Perhaps there’s something in Wyoming’s water—arsenic, lead, molybdenum, uranium, acid. Looking off into the state from a canyon in Montana reveals that much of the place is askew, at least to my dwindling sense of equilibrium. Somewhere down there is the town of Lovell, a nice enough community filled with apparently level-head individuals. I know the place exists because I’ve been there a few times. Down in Lovell gazing around from the parking lot of Cozzens Cash Grocery I see the Bighorns towering 14,000 feet in the east and looking like they are set as they should be, yet staring through purple haze in the south the red and ochre of desiccated ridges tilt down into the earth from west to east making me slightly queasy.

When I take in the landscape on the other side of the mountains from the upper reaches of the Middle Fork of the Powder River the Pumpkin Buttes seem all square with my concept of reality as they rise all alone out on the high plains miles to the east, but the land in the north is a jumbled mess that curves and leans down south and once again drives back in to the earth before giving way to the Red Wall that rumbles dead straight and level off to Casper. Wyoming is filled with disorienting places like this including a spot where the jet stream touches down on occasion, a mournful spot that draws sad souls who go to commit suicide in the mad rush of air in hopes of being whisked off to better times.

And that road in the picture above, the one that looks okay from a distance, but those orange signs tell the foolish to travel at their own risk because the byway is treacherous, especially when wet is an ever narrowing death trap. Walking down the thing for a mile or so a person can see it clinging to the edge of a rock face that drops hundreds of feet to a canyon holding wild horses, rattlesnakes, and large cutthroat trout (or so I’ve heard and have always suspected). The mean spirited, hard-rock track was blasted out years ago by miners who’d no doubt become twisted from spending far too much time in a landscape gone tilt.


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