The Hundredth Meridian

Dust Thou Art

Sheep Mountain like a fallen tombstone lay on the horizon under a sky thickening with gray cloud ribbons and white lenticulars. It was too cold for snow yet and rain had not fallen for weeks in the mountains. The wind raised small storms of dust on the pale surface of the clay road, and whirled the last yellow leaves from the brushy aspen stands. Past the washboard last spring's ruts, still fixed in the hard clay, shunted the front end of the truck left, right, then back to center again. The trailer followed, fishtailing in clouds of the fine dust. From the cattle guard at the top of the rise south of Commissary Ranches the twin red triangles of Baldy Mountain and Wyoming Peak 50 miles north appeared, waiting for snow.

At Fontenelle Creek I parked the rig on a bench south of the crossing above the beaver dammed flood plain, saddled the mare, and strapped on the pack and the rifle in its leather scabbard. Red fire winked in the early dusk from camps sheltered by aspen groves across Pomeroy Basin as we followed the wooded switchbacks down to the crossing, where we turned up the right bank of Fontenelle to Bear Trap Creek. The cloud cover extended itself beyond the frontal ridge as it thickened and lowered above the mountains and now the air felt gentle and soft, full of treachery. I kicked the mare up to a trot as we ascended along Bear Trap, then let her keep her own pace on the steeps. We reached camp with only enough light to...

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