Yesterday my dog Blue and I were hiking in a gully near our house. (The photo is from last winter, his favorite season.) Blue's sharp nose led us to the remains of a fawn, still-born earlier this summer. Its tiny black hooves were still perfect, it was still curled in what I took to be a perfect fetal position, but something had gone wrong and there it lay. Still.
I felt sad about the loss of potential; but I also recognized the event as perfectly, or imperfectly, natural. We start things, we conceive ideas, we make plans, we nurture them and let them grow; and sometimes they just plain don't work out. Sometimes we just have to let them be.
Left there to decompose, the fawn's little corpse was feeding ants, flies, beatles, birds, and would have fed Blue if I hadn't been so squeamish. Our abandoned projects and incomplete ideas can do the same.
This summer I've returned to some writing I started in 1991 and for my new work have been drawing from its various blind alleys and fragments. I grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, and my ongoing question is what that red-neck, oil-boom town was like outside my limited set of experiences.
In my research, I found some information that I inserted into the beginning of my text:
In what eventually will become our hometown, for three days running, half the citizens report seeing flying saucers. Between eleven and noon each day, hundreds of the alien craft raise hell among farmers and trading-post operators, builders and teachers, cooks and civil servants, many of them descendants of Mormon settlers.
I found a newspaper account that I also wove into my experience:
10 June 1974, Tocito Oil Field, Navaho Reservation
I kick at rabbitbrush to break the silence. The derrick has been lowered, the doghouse packed with equipment. Cactus Drilling Company is paying me time-and-a-half to stand guard for the night.
A breeze browses through the newspaper I’ve set aside.
“Violence Erupts, Policeman Injured: Coalition Stops Posse Parade”
A traditional Sheriff’s Posse Parade through downtown Farmington Saturday erupted after a peaceful beginning into an afternoon of violence which saw a Farmington policeman struck by an automobile and crowds of hundreds flee from police tear gas when members of the Coalition for Navajo Liberation attempted to stop the parade. . . . The leaders, who seemed to be supported by an estimated 40 to 50 more Indians on the sidewalk, objected to allowing a six-man contingent of horsemen to proceed. Dressed in cavalry uniforms of the late 19th Century, the horsemen were members of the
“Juveniles Sentenced to Springer”
All three youths charged in the mutilation murders of three Navajo men in April were sentenced to terms at the
I study a sidewinder track in the sand. A sinuous sentence with ellipses. And there’s the snake! It progresses almost by regress, eyes me as carefully as I it.
I sleep fitfully in the back of my little car, dream of vengeful natives in the grey dawn over the sand.
After remembering this, I found what's called "The Farmington Report," an important civil rights document, on the internet. It's a federal attempt to improve the way Navajos are treated by Anglos in my home town. That national context made me see the little town with new eyes.
Then I talked with my friend Don LaVange and he showed me a 1974 poem by the Beat poet Gary Snyder:
I Went into the Maverick Bar
I went into the Maverick Bar
And drank double shots of bourbon backed with beer.
My long hair was tucked up under a cap
I’d left the earring in the car.
Two cowboys did horseplay by the pool tables,
A waitress asked us where are you from?
a country-and-western band began to play
“We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie”
And with the next song, a couple began to dance.
They held each other like in High School dances in the fifties;
I recalled when I worked in the woods and the bars of
That short-haired joy and roughness—
We left—onto the freeway shoulders—under the tough old stars—
In the shadow of bluffs I came back to myself,
To the real work, to “What is to be done.”
Finally, I drove through Farmington again and found an adult video store on the south side of town with a billboard towering over it:
That, of course, scared the bejesus out of me and I went back to my computer. My task now is to take lots of fragments like these and tell a story with them.
The Byrds tell a story of a dog named Blue you may enjoy:
And I hope that buck and doe have more luck next spring.