Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Vantage

Fear and loathing in Vantage. How worries advance with age.

I’m at the end of a dusty dirt road high above the Columbia River. Rattlesnakes live here. My bike lies next to me. I’m looking for a cache. Half a mile back up a short hill is my car. I’m greatly distressed. I could hear the radiator boiling as I removed my bike. My transmission was making horrid grinding and gnashing sounds just before I reached where I parked. Pangs of despair waft over me.

On the bike ride down I watched for snakes but saw a hummingbird and a coyote. It is lovely country but my mind is elsewhere. I have a family that I am responsible for, a not-so-well paying job. A kid in college. Two more coming up. Two cars that are on their last legs. Things are too close to the edge. I can not afford problems.

I am high above the Columbia. Just over there, on the other side and upriver a bit I once climbed that coulee wall. That was over thirty years ago. I found my way up through the rock and sage and walked across those desert lands north. Ten miles, and ten miles back in a day. There were snake pits that bloomed with cactus flowers. Beautiful. I only saw one snake but worried a bit the whole way. I made my way to an abandoned home in a gulch that I had seen since childhood from the other side of the river. I couldn’t get close. It was engulfed in brush. I was young and single then.

Down there I remember when there was a bridge and the old townsite with a gas station, and a motel, before the dam was built. And before that a ferry ride on a cable ferry. On the east side and just north of the bridge we would stop and find arrowheads out among the river rock.

Once there were other people living here long before this country ever knew a European. They left ideas drawn on the rocks. Had a tool called a slave killer. Long before them there were forests of walnut, maple and gingko. There was a great upwelling of lava that formed this land, and a great flood which shaped it. Now the river runs still. The people are nearly gone. The town drowned. And gone is my youth. Trees turned to stone and dust.

I find the box and want nothing more than to go home. Entropy is not to be underestimated.

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