What can I tell you about the abyss of sage that followed? What have I to say about jumping off into oblivion, into the Old Testament, into Paleolithic oceans that held little more than bats and salt and the basalt outlines of a future empire? What can I tell you about the lilting sage that loomed beyond an ox’s arsehole for months on end as I prayed for the horizon to resolve into anything, anything at all, except more sage? I spent months speechless tracing swollen rivers that meandered and plaited into taunting strands pointing every which way except that which could be called a proper direction.


The Plains open before the traveler flat and wide and hollow as the space between the dirt and infinity, the wideness opens a sense to whose possession the traveler was hitherto ignorant. Such ignorance that attends the rigors of civilization slips away along the banks of rivers that wander against the direction he travels, against all that he knows.


Out upon the unspoilt Plains, where the buffalo blacken the range, the body loses time; the mind loses the clock that so bound it back East until the march of days is sublimated by a march of miles that are themselves subordinate to the procession of landmarks every pioneer knows: Chimney Rock, Independence Rock, Fort Laramie, Soda Springs, and the wild rivers and the canyons they lash through solid rock beyond.


The senses sharpen to a sense of purpose but the sense of context thins as the body rises to the daily ordeal of awareness and survival. In performing those tasks, Dear Reader, you may be surprised to learn that the pioneer — despite all knowledge that he will know the war cry, the white clay, the flying feathers and braids and the naked waists tied with grape-vines tight as tourniquets (and a thousand sicknesses and traumas, besides) before he reaches the great waters of the Pacific — mostly knows the most feverish sort of boredom.


The terror of survival and the thrill of progress are equally sublimated and suffocated in the plodding business of moving forward. The senses are reawakened and reminded of their existence by the intermittent Prairie wind or a savage’s errant arrow, only to cruelly return to grinding boredom of grass and wagon tracks yet to be made. Adrenaline waxes and wanes with the river tides as one crosses the never-ending maze of hillocks and rivers that cross themselves as they retreat into the sand at the desert's margin and forget their ways.


There is sage. There is grass. There is sage grass. There is grama grass. There is blue grama grass. There is bluestem grass. There is Indian grass and switch grass and then there are the mixtures! And let me tell you, that is what the Mexicans call a fiesta!


Crossing the plains proved nearly as boring as writing — but at least one cannot die of thirst at one’s desk.


Which reminds me…