagel’s The Lord’s University was indispensable as I returned to the BYU of the 1990s for my introduction. Ziolkowski and Richards provided good background for my thinking about German Romantic texts in preparation for my fall seminar. There were fewer crime novels or mysteries than I would have expected over a summer. And, of course, I didn’t get around to lots of books I planned to (and still plan to) read.

Books read on the left, books unread but still anticipated on the right.

 

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German Romanticism

Preparing for my fall seminar on German Romanticism, I pulled this volume from my shelf and marveled again to have a physical connection to German writers and their thought. Like my own skin, the paper is spotting and wrinkling. Early 18th-century molecules rise from the pages and enter my nose.

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In his comments about part two of his Phantasus, Ludwig Tieck invites me, his reader, into the close-knit world of the writers he knew and the work he was doing.

I was in the process of republishing the old German novel Simplicismus, he writes, and sent out the poem from it as a sample. No plagiarism meant, I just wanted people to know about the amazing book.

Goethe challenged me, Tieck continues, to develop part of the poem for the Weimar stage, but I couldn’t bring myself to separate one part of the poem from the other. . . .

The little piece “The Final Judgment,” was written in 1799 in Jena, Tieck notes. Schelling had just transformed the pitiful local literary organ into an incisive and insightful journal. Jean Paul, with whom I had always enjoyed friendly relations, never begrudged me the little joke. He recognized my respect for his genial humor and sensed my love. . . .

And the short caricature (Charakteristik) by Friedrich Schlegel (in the fragments of the Athenaeum) . . .

Intimate relationships (sometimes too intimate for the comfort of some involved) and a brilliant movement.

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memento mori

late-summer image-thoughts while walking this morning

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a turkey skull?

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perched on the street as I passed by and as a truck barreled down the hill. i watched the destruction from the side

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A beautiful, tall, vigorous douglas fir — until accidentally poisoned by weed killer applied on the slope above it

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Zarko and Nina / Photo and Drawing

When Zarko posted these images side by side on his Facebook page, I thought he was responding to Nina’s work with photos of scenes she reminded him of—first his photo of the Gobi desert, then his photo of an Umbrian valley.

 

 

No, he said,

“Meine Fotos da am FaceBook sind keine ‘Begleitung’ der Arbeiten Ninas. Ich stelle die Fotos nicht neben Ninas Bilder. Die Fotos sind Basis, Vorlage für die Arbeit Ninas. Foto und Bild stellen unsere gemeinsame Arbeit dar. Und so läuft es bei uns seit längerer Zeit. Ich schicke ihr die Fotos, und sie malt darüber. Ich stelle ihr Aufgaben, und sie arbeitet daran. So entstehen die Arbeiten-Paare: Foto + Bild. So machen wir weiter… Früher hat Nina auf meine Texte visuell “reagiert”, jetzt auf die Fotos.”

Joint work, he writes, I send her the photos and she paints over them. . . . Earlier Nina “reacted” visually on my texts, now on the photos.

With that explanation I see the paired works differently; and now, walking along a Utah mountainside, I see the contours and colors of Utah Valley with new eyes.

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Thank you, my friends.

I have copies of some of Nina’s visual responses on Zarko’s texts hanging in my my study.

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And here is an essay I wrote about Nina’s work, including her painting in response to a novel by Zarko:

http://goaliesanxiety.blogspot.com/2012/10/buchstablich-literally-new-work-by-nina.html

Finally in this celebration of joint work, a link to a website featuring Zarko’s and my two books and a reminder that our third book, WE: A FRIENDSHIP, is well underway.

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Caroline Michaelis Böhmer Schlegel Schelling

 

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Portrait by Tischbein

Reading Robert Richards’ The Romantic Conception of Life for my fall seminar on German Romanticism, I come to a section about the personalities that made up the early Romantic circle in Jena. In a footnote, Richards confesses that he has fallen in love with a brilliant woman:

“Caroline’s magical, erotic power — the kind of power only a beautiful woman with a wonderfully creative intelligence can effect—has pulled writers into her embrace over the last two hundred years. . . . Biographer of Friedrich Schelling, Kuno Fischer, fell in love with her from a distance, and this historian, too, has succumbed.”

Caroline was the daughter of an Orientalist and was fluent in four languages before she was married to a medical doctor named Böhme at the age of 20. They moved to a small town where she languished socially and intellectually, had 2 children and was pregnant with a third when her husband died of an infected wound. Richards writes: “Caroline Böhmer’s life happily changed in 1788 when her husband died.”

Back in Göttingen she had several admirers, including August Wilhelm Schlegel. She and her one living child (2 had died in infancy) moved to revolutionary Mainz where she joined the circle of Georg Forster (whose book on his voyage with Captain Cook inspired Alexander von Humboldt — whose books about his own explorations inspired Darwin) and was arrested by the German forces who chased out the French. Pregnant by a young French officer, she was pardoned by the Prussian monarch on the advice of Wilhelm von Humboldt and then followed an invitation from Wilhelm Schlegel to join him and his brother Friedrich. She gave birth, left the child in the care of friends, and married Wilhelm, promising in a letter to a friend to teach him passion. She helped him with his Shakespeare translations and was active in the social circle of Romantics in Jena that included Novalis, Goethe, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. Young Schelling soon supplanted Wilhelm Schlegel in her affection (Richards notes that perhaps Wilhelm didn’t learn her lessons). Schlegel left for Berlin and Caroline and Schelling ultimately married.

Philosophically and physically (the two were, Richards writes, intricately interwoven for the German Romantics) these were fascinating people whose ideas continue to shape our identities to this day.

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