The Hundredth Meridian

A Dripping Spring

The parallel trails of brown smoke tracking west to east 50 or so miles ahead above the place where the Grand Canyon ought to be had a sinister aspect, suggesting another greasy invasion by the encroaching metropoli of the desert Southwest.

“Is that L.A.?” I asked Tom Sheeley.  “Or is it only Vegas?”

Tom shook his head.  “I heard the Park Circus was getting ready to do a controlled burn on the North Rim.  You know what a controlled burn is, don’t you?  Like a controlled deficit, sort of.”

At Grand Canyon City on the South Rim, the tourists seethed resentfully, aiming their cameras into the smoky abyss opening away below, like Hell, a few inches ahead of their toes.  From the road out to Hermit’s Rest, we observed twin smoke columns rolling majestically into the hot blue sky and, below a thousand feet or so, red-and-white choppers trailing orange slurry buckets from a cable, on a bee-line cross-canyon toward the conflagration.  

“How’d you feel if you’d traveled thousands miles to see this?” Tom asked.

“I know it.  If word gets out this really was a controlled burn, the park people could find themselves with a bunch of lawsuits on their hands.  It’s a good life, America.”

Damon’s truck was not parked at the trailhead when we got there. ...

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