The Hundredth Meridian

A Sinner in Paradise

White sky, white earth. In the foreground a fenceline: three strands of barbed wire stretched taut between crooked posts cut from a juniper forest growing along the sandstone hogback, the bottom strand running in and out of low drifts of scalloped snow. The brushy tips of sagebrush vibrating on a stiff wind above the snowglaze, the brown bunchgrass, purple willows marking the drainage where a creek runs beneath a lid of semi-transparent ice, the black water breaking through in places where moss and tiny waterplants show green. A moose and her calf, blackened and misshapen, browsing half-concealed in the willow and greasewood; farther along the fence the frozen carcass of a doe antelope hanging by the heels of the top wire she failed to clear. A pair of bald eagles perched in a wind-polished snag, waiting for a semi to hit a crossing deer. In the middle distance the dark shapes of cattle pointed in the same direction with their muzzles down, grazing the knolls where the wind has swept the ground bare of snow; at the horizon a black timbered ridge patched and runneled with white, blurred by snow like sifting flour. There actually are people in the world who dislike this scene.

Four inches of ice to break on the watering trough this morning. It's constructed of galvanized iron, the ice forming along the inside curve and growing toward the center in an oval, ever-thickening ledge that resists loosening under blows from an iron pike...

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